The attorney for the NAACP’s local chapter is among the featured speakers at an event held by an anti-tax group scheduled for March 16, the day this issue is published. What’s strange about the event is the e-mail invitation includes the following passage: “If you care anything about the current crisis and what we can do to stop the reelection of Barak (sic) Obama to a second term in 2012, you must attend this event.”
It continues, “You will learn firsthand the depths of deception that Obama’s ‘Organizing for America’ OFA will stoop to in order to manipulate voters to achieve their aims.”
For those who aren’t familiar with it, OFA is a community organizing project managed by the Democratic National Committee. It was formed after Obama’s inauguration to mobilize supporters in favor of his legislative agenda. It’s nothing particularly unique; Republicans have similar groups.
Let’s momentarily set aside the fact that event organizers don’t even know how to spell the president’s first name but want people to trust their advice in important matters of public policy.
The noteworthy aspect is that the attorney, Chris Finney, sits on the local NAACP’s executive committee but is actively stumping against the nation’s first African-American president and believes he is deceiving voters.
We wonder how rank-and-file members of the civil rights organization — who pay dues that help reimburse Finney for his legal work — feel about the odd situation?
Of course, Finney is no stranger to CityBeat readers. He’s the Anderson Township resident who is an ultra-conservative activist that is among the leaders of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). Among his contemptible accomplishments, Finney supported passage of Article 12, the anti-gay charter amendment approved by Cincinnati voters in 1993 and repealed 11 years later; and also wrote the wording for Issue 9 in 2009, a ballot item designed to block the city’s streetcar project that was rejected by 56 percent of voters.
Christopher Smitherman, the local NAACP president, didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment. But in early 2009, when he appointed Finney as the group’s “chair of legal redress,” Smitherman defended his selection.
“There are many African Americans who are NAACP members who are Republican,” Smitherman said back then.
“We are not an arm of the Democratic Party. The African-American community is not liberal but traditionally conservative. This is a myth that the African American is liberal.”
I bet they’re plenty of people willing to dispute Smitherman’s claim. Regardless, Finney also has been an ardent opponent of affirmative action and minority set-aside contracts on publicly funded projects.
In the 1990s, a then-partner at Finney’s law firm wrote in a letter to city officials: “Affirmative action policies — whether quotas, set-asides or preferences — by their very nature, breed racial intolerance. As a society, our conduct and behavior, and, to an extent, our attitudes and prejudices, our (sic) driven by our laws. You see, laws that create preferences based on race or gender alone inevitably result in governmental discrimination. In order to prefer one, government must discriminate against another.”
Finney has supported this position over the years, even as Smitherman lobbies for more set-aside contracts from Cincinnati Public Schools and on other projects.
But wait, the COAST invitation gets even better.
The e-mail was written by Tom Brinkman Jr., another COAST leader, who unsuccessfully ran for Hamilton County auditor last fall.
It states, “The costs for the event (hall rental, food and drinks and advertising) are covered by your $50 contribution to Brinkman Campaign Committee. This Contribution qualifies for the Ohio Political Contribution Tax Credit and you will receive all $50 back as a tax credit. Thus, the event is FREE.”
Well, not quite.
As Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke notes, the event doesn’t qualify for the tax credit.
Burke, who’s also an attorney, wrote to COAST, “You are about to present a lecture against what you describe as illegal conduct, but the invitation itself asks the supporters of the event to engage in illegal conduct and tax fraud … contributions to candidates for county auditor or any other county office do not qualify for tax credits.”
Burke adds, “Additionally, Mr. Brinkman has failed to comply with Ohio campaign finance law. He was late in filing his 2010 post election report and what he finally did file was woefully incomplete … since you will be addressing what you claim are election violations by others, you should be aware that the candidate on whose behalf you will be speaking is himself in multiple violation of Ohio election law.”
Apparently, COAST’s idea of “less government” involves simply ignoring laws it doesn’t like.
Forty-eight days and counting.
That’s how long it has been, as of the date this issue is published, since Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding announced Jan. 27 that he would resign from his council seat “in the coming weeks.”
Alas, weeks have stretched into months. It’s the longest goodbye since Cher’s most recent farewell tour.
Observers are left to wonder whether Berding’s press conference was just a ploy for sympathetic attention and headlines by someone who is a decidedly unlikeable and untrustworthy fellow.
When Berding made his announcement, he said it was to spend more time at his day job as sales and marketing director for the Bengals. (That’s the gig he got after serving as the pro-tax campaign manager back in 1996, working to convince voters to increase the sales tax so new stadiums could be built for the Reds and Bengals. We all know how that one turned out.)
Back in January, Berding told The Enquirer that the football team has “had significant losses in areas where I am responsible,” adding, “They need a full-time presence there.” Translation: No one is willing to buy the expensive personal seat licenses and season ticket packages he is shilling.
Maybe Berding’s sluggish pace in packing his bags at City Hall is because the need to sell Bengals tickets isn’t as pressing now. As gridiron fans know, contract negotiations between NFL owners and players reached an impasse and owners began a lockout March 12. Players have filed an antitrust, class-action lawsuit and a hearing is set for April 6. Still, it’s highly likely the dispute will last for months, canceling the 2011-12 season and taking some of the pressure off our lingering malcontent.
Meanwhile, let’s pass the time until Berding departs by trying to figure out what, exactly, he accomplished during his 2-1/2 terms and five years on council. That one’s a stumper.