Ohio Democratic lawmakers are scrambling to explain why they have attacked Gov. John Kasich for a budget measure that restricts rape-crisis counseling when they supported a bill with nearly identical language last month.
"I'm sorry this happened, it doesn't look good," said longtime Democratic strategist Sam Gresham. "It affords the Republican Party to charge hypocrisy with regard to the campaign against women."
The amendment to Ohio's $62 billion, two-year state operating budget sets up a dedicated funding stream for rape crisis programs that receive state funding but don't refer for abortions.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern and state treasurer candidate Connie Pillich both criticized the measure in Twitter posts.
Each attacked Kasich in tweets for “placing gag rules on rape counselors.”
In fact, Democrats supported a stand-alone bill with identical language which was approved in the House on a 95-0 vote. The language was then tucked into the budget before it made it to the Senate.
"Chris Redfern needs to be a little careful, and sadly Democrats don't have much to offer," said Republican strategist Terry Casey. "They need to get out of this attack, attack, negative mode because here they were caught with hypocrisy."
Redfern said through a spokesman that Democrats, who liked the new funding provisions, were assured the language limiting referrals would be removed in the budget.
"Democrats supported the bill to fund rape crisis centers and we were led to believe that this offensive language gagging rape counselors would be fixed in the budget," he said. "It was not."
Gresham says the mistake hurts Democrats because it deflects the other anti-abortion bills which Kasich signed into law.
"Inconsistency is a problem, and when it becomes obvious it weakens our position," said Gresham. "The opposition can take shots at us and then the ultrasound bill can't be discussed, and we can't talk about the tragedy about what they're doing to Planned Parenthood because we have no credibility."
The budget does include money, for the first time, for Ohio's rape crisis centers.
The Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence released a statement that, "…expresses our gratitude of this investment in survivors of sexual violence. With this funding, more survivors will get the compassionate support they deserve."
"This is a governor, who for the first time, Ohio is providing financial support to help rape victims which has been praised by all sides," said Casey.
Gresham says the incident points out the potential social media hazards for politicians of both parties.
"It's the dynamic of the moment, the spin of the moment, the environment of the moment," said Gresham. "This points out inconsistencies of applying consistent policies. We can't let that happen."