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 19, 2006

Two peas in a pod

The Ohio Republican Party will air a new radio ad Saturday packaging Democratic congressman Ted Strickland and U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts together as "two peas in a pod.''

State GOP spokesman John McClelland said the spot will initially broadcast in the Toledo market only. That's because Kerry is scheduled to speak in Toledo Saturday night at a $150-a-person state Democratic Party fund-raising party at Leslie Adams Gallery.

"Two peas in a pod, because that's what they are,'' McClelland said in a conference call today. "Ted Strickland is basically John Kerry with a gun.''

The new ad cites similarities between Ted Strickland and John Kerry, who President Bush defeated in 2004 with a campaign that focused on Kerry's "flip-flop'' on Senate votes, public comments and other issues.

Here is the script of the radio ad:

It’s no surprise Ted Strickland is campaigning with John Kerry. Like John Kerry, Ted Strickland consistently votes for higher taxes, flip-flops on important issues, and has a less than impressive record in Congress. In fact in the past week he has voted for $70 billion in higher taxes and was ranked as one of the least effective members of Congress. Ohio rejected John Kerry two years ago and they will reject Ted Strickland’s record of fiscal irresponsibility in November. This message has been paid for by the Ohio Republican Party – http://www.ohiogop.org/ – and is not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. The Ohio Republican Party is responsible for the content of this advertisement.

During a conference call with Statehouse reporters today, state GOP Chairman Bob Bennett said, "They both vote for higher taxes, they're consistently inconsistent, they have unimpressive and ineffective records in Congress. . . I don't think we have to portray Strickland as a flip-flopper. He is.''

"We're going to hit this guy every single day," Bennett said of Strickland. "We want to know what his program is for Ohio. We want to know what he stands for. And we want to know how he's going to be different from how he was as a congressman."

"Both Strickland and Kerry have a history of taking positions on both sides of an issue when it's politically advantageous, particularly Strickland's flip-flop on guns, immigration, on the casino gambling. . . '' Bennett said. "They just don't share the common-sense values of Ohio voters."

Asked about the Democratic Party's recent use of the "flip-flop" theme against Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Strickland's Republican Party opponent, this week in relation to the proposed tax expenditure limitation (or TEL) ballot issue, Bennett said, "Yeah, but Ken Blackwell did not change one position. He accepted a different (legislative) vehicle, really to accomplish the same goal. . . The accusation that he's flip-flopped I don't think holds any water and Ohioans know it. . . Ken's a strong leader that Ohio needs for the next four years. He was able to get something accomplished even before he was elected governor."

Reaction from Ohio Democrats was swift:

"Ohio Republicans are running scared," Jess Goode, communications director for Strickland, said in a statement. "This is clearly an attempt to distract Ohioans from Ken Blackwell's massive flip flop on the TEL amendment just days ago."

The attempt at distraction won't work, Goode said.

"Ken Blackwell has a long, long history of saying one thing and doing another, and Ohio voters know it. Don't forget, this is the same person who said he was against gambling while owning stock in a company that produced slot machines. Before the primary he said he wanted to eliminate the new CAT (commercial activities tax), but now he's in favor of keeping the tax. And, as we all know, he was for the TEL amendment before he was against it."

Brian Rothenberg, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, reacted, “You’re kidding me.
Maybe Mr. Bennett has forgetten John Kerry almost won the state of Ohio and his opponent, George W. Bush, has an approval rating that rival’s Richard Nixon's at the time of Watergate.''

Referring to today's visit by President Bush to Northern Kentucky, Rothenberg added, "I bet ya Bush doesn’t cross the border."

"Ken Blackwell, in the last week, has changed his position on the TEL, on redistricting and on the CAT tax,'' Rothenberg said in an interview. “The bottom line is after 2004, I expect Bob Bennett to do nothing more than to continue to try to mislead Ohio voters. His candidate right now changes more positions on a daily basis than a cat has lives.”

Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Blackwell's gubernatorial campaign, said, "Ted Strickland has just an awful record as a member of Congress. . . It's almost unbelievable where you can charge 'flip-flop' when someone takes a key (piece) of his economic strategy and convinces the General Assembly to enact it. That's not running away from the proposal. That's putting it into law and making it a reality. That's leadership.''

Strickland has voted for tax increases or against tax cuts "an astounding 62 times since 1992,'' LoParo said in an interview. And Ohioans have the third highest state and local tax burden in the country, he said, as reported by the Tax Foundation. "Ted Strickland cannot run away from his record of being anti-taxpayer and pro-tax.''

In a separate development this afternoon, former House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, who is now co-chair of the Republican National Committee, planned a television broadcast feed to comment on Kerry campaigning Saturday in Ohio for Strickland.

Saturday morning, Kerry is invited to deliver Kenyon College’s commencement address. In 2004, students at Kenyon complained of waiting up to seven hours to cast their votes because of a shortage of voting machines. Similar problems were encountered in Columbus and Cleveland.

For more reaction to the "flip-flop" strategy utilized by both major political parties, read Sunday's Inside Columbus column in the Enquirer.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Betty Montgomery hospitalized

Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery was admitted to Ohio State University Medical Center Wednesday for complications following a respiratory virus.

Although testing is still ongoing, Montgomery is currently being treated for Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an inflammatory disorder of the peripheral nerves, according to a news statement. The condition is not life threatening, however progression of the disorder can be unpredictable and, as is typical for most cases of GBS, Montgomery is receiving treatment in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

As much as 50 percent of GBS cases develop following a viral infection. Montgomery had been suffering from a chest cold and cough for a little over a week.

“We’re glad that Auditor Montgomery is getting the treatment she needs,” said Chief of Staff Deb Hackathorn. “We look forward to her speedy recovery and return to the office.”

Although the recovery prognosis is good, Montgomery will be hospitalized for an indeterminate amount of time for treatment and observation, her aides said. She anticipates a complete recovery, but different people are affected differently by this syndrome and it is difficult to predict an exact recovery date.

Montgomery is in good spirits and resting comfortably, according to spokeswoman, Jen Detwiler.

Gay lobby day transcript

Today’s Enquirer inaccurately reported state Rep. Tom Brinkman's position on House Bill 515, the ban on gay adoptions.

Here is a portion of a tape-recorded conversation with Brinkman Wednesday that addressed House Bill 28, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and House Bill 515, the proposed ban on gay adoption.

Brinkman: “That’s not going to be voted on, too. We’ve talked about them in caucus. They’re just not moving.’’

“And we’re happy about that,’’ said Ted Jackson, president of the Cincinnati Log Cabin Republicans. “In addition to the discrimination factor against gays and lesbians, there’s 6,000 children in the state of Ohio right now that are looking for loving homes. And certainly gay couples can provide those for them.’’

Brinkman: “And again, we talk about conflicts. That’s a big conflict with me because I’m also very pro-life. And I think we should have adoption as opposed to abortion. And we do need to have homes for them. And we have to come up with a plan that helps our adoption situation, because it’s really quite poor in Ohio, mostly because of the lack of finality of the adoptions. People adopt and then six months later the birth mother says, ‘I want the baby back.’ And so they split the whole adoption. I know an instance right in Mount Lookout where a lady went through the adoption – it’s great that President Bush has this $10,000 tax credit for adoption now, because it is expensive. And everything was signed by both birth parents. And then three months later the grandmother of the baby decides she wanted to take care of the child. So she twisted the arm of the birth mother. Birth mother broke the adoption, and the couple had to give the baby back. So the lack of finality is a big problem. You’re right.’’

Jackson: “Bu if 515. If that issue were to escalate, and--’’

Brinkman: “It’s not going to. It’s not going to. OK. OK.’’

Jackson: “But let me just throw something in front of you: Certain members of the House or the Senate decided to do a legislative move to throw it on the (statewide) ballot, could we count on your no vote to keep it off the ballot?’’

Brinkman: “Uhh. I’d say, fine, you could count on it, but ‘cause I just don’t see that happening. I don’t think it’s that big an issue.’’

Jackson: “Right. But we never know. We never know the way things expose(play) out. We know that they are used sometimes as drivers. And we got a big election coming up, so.’’
Brinkman: “This one. I can tell you, we had a big, long meeting with the Speaker (Jon Husted). It’s not going anywhere.’’

Doug Braun, gay rights advocate: “The same language was shopped around in 2005, to folks. They just couldn’t find a sponsor. This time they found a sponsor. So it’s going to keep coming back.’’

Brinkman: “Well, I just know what I heard from the speaker. But you’re right. There might be something next time, next session. But I think this session is pretty dead. Our speaker was actually adopted by--. He certainly has some issues. And we have tried to work with him on trying to improve adoption in the state of Ohio, particularly in the whole idea of the pro-life type of issues.’’

Jackson: “I’m going to have to cut out a little early, because I have to meet with Rep. (Bill) Seitz, but Lynne and Kent (Lefebvre) and I are Republicans and, you know, you’re the tax ax, we love you for that and everything, but we just want you to know we are good, individual liberty Republicans. Less taxes, less government in our lives. Sometimes that also means that, you know, we have to protect people from discrimination.’’

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Who’s got the power?

A new report ranking members of Congress for how powerful they are shows that Greater Cincinnati is lagging in legislative VIPs.

Of course, former Rep. Rob Portman – now a nominee to become President Bush’s budget director – is not included in the list.

But still.

Portman’s successor, Rep. Jean Schmidt of Miami Township, is ranked No. 433 out of 435 members of the House and 232 out of 232 House Republicans.

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, is No. 186 in the House while freshman Rep. Geoff Davis of Hebron in Northern Kentucky is slightly better, at No. 169.

What about new House Majority Leader John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester?

He’s ranked No. 33. But keep in mind that he’s only held his new post for a little over three months.

The region is in somewhat better shape in the Senate.

Senate Whip Mitch McConnell, a Louisville Republican, is ranked No. 7 out of 100 senators.

Sen. Mike DeWine, a Cedarville Republican, is No. 26.

But Sens. Jim Bunning of Northern Kentucky and George Voinovich of Cleveland were below average, ranked No. 62 and No. 70, respectively.

DeWine is running for re-election this year against Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from northern Ohio that was ranked as No. 315 out of 435 members of the House.

Rep. Ted Strickland, a Democrat who is running for Ohio governor against Republican Ken Blackwell, was ranked No. 402 out of 435.

“As Members of Congress for more than a decade, Brown and Strickland should be embarrassed by their ineffectiveness,” said Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett in a statement.

“They’re running around the state saying they deserve more responsibility. Ohio voters expect more and will not look favorably on Brown and Strickland’s ineffectiveness and arrogance.”

The rankings are done annually by Knowlegis, a private, nonpartisan company that specializes in fostering civic participation. They are based on a lawmaker’s position, influence and legislative activity.

For more information, check out the report here.

What Time Is It?

Cincinnati City Council received a lecture Wednesday, after the public comment portion of the meeting started 15 minutes late -- at 1:45 p.m., instead of the scheduled 1:30 p .m.

Monica Williams, owner of a small business called PFS, Inc., came down to City Hall to complain about the city's appointment of Tim Riordan to a board that will make important decisions related to the $600 million riverfront development known as The Banks.

Williams said it's unfair that the working group, which will write a policy for inclusion of minorities and small business on the project, is made up of five white males. But before telling council that the board needed diversity, she lambasted council for its tardiness.

"I took off work to come down here and at 1:30, the only member here was David Crowley," said Williams, who started her remarks at 2 p.m., the time council was to begin its session. "I think that shows great disdain for citizens. At least be here on time. You work in the building, don't you?

"If I was five minutes late, I wouldn't be allowed to speak."

No one on council apologized for being late. Williams owns a financial services consulting business.

Bupkes: Yiddish for “beans” or “nothing”

If it wasn’t for the White House plaque behind Bush press secretary Tony Snow – you might have thought you’d stumbled into the spelling bee instead of the daily White House briefing for reporters.

Fresh off of yesterday’s emotional run-in with the press (Enquirer story here), Snow started the briefing by telling reporters that he’s coined a new term for a list of answers to questions they had the day before that he hadn’t been able to answer.

It’s the “Bupkes List.” As in - You don't know bupkes (nothing).

Immediately, someone asked, “How do you spell ‘bupkes’?

To which, Snow repied: “b-u-p-k-u-s”

He was then informed by the all-knowing White House press corps that the term is Yiddish, and spelled with an “e-s” instead of “u-s.”

“Thank you,” Snow said. “Corrected. E-s.”

Actually, it's also spelled b-u-p-k-i-s.

Read the day's transcript here.

An automatic recount in Hamilton County

The 13 votes that separated Maria Ferro and Kathy Wiethe Lippert in the May 2 election means Hamilton County will have an automatic recount.

The two women are vying for the nomination to the State Central Committee seat for the Democratic woman in the 7th District, a jurisdiction that includes parts of Hamilton and Warren counties.

Ferro won Hamilton County by 32 votes (3,059-3,027) but Wiethe took Warren County by 45 votes (2,065-2,020) to cause the automatic recount.

Recounts are automatic when the margin of victory is one-half of one percent of the vote.

The totals -- Lippert won 5,092-5,079 -- show a difference of 13 votes, or .12 percent of the vote.

The recount can't be done by law until five days after the election is certified. That certification was done Wednesday by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The recount is set for Tuesday, said board Director John Williams.

Wiethe is the daughter of former longtime Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman John "Socko" Wiethe.

Portune blasts Heimlich over nondisclosure

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said Phil Heimlich should have told his fellow commissioners -- before they voted on a resolution approving the appointment of Robert Rhein to the Banks Working Group -- that Rhein gave $20,000 to Heimlich's re-election campaign.

Portune, at Wednesday's commission meeting, criticized Heimlich for "the politicization" of the appointments to the group that is expected to recommend how the proposed $600 million Banks development should be built.

Officially, Rhein, an Indian Hill real estate developer, was appointed to the five-man Banks Working Group by that group's chair, Reds owner Bob Castellini. But Hamilton County had the right to approve Castellini's selection.

Heimlich told the Enquirer last week -- after he specifically was asked -- that Rhein and his wife gave $10,000 each to Heimlich's re-election campaign.

The Enquirer's additional research showed that Rhein also gave more than $250,000 in the past few years to the national Republican Party.

"I think those are factors that should have been disclosed before we voted," Portune said.

Heimlich didn't respond to Portune's comments and continued to other meeting business.

Last week's vote to accept Rhein's appointment was unanimous.

Heimlich, an incumbent Republican, seeking re-election to the commission and is running against David Pepper, who, like Portune, is a Democrat.

Democrats target area House races in radio ads

Democrats are targeting three Greater Cincinnati congressional races in a new radio ad about Social Security that starts airing today.

The ad says President Bush’s plan for the elderly retirement program "could reduce Social Security benefits" and add $2 trillion to the national debt.

The proposal, unveiled by Bush last year, has run into roadblocks in Congress and isn’t likely to pass. But it’s being used to slam Republicans on the eve of Bush’s visit to Northern Kentucky to attend a campaign fundraiser Friday with Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Hebron.

Also singled out in the $100,000 ad buy are Republican Reps. Steve Chabot of Westwood, who faces Democrat John Cranley in Ohio’s 1st District, and Mike Sodrel of New Albany, who faces former Rep. Baron Hill, a Democrat, in Indiana’s 9th District.

Davis faces former Rep. Ken Lucas, a Democrat, in Kentucky's 4th District.

Here is the script for the new ad:

Announcer 1: Retirement has become an uncertain time for many of us.

Announcer 2: Social Security is the one thing we know we can count on.

Announcer 1: President Bush's privatization plan could reduce Social Security benefits for nearly every American.

Announcer 1: Now, President Bush wants to borrow $2 trillion dollars - driving up our debt even further to privatize Social Security.

Announcer 1: Congressman XXX has supported President Bush's privatization plan.

Announcer 2: And the Republican majority is ready to rubberstamp President Bush's privatization plan.

Announcer 1: So this week when the President visits our area, let them know just how we feel.

Announcer 2: Call Congressman XXX at 123-456-7890 and tell him we want Social Security protected, not privatized.

Announcer 1: Because it's time for Congressman XXX to stand up for us, and stop rubberstamping President Bush's Social Security privatization.

Whoop(i) Dee Do

While Whoopi Goldberg kept thousands entertained at her appearance Tuesday, she has been saving Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes money for years.

Rhodes, also a radio disc jockey, told his listeners why.

"Because of her foul-mouthed rants, I stopped getting HBO," Rhodes said of the cable movie channel. "She probably has saved me more than $3,000 over the years."

He didn't like the actress' blue language on some of her cinematic appearances and refused to subscribe to the channel that shows most of them, he said.

Goldberg was at the Aronoff Center as part of the Smart Talk Women's Lecture Series.

The stars come out for Sherrod

If, as has been said, politics is show business for homely people, Sen. Barack Obama, the freshman from Illinois, stands out not only as an exception to the rule, but as a true "rock star'' of Democratic politics.

Saturday, June 3, Obama brings his act to a Sherrod Brown fundraising luncheon at the Westin Hotel in downtown Cincinnati.

Obama will be followed into Cincinnati on Sept. 12 by a genuine rock star, singer-songwriter Carole King, whose soft-rock standards were the soundtrack for the lives of baby boomers like Brown. She'll perform at the Aronoff Center to raise money for Brown's campaign to unseat Sen. Mike DeWine.

The invite from the Brown campaign is marketing Obama and King events as a package deal. The lowest ticket price, $500 (described in the invitation as "standard seating"), asks that the donor choose between the political rock star and the musical rock star.

But if you kick in $1,000 to $2,100 (the maximum contribution for the general election cycle), you get a ticket to both events. Write a $2,100 check and you also get an invite to a Sept. 11 private cocktail reception with King and Brown at the east Walnut Hills home of Allan and Jennie Berliant, the hosts of both fundraisers.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Let It Flow

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory hasn't worn a commencement robe in many years, but he'll wear two in two days later this week.

Mallory will give the commencement address Friday at Withrow High School. He'll then give another commencement speech at the Art Academy of Cincinnati on Saturday.

"I'm very excited because I haven't put on one of those robes in a long, long time," Mallory said.

When asked what he'll say to the impressionable youth, Mallory said he's going to wing it.

"I really don't know what I'm going to talk about," he said. "I feel those addresses have to just flow from me. I'll talk to them about staying in Cincinnati after they graduate."

When asked if he has an art background, Mallory said: "I've been dabbling in ceramics for years."

Nice Threads

Cincinnati council member Cecil Thomas attended Mayor Mark Mallory's press conference on Tuesday. The two men walked in together, wearing identical gray suits. The only things distinguishing the mens' apparel were the ties -- Mallory's was red and Thomas' blue.

When asked if they were coordinating their wardrobes, Thomas laughed and said: "Five-hundred dollars," while pointing to his suit. Then added "Three hundred," as he pointed to the mayor's.

"We did not call each other, by the way," Mallory said. "In the future, we may have to."

Snow's first TELEVISED briefing goes better...

Compared to last Friday's "mess" of a briefing, today's press briefing by new White House spokesman Tony Snow - his first televised briefing - was, by most accounts, much better.

A dapper dressed Snow - a Greater Cincinnati native and Princeton grad - was more polished, more up to speed and better able to dodge questions. He also choked up a bit, sharing what he called his "Ed Muskie" moment with reporters.

Snow's "moment" came when Rebecca Cooper of WJLA, ABC-TV’s Washington affiliate, asked him why he was wearing a yellow "Livestrong" bracelet.

"Well, I had cancer last year," Snow replied with a steady voice.

Then, standing with both hands on the wooden podium in front of the blue curtain and White House plaque, the veteran newsman lowered his head and paused. When he looked out at the standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 reporters and two-dozen TV cameras and photographers, his eyes were red.

"It’s going to sound stupid and I’ll be personal here, but … just having gone through this last year … was the best thing that ever happened to me," he said, explaining that he lost his mother to colon cancer, the same type he had, when he was 17.

"What has happened in the field of cancer since then is a miracle," said the 51-year-old father of three. "The technologies that were available to me, that have me standing behind this podium today with a doctor who said, ‘You don’t have to worry about getting cancer, just heartburn talking to these people,’ that’s a wonderful thing."

Cooper said after the briefing, "I know I am supposed to be objective, but I was moved by it."

Watch the 37-minute long briefing on C-SPAN tonight at 9:40 p.m.

Or, read the transcript and watch the briefing online here.

Also, be sure to check out tomorrow's Enquirer for a full story about Snow's briefing.

Pepper's mouthpiece

A former WLW radio reporter is the new spokeswoman for the campaign hoping to get David Pepper elected Hamilton County Commissioner.

Bridget Doherty, 28, of Green Township, was named communications director today for Pepper's campaign.

A graduate of Mother of Mercy High and the University of Cincinnati, Doherty spent five years as a reporter for WLW, 700 AM, where she covered breaking news and city and county government.

Until last week, Doherty was communications director for the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council, where she coordinated union support for campaigns and events.

"It’s a coup for the campaign to have someone with so much experience in both media and grassroots campaigning," Pepper said.

Pepper, a Democrat, is trying to unseat Republican incumbent Phil Heimlich.

The Hartmann team

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann, who is running for Secretary of State, has hired Amy Jenkins as his campaign manager. He faces Democrat Jennifer Brunner in November.

From the release:

Jenkins has a diverse background of experience, having worked on several statewide campaigns. She was the campaign manager for both “Jobs for Ohio – Yes on Issue 1” and Judith Lanzinger for Supreme Court Justice. Most recently, Jenkins served as campaign manager for State Representative Jim Hoops (R-Napoleon) in his bid for the Ohio Senate.

Jenkins earned her degree in Political Science from Ohio University. She’s worked for several political organizations and interned at the Republican National Committee.

Jenkins joins a team of respected campaign advisors including elections attorney Bill Todd, former Secretary of State official Ann Moorhead-Petit, general and media consultant Mark Weaver, direct mail expert Joe King, national pollster Neil Newhouse, fundraiser Susan Waidner, data consultant Sam Gedert, and two other full-time staffers.

As the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, Greg manages a larger staff and oversees more money than the Secretary of State. He’s a former criminal prosecutor and prior to that he managed a private sector business. For more information about his campaign, go to www.GregHartmann.com.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Today and tonight: Immigration open thread

Come back to the Politics Extra blog tonight (or go ahead and post now) as we do an open thread pegged to Bush's speech on immigration tonight. He speaks at 8 p.m.

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