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, August 18, 2006

Picnic alert

Jane Prendergast reports:

Leaders of the new Loveland Republican Club are rounding up notables for their first (they hope) big political picnic.

Topping the list so far is Tom Raga, the Deerfield Township state representative running for lieutenant governor. Off the list: Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich, who plans instead to be in Florida.

The group began late last fall after Brad Greenberg, a former Loveland mayor who’s now executive director of the Hamilton County Republican Party, and Dave Kothman got to talking about how close the congressional race was between Jean Schmidt and Paul Hackett. That closeness, the men decided, “was fairly shameful in an area that’s so predominantly Republican,” Kothman said.

So they decided to start a club of “like-minded” people who want to work to get Republicans elected and Republican-friendly issues passed in Loveland and beyond, Kothman said. Spoken like the group’s president, which he is. Other regulars: Greenberg, vice president; current Loveland Mayor Rob Weisgerber; and Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Heather Russell.

The first picnic is Aug. 28, 5:30 p.m. in Symmes Park, Loveland.

The club meets the fourth Monday of every month, 7:30 p.m. in the Lebanon Citizens National Bank building on Loveland-Madeira Road. With this month’s meeting moved to the park, the next regular one will be Sept. 25. E-mail: lovelandrepublicans.@zoomtown.com.

Jail still costs $225 million

A new, 1,800-bed Hamilton County jail won’t cost any more than originally proposed.

That was the message Commissioners Phil Heimlich (right) and Pat DeWine were given today by the consulting company Hamilton County hired.

Heimlich and DeWine were given a separate presentation by the consultant – resulting in the presentation not being subject to Ohio’s public meetings laws – who told them the jail would cost about $225 million.

That was the price given in January by another county-hired consultant.

But because that original estimate was at least 10 months old, commissioners wanted an update on the cost.

The consultants who gave today’s presentation looked at the current price of building material, construction cost, borrowing, inflation and other considerations needed to erect and finance a new jail compared to the prices on which the January consultant’s report was based.

That number is important because Heimlich has proposed a 20-year quarter-cent sales tax increase in Hamilton County to fund a $225 million jail.

DeWine has said he would support such an increase, but not for 20 years.

The two commissioners are expected to arrive at some compromise on the length of a sales tax increase before Thursday – the deadline for commissioners to place ballot issues before voters in the Nov. 7 election.

Commissioner Todd Portune, (at left in photo) a Democrat, knew nothing about today’s presentations by the consultants, his aide said.

Brown defeating DeWine like Jerusalem being conquered again - except in Ohio

The Ohio Senate race between Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown of northern Ohio and Republican Sen. Mike DeWine of Cedarville gets mention on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this week.

Click HERE to watch the clip.

Of course this isn't the first time Ohio's Senate race has gotten the show's attention. Click HERE to see another clip.

Neither one, however, can really compete with former Senate candidate Paul Hackett's appearance on the show: Click HERE for that one.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Back to the scene of the...

Howard Wilkinson reports:

Warren County was one of the places in Ohio where Rep. John Conyers believes election day irregularities may have disenfranchised thousands of voters in the 2004 presidential election.

Saturday night, the Michigan Democrat – the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee – will visit there himself, as the main speaker at a Warren County Democratic Party dinner at Shaker Run Golf Club. It’s a dinner that will also feature Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland and most of the other statewide Democratic candidates.

But at least one Warren County Democratic leader – state representative candidate Jeff Ruppert – said he doesn’t expect to hear much from Conyers Saturday night about the 2004 election and the strange, still-unexplained lockdown of the board of elections ordered by election officials that night.

“I think he was invited just as an inspirational speaker who could talk about what we could expect if the Democrats take the House this year,’’ said Ruppert, a Franklin lawyer who was an official Democratic election observer at the Warren County Board of Elections that night in November 2004. “We’re really not looking back to what is in the past.’’

Karen Morgan, press secretary to Conyers, said that as of Thursday afternoon she had not seen a copy of Conyers’ speech and couldn’t say what his topic would be.

In January 2005, after hearings conducted by Conyers in Washington and Columbus, the minority staff of the Judiciary Committee issued a report critical of Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, now the GOP candidate for governor, and saying voting irregularities in Ohio may have disenfranchised thousands of voters.

The report pointed to the Warren County incident, where county officials locked the media and others out of the board of elections, claiming the FBI had told them of a serious terrorist threat. FBI officials said no such warning was issued.

Ruppert was locked out of the board offices briefly that night. After producing identification, he was let back in, and later told Conyers’ investigators that he had seen nothing improper inside the Warren County Board of Elections that night.

“A lot of people in my party don’t want to hear it, but I still don’t believe there was any wrong-doing in the vote count that night,’’ said Ruppert, who is running for the seat being vacated by State Rep. Tom Raga, R-Mason, who is Blackwell’s running mate.

Tom Grossman, chairman of the Warren County Republican Party, said he doesn’t understand why Warren County Democrats – “all three of them’’ – would want to hear a speech from Conyers about the 2004 election.

“It’s over; it was a fair election and that’s all there is to it,’’ Grossman said.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Schmidt shows off her marathon medals

Rep. Jean Schmidt’s office e-mailed six photographs to reporters today to refute an Ohio Elections Commission complaint filed against her that alleges she lied about how many and which marathons she has run in – and how well she did in the races.

“We are appalled that anyone would make such an allegation let alone the allegations be taken seriously,” said Schmidt’s chief of staff, Barry Bennett.

The allegations were made about Schmidt’s participation in the well-known Boston Marathon, as well as marathons her in Ohio in Columbus and Xenia.

The above photographs show the Miami Township Republican with all of her marathon medals, her winning medals from the Xenia marathon, and the 10 medals she received from running in the Boston Marathon.

On the Xenia marathon, Bennett said: “In 2001, Jean finished 3rd in her class. In 2003, She finished 2nd in her class. Both are easily verifiable on the web and copies of the medals are included.”

On the Boston Marathon, Bennett said: “Jean has qualified for the Boston Marathon each year since 1991. During that period she has ran the marathon 10 times. We are today releasing photos of the ten medals.”

Bennett added: “Obviously the allegations are wholly untrue. The person making these false charges owes Congresswoman Schmidt an immediate apology.”

(Photos of her metal, trophy and finish in the Columbus Marathon posted below.)

Schmidt DID finish the Columbus Marathon

And she's got the picture, medal and trophy to prove it!

“In 1993, Jean ran in the Columbus Marathon and finished fifth in her class. Today we are releasing a copy of the finish line photo, the trophy for fifth place and Jean’s runner’s medal. These are irrefutable proof of her time and participation,” said Rep. Jean Schmidt's chief of staff, Barry Bennett.

Schmidt's participation in the Columbus Marathon is one of several athletic races listed on her campaign Web site biography that have been called into question in a complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission.

UPDATE from Nate Noy, who filed the complaint with the Elections Commission: "The Schmidt team is going to make a proverbial fool of you. I have proof that: (1) The photo is a fake and (2) the medal and trophy belong to someone else that Jean Schmidt knows. Official race results are 'irrefutable proof' not a doctored photo or a trophy that a friend can lend you. I hope you will retract the title of your article; Jean is taking you for what could be a rather embarrassing ride.'

More photos and details to come...

Democratic bus tour heading our way

From the Ted Strickland campaign

Columbus, Ohio - Ohio gubernatorial candidate Congressman Ted Strickland will be joined by U.S. Senate Candidate Congressman Sherrod Brown and members of the Democratic statewide ticket on a Turnaround Ohio tour of 13 counties this weekend. Statewide candidates joining Strickland for parts or all of the tour include Lieutenant Governor Candidate Lee Fisher, Treasurer Candidate Rich Cordray, Attorney General Candidate Marc Dann, Auditor Candidate Barbara Sykes, Secretary of State Candidate Jennifer Brunner and Supreme Court Candidate Ben Espy.

They'll be in Greater Cincinnati Saturday.

WHEN: 10:00 AM
WHERE: Veterans Memorial Park, Union Township, OH 45245

WHAT: Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion Celebration
WHEN: 12:00 PM
WHERE: Sawyer Point Park, 801 E. Pete Rose Way and Eggleston Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45202

WHEN: 2:30 PM
WHERE: Laborer's Hall Local 534, 5527 Hamilton Middletown Road Middletown, OH 45044

WHAT: Warren County Democratic Party Dinner
WHEN: 8:00 PM
WHERE: Shaker Run Golf Club 4361 Greentree Road Lebanon, OH 45036

Robocall mystery solved

The mystery over who paid for controversial automated telephone calls has been solved -- sort of.

David Langdon, a Sharonville attorney who admitted he "facilitated" the robocalls but refused to say who paid for them, has confessed.

No one paid for them.

But, as of today, the anti-tax group Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes -- or COAST -- will pay, Langdon said.

Langdon told the Enquirer in a Monday interview, when asked who paid for the calls and how much they cost "None of your business, none of your business, none of your business." At the time, Langdon said, he was willing to pay for the calls himself if he couldn't get someone else to.

The automated calls featured Prosecutor Joe Deters encouraging residents to attend a public hearing for "Phil Heimlich's jail plan."

Republican Commissioner Phil Heimlich is joining with Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. and financier Carl Lindner Jr. to propose placing before voters a quarter-cent sales tax increase in Hamilton County for 20 years to pay for a new 1,800-bed, $225 million jail and property tax rollback.

Because the calls specifically mentioned Heimlich, critics have charged the calls were an attempt to boost Heimlich's campaign for re-election to commissioner where he faces David Pepper, a Democrat.

"We're not hiding anything from anybody," Langdon said today.

But Langdon wouldn't name:

* The company -- or its location -- he hired to make the calls;
"It was all done by e-mail," Langdon said.

* The number of calls made.
"I absolutely have no clue," Langdon said.

* The calls cost.
"I don't know off the top of my head," Langdon said.
Langdon refused to review the contract to recall the cost.

When asked how much COAST agreed to pay for the calls, Langdon said as COAST's lawyer, he couldn't answer that. But when reminded he said COAST hadn't agreed to pay the cost until today, Langdon still refused to say how much COAST agreed to pay.

COAST founder Tom Brinkman, also a Republican Ohio lawmaker, said he knew nothing about it -- but others in COAST may because COAST members can act independently on behalf of the anti-tax group.

"I know that's hard for people to fathom. That's called trust," Brinkman said.

Chris Finney, another COAST board member, didn't immediately return telephone calls today.

The way to find out what the calls cost, Brinkman said, was to "wail till (COAST) files its campaign finance report."

COAST is a registered Political Action Committee and required under Ohio law to file reports on money it raises or spends on ballot issues or campaigns. That comment was almost exactly what Heimlich said earlier today when asked again about the calls.

"We will strictly comply with all (Ohio) campaign finance requirements," Heimlich said.

"You know, it's downright silly," Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke said of the secrecy over the calls.

"Why (is COAST) afraid to be clear with the public on who paid for what. They want to maintain secrecy."

Schmidt-Wulsin debates? Don't hold your breath

There is nothing Victoria Wulsin, the Democratic challenger in the 2nd Congressional District, would like more than a debate-a-day from now to November with Jean Schmidt.

But, as the Stones told us some time ago, you can't always get what you want.

Three televised and/or radio broadcast debates have been proposed; only one is like to happen and that will be on a Sunday morning TV talk show in October.

As for Wulsin's recent letter to Schmidt asking her to do one public debate in each of the 2nd District's seven counties, the Schmidt campaign has a simple reply: Forget about it.

Schmidt's chief of staff Barry Bennett said will spend all of September in Washington, except for the weekends, when she'll be out and about in her district.

"There are a lot of votes in September,'' Bennett said. "The federal government runs out of money Oct. 1. I can't commit her to debates on weekdays in September.''

That means Schmidt will not take part in a Sept. 18 debate with Wulsin proposed by the Cincinnati Debate Alliance, a group that includes the Enquirer, WCPO, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, the League of Women Voters, among others.

Neither will she do a proposed Sept. 11 radio debate sponsored by the Adams County Business and Professional Women, Bennett said, because she will be working in D.C. that day. Plus, Bennett said, the group showed "incredible bad taste'' in scheduling a political event on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Schmidt will show up on Oct. 13 for the taping of Channel 12's Newsmakers program, which airs at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Cot. 15. By then, Congress will presumably be in recess, Bennett said.

Wulsin's idea of seven counties, seven debates, just isn't going to happen, Bennett said.

"Who'd show up anyway?,'' Bennett said.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Schmidt tripped up by another elections complaint

The Ohio Elections Commission will hear three complaints against U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt during a probable cause hearing on Aug. 24.

Schmidt, a Republican from Miami Township, received a public reprimand from the state elections commission in April for making "false statements," claiming she had a second undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati which she never received.

The latest complaints, filed Friday by Nathan J. Noy, an independent candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat, allege Schmidt lied about various athletic accomplishments including how often and/or well she ran in marathons in Boston, Columbus and Xenia.

Barry Bennett, Schmidt's chief of staff, said, "This is just crazy,'' offering to show a reporter Schmidt's 60 marathon medals.

Bennett said he surprised the elections commission even takes such complaints, adding, "This commission is so broken, it's ridiculous. Lord knows what the commission will do.''

Noy's complaints say Schmidt and her staff misled voters on her campaign web site, news interviews, press releases and elsewhere.

The complaints also name Bennett, Schmidt's husband and campaign treasurer, Peter Schmidt, and web site managers Tim Billies of Amelia and Eric Kephas.

One complaint alleges a photo on Schmidt's web site -- purportedly from the October 1993 Columbus Marathon -- is fabricated or misleading.

A Columbus Dispatch article announcing the top finishers in that race did not include Schmidt. (However, as regular runners know, if you unofficially hop in a race without paying the entry fee, you would not be listed among the official finishers.)

A second complaint alleges that Schmidt is misleading voters by claiming a 2nd place finish in the Xenia Marathon in April 2002, when she wasn't listed among the top women finishers.

Schmidt's campaign web site has since been revised. It now reads: "Xenia Marathon, 2003, 2nd place female overall (Previously listed as 2002-This was a typographical error.) Please click here for the results."

A third complaint claims Schmidt has misrepresented how many times she ran the Boston marathon on her biography, news articles and Internet web sites.

"She's qualified every year since 1991,'' Bennett said. "I've got seven medals."

Bennett said Schmidt often runs with the Leukemia Society's Team in Training and can provide witnesses to her marathon feats.

During her primary race this spring, a unanimous Elections Commission voted to issue Schmidt a public reprimand for "false statements."

A letter citing the campaign's "reckless disregard for truth" was sent by the commission to Schmidt and her husband, Peter, as committee treasurer. It's the most serious punishment short of fines or criminal prosecution.

Laura Bush heads to Kentucky, Ohio

First lady Laura Bush will be in the tri-state area tomorrow for a slew of campaign fundraisers.

She'll start the day in Lexington, Ky., for a 10:30 a.m. breakfast fundraiser at a private home for Rep. Geoff Davis, a Republican from Hebron who faces former Democratic Rep. Ken Lucas.

Mrs. Bush will then head north to Kettering, a suburb of Dayton, for a 1:10 p.m. fundraiser lunch at the NCR Country Club for Sen. Mike DeWine, a Cedarville Republican. DeWine faces a difficult re-election campaign this year against Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown of northern Ohio.

After a quick lunch, Mrs. Bush will visit the Wright-Dunbar Village in Dayton at 1:55 p.m. with DeWine and Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican from Centerville who might be running against Democrat Stephanie Studebaker.

Notice which lawmaker is missing from the action?

Rep. Steve Chabot had planned to hold a campaign fundraising lunch at Cincinnati's Union Terminal with the first lady two weeks ago on Friday, Aug. 4, but he had to postpone it at the last minute due to a funeral being held at the same time for a soldier killed in Iraq. No word yet on when that fundraiser has been rescheduled for. Chabot faces Democrat John Cranley.

Michelle Perkins-Ball: "I assure you I am real."

Some of you may have seen the earlier post about the letter from a Canadian visitor who laid out what she saw as Cincinnati's ills.

Now that writer - Toronto teacher Michelle Perkins-Ball - has posted her own comment, and responded to an email.

What she had to say in her comment:

Hi,This is Michelle Perkins-Ball from Toronto writing.

I just received an e-mail from a Mr. Weiser and my husband suggested I google my name and Cincinnati. This site came up. I want to assure people that I do indeed exist, that I am a high school teacher and that the reason I/we drove to Cincinnati was to check out the city and the National Freedom Centre before bringing my students this fall.

Why? I teach an African-Canadian Heritage Course and there is an Ontario based connection in the Museum to the curriculum I teach.

This would have been a great opportunity for my students to travel, related to the course. My intention in writing my letter was to highlight my/our experience of the visit and to share it with people in Cincinnati. It is obvious some people can relate to what I've said.

This is the most important point. In addition, I had never seen the abbreviation OTR before I saw it/heard it on the news for 3 nights, a police project related to drugs in "OTR". These are the initials that the news report put up in big letters during the newscast .

We also saw these initials in a local paper which spoke of drugs and police projects in OTR. In reading the responses to my letter, I wonder why people are suggesting someone is anonymously writing? Perhaps these issues are coming up regularly in Cincinnati?

I am not pointing fingers at any one specific group. As I wrote in the initial letter, I realize that the problems faced are complex. However, I think before they can be addressed as a community, there needs to be a willingness, however unpleasant, to recognize some of the root causes. One of them, I unapologetically believe, is racism.

Not that this should matter, or be of any importance as related to my letter, but for those who are interested in these types of things, my husband and I are middle-class "white folks".

Here is a response to an email we sent her:

Hi Mr. Weiser,
I'm sorry I didn't respond sooner.

Your e-mail was directed to my junk-mail file so I just opened it today.

I am glad to tell you a bit more about myself. I am a secondary school teacher at an inner-city school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I have been teaching high school for a decade and I am 40 years old. I am white. I have been married for 16 years.

My husband is white. I teach all grade levels of high school and one of the courses I teach is called African-Canadian Heritage, a Black History Course from a Canadian perspective. I saw the need for this at my school and was part of a writing team to create this locally deveoped course for my Board. I heard about the National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre, first I think, on the Oprah show.

Then I spent last year learning more about it online and raising some funds to take this year's class on an overnight trip there (3 days, we planned) . I thought it would be great because of the connection to Ontario and the information we learn in the class.

I always try to first check out places I will bring my students, mainly for safety reasons. That's why my husband and I drove down to Cincinnati a few weeks ago. We stayed downtown in the Garfield Suites. The African American woman I met was named Diane and we met her at a submarine sandwich store downtown. I think it was Subway?

I can't remember. My husband and I wrote the letter just after we returned and I sent a copy to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre because I wanted them to know why I wasn't returning. I received a nice letter back from a Mr. Britton. I have never had any connection to the Museum or Cincinnati before this trip, other than a phone call to the front desk asking for information about the Museum and group trips.

I assure you I am real. The letter expresses the thoughts and feelings of my husband and I and are related to a few days in Cincinnati and limited to our experiences. Nevertheless, I had enough of a taste to think that my mainly Black students would not find the trip there very welcoming, overall. I regret this to be my/our experience, but I think it's important to address such issues, as I wonder what it would feel like to be a Black teen in Cincinnati, and I see part of my calling as a teacher to be an advocate for those I love, my students.

We're going on another trip instead. However, I'm glad to learn that the letter has created dialogue. Perhaps it is easier for an outsider to write of these issues? I would be interested in reading some of the dialogue that resulted if you would be willing to e-mail me?

Thanks so much for taking the time to write to me. I look forward to hearing from you and wish you and your colleagues a good day.


Michelle Perkins-Ball, Toronto

Monday, August 14, 2006

Congressional candidate arrested

The Dayton Daily News is reporting that Stephanie Studebaker, the Centerville veterinarian who is challening incumbent Republican Mike Turner in Ohio's 3rd Congressional District, was arrested Sunday morning on a charge of domestic violence.

So, too, was her husband, Samuel Studebaker, the newspaper reported Monday afternoon.

Both were booked into the Montgomery County jail Sunday morning and released that afternoon on $25,000 cash surety bonds.

A spokesman for the Democratic congressional candidate's campaign would not comment Monday, but said a statement on the matter would be released Monday afternoon. But, as of late Monday afternoon, the Studebaker for Congress web site was down for "maintenance.''

The 3rd District includes most of Montgomery County and northern and western parts of Warren County.

"None of your business"

If you've gotten those calls encouraging you to attend public hearing on funding a Hamilton County jail, the voice on the other end of that automated telephone call is Prosecutor Joe Deters.

But if you want to know who paid for the calls, don’t ask Sharonville attorney David Langdon, who admits he “facilitated” the calls.

“None of your business. None of your business. None of your business,” Langdon said today when asked about how many calls were made, how much the calls cost and who paid for them.

Langdon is perhaps best known as the attorney for Citizens for Community Values, the anti-pornography activist group and the COAST, or Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxation.

At first, Langdon said the Deters calls “may have been free” but later admitted a private company was hired to make the phone calls. But he wouldn’t say who hired the company, the name of the company, the cost or who paid.

Langdon’s clients, he said, were Deters and “The Campaign for a Safer Hamilton County,” the group formed to push for a quarter-cent increase in Hamilton County’s sales tax that would fund a new 1,800-bed, $225 million jail.

Deters, though, said that was untrue.

“I have not signed on to any committee yet,” Deters said.

Deters was asked to be the voice of the telephone calls by Mike McNamara, a former employee in Deters’ office but now the campaign manager for Phil Heimlich, the Republican incumbent Hamilton County commissioner up for re-election this year – and the man who proposed the sales tax increase to pay for the jail.

The recorded message wound up with Langdon.

Langdon said he is not affiliated with Heimlich’s re-election campaign.

Tonight’s hearing is at 3011 Harrison Ave.

The mayor's new car is a...

When the ceremonial "first bus" pulls into the revamped Government Square hub Friday morning as the Withrow High School marching band leads the way, a special guest will be behind the wheel.

Mayor Mark Mallory has been undergoing hush-hush Metro training, readying himself to pilot one of Metro's 40 new buses into a parking bay in the Fifth Street for the grand unveiling.

Neither Metro not Mallory's spokesman wanted to discuss the plan for publication.

Dinika Thomas funeral arrangements set

Dinika Thomas, the 32-year-old daughter of Cincinnati council member Cecil Thomas, will be burried Saturday. She died Aug. 6, after an asthma attack.

Visitation and services will be at Christ Emmanuel Christian Fellowship, 2324 May Street in Walnut Hills. Visitation is from 11-12:30. Funeral services will immediately follow, and last until 2 p.m.

Dinika Thomas was a resident of Atlanta, Ga., where she was working on master's degree. She leaves behind a 5-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter.

"The news is devastating to everyone at City Hall," Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory said. "The loss of a daughter at such a young age is an unimaginable tragedy. The prayers of our whole city are with council member Thomas and his family."

In Lieu of flowers, the family is requesting contributions be made in memory of Dinika Thomas to Christ Emmanuel Christian Academy, 1225 East McMillan, Cincinnati, OH., 45206, c/o Principal Carol B. Dantley.

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