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Boehner influenced Ohio redistricting, documents show

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An Ohio watchdog group says House Speaker John A. Boehner’s political team was the primary decision maker behind the drawing of the state’s new congressional map — a move the group says was done to benefit Republican election and fundraising efforts.

The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, a coalition of 25 Ohio groups, used the documents it obtained from public records requests to detail what it says are the behind-the-scenes political machinations used in crafting the new map. Records included emails between the map’s designers, transcripts of public meetings and payment records.

In one instance, a September email shows that Tom Whatman, executive director of a congressional campaign effort called “Team Boehner,” made a successful last-minute request to state legislative mapmakers to get the corporate headquarters of a major Republican financial contributor moved into GOP Rep. Jim Renacci’s district.

The documents include a pledge by Republican Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus to deliver “a map that Speaker Boehner fully supports.” Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, also a Republican, said at the beginning of the redistricting process that he would seek input from Mr. Boehner as well as from Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Cleveland-area Democrat.

A Boehner campaign spokesman said the speaker’s political team only was involved in an advisory role.

“Speaker Batchelder was clear at the outset of this process that he was interested in Speaker Boehner’s input — as well as the input of a number of other key stakeholders, Democrat and Republican,” said Boehner political spokesman Cory Fritz.

The Republican-controlled legislature finished the map in September, but a Democratic legal challenge to the new boundaries is pending.

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