CLEVELAND, Ohio — Jim Renacci may not have been elected governor or senator in 2018, but he’s still hoping to shape Ohio public policy.
Renacci, a former Republican congressman who lost to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in the November election, is doing so by helping launch a new political nonprofit called Ohio’s Future Foundation. The group aims to promote “business related policies that will make Ohio first,” according to its promotional materials.
Renacci’s last day in Congress was Jan. 2. He left after he chose to run for the U.S. Senate last year rather than seek a fourth two-year term. Before jumping in the Senate race, Renacci spent about a year running for governor.
Not coincidently, Ohio’s Future Foundation’s issue priorities are similar to Renacci’s campaign platforms. The group’s executive director will be Jeff Anthony, a political operative who served as the Renacci Senate campaign’s political director. Renacci will be the new group’s chairman, a part-time role.
“In the governor’s campaign and in the Senate campaign, I met a lot of people who are still very frustrated with the direction of the state,” Renacci said. “And we took some of those issues… and hopefully there will be some things that [new Gov. Mike DeWine] will be willing to latch onto and willing to follow through with.”
These nonprofit groups are exempt from paying taxes and increasingly common in today’s political arena. They’re permitted to spend money on political campaigning, as long it’s not their primary focus and they don’t coordinate with candidates. But their primary focus must be to advocate for a set of issues or educate or persuade the public.
Renacci says the new group will advocate for emphasizing vocational education, simplifying Ohio’s municipal tax system, funding infrastructure, and promoting an “all of the above” (fossil fuels, nuclear, solar and wind) energy policy. As Renacci did as a candidate, the Ohio’s Future Foundation’s written agenda suggests that it may advocate for ending Medicaid expansion, which provided health care to more than 700,000 poor, working Ohioans, describing the program’s growing costs as placing a “burden on the work force” that “stymies economic growth.”
The group will use TV, social media and grassroots activists to promote its agenda, and Renacci said it also plans to host forums at universities in areas primarily outside of Ohio’s three major cities. Renacci also plans for the group to produce and fund policy research.
Beyond his work with Ohio’s Future Foundation, Renacci said he’s considering opportunities to serve on corporate boards or teach at a university.
“I’ve got almost three decades of business experience, I’ve got eight years in Congress… I had nearly a year running for governor and a year of running for Senate,” he said. “I think there is a lot of capital there that I need to make sure to move forward on. So I’m going to be working in a number of areas that hopefully move Ohio forward.”
As for running for office someday, he didn’t rule it out.
“There are a lot of people out there who did support me. I’m going to continue to reach out. I’m going to keep in touch,” he said. “… And if I see an opportunity to make a difference, of course I’ll run.”