Politics Extra
Enquirer reporters give the scoop on what your politicians are doing

Jessica Brown,
Hamilton County reporter

Jon Craig,
Enquirer statehouse bureau

Jane Prendergast,
Cincinnati City Hall reporter

Malia Rulon,
Enquirer Washington bureau

Carl Weiser,
Blog editor

Howard Wilkinson,
politics reporter

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Researching Pepper's 'researchers'

Ever wonder how much time David Pepper spent poring over obscure bills and Ohio Senate session journals to come up with the ammunition he's been using against Mark Mallory in his negative ads?

Not much. Someone else did it for him.

The Pepper campaign spent $10,743 on a Florida outfit known as Howser-Kushlan Group, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Cincinnati Elections Commission. The official purpose was "consulting" -- a catch-all campaign term that can include everything from the media group that buys the television time to the lowliest staffer paid to answer the phone.

There's not much of a paper trail to this group, but its incorporation papers in the Florida Department of Corporations identify its partners as Jay Howser and Howard Kushlan. Howser's experience includes stints as a "researcher" for the campaigns of Sen. Bob Graham, the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone and the presidential bid of Vice President Al Gore. Kushlan's resume appears to be shorter, but he worked with Howser on the Graham campaign.

Together, they were part of an outfit, called the AK&H group, with a reputation for negative campaigning. Neither Howser nor Kushlan could be reached at their listed phone number, which appears to be disconnected.

Pepper said he paid the Howser-Kushlan group for "research." That's the new political euphemism for "opposition research," which was the old political euphemism for "digging up dirt on your opponent."

"No, they looked at my voting record too," Pepper said. "Any smart campaign does it. It's just doing your homework."

And he said they didn't just research Mallory. The expenditures came in March, April and May, when Pepper still had likely opponents in Vice Mayor Alicia Reece and Ohio Civil Rights Commissioner Charlie Winburn. (Presumably the op-research outfit didn't spend much time digging up Justin Jeffre's short voting record or old 98 Degrees liner notes.)

What did Pepper get for his $10,743?

"Let me put it this way: they're how I know that Mark Mallory has only managed to get two bills passed in the last seven years," Pepper said.

If that's all, Pepper might want to ask for his money back. The Enquirer got that same information from the Ohio Senate clerk's office and the Mallory campaign.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Pepper becomes the $1 million man

Councilman David Pepper loaned his campaign committee $100,000 last week, putting him on pace to spend more than $1 million in his bid for Cincinnati mayor.

His opponent, state Sen. Mark Mallory, has raised $353,283 -- including $61,000 in personal loans to his committee. Pepper's total available to spend in the campaign, including loans, is $1,069,498.

Pepper's $100,000 loan came Oct. 17 -- the same day his campaign paid for $100,000 in television ads. A new 15-second ad attacking Mallory's record on crime made its debut Thursday.

But Pepper, already breaking all records for fund-raising by a candidate for Cincinnati office, said the loan and the television buy weren't connected. "With $120,000 worth of special interest money coming in from Columbus, I needed to give $100,000 just to keep up," Pepper said, referring to the Service Employees International Union's campaign in favor of Mallory.

Individuals can contribute up to $1,000 to city candidates. But Pepper is taking advantage of the provision that allows contributors to give another $1,000 to candidates who pass the primary. His latest campaign finance reports contain 139 contributors giving $1,000 -- many of whom already gave $1,000 before the primary.

The latest numbers come from campaign finance reports filed Thursday with the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

Candidates for City Council also filed. Their fund-raising totals in the 2005 election cycle to date:


Jeff Berding (D)$248,850

John Cranley (D)$187,671

Chris Bortz (C)$182,227

David C. Crowley (D)$151,751

Chris Monzel (R)$143,319

Leslie Ghiz (R)$141,723

Jim Tarbell (C)$68,790

Laketa Cole (D)$68,209

Christopher Smitherman (C)$55,940

Damon Lynch III (D)$35,948

Sam Malone (R)$35,615

John Eby (R)$31,840

Samantha Herd (D)$25,582

Nick Spencer (C)$23,358

Eve Bolton (D)$22,081

Cecil Thomas (D)$20,388

Gerry Kraus (I)$19,952

Wendell P. Young (D)$4,190

Robert Wilking (I)$4,000

Robert Wilson (I)$1,821

Bill Barron (I)

Candidates for Cincinnati Board of Education:


Susan Cranley$73,877

Harriet Russell$39,475

Eileen Cooper Reed$36,960

Melanie Bates$33,650

William Haase$5,255

Catherine Ingram$0

Those numbers include money raised for the entire 2005 campaign cycle, but do not include loans or non-cash contributions.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for Berding

Like many Cincinnatians, you may well have your own favorite flavor of ice cream down at the corner UDF store.

Now, your UDF store has its favorite flavor of Cincinnati City Council candidate.

Drive into the parking lot of about a dozen Cincinnati UDF stores and you will pass by the yard signs of Jeff Berding (right), Democratic candidate for city council.

Yard signs and other political banners at retail stores are generally rare as a really good scoop of tutti-frutti, mainly because shop owners tend to shy away from politics. They know that if they endorse a candidate a potential customer doesn't like, that customer might decide to take his or her business elsewhere.

But UDF president David Lindner is an old fraternity brother of the council candidate, back in their days at Miami University; and old frat ties never die.

Berding said his college buddy called him and told him he'd be welcome to put his yard signs up at some of the stores.

"I never pass up an offer to put up yard signs,'' Berding said.

In addition to nice, high-traffic yard sign locations, Lindner gave the Berding campaign a maximum contribution of $1,000 - as did 14 other members of the Lindner family.

Nice gesture on the part of an old frat brother. Some of us, though, would have held out for a lifetime supply of chocolate malts.

Ad watch: Pepper's 'Why?'

AD: A 15-second television commercial for David Pepper for mayor, titled, "Why?" Began airing Thursday. Produced by the Campaign Group, Philadelphia, Penn.

SCRIPT: Male announcer: "Cincinnati Police endorsed David Pepper. Why? Because his opponent, Mark Mallory, voted against cracking down on meth labs. Mallory opposed stricter penalties for firing a gun in school. He even opposed the plan that put more police in our neighborhoods."

VISUALS: The ad begins with a large shot of Pepper with supporters -- breaking the usual rule of not putting your own picture in an ad attacking your opponent. A small, black-and-white photo of Mallory appears against a backdrop of police footage. Key phrases appear, with citations to news stories and bill numbers.

FACT CHECK: The Fraternal Order of Police Queen City Lodge No. 69 endorsed Pepper after their number one choice, Charlie Winburn, got knocked out in the primary. In the news conference announcing the Pepper endorsement, union leaders did not mention any of the reasons cited in Pepper's ad.

Mallory was one of three senators to vote against a 2001 bill, House Bill 7, that made it illegal to possess certain chemicals with the intent to manufacture the drug. "I guess I just have a concern about the fact that someone could possess any one of these necessary ingredients and where they could be swept up in a case where they could be prosecuted for, say, having antifreeze in their possession," Mallory told the Associated Press in 2001. Later, he said he opposed the bill because the farm lobby had reservations about a potential crackdown on agricultural-related chemicals like ammonia. Supporters credited the bill with helping to shut down 42 meth labs in the first year. The Farm Bureau actually supported a bill, according to a newsletter sent to its members after it passed.

Last week, Mallory voted for a bill to clamp down on the manufacture of meth, making it more difficult to buy pseudoephedrine, a main ingredient in meth. "I stand in 100 percent support of the passage of this bill and I encourage us to keep this fight alive because it is so important to families across the state of Ohio," he said in a speech on the Senate floor Oct. 18.

Mallory also voted against a 1997 juvenile crime bill, House Bill 5, that provided stricter penalties for firing a gun in school. But the bill also included a provision that eliminated the requirement that a prosecutor prove -- beyond a reasonable doubt -- intent to kill in an aggravated murder case. "Senator Mallory is an ardent defender of the 14th Amendment right of due process and does not support chipping away at that right. Citizens must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," his campaign said in a statement.

On the final point, Mallory did criticize the vote in May to spend $1.2 million on additional police overtime, saying City Council let “electoral politics hijack the governmental process.” He said he would have listened to City Manager Valerie Lemmie, who told City Council they didn’t have the money to spend. Mayor Charlie Luken also expressed misgivings about the plan.

RESPONSE: "After the primary, people said that they were glad that David and I were the finalists because it meant that there would be a positive campaign about the issues," Mallory said in a written statement. "David Pepper is letting those people down. David continues to run a negative divisive campaign that is not at all good for the city of Cincinnati."

Ad watch: Ghiz's 'Putting Cincinnati First'

AD: "Putting Cincinnati First," a 30-second television commercial for Leslie E. Ghiz for City Council. Started airing Monday.

SCRIPT: Ghiz: "Hi, I'm Leslie Ghiz. Growing up, my father used to say, 'Remember, your name is Ghiz.' It meant to maintain my integrity and be respectful of others; to stand for what I believe in, and lead by example; that my actions reflect on my name, Leslie Ghiz. City Council is a reflection of Cincinnati. As a council member, I will always put Cincinnati first -- fighting for safer neighborhoods, our children and our homeowners. I ask for your vote. On Nov. 8, remember, my name is Ghiz."

VISUALS: Ghiz speaks directly to the camera, alternating between a waist-up shot and extreme close-up. Her campaign web site address and slogan, "Putting Cincinnati First!" appear throughout.

FACT CHECK: Ghiz speaks only about her own background, values and priorities. Her name is, in fact, Leslie Ghiz.

STRATEGY: Ghiz's funny name -- it's pronounced with a hard "G" -- has been one of her biggest political liabilities since she first ran in 2003. Then, she began every stump speech with a pronunciation guide and -- depending on the audience -- a little humor. (She's convinced that the reason her yard signs disappear every time college kids go back to school is because students steal them for their dorm rooms.) So it's no coincidence that Ghiz says "Ghiz" four times in the ad. "The concept of the commercial is a true story," Ghiz said. "But yeah, it made it easy to work the name in. We said it four times." Beyond that, she sticks to safe and neutral issues. The ad is running on the evening news -- but there's also an emphasis on more female-oriented audiences likely to watch morning television news, "Oprah" and the "Dr. Phil" show.

Mallory predictions: Berding, Lynch and Bortz

State Sen. Mark Mallory doesn't think it's a good idea to go on record endorsing a slate of council candidates, and so has politely declined to answer questions about who should be elected.

But asking him who he thinks will be elected is another question, and he freely offered up his predictions the other day.

Mallory thinks Democrat Jeff Berding is a shoo-in as a challenger. The second "open" seat is up for grabs, he said. "Some days I think Damon Lynch will win, and some days I think Chris Bortz will win." Lynch is a Democrat; Bortz a Charterite.

There may be more than two open seats if an incumbent loses, however, and Mallory thinks Republicans are vulnerable. "I'm not sure if (Chris) Monzel will be back. And (Sam) Malone -- he's consolidated his support in the black community, but has lost support in the white community. So there could be as many as four open seats."

He was quick to add, "I can work with any of them."

Council candidates start choosing up sides

Council members David Crowley and Laketa Cole speak to the Camp Washington Community Council in 2003. The two incumbent Democrats are campaigning as a team in 2005. (Photo by Craig Ruttle/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

There used to be a time in Cincinnati politics when party slates ran as a team, on a single platform, and worked together to take -- or keep -- control of City Council. But the 1970s brought an area of free agency and unstable coalitions to Cincinnati politics, and it was every man -- and occassional woman -- for himself.

Nowhere was that more evident than the Democratic Party, whose candidates seemed to compete more with each other than with the Republicans and Charterites. But this year, Democrats are pairing up in an effort to boost their appeal across the city.

Council Democrats David Crowley and Laketa Cole are tag-teaming on radio ads running on African-American stations: (Ad in .mp3 format)
CROWLEY: What matters, isn’t where you came from, but what you do with your life.

COLE: Council member David Crowley has spent his life serving others — as director of the Ohio Commission on Aging, managing Peace Corps projects in Africa, even running a program to save AIDS babies in Romania.

CROWLEY: Council member Laketa Cole and I have learned that you get more done if you’re willing to share the credit for what you accomplish.

COLE: Over the past two-and-a-half years Council member David Crowley and I have worked together on a host of issues and I have found him to be one that stands and works with the people.

CROWLEY: When Cincinnatians work together, it’s amazing what we can accomplish.

COLE: That’s why Council member Crowley and I have worked behind the scenes on issues like preserving Sunday bus service, lead abatement and saving health centers in Evanston, Winton Hills and the West End.

CROWLEY: I’m Democratic Council member David Crowley.

COLE: And I’m Council member Laketa Cole.

CROWLEY: When you vote on Nov. 8, I ask that you give one of your nine votes to Laketa Cole.

COLE: And I ask that you give one of your nine votes to David Crowley.

CROWLEY: Paid for by Crowley for Council, Tom Kircher, treasurer.
Like the slate-within-a-slate of Democrats Eve Bolton and Wendell P. Young, the Cole-Crowley ticket has the advantage of being racially balanced, and the radio ad is designed to help boost Crowley's stature in the African-American community. And Cole benefits, too -- she doesn't have the deep campaign coffers Crowley has, and the radio spot essentially gives her free air time.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mallory and Pepper bust it up over the radio

Things got a little testy today when Mark Mallory and David Pepper met in the WDBZ studios for a two-and-a-half hour radio debate.

The high point came after Pepper continued to press Mallory on his plan, since shelved, to have the mayor make appointments to the Cincinnati Board of Education.

"Chill out before I have to bust you up over the radio," Mallory said.

Host Jonathan "Jay" Love thought that was pretty funny.

Pepper campaign manager Greg Landsman said afterward: "For a usually mild-tempered state senator like Mark Mallory to get as angry as he did suggests that Mallory recognizes how significant of an error in leadership it is" to flip-flop on the school takeover bill.

Mallory said he got a little frustrated because he felt Pepper was calling him a liar. Mallory said he went on record in August as no longer supporting a mayoral takeover of schools, but Pepper keeps bringing it up. Pepper says some Mallory campaign literature sent after the Sept. 13 primary continues to tout the takeover plan.

Mallory said he was clearly joking about telling Pepper to "chill out."

"Just so we're clear, to 'bust someone up over the radio' would be with words," Mallory explained afterward. "David does not take my jokes very well."

Pepper's favorite candidates (Thursday remix)

It seems that any time you get a room full of politicians at an event, the speaker feels obliged to recognize and introduce every candidate in the room. And some politicians seem to live in perpetual fear of accidentally leaving someone off the list.

That's what happened to David Pepper Wednesday when he was asked about his "dream team" of council candidates.

While stopping just short of calling it an "endorsement," he said he likes the group that has endorsed him -- Republicans John Eby and Leslie Ghiz and Democrats Cecil Thomas and Wendell P. Young -- plus these Democrats: Jeff Berding, Eve Bolton, Laketa Cole, John Cranley and David C. Crowley.

That's a tidy, bipartisan list of nine candidates. But Pepper campaign manager Greg Landsman e-mailed today to say that his boss never meant to exclude other candidates:
Pepper stated yesterday that he believes this year's slate of council candidates -- both incumbents and challengers -- is the best and most talented in recent history. According to Pepper, there are strong candidates beyond those mentioned yesterday -- like Chris Bortz, Sam Herd and others -- which he looks forward to working with.
Bortz is a Charterite; Herd is a Democrat. And that means Pepper's team now includes 11 candidates -- putting him two over the legal limit -- and every Democrat except Damon Lynch III (who has endorsed Mark Mallory for mayor).

Who are these "other" candidates he looks forward to working with? Stay tuned.

Where did all the Cincinnati Republicans go?

Enquirer reporter Howard Wilkinson writes today about the Republican Party's decline in city politics since the Democrat-Charter coalition took control of City Hall in 1971.

The map above shows what's happened. Hamilton County precincts that Republican George W. Bush carried last year are in red; precincts that voted for John F. Kerry are in blue.

With few exceptions -- like Hyde Park, Mount Lookout, Mount Washington, Westwood, Covedale and Sayler Park -- the GOP sphere influence ends almost immediately at the city limits.

It's not a phenomenon unique to Cincinnati. As Austin American-Statesman reporter Bill Bishop demonstrated in a series before last year's presidential election, Americans are increasingly segregated by party affiliation.

Democrats and Republicans once came from the same kinds of communities. Now they don't.

The two parties today not only represent different political philosophies but find their core support in different kinds of communities. The nation has gone through a big sort, a sifting of people and politics into what is becoming two Americas. One is urban and Democratic, the other Republican, suburban and rural.

Unless that trend reverses itself, Republicans will remain an endangered species in Cincinnati politics.

Malone: 'I had nothing to do' with bookkeeping

Cincinnati Councilman Sam Malone, chairman of the group that fought to keep Article XII in the city's charter last year, said he was not involved in the "internal operations" of the Equal Rights Not Special Rights Committee and could not speak to its fund-raising efforts.

Through his chief of staff, Stephen S. Hill, Malone gave this response to the complaint filed today with the Ohio Elections Commission alleging that the conservative group illegally hid the identity of contributors to the anti-gay rights campaign:
I served on the committee and lent my name to the campaign because I believed in the campaign, and in keeping Article XII on the books. I had nothing to do with the internal operations and truly believe the people at Citizens for Community Values will always do their jobs with dignity, integrity and professionalism.

Former mayors club leads anti-tax repeal effort

Cincinnati mayors, from left, Arn Bortz, Charlie Luken, David Mann, Roxanne Qualls and Bobbie Sterne speak to the Enquirer's editorial board last week. (Photo by Joseph Fuqua/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

As they entered the conference room for a meeting with the Enquirer's editorial board last week, several former Cincinnati mayors wondered aloud whether the city has more living former mayors than any other big city in America.

It could be. Because of several factors -- a history of young council members getting elected mayor, a 14-year experiment in one-year mayors, and a little bit of good health and good luck -- Cincinnati now counts 15 citizens who once occupied Room 150 at City Hall.

But the former mayors weren't there for a reunion. Instead, they were summoned by the current occupant of the office to rally support against Issue 9, a property tax repeal question on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The former mayors are honorary co-chairs of the union-backed effort to keep the city's property tax. It's a strategy cooked up by Brooke Hill, the political strategist leading the anti-Issue 9 campaign, in an effort to raise the group's profile and gravitas.

Here's what the mayors said about Issue 9:

Charlie Luken, Democrat, 1984-1990, 1999-present: "The only point I want to make about Issue 9 is that I think it's very important that the city maintain a certain flexibility.... If this passes, I think the first thing that will happen is that our bond rating will be reduced dramatically.... The cliche for this, I think, is 'draconian.'"

David Mann, Democrat, 1980-82, 1991: "The earnings tax is very volatile. This particular source, as modest as it is, is at least stable."

Arn Bortz, Charterite, 1983-1984: "This all has to do with the quality of life as well as bond ratings.... It's easy but irresponsible to say, 'We'll eliminate the property tax,' when you don't have to say what services you'll cut."

Roxanne Qualls,
Democrat, 1993-1999: "If you don't like the way Council is spending the money, you have the polls. You have Nov. 8 to make that decision. It is at least patronizing, and perhaps elitist, to suggest voters can't make that decision.... This is absolutely the wrong time to be playing politics with the revenue streams of the city, particularly when times are so tight."

Bobbie Sterne, Charterite, 1975-1976, 1978-1979: "Which centers are going to pick up those people if the (city's) health clinics close? That's just stupid."

A sixth mayor, Republican Gene Ruehlmann, has lent his name to the effort but was out of town and not available for comment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Four council challengers line up behind Pepper

After weeks of pooh-poohing state Sen. Mark Mallory's strategy of racking up endorsements, Councilman David Pepper is starting to fight back.

Thursday, the Pepper campaign will announce that a bi-partisan group of non-incumbent council candidates has endorsed Pepper. They include Democrats Cecil Thomas and Wendell P. Young and Republicans John Eby and Leslie Ghiz.

Though Pepper isn't formally endorsing a slate for City Council, Pepper makes no secret he'd like to see the same group elected. He also likes Democrats Jeff Berding, Eve Bolton, Laketa Cole, John Cranley and David C. Crowley.

Pepper said the endorsements give him a "head start on building consensus," and hinted that "there are more interesting endorsements coming."

Mallory, for his part, resists naming his "dream team" of council members.

"I have rejected this question on the campaign trail, for two reasons," he said in an interview earlier this week. One, he said, is political -- by picking sides, he could end up losing as many votes as he gains. Second, he said he's committed to work with whatever City Council the voters send him.

"You don't get to pick 'em," he said. "You have to develop them."

Mallory's list of endorsements includes the entire Hamilton County legislative delegation in the Ohio General Assembly (minus state Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr.), two former Ohio Senate presidents and former Mayor Roxanne Qualls.

Weekly newspapers split on mayoral endorsements

Two weeklies endorsed candidates for mayor today, with each candidate adding an endorsement to the tally.

The alternative weekly City Beat endorsed Mark Mallory. After a three-paragraph warm-up that called the Mallory-Pepper race "everything we could have hoped for" and wishing out loud for a tie vote that would force a co-mayoralty, the newspaper gave the nod to Mallory. Publisher John Fox said in a signed editorial that Mallory is committed to many of the same social issues the paper holds dear: gay rights, arts funding, better schools, and stricter oversight of the Cincinnati Police Department:

His status as an "outsider" in city politics, derided by Pepper supporters, will actually be a benefit, allowing Mallory to set a new tone and a new direction for council. His statesmanship and legislative experience will help produce better laws from council and improved relationships among council, the mayor and the new city manager.

Don't underestimate Mallory's ability to relate to both corporate CEOs and neighborhood activists, his track record of working with statehouse Republicans, his family's dedication to service and his experiences growing up an African-American male in this city. These traits make Mallory a likeable, approachable, professional politician who would elevate the manner and substance of what gets done at City Hall.

The Community Press Newspapers -- which include the Eastern Hills Journal, the Hilltop Press and the Western Hills Press -- endorsed David Pepper. They called Pepper a "Hyde Park guy" and said he's the candidate "most involved in issues that matter to the suburbs:"

We especially like his idea of monitoring the city's customer service to its residents. People who try to maneuver their way through the city's structure to get simple questions answered usually walk away frustrated. For those of us who can't walk to the city building, that's huge.

What's more, he doesn't believe in "directionless consensus," which means every action needs substance. It means sometimes you don't make everyone happy.

And, that means something to us.
The Community Press newspapers were purchased this year by Gannett, which owns the Cincinnati Enquirer, but its editorial operations remain separate. The Enquirer's editorial page has said its endorsement will appear Sunday; the Cincinnati Post has not yet made an endorsement.

Gay rights group alleges 'network of deception'

Equality Cincinnati, the gay rights group born in the aftermath of last year's gay rights campaign, said today it will file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission over the failure of conservative activists to disclose who contributed $2.4 million to two campaigns opposing gay rights.

In what was the most expensive issue campaign in Cincinnati history, Citizens for Community Values spent $1.2 million last year in its attempt to keep Article XII in the city's charter. The 1993 charter amendment barred City Council from passing gay rights ordinance until it was repealed last year. Another $1.2 million went to support state Issue 1, the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

The following is the text of Equality Cincinnati Chairman Gary Wright's speech this morning at the Vernon Manor Hotel, where he and former Cincinnati Mayor Bobbie Sterne announced their complaint:
We are joining forces today to file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission against Phil Burress, CCV Action, and other political organizations who have been violating Ohio law by hiding millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

In two issue campaigns in Ohio last November, CCV, CCV Action, and a network of ultraconservative political organizations raised and spent $2.4 million dollars, but disclosed only $13,000 in donations by individuals and non-political organizations. They then falsely claimed that the law did not require them to disclose who their real donors were at all.

We are filing this complaint because we believe Cincinnatians and Ohioans deserve to know the truth about who is paying millions of dollars for ads to sway their votes. Burress and others seem to believe that they are above the law. Proving them wrong is important to the future of fair, honest and legal elections in our state....

Now let's look at the facts. Our law states very clearly that:
  • Any person or organization can contribute to an issue campaign, but they must disclose who they are;

  • No person or organization can make a donation for another person so that the real donor can hide; and

  • If the main purpose of an organization is political it must disclose its donors.
We've copied for you the relevant sections of the law that CCV Action and their political allies violated, and of course there is more detail in the filing itself. What CCV and their allies did last year is illegal in Ohio.

At least one of the organizations named in our complaint, Equal Rights No Special Rights, raised and spent so little money on its own, that it seems to have been set up only as a front for CCV Action and Family Research Council Action, which raised the money, hid the donors, and must have made all the real decisions.

For proof of the intent to deceive, you need go no farther than the October 28th, 2004 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer, where Mr. Burress says he is out soliciting a big money donor in Tennessee who wants to remain anonymous. That's clearly against the law.

Seventy-five percent of the $1.26 million for the Cincinnati campaign was raised and spent not by the campaign itself but by two other political organizations. The campaign organization, Equal Rights No Special Rights, lists individual contributions of just $370 from four people, only two of whom actually lived in the city. They disclosed, in other words, just three pennies of every $100 spent on the campaign. Where did all that money really come from? Who really ran that campaign? What did Equal Rights No Special Rights really do?

The Chair of Equal Rights No Special Rights, Sam Malone, is a public official and should have known that what Equal Rights No Special Rights was doing was wrong. The people with the money at CCV Action may have actually been running that campaign, but that's no excuse. It is the duty of our elected officials to stand up for fair, honest, and legal campaigns, and Mr. Malone failed miserably in that.

These organizations also set up websites that allowed people to contribute anonymously on-line, again a clear violation of the law. We have documentation of all of that.

What we have here is a network of deception with CCV Action at its hub. That should be a concern to all who believe that elections should be fair, honest, and legal. We have disclosure laws because allowing hidden money in politics opens the door to corruption. Transparency is the only way to prevent hidden interests from taking over the people's government. That's why these laws need to be respected and enforced.

We believe that most of the average donors to CCV's campaigns are honest people who trusted CCV to follow election laws. We may disagree on the issues but I think we all would agree that fair, honest, and legal campaigns are important for democracy.

Big money donors are more likely to have known what was really going on behind closed doors. In fact, this whole system of deception may have been set up just to satisfy a few people with a lot of money pursuing a hidden agenda. We just don't know and won'tt know until those donors are disclosed as the law requires.

No matter how controversial the issue is, our future as a democratic society requires that we conduct every debate fairly, honestly, and legally. By filing this complaint today, we are hoping to help guarantee that future. No one wins when some people think that the law does not apply to them, and the rest of us remain silent.

Pepper's 'most diverse campaign staff ever'

About 42 minutes into the WLWT/League of Women Voters debate Tuesday night, Councilman David Pepper made what sounded like a dubious claim.

Cincinnati Herald managing editor Tiana Rollinson had asked the candidates about the importance of diversity, and how their campaign staffs reflected those values.

"I have to have the most diverse campaign staff ever put together in the city of Cincinnati," Pepper boasted.

Huh? On its face, that's a pretty bold assertion -- especially for a campaign office that looks like a reunion of the Cincinnati Country Day yearbook staff from the mid-'90s.

When challenged afterward, Pepper scribbled down the lineup on a scrap of paper: Campaign Manager Greg Landsman (Jewish), Field Director Ross Meyer (Pacific Islander), Finance Director Melissa McVay (Hispanic), Director of Voter Contact Travis Hines (African American) and Communication Director Anne Sesler, who would describe her diversity status only as "soccer mom."

Add his council staff to the melting pot, and you get Council Aide Loyce Page (African American), and Chief of Staff Amy Minardo (Italian American).

That leaves Pepper as the whitest guy on his campaign. He describes himself as a "WASP."

And the Mark Mallory campaign? It includes two African-Americans, Campaign Manager Simone Lightfoot and Field Director Shawn Butler; and three Caucasians, Communications Director Jason Barron, Development Director Dan Phenicie and senior adviser Patrick McLean. Mallory is African American.

David Pepper's handwritten accounting of the ethnicity of his campaign staff, provided to a reporter Tuesday night.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Krohn Conservatory is our Washington Monument

At City Hall, they call them "Washington Monuments."

The elephant house at the Cincinnati Zoo was a famous Washington Monument from 1997. So are firehouses, except when a consultant's report gives the political cover to close them. Recreation centers and senior centers make for nice monuments, too.

But City Hall's favorite Washington Monument is Krohn Conservatory.

A "Washington Monument" is a popular program or facility singled out for budget cuts precisely because of its popularity. The term seems to have its origins in the U.S. Park Service official who, testifying before Congress in 1971, said the only way he could cut the budget would be to close the landmark to tourists.

And so it was that a coalition of public employee unions, former mayors, state legislators and others appeared at the Krohn Conservatory Monday for a press conference promising deep service cuts if Issue 9 passes.

"Issue 9 is a major threat to what we do in the city," said Parks Director Willie F. Carden Jr, standing against a backdrop of lush green foliage. "I don't ever want to say to somebody that we have to close a facility -- especially this one that was built in 1933."

The anti-Issue 9 campaign's use of a treasured Cincinnati landmark has anti-tax activists hopping mad.

"He is scaring people, using terror tactics to scare people to vote no on Issue 9," said Christopher P. Finney of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes. He's threatening a lawsuit against the Park Board for allowing political activity on park property. Finney sued the Cincinnati Board of Education in 2002 for allowing city schools to be used for pro-levy rallies. That lawsuit resulted in the school board paying Finney more than $16,500 in costs and legal fees, and an agreement to sin no more.

"It's illegal to use any city resources to fund political campaigns. It couldn't be more clear. You can say I'm going to sue them over it, because I am," Finney said.

Brooke Hill, a spokeswoman for the anti-Issue 9 campaign who also works for Mayor Charlie Luken, said she received a legal opinion from the city solicitor's office that an educational campaign telling voters about the potential affects of a ballot issue was legal -- as long as the participants were not on city time.

Mayor Charlie Luken stands in front of the Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park in April 2003 to talk about how state budget cuts could result in the closure of city parks. (Photos, from top, by Michael E. Keating, Steven M. Herppich and Ernest Coleman/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Mallory: City is 'sick and tired of being divided'

In an interview with the Enquirer's editorial board Monday, state Sen. Mark Mallory accused mayoral opponent David Pepper of using the Black Fist endorsement as a cynical ploy to divide the electorate along racial lines.

Today, the Mallory campaign followed up those remarks with the following written statement:
For too long, our city has been divided by barriers: black and white, east side and west side, Republican and Democrat, young and old. I am running for Mayor to help our city overcome the barriers that divide us.

I want to be absolutely clear: I do not condone hatred of any kind, and I do not support those who preach hatred. I have a long track record and a history of fighting against racial injustice and hatred, as does my entire family.

The only reason that David Pepper is bringing this up is to try and divide this city by race. David's consultants have told him that in order to win he must make race the central issue in this election.

I think that I speak for most of Cincinnati when I say that we are sick and tired of being divided along racial lines. This is the type of divisive leadership that has been hurting our city for years.

The only way to unite this city and tear down the barriers that separate us is to elect a mayor who represents all of Cincinnati. We need a mayor who can work with people of all backgrounds to move this city in a new direction.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Anti-tax group finds few qualified candidates

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes has endorsed five candidates for Cincinnati City Council -- and only two are Republicans.

Endorsed were Republicans John Eby and Chris Monzel, and independents Paul McGhee, Michael Earl Patton and Robert J. Wilking.

"The quality of the candidates for Cincinnati City Council leaves much to be desired," said COAST President Jim Urling in his endorsement statement. "Many are running to feather their own and their friends' nests and not for the betterment of the City of Cincinnati."

The organization usually leans Republican and conservative, but endorsed two socially liberal Charterites -- John Schlagetter and Nick Spencer -- in 2003. This year's list looks a lot like the Cincinnati Right to Life PAC's endorsements, minus Republican Sam Malone.

COAST also advocates a yes vote on the two city ballot issues, Issue 8 and Issue 9. Issue 8 would freeze City Council salaries unless six council members vote to give themselves a cost-of-living raise; Issue 9 would phase out the city's property tax by 2014.

COAST's Tom Brinkman Jr. said the two other Republicans -- Malone and Leslie Ghiz -- did not return endorsement questionnaires, which asked about the two city ballot issues, a property tax rollback, the governor's Third Frontier initiative, and a district system for electing council members.

The anti-tax group did not make an endorsement for mayor. The West Side POWR PAC, which supports David Pepper, threatened to withdraw its support for Issue 9 if COAST endorsed Mark Mallory for mayor.

Ad watch: Cranley's 'Change'

AD: "Change," a 30-second television commercial for Councilman John Cranley. Started running Wednesday. Producer: Allan Crow.

Male announcer: "He's a voice for change in Cincinnati. City Council member John Cranley. Fighting to change the way things are done at City Hall. Passing a measure to put more cops on the street. Tripling neighborhood patrols. Promoting safer neighborhoods by getting police officers out of the office and into the community." Cranley: "I am John Cranley, and I believe Cincinnati is worth fighting for." Announcer: "Fighting for change. Fighting for us. John Cranley. City Council."

VISUALS: The ad opens with a panoramic city view from Mount Echo Park, followed by scenes of Cranley walking along downtown streets. Coat over his shoulder, Cranley turns around in front of City Hall. Cranley walks with a police officer downtown, and talks with citizens in neighborhoods. Cranley speaks directly to the camera from a perch in Mount Adams.

FACT CHECK: Change is an ambiguous concept, and whether Cranley is truly a change agent at City Hall depends on what kind of change any given voter is looking for. But it's undeniable that Cranley is one of the savviest lawmakers at City Hall, and most of the groundbreaking legislation passed over the past five years has his fingerprints on it somewhere.

Cranley did author a measure to increase spending on police overtime by $1.2 million in May, but the claim that neighborhood patrols have tripled is oversimplified to the point of misleading. The additional money tripled the amount of overtime spent on two specific summertime programs, but did not affect the number of regular neighborhood patrols. Also, only $700,000 went to patrols, with the remaining $500,000 going to felony warrant sweeps. The patrols were concentrated in only 13 city neighborhoods.

STRATEGY: Despite the emphasis on "change," this is the most conventional political ad Cranley has run in three campaigns for City Council. In 2001, he aired the now-infamous "Duh!" ad, which featured two middle-aged women commenting on whether Cranley's proposals for more police and less subsidized housing made sense. ("Duh!" they responded.) The most memorable image from his slide-show style 2003 ad was of Cranley sticking his fingers in his ears to make a point about the noise at Lunken Airport. Style points aside, the ad's substance -- though singularly focused on safety -- is more issue-oriented than many ads this season.

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