The Columbus Dispatch has confirmed the existence of an email sent from GOP consultant and Mitt Romney consultant Brett Buerck criticizing Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The email was meant for Ohio GOP chairman and Buerck ally Kevin DeWine, but Buerck inadvertently sent the email to Mike DeWine (Kevin and Mike are cousins and also bitter rivals).
A former Ohio Republican official described Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in an e-mail last October to the Mitt Romney campaign as “very high maintenance” and “who still thinks he’s in the Senate,” adding he did not believe it was “worth our time” to have Romney call DeWine.
The e-mail, obtained by The Dispatch, was written by Brett T. Buerck, a onetime chief of staff to former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Buerck has served as a consultant to the Romney campaign.
The e-mail was written after DeWine, who served two terms in the U.S. Senate, had endorsed Romney for the Republican presidential nomination. DeWine last month dropped his endorsement of Romney in favor of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The e-mail was inadvertently sent to DeWine. He was unavailable for comment.
In the e-mail, Buerck wrote that DeWine wanted to arrange a telephone call with Romney as part of an effort on the attorney general’s part to “develop a relationship”
“I honestly don’t think it’s worth our time, but defer to you all,” Buerck wrote.
Buerck, who is president of Majority Strategies, a direct mail political firm in Florida, said today that he “was proud to help Mike DeWine get elected as attorney general and now I’m proud to be working to help elect Mitt Romney President.”
“Everyone who’s ever sent or received an email knows that the context and tone can easily be misconstrued,” Buerck said. “That’s what happened here and I apologized privately to the attorney general immediately for a hastily crafted message. I do so again today publicly.”
Red Alert Politics had heard rumors for weeks that such an email existed from six top GOP operatives in Ohio, including one who had seen the email, and that the Columbus Dispatch had a copy of it. However, none of the operatives could produce a copy of the email, which they said DeWine’s staff was keeping close to their chests because they did not want the unflattering email widely circulated.
The operatives all said the rude email was a key factor in Mike DeWine’s unendorsement of Mitt Romney and subsequent endorsement of Rick Santorum ahead of last week’s Ohio presidential primary.
The Dispatch’s article was the first on the record mention of the email to date.
Buerck is well known in Ohio politics for several political scandals that made headlines, including an FBI and IRS investigation that resulted in charges of political racketeering. To be fair, Buerck was never convicted of the charges, but the incident and the behavior leading up to it still leave a bad taste in certain Ohioans mouths, including one GOP legislator who called Buerck and his allies “the Taliban” in an August 23, 2002 Columbus Dispatch article.
Story over. Right? Not so fast.
What’s particularly interesting about Buerck’s admission to The Dispatch today is that is that he told this reporter 11 days ago that such an email did not exist.
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” Buerck said on a phone call. “I can’t respond to something that is not true.”
Buerck and I had been playing phone tag for about a week to discuss an article I planned to write on Mitt Romney’s troubles in Ohio. In particular, how infighting between Ohio Governor John Kasich’s camp and Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine’s camp was spilling into Romney’s campaign in the state, hurting his chances of winning the presidential primary there.
Indeed, Romney barely won the state with 38 percent of the vote to Rick Santorum’s 37 percent, despite having the endorsement of Ohio heavy weights Sen. Rob Portman and former Governor and Sen. George Voinovich.
By the time Buerck and I caught up, I had already published the article, which he had not yet read. Buerck told me most of the conversation was off-the record, so I am limited with what I can say here. But the gist was that my information was incorrect and I had been “ginned up to write a quick story,” and that wherever I went to journalism school they must not have taught me ethics.
Buerck said I’d been told a “fascinating tale” that just wasn’t true.
“I don’t understand where the hostility is coming from other than other people thinking they’re not making as much money as they deserve,” he said during one of the parts that was on the record.
“As an aside,” he said, “If I have done such a big bad job for Republican candidates, then why do I have, why does my business have more Republican candidates in Ohio than any other mail firm in the country?”
That’s a great question. One I’m still trying to figure out.