CityBeat Blogs - 2008 Election <![CDATA[Palin Did It for the Money]]> At least one person who used to be close to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her family believes he knows why the prickly ex-vice presidential candidate is resigning before her gubernatorial term is completed.

Levi Johnston, the former boyfriend of Sarah Palin’s daughter and the father of her grandchild, said the governor wants to cash in on the lucrative deals being offered to her, including ones for a book and a reality TV show. Johnston, 19, held a press conference Thursday to give his views on the situation, according to an Associated Press article.---

"She had talked about how nice it would be to take some of this money people had been offering us and you know just run with it, say 'forget everything else,'" Johnston said in the AP article.

He added, “I think the big deal was the book. That was millions of dollars.”

Johnston — who used to date Palin’s daughter, Bristol — said he lived with the Palin family from early December to the second week in January. During that time, he heard the governor make the remarks.

Palin later denied Johnston’s claims in an e-mail that her spokeswoman sent to the AP.

If Johnston’s remarks are accurate, it’s no wonder Palin had trouble fitting in with John McCain’s presidential campaign last year. McCain’s slogan was, “Country First,” not “Cash In First.”

<![CDATA[Bronson's Disappearing Act]]> A recent blog item by Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Peter Bronson has generated plenty of national attention for the newspaper, all of the negative variety.

Bronson posted comments July 1 on his ironically titled blog, Bronson is Always Right, which criticized the long-delayed appointment of writer and comedian Al Franken as one of Minnesota’s senators. Accompanying the item was a photograph of Franken wearing a diaper, bunny ears and holding a stuffed animal. Bronson wrote, “There must be some great ads to be made from Franken’s clips and quips."---

Use of the photo, however, unleashed a torrent of criticism.

As first noted on The Cincinnati Beacon Web site, none other than an Enquirer reporter, Jon Craig, long ago debunked the photo as an altered fake. The Ohio Republican Party doctored it in 2004 as part of a smear campaign against Franken, who by that time was a liberal radio talk show host.

(How Bronson accessed the photo without also accessing Craig’s article debunking it remains a mystery.)

Word of Bronson’s sloppy faux pas quickly spread. It was cited in online articles by Editor & Publisher, the Poynter Center’s Romenseko column,, the popular Eschaton political blog and elsewhere.

After all the attention, Bronson initially apologized Monday — more or less — for posting the altered photo. He wrote, “Yes, the photo of Franken in a diaper was apparently altered. But it’s not exacly (sic) a big reach to believe it could have come from one of his SNL skits. It resonates because people find it easy to see Franken that way.” Bronson changed the photo but left the rest of original item intact on his blog.

As of late yesterday, though, the original item has now completely disappeared from The Enquirer’s Web site.

Deleting the item is a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. Regardless, whoever made the decision should rethink it. As the old political axiom goes, the cover-up is usually worse than the crime.

<![CDATA[Ding Dong, the Witch Is ... Gone]]>

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is exiting stage left. Praise the lord.

In a surprise announcement today, Palin said she not only wouldn't run for reelection as governor next year, but also won't even finish her first gubernatorial term. Palin will resign her office in the next few weeks.---

By not even completing her term, it's difficult to envision Palin ever moving to the national political stage and running for president in 2012. This brings to mind some of Palin's fiercest defenders during last year's presidential campaign -- including Hamilton County Republicans -- who obsessively sung her praises and said she had the mettle to be commander-in-chief, moreso than Barack Obama. Let's see how they spin this one.

I can't help but wonder if recent revelations about e-mails she sent during last year's campaign to John McCain's advisors played a role. The e-mails clearly show Palin lied to the McCain team about her husband, Todd, and his role with the fringe-y Alaska Independence Party. She tried to cover up that the First Dude and his cronies advocated that Alaska should secede from the United States. Perhaps even more damning e-mails about her duplicity were on the way.

During today's press conference, Palin made an analogy about her decision with basketball and described herself as a point guard facing a full court press. "I'm passing the ball to help the team win," she said.

Always eager to portray herself as a victim, Palin also "pulled the trig" at this afternoon's press conference -- mentioning her disabled son, Trig, as one of the reasons influencing her decision. Shameful.

At least this should end the rumors among some fundamentalist Christians that Palin is an "annointed warrior" chosen by God to lead the nation to righteousness.

Palin hinted that her next job would be in the private sector. Who wants to place bets that she will be hosting a TV talk show within the year?

<![CDATA[Did You Attend the Inauguration?]]>

If you made in to D.C. for the inauguration, let everyone know how it was. Drop some comments below about your experiences.

If you have photos you'd like to share, send them to our web guru, Cameron Knight: He can organize them into a gallery on our photo page or even a multimedia show and we can create a new photo link on our inauguration section, Road to the Presidency. Cameron has a slide show there from last night's celebrations in Northside.---

Looking back over the tons of coverage from yesterday, I particularly liked The New York Times' live blog and the Washington City Paper's exhaustive coverage via blog, Twitter, Flickr, etc. Live video feeds didn't work well from any sites I tried during the day yesterday, so I resorted to that big black box in the back room here at CityBeat World Headquarters. Back in the day we called it a TV. Don't know what the kids are calling it now.

<![CDATA[More Inauguration Coverage and Profiteering]]>

CityBeat's inauguration page now includes a link to our alt weekly colleagues in D.C., the Washington City Paper, which features a huge inauguration guide for the millions of people already descending on their city. City Paper staffers are sending out constant updates on Twitter and a group blog, Inbloguration, including this multimedia gem from about an hour ago: "Here's a semi-live feed from my basement in Petworth, where whiskey-swilling guests collaborated on an unconscionably patriotic version of 'The Weight.' "---

The City Paper inauguration site also includes a section from the Chicago Reader, "The Obama Reader: We Knew Him When," collecting that alt weekly's years of Obama coverage. Great stuff.

While you're on our own inauguration page, don't forget to check out the Obama slide show set to The National's "Mr. November." Our web guru, Cameron Knight, did a nice job with it.

Unlike CityBeat, which endorsed Obama for the presidency and is thrilled to celebrate the inauguration for what it means for the country's future,The Enquirer — which instructed you to vote for John McCain — is looking for make a buck or two off of the momentous occasion. Apparently tomorrow's issue will be part of a $25 package of collectible front pages, including the Nov. 5 issue announcing that The Enquirer's readers had ignored its endorsement and elected Obama.

How would you like to be the assistant editor who's designing tomorrow's front page right now — with little help because his two deputies and a key copy editor were recently laid off — hearing Publisher Margaret Buchanan's voice in his head that he better make it awesome because she needs to sell a lot of collectible packages? Then again, maybe tomorrow's front page was designed last week by the corporate folks at Gannett....

<![CDATA[Beginning of the End or End of the Beginning?]]>

As we head back to work and school today after the holiday break, Barack Obama's inauguration as president is just two weeks away. The much-promised and long-anticipated change is almost upon us, and we'll finally get what we've been hoping for after "catching the car" we were chasing.---

• The 111th Congress convenes tomorrow, with the big local news being Steve Driehaus' swearing in as U.S. Representative from Ohio's 1st District. Nationally, Al Franken has officially won the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota, and there will be blood as Roland Burris shows up to claim the vacated Senate seat from Illinois.

• Leave it to Frank Rich to capture the public's mood on departing President George Bush, who's "forgotten but not gone." In his Sunday New York Times column, Rich says of Bush's current round of national media exit interviews, "The man who emerges is a narcissist with no self-awareness whatsoever. It’s that arrogance that allowed him to tune out even the most calamitous of realities, freeing him to compound them without missing a step. The president who famously couldn’t name a single mistake of his presidency at a press conference in 2004 still can’t."

<![CDATA[Of Pledge Cards and Patronage]]>

It’s kind of like peeling an onion. Once you begin twisting, more and more layers are revealed.

Ever since CityBeat cited a letter last week written by a Hamilton County Probation Department employee listing the work she’s done for the local Republican Party as a reason she should get a promotion, other county workers have weighed in via telephone calls and posts on local blogs about how common the practice is and what exactly is permitted under the law.---

Some readers (and a few elected officials) have pointed out that county employees basically fall under two categories: classified and non-classified or supervisory. There are state and county rules about what political activities are allowed for employees, but the ones for classified workers are much stricter.

Generally, classified employees are allowed to make voluntary financial contributions to candidates or organizations, attend political rallies that are open to the public, display political materials in their home or property, and wear items like campaign badges.

But classified employees are prohibited from serving in an elected or appointed office in a political party, campaigning by writing or distributing political material or making speeches on behalf of a candidate, soliciting contributions for any party or candidate, or participating in partisan activities at the election polls.

Based on those prohibitions, it sure seems like some county employees routinely violate the rules. The question is, will their supervisors put an end to the practice?

Regardless, some commenters have written that they see nothing wrong with county employees doing campaign work, while others have alleged they feel intimidated by their supervisors into “volunteering” for various campaigns. Some even suggested that the Hamilton County Republican Party requires some county job applicants to sign “pledge cards” as a condition of employment.

Local GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou, a former judge, vehemently denies the latter allegation.

“There is no ‘pledge card’ of any kind that I know about,” Triantafilou told CityBeat. “I would neither condone it nor support it. Promotions should be given based on competence and merit ... not political work.”

Also, Triantafilou said the letter written by Probation Office Supervisor Gwendolyn DaCons Taylor that lobbies the county’s Common Pleas Court judges for the promotion is inappropriate.

“Gwen Taylor’s work as a Republican activist should in no way be a consideration for her promotion into a government/taxpayer-funded position. Her work at the probation department should be the only criterion,” the chairman said. “Republican Party work should not be a factor for promotion in county government.”

Still, if Taylor is a “Republican activist” and a classified employee, her partisan activities may violate the rules.

Triantafilou believes Taylor misunderstood how hiring and promotions are decided.

“Sometimes, political candidates from both parties will bring campaign staff or campaign helpers into government positions,” Triantafilou said. “President-elect Obama will bring his top campaign staff into his administration. Every President in recent memory has ‘rewarded’ campaign work with positions within government. This is not unusual.

“Occasionally, on the local level, a candidate will run, find help from someone, then bring that person along into a government position,” he added. “The Democrats and Republicans do this.

“One example of a Democrat doing so would be Judge Ted Berry hiring his campaign manager, Wayne Coates (now the Recorder-elect) as his bailiff once Judge Berry was elected to the bench. This was expected and normal. This may leave Ms. Taylor confused.

“However, the situation you describe in your e-mail is not the way things operate and I would not condone it if it did.”

Taylor, a longtime Probation Department employee, reportedly wrote the letter after learning her main competition for the assistant chief probation officer’s job was Jodie Leis-George, daughter of GOP bigwig and Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr.

In 2007, Leis-George was appointed by the Common Pleas Court as the assistant director of the Probation Department’s community service program. It assigns defendants into supervised projects as a condition of their community control or probation.

One local woman, who used to be active in Republican Party events and asked that her name not be used, said patronage is common throughout the ranks of Hamilton County government. She said Taylor’s letter was inappropriate but somewhat understandable, given the local GOP’s lackluster record of promoting African-American women.

“I don’t know Gwen well,” the source said, “but I’m sure she’s probably thinking that whatever merit she would bring to getting the job it would not matter going up against Si Leis’ daughter.”

In fact, the source said there have been only two or three African-American women to hold any significant posts in the Hamilton County Republican Club during its 80-plus year existence.

<![CDATA[County Politics, Republican Style]]> Anyone familiar with Hamilton County government knows that a large segment of the jobs are essentially political appointments, given to cronies of whichever party controls the particular office doing the hiring.

Still, the political quid pro quo is usually kept somewhat discreet and hidden from public view. Not his time.---

In a letter distributed today to the Republican judges who dominate the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, a worker in the county’s Probation Department reminded them of all the work she’s done for various GOP campaigns as the main reason she should fill an upcoming vacancy that will be decided by the judges.

The one-page letter is written by Probation Office Supervisor Gwendolyn DaCons Taylor, who lobbies to become the county’s assistant chief probation officer. That job was previously held by Republican Patricia Clancy, who left it after being elected Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in November.

Clancy left her previous position as a state senator to begin a complicated, “musical chairs” style series of moves among GOP elected officials who wanted to run for different offices other than the ones they held. State Rep. Bill Seitz filled Clancy’s state senate seat, while Clancy ran for Clerk of Courts once Greg Hartmann decided to run for county commissioner.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to follow up with all of you providing this information regarding all of my volunteer work hours with the most recent campaigns,” Taylor writes.

She then lists six GOP candidates and the specific work she did for each of their campaigns this past fall. They include successful candidates like Common Pleas Court Judge Pat DeWine, Clerk of Courts Patricia Clancy, County Commissioner Greg Hartmann and Congresswoman Jean Schmidt; and unsuccessful candidates like Municipal Court Judge Russell Mock, who tried to jump to Common Pleas Court, and Congressman Steve Chabot, a longtime incumbent who lost a re-election bid.

The letter mentions time spent marching in parades, distributing campaign literature and staffing phone banks, among other activities.

“I did the very best I could to help serve all of our candidates, and I just wanted all of you to be aware of my efforts,” Taylor writes. “It is my hope that I will be given the opportunity to perform some of the administrative responsibilities that will be left when Ms. Patricia Clancy leaves our Probation Department. I am willing to perform the duties at my current salary as a means to save money until such time as we can all receive a pay raise.”

One potential stumbling block: Blatant political payback for campaign work likely is illegal.

As attorney Jan Witold Baran writes on the FindLaw online legal library, federal law prohibits gifts of any sort that are given or received as a quid pro quo for official acts. Moreover, gifts may be illegal gratuities if they are given with the expectation of favorable action by the public official on pending or future matters.

It’s unclear, though, if Taylor’s campaign work would fall into that category. But it sure smells funny.

<![CDATA[Selling Obama]]>

I've been amused by the ads and notices running in The Enquirer lately promoting increased availability of the Nov. 5 Enquirer featuring the front page announcing that Barack Obama had won the presidency. Apparently they've had to go back and reprint more copies of that issue due to local folks' interest in having the paper as a keepsake.

The funny part, of course, is that The Enquirer endorsed John McCain for president. In other words, they told us not to vote for Obama, and after we ignored them and voted for him anyway they now want to sell us the paper that announced they were wrong and we were right. They're also selling coffee mugs and T-shirts printed with that Nov. 5 front page. ---

Times are tough, mind you, especially in the newspaper business. Pride has no place when the bottom line is squealing. The Enquirer has been told by its corporate owner to trim another 10 percent of its workforce before the holidays, so perhaps selling coffee mugs with Obama's photo will boost profitability.

It seems daily newspapers all over the country are sharing in The Enquirer's windfall with Obama-related merchandise. Many dailies have printed additional Nov. 5 papers to meet the local demand for keepsakes — a study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press indicated that 23 percent of Americans say they're saving a Nov. 5 newspaper for posterity. And the media-oriented Newseum says traffic on its web site hit record numbers as people checked out images of Nov. 5 front pages from across the country.

Ignored as usual by mainstream studies and museums, we in the alternative press — most of whom endorsed Obama for president, as opposed to certain brethren in the daily newspaper world — have found our own understated way to mark the historic victory: a Flickr gallery of post-election alt weekly covers. Enjoy!

Look for the ad in this week's CityBeat touting our new line of underwear featuring last week's "Best Week Ever!" cover image.

<![CDATA[Boehner's Boner]]> Our own guy from West Chester, House Minority Whip John Boehner, is criticizing the selection of Rahm Emanuel to be President-elect Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff.

Boehner says Emanuel, currently a Democratic congressman from Illinois, is the wrong choice from a president who promised to return civility to politics.---

In a written statement issued Thursday, Boehner said, “This is an ironic choice for a President-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center.”

Forget the “audacity of hope.” Let’s talk about the audacity of hypocrisy.

It’s true that hard-charging Emanuel rubbed many Republicans the wrong way while he served as a top adviser to President Bill Clinton. But Boehner’s protest rings hollow.

First, this deep concern for a kinder, gentler Beltway politics is coming from the man who recently called Obama a “chickenshit” for voting “present” on several occasions while a member of the Illinois state senate. Name-calling, as anyone above the age of 13 can probably tell you, isn’t appropriate for the workplace or for developing consensus.

As the Associated Press pointed out, however, “present” votes are common in the Illinois General Assembly and are used for more than avoiding a difficult choice. Lawmakers also vote “present” when they have a conflict of interest, to register opposition to a procedural decision or to signal that they support a bill’s goal but feel the legislation is flawed.

Obama’s 129 “present” votes amounted to about 3.5 percent of the votes he cast in nearly eight years as a state senator, the AP added.

Secondly, Democrats in Congress were almost completely ignored during President Bush’s first six years in office, when Republicans ruled the House. Neither Congressional Republicans nor the Bush administration extended an olive branch or involved Democrats in substantive policy discussions during that era, much to their eventual regret and despite Bush’s campaign promises to be “a uniter, not a divider.”

What Boehner is really worried about is that Emanuel has a reputation as a tough cookie, someone who can whip his fellow Democrats into line for important votes and won’t be steam-rolled by the opposition.

<![CDATA[By the Numbers: A Look at McCain's Loss]]>

Looking at just how devastating the Republican defeat was in Tuesday's presidential election, it's interesting to see how low Sen. John McCain's percentage of victory was in several reliably red western and southwestern states. --- He carried Texas 56-44 percent, Montana 50-47 percent and even his home state of Arizona by just 54-45 percent.

Meanwhile, he lost previously red Colorado 53-46 percent and Nevada 55-43 percent,and perennial swing state New Mexico wasn't even close — Obama took it 57-42 percent. And California, the nation's most populous state and biggest prize, is now a Democratic landslide — Obama took it 61-37 percent.

Various pundits have suggested one factor in this is that the growing and influential numbers of Hispanic voters in these states are turning against the extremist, paranoid anti-immigration stands that the Republican Party's ruinous radical-right wing demands of its candidates. If so, it's ironic it cost McCain so dearly since he's been a progressive voice within his party on that issue. But he silenced that voice during his campaign, to placate his party's core — just as he chose a blatantly unqualified running mate because her views were radical-right.

In the end, McCain kept that wing — probably the element of the Republican Party he least likes personally — and nobody else, save perhaps a few millionaires who want another tax cut. That party is not going to be able to win in the future with that as a base, because everyone else is turning against them.

<![CDATA[Election Night Observation]]>

Hanging out at the Board of Elections with the campaign volunteers, TV anchors who have nothing new to say for hours on end because results are slow to come in (again!) and the infrequent candidate who drifts in between parties is just plain boring.

There’s nothing to write about because the time between when the polls open and a majority of votes are tabulated is an information dead-zone. There’s no witty banter or interesting and revealing insights that desperately need ink. It’s just a waiting period.

Last night I found the ultimate way to deal with that time with a group of people, munchies and a DJ – just hang out and have a good time. No serious conversation or heated arguments, just one woman roller skating around the room, another dancing with her daughter, a woman moving her electric wheelchair to the beat, men strutting in-between and everyone flashing their t-shirts for photos.

Photographers do and reveal the most during the dead-zone on Election Day. They capture moments in images that, collectively, explain and underscore the importance of casting a ballot.

So thanks for all of the great images and enjoy a well-earned rest. Until next year….

<![CDATA[Turning A Page in History]]> It wasn’t a dream.

After eight years of a misguided, reckless foreign policy and the abuse of presidential power, not only are Americans about to get rid of President Bush but they voted for their hopes instead of their fears and elected the nation’s first African-American president.---

Given the ballot-counting problems of the last two presidential elections, I didn’t believe that Barack Obama had achieved victory until Sen. John McCain gave his concession speech. McCain’s address was classy and dignified, evoking the more principled McCain of the 2000 Republican primaries. If he had struck this chord more often during this year’s race, he might’ve had a shot.

Much will be written over the next few days about Obama’s elegant victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park, so I won’t dwell on it. Instead, two things that the Obama campaign did after victory was declared bodes well for how he will govern.

At 1:32 a.m., the Obama campaign sent a text message to the mobile telephones of supporters. It read, “We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion to this campaign. All of this happened because of you. Thanks, Barack.”

To ensure all of his supporters got their kudos, the campaign also sent an e-mail at 1:57 a.m. It read, “I'm about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first. We just made history.

“And I don't want you to forget how we did it.

“You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it's time for change. I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign. We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next. But I want to be very clear about one thing... All of this happened because of you. Thank you, Barack.”

Now that’s how to treat your supporters.

Not to be out-done, the ultra-conservative Liberty Counsel sent a mass e-mail today trying to marshal the troops and begin rebuilding the conservative base.

“When the majority of Americans elected Barack Obama, they voted for change over substance and overlooked his left-wing agenda,” the e-mail states. “While the people passed marriage amendments in Arizona, California and Florida, two of those states voted for Barack Obama. When asked to vote on values, they chose traditional marriage, although Obama opposed the marriage amendments.

“The majority of Americans do not support Obama's left wing radical agenda, but they wanted change for the sake of change. They wanted new leadership. Conservative leaders have failed to remain true to core values, and the people punished them.”

The e-mail contnues, “In order to rebuild our base, the leadership must change. Conservatives have abandoned conservative values and have not governed well. Pastors have not communicated well. Schools and universities have not taught well. Conservative ideas resonate with most Americans, but only when communicated clearly.

“Today, we begin to rebuild the base. Old leadership must be replaced by new leadership. The values remain the same. The leadership must change.”


As the election post-mortems begin, Newsweek has an interesting special report that includes numerous insider tidbits about what was going on behind-the-scenes at the Obama and McCain campaigns.

Here’s an excerpt:

** The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied. Michelle Obama was shaken by the vituperative crowds and the hot rhetoric from the GOP candidates. “Why would they try to make people hate us?” Michelle asked a top campaign aide.

** On the Sunday night before the last debate, McCain's core group of advisers — Steve Schmidt, Rick Davis, adman Fred Davis, strategist Greg Strimple, pollster Bill McInturff and strategy director Sarah Simmons — met to decide whether to tell McCain that the race was effectively over, that he no longer had a chance to win. The consensus in the room was no, not yet, not while he still had “a pulse.”

Read more here.

<![CDATA[So Far So Good (With Photos)]]>

Just gathering anecdotal info from CityBeat staffers and photographers, voting is going well so far. Long lines have been reported in Clifton, Northside, College Hill and the West Side, with voting this morning at the Main Public Library downtown taking 90 minutes. Basically, as expected, every precinct is seeing more voters than normal but there are no major problems reported (other than a lack of parking at certain schools and churches).---

Here are some photos from earlier today:

vote08_westsideDriehaus02JL.jpg  Steve Driehaus voting in Price Hill (by Emily Maxwell)

vote08_tuckers_muldoon_01JL.jpg  Brian Muldoon hosts "election central" at Tuckers in Over-the-Rhine (by Joe Lamb)

vote08_PrHlChili_portune_EM.jpg Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune relaxes at Price Hill Chili (by Emily Maxwell)

vote08_butlerco_ck_4.jpg  Voting in Butler County (by Cameron Knight)

vote08_northside_SCH.jpg  Voting in Northside (Sean Hughes)

These photos have been posted on the CityBeat home page photo gallery. Look for more photos and video throughout the afternoon.

<![CDATA[It's a Crumbslide!]]>

Well, that's what Brian Busken of Busken Bakery calls it.

Maybe McCain cookies will go on sale Wednesday?


<![CDATA[At Last, the Finish Line]]>

Even the most die-hard political junkies are probably tired of the presidential campaign by this point, nearly two years after most of the contenders kicked off the race for the White House.---

With less than 36 hours left before the last polls close in the western United States on Tuesday night, though, it’s time to check in with some notable campaign news — including developments that could directly affect the outcome in Hamilton County.

First, in an early morning meeting Friday, the county Board of Elections decided to quarantine just one ballot out of the 671 ballots cast during the “early voting window” of Sept. 30-Oct. 6, when state law allowed people to register to vote and cast a ballot all at the same time.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters had sought to quarantine all of the ballots, citing unspecified complaints about “voter irregularity” during the window. Pending a more thorough review, he wanted the 671 ballots kept with other provisional ballots that would be counted 10 days after the election, if they had been deemed valid. None of the complaints were filed by the Board of Elections.

Deters launched an investigation into alleged voter registration fraud two weeks ago but stepped aside amid questions about possible conflicts of interest. Deters also serves as Southwest Ohio campaign chairman for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

As exclusively reported by CityBeat Oct. 24, Michael O’Neill — a special prosecutor appointed by a judge to replace Deters — recommended none of the ballots be quarantined after his review of the documents.

The sole ballot pulled was one cast by a Connecticut man who was visiting Cincinnati. The man, whom the board hasn’t identified, later called local elections officials and asked that his ballot be pulled.

Of the remaining 670 ballots, there were 17 instances in which the voter registration cards were returned as undeliverable. If the addresses cannot be verified, those ballots won’t be counted and probably will be investigated further.

Forget Joe the Plumber; the most memorable figure of the 2008 election season locally is likely to be Joe the Drama Queen.

In related news, the U.S Justice Department decided Thursday to reject a request from President Bush to force Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to turn over detailed data about roughly 200,000 new voter registrations in the state to the Ohio Republican Party.

Bush made the request on behalf of local boy and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-West Chester), who also had concerns about people who registered during the early voting window.

This is the same Boehner who, in a moment that’s sure to make his mother proud, recently called Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama a “chickenshit” while speaking to some young Republicans at Miami University in Oxford.

The Republican Party also tried to raise allegations of voter registration fraud during the 2006 congressional elections, when it first began looking like Democrats would obliterate their party at the polls. Then, as now, there was no evidence to support the claims.

On the Politico Web site Sunday, a top member of the McCain-Palin “Honest and Open Election Committee” couldn’t cite a single instance in which problems with fake voter registrations resulted in phony votes being cast.

“Do we have a documented instance of voting fraud that resulted from a phony registration form? No, I can’t cite one, chapter and verse,” said Ronald Michaelson.

The GOP is worried because Ohio is a hotly contested battleground state that proved crucial in the 2004 presidential election and could be the deciding factor again this year. If even a few hundred ballots are ruled ineligible here and cast out, Ohio’s 20 electoral votes could go to a different candidate and swing the race.

Most polls show Obama leading McCain in Ohio.

Reuters/Zogby telephone surveys of eight battleground states show Obama “in a very strong position” to be elected president. The key findings in these polls show expanded Obama margins in Ohio and Nevada and continued leads in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In the other states tested in this latest Reuters/Zogby state surveys, Florida, North Carolina and Missouri remain close while McCain is holding an advantage in Indiana. Obama has leads of less than two points in Florida and Missouri, and McCain is ahead by the same margin in North Carolina.

Also, the final Ohio Poll conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati shows Obama leading with 51.5 percent of voters compared to 45.7 percent for McCain.

Polls in Hamilton County will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow. For more information on polling locations, call 513-632-7000 or click here.

<![CDATA[Obama at UC on Sunday]]>

The next president of the United States, Barack Obama, officially has announced a campaign rally for Sunday evening at UC's Nippert Stadium. Gates open at 6 p.m., and he's scheduled to speak at 9. Check out the Obama web site for details.

It's fitting that he makes his final area appearance of the campaign on the UC campus, where he held such a stirring rally in February before the Ohio primary. 

If you have time, do yourself a favor and go see Obama live tomorrow. Then help him win the election on Tuesday.

If you're still undecided, check out CityBeat's endorsement of Obama here.

<![CDATA[ACLU: 'Refuse to Leave']]> If your eligibility to cast a vote is challenged at the polls for any reason during this election season, don’t be intimidated. Insist on receiving and casting a provisional ballot before you leave.---

That’s the advice given by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio for would-be voters who face heightened scrutiny while trying to participate in the presidential election.

The ACLU’s “Refuse to Leave” campaign is aimed at people who may be wrongfully purged from voter registration lists or challenged on Election Day. The organization recommends all voters stay at their balloting location and politely request a provisional ballot if the poll worker states they cannot issue them a regular ballot for any reason.

If a voter is denied a ballot because they are not found on the voter registration list, are successfully challenged by a precinct judge or do not provide sufficient identification, they may still cast a provisional ballot. These ballots are held for 10 days, until they are verified by the county Board of Elections and then are added to the other votes already counted.

“Provisional ballots are a last resort for most voters but they are a far better alternative than not casting a vote at all,” said Christine Link, ACLU of Ohio’s executive director, in a prepared statement. “Many poll workers around the state are less familiar with the rules surrounding provisional ballots, so voters must be knowledgeable and insistent that they receive one if they are denied a regular ballot.”

Understanding provisional ballots is especially crucial this year because of all the partisan shenanigans to suppress the vote, she added.

“Ohio has seen an unprecedented amount of partisan manipulation this election season,” Link said. “Last-minute maneuvering could threaten to disenfranchise some voters who may be challenged at the polls, bring insufficient identification or are purged from voter registration lists because of clerical errors like typos and misspellings.”

For more information, visit the ACLU’s Web site.

<![CDATA[Apparently Size Does Matter]]>

Politics is often a game of strategy, and an area anti-tax group is well-known for taking the offensive on most issues it advocates. A recent dispute over a referendum on a payday loan law, however, has the group facing stinging criticism for getting its facts wrong and overstating its own influence.---

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) has campaigned strongly against Issue 5 which, if approved, would uphold a state law that restricts the interest rates that payday lending and cash advance firms may charge borrowers, as well as limiting borrowers to taking four loans a year.

The law, passed by Ohio legislators earlier this year but not in effect pending the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, would lower the interest rate on payday loans to 28 percent annually, down from the 391 percent currently allowed.

Issue 5 supporters said the high interest rates exploit the poor and working class residents, and trap them in a spiral of debt and late payment charges. Opponents, however, countered that adults should be able to make their own financial decisions. Additionally, they dislike the proposed creation of a state database to track who takes out the loans.

COAST issued a statement Tuesday targeting the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), which supports Issue 5. COAST claimed the homeless group “receives virtually 100 percent of its funding from state and federal grants.” Also, COAST condemned the group for using “our tax dollars'” to help fund the “Yes on Issue 5” campaign.

But COAST’s allegations aren’t true, replied the homeless group’s leader.

“COAST’s comments are insulting and incorrect,” said Bill Faith, the homeless group’s executive director, who also serves as the treasurer for the “Yes on Issue 5” campaign.

“In 2007, the majority of (the group’s) revenue came from non-governmental sources. COHHIO brought in $1.7 million last year, and just $682,000 was state or federal money,” Faith added.

The group’s contributions to the ‘Yes on Issue 5’ campaign came exclusively from emergency reserves that have accumulated over many years, he said.

“The reserves include money from private foundations, private corporations, private citizens and – recently – an anonymous $45,000 stock donation,” Faith said. “No public money ever goes into the reserves. COHHIO must document how each public dollar is spent and must return any unspent funds.”

Further, a pro-Issue 5 spokeswoman said the state database will exist whether the measure is approved or defeated at the polls.

“As you know, the requirement exists regardless of the outcome of Issue 5 because the lenders chose not to include the database in the referendum,” said Sandy Theis, campaign spokeswoman. “The purpose of the database is to ensure compliance with a provision of the new law that limits to four the number of loans borrowers can take out each year. The contents are not a public record.

“Given the (payday loan) industry’s sorry track record on protecting its customers’ privacy, this sudden concern about the privacy rights of payday customers is downright laughable,” Theis added.

So, why is a group dedicated to reducing taxes and ending wasteful government spending interested in the payday lending law? Theis thinks she knows the reason.

“I’m assuming the industry’s track record is the reason it chose to have COAST make today’s charges,” she said earlier this week. “But here’s what they won't tell you: The Cincinnati-based COAST has only six members, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. As the article notes, David Langdon is one of the four. As last week’s campaign finance report shows, Langdon is one of the payday lending lawyers.”

Oh, what a twisted web we weave.

Maybe after the election is over, the COASTers can relax by participating in the Fountain Square Broomball League. They will just need to find six other people so their team can qualify.

<![CDATA[Obama's Closing Argument]]>

Anyone who watched Barack Obama's 30-minute TV advertorial last night want to comment on it? Seems like it got pretty big ratings. Seems like Obama was everywhere. Seems like he came across as a virtuoso.