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.
After three nights of arrests, Occupy Cincinnati protesters Sunday night chose to leave Piatt Park at its 10 p.m. closing time and march on the sidewalks around the park. Eleven members were arrested Saturday night for staying on the square after a rally past the 3 a.m. time allowed by its permit. The group is still waiting for a federal judge to rule on whether or not Piatt Park's 10 p.m. closing time is a violation of the First Amendment.
Chicago Police arrested 130 Occupy Chicago protesters over the weekend, and the group plans to picket Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office in response. Protesters described harsh treatment by police, with some spending more than 24 hours in jail. The picketing at City Hall will reportedly include a nurse's union in response to two nurses and a union organizer being arrested while volunteering at Occupy Chicago.
The Ohio Ballot Board on Thursday approved new summary language for Issue 2, which would take the decennial redistricting out of the hands of politicians and task a nonpartisan commission with redrawing congressional lines. The Dispatch reports that the new summary removes factual inaccuracies and included previously omitted information about who would select members of the new citizens commission. Secretary of State and Ballot Board Chairman Jon Husted said the board tried to make the language as generic and concise as possible, but Democrats and voter advocates say the new language is too long and technical and would confuse voters.
Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld became the first elected official in the nation to host an online town hall. The Enquirer reports that Sittenfeld is taking questions on the online tool CrowdHall and by next Friday will have answered them via text or video. He is also asking Cincinnatians to post suggestions as to how they would balance the budget or spend the new casino revenue.
Rush Limbaugh on Thursday theorized that Al Qaeda colluded with President Barack Obama to give up Osama bin Laden to help Obama look good and win reelection.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney defines “middle income” as $200,000 to $250,000 a year. The Associated Press reports that Romney made the comments during an interview broadcast Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The Census Bureau meanwhile reported this week that the median household income is just over $50,000. CityBeat’s reporting staff wishes management would promote us to middle income level.
Speaking of ABC, they’re being sued by Beef Products Inc. for $1.2 billion over a report of the beef filler “pink slime.” The beef company says the defaming report disparaged the safety of pink slime.
Obama again apologized for America called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and called on him and the Muslim Brotherhood to stand with Washington against protesters who are attacking the U.S. Embassy in what The New York Times called a “blunt phone call.”
Jimmy Kimmel took the iPhone 4S onto the streets, telling people it was the new iPhone 5, proving that Apple cultists enthusiasts will love anything the company puts out.
The Ohio Department of Education is caught in a bit of a mess. This morning, the state auditor’s office announced it would be conducting a probe into the Ohio Department of Education over school test and attendance data. Yesterday, Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner said the Ohio Department of Education will be investigating more schools for possible instances of fraudulent data reporting. The superintendent’s announcement came on the same day Lockland School Districts were found to be reporting false attendance data for better test results.
Delta Airlines announced it will be closing down Comair, which is headquartered in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. The move could have a significant impact on jobs in the region.
Only 6,000 out of 140,000 eligible Ohioans have initiated a foreclosure review process, according to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. The review could potentially save Ohioans a lot of money.
The Ohio Supreme Court still thinks Ohio’s smoking ban is constitutional.
Skype is making chat and user data more accessible to police.
There is now a reason to be jealous of Kansas City. Google will be offering its ultra-fast Internet service in the area for only $70 a month.
Nearly one in five voters thinks President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Mitt Romney had a bad couple days during his trip to London: An aide allegedly made racist comments about Obama’s commitment to “Anglo-Saxon heritage,” Romney questioned if London is ready to host the Olympics, and he talked about meeting with the leader of MI6, the British intelligence agency. And he said he’s excited to return the “bust of Winston Churchill” to the Oval Office. Whatever that means.
Nobody has a case of the Mondays, according to a new study in the Journal of Positive Psychology.
Scientists have found a way to temporarily restore eyesight in blind mice. But it requires a direct chemical injection into the eyes.
An organization called Citizens' League Against Subsidized Sports is gathering signatures for a ballot measure that would add a tax on Reds and Bengals tickets. Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann says he knows that the county's lease doesn't allow it to institute a ticket tax but that it doesn't say anything about a citizens' initiative.
Police costs are rising even though the force is shrinking, partially because it hasn't hired any new officers since 2008 while the top ranks have held steady.
The SB 5 debate is expected to draw a high voter turnout, which could bode well for school levies as voters come out to vote "no" on Issue 2.
"The Republicans who are informally auditioning would each bring different strengths — and drawbacks — to the presidential ticket.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman supported Romney early, has a solid rapport with the candidate and hails from Ohio, a critical battleground state that could decide the election. But he wouldn't necessarily appeal directly to Hispanic or women voters.
(Louisiana Gov. Bobby) Jindal, the Louisiana governor, could help Romney turn out the religious right and would add diversity to the ticket as an Indian-American, but he struggled during a national debut rebutting the 2010 State of the Union address.
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who's campaigned frequently with Romney, could help with female voters and in her swing state of New Hampshire. But she's from New England, the same region of the country as Romney, while (New Jersey Gov. Chris) Christie, a conservative favorite who can work a crowd, is from New Jersey.
(Florida Sen. Marco) Rubio could bring Florida, always a deciding factor in a general election, and appeal to Hispanics, a fast-growing voting bloc, but he's run into some trouble over a foreclosed home and possible misuse of an official credit card. And Ryan is a serious, leading policy mind with a bright future — and a brand name that's directly tied to a controversial budget that would make major changes to Medicare."
Meanwhile, Romney says Obama doesn't even understand free
A Columbus tavern owner has lost his freedom isn't free battle in the Ohio Supreme Court, which yesterday unanimously ruled that the state's smoking ban is constitutional. The owner of Zeno's Victorian Village had racked up thousands of dollars in fines after 10 citations for violating the ban from July 2007 and September 2009. The state has reportedly threatened to seize the bar if the fines are not paid.
Meteorologists say after this weekend's heat wave this spring could be the hottest on record.
The Reds defeated the Atlanta Braves last night on a Todd Frazier walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was the Reds' fifth straight win, and they're currently a half game behind St. Louis for first place in the division.
The Pakistan conviction of the Osama bin Laden doctor who helped the CIA find him is not going over well with the U.S. government. Pakistani authorities sentenced Shakeel Afridi to 33 years in prison for treason, and Afridi was not entitled to representation, though he has a right to appeal. The U.S. has threatened to cut aid to the country, arguing that informants work against al-Qaeda and not Pakistan.
Britain's recession is worse than expected, as the country's economy shrunk by .3 percent during the first quarter.
The SpaceX shuttle passed some tests necessary to move forward with its landing on the International Space Station Friday morning. President Obama called the company's CEO to congratulate him and he answered despite thinking it might be a telemarketer.
John Malkovich is in the latest Apple advertisement for Siri, during which Malkovich gets some life advice. The ads follow those released starring Hollywood actors Zooey Deschanel and Samuel Jackson last month.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast last night. At least 16 people are believed to have died from the storm, and as many as 7.5 million were left without power. Areas of New York and New Jersey also faced major flooding. It took until 4:30 a.m. for Sandy to go from hurricane to tropical storm.
The Anna Louise Inn will be in court at 9 a.m. today arguing in front of the First District Court of Appeals, which could overturn a May ruling and allow the Inn to move forward with its renovation. CityBeat will have online coverage for the hearing later today.
Hamilton County’s probation department is facing sexual harassment charges. The charges are coming from a county worker who said her promotion was denied due to her actions “for opposing discrimination and encouraging others to exercise their right to be free from acts of discrimination.”
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes filed a lawsuit Friday in an attempt to reverse the August reworking of the Blue Ash airport deal. For COAST, the lawsuit is mostly to stall or stop the financing for the $110 million Cincinnati streetcar.
City Council will vote next week to decide whether the city should borrow $37 million to fund development projects and a portion of the Homeless to Homes program. But Homeless to Homes is generating some concern due to its requirement to move three shelters.
Three Cincinnati charity groups are coming together to help veterans with disabling injuries. The organizations will pool available resources to hopefully find jobs for veterans.
Mitt Romney is running a new ad against President Barack Obama in Ohio that says Chrysler is moving Jeep production to China. The ad, which Chrysler says is false, warranted a snarky response from the car company: “Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.” The Obama team also responded with its own ad. It is somewhat understandable Romney would be getting a bit desperate at this point in the race. Ohio is widely considered the most important swing state, but aggregate polling has Romney down 1.9 points in the state. Romney is up 0.9 points nationally.
State Republicans are refusing to pull an ad that accuses William O’Neill, Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, of expressing “sympathy for rapists.” This is despite the fact that Justice Robert Cupp, O’Neill’s Republican opponent, has distanced himself from the ad. At this point, even the most nonpartisan, objectives watchers have to wonder why the Republican Party can’t keep rape out of its messaging. In comments aired first on Aug. 19, U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri said on pregnancy after rape, “If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” On Oct. 23, Richard Mourdock, the Senate candidate for Indiana, said, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Ohio is getting closer to the health exchange deadline with no plan in sight. Obamacare asks states to take up health exchanges that act as competitive markets for different health insurance plans. States are allowed to either accept, let the federal government run the exchanges or take a hybrid approach. As part of the health exchanges, the federal government will also sponsor a heavily regulated nonprofit plan that sounds fairly similar to the public option liberals originally wanted in Obamacare.
Meanwhile, Ohio and other states still haven’t decided whether they will be expanding their Medicaid programs. In the past, state officials have cited costs as a big hurdle, but one study from Arkansas found Medicaid expansions actually saved money by reducing the amount of uncompensated care. Some states that expanded Medicaid also found health improvements afterward.
An inspector at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) was caught not doing her job. The inspector was supposed to do 128 site visits for in-person safety inspections, but she apparently never showed up to some of the schools and filed fraudulent reports.
Peter Cremer North America could add 50 jobs in Cincinnati over three years in an expansion.
A San Francisco firm bought a major stake in Cincinnati Bell.
It’s yet another gloomy, rainy morning in Cincinnati, so let’s let our minds take a voyage around the Internet and see what is going on in the world during the last 24 hours.
House Speaker John Boehner is probably cringing at a CBS News poll that found an overwhelming majority of Americans like the proposals mentioned in President Obama’s State of the Union address. And by “overwhelming,” we mean a whopping 91 percent of respondents. (You read that correctly.)
Unfortunately for Husted, a federal judge disagrees. In a ruling today, Judge Peter Economus said in-person early voting must be restored for all registered voters to include the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day. Husted will now work with county boards of elections around the state to decide the voting hours for those days.
The ruling is the outcome of President Barack Obama’s campaign and the Ohio Democratic Party suing Husted to extend in-person early voting. Before the ruling, only military personnel and their families were allowed to vote, which the Obama team and Democrats argued was unfair to non-military voters. With the ruling, everyone — including military personnel and their families — will be able to vote during the three days before election day.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has vowed to appeal the ruling, but, for now, the news comes as a victory to Obama and Democrats in the ongoing struggle over early voting hours.
Recently, Republicans have tried to block any statewide expansion of in-person early voting, citing costs and racial politics. Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, previously wrote to The Columbus Dispatch in an email, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
Republicans defended Preisse’s racially insensitive comment by calling it “background” and saying it was supposed to be off the record. But those defenses didn’t match Preisse’s defense of his own comment, and they didn’t deny the substance of the comment. CityBeat covered the racial politics behind early voting in this week’s issue (“Republicans Admit Racial Politics,” issue of Aug. 29).
Mike Wilson, the Republican candidate for state representative in Ohio’s 28th district, also voiced some concerns about the lawsuit. He said extending in-person early voting for everyone could make lines too long for military personnel and their families.