With flimsy evidence and tortured twists of the facts, the gubernatorial campaign of Mike DeWine is attempting to smear Richard Cordray as out to raise Ohioans’ taxes.

A new TV ad from the Republican’s camp on Friday claims “Cordray’s votes raised taxes more than 100 times in two years” while the Democrat served one term in the Ohio House of Representatives more than a quarter-century ago in 1991-92.

Cordray did indeed vote to approve a bipartisan bill containing tax increases. But those hikes were sought and signed into law by late Republican Gov. George V. Voinovich while DeWine was his lieutenant governor. There is no recorded protest at the time or since from DeWine.

The Senate was controlled by Republicans and the House by Democrats when House Bill 904 was approved in late 1992 to increase tobacco and alcohol taxes, create a new, higher income tax bracket for Ohioans making more than $200,000 a year and expand the sales tax to cover janitorial and exterminating services, employment agencies and fitness center memberships. It also reduced a credit retailers received for forwarding sales taxes to the state.

In addition to House Bill 904, DeWine’s ad cited Cordray as voting to increase taxes through House Bill 248, which had nothing to do with taxes. Rather, it required railroads to keep their right-of-ways free of debris.

Asked for documentation showing that Cordray voted for more than 100 tax increases and the citation of House Bill 248, DeWine’s campaign did not respond Friday morning.

The TV ad, featuring a combine mowing down corn representing Cordray as “harvesting” taxes, also takes a story in The Dispatch totally out of context and falsely attribute three words in the article — “harvest additional taxes” — as representing a direct quote from Cordray. It was not.

The full sentence says: “Cordray has said he will work with existing tax revenues to help pay for his priorities, spend down state budget surpluses, harvest additional taxes from sources such as increased collection of sales taxes on internet purchases, and could potentially tap the $2.7 billion state rainy day fund.”

Cordray has consistently said he will not increase taxes if elected governor on Nov. 6.

“The claims made in this ad are false and misleading much like Mike DeWine’s most recent claims on his health-care record. But let’s be clear: Rich is the only candidate in this race who has continuously committed to not raising taxes. When Rich was in the legislature, it was Lt. Gov Mike DeWine who was pushing for tax increases,” said Cordray campaign spokeswoman Christina Freundlich.

The new DeWine ad also claims Cordray would increase income taxes by 46 percent, an unsupported claim made by Republican leaders of the House and Senate as they calculated that Cordray’s spending proposals could cost $4 billion a year. Despite promising reporters documentation backing up their claims, it was never delivered in the week since the undocumented claim was made.

Secretary of State Jon Husted, DeWine’s running mate, invoked the $4 billion figure at a Columbus rally Thursday, claiming that if Cordray were elected, it would cost ever Ohio household $3,000 in additional taxes. The DeWine campaign did not respond to questions about documentation backing up Husted’s claim.

In TV ads and stump speeches, Republicans and their allies also have incorrectly claimed that taxes were increased $800 million while Cordray served as attorney general in 2009-10 while Democrat Ted Strickland served as governor amid the 2008 recession. A tax move approved by lawmakers delayed the last year of a phased-in income tax cut. It did not increase taxes but rather delay the reduction by one year.

Accusing Democrats of wanting tax hikes is a tried and true tactic of Ohio Republicans. They called Democratic Gov. Mike DiSalle “tax hike Mike” during his term from 1959-1963 — although that claim was true, since DiSalle did raise taxes.

rludlow@dispatch.com

@RandyLudlow