Republicans are making a stink about former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's bathroom expenses.
The toilet references are everywhere: Online advertisements from the Ohio Republican Party feature a golden toilet. The committee to elect Republicans to the U.S. Senate ran a television ad highlighting a flushing toilet as a metaphor for Ohio's economy under Strickland.
"It's another example of where the priorities were of this administration. They wanted to make sure improvements were made to the home that they were living in at the time and using for entertaining ... when all kinds of other Ohioans were hurting and struggling very mightily," Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges told reporters Monday.
But the bathrooms weren't for Strickland's family or the guests they were entertaining, unless you count the 10,000 annual visitors to the governor's mansion as dinner guests.
Don't expect this race to get any cleaner. Strickland and incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, a Terrace Park Republican, are locked in a costly, important race for one of Ohio's Senate seats and for control of the U.S. Senate for their parties.
Ad title: “Flush”
Who is paying for it: National Republican Senatorial Committee, a campaign committee dedicated to electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate
Claim: "(H)e wasted over $250,000 remodeling his bathrooms at the governor’s mansion."
Fact check:Ohio taxpayers footed the bill for a nearly $268,000 addition to the carriage house at the governor's mansion in March 2009. The project, first approved in 2007, included five new unisex, accessible restrooms to accommodate the mansion's 10,000 visitors each year. It also included a gift shop to sell Ohio arts and crafts.
The bathrooms were designated for visitors, not the Strickland family as the ad implies. Strickland refused to have his master bathroom renovated during that time, former projects manager James Miller wrote in a letter provided by the Strickland campaign.
"These monies were used to build (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible restrooms – for the public – on the grounds of the governor’s residence for the many visitors coming to learn more about Ohio’s regional horticulture and natural history," Miller wrote.
Still, it didn't look great for the governor to spend thousands on a refurbished carriage house during the recession.
Claim: "Under Governor Ted Strickland, Ohio lost 350,000 jobs."
Fact check: During Strickland's four-year term, Ohio lost approximately 350,000 non-government jobs. Strickland was also governor during the longest national recession since the Great Depression. Unemployment peaked at 11 percent in December 2009 and January 2010, but had improved before Strickland left office in January 2011.
Claim: "He took money meant for job creation – gave it to a company that outsourced jobs instead."
Fact check: Ohio selected Texas-based Parago Inc. to distribute $11 million in appliance rebates as part of a $300 million federal initiative to kick start the economy in 2009. People could receive a rebate of $100 to $250 after purchasing Energy Star boilers, furnaces, air conditioners, dishwashers and freezers in Ohio.
The only problem? Parago paid call center workers in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic to distribute the rebates. Parago never volunteered that information, and Ohio officials apparently never asked. After news broke about the overseas workers, Strickland issued an executive order prohibiting state contractors from using offshore workers. An Ohio Department of Development official resigned over the error.
Claim: "He drained the state’s rainy day fund, left it with only eighty-nine cents."
Fact check: You might think Republicans would grow tired of using this number, but you would be wrong. The fact that Strickland left 89 cents in the state's rainy day fund in 2009 has been used as a talking point ad nauseam in both Gov. John Kasich's failed presidential bid and the Ohio Senate race.
So, here are the facts – again. Yes, Strickland drained the rainy day fund to 89 cents to help balance the state budget during a nationwide economic crisis. The state constitution requires that lawmakers balance Ohio's budget. And many economists agree that the economic downturn was more than a rainy day; it was a deluge.