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AK postcards to flood Taft’s office

By Thomas Gnau, Journal Business Writer, E-mail:

Postcards urging Gov. Bob Taft to “work to save” AK Steel Corp. may soon descend on his office, if they haven’t already.

And AK Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Wardrop is sending an advertising broadside against Taft, with full-page newspaper advertisements set for Sunday protesting what he contends has been the administration’s “war” on AK.

“It seems to me that the state of Ohio is waging war on the employees of AK Steel and their families in Ohio while doling out aid to our competitors,” Wardrop said in the ad, which is presented as an open letter to the “employees, retirees, families and friends of AK Steel in Ohio.”

The advertisement will run in The Journal and in newspapers in all of the company’s Ohio steel plant communities, such as Mansfield, as well as newspapers in Columbus and Cincinnati, AK Vice President of Public Affairs Alan McCoy said Friday.

The postcards are no surprise, Taft spokesman Orest Holubec said. The governor sees a weekly summary of all mail, e-mail and phone calls to his office and the topics they raise. Even form messages like the postcards are noted, Holubec said.

“They’re typical, and they are effective if the goal is to get the governor’s attention,” Holubec said.

Holubec said he has not seen AK’s postcards, but added that Taft “will know that they’re being sent.”

Of the ads, though, Holubec said, “The governor is disappointed that they have launched a media offensive.”

Said McCoy Friday: “The Taft administration’s actions are offensive.”

The cards consist of two brief paragraphs. They say Ohio government “seems to want to force AK Steel out of business with massive lawsuits and unreasonable environmental demands.

“AK Steel employs 6,000 men and women in Ohio who contribute more than $2 billion annually to Ohio’s economy,” the card says. “I urge you to work to save this important employer in Ohio.”

The cards are addressed to Taft’s office on the 30th floor of the Vern Riffe Center in Columbus. Room is left on one side of the card for the sender’s signature.

McCoy said AK printed the cards last week in response to residents who have asked what they can do about pressures company leaders have said could kill steelmaking in Middletown, where steel has been made from raw materials since 1900.

“There has been an outpouring of support from members of this community,” McCoy said.

The state is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against AK alleging violations of environmental laws. AK is especially concerned about “punitive” fines resulting from the lawsuit, which could go to trial late this year or early next.

AK also is wary of new federal air pollution control rules with which integrated steelmakers must comply in nearly three years.

McCoy has said that the end of steelmaking would be the end of about 1,000 high-paying jobs in Middletown.

AK has about 4,000 employees in Middletown at its corporate headquarters and steel plant.

The company had distributed “thousands” of the cards, McCoy said. “We’re probably going to need to print some more.”

Meanwhile, Holubec said Taft will respond in writing to Wardrop’s June 5 letter to the governor, protesting a visit Taft made to a longtime AK customer in Monterrey, Mexico, with a representative of International Steel Group, an AK competitor, at his side.

Holubec didn’t say exactly when Taft will respond in writing, but Wardrop and Taft spoke on the phone Monday.

Published 06.14.03



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