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, July 21, 2006

Recognize the senator in this comic strip?

We talked to the creator of Candorville, Darrin Bell, about why he chose to lampoon Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., in his strip this week.

Check out Monday's "Inside Washington" column in The Cincinnati Enquier on Page 2 of the Local section to read details from that interview. See a giant photo of Bunning here.

In the meantime, here is how Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard responded to the comic:

“Senator Bunning wears it as a badge of honor that he would be nationally
recognized for his leadership in calling on the liberal media to be more
responsible with what they publish about the government’s legal and classified
efforts to protect America from terrorist thugs.”

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Easier to register than to vote in Ohio

Allison D'Aurora, our college intern at the Enquirer's Columbus Bureau, registered to vote for the first time Thursday at the Franklin County Board of Elections. She filed this report:

On Nov. 7, Ohio voters will be required to show government-issued photo identification at the polls under a new law that took effect in May. If you don't have the ID, or other approved identification such as a bank statement, paycheck, utility bill or other government document, you'll be asked to cast a provisional ballot, which is counted later and subject to verification of your address. Voters providing the last four digits of their social security number or signing an affirmation swearing to their identify also will be able to cast a provisional ballot.

Despite all these new voting requirements, as I offered the elections worker my driver's license, the woman replied: “I don’t actually need to see that.”

On the voter registration form, however, it suggests that every person—registering via mail or in person—must attach a copy of their photo ID. Why make all the fuss over an ID if employees won’t glance over it?

Peg Rosenfield, elections specialist with the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said their response is not ususual. The board of elections compares registration information, including the driver's license or partial social security number, to other state databases such as the one kept by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. If I lied on the form, election falsification is a fifth-degree felony punishable by up to a year in jail and $2,500 fine.

When Jon Craig of the Columbus Bureau registered his daughter to vote this week, he also found it incredibly easy. With the new ID requirement, he anticipated roadblocks to registering someone else. But the elections worker didn't ask to see a photocopy of his daughter's driver's license. "As long as you brought it, it's OK,'' the worker said. She was registered in less than a minute.

Craig and D'Aurora will report on the new voting rules and concerns about them in Monday's Enquirer. In the meantime, we'd like to hear about your voter registration experiences. You can e-mail them to jcraig@enquirer.com

GOP's Seitz defends Empowerment agency

State Rep. Bill Seitz said he doesn't know how the Cincinnati Empowerment Corp. picked his name out of the Cincinnati Bar Association directory.

"I don't know why they hired me. I think they wanted someone who was going to be a combination of proactive and aggressive, and that's me," Seitz said.

Seitz was hired last week after the development agency fired Dinsmore & Shohl, a prominent downtown law firm that had advised the board not to answer questions about possible conflicts of interest at the Empowerment Corp.

If you want to take on a fight with bureaucrats and lash out against the media, Seitz's smartest-guy-in-the-room attitude and five-dollar vocabulary can come in handy.

But it's hard not to notice that the agency also chose a prominent Republican to defend itself it what might be seen as a Democratic scandal -- inasmuch as Dale Mallory, a principal figure in the city's investigation, is a Democratic candidate for state representative.

Seitz considers himself a friend of the Mallorys. Like many GOP lawmakers, he endorsed Mark Mallory for mayor last year, citing the Mallory family's tradition of bipartisanship in the state legislature.

Seitz blamed the Mallory controversy on his Democratic primary opponent, former Hamilton County Recorder Eve Bolton, in concert with anti-Citylink activists who supported former Councilman David Pepper for mayor last year.

But even as he did so, he said, "This isn't about politics." The issue, he said, is the city cutting off funding to an important program based on "bogus" conflict-of-interest allegations.

And while Seitz supports the Republican candidate in the 32nd Ohio House district, he had trouble remembering the name of the North College Hill cooking oil salesman running against Dale Mallory.

"I don't even know who Mike Poast is," Seitz said when prompted. "If he's the Republican candidate, I'm sure I would support him once I met him."


For the record...

House Majority Leader John Boehner objected last week to Democratic ads that used images of flag-draped coffins, prompting a blog reader to ask us what Boehner thinks about Sen. Mike DeWine's new ads, which use a "graphic representation" of the burning World Trade Center towers.

Boehner was asked just that question yesterday. He didn't answer the question.

Here's the exchange, fyi:
QUESTION: Democrats are being pretty critical of Senator DeWine for using images of the World Trade burning to attack Sherrod Brown on his intelligence and defense. I am curious as to whether you think such images are fair game?

BOEHNER: I have not seen the ad, so no reason for me to comment.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Oops! DeWine alters ad

Amid criticism from Democrats over an image of the burning World Trade Center towers in his latest TV commercial, Sen. Mike DeWine’s campaign announced tonight that it would be switching the images.

But the switch is NOT in response to the criticism. It’s in response to a phone call the senator just received from U.S. News & World Report, asking if the image had been changed in any way.

As it turns out, the image of the burning twin towers that is shown in DeWine’s TV ad is a graphic representation that shows the towers with smoke – not actual video footage of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“The senator was unaware that the image of the towers was a graphic representation and has instructed the campaign to replace the footage with a picture of the twin towers,” campaign spokesman Brian Seitchik said in a statement he read to reporters.

Seitchik said the ad was being changed tonight and the new version – showing a photograph of the towers before the attacks – will be shipped to stations tonight or first thing tomorrow morning.

He said the switch had nothing to do with criticism from the Ohio Democratic Party, which rolled out ads attacking DeWine on Tuesday.

“The campaign stands by the factual basis of the ad, and since we decided to use the image of the twin towers, we wanted to use an actual picture,” he said.

DeWine faces Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown of northern Ohio in a race for one of Ohio’s two U.S. Senate seats on Nov. 7.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Democrats answer DeWine ad

Days after Sen. Mike DeWine launched the first negative ad of Ohio’s senate race, the Ohio Democratic Party unveiled today a 30-second response ad coupled with a $470,000 ad buy that will put it on every station and show that DeWine’s ad is running on.

The new ad criticizes DeWine for using images of the burning World Trade Center and mug shots of the 19 hijackers in his ad, and attempts to explain Rep. Sherrod Brown’s record.

"It's sad: Mike DeWine exploiting images of 9/11 to smear Sherrod Brown," the announcer in the ad says.

The ad also says DeWine "failed us" as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee for not stopping the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and for allowing President Bush to falsely claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

DeWine spokesman Brian Seitchik said the campaign stands by its ad, which comes just after Republicans lashed out at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for using images of flag-draped coffins of dead soldiers in a different ad. That ad has since been pulled.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said the state party was in no way connected to the DCCC ad and declined to discuss the matter further.

Meanwhile, Ohio Republican Party Communications Director John McClelland e-mailed reporters an 11-page response to the Democratic response ad: "The Ohio Democratic Party has apparently joined Sherrod Brown way out in left field. Their new television ad, released today, stretches the facts (and some logic) about Brown’s positions on national security. Please review the attached document for a point-by-point fact check of the ad."

ORP Chairman Bob Bennett also chimed in on the ad: "The Democrats are trying to paint over a rusty bucket. Sherrod Brown can gloss over his pathetic record on national security, but the truth will eventually eat its way through. Brown has done more to leave our country vulnerable to terrorism than nearly anyone in the U.S. House. Anyone who looks at his record on national security knows it’s toxic, even his fellow Democrats."

DeWine and Brown will face off for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat at the polls on Nov. 7.

Monday, July 17, 2006

DeWine, Portune differ on small business proposal

Hamilton County needs to improve its Small Business Program to help local companies and employees compete for county business.

That was the assessment presented Monday to Hamilton County commissioners by Bernice Walker, the county’s Small Business Development director (at left in photo).

She suggested ways to make “small and disadvantaged businesses” more competitive with larger companies. Her suggestions included:

* Lowering the dollar amount businesses do to be considered “small businesses” so they don’t have to compete with businesses that now do tens of millions of dollars of business per year;.

* Forcing companies to be certified as small businesses in Hamilton County, something not now required.

* Requiring “a minimum fixed percentage of the total dollar value of contracts awarded and procurements made by Hamilton County” be awarded to small businesses.

Commissioner Todd Portune praised her interim report.

Commissioner Pat DeWine didn’t, saying he has “a lot of concerns about where we’re going here.”

DeWine said Hamilton County already is doing things like combining all of the purchases Hamilton County offices make under a central office to save money.

“This seems to be heading in the opposite direction,” DeWine said.

DeWine questioned the cost of the suggested changes – they will result in the program having to hire another person, Walker suggested – and wondered what benefit they would have.

Portune answered that it would help stimulate the local economy by hiring local companies that hire local workers as well as address “long-standing areas of poverty and disinvestment.”

One of the resource materials Walker used in writing her report and making her recommendations was “A Proposal to Enhance and Improve the Hamilton County Small Business Program.”

It was submitted June 19 by its author – Portune.

Commissioner Phil Heimlich didn’t weigh in on the subject.

Heimlich has a heart? So does Portune?

Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich faked a heart attack today.

That’s because he was getting assistance in his bid for re-election from fellow Commissioner Todd Portune, a Democrat who has endorsed Heimlich’s opponent.

The commissioners were in a staff meeting today being briefed on the 2007 “report card” – a staff-compiled look at the services Hamilton County provides and how well it believes it is doing.

The staff suggested the report card be released to the public Nov. 1.

Portune then noted that was before the Nov. 7 election where voters will either return Heimlich to the commission or replace him with David Pepper -- a candidate who, Heimlich has noted often, is receiving plenty of help from Portune.

Portune suggested the delay partly “for Phil’s protection,” saying some would criticize the report or belittle it as a political document based only on the timing of its release.

Two seats away, Heimlich dropped to the table the eyeglasses he was twirling in his hand, clutched at his chest and joked “Just a second. I may be having the big one.”

Commissioners agreed to release the report card after the election.

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