Boehner's Staff Used Backroom Tactics To Shape Congressional Races, Report Shows

An Ohio voter advocacy group has released a transparency report showing instances of gerrymandering and secret backroom activities in the state's redistricting process. Cleverly titled "The Elephant in the Room," the report found that the political arm of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was central to the map-making process, ignoring nonpartisan criteria and manipulating the maps to benefit Republican candidates.

In one example, the report reveals a pledge by GOP Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus to deliver "a map that Speaker Boehner fully supports." It report also reveals that boundaries were drawn to keep big campaign donors in the districts in which they had heavily invested. The group, the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, obtained documents and emails through a public records request.

The disputed GOP-drawn district maps caused the state of Ohio to schedule a second primary that would cost taxpayers in the state an extra $15 million. Ohio House Republican Matt Huffman introduced a bill to reunite the two primaries on one day.

Meanwhile, sources suggest that Boehner may be wielding his political influence in congressional races outside his home state. Chicago's Daily Herald has sources saying Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) was convinced to run in the Democratic-leaning 8th District in part by a promise of $3.5 million in general election fundraising help from the Speaker. As a Daily Kos writer put it, "Walsh got deliciously screwed in redistricting and wasn't left with a lot of good options." Walsh announced his decision Thursday, saying the "idea of ceding this seat to the Democrats just felt wrong."

More election news from beyond the presidential field:

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who helped lead the team to its first World Series since 1918, said he won't run for Congress in Barney Frank's stead. A born-again Christian, Schilling backed George W. Bush just weeks after the Sox's historical win. He also backed John McCain in 2008, and the following year publicly considered a run to replace Ted Kennedy. Schilling's name surfaced as a possible candidate after Frank announced his retirement last month. "If it was any other point in time, I would do it in a heartbeat," Schilling told the Boston Herald. "But it's an elected position -- it's 365 days a year, nights, weekends. I can't do it right now."

Karl Rove's fundraising machine Crossroads GPS spent half a million dollars on television ads against Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who still hasn't announced if he'll be running for reelection. The ads are presumably an attempt to dissuade him from running. "We want Ben Nelson to recognize that 2012 will be an extraordinarily grueling proposition in the case he decides to run," said a Crossroads spokesman. Republicans like their chances of picking up the Senate seat if the long-time incumbent decides to retire.

Proposed redistricting maps in California could spell trouble for Republicans campaigning in the state, to the tune of five congressional seats, some say, including two long-time incumbents.

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