A political hero is born in Ohio: America needs more Tyler Ferhmans
I’ve spent a lifetime knee-deep in the bogs of political warfare, fighting for my party and helping elect the politicians I believe in. And if you know me, you know I hold a deep and abiding pride in what I do: I’m a political hack, it’s coded in my DNA and I am proud of it.
But the truth is, the political consulting industry and the world of politics in general has become poisoned by the influence of money; behind the curtains there are thousands of opportunists, liars and frauds who have used or corrupted our system to its core to pad their personal stockings.
But the influence of money doesn’t just quietly snake through the halls of Congress in Washington. Lobbyists and shady organizations spend billions every year to spin the wheels of statehouses and legislatures across the country with a stunning level of malfeasance that all too often goes quietly unnoticed.
At a time, in a country and in a profession where heroes are frankly extinct, someone walked out of the shadows just a few weeks ago and showed our decaying political system what a spine of honesty and morality really looks like.
Allow me to introduce you to Tyler Fehrman.
If you haven’t read the news lately, you likely have missed the largest statewide political scandal in American history, one that was only unraveled because of Mr. Fehrman. He is a Republican operative who was working to undo House Bill 6 (HB 6) in Ohio, a mammoth energy law passed through the legislature in 2019.
The law was sharply supported by the Ohio House speaker, Larry Householder, a member of Fehrman’s own party. As Fehrman was going on about his job one day, he received a call from a friend, Matt Borges, the former Ohio GOP chair tasked to lobby against the petitioning efforts to reverse the energy bill. With what would be stunning brazenness, Borges allegedly attempted to bribe Fehrman over the phone to end the petitioning effort against HB 6. Borges is accused of offering, on multiple occasions, to funnel Fehrman thousands in cash to end the petitioning effort against the energy bill, oall of which, if accepted, would have flown entirely under the radar. Yet, Fehrman reportedly rejected those offers and — despite threats from his friend to remain quiet about their conversation — Fehrman bucked his own party, his own mentor, and reported the call to the FBI.
A few months later, and after a few wired conversations, the FBI uncovered what it called “likely the largest bribery-money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of Ohio.” It turns out, according to the FBI, that Speaker Householder cashed in on a fat $60 million through a “dark money” front for the corporation that owned the power plants kept open by taxpayer funding in the new law, and then allegedly enlisted a variety of accomplices to thwart efforts to repeal the bill.
That is corruption, plain and simple, a symbolic unveiling of exactly what has become of the American political system. If it hadn’t been for Fehrman, the people of Ohio likely would have never known.
To my knowledge, Fehrman has never been on Sunday morning talk shows, he hasn’t penned a national bestseller, he doesn’t live life under the flashy spotlight that so many in this industry fervently hope for. He’s a regular guy who could have rode off into the sunset discreetly, flush with a bundle of cash. He could have, but he didn’t.
I have worked in the political industry a long time, I’ve had my fair share of moments that tested my willpower to resist the influence of dark money, and I only wish that I had an ounce of the courage and valor that Fehrman has displayed.
It is easy to be corrupt, it is hard to be brave.
In a moment when crooked politicians, lobbyists and consultants alike have severed any ethical and moral levy that protected our institutions from the perversion of dark money, America is in desperation for more bravery.
America is in desperation for more people like Tyler Fehrman.
James Carville is a Democratic strategist who helped engineer Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. He is co-host of the podcast 2020 Politics War Room. Follow him on Twitter @JamesCarville.
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