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

Friday, July 14, 2006

DeWine launches first negative ad

With 116 days before the Nov. 7 general election, Republican Sen. Mike DeWine today launched his first negative ad against opponent Sherrod Brown, a Democrat.

The ad, running on TV stations across Ohio, including in Cincinnati, features images of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and accuses Brown of voting against intelligence funding, strengthening criminal laws, giving law enforcement the tools to fight terrorism, and the death penalty for terrorists who kill passengers on trains and subways.

Brown Campaign Manager John Ryan said in a statement that the ad “reached a new, shameful low” by using images of the burning World Trade Center towers and mug shots of the 19 hijackers.

“He added insult to injury when he shrouded the images with distorted claims about Sherrod’s record,” Ryan said. “Sherrod has a strong record fighting for body armor for our troops and calling for full funding for homeland security programs to secure our borders and keep our communities safe.”

DeWine campaign spokesman Brian Seitchik defended the ad: “National security is a serious subject and an issue important to Ohioans, and Mike DeWine and Sherrod Brown have different records and perspectives on national security and intelligence funding.”

Read about Brown's votes and watch the ad for yourself here.

Read the Brown campaign's response to the ad here. Read a .pdf document that gives Brown's rebuttal to the ad and his votes on national security issues here.

Asked whether this ad will be followed by additional attack ads, Seitchik said: “This is chapter one.”

Also last week, DeWine reported raising $2.1 million over the last three months, including the money he brought in at his latest fundraiser with President Bush, leaving him with $6.6 million.

DeWine’s campaign declined to say how much this latest ad buy cost – or how much an ad he put out a week ago about first responders cost – but the total cost of those ads would come out of his bottom line of $6.6 million.

Brown, meanwhile, raised $1.6 million during the last three months and has $3.7 million in the bank, with no pending TV ad purchase, spokeswoman Joanna Kuebler said.

Boehner calls on Democrats to pull ads

House Majority Leader John Boehner called on Democrats yesterday to pull a TV ad that shows images of flag-draped caskets of U.S. soldiers, calling the spot “outrageous.”

But his comments comes after Democrats complained in 2004 about a campaign ad from President Bush that showed firefighters carrying a flag-draped coffin from the ruins of the World Trade Center.

Reporters at a news conference yesterday asked him to explain the difference

Boehner: “These were American citizens killed by terrorists. That is a very different policy issue than American soldiers dying on the battlefield protecting the rights and freedoms of American people.”

Reporter: “How so?”

Boehner: “How so? You want me to describe the difference between men and women of the military out there defending the American people, and victims – victims – of terrorist activities? You want to put them both on the same playing field? I don’t’ think so.”

Reporter: “They were both killed by opponents, right? Terrorists or Islamic insurgents?”

Boehner: “We have American men and women who have gone to foreign shores to defend our freedom. They have died and made sacrifices on behalf of the American people and to use those images to rally Democrats and to raise money, I think, is appalling.”

Reporter: “But, really, is that different from what Republicans did with the World Trade Center? They’re still raising money, still the same thing?”

Boehner: “The World Trade Center victims were victims of terrorist act here on our shore and I think all Americans were appalled that this did in fact happen. But I think the difference is, in terms of the images, are as clear as night and day.”

Listen to the news conference for yourself here.

Bunning PAC files new report


Earlier this week, we reported on Sen. Jim Bunning's new political action committee - The Political Hall of Fame PAC.

Another new report filed this week with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday now brings the amount raised in his pac to about $136,000.

The updated numbers show he's given a total of $53,400 to 13 candidates.

You can search for his PAC by name on the FEC site here for more details.

Whistleblower wins, house is worth less

Local gadfly Jim Schifrin took on the government – and won.

Schifrin, producer of “The Whistleblower,” a very politically incorrect local gossip publication that assails everyone and everything, was outraged that the value of his home rose about $80,000, causing his taxes to go up.

The appraisal was done, as required by Ohio law, by the office of Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes. Rhodes was a long-time friend of Schifrin and perhaps the biggest source of dirt for Schifrin’s scandal sheet – until Schifrin received his tax bill this year.

Last year, the auditor valued Schifrin’s 2,695-square-foot home on a 1.2 acre wooded lot on Birney lane in Anderson Township at $188,400 – resulting in Schifrin paying property taxes of $3,300.

After the state-mandated re-evaluation, though, the value of Schifrin’s property rose to $265,000 – and his taxes jumped to $4,100 per year.

Schifrin then used “The Whistleblower” to conduct a cyberspace jihad against Rhodes, accusing his former good friend and reliable source of not doing anything to correct what he thought was an obvious over-evaluation.

Rhodes was irate, largely because Rhodes was elected Auditor after Joseph L. DeCoursey was caught in a scandal, accused of lowering valuations – and thus taxes – of friends.

Schifrin used “The Whistleblower” to publish doctored photos of Rhodes that indicate the Auditor needs major dental work and otherwise attacking him and the process.

Schifrin also did what any other property owner can – file an appeal and have his case heard by the Board of Revision, an independent, quasi-judicial body. That three-member board is made up of one appointee each from the offices of the Auditor, Treasurer and County Commission.

That hearing was Thursday afternoon.

Schifrin and his attorney, Chris Finney, presented 75 minutes of evidence – including dozens of pictures of Schifrin’s 48-year-old home – to prove their belief that the home is worth only $160,000.

“This house is quaint. This house has charm,” Schifrin said.

It’s also a pig sty, pictures show, that has had little upkeep:

* The roof leaks and because it hasn’t been repaired, much of the house suffers from water damage.

* The original single-pain windows leak, causing water damage, and are such poor insulators that Schifrin’s power bill averages $450 per month.

* Even with the home’s two central air conditioners operating, Schifrin testified he still has to runs fans throughout the house because the windows are so drafty.

* The 150-foot blacktop driveway has to be completely replaced.

* Much of the house’s pea green carpeting is very old and threadbare.

* Schifrin doesn’t use his front door that is blocked by an overgrowth of ivy.

* The in-ground swimming pool isn’t usable, Schifrin said, because it needs to be retiled and the concrete walkway around it is cracked and sinking.

* A contractor told Schifrin the house needed $90,000 in repairs if he hoped to sell it.

Schifrin, who didn't return Friday calls, bought the house in 1986 for $116,000.

After the hearing, the three Board of Revision members reset the value of Schifrin’s house at $190,000. That will save Schifrin hundreds of dollars per year on his property tax bill.

“This is the way the system is supposed to work,” Rhodes said.

“This show I don’t do favors for friends and I don’t influence the Board (of Revision) in any way. The results are the same for everybody, friend or foe.”

And Rhodes sounds like Schifrin will continue to be a foe, saying Schifrin’s unkempt home didn’t surprise Rhodes.

“That house is a piece of (expletive) but you wouldn’t want to use that as a quote,” Rhodes said.

“If I had my way, the (house) would be set at half a million (dollars).”

Rhodes also suggests a law change: Homeowners who try to sell their property must reveal how much they thought it was worth if they appeal their valuations as Schifrin did.

Davis: "I stand by the Israelis."

Washington, D.C. - Today, Congressman Geoff Davis issued the following statement about the recent attacks on Israel:

"The recent attacks and senseless kidnapping of Israeli soldiers were despicable acts of terrorism by Hizballah, a terrorist organization functioning in Lebanon. These acts, and Hizballah's continued determination to destroy Israel, have undermined Middle East peace efforts.
"Israel has proven an important asset to combating terrorism in the region and remains a strong ally of the United States. I stand by the Israelis and our nation's diplomats in calling for the safe return of the Israeli soldiers and in calling for the end of support to Hizballah by the governments of Iran and Syria."

Chabot: Israel fighting terror.

Rep. Steve Chabot, a Westwood Republican, had this to say today about the battles in the Middle East:

Washington, D.C. -- Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH), Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East, released the following statement on recent terrorist attacks on Israel:
"Israel, like all sovereign nations, has the right and the responsibility of self-defense.
"Since the most recent era of violence began more than 6 years ago, Palestinian terrorists have succeeded in launching thousands of violent attacks on Israel - including dozens of suicide attacks, killing more than 1000 Israelis and wounding more than 5000. These attacks led by the terrorist organization, Hamas, continue on a regular basis.
"Now, Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization with ties to the governments of Iran and Syria, has launched an attack on Israel, killing several Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two others. Israel has responded with a legitimate act of self defense.
"Like all sovereign nations, Israel has every right to defend itself from unrelenting terrorist attacks. Sadly, real peace and real security will never be realized until the terrorist infrastructure that has so long threatened Israel's existence is dismantled."

The Banks on the radio

Three of the five members of the group created to push the proposed $600 million neighborhood on the riverfront will discuss the project’s status on a radio special that airs Monday.

WVXU, 91.7 FM, and news director Maryanne Zeleznik will host the roundtable discussion on The Banks, the residential, commercial and retail development planned between the two riverfront sports stadiums.

Bob Castellini, Cincinnati Reds chief executive officer, will be joined by attorney Tom Gabelman and Tim Riordan.

Castellini helped form the five-member committee after the project stalled when Hamilton County and Cincinnati argued over the amount of control each government would have. Gabelman was appointed to the working group by Hamilton County. Riordan was appointed by Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.

The discussion will air twice Monday, July 17 -- at 9:20 a.m. and 7:20 p.m.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bush boosts Blackwell

President Bush may not be riding high in the polls, but he can still sell tickets to Republican fundraisers like the Dixie Chicks can sell CDs.

So little wonder that Ken Blackwell's gubernatorial campaign was anxious to have the president in Ohio - not for a big public rally, but for a private fundraising event.

Looks like they've gotten their wish. Bush comes to the Cleveland suburb of Kirtland Hills on Aug. 2 for a pricey Blackwell fundraiser at a private.

It will cost $1,000 to get in the door ($1,500 per couple) and $10,000 will buy a photo with the president - and not one of those cardboard cut-outs, either. The real thing. Only 10 grand. No line-jumping, please.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Learn & Earnest

The Ohio Learn and Earn Committee -- the organization trying to change the state constitution to allow slot machine parlors at two sites in Cleveland and seven horse racing tracks around the state -- issued the following press release Wednesday in response to Cincinnati Council member Leslie Ghiz's lawsuit.

Ghiz has sued in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, claiming the group is using deceptive practices to get people to sign their petitions. The organization needs the signatures of 323,000 registered voters by Aug. 7 to get their issue on state-wide ballots.

Here's the press release:

Columbus—The Ohio Learn and Earn Committee has met the highest standards in its drive to place a constitutional amendment on the November general election ballot, according to the committee’s response to a suit filed against it in Hamilton County by leaders of an effort to authorize a casino in downtown Cincinnati.

The Ohio Learn and Earn proposal would create college scholarships and grants for Ohio school students and would create grants to all Ohio counties for purposes of job development and local capital improvements. Five percent of every high school graduating class in every high school in the state will be eligible for these benefits in 2009 and the scholarships will be available to every child in the state in 12-years.

The amendment provides the funds for these public benefits through an assessment on slot machine gaming to be located at the state’s seven racetracks and in two downtown Cleveland locations.

In the case of Hamilton County and Cincinnati, for example, the contribution to the local government fund is estimated at $23 million each year. Only Cuyahoga County and Cleveland--which would have as many as four slot machine locations--would receive more money than would Hamilton County.

Learn and Earn would tax the gaming proceeds to fund the scholarships and community grants. Petitions authorizing a general election vote on this initiative have been in circulation since early May of this year.

“During the entire petition process, Learn and Earn has followed the most recent and exacting standards enacted by the Legislature and administered by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office,” according to David L. Hopcraft, spokesman for Ohio Learn and Earn.

Hopcraft added: “Our circulators are all Ohio residents, they are employed by our circulating firm and paid an hourly wage. Each circulator is registered with the Secretary of State’s office.”

To date more than 2,500 Ohioans have been employed to circulate Ohio Learn and Earn petitions with as many as 900 people working at any one time. Circulators are paid an average of $11 per hour.

Every petition those employees circulate has the purpose of the proposed ballot issue summarized on it. That printed summary was certified to be a “fair and truthful” description of the proposed amendment by the Ohio Attorney General before the campaign began in May. The complete proposed amendment is also printed on each petition along with the Attorney General’s certification.

In addition, Learn and Earn has also used the World Wide Web to make information available to Ohio voters. Its petitions are posted on its web site for review (
http://www.ohiolearnandearn.com/). Further, the Learn and Earn committee has provided for various representatives of the Ohio news media to observe a circulator as the petition circulator works.

In spite of these well publicized efforts, the legal action filed in Hamilton County by Councilwoman Leslie E. Ghiz claims Ohio Learn and Earn is attempting to hide the purpose of its proposed amendment from people asked to sign the document. Ghiz was part of a group that supported the learn and earn concept, but sought to expand the gaming to a downtown Cincinnati location.

A complete copy of the Learn and Earn legal response to the claim will be filed on http://www.ohiolearnandearn.com/ by close of business today.

Wulsin's poll: Dead even

Feel free to take this with a grain of salt - or low sodium salt substitute for the health conscious - but the 2nd Congressional District contest between Republican incumbent Jean Schmidt and Democrat Victoria Wulsin is starting out as a dead heat, according to a Wulsin poll.

Wulsin's campaign hired Momentum Analysis LLC - whose clients include the Democratic National Committee, Emily's List, Amnesty International and the Coach handbag company - to poll 403 likely 2nd District voters last weekend.

The result: 44 percent for each candidate, 11 percent undecided.

The same poll shows that only two of 10 voters in the district know who Wulsin is, which could be good news or bad news in a dead-heat race.

The Wulsin poll has over half (53 percent) of those polled rating Schmidt's job performance negatively.

Gleeful Wulsin campaign aides, knowing that they have a first-rate fundraising tool on their hands, declined our request for cross-tabs and script for the telephone poll.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bunning PAC throws cash

Sen. Jim Bunning has a new political action committee with a name only the former all-star pitcher and Hall of Fame member could pull off – "The Political Hall of Fame PAC."

The Kentucky Republican gleefully told reporters about his new leadership PAC during a conference call today, exclaiming that his new PAC is “going great.”

“This is the most important election – 2006 – that we have faced since 1994, so I am concentrating on that,” Bunning said.

Bunning's PAC was first started in 2004, according to Federal Election Commission reports, but it only recently became active. Bunning raised about $80,000 last year; his first contributions to candidates went out in March of this year.

A report filed yesterday with the FEC shows Bunning’s PAC has raised $90,000 since its inception and has doled out $25,500 to eight candidates.

All recipients were Senate candidates, except Rep. Geoff Davis of Hebron, Ky., who holds the House seat once occupied by Bunning himself. Davis, who faces a possibly difficult challenge this year from former Democratic Rep. Ken Lucas, got one of three $5,000 checks passed out by Bunning’s PAC.

The Senate candidates who got money from Bunning, however, do NOT include Sen. Mike DeWine, a Republican from Cedarville in neighboring Ohio.

Bunning recipients:

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. - $5,000
Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo. - $5,000
Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont. - $2,100
Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo. - $2,100
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah - $2,100
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. - $2,100
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas - $2,100

Public hearings set on the jail -- but where?

Two public hearings that could pave the way for a Hamilton County sales tax to pay for a new jail have been set, but the commissioners are arguing over where the meetings will be held.

County Administrator Patrick Thompson has set meetings for:

. Monday, Aug. 7 , 6:30 p.m., Sycamore Township Hall, 8540 Kenwood Road;

. Monday, Aug. 14, 6:30 p.m., Westwood Presbyterian Church, 3011 Harrison Ave.

Commissioner Phil Heimlich supports those locations but Commissioner Pat DeWine sent a Monday e-mail to Thompson to ask that they be held at the downtown County Administration Building.

Commissioner Todd Portune doesn't like any of thos locations, saying they are neither convenient nor centrally located for those wishing to attend. Portune wants them held at the Drake Center Inc. in Hartwell and Sharonville's Convention Center.

The public hearings are needed by law if commissioners want to meet an Aug. 24 deadline to put issues on the fall ballot.

Heimlich, who is seeking re-election against Democratic challenger David Pepper, proposed last month that Hamilton County increase its sales tax a quarter-cent to 6.75 percent. That would raise enough money over the next 20 years, Heimlich said, to pay for a new 1,800-bed, $225 million jail and provide property tax relief.

Heimlich insists the public make the decision on taxing itself, so he wants the issue on the ballot. The only way it can get there is by the public hearing process and a majority of commissioners agree before the Aug. 24 deadline.

The public hearings are scheduled even though it now doesn’t have enough votes to get on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Republican Heimlich supports the proposed sales tax increase. Fellow Republican DeWine doesn’t.

DeWine’s proposal calls for building a smaller jail, to be paid for by selling county land and spending cuts, and renovation of existing jails.

Portune, in the past, proposed paying for a new jail with proceeds from casino proceeds -- if casino gambling is adopted by Ohio voters.

Thompson even has his own proposal – raising the sales tax a quarter-cent for seven – maybe eight – years to pay for the jail, forgoing any property tax rollback.

Summer Break

Recess and summer break isn't just for school kids.

Cincinnati city council and Mayor Mark Mallory are on summer recess, working a scaled-down schedule of meetings for the next two months.

Council will hold only one meeting during the break -- Wednesday Aug. 2 at the Cincinnati Art Museum. It resumes weekly meetings on Thursday, Sept. 7.

Mallory's program called "Mayor's Night In," during whichi citizens can meet with him for up to five minutes, will not be held during summer recess. Nor will the mayor's weekly press briefings.

Mayor's Night In will resume Tuesday, September 12 from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm in the Mayor's Office and will continue on a bi-weekly basis.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Stuckey stays

After being passed over as Hamilton County Administrator, assistant administrator Eric Stuckey decided today he didn't want to be the city manager for Winston-Salem, N.C.

Stuckey, far right above, flew Saturday to the North Carolina city of about 200,000 after he was declared one of five finalists for the job.

But after The Enquirer called Stuckey today to ask about him possibly leaving, he called the Winston-Salem officials and removed his name from consideration.

"I don't think it's the right thing for me," Stuckey said today.

Stuckey, 39, of Anderson Township, earned an undergraduate degree from Miami University and a masters in public administration from the University of Kansas. The son of a Methodist minister, Stuckey grew up in the Dayton, Ohio, area and saw similarities between Dayton and Winston-Salem.

Stuckey, who served as acting administrator and was a finalist for the job that went to his boss, Hamilton County Administrator Patrick Thompson, said he was approached by a recruiter about going to North Carolina.

Sherrod Brown and Hackett make nice

A fairly improbable love fest will take place Monday afternoon on the banks of the Ohio.

Sherrod Brown, the Lorain Democrat who is taking on Mike DeWine in the U.S. Senate, will have peace rally Monday afternoon with Paul Hackett, who, a few months, ago, was Brown's rival for the Democratic Senate nomination.

Hackett dropped out of the race, saying Brown had lied to him last summer when he said he wasn't running and accusing Brown of a number of nefarious acts to sabotage the Hackett campaign. Brown, as you might imagine, denied it all.

Privately, the pair has been spitting nails at each other ever since.

But today, they kiss and make up, in front of a crowd of supporters. The group hug starts at 3 p.m. at an appropriate locale - the Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park on Eastern Avenue in the East End.

World peace can not be far behind.

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