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

Powered by Blogger

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Night of the unendorsed

Democracy for Cincinnati, the political organization made up mostly of local supporters of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid, invited all the statewide Democratic candidates to show up at their forum in Clifton Wednesday - but only the underdogs showed up.

The Democrats who spoke to about 30 Deaniacs last night were among the ones who will go into the May 2 primary season without an endorsement from the Ohio Democratic Party - candidates like Subodh Chandra, the former Cleveland law director running for Ohio attorney general; Hugh Quill, the Montgomery County treasurer seeking a promotion from the voters to state treasurer; and Bryan Flannery, the former state representative from Lakewood (and Notre Dame football player) who is running an uphill battle against Ted Strickland for the gubernatorial nomination.

On hand, too, was Bob Fitrakis, Columbus lawyer/talk show host/journalist/political science teacher who is the Green Party's candidate for governor, who thrilled the conspiracy buffs in the crowd with his contention that Republicans stole the presidential election in Ohio for George W. Bush.

Strickland didn't show, although he sent his wife Frances, an educational psychiatrist. Neither did State Sen. Marc Dann, the party-endorsed candidate for attorney general; nor Richard Cordray, the party's favorite for state treasurer.

The Deaniacs didn't seem to miss them a bit.

Chandra lit up the crowd with a rousing stump speech in which he filleted practically every Republican in the statehouse, starting with Gov. Bob Taft, Attorney General Jim Petro and the woman he is licking his chops in anticipation of facing this fall, Betty Montgomery.

Chandra said that as the father of two-year-old triplet boys, he is often sleep-deprived and prone to "bad dreams'' when he does get in a few winks.

"I've had this strange dream - a nightmare really - that there was this big Republican campaign contributor who managed to get his hands on $50 million that was meant for Ohio's injured workers and invested it in rare coins and beanie babies.'' Then, he said, he dreamed that Petro and Montgomery, as attorney general and state auditor, ignored the disaster.

"Guess what?,'' he said. "This wasn't a dream. It really happened.''

Chandra, a second-generation Indian, led the audience in an exercise in how to pronounce his name: "Subodh" (rhymes with "abode"), "Chandra (rhymes with "tundra); and told them that they shouldn't feel that "a person who looks like me and who has a name like mine can't be elected.''

"For people who think that, I have two words,'' Chandra said. "Barack Obama.''

Quill talked of his experience as Montgomery County treasurer and how he enraged bankers in Dayton by opening up the process of investing county funds to competitive bidding.

"They thought they had a right to have that money because they did nice things for the community and because they were the home town banks,'' Quill said. "but I was looking for the best deal for the taxpayers.''

After Chandra talked about his triplet boys, Flannery worked his kids - a 2-year-old boy and a five-year-old daughter - into his stump speech, which was largely about the need to reform Ohio's school funding system.

Flannery said that before his daughter was born, he had told his wife that he wanted to see "the school funding mess solved before our daughter goes to school.''

"Well, our daughter will go to school in the fall and it's still not fixed.''

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Show Si the Money

President George Bush raised over $1 million at an Indian Hill fundraiser last week for Ohio Republican Sen. Mike DeWine -- and taxpayers should get some of it, Sherrif Simon Leis Jr. contends.

Leis wrote DeWine's campaign a letter Tuesday asking that the sheriff's department be reimbursed $7,421.54 for security services his deputies and department provided for Bush's Feb. 23 fundraiser.

The reason is that Bush was here only for a fundraising event and not to make an official visit.

"If the President appears and does a fundraiser but is also here on official business, we wouldn't bill them," Sheriff's spokesman Steve Barnett said.

The idea isn't a new one for Leis.

He's sent similar bills to Republicans and Democrats when security was needed for fundraising trips.

Tuesday's itemized bill includes:

- $780 for use of the Sheriff's helicopter

- $2,385 for cruiser and bomb unit vehicle costs

- $4,256.54 for personnel for regular and overtime hours for 25 employees.

The DeWine campaign isn’t planning to reimburse the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department for the expense of President Bush’s visit.

"The campaign will pay all expenses required by the president’s visit," Brian Seitchik, a spokesman for the DeWine campaign, said Wednesday.

But when asked if that means the campaign will pay only what is required by law, Seitchik responded in the affirmative.

According to Ian Stirton a spokesman at the Federal Election Commission, campaign finance rules don’t require the campaign to reimburse local law enforcement officials for the cost of providing security.

"It comes up quite a bit when the president goes into small communities that can’t afford the security costs," Stirton said. "Once in a while, the campaign will reimburse them."

Campaign finance law also doesn’t require the campaign to pay for the cost of the Secret Service agents who accompany the president, or those who made "several visits" to the Housers home before the event to for security purposes.

In fact, despite a White House claim that no public funds would be used to pay for the fundraiser, the only expense the campaign is required by law to pay is that of a first-class airline ticket for the president and anyone traveling with the president specifically for the purpose of attending the fundraiser FYI, a first-class ticket from Washington National Airport to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport purchased two weeks ahead of time costs between $312 and $1,237, depending on whether it’s a nonstop flight.

It's official: Blackwell endorsed by Right to Life, too.

Continuing what he called the unbroken chain of Right to Life support he has received over his 30-years career in public service, Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell announced today that he, too, received the endorsement of the Cincinnati Right-to-Life Political Action Committee this week.

"They're spinning you, Jon,'' Gene Pierce, Blackwell's campaign spokesman told an Enquirer reporter Tuesday night when Blackwell rival Jim Petro tried to pre-empt the dual endorsement by publicizing his first. (Indeed, I got played!)

Paula Westwood, executive director of Right-To-Life of Greater Cincinnati said, "Ken Blackwell has a long, proven record as a champion for the rights of all innocent human beings regardless of size, age, race, residence, or abilities. He is a leader of integrity who has never compromised his pro-life commitment.

"Ken Blackwell consistently demonstrates deep respect for the basic moral principle of the the right to life for all human beings identified in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. He has repeatedly upheld this right in the political and legal arenas."

The Cincinnati group also endorsed Petro and Democratic candidate Bryan Flannery. But Mike Hernon, Blackwell campaign manager reminded voters of Petro’s "all too recent pro-choice past.''

"Some have questioned the timing of Jim’s conversion,'' Hernon said. "Ken Blackwell will be one of the strongest pro-life governors in Ohio’s history.”

Banks Banks Banks Banks

Reporter Kimball Perry filed this from the Hamilton County Commission meeting

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, upset that he -- and the public --- are, he believes, being left out of discussions between commissioners and Cincinnati officials involving The Banks, tried today to coax some information about the project from Commissioner Phil Heimlich.

Heimlich met Tuesday night with Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory and Council Member Chris Bortz, hoping to get city officials to agree with Hamilton County on financing, developer selection and other issues critical to the $600 million commercial, residental and retail neighborhood planned for Cincinnati's riverbanks.

Portune, during his opportunity to discuss topics at today's commission meeting, pointedly asked Heimlich what came from Heimlich's Tuesday night meeting.

"It was very positive. I think there was some real progress made in a number of areas," Heimlich answered.

"I don't know what that means," Portune countered, seeking more specifics.

Heimlich declined, saying the mayor still has some information to provide with Council members and he didn't want that to disrupt what he hoped would be an agreement between the two governments.

Council is slated to considered at its meeting this afternoon if it will agree to a proposed plan between the two governments that would give city officials an equal say in selecting a developer for The Banks.

Members of each government announced last week that such an agreement had been reached, but when the council meeting took place, the hoped-for agreement fell through.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What Newsweek writers read

Readers of the Enquirer learned from reporter Howard Wilkinson last week how Rep. Steve Chabot greeted President Bush during his visit last week: he handed him a copy of Jim Borgman's cartoon from that day's Enquirer.

Now, Newsweek readers know it too. In a story about the controversy over a Dubai company's role in running some U.S. ports, Newseek used this tidbit (both in hard copy and online.)

Still, the storm spread. Midweek, as he stepped off the plane in Ohio on a trip to boost candidates in tight congressional races, the president was greeted by Rep. Steve Chabot. The congressman pressed into Bush's hand a cartoon from that morning's Cincinnati Enquirer. It showed a grinning Arab emir spreading his arms over an American port. The caption read, "Relax, Homeland Security has everything under control."

Read it here.

Here's the cartoon

Boehner holds his first pen & pad

A common fixture among the Washington press corps is the weekly pen & pad news briefing between reporters and the House majority leader over the schedule of which bills will come to the House floor. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, had been known to draw a line outside his office more than 45 minutes before the start of the 30-minute session when reporters were eager to grill him on ethics charges.

Today, new Majority Leader John Boehner, a West Chester Republican, kicked off his first session.

Facing a standing-room-only room of about 40-50 Washington reporters that crammed eagerly into his new office in the U.S. Capitol (H-107), Boehner flashed a wry smile, glanced at a half dozen tape recorders sliding across the table toward him, greeted a few reporters by name, and got started:

Boehner: “Well, good afternoon, everyone.”

Reporters: “Hello.”

Boehner: “If this goes well, maybe we'll do it again. How's that?”

Unidentified Reporter: “What's the signal if it does go well?”

Boehner (with a wink): “We'll decide that later.”

The questions came from all around the room, and jumped from port security to the pending pension bill to immigration to ethics reform. Unlike his predecessor, who took a transcript but never shared it with the media, Boehner’s press office e-mailed a full take of the 1:30 p.m. event to reporters by 4 p.m.

“Who takes care of ya?” asked Boehner’s press secretary, Kevin Madden, in his e-mail to reporters. “In unison: Youuuu doooo, Madddogggg.”

In many ways, Boehner is still enjoying a honeymoon of sorts. After winning an upset victory against House Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., to get the job on Feb. 2, Boehner has been busy with the GOP retreat earlier this month, campaigning for fellow Republicans and hiring a new leadership staff for his new office.

“What is different about being in charge?” asked one reporter. “Explain how your life has changed.”

“Well, life has not changed a whole lot. There are still only seven days in a week and still only 24 hours in a day. But the days and weeks are filled up with a little different activities than what they were,” Boehner said. “This is the first week where I have finally felt like I had a little breathing room. Part of the difficulty we have had is trying to run the House, build a staff, and build an operation all on the run. There just there was no transition time.

“Do you like being in charge?” the reporter asked.

Boehner: “It is a very big responsibility. But I think most you have heard me say this: I'm just a regular guy with a big job. And I'll be the same guy that you all have known for some time.”

Indeed, Boehner even whipped out some of his old phrases. In an answer to a reporter’s question about whether he would allow rank-and-file Republicans to disapprove of the Dubai Ports World deal if, after the 45-day investigative period, the White House was still pushing for the sale to go forward, Boehner said:

“If ands and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas. Some of you may have been around – how many years ago was that, at least 10 years ago when I had to use that line one day. I don't know. You know, let's go through the process. Let's go through the hearings and then we'll see what, if anything, needs to happen.”

That didn’t keep Boehner, however, from responding to a question about President Bush’s low approval rating. A new CBS poll shows Bush is at a record low of 34 percent.

“It makes things more difficult,” Boehner said matter-of-factly, before turning on an unfortunate reporter in the back row with windblown hair.

“Nice haircut,” Boehner said with a smirk. “That's the worst haircut I've ever seen you get.”

Finally, a sign of what Boehner’s tenure will be like, the news conference ended promptly at 2 p.m. as an ever-tan Boehner (despite the falling temperature outside), disappeared from the ornate conference room as quickly as he had entered.


The "unidentified reporter" who asked Boehner at the start of the briefing how reporters would know if the session went well has been identified! It was Greater Cincinnati's own Chad Pergram of Jacksonburg in Butler County. Pergram is a radio correspondent for Capitol News Connection, which reports on Washington events for WVXU in Cincinnati and WMUB in Oxford. Pergram also is a graduate of Miami University.

Photo from the breifing comes from today's edition of Roll Call, a Capitol Hill insider newspaper.

Read a nice story about Boehner's first pen & pad in the Columbus Dispatch here.

Local Right to Life endorses...

The Cincinnati Right to Life Political Action Committee has endorsed Jim Petro in the Republican Party primary for governor.

Paula Westwood, executive director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, said, "Jim Petro's efforts as attorney general to protect all innocent human life is leadership badly needed at all levels of government.''

Westwood said a recent example was Petro's legal victory in lifting a seven-year court injunction on a state law that requires parental notification for minors plus 24-hour informed consent before having an abortion.

Update from Carl Weiser: Actually, as a commenter noted, the Committee endorsed not just Petro, but Blackwell as well. And, in fact, Democrat Bryan Flannery.

Read the endorsements here

Democratic cattle calls

Southwest Ohio Democrats have two good chances to eyeball some of their statewide candidates this week.

Wednesday night, Democracy for Cincinnati (the local Deaniac group) will have a statewide candidate forum that could be interesting because it is the first head-to-head meeting in this part of the state between the two Democrats running for Ohio attorney general - former Cleveland law director Subodh Chandra and State Sen. Marc Dann of Youngstown.

The Democratic front-runner for the gubernatorial nomination, Ted Strickland, can't make it, but his way-undedog opponent, former state representative Bryan Flannery, is headed this way.

Festivities begin at 7 p.m. at 879 Rue de la Paix in Clifton.

A bumper crop of Democratic statewide and local candidates are expected to descend upon the Union Township Civic Center in Eastgate Saturday afternoon for a candidate forum sponsored by the Quin-T Democrat Club.

The headliner Saturday will be U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown. The Democrats' endorsed candidates for secretary of state and state treasurer - Jennifer Brunner and Richard Cordray, respectively - say they will also be on hand, as will four of the five Democrats running in the 2nd Congressional District primary.

No Strickland and no Flannery expected, although organizers say Flannery may send his lieutenant governor running mate, Frank Stams. Stams is an Akron insurance executive, but his real claim to fame is as a football player who had a stint with the Cleveland Browns and was an All-American on Notre Dame's 1988 national championship team.

Quin-T's forum runs from 1 to 3 p.m., with a social hour to follow.

The Quin-T Democrat Club, by the way, takes its rather odd name from the fact that it was started some 30 years ago by Democrats from five Clermont County townships - Franklin, Monroe, Ohio, Tate and Washington.

"Quin-T,'' get it?

Hackett not going quietly

Indian Hill lawyer and Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett dropped out of Ohio's U.S. Senate race two weeks ago. But the blunt-speaking Democrat who drew attention for his off-color remarks about the president and Ohio Republican Party, is still taking advantage of the spotlight.

Or, whatever's left of it.

After leaving the race on Feb. 14, Hackett appeared last week on MSNBC's "Hardball." Today, he has an Op-Ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"Somewhere along the way I became something I'm not: a political rock star. But I only wanted to help my country."
In both his TV appearance and in print, Hackett accuses his Democratic opponent, Rep. Sherrod Brown of northern Ohio, of spreading rumors about Hackett's service in Iraq:
"Was I screwed? Maybe, but that's life. There were a lot of political machinations, mostly behind the scenes. Much made its way into the press, including an ugly whisper campaign regarding my service in Iraq perpetrated by Brown. Brown has denied this, but county party chairmen told me about the rumors and where they were coming from. Brown had initially told me he would support my Senate campaign but then changed his mind. Again, a clash of cultures. That's politics. But that's not me. My word is my bond."
Hackett also continued to accuse Democratic Senatoral Campampaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., of working to undermine his campaign:
"Schumer and Reid, the guys who said my country needs me, had a change of heart. There was never any explanation given. Schumer, in particular, actively sought to undermine my insurgent campaign, in part by calling up my donors and telling them not to raise money for me, which is like a doctor cutting off oxygen to a patient. He also worked through others to get state and local politicians to publicly urge me to quit."
So, was it worth it?
"You bet. In less than 11 months, we changed the debate on Iraq, inspired at least 11 other Iraq vets and countless non-vets to run for Congress, and invigorated a state Democratic Party to believe in itself again."

Monday, February 27, 2006

Blackwell conquers Miami County

Miami County, Ohio is not one of the super-counties of Ohio politics. It sits on the Great Miami River in western Ohio, just north of Dayton and is home to the prosperous county seat of Troy, some very good farm land, and the somewhat creaky industrial town of Piqua.

It is also home to a whole lot of Republican primary voters.

Maybe that is why the campaign operation of gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell expended such an enormous effort to win the county party endorsement at Sunday's Miami County Republican Convention, an annual event that draws hundreds of GOP faithful to a rural high school near the village of Casstown.

Blackwell ended up winning the straw poll vote at Sunday's convention over Attorney General Jim Petro by a vote of 241 to 197.

The Blackwell camp worked overtime to get those 241 votes. According to Miami County GOP chairman John W. "Bud'' O'Brien, the Blackwell campaign delivered three-minute campaign DVDs to every Republican household in the county. Those Miami County Republicans who signed up for the Blackwell campaign on www.kenblackwell.com were handed a free Blackwell/Raga T-shirt if they showed up for Sunday's convention.

"They worked it pretty hard,'' O'Brien said. "Much harder than the Petro folks.''

Earlier this month, Blackwell won the endorsement of his hometown Hamilton County Republican Party in a vote that took place behind closed doors at the Queen City Club.

In Miami County, there is no such thing as "behind closed doors.''

They ran their county convention - "a miniature version of the presidential convention,'' O'Brien said - right in front of the whole world, with a high school band blaring, a gymnasium full of balloons and banners, floor demonostrations by sign-waving delegates, and hours of bloviation from the speakers' podium.

To add to the festivities, Sen. Mike DeWine - who also won an endorsement Sunday - brought along a barbershop quartet to entertain the crowd.

"We like to put on a show,'' O'Brien said.

Blackwell's win was signifcant, but the biggest surprise from the convention was that State Sen. Tim Grendell, running an uphill primary battle against Betty Montgomery for Ohio attorney general, won the endorsement vote by a two-to-one margin.

"Betty worked the county really hard,'' O'Brien said. "But Grendell made a heck of a speech.''

Grendell used his six-minute speech to talk about his "pro-life, pro-Second Amendment record; and to remind the delegates of his military service,'' O'Brien said. "It really won people over.''

Scandal-fighting costs: $175-an-hour.

Hamilton County taxpayers will continue to pay for the Rebecca Collins-Mike Allen sex scandal.

Earlier this month, a federal court judge ruled that Collins, an assistant prosecutor who admitted to a years-long extramarital affair with then-Prosecutor Mike Allen, couldn't continue to sue Hamilton County. But, the judge added, Collins could continue to sue current Prosecutor Joe Deters who fired Collins after he won the election.

Because the Prosecutor's Office represents Hamilton County in the case, and because it would be a conflict of interest for the Prosecutor's office to represent the prosecutor, Hamilton County commisioners have agreed to hire a private attorney to represent Deters in the wrongful termination suit Collins filed. She accused Deters of firing her in retaliation for her suit against Allen for sexual harassment and discrimination.

Last week, commissioners adopted a resolution hiring Cincinnati attorney Lawrence Barbiere to represent Deters -- at $175 per hour.

Collins now is a private attorney and legally has changed her name to R. Laney Collins.

The Tafts run around Washington

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and first lady Hope Taft have been busy in Washington over the weekend, promoting a “Healthy Ohio” initiative by taking part in a 5K run/walk on Saturday and hitting a party at the White House on Sunday.

It’s all part of the National Governors Association’s winter meeting, scheduled to run from last Saturday until tomorrow.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, nearly 25 percent of Ohio adults don’t participate in regular physical activity, nearly 80 percent don’t consume the recommended five daily servings of fruits and veggies, and 26 percent smoke.

Taft’s statewide effort on health features a Web site that can give Ohioans tips on weight management, physical activity, nutrition and tobacco-use prevention or cessation.

“I encourage all Ohioans to take small steps to make lifestyle changes to improve their health,” he said. “Ohio is taking the initiative to help improve the quality of life for all Ohioans by encouraging them to change unhealthy lifestyles so that they can enjoy long, active lives.”

The Tafts joined President Bush most other governors at a White House dinner honoring states and territories that featured music from Grammy award winner Aaron Neville of the Neville Brothers.

The dinner’s menu included a side of Ohio field lettuces with citrus avocado dressing, Mary blue crab soup, Alaska honey-glazed venison, Hawaiian Kona coffee, and wine from California, Texas and New York.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and her husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also were in attendance.

(Photo courtesy of the National Governor's Association. Gov. Taft is on the right, back row. Hope Taft is in the middle, back row.)

Jim Borgman
Today at the Forum
Paul Daugherty
Politics Extra
N. Ky. Politics
Pop culture review
Who's News
Roller Derby Diva
CinStages Buzz....
The Foodie Report
Classical music
John Fay's Reds Insider
High school sports
UC Sports
CiN Weekly staff