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by Andy Brownfield 09.07.2012
 
 
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Investigation: Secret Ohio Group Supporting Mandel

Investigation finds Super PAC headed by Columbus lobbyist running ads attacking Brown

An investigation by nonprofit journalism group ProPublica has uncovered the identity of one of the secret super PACs funding advertisements attacking U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and promoting his challenger, Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel.

The group is the Government Integrity Fund and is headed by Columbus lobbyist Tom Norris. Norris’ lobbying firm Cap Square Solutions employs former Mandel aide Joe Ritter.

Ritter declined to comment to ProPublica about his role with Norris’ lobbying firm or whether he is involved with the Government Integrity Fund.

The race between Brown and Mandel is considered vital to Republicans who want to take control of the Senate and Democrats who want to hold on to their majority. It has turned into Ohio’s — and the nation’s — most expensive race.

The Associated Press reported in August that outside groups — like the Government Integrity Fund — have spent $15 million supporting Mandel, while similar groups have spent $3 million for Brown.

It’s unknown where the money is coming from because federal regulations and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United case allow the groups to spend unlimited amounts of cash on political ads without disclosing their donors.

Such groups are classified as non-profit “social welfare” groups, which don’t have to release donor information or register with the Federal Election Commission. They’re supposed to be “primarily” engaged in promoting social welfare.

Super PACs aren’t supposed to coordinate with campaigns, but it is common for them to hire politicians’ former aides.

According to ProPublica, Ritter was first hired by Mandel as an aide when the candidate was in the Ohio Legislature. He was then the field director for Mandel’s state treasurer campaign and then became a constituent and executive agency liaison when Mandel won that race. He left the treasurer’s office after six months to work for Norris’ lobbying firm.

Ritter was part of an ethics complaint filed after a Dayton Daily News investigation into Mandel’s practice of hiring former campaign workers for state jobs. Ritter has contested the charges.

Norris' ties to the Government Integrity Fund was discovered by ProPublica through documents filed with Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT. The Federal Communication Commission requires TV stations to keep detailed records about political advertisers.

 
 
by 06.29.2011
 
 

Sheriff Makes 'Hall of Shame'

A bipartisan political action committee (PAC) that lobbies for “fair and just immigration laws” has selected Butler County's outspoken sheriff as one of 10 U.S. politicians inducted into its newly created Hall of Shame for local officials across the nation.

Immigrants' List says Sheriff Richard K. Jones was selected because the conservative Republican exploits fear and misinformation to make headlines and further his political ambitions.

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by 09.29.2010
 
 

Who's Right in Billboard Brouhaha?

An anti-abortion group is defending the claims it makes on billboards criticizing Congressman Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill), but comments from a prominent Catholic bishop appears to support Driehaus' stance.

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by 08.11.2011
Posted In: Congress, Democrats, Republicans, 2012 Election at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Senator: GOP's Overreach will Help Dems

One of Ohio's two U.S. senators says Democrats need to get better organized so they can counteract private conservative groups that secretly draft legislation for Republican lawmakers.

The Porkopolis column in this week's CityBeat features excerpts from an interview with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). As is often the case with print media, there was limited space available and segments of the wide-ranging interview with Brown weren't included in the column.

One of the unused segments included Brown's responses to questions about whether President Obama and Congressional Democrats are aggressive enough in pushing their agenda, and whether the Left needs a group to counteract organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Asked if Democrats at the federal level are too reactive and need to do better at framing and guiding debate on issues, Brown said his party could use some improvement in that regard. He cited the theories of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th Century essayist and abolitionist.

I think the Democrats could do better at that, from the president on down,” Brown said. “It's always easier to say no. The one reason (Republicans) do well with message is, by definition almost, of conservative. Emerson talked about the innovators and the conservators. Progressives are the innovators and conservatives are the conservators. By definition, the conservators protect the status quo. Protecting the status quo means 'no,' 'repeal,' 'don't,' and 'not.' Those are simple concepts. Changing things is more complex.”

Also, Brown wishes the media would more clearly articulate what's happening in Washington. During the recent debate on raising the federal debt ceiling, for example, it was Obama and Democrats who were willing to compromise, a fact he believes didn't receive enough attention.

When one party digs in and is extreme, both parties look bad,” he said. “When people say, 'they all look terrible in Washington,' a big reason for that is Republicans weren't willing to negotiate anything. They were willing to shut the government down if we didn't do things their way.

We, in the end, want to be responsible,” Brown added. “A bunch of senators were in the White House months ago and Barack Obama said to us, 'I'm the adult and I have to be responsible. They know I'm not going to let the government default.' Well, as long as they know that, it changes things.”

Brown likes the suggestion of Democrats forming their own progressive version of ALEC — the private, corporate-backed group that writes model legislation for state lawmakers, which is funded by the Koch brothers, the National Rifle Association and others.

That might be a good idea,” he said. “The elections last year were all about job loss. Spending a little bit, but mostly about job loss. Then you look at the three most salient things this state legislature has done, which is roll back collective bargaining rights, voting rights and women's rights.

Not only is that not solving the problems we really have, which is jobs, it's also injecting divisions into our country and our state that we don't need,” Brown added. “It's made people so angry and hurt so many people's feelings in a really significant way and for what? So they can accomplish a political agenda. That's what is really outrageous.”

An ardent opponent of going to war in Iraq, Brown believes some progressives' fear that Obama will extend the wars there and in Afghanistan beyond the timetables for troop withdrawals is unfounded.

I'm confident they will be respected and I'm hoping Afghanistan's will be accelerated,” he said. “I think (Obama) will stand on what he said.”

The senator is more ambivalent about U.S. intervention in the uprising in Libya. “I wish the president had been a bit more forthcoming with Congress about our involvement, but people I respect have also said it would've been a real genocide there if the Europeans and we hadn't done something,” Brown said. “It's an awfully difficult call.”

Brown believes extremist actions by the GOP — like restricting collective bargaining rights at the state level, and trying to defund Planned Parenthood and limit access to abortion at the federal level — are out of touch with the mainstream, and will benefit Democrats in next year's elections.

Voters absolutely see these guys overreaching,” Brown said. “The voters aren't wild about Barack Obama and the Democrats, but they like the Republicans even less.

They've overreached on Medicare, it's going after Head Start and Planned Parenthood and all the kinds of things there is general consensus about in this country,” he added. “We have general consensus in this country on many things, except the Far Right, on items like the environment, on Medicare, on food safety, on voting rights. These guys have exploded that.”

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.16.2012
 
 
issa

No Women Allowed (At First)

GOP congressman blocks woman from testifying about birth control rule

Two Democratic congresswomen walked out of a hearing today in the House after a Republican colleague blocked a woman from testifying about a new federal rule that will require most employers to provide free birth control.

U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) left the hearing after House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) prevented the woman from being added to the witness list.

Announced last month, the rule reclassifies birth control as a preventative health measure, which means most employers must cover contraception in their insurance plans with no cost sharing like co-pays or deductibles. Initially, an exemption was granted for churches but not for religiously affiliated schools and hospitals, which angered some Catholic bishops and others.

In a compromise unveiled Feb. 10, President Obama said religiously affiliated schools and hospitals wouldn’t be forced to offer coverage for free contraceptives. Rather, insurers will be required to offer the coverage free to any women who work at such institutions.

That wasn’t good enough for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and some conservative politicians, who said the coverage shouldn’t be required at all.

Issa’s staff informed Democratic members of the committee that the hearing was about religious liberty in general, and not the contraception mandate, in explaining why Sandra Fluke couldn’t testify.

“As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the (Obama) administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness,” Issa’s staffers wrote in a letter.

Fluke wanted to tell about an incident involving a 32-year-old friend who was diagnosed with ovarian cysts and prescribed birth control pills as the only remedy for her condition. Because the woman’s insurance didn’t cover contraception, the friend couldn’t afford her medication and eventually lost her ovary.

Read what Fluke had planned to tell the panel here.

Eleven people were on Issa’s witness list, led by the Rev. William Lori, the Roman Catholic bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. Eight of Issa’s witnesses are Orthodox Christian, Catholic or evangelical, and represent Christian institutions.

Originally, Issa only planned on calling nine witnesses — all men. After the public flap, he added two women to the list.

 

 
 
by 10.04.2010
Posted In: Media Criticism, Congress, 2010 Election at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Blog Slams Enquirer's Flawed Poll

There it was, splashed across the front page of Sunday's Enquirer in big, bold letters: “Poll Puts Chabot in Lead.” The headline used for the Internet version was, as usual, even more excitable: “Poll: Chabot Leads Big Over Driehaus.”

The article was about a poll that Cincinnati's only daily newspaper commissioned on Ohio's 1stCongressional District race, using the Survey USA polling firm. Its results show Republican Steve Chabot leading Democratic incumbent Steve Driehaus by 12 points, or 53 percent to 41 percent.

But does the poll provide a complete picture of the race?

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by Kevin Osborne 02.10.2012
 
 
chabotson

Morning News and Stuff

A prominent Republican congressman is under investigation for insider trading. U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who heads the House Financial Services Committee, is being probed by the Office of Congressional Ethics for making suspicious trades and buying certain stock options while helping oversee the nation’s banking and financial services industries.

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by 01.04.2011
Posted In: News, Media, Republicans, Congress at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Letterman: Boehner Needs Counseling

Leave it to TV talk show host David Letterman to tell it like it is.

Broaching a topic that is on most political junkies' minds these days, Letterman questioned the psychological stability of House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) on his CBS show Monday night.

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by Kevin Osborne 12.02.2011
 
 
steve_chabot,_official_109th_congress_photo

Mr. Chabot, Meet Mr. Will

As far as conservatives go, I can tolerate columnist George Will and often enjoy reading his work. Unlike most of what passes as conservatism today, Will tends to base his arguments on logic and fact, not emotion and rhetoric.

Making him even more of an anomaly in Republican circles, Will acknowledges and corrects his errors, when he makes them. As an added bonus, he's also a deft wordsmith.

Despite his many years in office, Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) could stand to take a few pointers from Will. Chabot, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, spoke during a hearing Wednesday about his concerns with a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by year's end.

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by Kevin Osborne 03.07.2012
 
 
jean_schmidt

Morning News and Stuff

Tuesday's primary election yielded a few surprises that even jaded political pundits didn't see coming. Chief among them was the stunning upset that Brad Wenstrup pulled off against incumbent Republican Congresswoman Jean Schmidt. Wenstrup, a podiatrist who is an Iraq War veteran, got 49 percent of the vote to Schmidt’s 43 percent, according to final, uncertified results. That means Wenstrup will either face off against Madeira businessman David Krikorian or William R. Smith – a virtual unknown who didn't campaign – in the November election for Ohio's 2nd Congressional District seat. The race between the two Democrats remains too close to call.

Another surprise was U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur's victory over U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic primary for a Congressional district in northeastern Ohio, near Cleveland. The two veteran lawmakers were redistricted recently into the same area, meaning one would be knocked off after Tuesday's primary. Kucinich was one of the most progressive members of Congress and an ardent Iraq War opponent; it's unclear if he plans to stay in politics in some fashion.

In what's bad news for Mitt Romney, no matter how his handlers try to spin it, the ex-Massachusetts governor scored a razor-thin 1 percent victory over upstart Rick Santorum in Ohio's contest for the GOP presidential nomination. Romney got just 12,019 more votes than Santorum, despite outspending the former senator from Pennsylvania by a sizable margin. Romney also won in Alaska, Idaho, Vermont, Virginia and his home state of Massachusetts; Santorum won in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Meanwhile, Newt “I coulda been a contender” Gingrich scored a single victory, in his native Georgia. Bye, Newt.

Despite being defeated twice before in the general election, former appellate court judge William O'Neill of Cleveland easily won over Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Fanon Rucker to become the Democratic Party's nominee for the Ohio Supreme Court. O'Neill received nearly 72 percent of the vote. He will face off against incumbent Republican Justice Robert Cupp in the fall.

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) suffered a defeat Tuesday when one of its leaders, ex-State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr., lost to Peter Stautberg to get the Republican nomination for the newly created 27th District seat in the Ohio House. Stautberg handily defeated Brinkman by 61-39 percent.

It also looks like State Rep. Denise Driehaus prevailed in the hotly contested Democratic primary race for the new 31st District seat in the Ohio House. In Hamilton County, Driehaus got 57.5 percent of the vote, compared to 24.5 percent for Luke Brockmeier and 17.9 percent for Terry Tranter.

In non-election news, the small Clermont County town of Moscow is beginning to clean up four days after a tornado leveled much of the area. Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency inspected the damage Tuesday, and will issue a report to Gov. John Kasich within a few days.

Speaking of Kasich, our (not so) beloved guv was the sole person out of the nation's 50 governors not to sign a letter protesting proposed cuts to the Air National Guard. A Kasich spokesman said Odd John didn’t add his name to the letter because it was circulated at a meeting of the National Governor’s Association in Washington last month, and Kasich didn’t attend because he’s not a member.

On the national scene, President Obama held his first press conference of 2012 on Tuesday. Obama accused the Republican presidential candidates of casually "beating the drums of war" over Iran without having the political courage to directly advocate a military attack before voters. “Now, what's said on the campaign trail – those folks don't have a lot of responsibilities. They're not commander-in-chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I'm reminded of the costs involved in war," he said.

About 600 people were ordered to leave their homes today in southeastern Australia due to rising floodwaters. Floods have hit three eastern states this week, causing at least two deaths and millions of dollars in damage. Nine thousand people had been evacuated from New South Wales on Tuesday.
 
 

 

 

 
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