The Cincinnati Elections Commission will hold a hearing June 23 on City Councilman Christopher Smitherman’s campaign finances after Nathaniel Livingston Jr., a well-known Cincinnati radio personality and former City Council candidate, filed a rather colorful complaint against him.
The complaint filed with the Commission says Smitherman exceeded campaign contribution limits during his 2013 campaign and unfairly gave city contracts to family members.
But it also says so much more.
Livingston goes after Smitherman with the gloves off. He starts off his complaint with some choice words about the councilman, calling him “an arrogant politician who is closely aligned to the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.”
Livingston goes on to say that “Smitherman has publicly stated that his life goals are to become a decamillionaire and President of the United States. Chris will do anything to obtain money and power.”
Dang. That’s harsh. With the first name and everything. But Livingston’s just getting warmed up.
“He basically makes money by selling mediocre insurance products to gullible individuals,” the complaint continues, questioning Smitherman’s credentials as a financial advisor.
Call out someone for their alleged tea party affiliation, sure, but casting aspersions on the value of a man’s insurance products is another thing entirely.
Low blows aside, the complaint says that Smitherman broke campaign finance laws when his brother, Albert Smitherman, gave him a total of $2,200 and his sister-in-law, Liza Smitherman, chipped in $2,700 for his campaign.
The limit for individual donations between city council elections is $1,100. The complaint is made on a bit of a technicality; both Albert and Liza gave their first contributions just days after the 2011 elections, and didn’t donate any other money in that earlier election. Cincinnati Election Commission rules do allow for carryover of funds from previous elections under certain circumstances.
Another donation of $500 by Liza Smitherman under the name Brewster Pumping LLC is also flagged in the complaint. That donation was made in October 2013, and the address listed for the contribution is that of Liza and Albert’s business, Jostin Construction LLC.
Livingston says this is evidence of corruption, and that Councilman Smitherman has been actively working to get jobs for the company. Jostin was subcontracted for $22,000 worth of work on the city’s streetcar project in November 2013, but later declined the job.
Livingston himself has been in trouble for campaign finances. In 2009, the Ohio Elections Commission sued him for $43,000 for not filing campaign finance information for his 2001 City Council bid. That suit was later dismissed.
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel was involved in two car crashes and reported neither, and one of the crashes may have violated federal campaign finance law. During a March accident, Mandel, a Republican, was riding in a vehicle owned by his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign months after he lost to Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. Federal law states Senate campaign property can't be used for personal use or to campaign for a different office, such as state treasurer. Mandel’s state treasurer campaign says it rented out the car from the Senate campaign, but The Associated Press found the check didn’t clear out until June 30 — seven months after the Senate campaign and four months after the crash — and the rent wasn’t fully paid for until reporters started asking questions.
Republican state legislators are drafting a bill that would overhaul Ohio’s Medicaid program. The legislation isn’t the Medicaid expansion, which Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder now says isn’t a good idea. Instead, the upcoming bill would make changes to attempt to control Medicaid’s rising costs, which have put an increasing strain on the state budget in the past few years. Batchelder says the bill will be introduced in the fall and likely voted out of the House by the end of the year.Mayoral candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls are rolling out their latest endorsements. Yesterday, State Rep. Alicia Reece said she’s backing Cranley. On Friday, Qualls touted support from Equality Ohio, the Miami Group of the Sierra Club, the National Organization of Women Cincinnati, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 392 and the Ohio-Kentucky Administrative District Council of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers. Endorsements rarely influence the outcome of elections.
The Ohio Parole Board rejected a killer’s plea for mercy.
Harry Mitts Jr. is scheduled to die by injection on Sept. 25 for
killing two men, including a police officer, at an apartment. Court
records claim Mitts uttered racial slurs before killing his first
victim, who was black. Mitts’ defense says he was blacked out from
alcohol the night of the slayings and didn’t know what he was doing.
With the board’s rejection, Mitts’ fate is now up to Gov. John Kasich,
who could commute the sentence to life in prison.
Susan Castellini, wife of the Cincinnati Reds CEO, will join the Cincinnati Parks Board after being appointed earlier in August by Mayor Mark Mallory and City Council.
Hospice of Cincinnati obtained a $2.3 million grant from from Bethesda Inc. and Catholic Health Initiatives to launch an initiative that will encourage doctors, terminally ill patients and their families to discuss end-of-life planning.
Three former employees are suing Cincinnati-based Jeff Ruby eateries for allegedly taking tips from staff, which supposedly caused employees to earn less than minimum wage.
Between Sept. 19 and Sept. 30, Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino will become the first venue in Ohio to host a World Series of Poker circuit event.
Popular Science claims it met the world’s smartest dog.
POLITICO says Kasich met privately with billionaire Sheldon Adelson at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino during last month’s Republican Governors Association winter meeting. A call to Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols to confirm the meeting and inquire as to what was discussed was not immediately returned.
POLITICO, which often deals in political gossip, postulates that Kasich could run for president in 2016. The newspaper reports that Adelson also met with Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Bob McDonnell of Virginia — also rumored 2016 GOP candidates.
Adelson and his family have donated $84 million to Republican groups. Those donations include $20 million each to super PACs supporting Romney and Gingrich.
“After shadowy outside groups spent more than $40 million to support Josh Mandel’s losing campaign for Senate, Governor Kasich is actively positioning to be the next Ohio darling of the special interests,” Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Jerid Kurtz said in an emailed statement.
“Ohio voters should be deeply disturbed that over two years away from his re-election campaign, Kasich is already showing signs he’s willing to serve the special interests and take the same path as Josh Mandel.”
Adelson is under federal investigation by the Justice Department for allegations of bribery and money laundering. A majority of his casino empire is based in Asia.
A Cincinnati-area state representative is decrying billboards throughout Ohio whose aim, she says, is voter intimidation.
Democratic Rep. Alicia Reece held a news conference Monday morning in front of a billboard that read, “Voter Fraud is a Felony!”
The billboards were paid for “by a private family foundation,” but Reece claims in a news release that the sponsors are essentially anonymous and the billboards are being strategically placed in low-income and black neighborhoods.
“We are asking the Outdoor Advertising Association of Ohio to work with the anonymous sponsors of the billboards to have them removed immediately,” Reece wrote in a statement.
“It’s obvious that the billboards are designed to intimidate voters and leave some wondering if merely voting is now a crime.”
Mike Norton with Norton Outdoor Advertising — the company on whose billboards the ads appear — said there are 30 such signs in the Greater Cincinnati area.
He said the sponsor didn’t ask for any demographic targeting and the ads are appearing in all neighborhoods wherever there was open space.
Norton said the sponsor wished to remain anonymous and he isn’t at liberty to give out its name.
As for the anonymity of the ads sponsor, “Our company’s stand on political advertising is we do our very best to make sure it’s accurate and it’s not an attack ad,” Norton said. “This seemed to fall well within the bounds of reason on both of those benchmarks.”
The billboards are not illegal, and they are considered Constitutionally protected speech.
The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School issued a policy paper finding that cases of fraud by individual voters are extremely rare.
The center found that in the 2004 presidential election saw a voter fraud rate of 0.00004 percent.
Cincinnati isn’t the only city to see such billboards. They have also made appearances in Cleveland and Columbus, as well as southeast Wisconsin.
According to the Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland, the billboards there are owned by Clear Channel Outdoor. A company spokesman told the newspaper that Clear Channel’s policy is usually to identify who sponsors a political ad, but in this case a salesperson made a mistake.
The Ohio Democratic Party is asking both state and federal prosecutors to look into allegations that a major coal company is coercing its employees to donate to political causes against their will.
The ODP on Monday sent letters to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven Dettelbach and Acting Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty asking them to launch a criminal investigation into Ohio-based Murray Energy Corporation.
The letters allege that Murray Energy “may have engaged in a pattern of illegal activity, extorting millions in financial contributions from employees and vendors for Republican candidates running for public office.”
Murray Energy fired back in a Monday statement, saying the allegations “are simply an attempt to silence Murray Energy and its owners from supporting their coal mining employees and families by speaking out against President Barack Obama’s well known and documented War on Coal.”
The allegations stem from an Oct. 4 investigation by left-leaning magazine The New Republic.
The article is based on the accounts of two anonymous former Murray managers and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees. It suggests that employees are pressured into making donations to Republican candidates and contributing to the company’s Political Action Committee.
“There’s a lot of coercion,” one of the sources told the magazine. “I just want to work, but you feel this constant pressure that, if you don’t contribute, your job’s at stake.”
ODP Chairman Chris Redfern told reporters during a conference call that party research found that Ohio political candidates — including all current statewide officeholders — had received almost $750,000 from Murray Energy, its subsidiaries and employees.
Neither Dettelbach or McGinty returned CityBeat calls for comment on any pending investigations.
Murray Energy in its statement called The New Republic biased and radically liberal. The company’s characterization in the article is incorrect and untruthful, according to the statement.
Murray had previously come under fire when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held a campaign event at one of its mines. Some workers claim they were pulled out of the mine early when it closed for the event and forced to attend without pay.
Even though he has criticized super PACs in the past, President Obama has decided he will allow a pro-Democratic one to assist him in his reelection bid. Priorities USA Action, a super PAC founded by two former White House aides, will help Obama counter the deluge of money being raised by GOP groups during the 2012 election cycle.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told a conservative radio talk show host on Monday that he doesn’t support funding for Planned Parenthood and believes Susan G. Komen for the Cure should have stuck by its original decision to pull grants from the organization.
Now that the Jan. 31 filing deadline with the Federal Election Commission has come and gone, media outlets have had time to pour over the paperwork and discover how large a role “super PACs” are playing in this year’s presidential race. The short answer: Pretty large.
The New York Times reports about 60 corporations and wealthy individuals gave checks of $100,000 or more to a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney in the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, underwriting a $17 million blitz of advertising in the early primary states.
In an effort to promote greater transparency about who makes campaign contributions, outgoing Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner today unveiled a new set of election rules.
The rules, which were approved by the Ohio Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, is aimed at offsetting some of the impact of the Citizens United ruling issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in January. In the landmark 5-4 decision, the court overturned a lower court’s ruling and removed existing restraints on corporations, allowing them to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns.
A prominent local anti-gay, right wing group sent a mass e-mail to supporters today seeking money to avoid a $150,000 deficit next year, which is close to what the group's president makes in salary.
The e-mail distributed by Sharonville-based Citizens for Community Values (CCV) states it's ready to “jump into 2011 with both feet!”