Saturday, May 07, 2005

 

13 Questions for Bob Ney

Catherine Turcer from Ohio Citizen Action has submitted a sphincter-tightening list to the Neyster. No response yet:
1. When Michael Scanlon, the former DeLay spokesman and then-Abramoff business partner), asked you to make March, 2000 Congressional Record remarks targeting SunCruz founder Gus Boulis, did you or your staff ever ask him why you should do such a thing?

2. Why did you feel that SunCruz Casinos and Gus Boulis’s business practices in Florida were relevant to your duties representing your constituents in the 18th District of Ohio?

3. Why, in your Congressional record remarks, did you single Boulis out for attack and call for a federal investigation of his business practices? As the Post reported, the effect of these remarks was to exert pressure on Boulis to agree to the sale terms proposed by Abramoff and Adam Kidan.

4. Were your remarks drafted for you wholly or in part by Michael Scanlon and/or his staff?

5. Were you aware at the time of those first Congressional Record remarks that Scanlon was working closely with Abramoff, and were you aware then that that Abramoff had entered into a secret and improper partnership with Kidan to buy SunCruz?

6. You later stated that you felt you were duped by Abramoff and Kidan, called them “nefarious individuals,” and said you had rejected them. When did you first conclude that they had duped you, and form the opinion that they were “nefarious”?

7. What was the contact that led to $1,000 contributions to your campaign on or about June 30, 2000 from Kidan, Abramoff, Abramoff’s wife, and Scanlon?

8. On Oct. 26, 2000, you inserted remarks in the Congressional Record stating that Adam Kidan “will easily transform SunCruz from a questionable enterprise to an upstanding establishment.” What was the basis for your belief that he would do so?

9. Were you aware, at the time of your second Congressional Record remarks, of Adam Kidan’s checkered background of lawsuits, liens, court judgments, bankruptcy, possible links to organized crime, or his use of a phony $23 million wire transfer and two separate checks for $2.5 million each which bounced, as part of the purchase of SunCruz?

10. Were you aware then that Kidan had been disbarred in New York two weeks after your first Congressional Record remarks for mishandling $100,000 he held in an escrow account for his stepfather?

11. Gus Boulis was killed in a gangland-style slaying on Feb. 6, 2001, after his deal to sell SunCruz to Abramoff and Kidan went sour. Adam Kidan reportedly arranged for $145,000 in payments starting less than two months before the slaying to mob-linked Anthony Moscatiello and his daughter, for which no work was apparently performed, according to The Washington Post. When did you first become aware that Kidan was a longtime acquaintance of Moscatiello, who had previously been indicted in New York in a case involving organized crime and members of the Gambino family?

12. Was Anthony Moscatiello present at the fundraiser that the casino boat executives held for you on March 15, 2001 in lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s skybox at the MCI Center, where Abramoff and Adam Kidan each contributed $1,000 to you? Did you know, at the time of this event, that Boulis had been murdered five weeks before your fundraiser?

13. Your spokesperson at the time, Neil Volz, indicated that you would return Kidan’s contribution. When reporters pointed out that FEC records indicate that never happened, you said your campaign had tried to refund the money but the checks were “returned to sender” because Kidan couldn’t be located. Could you provide copies of those returned checks, and have you made any subsequent efforts to return this money?

 

"Citizens probe Ney's business deals"

This is just about the best thing we heard all week. But will this get any play in the Dispatch or PD or any other paper outside Gannett? Doubtful.
Surrounded by a handful of cheering residents, Becky Sheline strode into Congressman Bob Ney's district office in downtown Zanesville on Friday, demanding answers over his involvement with a controversial business deal in 2000.

Ney, R-St. Clairsville, is accused of allegedly using his political influence to facilitate a business deal involving Washington lobbyist Jack Abramhoff in the purchase of a chain of casino ships in Florida.

"We sent Ney to Congress so he could represent us, and I don't think he's representing the values and morals of this area," Sheline said. "I feel the citizens of the 18th District deserve answers to these questions."

According to recent reports in the Washington Post, Ney inserted remarks into the congressional record on two occasions in 2000 regarding the management of SunCruz Casinos.

The timing of Ney's statements, which coincided with sales negotiations between Abramhoff associate Adam Kidan and previous SunCruz owner Gus Boulis, has raised suspicion over the extent of his involvement.

The Public Campaign Action Fund helped organize Friday's event. Group spokesman David Donnelley said that, in light of the ethical turmoil enveloping Congress, the time is now for Ney to respond.

"We still don't have any answers to these questions." Donnelley said, "And if (Ney) won't answer our group, he can at least answer his constituents."

Ney is also under suspicion for exerting his political clout on behalf of Abramhoff regarding an attempt to reopen a casino in El Paso, Texas, run by the Tigua Indian tribe in 2002.

[. . .]

Walsh acknowledged Ney did receive a $1,000 political contribution from Kidan in June 2000. However, he added that Ney's office has tried repeatedly to return the funds.

Zanesville resident Jim Sheline said Friday's protest will, at the very least, attune area residents to what's going on and allow them to make their own decisions.
"A lot of people do not know what is going on," he said. "It's hidden news that nobody around here wants to talk about."

Despite vehement denials and counter-claims of political defamation by Ney's office, Zanesville resident Lue Gill said the congressman owed an explanation to those who put him in office. "There's a double standard between grassroots people like us and politicians," Gill said. "We've got a right to know where the money goes - they should be held as accountable as we are."


 

Forget consumer information from Dept. of Insurance

Yup, it's true. Ohio has quite a few insurance companies, and the have lots of "consumer" information. So Steve Buehrer's HB 188 would also outlaw DOI from providing these .pdf at the agency's website:
What a tool.

 

Buehrer's bill moving

In case anyone thinks Buehrer's HB 188 isn't going anywhere, we just learned that a hearing on it will probably be held early next week.

 

Dispatch weighs in on Santorum lunacy - what about Buehrer's

It was good to see that the Dispatch understands that "his frothiness's" idea to ban the National Weather Service from providing free weather information is a "really dumb idea":
In Santorum’s view, the taxpayerfunded weather service competes with private-sector forecasters, such as AccuWeather Inc., which is based in Santorum’s home state. His legislation would limit the national service to "severe-weather forecasts and warnings designed for the protection of life and property."

The plan effectively would close the free Web site, www.nws.noaa.gov, to the public. People who like to read weather reports on the Internet would pay double and their taxes still would fund the weather service while they’d pay fees for information from forprofit providers.
But Rep. Steve Buehrer's HB 188 is even worse! Although it only applies to Ohio's state agencies, it could ban ALL internet-provided information and services. No tax help, no traffic reports, no hospital info from the Health Department, etc., etc.

But will the Dispatch editorialize against that. We don't think so. Buehrer is the darling of the wackjobs at the Buckeye Institute and the Americal Legislative Exchange Council. Dispatch editorial page editor Glenn Sheller is a big fan of the boys at the BI and ALEC.

It's easy to mock a congressman from Pennsylvania when you in Ohio. Does the Dispatch have the balls to embarass one of Ohio's radical rightwingers favorite legislators? We'll see.

 

Say it ain't so

From Yahoo news:
"Comedy Central has suspended production on the third season of Chappelle's Show until further notice," network spokesman Tony Fox said in a brief statement. "All parties are optimistic that production will resume in the near future."

No official reason was given for the shutdown, but sources told E! News that Chappelle has been MIA from the set for weeks.
Seriously, if we were E!, we'd be checking around his mom's place in Yellow Springs where he used to go to unwind.

Friday, May 06, 2005

 

Insanity alert: Buehrer bill would ban tax help, traffic news, safety warnings

Where is the Ohio media on this insanity?

Do you want to know what traffic accidents to avoid on your commute or your drive up the interstate? Do you want to know how to correctly fill out your Ohio 1040 tax form? Do you want to know how to protect your employees while digging a trench? Do you want to see how hospitals in your area compare?

That information is available for free from the State of Ohio. More precisely, it is free from the the Ohio Departments of Transportation, Taxation, Workers Compensation and Health, respectively.

But under a bill introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives, these and thousands of other free nuggets of information provided through State of Ohio's websites might vanish.

State Rep. Steve Buehrer's bill (HB 188) would prevent the State of Ohio and it's various agencies from providing "e-services" if two or more private-sector business exist that provide the same information.

For example, since H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and countless other CPAs and taxpreparers provide tax information for Ohioans - at hefty fees - Buehrer's bill would prevent the Department of Taxation from providing free guidance on its website. Keep in mind that taxpayers have already paid for it!

Or consider traffic reports. ODOT has positioned traffic cameras all over Ohio's roadways. ODOT even created a special website to provide searchable road construction information, weather information and webcams. But since every TV, radio station and newspaper re-packages this traffic information and provides links to the ODOT cams, ODOT would have to scrub it from its web sites.

Or consider the new website that Jim Petro is so proud of that compares drug costs. All it takes is for someone to decide to start a business doing something similar - yes, the bill is so poorly worded that "similar" is all it takes - and the free info will only be a distant memory.

One would hope that Chris Redfern would have enough common sense to see that Buehrer has given a give to the House Democrats (and also to the moderate Republicans). And one would hope that the House provides lots of hearings on this bill to provide ample opportunity for Buehrer to embarass himself with this inane proposition. Let's see him try to defend this shit.

Plus, the bill would allow private operators who provide similar information to sue the state and collect damages.

is total insanity.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

 

Ohioans strongly back Medicaid coverage

We are bewildered as to why his has received such little coverage among the Ohio media. Yesterday the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati released some of the results from polling they have undertaken in conjunction with the UC's Institute for Policy Research.

HFGC says it is going to be releasing its results over the next few weeks. The results published yesterday shows that Ohioans want to see Medicaid coverage maintained for key populations groups. The poll surveyed 846 adult Ohioans and has a MOE of 3.4 %:
. . . 74 percent of Ohioans don't want to reduce the number of those covered by Medicaid and 66 percent don't want to reduce the services provided by Medicaid.

[. . .]

Ohioans were clear that Medicaid was a necessity: Over 90 percent of Ohioans surveyed felt that it was very important for Ohio Medicaid to cover:

Elderly (86 percent)
Children (81 percent)
Disabled adults (77 percent)
Low-income working parents (71 percent)
Low-income pregnant women (65 percent)
HFGC also ask respondents how they would favor paying for Medicaid, 61% said they would like Ohio legislators to increase cigarette and alcohol taxes.

The group also asked about overall spending priorities:
When given the option on what budgetary items to reduce spending on, respondents were against spending less on:
  • State aid for public schools, 80 percent
  • Public security, 70 percent
  • Temporary cash assistance, 63 percent
  • State aid for higher education, 60 percent.
Respondents were in favor of spending less on:
  • State aid to cities and local governments, 57 percent
  • Highway programs, 54 percent


[UPDATE: Actually the HFGC release understates the strength of support for Medicaid. While the numbers above count those who think it is very important to provide coverage for the different groups. But, if the Very Important and Somewhat Important numbers are aggregated, the results for supporting coverage are phenomenal:
Elderly (98.2 percent)
Children (98.0 percent)
Disabled adults (97.2 percent)
Low-income working parents (96.9 percent)
Low-income pregnant women (93.0 percent)
Hello? Denny White?]

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

 

"Our friend" - Bob Ney!

The Ney/Abramoff soap opera continues. Not that Abramoff's word about anything should be taken seriously, but this piece from Michael Crowley's story in the NYT Sunday Magazine suggests he and Ney were close and that he is madder about Ney than DeLay:
Abramoff planned to slip a provision granting the Tiguas gaming rights into a bipartisan election-reform bill before Congress. He turned to an old Republican friend, Representative Bob Ney of Ohio. On March 20, 2002, he sent Scanlon good news: "just met with Ney!!! We're [expletive] gold!!!! He's going to do Tigua." A few days later, Abramoff sent Schwartz an e-mail message asking for $32,000 in donations to Ney's campaign fund and political action committee - "asap."

In June, Abramoff sent Schwartz an e-mail message with a new request: "our friend asked if we could help (as in cover) a Scotland golf trip for him and some staff . . . for August. The trip will be quite expensive (we did this for another member -- you know who) 2 years ago. I anticipate that the total cost -- if he brings 3-4 members and wives -- would be around $100K or more." (Schwartz later testified before a Senate committee that Ney was "our friend" and that Abramoff told him that "you know who" was DeLay. Records show that DeLay did, in fact, travel to Scotland in 2000, accompanied by Abramoff as well as his wife and two top aides.)

Abramoff told the Tiguas that Ney "would probably do the trip through the Capital Athletic Foundation as an educational mission" and asked them for a donation to the foundation, a charity Abramoff had founded ostensibly to support youth athletics. That August, Ney traveled to Scotland with Reed. (Eventually, money from other Abramoff clients paid for the trip.) In a disclosure form, Ney -- who now says he was "duped" and "misled" by "these two nefarious individuals" -- would report that the purpose of his trip was to give a speech to Scottish parliamentarians, attend an Edinburgh military ceremony and visit the British Parliament.

Abramoff's plans came to naught, however. In a July 25, 2002, e-mail message to Scanlon, he explained how Senator Chris Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat thought to be supporting them, had let him down: "I just spoke with Ney who met today with Dodd on the bill and raised our provision. Dodd looked at him like a deer in headlights and said he never made such a commitment and that, with the problems of new casinos in Connecticut, it is a problem!!! Mike, please call me immediately to tell me how we wired this, or were supposed to wire it. Ney feels we left him out to dry. Please call me!!!"

[. . . ]

Oddly, however, Abramoff seemed most passionate about the notion that he had failed to get what he wanted. He blames Ney and Dodd, whose recent claims of ignorance about the details of his Tigua lobbying, he said, are bogus. "We would have succeeded but for Chris Dodd, who said yes - and then all of a sudden, he changed!" Here he was practically pleading with me: "He changed!"

But he reserved special scorn for his old friend - ex-friend - Bob Ney. Abramoff said that Ney was deeply involved in the lobbying effort and that any claims otherwise are untrue. He singles out a meeting and a long conference call Ney conducted with Tigua leaders in which he assured them that he would help. "Ney told the press, 'I was duped'? It's crazy!" He turned up his palms, again with the pleading look in his eyes. "He was on the phone for an hour and a half!" (A spokesman for Ney, Brian Walsh, said that Ney only considered the Tigua provision when he heard it had Dodd's support. "After Congressman Ney spoke to Senator Dodd and found that Jack Abramoff was lying, no further action was taken," Walsh said. Dodd has issued a statement saying he never supported the provision, a contention supported by the testimony at the Indian Affairs hearing.)

Monday, May 02, 2005

 

Pryce: the ethics holdout

We'd personally like to the 15th District Congresswoman, and scribe Bob Novak, for making the case against re-election. Bring Ohio Home has the details here.

 

Ohio's GOP tax plan: Screw the disabled

So wealthy Ohioans can get their tax cut, this is going to happen. At least they are consistent.

And, they find obedient managers, too:
When ODJFS Director Barbara Riley testified Thursday in favor of abolishing the DMA program, she said it has become too expensive to sustain.

[. . . ]

The state points to the fact that 65 percent of DMA participants left the program in fiscal year 2004, either because they no longer needed it, they qualified for Medicaid, or they died.

[. . . ]

Dennis Evans, a spokesman for ODJFS, conceded that those who are not eligible for Medicaid "will have to rely on the charity of others" for help when the program's gone.

"Unfortunately, in this budget we were forced to make some very tough choices," Evans said.
So, they take a successful program designed to provide stop-gap services and pull it's funding because somebody/something has to pay for the tax cuts.

Rely on the charity of others? May whoever thought up this cut rot in hell.

 

Coin-gate starting to get some national attention

. . . at least among bloggers. AMERICABlog has a nice summary here.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

 

Noe: Do roads lead to Householder, or from him?

Reporters are falling over each other to cover the shenanigans of ace fundraiser/bumbling coin investment manager Thomas Noe. There is no point to repeating the facts since there is such broad coverage of the story except to note that there are two parts to this story: the coin "investments" and the allegedly "illegal" campaign contributions.

We will, however, offer some observations:
  1. The coin investment debacle may be a major blow to the career of BWC Director James Conrad. Say what you want about Conrad - he has been one of the most competent, if not the most competent agency director in the last 16 years, and one of the few top bureaucrats that has any managerial skills. He has solid organization technique, he thinks strategically and he has great PR intuition. Investment management, however, was never his strong suit and BWC has gotten involved in a lot of squirrelly investment ventures. We know that on occasion, Bob Taft and other high levels politicians would try to twist the arms of OPERS and the other public worker pension funds to get them to sink money into what were clearly politically driven investments. Invariably, Taft would always mention that BWC has already signed on, as if that endorsement meant something. Wisely, the pension funds always told the governor - in so many words - to cram it. Coin investment is highly stupid and highly risky, if for no other reason than coins are not "liquid" in the financial sense. Someone may estimate their worth at $XX amount on paper, but their is no guaranteed, regulated and transparent market of buyers.

  2. Noe is a coin dealer. What gave him the qualifications to manage a $50 million fund? And, what qualifications does he have to serve on the Ohio Board of Regents and be its one-time chair? And, what qualifications does he have to serve as chair of the Ohio Turnpike Commission. Answer: Well, uh, none! Don't Ohioans deserve better than that?

  3. Noe is alleged to have made possibly illegal campaign contributions. That's an obtuse way of saying this: the FBI thinks Noe funneled money through others in order to circumvent donation limits. For example, if Noe was maxed-out at $2,000 on a candidate, he could just give another $2,000 to a pal or relative or an employee and ask them to make the donation in their name instead of his. Shit - if that law could suddenly be enforced, half the Republican party would be heading for the slammer. Well, this could get interesting . . .

  4. But, that kind of donation laundering is a little hard to detect and it's politically tricky. The FBI doesn't just throw a dart at the map and decide to investigate whatever political district it lands on. They operate on tips and leads, and they get small fish to turn on big fish. When you add in that federal investigators have been working out of offices in the Huntington Building in Columbus for several months on the "Householder" investigation, we have to figure the two are connected. Either the investigators accidentally turned up information about Noe while working on the Household case, or one of the principals in the Householder case has cut a deal and is singing about even bigger Republican fundraising problems.

  5. Why don't reporters come clean about some of the things they write? Both the Blade and the Dispatch refer to Noe's contributions to two national political action committees: CARE PAC and 17 Star PAC. They don't say it so we will: CARE PAC is Congressman Ralph Regula's $1.7 million PAC. The 17 Star PAC is Mike DeWine's $.22 million PAC.

  6. And consider poor Mrs. Noe! Bernadette, as she is known to her friends, just has all the worst luck finding someone to build the set for what would have been her new TV show. That kind of bad luck just couldn't be made up.

 

"Out of their cotton-picking minds?"

Warren Buffett is a well known investment guru. His long time business partner and Vice Chairman, Charlie Munger, is less known to the public but also highly regarded in business circles. And what do they think of the Republican's Social Security proposals? From today's Bloomberg:
Buffett and Munger also told shareholders they oppose U.S. President George W. Bush's plan to allow privatization of Social Security because the government has a duty to take care of the country's elderly.

"The Republicans are out of their cotton-picking minds on this issue,'" said Munger, a self-described right-wing Republican. Social Security is "one of the most successful things that the government has ever done."

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