I have to pay more attention to The Enquirer's websites. That’s apparently where the fun is.
Former Cincinnatian Peter Heimlich follows our Sole Surviving Daily online and on his blog, The Sidebar, he noted two photos that suggest web posts don't get the same alert editing as those in print.
One photo this week showed a male Rick Santorum critic holding a sign that defined “santorum” as “a frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter sometimes resulting as a bi-product of anal sex” and telling readers to “Google it.” That leads to the “definition” by sex advice columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage.
Heimlich said The Enquirer took down the photo when he asked about it.
Another Enquirer photo faux pas was first caught by The Political Daily Download blog. This one involved another anti-Santorum poster, this one held by a woman. It had the former senator and lobbyist’s smiling face and said, “Doesn’t support products made for women’s reproductive organs” and, in much larger print, “IS A DOUCHEBAG.”
A similar photo replaced it online.
President Barack Obama has canceled scheduled Wednesday appearances in Cincinnati and Akron to coordinate recovery efforts in the wake of super storm Sandy, the White House announced Tuesday.
Obama was scheduled to highlight his second-term agenda from economic growth and the middle class, according to a news release. The release promised a “concrete and specific plan for the next four years.” Both Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney have been vague on details of exactly what they would do if elected next Tuesday.
Vice President Joe Biden had also canceled Tuesday appearances in Wooster and Gambier, Ohio, “due to local preparations and response efforts” for the storm.
Meanwhile Romney campaigned Tuesday morning near Dayton, where his campaign collected supplies and donation to be sent to storm-affected areas of New Jersey.
While the presidential candidates prepared for Wednesday’s debate, Michelle Obama urged Cincinnatians on Tuesday to take advantage of the first day of early voting, before leading a group to the board of elections to cast their ballots.
“I’ve got news for you: Here in Ohio it’s already Election Day. Early voting starts today,” Obama told a crowd of 6,800 inside the Duke Energy Convention Center. She urged everyone to reach out and encourage their friends to vote after they had cast their own ballots.
“Twitter them. Tweet them. What do you do? It’s tweeting, right? Tweet them,” she joked to the crowd.
Earlier in the morning, the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney kicked off its “Commit to Mitt Early Vote Express” statewide bus tour in downtown Cincinnati.
The tour started in Hamilton County before moving through Butler County and is scheduled to end the day in Preble County.
The bus is scheduled to make its way through every region of Ohio during the early voting period and will serve as a mobile campaign headquarters, dispensing voter contact materials and featuring Romney campaign surrogates, according to a news release.
At the convention center, Michelle Obama avoided some of the direct attacks employed by her husband or the Romney campaign, but used her 30-minute speech to counter some of the criticisms from the GOP nominee, recapping some of her convention speech.
“Our families weren’t asking for much,” Michelle said of her own and Barack’s families. “They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success, you know, they didn’t mind if others had much more than they did, in fact they admired it. That’s why they pushed us to succeed.”
Her comment seemed to come in response to an attack that the Romney campaign levied against Barack Obama after his infamous “you didn’t build that” comment, where the GOP candidate argues that Obama and Democrats are fostering enmity among the middle class by stoking jealousy of rich, successful Americans like Mitt Romney.
“Our families believed also that when you work hard and have done well and finally walk through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you,” Michelle Obama continued.
“No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. You see, that’s how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. … We learned that the truth matters – you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules.”
She went on to say that Americans are part of something bigger than themselves and obligated to give back to others, counter to the Republicans’ narrative of the individual pulled up by his or her own bootstraps.
Danielle Henderson, 40, a teacher’s assistant from Cincinnati, said she was a fan of the first lady’s and joked that she wanted to know if Michelle was running for president in 2016.
“Behind every good man is a good woman,” Henderson said. “Honestly, a woman is a backbone of the family.”
She said she thought the first family was a good model for the rest of the country.
Henderson’s mother-in-law Barbara joked that she was excited to see what the first lady was going to wear.
“I see trends she sets trickle down to other politicians’ wives,” she joked.
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.
A local conservative group is making a lot of use of member and lawyer Chris Finney. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) was involved in two lawsuits filed this week: one regarding the Blue Ash Airport deal and another regarding Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS).
Criticism of the Blue Ash Airport deal is not new for COAST. The group has repeatedly criticized the deal, largely because as much as $26 million from the deal will be used to fund Cincinnati’s $110 million streetcar. In the past, COAST has repeatedly characterized the streetcar as a “boondoggle.”
The deal between Blue Ash and Cincinnati is not new, but it did get reworked earlier this year. In 2006, the $37.5 million deal had Cincinnati selling Blue Ash some land on the Blue Ash Airport property, which Blue Ash would then use to build a park. Blue Ash voters approved the deal, which contained a 0.25 percent earnings tax hike, in a two-to-one margin.
When Cincinnati couldn’t get a $10 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the city stopped working on the airport as it became too costly. The city then tried to shift the proceeds from the deal to the Cincinnati streetcar, but the FAA said funding must be used for airports since the property is classified as an airport.
Eventually, Cincinnati asked Blue Ash to rework the deal. The plan was Blue Ash would rescind the deal, and then Cincinnati would officially close down the airport and resell the land to Blue Ash while it’s no longer classified as an airport.
At first, city officials said $11 million of the opened-up money would go to the streetcar and $26 million would go to municipal projects. Since then, the city has shifted $15 million of that municipal project funding — supposedly temporarily — to help Duke Energy move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route, at least until the city and energy company can work out an ongoing feud.
The reworked deal, which was approved by Blue Ash City Council in a 6-1 vote on Aug. 9, seemed like a win-win for both sides. Cincinnati would get more funding for ongoing projects, and Blue Ash netted $2.25 million from the deal — $250,000 to cover fees for Blue Ash’s new park and $2 million was subtracted from the deal since Blue Ash would no longer have to match the FAA grant.
But COAST does not approve. The organization doesn’t want any funding redirected to the streetcar, and it claims the reworked deal is not allowed. The lawsuit filed by Blue Ash resident Jeffrey Capell and Finney cites a section of the Blue Ash City Charter that disallows some contracts: “No contract shall be made for a term longer than five years, except that franchises for public utility services and contracts with other governmental units for service to be received or given may be made for any period no longer than twenty years.”
Mark Vander Laan, Blue Ash’s city solicitor, says the city charter section the lawsuit is referencing is irrelevant. He argues the deal is not a contract as the city charter defines it; instead, it’s a mortgage and debt instrument. In the Blue Ash City Charter, there’s another section that deals with debt instruments, and that’s what the rescinded deal falls under, according to Vander Laan. He says the city would not function as it does today if the lawsuit’s claim was correct: “If that were the case, all the bonds we’ve ever issued would have been incorrect.”
Vander Laan says the real issue here is disapproval of the streetcar, not any legal technicalities: “They may have a complaint about the streetcar, but that’s not the city of Blue Ash’s issue at all. We don’t think it’s even an appropriate basis to challenge this.”
He added, “Frankly, if somebody had an issue with (the deal), they should have taken that issue back in 2006 and 2007.” That’s when Blue Ash voters first approved the airport deal, but back then, the money wasn’t going to the streetcar, which didn’t even exist at the time.
In another legal battle, COAST filed a lawsuit against CPS over staff allegedly campaigning for Issue 42, a ballot initiative that will renew a CPS levy voters approved in 2008. The case goes back to 2002, when Tom Brinkman, chairman of COAST, sued CPS for “illegal and unconstitutional use of school property for campaign purposes,” according to the lawsuit. That case ended in a settlement, which forced CPS to enter into a “COAST Agreement” that says, “CPS will strictly enforce a policy of preventing … Other Political Advertisements on CPS Property.”
But COAST now says that agreement has been broken, and the
lawsuit cites emails as evidence. The emails show staff promoting voter
registration drives, which aren’t directly linked to Issue 42, and
staff offering to contribute and volunteer to the campaign. In the
emails, there are a few instances of Jens Sutmoller, Issue 42’s campaign
coordinator, asking CPS staff to give him personal emails, which shows
he was trying to avoid breaking any rules.
In CityBeat’s experience, CPS officials have been pretty strict with following the settlement with COAST. In a Sept. 20 email, Janet Walsh, spokesperson for CPS, told CityBeat she could not provide some levy-related information during work hours: “Yes, but due to constraints about doing levy-related work on work time (we can't), it may have to wait until I can get on my home computer.”
COAST has endorsed a “No” vote on Issue 42. In CityBeat’s
in-depth look into CPS and Issue 42 (“Battered But Not Broken,” issue
of Oct. 3), Brinkman defended COAST’s position by saying they’re not
necessarily against the school getting funding. COAST is more
interested in holding the school accountable: “It’s a five-year levy.
The reason we have five-year levies is so the public can gauge after
four or four and a half years how the entity where the taxes are going
to is doing with the money.” In that sense, for COAST, it’s important to
bring the levy renewal to voters as late in the game as possible —
November 2013 in this case. CityBeat this week endorsed a "Yes" vote on Issue 42 here.
Criticism of CPS levies is also not new for COAST. The group campaigned against last year’s new, permanent $49.5 million levy, which CPS said it needed to meet new technology needs and keep some buildings open.
An error in how voters update their address online caused
updated registration records to be delivered late to Ohio’s election
officials. With about a week left in Ohio’s voting process, the late delivery might have caused the Hamilton County Board of
Elections to mistakenly reject some eligible voters because officials did not
have the voters’ current addresses.
Amy Searcy, director of elections at the board, says it’s unclear how many registered voters were affected, but 2,129 updated registration records were sent from Ohio Secretary of State John Husted’s office. She says the number could end up varying since some of the records are duplicates.
Across the state, an unknown number of ballots were
mistakenly rejected as 33,000 registration records were sent late on
Monday and Tuesday. Cleveland's The Plain Dealer reported 71 voters were mistakenly rejected in Cuyahoga County.
Matt McClellan, Husted’s spokesperson, said Husted’s offices were previously unaware of the data, which is why it wasn’t requested before the glitch was detected by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).
The glitch caused the BMV to not properly send online address changes to Husted’s office, says Joe Andrews, communications director at the Ohio Department of Public Safety, which oversees the BMV. He added, “As soon as we discovered it, we fixed it. And I think that, in cooperation with the secretary of state’s office, the problem has been remedied.”
In a directive detailing the delay, Husted touted the benefits of the catch.
“While the timing is unfortunate, we are extremely pleased that the data from this new system can be sent electronically and will require minimal data entry,” he wrote. “Additionally, the new system has the potential to help reduce provisional ballots significantly.”
Outdated registration records are one of the major reasons voters cast provisional ballots, which are ballots given to voters whose eligibility is unclear. In 2008, nearly 205,000 provisional ballots were cast and about 40,000 — about 20 percent — were rejected for varying reasons. Recently, a federal judge blocked an Ohio law that led to 14,000 of those rejections. Husted followed up that ruling with an appeal and a request for an emergency stay.
Tim Burke, chairman of the county Board of Elections and county Democratic Party, expressed mixed feelings about the caught error.
“Obviously, you hate like hell to have the secretary of state’s office, which had promised to have a very efficient election, popping something like that on us seven days out,” he says. “Having said that, I’m glad at least once they recognized that these names are out there they moved to get them to us so that we can do our best to ensure that these folks are not disenfranchised because of some administrative glitch.”
He says the board will contact any mistakenly rejected voters.
He might not be the incumbent, but Brad Wenstrup said details contained in the latest campaign finance reports show he has more grassroots support among the GOP faithful than U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township).
Wenstrup is challenging Schmidt in the March 6 Republican primary for the right to be the party’s candidate for the Ohio 2nd Congressional District seat in November.
Nearly two years after she filed the lawsuit, a congresswoman who lost in the March primary election has dropped her legal action against a political opponent.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) told The Enquirer today that she decided to drop her defamation lawsuit against Madeira businessman David Krikorian. Schmidt filed the suit in June 2010, and had sought $6.8 million in damages.
Krikorian is claiming victory in the dispute, and told CityBeat the lawsuit was an intimidation tactic by well-funded special interests.
“Her lawsuit was entirely without merit,” Krikorian said. “It was meant to silence and intimidate me and cost me money. It did not work.”
Krikorian ran as an independent against Schmidt in 2008; he unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for the same seat in 2010 and again this year.
During the ‘08 campaign, Krikorian distributed a pamphlet alleging Schmidt had received “blood money” from the Turkish government in return for her opposition to a congressional resolution that declared Turkey had committed genocide against Armenia during a 1915 conflict.
But the lawsuit proved to be Schmidt’s undoing. She received more than $400,000 in free legal assistance from the Turkish Coalition of America to support her suit. In August 2011 the House Ethics Committee ruled that Schmidt received an “impermissible gift” but didn’t “knowingly” violate the law. She was ordered to repay the coalition, which she has yet to do.
Shortly thereafter, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan watchdog group, dubbed Schmidt as one of the most corrupt members of Congress.
All of the drama took its toll: Schmidt lost the GOP primary earlier this month to challenger Brad Wenstrup. He defeated her 49-43 percent.
“It’s time to move on,” Barrett Brunsman, Schmidt’s spokesman, told The Enquirer today about dropping the lawsuit.
The Turkish Coalition of America was among Schmidt’s top contributors, donating $7,500 to her 2010 reelection campaign through its political action committee, and donating $7,600 to her in 2008.
Schmidt also traveled to Turkey at least twice while in office. The coalition picked up the tab for one of the trips.
Politico reported March 12 that Schmidt was in Washington, D.C., on Election Day, March 6, at a private luncheon with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan.
“At times, Rep. Jean Schmidt has been closer to Turkish interests than those of her Cincinnati-area constituents,” Politico’s Jonathan Allen wrote. “Never was that proximity problem more telling than on Tuesday, when Republicans denied Schmidt renomination to run for another term.”
When Allen sought comment for the article, Brunsman refused to confirm if the meeting occurred and sent an email that stated, “I think you have lost your way.”
For his part, Krikorian said the experience has taught him that Ohio needs to pass legislation that penalizes lawsuits filed solely to silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their opposition. Such a tactic is known as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP.
“I think the Ohio Legislature should consider passing an anti-SLAPP statue to prevent these kinds of abuses of the legal process,” he said. “This lawsuit was an attempt to intimidate and silence me by Rep. Schmidt and the Turkish lobby.”
Krikorian apparently lost in the March 6 Democratic primary by just 59 votes to William R. Smith, a virtual unknown from Pike County who didn’t campaign, answer questionnaires or grant interviews. A recount is under way and Krikorian has asked for a federal investigation of Victory Ohio Super PAC, which made robo-calls on Smith’s behalf but isn’t registered with the Federal Election Commission.
Krikorian picked up 14 more votes in Hamilton County on provisional ballots once the results were certified. Meanwhile, Clermont County certifies its results on Tuesday.
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.