Saturday, August 20, 2005

 

Yippe-i-o! Talk about a valuable collectible

Calling eBay - there is a bobble-head out there that just went from obscurity to priceless. From the Blade:
A picture of a coin that displayed Mr. Noe's stern profile graced the front of the invitation and some at the event received a bobble-head doll of Mr. Noe.

Inside the invitation, there was a list of the night's chief roasters, which included Mr. Taft, Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, Senator Voinovich, state Auditor Betty Montgomery, and Ed Adams, vice-chairman of the Ohio Board of Regents. Mr. Petro and Ms. Montgomery are now both Republican candidates for governor.
You know, there is something about this story that makes us want to retch. The thought of these stuff shirts fretting about whether they should be one of Noe's Master Zingers ($1,000 donation), Grand Zinger ($500 donation), Birthday Zinger ($250) - or just a lowly Witness Protection Act ($50 - and, my, how prescient that was) participant, dressing in cowboy outfits while balancing one plate of rips and another with "all of the fixin's" is painful.

Are we awful for have a very sick fantasy of Hope or Bernadette strapping on the chaps latter that evening and jumping on their man-steers for a little buckeye bull ride?

We cling to the hope that there are some joke writers who ghost-wrote the "zingers" that night who might be willing to share their product with us or the Blade.

And, we gotta believe there is a priceless video out there, too.
Buzz Roberts, attorney for Mr. Noe's wife, Bernadette, also said he has information that Mr. Taft knew about the investment because it was spoken of freely at Mr. Noe's Aug. 24, 2004, 50th birthday party and "roast."
It's our understanding that these events always get saved for posterity. Can we all pray that that such a tape exists? Join us now while we bow our heads . . .

Friday, August 19, 2005

 

Soundtrack for the week

Go to Walk In Brain.

 

Mark Lay changes bet to politics, not legal acumen

Mark Lay, impresario of the MDL fund, is apparently crafting a new strategy for his defense of how he lost $200 million of BWC's money.

Until recently, Lay's attorney has been Barry Slotnick. Slotnick, back in the 80s, became a national name after he defended some high-profile clients like Bernard Goetz, the "subway shooter." Since then, however, Slotnick has steadily increased his reputation as an effective mouthpiece for well-heeled clients accused of "white-collar crimes" (Jeez - white-collar crime? Has there ever been a term more carefully crafted to evoke conscious and unconscious emotions related race and class, while suggesting that some crimes might be "okay"?).

Regardless of his clientele, Slotnick - to our knowledge - has never been accused of being a slacker in the courtroom.

So, we find it extremely odd, yet fascinating, that Lay has suddenly dropped Slotnick and signed up Eric Kuwana to head up his legal defense. Kuwana also had a good reputation (legally speaking) and is probably on par with Slotnick.

Joyce Gannon at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers a clue today about what's going on here:
Kuwana, like his law firm, has strong political ties. Prior to joining Patton Boggs, he worked in the Office of Counsel to the President under the first President Bush, George H.W. Bush, and was a lawyer at the Federal Highway Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation.

He was deputy general counsel of the Presidential Inaugural Committee in 2001 for George W. Bush and also worked on Bush's 2005 inauguration. He also has represented the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
In other words, Kuwana is wired - to the hilt - in GOP circles. Working as an attorney for these groups, Kuwana has learned to slither beneath the surface in the lakes of the power elite without letting outsiders see the slightest ripple in the waters.

Now, we realize the value of any good attorney largely depends on what he or she does outside of the courtroom. But, given his backgroud, this bit of bragging from his website suggests that clients can depend on him for something a little, uh, "extra":
Outside the courtroom, Mr. Kuwana has developed a particular expertise in quickly and accurately evaluating lawsuits and other risks for clients . . . Along with a dedicated group of partners and professionals, he uses this expertise to assist clients by conducting transactional risk assessments. He also specializes in implementing creative and aggressive strategies to change the dynamics of a case, even in its late stages, and to obtain the best possible result in settlement or trial. [emphasis added]
With his political pedigree, we have to wonder what Kuwana's ability to "change the dynamics" might mean in the various BWC scandals that have all sorts of political characters involved as suspects, witnesses, attorneys – and even prosecutors. This certainly suggest the stakes are being raised and the strategies are getting more sophisticated.

But, hey, it's a win-win situation for the GOP. Lay gets a crafty mouthpiece and the Republicans have a pipeline and a confidant that will keep them from being "surprised" by the direction of Lay's defense. Pretty clever.

 

There's a real perp-walk ahead

Now it going to get very interesting:
A state task force and the Ohio Ethics Commission were still investigating public employees for similar offenses and O'Brien said he expected more serious felony charges to be charged, although not against Taft.

"We would like to move on and have the inspector general and law enforcement focus their attention on more serious crimes that we are trying to investigate instead of spending all our time on golf matters," O'Brien said.
Messrs. Moorman, Talbott and Mermis, the prosecutors would like to see you now - one at a time.

Plea bargaining is a challenging game. You jump too soon, you screw yourself. You jump too late and everyone screws you.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

 

"I accept full responsibility for this mistake"

Really, governor? But didn't you plead "No contest" instead of guilty? Isn't the first step of recovery to come clean? And what kind of message is that to send to our youth?

Here's the courtroom video.

BTW, Gen. JC Christian has developed a righteous workshop for Taft and the rest of the Ohio GOP gang.

bob taft

 

Sherrod Brown out of the running for Senate

GrowOhio has the scoop.

 

The surest sign of desperation

Damn! We knew we should have organized a betting pool based how long it would take the GOP to invoke Bill Clinton's name to deflect criticism of the new Taft ethics charges.

From WCMH-TV:
"We expect [criticism] from the Democrats," said Jason Mauk, of the Ohio Republican Party. "It's unfortunate that they're not providing proactive, positive leadership ideas for moving Ohio forward. They're engaged in political partisanship.

"These are some of the same people who just a few years ago were defending President Clinton against charges of obstruction of justice and perjury, and now they're suggesting a governor who failed to report some golf outings should step down or be impeached. I don’t think those two are on the same level," Mauk said.
We agree with Mauk that lying about getting laid and getting a blowjob is not on the same level and far less serious than getting handjobs on the golf course from thieves and grifters.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

 

Three more likely targets of ethics charges

Now with Taft's charges out of the way, the rumor mills are abuzz about with questions of "who's next?"

The names we hear mentioned with a great deal of certainty are three former members of Taft's administration, Doug Moorman, H. Douglas Talbott and Jim Mermis.

These are not familiar names to most Ohioans. Think about two of them this way: If Bob Taft and Brian Hicks were the barkers in the Taft administration's corruption carnival, Moorman and Talbott were the ticket taker and usher, respectively. Ya' just couldn't couldn't get in and know what kind of seat your ticket bought ya without 'em.

Moorman's pedigree is that early on he was a top staffer to Mike DeWine while Dewine was in congress. Later he became chief of staff for one of Taft's lieutenant governors, Maureen O'Connor. Moormann eventually joined Taft's staff where he gained the a key job as a liaison the departments of development, transportation, taxation, PUCO, the Industrial Commission and - ta dah! - the Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Moormann also had the plum job of liaison to Ohio's business community. Moorman eventually left his government positions and took up another cherry job: He became lobbyist for the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

While one would assume the Moorman, income-wise, was better off than 99.5% of Ohioans, he apparently couldn't resist some "discounted" financial aid. The Dispatch reported that Moorman took a $5,000 "loan" from Tom Noe.

Talbott, we seem to recall, was a Republican operative who was quickly promoted under the Voinovich administration to be deputy director of the state's Department of Development. Voinovich, and later Taft, peppered their agencies with "deputy directors" who had absolutely no management or public policy experience. Their chief skill was political loyalty and the eagerness to twist an arm or two.

When Taft came to office, Talbott was made put in charge of reviewing and recommending appointments to state boards, commissions and other top positions on behalf of the Governor. In the pay-to-play game, Talbott was the pivot man.

And Talbott would have been the go-to man when Tom Noe was getting his appointments to the Turnpike Commission and the Board of Regents.

Like a lot of political hacks, Talbott went on to lobbying for the private sector, first working for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and later as president of Hurst Government Consulting.

Talbott must have been even greedier than Moorman. The Dispatch says he took a $39,000 "loan" from Noe.

[UPDATE] - The Blade has the best summary of Talbott's political career and Noe shenanigans here.

Jim Mermis is something of a less-known guy among politicos. As we recall, he served in the late 1990s under Taft as chief of the former Ohio Bureau of Employment Services. When OBES and ODHS merged, Taft appointed him to be Assistant Administrator of BWC and one of Jim Conrad's top cohorts.

Like Moorman and Talbott, Mermis later entered the lobbying field as president of Capital Consulting, but continued to collect chits from Taft. As recently as March, Taft appointed Mermis to a paid position on the Ohio Dietics Board.

The Blade reported that Mermis was a regular in the Tom Noe "Supper Club".

Despite his relatively low profile it's worth looking at some of Mermis's top lobbying clients. Take, for example, the accounting firm Plante Moran. At the risk of seeming like we're playing a game of "7 degrees of Tom Noe", it is an odd coincidence that Plante Moran became caught up in the Noe controversy. From an article that originally appeared in the Dispatch:
The bureau consistently has said it was never told Noe was investing in such items, but Plante & Moran, the certified-public-accounting firm Noe hired to review the coin-fund books each year, included 15 collectibles worth about $552,000 in its June 30, 2003, inventory for the bureau.

Bureau spokesman Jeremy Jackson said the agency expected that Plante & Moran would have accounted for all assets in the two coin funds Noe managed. Plante & Moran said it wasn’t asked to do that as part of its agreement with Noe.
Eerie, huh?

But another of Mermis's clients suggests a great deal more about how the pay-to-play game got played. Athersys, is a Cleveland-based biotech firm.

As reported in the Dispatch, Gov. Taft suddenly became interested in Athersys's well-being:
Although Gov. Bob Taft insists he wasn’t involved in Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation investments, he lobbied aggressively to put state money with one company — Athersys Inc., a Cleveland biotechnology firm.

In early 2003, Taft made it clear, inside and outside the governor’s office, that he wanted an investment deal with Athersys "done and done quickly."

James Conrad, former bureau administrator, said Athersys was "the only time (Taft) ever called on specific investments and, to my memory, it was the only time I saw the volatile Taft anger."

Conrad presumed Taft was so forceful because he had touted Athersys in his 2002 State of the State speech and he wanted to see the company thrive instead of bolting the state for Minnesota or North Carolina as threatened. At the time, the company was seeking $100 million from investors, in part to fund stem-cell research.
Taft also strongly lobbyied the states pension funds to invest in Athersys. Luckily, they declined. Even BWC put a halt to its plans to invest in Athersys after the company indicated it was moving out of state.

But why all the attention to Athersys? The Democrats offered a clue:
Administration officials say they were just trying to keep a high-tech firm in Ohio. But Democrats argue that Taft lobbied for Athersys because its top officials contributed $10,500 to his 2002 gubernatorial re-election campaign and the company was an early partner with the governor’s pet Third Frontier project.
And, it's such a small world! Guess who else entered the Athersys controversy?
Doug Moormann, a former Taft executive assistant, reported to the governor on Jan. 24, 2003, that he met with bureau staff to "discuss ways in which state investment dollars could be directed toward a company like Athersys."
So, here we have Tom Noe, Talbott, Moorman and Mermis hanging out at steakhouses together on a regular basis for years. Think there was any opportunity for them to cook up any pay-to-play mischief? We do.

Perhaps it's such a small world that Moorman, Talbott and Mermis will very soon have the next re-union of the Noe Supper Club before prosecutors and a judge in a courtroom in Columbus.

And, after that, it's most people's belief that the IRS is hovering around the scene waiting like a vulture, ready to swoop down and begin discussions about some serious ClubFed time.

 

More on Taft charges

[Welcome Kos readers!]

Today's news conference with Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and Columbus City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. confirmed the nature of the charges and provided some new info.

Regarding the charges, O'Brien and Pfeiffer confirmed our intelligence that the Ethics Commission identified 52 violations. In explaining why there are only 4 charges, the prosecutors said that since the Governor's financial reports are filed on an annual basis, they separate violations were grouped by year in the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

When reporters asked about violations for things other than for golf outings, the prosecutors said the charges also involve gifts such as meals and tickets to the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey games.

Reporters also asked if there were any ethics violations that were prior to 2001. The prosecutors acknowledge that there were allegations from 1998, 1999 and 2000 but they felt they couldn't make them hold up in court since the Ethics Commission didn't issue its advisory about the illegality of golf outings until 2001.

If guilty, Taft could face a maximum of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Word on the street is that at least three more of Taft current or former staff will face similar charges, and we hope to post more information on that later today.

[Update]: For some readers who want to know more about the pressure on Taft to resign (impeachment is about as likely as us winning a marathon) we offer the following from the Columbus Dispatch about others in his administration that Taft has been forced to sack after nearly identical ethics scandals were uncovered:
• Randall A. Fischer resigned as director of the Ohio School Facilities Commission in July 2002. He pleaded guilty to a pair of misdemeanors for accepting free rounds of golf, hockey tickets and meals from contractors to whom he awarded unbid contracts worth millions. Nine out of 10 contractors who received unbid school construction work under Fischer contributed to Gov. Bob Taft’s campaign.

• The state’s former utility watchdog, Consumers’ Counsel Robert S. Tongren, quit in November 2003 after an investigation found that he had accepted dozens of expensive golf outings and meals from utility lobbyists. He admitted to four misdemeanors.

• When an investigation in September 2003 showed that Richard P. Frenette, manager of the state fair, and other employees improperly accepted golf passes and other favors from vendors doing business with the fair Taft called on the Ohio Expositions Commission to "take prompt and appropriate action." Frenette quit two days later.

• Taft issued a quit-or-be-fired ultimatum in August 2002 to Ohio Turnpike Commission director Gino Zomparelli, the day after a probe found that he and 30 other turnpike officials were showered with golf outings, free meals and sports tickets by companies doing business with the agency. Zomparelli quit the next day. Investigators remarked that in their combined experience they had never seen any state agency receive such a level of gratuities.
And, keep in mind that Taft is the first sitting Ohio governor to be charged with crimes.

 

Gov. Taft to get 4 criminal charges

From the Dispatch website this afternoon.
Gov. Bob Taft is expected to be charged this afternoon in Franklin County Municipal Court with four criminal misdemeanors for failing to disclose golf outings and possibly other favors.

The charges are be outlined at a press conference this afternoon with Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien and Columbus City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr.

If convicted on the first-degree misdemeanor charges, Taft faces a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail on each count.

Taft, 63, the great-grandson of William Howard Taft, the only American to serve as president and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, made history on his own: He is the first Ohio governor to face criminal charges while in office.

The charges were the outgrowth of a two-month investigation by a task force consisting of the Inspector General Thomas P. Charles, the Ohio Ethics Commission and the State Highway Patrol.

The commission last week referred the matter to prosecutors who discussed it this morning.

Taft and Meeks have said the errors and omissions were inadvertent.

While it is not expected, the criminal charges could lead to Taft's impeachment under the Ohio Constitution.

The Constitution says the governor, judges and any state officer can be impeached if they are charged with a misdemeanor, even if they are not convicted.

The Ohio House of Representatives has the sole power to initiate impeachment proceedings. A simple majority -- or 50 of 99 members -- would have to vote for impeachment.

The Ohio Senate would conduct the impeachment trial, with a two-thirds majority vote -- 22 of 33 members -- required for a conviction.

 

[Updated] Taft to meet with prosecutors today

In a continuing effort to plea bargain his way out of a mess, Gov. Taft - or at least his criminal defense attorney - will meet with Columbus and Franklin Co. prosecutors to discuss charges referred to them by Ethics Commission.

The Blade today reports the referrals are about "roughly 50" charges. We still hang our hat on the number "52."

As noted by Sen. Marc Dann and ourselves a few days ago, Taft & Co. have not exactly kept their word on full disclosure all of the information that was provided to the Ethics Commission. Taft had promised to release the info after "discussions" with the commission were completed, something that occurred last week. Taft still seems to be playing semantical games about the release of the information. Again from the Blade:
A spokesman for Mr. Taft would not say exactly what records the governor would release publicly today or whether they would mirror information Mr. Meeks provided to the Ethics Commission.
[UPDATE] The Ohio News Network is reporting that charges are expected today:
Prosecutors will meet "to determine what if any charges are appropriate," said Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien.

He said a decision would likely be made Wednesday because they're already familiar with much of the information contained in the inch-thick pile of documents, including the commission's report.
That's last part is consistent with the unconfirmed rumors that Taft and his attorneys have been plea bargaining behind the scenes for some time.

 

RON amendments now Issues 2-5

The three were turned into four. The Ohio Ballot Board met yesterday to certify ballot language and placement on the ballot of proposed amendments to the Ohio constitution and took the not-unexpected step of splitting one of the three Reform Ohio Now amendments into two separate items for voters.

The Board split the draft amendment that proposed to overhaul Ohio's election system. With the Board's action, there will be one amendment proposal (Issue 5) that would establish an independent board to run the elections, and a separate amendment (Issue 2) that would allow any voter to cast a ballot (by mail or at a county BOE office) up to 35 days before an election.

The proposal to sharply curtail campaign contributions was designated as Issue 3 and the proposal to establish an independent redistricting commission will be Issue 4.

Although the RON amendments (sorry, gotta get used to the new names) Issues 2-5 will draw the most interest, Ballot Board chairman Kenny Blackwell (yes, he has a seat there too) saved the "Issue 1" name for the pork-infused Third Frontier initiative.

[UPDATE] The Plain Dealer also reports that there was some additional language added to the RON amendments:
Voters will also read on the ballot that labor unions have rights under a campaign finance proposal that corporations do not, and that introducing competitiveness into politics is "a primary factor" in Reform Ohio Now's redistricting initiative.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

 

Taft data dump Wednesday

From ONN:
Governor Taft's office says records related to his failure to report numerous golf outings as governor will be released tomorrow.

Taft has repeatedly refused to release the records until the Ohio Ethics Commission completed an investigation into the golf outings.

Taft says the records will be released now that the ethics commission has finished its work and forwarded the results to prosecutors.

 

Wacky, anti-labor Ex-AK steel exec to run against DeWine

John Hritz is not someone we know a whole lot about, but we hope to know more about him from some of our labor friends since he has apparently decided to run for Mike DeWine's U.S. Senate seat.

If you think this news comes from the Ohio media - think again. This story is from the Nashville Business Journal, which raises an interesting question. The story description of Hritz as currently being a "Local CEO" suggests that his residency is in Tennessee and not Ohio.

Having to re-establish his residency and gin-up support for his candidacy in Ohio might be a stretch for Hritz since, as we recall, he left his last job in Ohio on less than favorable terms and was known as being, uh . . . a little "intense".

Hritz served as president of AK Steel along with then-company CEO and chairman Richard Wardrop during a bitter labor dispute involving the steelworkers in Middletown and Mansfield, OH.

Wardrop & Hritz were apparently forced out by a fed-up Board of Directors of AK Steel in 2003 after picking fights with the steelworkers unions, environmentalists, Gov. Taft and even the Chamber of Commerce. The Middletown Journal diplomatically described the Wardrop/Hritz years as "full of friction."

A story in the Enquirer also picked up on this theme:
Although board members haven't talked publicly, the company said at the time that the move was to try a fresh approach to the company's continuing losses; depressed stock price; and strained relations with employees, government officials and some customers.
The Plain Dealer also confirms the stories we had heard that Wardrop and Hritz were pricks and ham-handed negotiators:
The departure of Wardrop and Hritz may pave the way for more amicable labor talks. "The old management under Wardrop was just heading for a train wreck," steel analyst Mike Locker said. ". . . He didn't know how to negotiate. He knew how to dominate."
Now, we don't really recall who was worse, Wardrop or Hritz, but we do remember hearing about a least one wild story involving Hritz and a group of strikers. Friends steered us to a web page (about 1/3 of the way down the page) that offers some details of the alleged Nov. 2001 incident:
[O]ur Road Crew continues to go to the executives' neighborhoods twice per week. On one such visit, Local 169 members were confronted by a fully camouflaged (complete with face paint) John Hritz. After making several false statements and some heavily veiled threats, all in the presence of the Mason Police who did nothing, Mr. Hritz returned to his home where some very eerie organ music was coming from. Many think he may soon be a candidate for a strait jacket and a rubber room.

 

Anti-RON group files new petition challenge

In another desperate move to deprive Ohioans of the ability to vote on major election and political reforms, Dick Finan and the Ohio First group have asked a state appellate court to invalidate thousands of petitions, arguing that state law prohibits the use of signature gatherers that reside outside Ohio.

From the groups press release (no link yet available):
Ohio’s 10th Appellate District Court was asked this morning to uphold Ohio law and block thousands of initiative petitions filed by Reform Ohio Now (RON) that were circulated by people who are not Ohio residents.

The action was filed on behalf of Richard Finan of Sharonsville, Ohio, who has been active on behalf of the Ohio First Voter Education Fund. Finan and Ohio are opposed to the RON initiative which if approved will strip voters of their ballot box power and will obliterate Ohio’s decades-old election systems.

The complaint follows a review of a portion of the RON petitions filed with Secretary o State. That review of 12,057 part-petitions completed last weekend on Finan’s behalf revealed that 47 percent (5,642 part-petitions were circulated by persons who were not Ohio residents included some people who have been found to be illegal circulators in the past. [sic]

As in the past, the Secretary of State’s office has instructed the local boards of elections to count the initiative petitions without regard to the circulators state of residency. But, the Secretary of State’s office has set a higher standard for petitions nominating candidates for office. As an example, the Secretary of State’s office told the local boards that they could not count petitions filed on behalf of Ralph Nader’s 2004 candidacy for president if the circulator was not an Ohio resident.

Finan’s complaint underscores this double standard while citing Ohio R.C. 3503.06 that requires that an initiative part-petition is invalid if a person who is not an Ohio resident has circulated it. Election law makes no distinction between the requirement for state residents to circulate initiative petitions or petitions filed on behalf of candidates for public office.

Finan’s complaint says the law on residency is the same for candidates and initiative petitions because circulators must be within the reach of a state-issued subpoena to respond to questions concerning petitions they have filed.
Not being lawyers, we'd hate to speculate on the merits of these arguments, but like Finan's previous legal effort, it is being done at the risk of derailing Kenny Blackwell's petitions too.

These guys are going to play hardball so we doubt that anyone is very surpised by this new development. The good news is that given the mood of the public, Finan's tactics will just piss off Ohio voters even more.

Monday, August 15, 2005

 

[Updated] Taft prosecution rumors have started . . .

. . . and we keep hearing there are 5o+ separate charges 52 charges!

The good news for Democrats is that he has shown no inclination to fall on his sword.

 

Corlett says $$ was factor in TABOR/TEL retreat

We are a little behind in our reading, but we thought some of John Corlett's comments from last week that appeared in The Hannah Report (subscription only) are worth repeating. Corlett, it should be noted, is a pretty savvy guy and one of the brains behind the Center for Community Solutions based in Cleveland, and thinks money had something to do with Blackwell's decision:
Corlett also noted that the latest campaign finance report showed that a recently formed group, Ohioans for Responsible Government with "strong ties to one person," has contributed nearly 75 percent of the total amount raised by Citizens for Tax Reform [Blackwell's group supporting the TEL]. "It's reasonable to ask whether Ohioans for Responsible Government, which has strong Republican connections, pulled the plug on the 2005 TABOR [Taxpayers' Bill of Rights] effort. Back in January 2005, Citizens for Tax Repeal claimed to have $1 million in pledges for their effort -- but with only 93 days until the election, the group reported raising only $304,000. Clearly their fundraising efforts were lagging.

"[. . .] any effort to raise money for a pro-TABOR effort in 2006 will face competition from fundraising efforts designed to protect majority control of the statewide offices and the Legislature."
It's no secret that "one person" with strong ties to Ohioans for Responsible Government that Corlett refers to is David Brennan, who has a vested interest in the demise of the public school system.

Corlett makes another money-related point that some others have missed:
The fact that "Colorado has a measure on their ballot this fall to suspend the TABOR limit for five years was extremely inconvenient for Ohio's TABOR proponents. Much of the pro-TABOR national money will go to fend off the Colorado suspension proposal, because if TABOR supporters lose in Colorado it will hamper efforts to spread the idea nationwide.
We'll have more on the current Colorado fight later today.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

 

Portman: Don't blame me for LaTourette CAFTA vote

Someone is lying and the PD's Stephen Koff reports that its not U.S. Trade Rep Rob Portman.
A Plain Dealer examination last week showed that the Lake County Republican's explanation for his July 28 vote was built upon a set of phony reasons.

LaTourette had said he voted for CAFTA in order to eliminate plywood tariffs that were squeezing KraftMaid, the Middlefield-based kitchen cabinet maker. Without some relief, LaTourette said, KraftMaid might have to move jobs out of the United States.

LaTourette's office said the congressman based this belief not only on a conversation with KraftMaid president Tom Chieffe the afternoon before the vote, but also on a document listing base tariffs, provided by Portman's office after the Chieffe conversation. [emphasis added]
[ . . .]

Portman's press secretary, Neena Moorjani . . . said the document wasn't sent until Aug. 5 - eight days after the CAFTA vote.

That's a far cry from LaTourette's staff-written statement that said LaTourette asked Portman about the issue before the vote and that Portman's office "provided the congressman with a document . . ." The statement failed to mention that LaTourette's office asked for the document more than a week after the fact.

LaTourette's district director, Dino DiSanto, late Friday acknowledged that LaTourette did not have the document from Portman at the time of the vote. But he said LaTourette had basically the same information because his office had looked it up on the trade representative's Web site.

"I think getting information from the Web site is what we did," DiSanto said. He acknowledged the office only sought the hard document from Portman's office after The Plain Dealer started asking about the tariff issue.
As a footnote to this story, it should be noted that Koff based much of his story on posts on the Cincy-area Whistleblower blog. The Whistleblower usually leaves us wondering if someone's med interactions need to be checked, but kudos to the publisher for providing this info, and hat's off to the PD for being honest about one of Koff's sources.

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