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, May 12, 2006

Snow draws ire at first White House briefing

Cincinnati native Tony Snow thought he’d kick off his new gig as White House press secretary with a laid-back, “collegial” exchange with the demanding White House press corps, which had gotten into on-air squabbles with his predecessor, Scott McClellan.

So for Snow’s first on-the-record briefing, the former FOX News commentator invited reporters to his personal office Friday, instead of addressing them from the podium in the regular White House briefing room.

The result? About 80 reporters crammed into his small West Wing office, some complaining that they couldn’t hear him and others demanding to know if this was to be the format for all future briefings.

“I thought it was a little more informal. I didn’t realize it’d be so highly attended,” a surprised Snow told the crowd, apologizing also for starting the meeting at 9:20 a.m. when it had originally been scheduled for 9 a.m., then moved to 9:30 a.m.

“Do not do that again,” one reporter grumbled.

“This isn’t good,” another said.

“I had this wonderful idea that this would be nice and collegial and relaxed, but it obviously, at this point, is just a mess,” Snow said, looking flustered.

Snow said he’d hold another briefing with reporters Monday - in the regular briefing room, which is much larger and has auditorium-style seating. His first on-camera briefing is set for Tuesday.


Want more details about Snow's first briefing?

Read an account from The Washington Post's Dana Milbank here. Check out the story from Jennifer Loven of The Associated Press here. Finally, read a pretty thorough report by the Chicago Tribune's blog here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Hartmann meets and greets in Washington

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann, 39, is trying to inject some youthful energy and a positive vibe into Ohio's Republican Party.

In a state that has been singled out as ground zero for GOP corruption, it never hurts to have someone with a "fresh face" and a positive attitude, he explained.

Hartmann is the Republican Party's nominee for secretary of state.

He was in Washington today to meet members of the Ohio congressional delegation, such as Reps. Deborah Pryce, Steve LaTourette, Ralph Regula and Jean Schmidt.

Hartmann also squeezed in time to grab coffee with The Enquirer's Washington Bureau so he could discuss his race.

Essentially, Hartmann says he's the "fresh face" voters who clammor for a change can turn to. On his Web site, he calls himself a member of the "next generation of Republican leadership."

He faces Democrat Jennifer L. Brunner in the race this fall.

Really, I mean it… Just call me 'Rob'

Apparently, reporters aren’t the only ones stumbling over what to call former congressman, current ambassador, and likely future Budget Director Rob Portman.

Read The Enquirer’s story on what to call Portman, who currently is serving as the U.S. trade representative, here.

At Portman’s Senate confirmation hearing today for his latest nomination – to become director of the Office of Management and Budget – Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., also stumbled over Portman's title, addressing him twice as “Congressman Ambassador Portman” in opening remarks.

In the picture to the right, the nameplate used at the hearing referrs to him as “Hon. Portman,” short for the Honorable Portman.

“You like to be called ‘Ambassador’ or ‘Congressman’”? Gregg finally asked.

“I’ve been called both … although, I’ve never gotten used to ‘Ambassador,’” Portman replied.

He added: “I prefer ‘Rob,’ if you’re comfortable with that.”

Apparently, Gregg wasn’t, because he retorted:

“I think we’ll stick with ‘Ambassador’ as a term of your success, which has been substantial.”

Don't forget to check out the full story of Portman's confirmation hearing in tomorrow's Enquirer. Read that story here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Blackwell gets national attention

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a Cincinnatian who is running for governor, is in the national spotlight today with a front-page story in The Washington Post.
Blackwell faces Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland in the Ohio governor's race.

The story profiles Blackwell and two other prominent black candidates who are running statewide as Republicans this fall: Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is running for the U.S. Senate, and former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann, who is running for governor in Pennsylvania.

Read the story here.


USA Today also had this story about Blackwell in the paper yesterday, as pointed out by a very astute White House staffer who reads our blog.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Boehner taped call case continues...

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ordered Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., to pay West Chester Republican Rep. John Boehner $700,000 for leaking an illegally taped phone conversation between Boehner and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich to the media.

Read the Enquirer's March 29 story on the case here.

Now, McDermott is appealing the case. And Democrats are trying to help him raise money. The liberal Campaign for America's Future just sent out an e-mail asking people to contribute money to McDermott's legal defense fund.

The e-mail starts like this: "As part of our continuing work to confront Congressional corruption, we're reaching out today to support a progressive champion -- Rep. Jim McDermott -- who House Majority Leader, John Boehner, has attacked as a payback for successfully exposing and punishing Republican corruption. Please help counter Boehner's attack, and continue to fuel the fight against corruption in Congress by contributing today to the Legal Expense Trust of progressive champion, Rep. Jim McDermott."

The e-mail continues: "If not reversed, this judgment will set an ominous precedent that will impede the flow of information on Congressional corruption to the press. Throughout this long ordeal, Rep. McDermott has been fighting to protect first amendment rights. ... Congressman McDermott had no choice but to appeal this decision, and he has. It will be costly. Please contribute today to help defend progressive champion, Rep. Jim McDermott, and support his historic fight against Republican corruption."

Lawyers for 18 news organizations - including ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the Associated Press, the New York Times and the Washington Post - filed a brief in federal court backing McDermott.

What do you think?

Should McDermott be punished for leaking the call - or does Boehner's lawsuit chill first amendment rights of the media to expose corruption?

Tell us.

More charity donations coming up?

Another guilty plea in the widening Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal came down yesterday. This time, it was Ohio Rep. Bob Ney's former aide Neil Volz, who hails from Greater Cincinnati. Volz pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges.

Read the story in today's Enquirer here.

Thanks to the Newark Advocate, a Gannett sister paper, read the U.S. Justice Department information here, the plea agreement here and the statement of facts here.

Now check out this list that Democrats are e-mailing around of Ohio lawmakers who have received campaign contributions from Volz.

Will they be keeping the money or donating it to charity?

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) $300
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) $500
Rep. Steve LaTourrette (R-OH) $1,000
Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) $4,225
Rep. Mike Oxley (R-OH) $1,000
Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) $250
Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) $1,000

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sherrod Brown pumps gas plan

Now that the Senate Republicans' plan to pass out $100 fuel-cost rebate checks to American taxpayers has crashed and burned, Senate Democrats - and Senate wanna-be's like Ohio's Sherrod Brown - are out touting their own plan to ease the gasoline crisis: a 60-day moratorium on the collection of federal gasoline taxes, which would save consumers 18.4 cents a gallon.

Standing in the parking lot of the African-American Chamber of Commerce Monday afternoon, with a Shell gas station sign advertising $2.68.9 per gallon gas in the background, Brown argued for a temporary suspension of the 18.4 cent federal tax. Repealing some $10 billion in "unnecessary'' subsidies for oil companies granted by Congress would more than make up for the lost revenue.

But, Brown said, with former oilman George W. Bush in the White House and Republicans controlling Congress - the recipients of $73 million in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies - gasoline prices are almost certain to continue rising.

"Prices won't stabilize until the Republicans in Congress and the White House wean themselves from Big Oil contributions,'' Brown said.

Sorry, Charlie! ... Luken loses race he wasn't running in

From left, Democratic congressional candidate Charlie Wilson, Charlie the Tuna, and former Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken. (Photo credits: Ohio Senate, Starkist Tuna, Cincinnati Enquirer)

In the Ohio 6th Congressional District, a petition snafu forced Democrat Charlie Wilson to mount a write-in campaign in last week's primary. Wilson got 66.4 percent of the vote -- nothing short of astounding for a write-in candidate. But apparently, some voters had trouble with the name.

According to a story in the semiweekly Athens News, former Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken inexplicably received a handful of votes, coming in behind an unknown Charlie Smith in the write-in balloting. Alas, because Luken did not declare his eligibility as a write-in candidate, the votes were not included in the official count.

"While I was at first advised that I finished third, a recount confirms that I really finished fourth behind my old nemesis, Charlie the Tuna," quipped Luken, now an attorney and lobbyist who splits his time between Columbus and Cincinnati. "How embarrassing!"

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