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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Friday, March 17, 2006

Munoz to join Kemp at McEwen fundraiser

This just in:

National Football League Hall of Famer and former Bengals player Anthony Munoz will emcee Bob McEwen's fundraiser with former U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary, vice presidential nominee and All-Pro quarterback Jack Kemp next week.

Blame it on the twin

Rep. Jean Schmidt, a Republican from Miami Township hit prime time again with a mention in last night's "Countdown with Keith Oberman" on MSNBC.

This time, it's over a comment made to The Enquirer about young Republican activists two decades ago (“They look like young Hitlers to me") that Schmidt's chief of staff now says should have been attributed to her twin sister, Jennifer Black.

Read the transcript of last night's show for yourself here.

Read excerpts from the story that started it all here.

Read the story in The Hill where Schmidt's spokesman blames her sister here.

Former U.S. Rep. McEwen gets public reprimand

A public reprimand is being issued to congressional candidate Bob McEwen by the Ohio Elections Commission.

Thursday, a 6-1 commission found McEwen made a false statement last spring by using the word "congressman" in front of his name in radio and television campaign ads as well as literature during the primary election. McEwen is a former congressman.

The state commission found McEwen in violation of the false statement statute, but did not refer the case for prosecution, according to Philip Richter, executive director of the state commission.

Richter was writing the letter of public reprimand today. It will be sent to McEwen, his attorney and Thomas W. Blumer of Mason, who filed the complaint against McEwen on Dec. 29.

McEwen, from Anderson Township, is running against U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt in the Republican Party primary May 2.

“We conceded,’’ McEwen said. “If anyone was misled, we apologize.’’

McEwen said a formal statement would be made later today.

A separate Ohio elections complaint was filed against Schmidt this week by James P. Urling of Cincinnati, accusing her of posting false endorsements on her Web site from U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, the Family Research Council and others.

Richter said McEwen, through Columbus attorney Charles “Rocky” Saxbe, acknowledged improperly using the title congressman in front of his name in campaign ads.

Chairwoman Catherine Cunningham, a Republican, was the only member of the bipartisan commission to oppose the reprimand.

The only other punishment could have been a referral for prosecution, Richter said, which won’t be made. There are no automatic fines.

Blumer today offered no additional comment beyond what he has posted on his own blog:

It says, in part: "I would descibe the result as disappointing, but not discouraging. Mr. McEwen is on record now as having violated Ohio Election Law in the 2005 Second District Congressional Primary, and is to my knowledge the only one of approximately 16 candidates of both parties who ran in that primary you can say that about.

“He is also, to my knowledge, the only candidate of either party who has been found to have violated Ohio Election Law of all the candidates running in the 2006 Second District Congressional Primary.

“That’s not small potatoes, despite the lack of tangible punishment beyond a reprimand,” Blumer wrote.

Jessica Simpson stands up Boehner (and Bush)

Jessica Simpson, the blond bombshell known for her MTV reality show "Newlyweds" with now-estranged husband Nick Lachey of Cincinnati, was in Washington yesterday to lobby Congress for Operation Smile, a group that provides reconstructive surgery to children with facial deformities.

She also had been expected to attend a Republican fundraiser on Capitol Hill with President Bush, where she was to be seated next to new House Majority Leader John Boehner. That is, until the long-legged singer abruptly declined to attend the event, saying she didn't want to get involved in politics.

Boehner, whose spokesman said a day earlier that the West Chester Republican wouldn't even recognize her, was apparently crestfallen.

"You know, I really feel like I got bagged," he told reporters.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Hackett drops the f-bomb on Brown

Indian Hill’s Paul Hackett isn’t on the Senate campaign trail anymore, but he’s still raising money for Democratic candidates – and throwing barbs at former primary rival Sherrod Brown, a longtime congressman from northern Ohio.

The lanky Iraq war veteran drove his pick-up truck to Washington this week to help launch a new political action committee that aims to raise millions of dollars for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

“Hopefully, I’ll have more success in raising money for the PAC than I did for my Senate campaign,” Hackett joked to reporters earlier today.

Hackett dropped out of Ohio's U.S. Senate race last month, saying the same Democratic leaders in Washington who had recruited him to challenge vulnerable GOP incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine of Cedarville, turned against him after Brown entered the Democratic primary.

Hackett, who gained national attention for his narrow loss to Rep. Jean Schmidt in the Republican-leaning 2nd Congressional District special election last year, refused to challenge her – or run for political office – again, but said he’d like to remain active on the political scene.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America PAC gives him that opportunity. Hackett joined this week the group’s board, which also includes 2004 Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark, a retired general in the U.S. Army, and Bob Kerrey, a former U.S. senator and governor of Nebraska.

The PAC is planning a fundraiser tonight at a private home in Georgetown, featuring Clark and Hackett and hosted by Lynne Wasserman, the daughter of the late movie mogul Lew Wasserman who previously held a fundraiser at her Beverly Hills home for Hackett’s Senate bid.

Cost to attend: $250 to $5,000 per person.

“As long as they can pay the airfare, I’ll run around and raise money,” Hackett said of the PAC. He’s amazed, it seems, that people still flock to see him. “It just blows my mind,” he said with a big grin. “It’s kind of embarrassing.”

Hackett also plans to help the six candidates that the PAC has endorsed, which include Iraq war veteran and Hackett friend Andrew Horne, who is running against Republican Rep. Anne Northrup in Kentucky’s Third District.

“I’m definitely going to hit the road for any of them,” Hackett said. “Some of them want me. Some of them need me. Some of them don’t want me, and I’m sensitive to that.”

Some Democrats don’t want Hackett’s help?

Believe it or not, but Hackett says he’s actually has earned a reputation for being “outspoken” and “bullheaded.”


Hackett, on Congress: “There’s no accountability. It’s like lemmings going off a cliff.”

On Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who was first elected to a public office at the age of 23: “Now you tell me, what the hell kind of experience did he have?”

On the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is charged with helping the party field House candidates: “The DCCC supports you as long as things look good, and when things don’t look good, they quietly walk away.”

On an exit strategy for the Iraq war: “Spreading Democracy and defeating the evil-doers? Give me a break. What kind of absolutely moronic goal is ‘defeat the evil-doers’? Defeating the evil-doers is not a strategy and it’s not a military goal.”

On what it was really like to run for the Senate, after running for the House: “The Senate race was 10 times as much money, 10 times as much travel, 10 times as much bull----.”

On his former Senate primary opponent: “F--- Sherrod.”

Excuse me?

“So I don’t like Sherrod Brown? Big deal. People have got to get over that,” Hackett said, adding that he still plans to vote for Brown.

But … what language!

“It feels good to be able to say that now. No more, ‘Oh, you can’t use the f-bomb,’” Hackett said with a chuckle, adding that more politicians shouldn’t be afraid to speak their mind.

Brown’s campaign press secretary, Joanna Kuebler, declined to comment.

Report from Lebanon

The Enquirer's Janice Morse reports from Warren County

It was like an 80-foot-tall "rusty blue Thermos bottle," said Lebanon City Manager Pat Clements.

He’s talking about a Monroe Road standpipe that dutifully -- but unattractively -- had stored up to 300,000 gallons of water for the city for more than 50 years.

But last week, it vanished from the Lebanon landscape.

Crews cut it down. It's vanished.

And, "from my perspective, good riddance," Clements told City Council this week.

A more voluptuous -- and voluminous -- water tower, which holds 1 million gallons of water, is taking over those responsibilities on Deerfield Road.

Dusty vs. the Whistleblower

Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes used to love dishing the dirt with Jim Schifrin, owner of a local gossip sheet.

Schifrin, who dubbed himself "Charles Foster Kane," used to mention Rhodes often in The Whistleblower. And Rhodes was a frequent source for Schifrin's gossip.

That changed, though, when Schifrin received his latest tax bill from the Hamilton County Auditor's office.

Schifrin bought his Birney Lane home -- 2,695 square feet on more than one acre in Anderson Township -- for $116,000 in 1986. Last year, the Auditor's office valued it at $188,400. But after the state-mandated six-year reappraisal, the value of Schifrin's home rose this year to $265,000.

The result: his property taxes rose from $3,300 last year to $4,100 this year.

The other result: Schifrin got mad at Rhodes, he said, not speaking to him or returning his calls -- and using his gossip rag to attack Rhodes.

The latest, Rhodes said, was Schifrin printing the telephone number to Rhodes' direct line at the Auditor's office in the Whistleblower, which is e-mailed free to readers.

As of 11 a.m. today, Rhodes said his telephone hasn't rung.

It will, Schifrin promised.

"Tell him to 'bite me,' " Schifrin said of Rhodes. "Those (expletives) came out here and lied to me. Lied about me."

The feud goes back to a meeting where Rhodes was to introduce U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, but spent "four minutes and 58 seconds" of the five-minute introduction bashing Schifrin for complaining about his increasing property tax bill.

"Dusty spend all of his time (expletive)ing around on the radio and babysitting his grandkids. He's not doing his job," Schifrin said of Rhodes, also a radio disc jockey.

Schifrin contends his house is so special that it can't be compared to others in his area. Valuations largely are based on comparable sales in the area.

"This, sir, is a unique building," Schfrin said. "Don't give me that phoney-baloney, 'comparable' bull(expletive).

"My backyard is in the front and my front yard is in the back."

Schifrin was particularly upset after he requested an auditor employee physically visit his home for the re-evaluation. The employee showed up and looked around, but, Schifrin said, didn't do his job.

"They might as well have driven by at 40 miles per hour," Schifrin said, noting his valuation dind't change after the visit.

"All I got was a 'go-(expletive)-yourself letter' from the auditor," Schifrin said.

Now, Schifrin ranks Rhodes alongside U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, as a top target in the Whistleblower .

He also suggested his attorney, local political activist Chris Finney, would be busy working on a surprise for Rhodes.

"We're going to sue him. He defamed me in front of a crowd," Schifrin said.

Election complaint against Mallory dismissed

A unanimous Ohio Elections Commission dismissed a 5-month-old complaint today against Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory’s campaign committee.

The case centered on whether Service Employees International Union District 1199 coordinated with Mallory for Citizens when it spent $40,389 last year on mail and phone calls supporting him.

Northside resident Sharon Koehler filed the complaint at the behest of Mallory’s opponent, David Pepper. Both are Democrats.

Philip Richter, executive director of the state Elections Commission, said that Koehler told him she wanted to drop the complaint.

Donald Brey, a Columbus attorney representing Mallory’s campaign committee, also pointed out that the Cincinnati Elections Commission is not authorized to refer complaints like Koehler’s to the state commission. Richter said the city commission informed him it would not be a party to the complaint.

Attorneys for Mallory’s campaign and the union denied any coordination.

Pepper said today that he recently had lunch with Mallory, and that dropping this complaint was a part of fencemending going on between he and the mayor.

“Part of getting along well is going to be putting what was a good race behind us,’’ Pepper said. “We’re going to work closely together. To move the region forward, you need a county commission that can really work closely together. Frankly, before the race Mark and I always had a good relationship and we have a good relationship now.’’

In fact, Mallory has endorsed Pepper in his race for a seat on the Hamilton County Commission.
"David is a hard working and enthusiastic public servant. His creativity and attention to detail are needed to help the county address the challenges it faces. The citizens of Hamilton County will be fortunate to have such a passionate advocate on the Board of County Commissioners."
See http://davidpepper.com/endorsements.php

And the Enquirer recently reported this observation from Pepper after Mallory’s first 100 days on the job: "From what I’ve seen, looking from the outside, what I’ve been most impressed by is his work to make real connections in the region. He’s been over the river numerous times, and he’s reaching out. That’s really important."

Everyone wasn't making up today, however.

William Mallory Sr., the mayor's father and an elections commission member, recused from today's 6-0 vote to dismiss, but not before saying: "Sharon Koehler used to be a friend of mine.''

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Kemp to headline McEwen fundraiser

This just in from the Bob McEwen campaign:

Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary, vice presidential nominee and All-Pro quarterback Jack Kemp will headline a breakfast fundraiser for McEwen in Cincinnati next week.

WHAT: Breakfast with Jack Kemp and Bob McEwen
DATE: Tuesday, March 21, 2006
TIME: 7:45am - 9:00am
WHERE: Queen City Club, 331 E. Fourth St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
TICKETS: Reserved + photo with Secretary Kemp - $1,000 per person
General - $250 per person

McEwen, a former congressman from southern Ohio, is challenging freshman Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, in the GOP primary May 2 for the 2nd District.

A road he shouldn't have traveled?

As he was pressing Hamilton County commissioners today to approve the proposed widening of East Kemper Road, Engineer Bill Brayshaw became upset at what he apparently perceived as lack of support from commissioners.

Brayshaw's office proposed widening the Symmes Township road from 9 to 11 or 12 feet to provide shoulders and improve drainage.

Bryahsaw said the road needs to be improved as noted by the 49 crashes -- and one fatality -- in that stretch since 1994, calling it "one of the most substandard roads in the county."

Commissioner Phil Heimlich asked Brayshaw to quantify those 49 wrecks -- was that number high or low compared to other similar roads?

That's when Brayshaw - who already had sat through several citizens complaining that the proposed widening wasn't wanted by residents - told the commissioners that "the silent majority" of residents did want the improvement.

And he suggested that silent majority would make itself heard on Election Day were the project rejected.

Brayshaw also mentioned that were the project rejected and a crash took place that resulted in a lawsuit, he, as the county engineer, could be forced to testify against commissioners.

Those comments were attacked by commissioners.

Saying Brayshaw was "well respected," Heimlich told Brayshaw "Your comments I don't think is a very, in all honesty, a very professional way in dealing with this issue."

Heimlich suggested Brayshaw stick to engineering "instead of suggesting we will pay a price if we don't support this issue."

Commissioner Pat DeWine also was put off by Brayshaw's comments.

"Some of these clumsy threats, frankly, aren't helpful and are offensive. Very offensive," DeWine said.

DeWine and Heimlich voted to proceed with the project. Commissioner Todd Portune voted against it.

After the meeting Brayshaw apologized.

Who saw The Daily Show last night?

You read about it first right here in the Enquirer.

Then -- finally -- all you loyal viewers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart got a treat last night when Indian Hill's Paul Hackett teamed up with Ed Helms to poke fun at the Democratic Party for choosing Hackett to take on vulnerable Republican incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine -- then un-choosing him when establishment candidate Sherrod Brown, a congressman from northern Ohio, got into the race.

Helms interviewed Hackett, an Iraq war veteran who gained national attention last year for his narrow loss to Rep. Jean Schmidt in the 2nd District special election, at his suburban home. Helms then spoke to a Democratic political consultant to get the low-down on why the party brushed Hackett off, i.e., they were depending on the winning strategies made famous by candidates such as Al Gore and Walter Mondale.

The result: A brand new political ad featuring the same blunt Hackett ("I believe we should take care of our environment, that's why I'm standing in front of a river.") - minus the unpredictable comments that earned him a reputation as a maverick.

I don't know about you, but I was ROTFL. Update: That means "Rolling on the Floor Laughing." What did you all think?

The segment should be available here from Comedy Central soon. In the meantime, anyone out there have a digital file of the show to share?

Update: You can see the spot here and here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Political payback?

David Pepper, one of the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican incumbent Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich in the fall, is picking up some impressive endorsements.

Perhaps the most surprising is from a former Hamilton County commissioner -- and a Republican at that.

John Dowlin endorses Pepper.

"I think he's mainly a Charterite," Dowlin said of Pepper, a Democrat.

There is a Procter & Gamble connection. Dowlin was a long-time P&G executive before his retirement. Pepper's father, John Pepper, is P&G's former chairman and chief executive officer.

But there also is a political connection, one that smacks of political payback.

In 2004, Dowlin was seeking re-election to his commission seat when he was challenged in the primary by fellow Republican Pat DeWine.

Heimlich endorsed DeWine who then defeated Dowlin.

Now, Dowlin is endorsing Heimlich's potential challenger.

"Phil and I are not friends," Dowlin said.

Heimlich is pleased that Dowlin endorsed Pepper.

"When I endorsed someone, at least it was a Republican," Heimlich said.

Heimlich endorsed DeWine over Dowlin, he said, because he was upset at what he viewed as Dowlin's free-spending ways while on the commission.

"If (Dowlin) is looking to re-create high-spending forms of government, he's endorsing the right candidate," Heimlich said.

Boehner on the Lehrer show

House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester, talked about lobbying reform, the port deal, future of the Republcian party, President Bush's low popularity rating and the Iraq war on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" show yesterday.

Click here to read a transcript of his remarks.

Much Ado About McEwen's Ad

The big news out of Rep. Jean Schmidt's campaign yesterday was that the radio ads of her GOP primary opponent, Bob McEwen, had been pulled. Here's an excerpt from the news release e-mailed to reporters:
2nd District - The McEwen campaign can't seem to get their act together. Their first attempt at advertising is riddled with inaccuracies and breaks federal law. "The ad must be immediately removed from the airwaves," said Allen Freeman of the Schmidt for Congress campaign.

McEwen's campaign released the ad late last week that, among other things, takes credit for the Contract with America. Bob McEwen had already lost two races for congress by the time Contract was unveiled in September 2004.

"Bob had lost in 1992 and the special election in 1993, but now he takes credit for the writing of the Contract--amazing. We will give him the point that he was in Virginia, but he was no where near the Contract with America."

The radio message lacks the required disclaimer indicating who paid for the advertisement. While it contains the BCRA disclaimer stating that McEwen approved the ad, he must also disclose who paid for the ad.

"This man has run for congress repeatedly for almost 20 years, you would think he would obey the rules, then again disclosure has never been his strong suit," Freeman concluded.

Is that true?

Well, sort of, said Michael Harlow, spokesman for the McEwen campaign said today. One of the stations running the ads wanted an additional disclaimer, explaining that the McEwen campaign paid for the ad, added to the spot. Once that was done, it was back up and on the air, Harlow said.

"There was absolutely no concern about the content of the ads," Harlow said.

But there's more:

"We’ve liked the response we’ve been getting on these ads so much that we’re increasing our buy," Harlow said.

Monday, March 13, 2006

But what about Cleveland Indians voters?

Enquirer sportswriter John Erardi reports:

Ken Blackwell, who is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Ohio, is one of several minority investors in a pending share in the Reds, headed by Robert Castellini.

Blackwell is the grand-nephew of Olympic track star DeHart Hubbard, who organized the 1937 Cincinnati Tigers of the Negro American League, and the grandson of Miller Rice, who played on that team.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to invest in an iconic institution in the community," Blackwell said Monday. "It’s extra special because of my great-uncle and grandfather.”

The book, The Cincinnati Game, says that Blackwell’s grandfather, the slugging outfielder Mr. Rice, “made his considerable reputation by playing wherever he could make a ready dollar. He was said to be such a powerful batter, and so likely to strike out if he didn’t hit a home run, that the infielders would sit down when he came to the plate.”

The Reds’ ownership share in which Blackwell is an investor is awaiting approval by Major League Baseball. “It’s imminent,” said Castellini spokesperson Joe Bride.

Burying the lead

We get all kinds of letters at the Enquirer here. This one seemed to save the most interesting stuff for the end of the intro:

Dear Sir or Madam

My name is Sean Swain, and I am announcing my candidacy for Governor of the State of Ohio.

I have no major party backing me; I will be excluded from the televised debates; by statute, you will not find my name on the ballot, and I am relegated to a write-in campaign. I am operating on a $17 per month budget from my prison cell.

Yup, prison cell. He's an inmate at the Toledo Correctional Institutuion.

Swain goes on to explain how he is the "Insurgent Candidate" for governor. He enclosed rather detailed position statements on everything from minimum wage (the governor and staff should have their pay reduced to it;) trade (Ohio should establish independent trade relations with Cuba and Venezuela) and, not surprisingly, prison reform ("The Ohio prison system is the single most abysmal spending disaster in the history of Ohio government."

Swain calls himself a political prisoner; "He has been held captive since 1991 for the self-defense stabbing death of the nephew of the Clerk of Courts in Sean's home."

His letter concludes:

"If he is ever released from prison and he is not elected Governor of Ohio, Sean intends to seek political asylum in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba or the Zapatista-controlled areas of Mexico, where he can write freely and continue the struggle against the oppressive forces of international capital."

Airport lawsuit?

Hamilton County commissioners agreed today to begin looking for a law firm in case it sues the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport over noise complaints.

Commissioner Todd Portune, who gave a speech a week ago at a California aviation noise and air quality symposium, has been pushing for the three-commissioner board to take a stance on airport noise, saying the noise levels actually are higher than the data compiled by airport officials shows.

Last year, more than 100 residents attended a Delhi Township meeting to talk about the noise caused by planes take off from and landing at the airport directly across the Ohio River from western Hamilton County.

Portune wants to know what direction the board of commissioners should take in trying address Hamilton County citizens’ complaints about airport noise.

That’s why George Meinhardt, president and chief executive officer at Star One Realtors and the Hamilton County representative to the Kenton County Airport Board Advisory Committee, addressed commissioners.

Meinhardt said an airport Planning Advisory Committee is compiling information for a master plan that could include a fifth runway by as early as 2015. The fourth officially opened last December.

“I’m opposed to it, a north-south runway – as a Delhian, as a Hamilton Countian. Enough is enough,” Meinhardt told commissioners today.

Commissioners agreed today to began researching law firms specializing in such potential lawsuits, the potential of winning such a suit and how much it would cost.

Portune’s prodding comes after a meeting last fall between commissioners and William T. Robinson III, chairman of the Kenton County Airport Board in which officials – especially Portune – wanted answers about the airport’s future in light of the bankruptcy of Delta Air Lines, the airport’s dominant tenant.

The airport, while in Boone County, is owned by Kenton County. Hamilton County and Cincinnati each appoint an advisory board member who can vote in committee but not during full airport board meetings.

McEwen gets a shout out from Albania

Albanian Minister of Defense Fatmir Mediu was in Washington last Wednesday to meet with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who welcomed Mediu to the Pentagon with an honor cordon, an official ceremony used to receive distinguished guests.

Later that day, Mediu called The Enquirer on behalf of his "good friend and mentor" Bob McEwen, a former Ohio congressman who is running against Rep. Jean Schmidt in the GOP primary May 2.

Mediu said he met McEwen in 2000, when the former congressman was on a trip to the Balkans to promote democracy. Also on that trip were Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va.; then-Rep. Tony Hall, a Democrat who is now an ambassador to the United Nations; and former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.

Since then, they have continued to meet over Albania's new democracy and have become friends.

"He is a man with a great heart," Mediu said of McEwen. "I hope Bob is going to be elected. I think it would be great for Ohio."

Asked about Mediu’s support for his candidacy, McEwen said: "It’s encouraging to see the friends that democracy is bringing to America."

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