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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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Board of Elex: Please, please don't hold election

Jessica Brown reports that the Hamilton County Board of Election has asked the county commissioners NOT to have an Aug. 28 special election for a new jail tax.

Read the story here.

Read the letter here

ProgressOhio wants probe of CCV finances

A liberal activist group in Columbus has asked Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to investigate the campaign contributions and expenditures reported by Citizens for Community Values. The Sharonville group supported the state ban on same-sex marriage in Ohio in 2004, also known as Issue 1.

ProgressOhio, in a complaint sent today to Brunner, questioned the group's filings with the IRS and $1.4 million it reported donating to the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage.

"Transparency in elections is a value that must be enforced," Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio, wrote, saying the group intentionally concealed campaign donors and expenses.

David Miller, a vice president with CCV, called the complaint "a rehash of something they filed before. . .The Secretary of State doesn't have jurisdiction over these issues."

Miller said all the figures they've disclosed on required reports to the state and IRS are accurate and that the group's 2006 filing isn't even due yet. "The guy doesn't even have his facts straight," he said.

The Ohio Elections Commission, in a 3-2 vote in February 2006, dismissed a similar complaint against CCV and its president, Phil Burress. That complaint alleged CCV failed to identify most of its campaign contributors when it spent more than $2 million on Issue 1 and an ordinance restricting gay rights in Cincinnati.

Jeff Ortega, a spokesman for Brunner, said, "We are in receipt of the complaint and are looking into it."

Ortega said he's unable to comment further.


Mitt Romney hits the jackpot

Every four years, Republican presidential candidate compete for the support of Cincinnati's Lindner family, because having them on your side can draw millions in campaign contributions.

For the past 20 years or so, you had a leg up on the competition if your name happened to be George Bush -- father or son.

This time around, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is the lucky winner.

Romney's campaign announced Wednesday that S. Craig Lindner, co-president of American Financial Group and CEO of Great American Financial Resources, will be co-chair of Romney's Ohio fundraising effort, along with Ames Travel Service president Nancy Donovan.

Not terribly surprising, since Lindner hosted a fundraising event for Romney at his Indian Hill home earlier this month.

The pater familias, Carl H. Lindner Jr., will serve as the honorary co-chair of the Ohio finance committee and the co-chair of the national finance committee.

Locking down the Lindners is a pretty big score for the Romney campaign, since there are untold numbers of other corporate-types in this part of the world who generally follow the Lindner family's lead when it comes to campaign contributions.

Driehaus honored by Arc of Ohio

The Arc of Ohio named state Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Price Hill, as Disability Legislator of the Year.

The association said it chose Driehaus because of his strong support for legislation which promotes individuals with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities to successfully live, work and get an education.

The Arc of Ohio consists of people with mental retardation, other developmental disabilities, their families, friends, interested citizens and professionals in the disability field. They promote productivity of all members of a community, regardless of ability.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mmmmm.... Cheetos

City Council candidate Sean Holbrook turned Tuesday's discussion at City Hall about punishments for pot usage into a commercial for Holbrook.

Or rather his campaign spokesman did.

Dave Rothfuss promised all campaign events would offer plenty of ice cream and Cheetos for any "potheads" in attendance.

This is the guy who also made a video in which he sings that all media questions about the Holbrook campaign will be answered in song. In the video, he wears a straw cowboy hat and a T-shirt that says Amateur Porn Star.


Mallory and foreign reporters

The mayor plans to meet Sunday with 10 news reporters who will be in Cincinnati from Europe and Asia. They're here to study American life and want to see what that life is like here on Opening Day. It's a trip coordinated by the State Department.

Mallory will be talking to them about the city, and he hopes they can help him spread a positive word about Cincinnati.

"We still suffer," he says, "from a national and an international image that needs work."


Who paid for Bob's picture

A total of 38 people, companies or organizations donated $21,900 to pay for former Gov. Bob Taft's framed portrait, to be displayed in a Statehouse hearing room. Toledo artist Leslie Adams was paid $18,000 of that total, with the rest going to the frame and ceremony.

According to the Ohio Historical Society, they are:

Mr. and Mrs. Richard P. Anderson of Maumee, $100
Mr. and Mrs. Alex R. Arshinkoff of Hudson, $250
Mr. John W. Berry Jr. of Naples, Fla., $500
Mr. and Mrs. Merom Brachman of Bexley, $500
Judge and Mrs. Charles E. Brown Jr. of Alliance, $500
Mr. and Mrs. R. Gregory Browning of Columbus, $1,000
Castellini Foundation, Cincinnati, $1,000
The James Dicke Family of New Bremen, $1,000
Ms. Sandra Drabik of Sylvania, $100
Mr. and Mrs. Sean P. Dunn of New Albany, $500
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph H. Head Jr. of Cincinnati, $100
JAD and Associates, LLC, Columbus, $1,000
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas W. Johnson of Upper Arlington, $2,000
Mr. and Mrs. Jerry D. Jordan of Columbus, $200
Mr. Carl H. Lindner of Cincinnati, $5,000
Nationwide, $2,500
The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, $500
Ambassador and Mrs. John D. Ong of Akron, $1,000
Mr. Robert H. Schottenstein of Columbus, $500
Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon A. Taft of Columbus, $1,000
Liz and Roger Tracy of New Albany, $1,000
Mr. and Mrs. Mark R. Weaver Esq. of Granville, $400
Western & Southern Financial Group, Cincinnati, $1,000
Karen and William Wilkins of Pataskala, $250


Hey Bill Clinton, Can You Help?

He's not saying exactly what for, but Mayor Mark Mallory plans to call on former President Bill Clinton to help Cincinnati.

Clinton has offered to help the city before, the mayor says, and he repeated that offer last week when the two men met while Clinton was here to raise money for his presidency-seeking wife. They talked about race relations, young people and improving public transportation, the mayor says.

"He's interested in helping in any way he possibly can," Mallory said of Clinton. "He's made that offer several times now. And I'm going to call him."

Asked what specifically he would ask the ex-president to do, the mayor said: "He has a way of bringing attention to an issue that I think will be very helpful to us."


Be in a movie, get a husband

So when Leslie Ghiz went to the Toronto Film Festival last September to see the documentary she was part of about the 2004 election, she met a guy in a bar.

He'd stopped in the place to get a pizza. Her sister talked to him first and learned that he wanted to have children too. He's also of Lebanese descent, like Ghiz. She insists she knew he was the one within three minutes.

So they're getting married. Possibly June 16, as long as the groom can be there.

He's salesman Steve Aziz. And he's Canadian. So he has to get his visa. They're working on that.

But they've bought a house in North Avondale. He proposed in it this weekend. She suspected the question was coming, she just didn't know when.

"I waited 37 years for this," she said. "I'm very happy. And I'm happy to share my joy with everyone."

She shared it, all right: with Bill Cunningham on his WLW Radio show.

The news brought hugs from Laketa Cole and Chris Bortz today. Ghiz showed off the diamond on her left hand; Bortz pretended to be blinded.

She won't drop her last name after the wedding. And she doesn't plan to hyphenate. She'll still campaign and practice law as Leslie Ghiz. But she'll add his.

So that's Leslie Ghiz Aziz.


Strickland triples $ for African-American commission

Among the biggest winners in Gov. Ted Strickland's proposed 2008-09 state budget is the Commission on African-American Males.

The commission's annual budget would go up from $292,000 this fiscal year to $792,000 next year and to nearly $1.3 million in fiscal year 2009.

Steve Reece of Monfort Heights, a recent gubernatorial appointee to the commission, sees it as a sign Strickland means action.

Reece, a one-time congressional candidate and longtime activist in Cincinnati Democratic politics, said, "Strickland knows that I've been active, and I figure this guy would not have appointed me if he wanted to take a passive role."

Reece's appointment pays expenses only.

The commission works toward the improvement of the quality of life for African-American males in Ohio by identifying problems and solutions in the areas of education, health, economics and criminal justice.

Reece said he hopes the commission will focus on employment: "We have to look at the jobs segment and the entrepreneur segment, creating jobs,'' he said today.

Reece founded "Operation Step-up," a group that engages nearly 1,000 young people and challenges them to become productive citizens by developing their musical talents.


Holy crime-fighting, Tarbell

He's still basking in the accolades for his weekend fisticuffs (literally).

As Jim Tarbell walked in to this morning's finance committee meeting, Chairman John Cranley called him "Batman" and said: "I'm glad to see you in full health. And of course I want the rights to use that spotlight if I'm ever in trouble."

Cranley was referring to a cartoon in today's paper by Jim Borgman. It shows a giant Batman-like spotlight with the caption, "Holy Crimebusters, Mr. Vice Mayor! It's the Tarbell signal!" The silhouette, instead of the shape of a bat, is a bald head with a giant smile above a bow tie.

Tarbell was headed to Kaldi's Coffeehouse and Bookstore on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine on Friday night when he saw a man aggressively panhandling. Tarbell asked the guy to stop, went to his car and started to call 911. That's when he said the guy, later identified as Larry Smith, 59, grabbed Tarbell's cell phone and hit him in the face with it. Tarbell got out of the car to get the phone back and the fight was on. Smith was arrested.


Dann for Berding

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann's in town tonight to talk about a couple of things - predatory lending, foreclosures and how his office might help Cincinnati with some anti-crime efforts.

Oh, and to talk about getting Councilman Jeff Berding re-elected.

If you want to hear him and chip in, hit the Bankers Club downtown at 5:30 p.m.


The Battle of the Steves?

Rep. Steve Chabot won a seventh term in the U.S. House last fall by fending off a well-financed challenged from Democrat John Cranley, but the Westwood Republican may not be out of the woods yet.

Next year, if he decides to seek an eighth term, Chabot is likely to face a Democratic challenger whose family is well known in the GOP enclaves of Cincinnati's west side suburbs and who has made a career of winning elections in a Republican-leaning Ohio House district - State Rep. Steve Driehaus.

The Price Hill Democrat has already had discussions with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) about taking on Chabot in 2008; and will be in a perfect position to do it - his eight years in the Ohio House under Ohio's term limits law will be ending and Driehaus will have to move on.

Tuesday, he sounded like a candidate.

"By next year, Steve Chabot, with all due respect, will have been there 14 years and people are going to start looking at whether or not it is time for something new,'' Driehaus said.

Driehaus, the minority whip of the Ohio House, said that term limits forces him to "look at other options'' and running for Congress, he said, "ranks right up there at the top of the list."

Last year, Chabot won re-election by about 9,000 votes out of about 202,000 cast in the 1st District, which includes most of the western half of Hamilton County, a small area of Butler County, and most of the city of Cincinnati.

The district is considered to have a 50-50 split between Republican and Democrat voters, based in part on the nearly flat-footed tie between George W. Bush and John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.

Bob Taft ceremony brings out GOP gang

A ceremony unveiling a Statehouse portrait of former Gov. Bob Taft brought out dozens of former aides and Republican colleagues today.

Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett, former House Speaker and Republican National Committee Co-Chair Jo Ann Davidson were there, along with former Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery. Former Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson attended as did Nancy Hollister, a former governor and lieutenant governor. Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton also looked on.

Several of Taft's top former aides, including Jon Allison and Scott Borgemenke, were there as was Marcie Seidel, chief of staff to former First Lady Hope Taft.

Senate President Bill Harris and Borgemenke's current boss, House Speaker Jon Husted also attended.

Gov. Taft thanked First Lady Frances Strickland for attending.

Today's news story can be found here:


Monday, March 26, 2007

War of the Press Releases

It's a war of the press releases in Hamilton County.

Commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper, both Democrats, issued a press release Monday: "DeWine Jail Plan Crumbles Only One Week After Proposing It." In it, they state fellow commissioner Pat DeWine's plan to solve jail overcrowding without a tax increase had "crumbled."

DeWine, the lone Republican on the board, fired back with his own press release: "Is There Anything Pepper and Portune Won't do to Salvage Their Sneaky August Election Tax Plan." In it, he called the details in the Pepper/Portune release "lies."

The dueling opinions in the press releases are based on an e-mail from CCA, the company that owns the Queensgate jail building. Keeping Queensgate open is an important component of DeWine's plan. CCA had earlier proposed a way to rehab Queensgate and keep it open.
The e-mail was discussed during a closed-door meeting Monday morning attended by all three commissioners.

Portune and Pepper said they sent their release based on their understanding of CCA's position after that meeting. Portune said he later re-read the e-mail. "I am still very clear on it and stand by everything we said." he said. "The letter speaks for itself."

He said DeWine should have said something at the morning meeting if he disagreed.
DeWine said he called CCA for clarification after getting the Portune/Pepper press release before sending out his counter-release.

"This press release is a flat-out lie," he said. "They (CCA) are still very much interested."
(The company noted in the e-mail, MGT of America, would have analyzed CCA's proposal to see if the numbers made sense.)

Charterites Say Vote For These Three

Cincinnati's Charter Committee announced today its three (so far) endorsements for City Council in November:

Chris Bortz, an incumbent elected in 2005; Cincinnati Board of Education member Melanie Bates, who has become known as a crime-fighter since the shooting death of her husband in August; and Joan Kaup, who has worked for the convention bureau, Downtown Cincinnati Inc. and Ensemble Theatre.

“These three candidates have the courage of their convictions, and they understand the leadership role of City Council," Charter Board President Michael Goldman said in an e-mailed statement. "They are tireless, positive thinkers who present a real vision of hope for Cincinnati."

The announcement went on to say that "Cincinnati's greatest leaders have been Charterites." Including: Murray Seasongood, the first mayor; Charlie Taft; Ted Berry, the first African-American mayor; Bobbie Sterne, the first female mayor; Marian Spencer, the first African-American woman elected to council; former mayor Arn Bortz; and Jim Tarbell, the current vice mayor. Term limits make this Tarbell's last term.


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