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.
Meanwhile unemployment in Cincinnati dropped to 7.5 percent in August, down from 8.2 percent in July. Unemployment in Hamilton County dropped to 6.8 percent in August, down from 7.3 percent. The Greater Cincinnati’s jobless rate for the month was 6.7 percent, putting it below that of the state (7.2 percent) and the nation (8.1 percent).
Speaking of numbers, a new poll released today shows Obama leading Romney in Ohio – the third such poll in the last four days. The Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times Swing State Poll shows Obama leading Romney 53 to 43 percent in Ohio, and by similar large margins in the battlegrounds of Florida and Pennsylvania.
The typically media-shy Republican Ohio Treasurer and Senate candidate Josh Mandel proposed three new rules for members of the U.S. Congress in a rare Tuesday news conference. He said he wants members of Congress to lose their pensions if they became lobbyists, be limited to 12 years in the House and Senate and not be paid if they failed to pass a budget. Mandel says his opponent, sitting Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, broke his promise to voters that he would only serve 12 years in Congress. Mandel himself promised to fill his entire term as state treasurer, but would leave halfway through if he wins the Senate race.
The governors of Ohio and Kentucky continue to move toward jointly supporting a financing study for a replacement of the functionally-obsolete Brent Spence Bridge, and both governors favor a bridge toll to fund construction. The Kentucky Legislature would have to approve a measure to allow tolling on the bridge.
Forty percent of Hamilton County’s septic systems are failing, and homeowners and utilities are arguing over who should foot the $242 million bill. The Enquirer has an analysis of the ongoing battle.
The Associated Press reports that Andy Williams, Emmy-winning TV host and “Moon River” crooner, has died.
The Enquirer is still doing all it can to keep the Lacheys relevant instead of letting them die off like all bad 90s trends like Furby and Hammer pants. The paper blogged that Lachey finished in the bottom three in the first week of the new Dancing with the Stars: All Stars.
Speaking of those replacement NFL refs, apparently some of them were fired by the Lingerie Football League for incompetence. Yes, there are totally unrelated pictures of women playing football.
Newspapers all around the state — including The Cincinnati Enquirer, which labelled its article an “Enquirer Exclusive” (both The Toledo Blade and Columbus Dispatch ran a story with the same angle as The Enquirer)
— are really excited about a new poll that found Sen. Sherrod Brown
leads Josh Mandel in the U.S. senatorial race for Ohio’s seat by 7
percent. But the poll only confirms what aggregate polling has been
saying for a while now.
Contrary to the claims of Mitt Romney’s campaign, President Barack Obama does care about the work requirements in welfare-to-work reform. In fact, Obama is disapproving of Ohio’s program, which his administration says has not enforced work requirements stringently enough. However, most of the blame is going to former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, not Gov. John Kasich, a Republican.
The University of Cincinnati received a $3.7 million grant to increase the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. The grant comes from the National Science Foundation, a federal entity that funds science. The grant could help current problems with science research. One recent study found scientists prefer to hire male students over female students, pay male students more and spend more time mentoring men over women.
Local homeless groups managed to get a hold of a $600,000 grant to aid homeless military veterans. The grant will provide financial assistance and job training for the currently homeless and vets at risk of becoming homeless.
The Cincinnati Enquirer is raising subscription costs by 43 percent — from $210 a year to $300 a year.
City Council will host a special session today to get public feedback and work on the new deal meant to prevent further streetcar delays. The meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. at City Council Chambers, City Hall room 300, 801 Plum St.
Ohio is a swing state, which means we get a lot of political ads during the campaign season. Are you tired of them? Well, politicians don’t seem to care. In 2008, both parties ran a combined total of 42,827 ads between April and September. In the same time period this year, the parties have run 114,840.
Citizens for Common Sense was formed to support Issue 4 on the November ballot, which changes City Council terms from two to four years. The initiative would let political candidates worry more about policy and less about campaigning, but some critics say it would make it more difficult to hold council members accountable.Research shows random promotions may be better for business. The study verifies the Peter Principle, which says many people are eventually promoted to positions beyond their competence.
For the past month, Romney-Ryan and crew have been busy accusing President Obama of eliminating welfare-to-work requirements. You can hardly miss the campaign commercials that claim Obama has taken the “work” out of welfare reform. But what we haven’t heard is that state officials in Columbus are getting squeezed by the Obama Administration because Ohio failed to move enough people off public assistance programs into real jobs. The feds contend the state has mismanaged welfare reform since 2007.
It is former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland’s administration getting blame for not being aggressive with the work component. Now Ohio is desperately trying to dodge $136.2 million in penalties for failing to shift welfare recipients into the workforce. Next week, Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration plans to spend nearly $500,000 on a consultant to help clean up Ohio’s mess. Public Consulting Group Inc. of Boston is in line to get the $499,642 contract. That company says the welfare to work reforms suggested by the Obama Administration in July — the waivers denounced by Romney-Ryan — could actually help get more people off assistance and into jobs.
Here’s language straight from the Kasich Administration’s request to hire the Boston consulting firm:
“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Administration for Children and Families (ACF), notified Ohio of its
failure to meet the performance threshold of fifty percent (all
families) and ninety percent (two parent families) for TANF work
participation for FFY’s 2007, 2008, and 2009. These
notifications carried potential penalties of $32,758,572 for FFY 2007,
$45,050,074 for FFY 2008 and $58,517,487 for FFY 2009. Ohio’s current
corrective compliance will require Ohio to completely correct the
violation by meeting the work participation threshold during the current
FFY 2012. Failure to do so will result in a reduction of Ohio’s State
Family Assistance Grant (i.e. TANF) of $32,758,872 …”
State officials said the consultant would do analysis to increase work participation rates “in accordance with federal requirements.” Nobody is suggesting that work participation requirements be ended.
The consulting firm says it knows how to help a state win a waiver, which is an alternative way to assist TANF recipients into the workforce. The waivers are what Romney and Ryan have denounced as killing welfare reform. (So far, Ohio hasn’t asked the consultant directly to develop a waiver plan.) But the consultant Ohio is hiring is clear that waivers don’t end work requirements and they could actually help achieve better employment outcomes.
“The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently issued a challenge for states to develop and test new and innovative strategies that will improve employment outcomes in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program,” the consulting firm says. It sees the change as opening up “thoughtful and innovative approaches that connect TANF participants to jobs in a more effective and less administratively burdensome way.”
Again, the consultant being hired by the Republicans at the Statehouse in Columbus doesn’t say Obama is gutting welfare reform. The consultant says, “The waiver authority specifically allows states to test new ways of helping achieve better employment outcomes within the TANF program by offering flexibility on how work requirements and work participation are defined, administered and measured.”
At a Romney-Ryan rally near Cincinnati yesterday, Gov. John Kasich made some remarks women voters might find offensive. When describing what his wife and the wives of Mitt Romney, Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Rob Portman are doing as the men attend political rallies, Kasich told Romney supporters the women are “at home doing the laundry.”
The full quote: “It’s not easy to be a spouse of an elected official. You know, they’re at home doing the laundry and doing so many things while we’re up here on the stage getting a little bit of applause, right? They don’t often share in it.”
The comments were quickly picked up by liberal blog Plunderbund, which criticized Kasich's history with women.
While the comment may be true (CityBeat could not confirm if Karen Kasich was doing laundry while Kasich was speaking), it does little for a political party already struggling with women voters. In the latest poll from Public Policy Polling, Romney was down 10 points to Obama among women voters in Ohio. This is often attributed to what Democrats labeled a “war on women” by Republicans to diminish contraceptive and abortion rights. CityBeat previously covered the local and national political issues regarding women here.Kasich had problems with public speaking in the past. In his 2012 State of the State speech, which The Hill labeled “bizarre,” Kasich repeatedly mentioned his “hot wife,” imitated a Parkinson’s patient and referred to Californians as “wackadoodles.” In a previous statement, Kasich said he would run over opponents with a bus. “If you’re not on the bus, we will run over you with the bus,” he told lobbyists. “And I’m not kidding.”
Kasich's latest comment can be found on YouTube:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Saturday laid out five steps that he said would have America “roaring back” during his first campaign stop since formally accepting the Republican nomination.
At Cincinnati's Union Terminal, Romney was joined on stage by his wife Anne, who spoke briefly, echoing her convention speech meant to humanize her husband.
He said his plan involved encouraging development in oil and coal, implementing a trade policy that favored American companies and not “cheaters” like China, making sure workers and students had skills to succeed in the coming century, reducing the deficit and encouraging small business growth.
“America is going to come roaring back,” Romney told the crowd of thousands packed inside Union Terminal.
Not everyone was so impressed with the GOP nominee’s promises.
About an hour after the Romney campaign event, Cincinnati Democratic leaders held a news conference to rebut the Republican’s speech.
“Much of his (Romney’s) speech was like his speech in Tampa, which is where Romney gave Cincinnatians nothing more than vague platitudes, false and misleading attacks without one single tangible idea on how to move forward,” said Democratic/Charterite Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson.
Simpson, along with Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas and Bishop Bobby Hilton, attacked the tax plan put forward by Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. They said it would cut taxes for the richest Americans while raising taxes on the middle class by about $2,000 per household, citing an analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
“Mitt Romney’s plan would take Ohio and Cincinnati backwards, and we don’t have time to go backwards,” Hilton said.
Hilton credited Cincinnati’s revitalization and urban development in part on federal money obtained from Obama’s stimulus plan.
“We deserve better than this. We deserve better than Romney/Ryan,” he said.
Romney would have disagreed with Hilton’s assessment of Cincinnati’s growth. During his speech he praised Ohio Gov. John Kasich, crediting him with bringing jobs and businesses to the state.
Romney also took time to attack President Barack Obama’s record in office. The GOP nominee said in preparation for his convention speech he read many past convention speeches — including Obama’s.
“He was not one of the ones that I wanted to draw from, except I could not resist a couple of things he said, because he made a lot of promises,” Romney said. “And I noted that he didn't keep a lot of promises.”
Romney also criticized what he called the bitterness and divisiveness of Obama’s campaign, saying as president he would bring the country together. He mentioned the “patriotism and courage” of the late Neil Armstrong, who was honored in a private service in Cincinnati on Friday.
“I will do everything in my power to bring us together, because, united, America built the strongest economy in the history of the earth. United, we put Neil Armstrong on the moon. United, we faced down unspeakable darkness,” Romney said.
“United, our men and women in uniform continue to defend freedom today. I love those people who serve our great nation. This is a time for us to come together as a nation.”
The candidate’s remarks ignited the crowd of thousands, many of whom wore shirts with slogans like “Mr. President, I did build my business,” in response to a remark made by Obama about businesses being helped to grow by government contracts and infrastructure, and “Mitt 2012: At least he never ate dog meat,” referring to a passage in Obama’s 2008 memoir during which he recalls being fed dog meat as a boy in Indonesia.
Steve Heckman, a 62-year-old environmental consultant from Springfield, Ohio, said he voted for Obama in 2008 but will likely vote for Romney in this election.
He said he’d written “some pretty ugly stuff” about Romney in the past but felt jobs was the No. 1 issue and thought the Obama administration’s policies were sending them out of the country.
“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has, to me, become a little too almost like a fringe group, putting so much pressure on businesses that they are moving to Canada,” Heckman said. “Things like air permits, the EPA is taking too long to issue them. It’s not just power plants they’re affecting, but all manufacturing.”
Heckman said he didn’t blame the president personally but thinks whoever he put in charge of the agency is being too strict.
“I grew up when the EPA was first put in place in the '70s, and they were, in my opinion, doing God’s work,” he said, citing the cleaning up of rivers such as the Cuyahoga near Cleveland, which famously caught fire because of pollution in 1969.
“I support the EPA, but it’s driving businesses out of here.”
Speaking ahead of Romney were U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Sen. Rob Portman, U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio treasurer and GOP senatorial candidate Josh Mandel and Republican U.S. House candidate for Ohio’s 2nd District, Brad Wenstrup.
“This election is all about changing Washington,” Mandel said. “The only way to change Washington is to change the people we send there.”
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown was in Cincinnati yesterday to launch his Small Business Owners for Sherrod group. At the event, Brown touted his small business and job creating credentials and received endorsements from leaders of small businesses, which Brown says are vital to restoring the economy. A letter of endorsement from John Pepper, retired CEO of Procter & Gamble, was read aloud at the event. In the letter, Pepper said, “Brown brings a level of experience and maturity to the office that it demands and that his opponent does not possess.” Brown’s opponent — Josh Mandel — is known to lie from time to time.
A federal judge issued a final ruling yesterday banning the tiny free speech zones at the University of Cincinnati. The zones were declared to be too restricting of constitutional rights to free speech. The ruling is seen as a major victory for student rights.
Ohio Democrats are pushing a bill that would require Gov. John Kasich and every governor after him to go before the Ohio House of Representatives for 45-minute question and answer periods 10 times a year. Local Rep. Denise Driehaus is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.
Move to Amend will host a forum on corporate personhood in Cincinnati. Corporate personhood refers to court rulings that established constitutional rights for corporations. Critics argue the ruling makes corporations too powerful. Move to Amend wants to pass an amendment that would overturn the rulings. The forum will take place at the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church on Aug. 29 between 7 and 9 p.m.In response to the ongoing controversy about early voting, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has some advice: deal with it. In a statement yesterday, Husted said, “The rules are set and are not going to change.” It’s doubtful the statement will actually stop criticism, which has been recently leveled at racist remarks from Doug Preisse, chairman to the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich.
A poll from the University of Cincinnati shows both the presidential and senatorial races are close. The poll has President Barack Obama three points over opponent Mitt Romney with Obama at 49 percent and Romney at 46 percent, but the poll’s margin of error is 3.4 percent. The senatorial race is even closer: Brown is at 48 percent and Mandel is at 47 percent. Aggregate polling has the presidential race close somewhat close, but the senatorial race is much more in Brown’s favor.Home sales are up in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Median home sale prices are still below where they were a year ago, but the news is a sign the economy could be recovering.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is suing Larry Foster, a water system seller that works in Cincinnati and Columbus under the names Water's Edge, DC Water Solution and Water Pro, for multiple alleged violations of consumer protection laws. The lawsuit claims Foster did not deliver water systems or, if he did, failed to install them properly or at all.Once again, Ohio tested above the national average in the ACT, a test that measures high school students’ potential ability in college. ACT officials said Ohio is one of the few states notably pushing to improve in math and science.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t name a single Supreme Court justice.How to keep bananas ripe: spray them with recycled shrimp shells.
Some Democratic lawmakers want answers from Republican Gov. John Kasich.
A group of Democratic state representatives has put forth a bill that would require Kasich — and every governor after him — to come before the Ohio House of Representatives 10 times per year for 45-minute question and answer sessions where the governor would have to take at least five questions from each side of the aisle.
Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, is the bill’s sponsor. He did not return CityBeat’s call for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.
Cincinnati Democratic Rep. Denise Driehaus is one of the bill’s co-sponsors. She said Foley had the idea while visiting Canada, where their parliament has a similar procedure.
“I think it’s a great idea where the governor interacts with the legislature and we have the opportunity to question him and really engage on some of the issues and get his opinion on things,” Driehaus says.
She said the Legislature doesn’t currently have a whole lot of opportunity to interact with the governor, except for the State of the State address, but even then they can’t really engage Ohio’s chief executive.
The Ohio Democratic Party has recently filed suit against Kasich for what it says is a failure to comply with open records laws for redacting parts of his public schedules when responding to a public records request.
The ODP has called Kasich opaque and secretive for failing to respond or only partially responding to records requests.
However, Driehaus said the bill isn’t meant to apply only to Kasich, but would apply to every governor after him. She said she didn’t think it was in reaction to her party’s spat with the governor.
“This is much broader and much more forward thinking than that,” Driehaus says.
The Ohio Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit against Gov. John Kasich — who they claim is improperly using his office to campaign for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney — to get the governor to release his schedule of public events.
The ODP’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, contends that Kasich’s office either ignored or only partially fulfilled the request.
“It’s unfortunate that this Governor is so opposed to transparency and public disclosure that we have to ask the Court to force him to follow the law,” ODP Chairman Chris Redfern said in a statement.
“Serious questions remain regarding whether the Governor has improperly used his office for the benefit of Mitt Romney, and it’s deeply disappointing Kasich is so secretive he won’t even tell the public what he’s done or where he’s gone.”
Kasich press secretary Rob Nichols said the administration doesn’t comment on litigation, but dismissed the Ohio Democratic Party’s allegations.
“We release public records in accordance with the law, and in fact have already publicly released the governor’s schedule six times, including a schedule request to the ODP,” Nichols said.
“This is predictable election year politics from the same people who were just rebuked for using public records demands to interfere with the Auditor of State’s investigation into possible data manipulation in some school districts.”
Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Jerid Kurtz said Kasich’s office did respond to one of the seven requests for the schedule, but some of the information in the records was redacted — including an entire week that was blacked out with no explanation.
“Ohio law is very clear, and it states you have to give a specific excuse when you redact something,” Kurtz said.
According to the lawsuit and court documents, the ODP requested on July 2 Kasich’s public schedule from that date through Aug. 27.
According to a letter to the Ohio Democratic Party from Mehek M. Cook — assistant chief counsel to Kasich — the information about the governor's future plans was blacked out because that information could put him at risk.
“The governor and his office receive threats on any given day and the release of his whereabouts increases security issues surrounding the governor’s safety,” Cook wrote.
Cook wrote that any information in the records used by the Executive Protection Unit assigned to guard Kasich constitutes a security record and was redacted.
He also wrote that some information that would reveal confidential business meetings and trade secrets that would harm Ohio efforts to court businesses was blacked out. Additionally, information not relevant to the request was redacted.
Kurtz said it’s important that the public have access those schedules because voters have a right to know what their governor is doing on the public dime.
The schedules include where the governor is and with whom he meets, but they also show scheduled phone calls and media interviews.
The Ohio Democratic Party worries that Kasich is improperly campaigning for Romney while receiving a taxpayer-funded paycheck, or using public money to have his staff do so.
The concerns stem from statements made by Kasich both in public and on his Twitter account either praising the presumed Republican presidential nominee or slamming President Obama.
For instance, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported that when Obama visited Ohio on Aug. 1 the governor tweeted “On the occasion of the President's latest visit to Ohio, we have a question for him,” with a link to a graphic asking “If the President's policies are behind Ohio's success, why is the rest of the country trailing us?”
Democrats claim that Ohio’s success relative to the rest of the country are due to efforts by President Obama, while Republicans say Governor Kasich is behind Ohio’s faster-than-average recovery.
While the Ohio Democratic Party is suing to have Kasich release his public schedule (Kurtz says Attorney General Mike DeWine and Auditor Dave Yost complied with similar requests in a timely manner) the state Republican Party has also submitted similar requests to Democrats throughout Ohio.
Kurtz characterized the GOP requests as being sent by Kasich’s “hand-picked lieutenants in the Ohio Republican Party,” though Nichols told The Plain Dealer that the governor had no involvement.
Ohio GOP executive director Matt Borges told the newspaper that the requests were routine.
Still, Kurtz called Kasich’s refusal to release his own schedule “hypocritical.”
“He’s a bully and the only way you can deal with a bully is fighting back.”