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CEOs of some of state’s largest employers asking workers to vote to keep Ohio Supreme Court ‘conservative’ for ‘job security’

Judge Jennifer Brunner for Ohio Supreme Court

Judge Jennifer Brunner for Ohio Supreme Court

Two Ohio Supreme Court seats are up Nov. 3: Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French (top row, left) is being challenged by Ohio 10th District Court of Appeals and former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (top row, right.) Justice Sharon Kennedy (bottom row, left) is being challenged by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell (bottom row, right.)

By Laura Hancock,

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Business Roundtable, an organization that seeks to work with the governor and General Assembly on policies to make the state more business-friendly, suggested that CEOs send their employees a series of emails that emphasize the importance of a “conservative” state Supreme Court.

The seven emails, intended to go into employees' inboxes through October, are to “underscore the importance to your business and their job security of having a stable Supreme Court,” according to a message to the CEOs sent by Pat Tiberi, a Republican former member of Congress who is the Business Roundtable’s president and CEO.

The Ohio Business Roundtable represents some of the state’s highest profile and largest companies. That includes FirstEnergy, Wendy’s and Honda. Tiberi said in his email the organization’s membership represents about 400,000 employees. It’s unclear how many actually are receiving emails.

The effort underscores how important the Ohio Supreme Court races have become ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

The court currently has five Republicans and two Democrats. With Republican Justices Judith L. French and Sharon L. Kennedy up for re-election, Republicans could lose their majority just before a congressional redistricting case could come before the court, following the 2020 Census. In addition to the effort from conservatives, the races have drummed up money and interest from the left as well.

French is being challenged by Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals Judge Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat and former Ohio secretary of state. Kennedy is being challenged by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell.

The Ohio Business Roundtable’s suggested email campaign ties people’s employment to the results of the Supreme Court election.

“You value stability in your job, just as we value stability in our business,” says email No. 3, which the business roundtable suggested CEOs send to their employees on Sept. 28.

“When our justices do that job well, our economy is stronger and our job security is greater,” says email No. 7, which is supposed to be sent out Oct. 28. “It’s just that simple.”

Bosses tying the Supreme Court races to their employees' ability to keep their jobs is a scare tactic, said Michael McGovern, managing director of left-leaning ProgressOhio, which is working to highlight what it perceives as a failed record for French and Kennedy.

“I think it’s really disappointing and shows the level of desperation from them to keep their friends in the Supreme Court who they think will look out for them,” McGovern said.

Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the Ohio Business Roundtable, said it stands by its campaign and a website it created called Ohio Prosperity, which is devoted solely to the Ohio Supreme Court races.

“It should come as no surprise that the Ohio Business Roundtable supports judicial candidates who show judicial restraint and who do not attempt to legislate from the bench,” Nichols said. “The Ohio Prosperity Project provides employers with objective, nonpartisan information about the candidates and how the Court can profoundly impact Ohio’s jobs climate, should they want to share the information with their stakeholders.”

The Ohio Business Roundtable emails don’t mention any Supreme Court candidate by name or political party, instead using the words “conservative” vs. “activist" judges. The Ohio Prosperity website, which the roundtable says is nonpartisan, provides biographical information on each candidate, mentioning it supports French and Kennedy.

It’s unclear which Ohio CEOs and leaders have participated in the Business Roundtable’s campaign.

A spokesman for Cleveland-based Key Bank, for instance, said the company didn’t participate. Cleveland Clinic also didn’t participate, a spokeswoman said.

Representatives from other Cleveland institutions, such as Cleveland State University, didn’t respond whether they sent the emails out to employees.

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Gretchen Green, Treasurer
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