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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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Do you know this woman?

No, not Hillary Clinton. The woman on the left. She was in the crowd at the Clinton rally at Cincinnati State on Saturday and handed the candidate a flyer from the Barack Obama campaign.

Clinton spent time talking to her and later claimed to reporters that the flyer distorted her views. The Enquirer would like to speak to this woman. Contact Elliot Grossman, assistant local news editor, at 513-768-8600 or egrossman@enquirer.com

Details on Obama Monday rally

Howard Wilkinson reports:

Barack Obama's three-day tour of Ohio will make a stop in Cincinnati Monday for a mid-day rally at Fifth-Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus.

Gates at the arena will open at noon Monday, approximately an hour before Obama is expected to arrive. According to the Obama campaign, UC will offer a shuttle service to the arena, but details of that have yet to be announced.

The event is open to the public, but the Obama campaign is advising people to register for the event at www.barackobama.com. A limited number of "preferred viewing" tickets for the event were to be distributed by the Obama campaign from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at 807 Sycamore Street downtown.

Friday, February 22, 2008

More on Mark Mallory, Superdelegate

From an AP story today on superdelegates:

The superdelegates make up about a fifth of the overall delegates. As Democratic senators, both Clinton and Obama are superdelegates.

So is Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, which is one reason his phone rings often.

He is a black mayor, and Obama has been winning about 90 percent of black votes. His state has a March 4 primary with 141 delegates at stake. The Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, is stumping hard for Clinton – and perhaps a spot on the national ticket.

A phone call from former President Clinton interrupted Mallory’s dinner on a recent Saturday.

“I continue to get calls from mayors, congresspeople, governors, urging me one way or another,” said Mallory, who is still mulling his decision. “The celebrities will be next. I guess Oprah will call me.”

Pepper's survey and jury duty

Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper wants to know how you get to work. Take his transportation survey here. He also wants to know if you support shuttles to other airports, and about your public transit experiences in other cities.

And for those wondering where the commissioner has been lately, he's been on jury duty. The two-week obligation (his duty was for grand jury) ended Friday.

Pepper couldn't reveal any details, but said it was a "good experience" and an "eye-opening reality check."

For those who get the letter, Pepper says go for it. Not only is it a civic duty, but it's rewarding. "Most people are glad they did it," he said.

The court graciously allowed him to attend the two commission meetings during the span. Pepper declined to accept his jury duty pay.

Huckabee's one and only Ohio campaign stop

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who is soldiering on in the GOP presidential race despite being miles behind John McCain, will make only one Ohio campaign stop before the March 4 primary - a Tuesday afternoon rally at a downtown Columbus hotel.

State Sen. Gary Cates, R-West Chester, one of Huckabee's most prominent backers, said that the candidate will spend most of his time between now and March 4 in Texas, which holds its primary the same day.

It's probably a wise strategic decision, given what the polls on the Republican side say. The latest poll of Ohio Republicans by Rasmussen Reports, released Friday, showed McCain with a 27 percent point lead over Huckabee in Ohio. A Survey USA poll released earlier this week in Texas showed that, in the Lone Star State, McCain's lead over Huckabee is 13 percentage points.

Tuesday's rally begins at 1 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Columbus.

HIllary office opening - better late than never

On Sunday, at 1 p.m., the Hillary Clinton campaign will open its Cincinnati office at a union hall in Lockland.

Clinton's campaign is using space at the Painters' Union Hall at 200 Kovach Drive in Lockland as a volunteer center. The phone number is (513) 821-8444.

The Barack Obama has had its Cincinnati office up and running for more than a week - they even have a second one operating in Forest Park.

The Clinton capmaign is a bit behind in opening an office, but her local supporters have not been siting on their hands. For the past several weeks, they've been using several locations around the area to make phone calls to voters; and many volunteers have been making phone calls to voters from their own homes.

The official opening of the Lockland office is Sunday, but, on Friday afternoon, volunteers were busy at Clinton headquarters making hand-held signs for the candidate's scheduled Saturday morning rally at Cincinnati State's gymnasium. Doors open for that event at 8 a.m. Saturday.

New poll: Clinton cruises over McCain in Ohio

Howard Wilkinson reports:

Hillary Clinton might have an easier time than Barack Obama in beating John McCain in Ohio this fall, according to a Survey USA poll released Friday morning.

The poll, conducted between last Friday and Sunday surveyed 542 registered Ohio voters and found that Clinton had 52 percent support compared to 42 percent for McCain and seven percent undecided.

The same poll included a match-up between McCain and Obama. Obama had a lead over McCain, but only of three percentage points – within the poll’s 4.3 percent margin of error.

Obama had the support of 47 percent of those polled, compared to 44 percent for McCain and eight percent who said they were undecided.

The poll was conducted for four Ohio television stations – WCPO in Cincinnati, WHIO in Dayton, WKYC in Cleveland and WCMH in Columbus.

Ohio superdelegate endorses Obama

Read Howard Wilkinson and Pat Crowley's story on superdelegates here

From the Obama campaign today:

CLEVELAND, OH – Sonny Nardi, President of Teamsters’ Local 416, today endorsed Barack Obama for President, citing his 20-year record of standing up to special interests and fighting for economic fairness.

“Barack Obama began his career in public service helping to restore opportunity to a community that was devastated by a steel plant closing, and he has been fighting for economic fairness ever since,” said Nardi.

“The American Dream is getting out of reach for too many working families in Ohio, and we need a President who has stood up to special interests and fought for the middle class throughout their career. Barack Obama believes that unfair trade agreements like NAFTA were the wrong policies for American workers, and he has proposed the Patriot Employers Act which would end tax breaks for corporations that outsource American jobs and encourage corporations to create good-paying jobs here in Ohio. He passed legislation that reduced the grip of corporate lobbyists over the legislative process, expanded health care coverage to 150,000 thousand Illinois residents, and opposed the bankruptcy bill which has made it harder for many Ohioans to climb their way out of debt.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mallory: Miscommunication on Streetcars

Mayor Mark Mallory, in an interview Thursday with Margaret McGurk, said he thinks a more detailed streetcar plan and financing program to be announced at Monday's finance committee meeting will allay any council concerns about streetcars.

Re Roxanne Qualls' resolution that seeks more research about streetcars: "I think there has been some miscommunication, perhaps some misunderstanding among some council members." He reiterated the point that expansion to Uptown has always been integral to the plan. Her motion drew six signatures, a majority of the nine council members.

As for competition for TIF financing between streetcars and 3CDC, he said: "We prioritize what 3CDC is doing." The city can build the streetcars and support 3CDC at the same time. "We can't separate these things out anyway." (Meaning the streetcars need development, development needs the streetcars.) "Transportation development done right is an economic development driver."

"Big things can be done. This city has a history of doing big things."

New poll shows closer race

The Associated Press reports:

Hillary Rodham Clinton, 50 percent
Barack Obama, 43 percent.
Clinton holds a 16-percentage point lead over Obama among Ohio Democrats from union households, who comprise one in four of the party’s likely voters. Obama has an 11-percentage point edge over Clinton when Democrats are asked who is more electable in November. Even some groups that normally back Clinton – including women and less-educated people – are split over who has the best chance to capture the White House. She’s more trusted than Obama to oversee the economy. Clinton as usual is running strongly among seniors and loyal Democrats, while Obama does well with blacks, college graduates, higher earning people and the young. A third overall said they could still change their minds.
The ABC News-Washington Post poll was conducted Feb. 16-20 and involved telephone interviews with 611 likely Democratic voters in Ohio. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
COMPLETE RESULTS: www.abcnews.go.com/PollingUnit/; www.washingtonpost.com

CPS levy effort raising more money

The pro-Cincinnati Public Schools levy campaign can afford a few of the nicer things in political life this time around.

As of mid-February, the district’s independent political committee had raised $55,253 – or 2.5 times as much as they had collected at the same point in last year’s effort.

After adding $5,780 left over from the fall and spending $29,141, Cincinnatians Active to Support Education reported $31,892 in cash on hand on Feb. 13, according to financial disclosures due Thursday.

The improvement over last fall’s fundraising effort comes mostly from a threefold increase in the number of individual, small-money donors, up from 98 to 335 this time around.

“I think it’s because people realized how critical it is this time, and maybe there was some complacency last fall,” said campaign coordinator Jan Leslie.

The single biggest donation was $10,000 from Turner Construction, which has a lead role in the CPS schools rebuilding program. Another boost to the warchest came via an $8,000 loan from Leslie, who said she made the loan because she believes in the cause.

The list of donors still lacks a signficant business community contingent, as it did in the fall.

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes reported $2,000 in donations, and has taken limited action to oppose the CPS tax hike.

Cleveland mayor endorses Obama

Still no decision from Cincinnati's mayor, but Cleveland's mayor has endorsed Barack Obama:

From the Obama campaign:

Cleveland, OH -- Today, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson announced his endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for President at a community gathering in Cleveland with Michelle Obama.

"As the Mayor of Cleveland I know first hand the struggles that working families face, and how desperately we need a new direction in Washington," said Mayor Jackson. "Sen. Obama provides the real change Americans so urgently need, and has spent his life fighting for working families. He is committed to revitalizing the urban core of America, fighting poverty, bringing good-paying jobs back to Ohio, and lowering health care costs. Senator Obama is committed to improving the lives of the least of us. He provides hope to those who need it most. He will fix what is wrong in America today. That's why I am endorsing Senator Obama to be the next President. He will bring change we can believe in."

McCain campaign office up and running

The campaign of John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, has opened a southwest Ohio campaign office that is geared toward the November election as much as for the March 4 primary.

Vic Bailey, the McCain campaign's field representative in Cincinnati, sent out out an e-mail to Hamilton County Republicans Thurdady asking them to volunteer for phone banks that will run out of the Kenwood office. They'll be doing calls from the office through the March primry from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

The office is located at 8260 Northcreek Drive, Suite 300, in Kenwood. The office has a phone number with a Columbus area code: (614) 307-1065.

Bob Ney moved to Cincinnati

The Associated Press reports:

CINCINNATI – Former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney has been moved from prison to a halfway house in Cincinnati, according to the federal prisons Web site.

The six-term Republican from Heath in central Ohio resigned after pleading guilty in a congressional bribery scandal. He is set for release in August, when he will have served nearly a year and a half.

He earned about nine months off his original two-year, six-month sentence because he completed treatment for alcohol problems. The move to the halfway house had been expected as a transition to Ney’s release.

Ney, 53, had been held at the Federal Corrections Institution in Morgantown, W.Va.

Messages seeking comment were left Thursday at the halfway house and at the prison.

Ney acknowledged trading his influence for golf trips, campaign donations and other gifts arranged by lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates

Ney’s attorney, William Lawler, said earlier this month that Ney was making good progress and his move to halfway house was expected for his transition to full release. A message was left for Lawler on Thursday.

Under the nine-month prison treatment program Ney participated in, inmates attend meetings four hours a day, five days a week. He must continue to participate in aftercare treatment at the halfway house, a prison official said earlier.

At halfway houses, inmates can sign out for approved activities and are expected to seek employment, then must pay part of their income toward the cost of their confinement. Their whereabouts are monitored and they are subject to random drug and alcohol tests.

AMOS endorses CPS levy

UPDATE: The Charter Committee also endorsed the CPS levy at its meeting today, reports President Michael Goldman, despite Charter's recent publicized concerns about the district's financial transparency. CPS board president Eve Bolton and Treasurer Jonathan Boyd convinced Charter that the district is making a "good faith effort" at accountability and openness, Goldman said.

The AMOS Project lent a hand to the Cincinnati Public Schools tax levy campaign today, endorsing the 7.89-mill levy.

In a press release, AMOS president Gregory Chandler Sr. framed CPS' need for more tax revenue as a social justice concern:

“Education is the primary building block for financial security in our society,” Chandler said.

“Low income families in the City of Cincinnati—many of them African American and Hispanic—depend on the public schools to provide a sound educational foundation for their children. These families lack the resources to send their children elsewhere for the kind of education their young people need to become successful and able to provide for their own futures. Therefore, we must support the levy so that Cincinnati Public Schools will have the resources to serve our children in the best possible way.”

The release went on to site recent academic progress by CPS, and acknowledged that the levy will raise real estate taxes substantially. But it's the only funding available until broader state law changes are made, Chandler said. AMOS is a coalition of area churches.

Also today, the Charter Committee, Cincinnati's third political party, meets to weigh an endorsement for CPS. City Council could also act on a similar resolution tonight.

McCain, in Toledo, says Times article 'not true.'

Blog readers. What do you think?

From the Associated Press

TOLEDO – John McCain denied a romantic relationship with a female telecommunications lobbyist on Thursday and said a report by The New York Times suggesting favoritism for her clients is “not true.”

“I’m very disappointed in the article. It’s not true,” the likely Republican presidential nominee said as his wife, Cindy, stood alongside him during a news conference called to address the matter.

McCain described the woman in question, lobbyist Vicki Iseman, as a friend.

Read more here

Another shot for the Gilligans

Talking to Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and her father, former Ohio governor John J. Gilligan, Wednesday afternoon, after her speech at an Obama rally in Evanston, it was hard not to think back to the last time a Gilligan was being mentioned as a possible presidential or vice presidential candidate - the way Sebelius is being mentioned now, as a possible running mate for Barack Obama.

It was the fall of 1974. Richard Nixon had just resigned the presidency in disgrace. The Republican party nationally was in shambles. Democrats were poised to sweep statehouses and congressional districts all over the country, and were salivating over the propsect of the 1976 presidential election, hoping some of that Watergate malaise would carry over (President Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon in September helped fuel that hope) and they would reclaim the White House.

There were a host of Democrats whose names were being being mentioned as possible presidential contenders, including Gilligan, the former congressman and councilman from Cincinnati who had been elected Ohio governor in 1970.

Gilligan's term as governor had not always been a joy ride. But he clearly had some political skills. He took on the cause of instituting Ohio's first income tax and somehow convinced a nervous legislature to approve it. Then, in 1972, anti-tax groups got a referendum on the ballot to repeal the income tax. Gilligan stumped around the state and somehow managed to convince Ohio voters to reject the repeal.

He had to close the state park system for a time in a budget crunch, turning pretty much every fisherman and camper in the state against him.

His natural wit, too, could get him in trouble sometimes. On one visit to the Ohio State Fair, he walked through the sheep barn, with some reporters, talking to the 4-H kids and having his picture taken. When asked if he wanted to help shear a sheep, Gilligan let loose a wisecrack that gave Republicans something to pound into his head for the rest of his days in office. "I don't shear sheep,'' the governor said. "I shear taxpayers."

Still, there was widespread agreement that, in 1974, he was the favorite for re-election, especially in the post-Watergate atmosphere and because of the fact that his opponent was his predecessor in the governor's office, James Rhodes, who was blamed by many for spending the state into a situation where it needed an income tax.

On election night, Gilligan's campaign staged a victory party at the old Neil House hotel, just across the from the statehouse. Rhodes had his party in another ballrooom in the same hotel.

Early in the evening, Gilligan supporters wheeled a giant cake into the ballroom - a cake in the shape of the White House.

The vote count went on all night, with the lead shifting constantly. Finally, about dawn, the final result was in: Rhodes had won by 11,488 votes - less than one vote per precinct.

That ended the talk of Gilligan on the national ticket. The governor went on to serve for a while in the Carter administration and taught for years at Notre Dame before returning to Cincinnati in the early 1990s. And, of course, he served on the Cincinnati school board before retiring this year.

It's hard to say what might have happened had he won that 1974 re-election campaign. Winning the presidential nomination in a crowded field might have been difficult, but the second spot on the ticket was certainly a possibility.

Now, at age 85, he is watching the same kind of speculation swirl around his eldest daughter, the two-term governor of Kansas, where she moved after her marriage ot a Kansan 33 years ago.

We don't know what kind of advice he might offer. Maybe it boils down to this: If you find yourself in a sheep barn, keep your mouth shut.

Obama, Clinton, McCain all coming

Howard Wilkinson reports:

Cincinnati may not be the center of the universe in Ohio’s Democratic presidential primary, but both candidates – Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – will be here for campaign events over the next several days.

They will be followed quickly by Republican frontrunner John McCain, who plans to hold a campaign rally at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday at Hamilton County Memorial Hall, next to Music Hall in Over-the-Rhine.

Clinton campaign officials said Thursday the New York senator will be here Saturday for an event at a time and place to be announced.

Obama’s campaign has penciled in Cincinnati for a stop Monday at the midpoint of a three-day campaign swing through Ohio. As with the Clinton event, though, a time and place for the Obama visit has yet to be announced.

It will be Obama’s first trip to Cincinnati since last February, when he came to the Westin hotel for a fund raiser downtown that attracted over 1,000 people and raised several hundred thousand dollars for his campaign. Michelle Obama, the candidate’s wife, came in for a rally that drew 1,500 people to the Music Hall ballroom Friday night.

Clinton was here Friday too, speaking to about 200 supporters crammed into a Skyline Chili in Oakley.

Both candidates can be expected to come back to the Cincinnati area before the March 4 primary, but, chances are, they’ll spend more time in other, more heavily Democratic parts of the state. Only about one of every 10 Democratic primary voters in Ohio lives in the four southwestern Ohio counties of Hamilton, Clermont, Warren and Butler.

About four of every 10 Democrats live in the Cleveland area.
To RSVP for the McCain rally, email vbailey@mccain08hq.com or call (614) 307-1065

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sebelius: Obama not 'picking out drapes'

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, right, waves with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., following a rally at Butler County Community College in El Dorado, Kan., Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008. Gov. Sebelius endorsed Obama during the event. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Howard Wilkinson reports:

It was family ties that brought Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius back to her home town of Cincinnati Wednesday, but she found time to campaign for a presidential candidate many say she might end up running with on the same ticket this fall - Barack Obama.

The two-term Kansas governor spoke to a group of about 60 local Obama supporters Wednesday afternoon at the Laborers Union Hall in Evanston, where she was joined by her father, former Ohio governor John J. Gilligan.

Since her endorsement of Obama earlier this month in Kansas, home state of Obama’s mother, there has been much speculation that the 59-year-old Sebelius - as a woman and popular Democratic governor of a Republican state - might be a good match as Obama’s vice presidential running mate.

In an interview after her speech, she brushed aside the notion.

"It’s way to early to do anything but focus on the primaries in Ohio and Texas,’’ said Sebelius, whose own father was touted by many as a possible presidential or vice presidential candidate before he lost his race for re-election in 1974.

Obama, Sebelius said, "hasn’t been spending time picking out who’s going to be in the cabinet or picking out the White House drapes. He’s running hard for the nomination. There’s time for the rest of it later."

Sebelius said she has had no discussions with Obama or any of his campaign staff about the second spot on a Democratic ticket.

The Summit COuntry Day graduate came back to her hometown to be with her 85-year-old father when he was inducted into the ranks of "Great Living Cincinnatians" at a Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber dinner Wednesday night.

But, at the Laborers hall, she urged the Obama supporters who had braved the mid-afternoon snow squalls to take advantage of Ohio’s early voting system.

"You can go down right now, after this, and vote at the board of elections,’’ Sebelius said. "Please do."

Sebelius said that she support Obama rather than Hillary Clinton because the Illinois senator "is going to be the kind of transformational president this country needs right now."

"There can be no better match-up between the past and the future than a match-up between John McCain and Barack Obama,’’ Sebelius said.

In the interview after the speech, she spoke of the estimated 44 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 who could vote in this fall’s election - many of whom, she said, "have been inspired, fired up, to get involved for the first time by Barack Obama’s message."

If Obama were to fail to get the nomination, Sebelius said, "I would certainly hope those young people would still get involved. But I don’t know what they would do. They might become discouraged."

What is the future of the Hamilton County GOP?

Party Chairman George Vincent and conservative leader Chris Finney will discuss the issue Feb. 25th.

For those of you keeping track, Finney was the one who criticized the Party for endorsing the jail tax last year. He claimed the divide was about more than just the tax and the party needed a "new direction." And he wasn't alone.

Jeff Capell, president of the Blue Chip Young Republicans (which is hosting the discussion), said the debate is important and “It speaks very well of both Mr. Vincent and Mr. Finney that they are willing to have this important discussion in public.” Here are the details:

Blue Chip Young Republicans

February 20, 2008

Contact: Jeff Capell, (513) 544-3043

Local GOP Chairman to appear with conservative leader

The Blue Chip Young Republicans are pleased to welcome Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman George Vincent and conservative leader Chris Finney to our club’s February meeting, where they will jointly lead a group discussion about the direction of the Republican Party.

The meeting will take place Monday, February 25th at 7:00 PM at Monty’s (4108 Montgomery Road). All are welcome to attend.

“It speaks very well of both Mr. Vincent and Mr. Finney that they are willing to have this important discussion in public,” explained Club President Jeff Capell. “This also presents a great opportunity for club members to express their opinions about the current state of the party and get straight answers from either speaker about recent decisions they have made.”

The Blue Chip Young Republicans believe that open discussion is healthy for the party and are excited to play a role in bringing the party together for November 2008.

Zoo launches election of a different type

Who would make a better leader of the jungle: a manatee or a polar bear? You can decide.

The campaign supporting the March 4 levy for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is urging voters to get involved in an election of another sort: the “King or Queen of the Jungle Presidential “Election.”

In an effort to encourage people to become more informed about presidential candidates – and about zoo animals – the Friends of the Zoo is asking the public (particularly students) to take an online poll: Participants vote on who they want to be president (Clinton, Huckabee, McCain, Obama, Paul), and on which animal they think would make the best King or Queen of the Jungle (bald eagle, giraffe, lion, manatee, polar bear), and why. Then they are asked to match each candidate with the animal most like that person.

McCain talks torture in Yellow Springs

Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., accompanied by his wife Cindy, left, former Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine, right, and others, visits Young's Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
From the Associated Press

YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio – Republican presidential candidate John McCain said President Bush should veto a measure that would bar the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods on terror suspects.

McCain voted against the bill, which would restrict the CIA to using only the 19 interrogation techniques listed in the Army field manual.

His vote was controversial because the manual prohibits waterboarding – a simulated drowning technique that McCain also opposes – yet McCain doesn’t want the CIA bound by the manual and its prohibitions.

McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, is well-known for his opposition to waterboarding, which puts him at odds with the Bush administration.

“I knew I would be criticized for it,” McCain told reporters Wednesday in Ohio. “I think I can show my record is clear. I said there should be additional techniques allowed to other agencies of government as long as they were not” torture.

“I was on the record as saying that they could use additional techniques as long as they were not cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment,” McCain said. “So the vote was in keeping with my clear record of saying that they could have additional techniques, but those techniques could not violate” international rules against torture.

The legislation bars the CIA from using waterboarding, sensory deprivation or other harsh coercive methods to break a prisoner who refuses to answer questions. Those practices were banned by the military in 2006.

President Bush has threatened to veto the legislation, which cleared the House in December and won Senate approval last week.

One supporter of the bill, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said last week that if Bush vetoes the measure, “he will be voting in favor of waterboarding.”

If a president disagrees with legislation, he should veto it, McCain said. He said he disapproves that Bush sometimes signs legislation he dislikes, then issues critical “signing statements” outlining his objections.

McCain said he would never issue a critical signing statement: “If I disagree with a law that’s passed, I’ll veto it.”

“I think if you disagree with a law, you have a constitutional right to veto that, authority to veto that,” McCain said.

The unofficial school levy campaign

In addition to the standard pro-Issue 10 yard signs, backers of the Cincinnati Public Schools tax levy are blanketing the city with 8,000 other yard signs, which conveniently don't mention the 7.89-mill property tax hike.

The red-and-white signs have large lettering that reads "I am Cincinnati Public Schools," with four adjectives in smaller text -- "proud," "prepared," "successful" and "empowered."

Under a 2002 out-of-court settlement reached with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, CPS can't use its own property for any political statement, including pro-levy signs.

But the "I am Cincinnati Public Schools" signs don't include an overtly political statement, and then are fair game to go anywhere on CPS' wide array of properties throughout the city.

The local chapter of Parents for Public Schools spent more than $5,000 to produce the signs, said chapter board president Pam Green. They're part of a year-long district campaign that uses similar phrasing, she said, and not intentionally meant to coincide with the levy campaign.

"This was discussed before we even knew the levy was going to be on the March ballot," Green said, adding that she hopes people will keep the signs up even after March 4.

But Green acknowledged the signs could help the levy effort, and she said she thinks more people would vote for the levy if they took heed of the sign's message -- that CPS is important to the entire city, not just families with current students.

Black's farm tax break

Victoria Wulsin's latest shot against Steve Black, her opponent in the 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary, faults him for claiming a tax break invoked by many land owners in wealthy Indian Hill -- for farming.

Black said the the tax break is justified because "Every year we cultivate a substantial vegetable garden and grow hay in the fields."

Black's renovated 1860 farmhouse sits on 10-plus acres of land, a remnant of the family farm purchased in the 1920s. Hamilton County lists the property as a livestock farm, and values the house and land at $1.4 million. Black's latest tax semi-annual tax bill: $3,973.92.

Wulsin lives in Indian Hill too. Her 10-plus acres and home are valued at $1.7 million. Her latest tax bill: $10,072.35

Mallory endorses....


From Carl Weiser:

Sorry - should have made clear that this was a press release from the Wulsin campaign:

Mayor Mark Mallory has endorsed in the 2nd Congressional District race, picking Victoria Wulsin over Steve Black in the Democratic primary

“Dr. Wulsin is exactly the person we need,” says Mallory. “She is a proven leader and hard worker who is dedicated to serving the needs of families in the second district.”

The Mayor is the latest in a string of public officials to endorse Wulsin, as she gains momentum heading into the primary against opponent Steve Black.

“I am honored to have Mayor Mallory’s support,” said Wulsin. “We’re both committed to building our local economy and shaping the future for our residents. Once elected, I will go to Washington and put the priorities of Ohio families first.”

Dr. Wulsin has dedicated her career to public health, working in Cincinnati, across Ohio and around the world to improve access to healthcare and building healthy communities. In 2006, Wulsin won more votes than any Democrat in the 2nd District, coming within just 2,517 votes of beating Jean Schmidt.

Dayton paper endorses Brinkman, Wulsin

The Dayton Daily News has endorsed Tom Brinkman, Jr. to replace incumbent Jean Schmidt as the Republican candidate for the 2nd District congressional seat.

The newspaper, which circulates in a small part of the district in Warren County, said the Ohio legislator "could represent the district better than the incumbent and probably be a stronger candidate in November."

Read the editorial here

Poll: Obama closes gap

Barack Obama is closing the gap in Ohio between himself and Hillary Clinton, according to a new poll conducted Sunday and Monday for four Ohio TV stations.

The Survey USA poll, which interviewed 733 Ohio voters who either have already voted or plan to vote in the March 4 primary, showed Obama whittling Clinton’s double-digit lead down to nine percentage points – 52 percent for Clinton, 43 percent for Obama.

A week ago, Survey USA issued an Ohio poll showing Clinton with a 17 percentage point lead over Obama. Survey USA did not include a margin of error on its web report.

The poll also showed Obama gaining support among Ohio male voters. In the poll a week ago, Clinton and Obama were in a virtual dead heat in support from Ohio men. In the latest poll, Obama has jumped to a 16 percentage point lead.

The Survey USA poll also shows that the Cincinnati metro area is apparently one of Obama’s strongest areas in the state. He led here with 51 percent, compared to 44 percent for Clinton. Clinton’s strongest support came from the Toledo and Columbus metro areas, along with southeast Ohio.

The poll was conducted for our Ohio TV stations: WCPO (Cincinnati), WCMH (Columbus), WHIO (Dayton), and WKYC (Cleveland).

Posted by Howard Wilkinson

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Democrats swap barbs

Democrats Victoria Wulsin and Steve Black, vying for nomination in the 2nd Congressional District, met in Oakley Tuesday at a debate sponsored by the Hamilton County Democratic Forum and spent almost as much time slapping at one another as talking about issues.

The audience of about 300 listened politely as Wulsin and Black took turns agreeing on issues such as unions, the death penalty and immigration, and the failings of incumbent Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt. But when the candidates took shots at one another, cheers and boos rang through the auditorium of the historic 20th Century building.

Each accused the other of smear tactics; each questioned the other's character. Onlookers, who appeared to be evenly divided into Black and Wulsin camps, ate it up.

Black kept digging at his claim that Wulsin could have been guilty of an ethical lapse when she worked for the Heimlich Institute three years ago. An Ohio Medical Board investigation, opened at the request of an anti-Heimlich gadfly, has not been closed. (Whether it is actively being pursued or has been set aside is a question the board will not answer.) Wulsin heatedly denied there was anything wrong with her work for Heimlich.

Wulsin trotted out a charge of hypocrisy against Black, claiming he owns stock in Halliburton and the oil industry, even though he has denounced both in campaign materials. Black shot back that the manager of his IRA bought Halliburton stock, and that Black ordered him to sell it at a loss. The oil company stocks, Black said, are held in a family trust. "I can't do anything about that," he said.

Wulsin unleashed one bit of "gotcha" news late in the program, when she announced that she had received the endorsement of Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.

Clinton campaigns up north

From the Associated Press

PARMA, Ohio – Hillary Clinton touted herself as the only remaining candidate with a plan for universal health care during her first of two campaign stops in Ohio on Tuesday.

The New York senator met with voters at Grace’s Grill in suburban Cleveland. She was to attend a rally Tuesday night at Chaney High School in Youngstown, the same city where opponent Barack Obama campaigned a day earlier. She's shown here in an AP photo with Parma mayor Dan DePiero.

Clinton spoke about the unfair burden that health care has put on auto companies and workers, keeping manufacturers from competing with foreign competitors.

“My plan will open up the plan that members of Congress have,” she said. “Congress has a good plan for itself and its employees and for federal employees and I want everybody to have access to that plan.”

Clinton is attempting to woo voters in northeast Ohio, a key region for Democratic votes, ahead of this state’s crucial primary on March 4.

She asked voters to consider who they should hire as president based on their families’ needs.

“That’s what this election should really be about,” Clinton said. “It shouldn’t be about speeches. It should be about solutions. What are we going to do together to solve the problems that the people of Ohio are facing.”

She said Ohio needs a president who will be a champion for them.

“That is what I’m offering in my campaign because I care deeply about the family losing their home to foreclosure, the family losing their health care, the family losing their means of employment and the jobs that have disappeared from Ohio over the last eight years,” she said.

McCain: Spending out of control

Republican John McCain, launching his campaign today in Ohio, a state where the economy dominates politics, said he will deliver a simple message to Ohio voters – less government spending and lower taxes lead to economic growth.

"We have let spending get completely of control with earmarks and pork barrel spending,’’ the Arizona senator told the Enquirer in a phone interview today. "That will end when I am president."

Earlier today, two of Ohio’s top Democrats – state party chairman Chris Redfern and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown – held a conference call with Ohio reporters in which they said that McCain is "out of touch" with Ohio workers and that his economic policies would amount to a "third term."

McCain, in the phone interview, dismissed the criticism.

"Will I ever have an affinity with or approval from the Democratic party chairman or Sen. Brown?’’ McCain said. "I doubt it."

McCain – who appears to be on the verge of locking up the GOP presidential nomination – said that both possible Democratic opponents in the fall campaign, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, like earmarks, those spending items added to spending bills by Congress.

"I’m the only candidate who has fought against excessive spending,’’ McCain said. And, he said, if elected president, he would veto any budget bill that lands on his desk "loaded up with earmarks and pork."

President Bush made a similar veto pledge in his State of the Union address earlier this month, when he warned the Democratic-controlled Congress not to give him a budget to sign with excessive earmark spending. But, earlier in his administration, when the Republicans controlled Congress, Bush routinely signed budgets that included pork-barrel projects and earmarked spending.

"That was probably the biggest mistake the Bush administration made,’’ McCain said today.

Both Clinton and Obama, as they campaign for votes in Ohio’s March 4 primary, have pledged to re-write the tax code to reward companies that create jobs here and to take away tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas.

McCain said he will take a different approach.

"I want to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent,’’ McCain said. "That would allow companies to keep more jobs in this country, rather than sending them overseas."

McCain was headed to Ohio for a rally at a downtown Columbus hotel tonight, where he and supporters will learn the results of today’s Wisconsin primary.

Wednesday, he will head to Young’s Jersey Dairy, an ice cream parlor and tourist attraction in Greene County, where he will hold a meet-and-greet with supporters. Young’s is near the home of former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, a McCain friend and his Ohio campaign chairman.

-- Howard Wilkinson

Another hat in the ring?

The 2nd Congressional District election may find a third name on the ballot in November along with the Democratic and Republican winners of the March 4 primary.

David Krikorian, a Madeira businessman, says he is trying to collect the 2,560 signatures he would need to get on the ballot as an independent. Krikorian has never run for office before. His interests include smaller government, lower taxes and term limits for members of congress.

If he makes it onto the ballot, he will become the seventh person (including now-withdrawn GOP challenger Phil Heimlich) to take aim at unseating Republican incumbent Jean Schmidt this year.

Sebelius campaigns for Obama

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius – often-mentioned as a potential running mate for Barack Obama – will campaign for the Illinois senator Wednesday in her hometown of Cincinnati.

Her father, former Ohio governor John J. Gilligan, will be with her at what is being billed as a "community issues forum" at the Laborers Union Hall, 3457 Montgomery Rd. in Evanston. The event, which is open to the public, begins at 2 p.m.

Sebelius, a graduate of Cincinnati’s Summit Country Day School, was re-elected to a second term in 2006. On Feb. 3, she delivered the Democratic response to a national television audience following President Bush’s final State of the Union address.

The next morning, Sebelius traveled to Eldorado, Kansas, the hometown of Obama’s maternal grandparents, where she endorsed Obama’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Later that week, her father, who served as Ohio’s governor from 1971 to 1975, told the Enquirer that he, too, is supporting Obama over Hillary Clinton.

-- Howard Wilkinson

COAST freelancing

Some mysterious yard signs popped up around Cincinnati last week advocating a "no" vote on the Cincinnati Public Schools tax levy.

The signs are bright yellow with black text, and are mysterious because they include none of the usual fine print identifying their creator or funder.

They're not the work of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, said chairman Jason Gloyd. But they are the work of a COAST member, Hyde Park resident Paul Naberhaus, a former candidate for county commissioner.

He bought 250 signs with his own money, Gloyd said. "He informed us at the last meeting that he'd already purchased some signs, and he's going to start putting them up," Gloyd said, adding that COAST fully supports his efforts.

The disclosure rules for signs only apply to committees, not individuals, although Naberhaus will have to file an independent expenditure report, according to the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

Naberhaus declined to elaborate on Monday, citing a death in his family that required an out-of-town trip, saying only "I'm glad you saw them."

CPS supporters hit the streets with their own pro-Issue 10 signs over the weekend as well.

Chabot goes Democrat - on one issue

Congressional Democrats, pushing controversial legislation to help struggling homeowners escape foreclosure, have an unlikely ally in their fight against conservative and industry opposition: Republican Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio.

In his 13 years in the House, Chabot has earned a 97.5 percent lifetime rating from The American Conservative Union and has largely stuck to the Republican ranks, except to oppose some pork-laden spending bills.

But when foreclosures in his hometown of Cincinnati skyrocketed, Chabot found himself aligned with Democrats — and against his party’s leaders, his conservative colleagues and the White House.

The Politico's full story is here

Is Your Street Being Repaved?

More than 100 streets and parts of streets will be repaved this year and next by the city of Cincinnati.

See the list here.

Obama and McCain events at Xavier Thursday

Xavier Unity's College Democrats and the Students for Obama organization are hosting an event Thursday featuring a rapper and a movie actor, while the College Republicans plan to follow with a rally outside Cintas Center before the Xavier-Duquesne game.

Rapper Nick Cannon and actor Kal Penn (of "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle") are touring Ohio college campuses for the Barack Obama campaign. They bring the show to Xavier's Gallagher Student Center Theater at 4:45 p.m. Thursday. Doors open at 4:15 p.m. All are welcome.

Not to be outdone, the College Republicans are staging a rally at 6 p.m. outside Cintas Center to show support for the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain.

The rapper Cannon and the actor Penn will also do an Obama rally at the University of Cincinnati’s Zimmer Auditorium at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Portune may support gambling idea

Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune said he may support Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding's proposal to allow casino gambling in Ohio.

"It sounds like a very measured and thoughtful response to Kentucky's aggressive moves," Portune said in an e-mail response to Berding's suggestion. "I have been generally supportive of gambling and could support your proposal. I will see what the general mood is of our Board on this. It may be that we would like to have some sort of presentation at a county staff meeting and, if so, could you arrange for that to happen? Thanks for considering us on this matter."

Monday, February 18, 2008

McCain lands in Ohio

John McCain will watch the results from Tuesday's Wisconsin primary from Ohio, the next stop on his increasingly inevitable march to the Republican presidential nomination.

When the Wisconsin results begin rolling in, McCain will be in Columbus, where supporters will gather at the Columbus Renaissance Hotel on N. Third Street.

McCain will stick around Wednesday - he has a stop at Young's Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, a combination ice cream parlor/miniature golf course/picnic grounds that has been a must-stop for Ohio politicians for decades. It's also one of the favorite haunts of McCain's Ohio chairman, former senator Mike DeWine, who lives right down the road in Cedarville.

McCain's campaign plans to open campaign offices in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo.

No Ohio sightings yet of McCain's two remaining opponents on the March 4 primary ballot - Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul.

Ohio Chamber endorses local pair

Two Cincinnati-area candidates are among nine endorsed statewide by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce for legislative seats in the March 4 primary election.

The Ohio Chamber's political action committee, representing the state's largest business advocacy group, announced its endorsements Friday.

In House District 30, state Rep. Bob Mecklenborg, R- Green Township, was endorsed. He faces Dick Hammersmith in the March 4 primary runoff.

"Mecklenborg has the best mix of qualities that make for an outstanding legislator,'' the Chamber said in a statement. "The broad support he is receiving from local employers underscores his commitment to the issues important to Ohio employers, and the Chamber believes he will make these issues his chief concern as a legislator."

In House District 35, John Rabenold, a Republican from Indian Hill, was endorsed for the seat held by state Rep. Michelle Schneider. The Madeira Republican's term ends this year because of term limits. Rabenold faces Grace Kendrick and Ron Maag in the March 4 primary.

The Chamber wrote that Rabenold "is the only candidate in the race for whom business issues appear to be the top priority and he enjoys strong support from the statewide and local business communities. In addition, he possesses valuable legislative experience as an aide to a former president of the Ohio Senate."

According to Keith A. Lake, director of political and candidate education for the Ohio Chamber, all endorsed candidates share a strong understanding of the competitive forces, regulatory demands and economic challenges faced by Ohio employers and would be responsive to the concerns of the business community. Ohio Chamber staff and members met with dozens of candidates and evaluated them on their voting records if currently a legislator, candidate questionnaires, local business community support and political viability.


Fire Union Elects First Woman To Board

Marc Monahan, president of the Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48, was sworn in again as president on Valentine's Day. Also re-elected: Vice President Bobby Mengler, and Joe Gunnewick, secretary/treasurer.

But Monahan's press release announces one change: the election of Shana Johnson as recording secretary. She defeated Reggie Hocker and Matt Alter.

She is the first woman elected to the board.

Here's what Monahan said about her: "We are very pleased to have such a talented and dedicated individual elected to the executive board. Recording Secretary-Elect Shana Johnson has been a very active and committed member of this local for years. She brings a vast amount of knowledge to our team."

Johnson said she looks forward to taking on her new responsibilities.

Berding: Let's Vote On Gambling


Jon Craig and Jane Prendergast report in Tuesday's Enquirer:

As Kentucky moves toward possibly opening 12 casinos - including a pair in Northern Kentucky - efforts to bring casinos to Ohio escalated Monday.

- Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding announced that he wants the Ohio General Assembly to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to allow full casino gambling at any Ohio county that borders a state with gambling.

- MyOhioNow, a group that wants to build a casino in Clinton County, opened offices at Tri-County Mall in Springdale and elsewhere in the region, while reminding Cincinnatians they will continue to lose money and jobs to Indiana and Kentucky gambling interests if they don’t act now.

Berding wants Ohio legislators to move quickly on a constitutional amendment for the Nov. 4 ballot – a rival amendment to MyOhioNow’s. It also would affect every Ohio county that borders a state with legalized gambling: Indiana, West Virginia; Michigan and Pennsylvania.

State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township, said it will be difficult -- but not impossible -- for the Ohio legislature to pass Berding’s proposal. The Ohio General Assembly already is dealing with some major issues, including an energy bill, and might not want to place a competing gambling issue on the fall ballot. because of the Myohionow vote. Also, a three-fifths “supermajority” of legislators would have to pass it – requiring 59 of 99 votes in the Ohio House and 20 of 33 votes in the Ohio Senate.

“Given the fact that the legislative calendar is fairly full, I don’t hold a great deal of hope that this would get certified to the ballot in time to vote on it in 2008,’’ Seitz said Monday. “And the risk of having competing (gambling) proposals is that they both fail.’’

In October, the state legislature voted to ban electronic gambling -- like Tic Tac Fruit machines -- anywhere in Ohio, but Gov. Ted Strickland recently proposed allowing Keno gambling devices at bars, horse tracks and elsewhere.

Berding announced his Gaming Economic Protection Response Act Monday, saying it’s important because Kentucky appears ready to move forward with a proposal for full casino gaming and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposal includes two casinos in either Campbell or Kenton counties - "both separated from the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County by only the Ohio River."

An approval of casinos in Northern Kentucky, Berding’s motion says, "is a direct economic threat" to Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Berding said the city’s recent investments in an expanded convention center, renovated Fountain Square and stadiums are at risk if tourists and other money follows casinos t o Northern Kentucky.

"Cincinnati and Hamilton County voters should be given the opportunity to decide if we want to respond on our own, and we call on the members of the General Assembly to help us defend ourselves," Berding said. "Put it to a vote."

Berding also supported the 2006 constitutional amendment that would have legalized up to 31,500 slog machines statewide. It would have allowed owners of seven horse tracks, including River Downs in Anderson Township and Lebanon Raceway in Warren County to install 3,500 slot machines at each location. Ohio voters rejected the measure.

Dr. Bradford Pressman, one of the co-founders of MyOhioNow, the group that is collecting signatures to put an initiative on the Ohio ballot on Nov. 4, proposes a $600 million casino and resort near Wilmington, 18 miles north of Kings Island.

“We are hoping that Cincinnati steps up to support this proposal that will offer 5,000 jobs,’’ Pressman said. “Can Cincinnati withstand the continuing drain of the Indiana casinos compounded with 12 casinos in Kentucky?”

Co-founder Rick Lertzman said MyOhioNow has hired more than 150 signature gatherers in the Cincinnati region to help get the issue on the November ballot. Their website is http://www.myohionow.com/

Berding hopes to get his colleagues on council to vote on his motion next week.

"The net result of this effort would be that if KY voters approve their casino gambling plan that calls for a casino directly across the river in an adjoining county, then Hamilton County could vote to decide if we choose to respond to these efforts with up to 2 casinos of our own," Berding wrote in an email this afternoon. "If KY voters reject the plan, then a local option would not kick into effect."

Berding also supported the 2006 constitutional amendment that would have legalized up to 31,500 slog machines statewide. It would have allowed owners of seven horse tracks, including River Downs in Anderson Township and Lebanon Raceway in Warren County install 3,500 slot machines in each. Voters rejected the measure.

Black loans campaign nearly $200,000

Margaret McGurk reports:

Democrat Steve Black geared up for the closing days of the 2nd District Congressional primary race on on Friday by kicking in $195,000 to his own campaign war chest,

The cash infusion puts his total well over a half-million dollars.

The fund ended 2007 with $386,625, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Black's campaign issued a statement Monday saying the contribution would make up for time lost to family responsibilities: "Since the first of the year, Steve’s father was very sick, and passed away in early February. ... While he still campaigned and fundraised over the course of that difficult time, family, not fundraising, was his highest priority."

His Democratic opponent, Victoria Wulsin, reported a total of $490,687 at year-end.

“Just like Jean Schmidt in 2006, Steve Black is using his own money to make up for an inability to connect with the voters,” said Wulsin. “Instead of telling the voters what he’ll do, he’s using Karl Rove’s playbook to smear my name and his family fortune to pay the bill.”

Republican incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt endedthe year with $379,691. Her GOP opponent Tom Brinkman showed only about $4,800.

All candidates will be required to file updates on recent fundraising in pre-primary reports due on Feb. 21.

Obama-bardment TV

From the Obama campaign

Columbus, OH – Senator Barack Obama’s Ohio campaign will begin airing a new series of statewide television spots throughout the state highlight Obama's record of standing up to special interests and fighting to restore fairness and balance to the economy for working families.

The thirty-second ad entitled “Enough” highlights Obama’s commitment to leveling the economic playing field for the middle class and protecting American jobs by eliminating tax for corporations that move jobs overseas.

In the thirty-second ad entitled "Need," Obama describes American workers as the "bedrock" of our economy and offers his breaks plan to reverse the widening gap between the middle class and the wealthy.

The sixty-second ad, entitled "Choices," discusses Obama's choice to pass up a lucrative career on Wall Street work as a community organizer to help community devastated by a steel plant closing. Throughout his career, Obama has mobilized and united Americans from all backgrounds to bring change.

In the thirty-second ad, entitled “Join,” Obama urges voters to reject the broken political system in Washington and join his movement for change.

The campaign is already running radio ads statewide.

You can watch “Enough” here
You can watch “Need” here
You can watch “Choices” here
Listen to “Join” here

The latest Smitherman press release...

From NAACP President Chris Smitherman

Dear Membership and Community,

Christopher and Pamela Smitherman proudly announce the birth of their new daughter Camille Smitherman born this evening February 16, 2008. Camille is a healthy and beautiful baby girl. Thank you all for your thoughts prayers and well wishes.

Christopher Smitherman
Cincinnati NAACP President

For those keeping count, that's the couples fifth child.

Rothenberg chimes in on prez race

Hamilton County Commission candidate Ed Rothenberg says he wants John McCain to be the next president. Rothenberg, a Republican, is running against Commission President Todd Portune, a Democrat, in the general election. (Portune is supporting Obama).

Here's what Rothenberg had to say about McCain.

"I support John McCain. He's tough and smart. He showed incredible bravery as a captive in the Vietnam war. And during his many years in the Senate has had the courage to cross the aisle and try to work out deals with the Democrats. To get things done in Washington, compromise is sometimes the only way."

Jim Borgman
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