CHARACTER COUNTS, BUT ONLY WHEN CONVENIENT. Yesterday Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland challenged Republican rival Ken Blackwell to release his tax returns, so voters could see exactly how Blackwell, who favors implementing a flat tax and cutting the capital gains tax, would benefit from his own proposals. Blackwell refused, telling the Canton Repository that his millionaire status proves his ideology that hard work leads to riches.

It�s odd, though, that he�s not being more forthcoming, since his officially sanctioned, pabulum-filled initiative The Ohio Center for Civic Character demands that people of character �appl[y] truth in our relationships.� And that truth, he says, requires accountability and transparency:

High-character people scrutinize themselves and welcome the scrutiny of others. They acknowledge that human nature compels us toward independence. Our preference for independence results in isolation from one another. Isolation breeds temptation to unethical conduct. High character people resist this chain reaction by adopting transparent life- and work-styles that invite inspection. They place themselves in relationships that motivate self-examination and encourage constructive critique from others, particularly those they serve. (Observable Virtues: an open, up-front, disclosing spirit)

Welcoming the scrutiny of others, you say? Perhaps the citizens of Ohio would like to scrutinize how in 1995, while the sitting treasurer of Ohio, Blackwell chipped in on a $500,000 investment in a radio station with some high profile Ohio businessmen, who later sold the venture for $190 million? It�s never been revealed how much of that $190 million went into Blackwell�s pocket.

Or perhaps the citizens of Ohio would like to know more about how Blackwell, while the secretary of state of Ohio, got a piece of the Cincinnati Reds? After all, one of Blackwell�s biggest campaign contributors, the Lindner family, was the majority owner of the ball club before they sold most of it to other investors, including some of Blackwell�s partners in the radio deal. The Lindners are big contributors to Republican and right-wing causes, including the Swift-Boat effort in 2004. Might they have been pleased with Blackwell�s efforts on Bush�s behalf in 2004?

But Blackwell�s not a stickler for that sort of character thing. What was his response to the complaints of 50 Ohio clergy that two other pastors Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson, illegally campaigned for him? Go out and get the endorsements of seven more pastors. To him, it shows he�s a man of faith, not that he�s flouting the law.

--Sarah Posner

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