Saturday, September 03, 2005

 

Sheehan Caravan Schedule

The Bring Tme Home Now Tour spurred by Cindy Sheehan will be hitting the Ohio area this week. The tentative schedule is as follows:
  • Indianapolis, IN: Mon, Sep. 5th - Wed, Sep. 7th
    (email jwolf@butler.edu to learn more about upcoming events)

  • Cincinnati, OH: Wed, Sep. 7th - Thu, Sep. 8th

  • Columbus, OH: Thu, Sep. 8th - Fri, Sep. 9th
    FROM BUSH'S DOORSTEP TO D.C.! BRING THEM HOME NOW TOUR Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War To Speak In Columbus, OH

  • Cleveland, OH: Fri, Sep. 9th - Sun, Sep. 11th

  • Pittsburgh, PA: Sun, Sep. 11th - Wed, Sep. 14th
The bus caravan is organized by Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War

 

Hamburger helper

In the midst of the still-depressing news from Louisiana and Mississippi, the following obituary in today's Dispatch caught our eye:
WARD James Robert "Beef" Ward, 39, passed away Thursday, September 1, 2005 at O.S.U. East Hospital. He will be sadly and sorely missed by his loving family. Jimmy, whom his family affectionately called "Pork" or "Bubba", will be remembered for his wonderful sense of humor along with his dedication to his family. A beloved son, brother and uncle he was also a devoted animal lover whose kindness and gentle soul enriched all who knew him. Preceded in death by his mother, Barbara Jean "Buffalo Butt" Ward and pets, Princess, Buster, Lady, Bonkers, Susie, Daisy and Silky. Survived by the "light of his life" fiance, Annie "Red" Callahan; father, J. Richard "Old Fart" (Debbie "Peep") Ward; sisters, Cathy "Funny Face" (Paul) Graf, Karen "Turtle" Ward, "Hamburger" Patty Ward, Amy "Amos" Ward; beloved children to be, Jessica "Thunder Child" and James; nephews, Joshua and Jason; numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and friends; pets, Simba, Charlie, Max, Bailey, Aussie, Sylvia, Elvis, Moe, Misty, Chloe, Blue, Sidney, Coco, Harley, Cassie, Paige, Little Dude and Diabla.
Our condolences go to the Ward family, but we thank them for giving us some perspective about being called Spazz, Horse Face and Anorexic Annie at our family reunions.

Friday, September 02, 2005

 

Skippy's challenge

The Hypothetically Speaking World Headquarters has taken up Skippy's challenge and we hope you do the same.

We have long-time family and friend ties to the New Orleans region, and have spent several weeks stumbling through the streets below the surface of what has now become "Lake George."

Despite the pathetic federal leadership on this crisis, the people of the United States always pull together for each other. We believe that the "mystical threads" that Abraham Lincoln said bounded Americans together 150 years ago still exist. We also believe in the ability of Americans to eventually discern who has been part of the solution - and who has been part of the problem.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

 

Dann putting Petro on the ropes

Sen. Marc comes out swinging in this latest round:
Dear Attorney General Petro:

Before addressing the numerous inadequate excuses and tortured explanations for your failure to act immediately and decisively to protect the interests of the people of Ohio when you were notified by the Securities and Exchange Commission that a number of brokers were earning exorbitant fees for work done on behalf of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, I must first express my dismay over your characterization of me as the “Democrat’s designated hit man.” Your intentional use of this pejorative term is an insult to me personally and to the people of the Mahoning Valley who have been victims of such stereotyping for far too long.
Read on, because this was only the beginning of the bludgeoning.

 

Jim Petro's wry humor

The storymeister strikes again. What a card!
Asked why he hadn't raised this issue before, Petro said "the issue never came up before."
Ha! Good one, Jim.

No really . . . . . . . oh, that really is your reason? Uh, okay.

Anyway, someone has a theory for why Petro brings it up now:
Ned Wigglesworth, an analyst for TheRestofUs.org., a California-based government watchdog group that is part of Reform Ohio Now, said the three law firms representing Ohio First have received some $10 million in special counsel contracts from Petro's office from 2003-2005 and that employees of those firms have contributed about $140,000 to Petro in the past 15 years.

This relationship has meant "campaign cash" for Petro, "an attorney general to do some of (the) lifting" for Ohio First, and "more corruption and more scandal" for the people of Ohio, Wigglesworth said.

Petro strongly denied any relationship between the friend of the court brief and campaign contributions.
The always-ready Petro fired back with this witty riposte:
"That's ridiculous," he said.
We guess Petro is mighty proud of how he put that Wigglesworth guy in his place.

 

RON Amendments could be okay'd today

Everything is looking good for the RON amendments:
As of Wednesday, Blackwell's office had received reports from 85 of Ohio's 88 county boards of election with a total of 341,518 valid signatures from registered voters. That's more than the 322,899 - 10 percent of the votes cast in the last governor's race - needed to qualify for the ballot.

. . . petitions include signatures equal to 5 percent of the gubernatorial vote in at least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties. That threshold was met in more than 60 counties, according to unofficial totals.

Blackwell could certify the issues as early as today, said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Blackwell.

Stay tuned.

 

Dann forces Petro's to reverse himself

Gotta love Sen. Marc Dann.

After Petro offered up a pathetic explanation of why he didn't pursue the SEC's allegations of trading and brokerage irregularities at BWC for two-and-a-half years ("I was only BWC's lawyer blah, blah, blah . . .), Dann provided Jim & Co. with a refresher course on the AG's duties and rights under the Ohio Revised Code. Dann also demanded that Petro release documents to show what (if any) investigation Petro made into the BWC allegations.

At first, Petro tried to stare down Dann but with increasing public attention to the matter and increasing pressure from his supporters and other Republicans, guess who blinked first?
Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro reversed course and said yesterday that his office will investigate a federal agency’s allegations of investment problems at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

In an interview Tuesday night, Mr. Petro stuck to the stance he took last year that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s suspicions about “possible abuse” in the bureau’s payments to three brokerages were unfounded.

But under pressure from state Sen. Marc Dann (D., Warren) to produce records that would prove that Mr. Petro’s office investigated the SEC’s concerns last year, Mr. Petro said he decided later Tuesday night to relaunch his office’s investigation of the bureau.

. . .

He said he now questions the guidance and cooperation bureau officials gave his then-chief counsel, Elizabeth Smith.

“At that point in 2004, there was no reason to doubt their truthfulness,” Mr. Petro said.

“On reflection, in 2005, there were incidents that occurred that caused us to think maybe they weren’t as entirely as accurate in their portrayal — and we were their lawyers — as I would like, so we’re going back to it,” he said.
It's important to remember what happened. The SEC - not exactly a hotbed of leftwing hysteria - supplied Petro with information that appeared to show that BWC officials had "abused their discretion." ("Abuse of discretion" is a polite way of saying BWC officials looked the other way while the brokers they had on contract looted the agency.)

What did Petro do? He chose to diss the SEC officials, who are the federal investment cops, and side with operatives and political bretheren at BWC without doing one iota of independent investigation. (We have this mental image of Petro playing Senor Wences and Terry Gasper his head in a box: "S'all right?" "S'all right!").

More than one political career has been destroyed by such a miscalculation.

We would also like to note that we have a technical disagreement about how some of the timeline to this story has been reported. Petro has implied that he got involved in this issue in 2004, and many newspaper articles (including the one above) keep allowing Petro to get away with this.

The idea that Petro didn't know of the SEC inquiries until 2004 is simply not credible. Documents show that the SEC contact BWC officials in writing in November 2002. That letter also indicates that the SEC also had telephone conversations with BWC officials even earlier.

As we understand it, a formal contact from an attorney with SEC, in any form, should have automatically triggered notice being given to the BWC's chief legal officer, John Annarino, not to mention then-Administrator, Jim Conrad. The AG's office also maintains a Workers (sic) Compensation Section that "provides legal counsel and representation to the administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation."

Between Conrad and Annarino, one of them would have been compelled to notify the AG's WC Section of the SEC inquiries when they occurred. If they didn't, there better had been a good reason why. And with Annarino still on the job, we'd like to see the press corps vigorously pursue the issue of was informed and when.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

Petro, the opportunist

Is Ohio's Attorney General limited to being "chief counsel" for Ohio's state agencies, or can the AG take independent action? Recent events show Jim Petro is an opportunist who wants to have it both ways.

We usually don't like to use the term "opportunist" lightly. It's too easy to throw around in the political arena where every politician - even the best - sometimes face pragmatic decisions about his or her "principles."

But, it's been a long time since we've seen such an Ohio politician of Petro's stature try to weasely bullshit the public and reporters about his contradictory stance on a major principle in two high profile - and connected - stories.

First, we'll start with BWC. Over the weekend, we had the revelation that the SEC had practically begged Petro as early as 2002 to investigate improprieties at bureau. Petro cobble together this explanation for failing to act at the SEC's behest:
"We are simply lawyers that represent these agencies," he said, adding that he lacked the authority to launch an independent investigation.
Now, compare that to how Petro has position himself in regard to Ohio First Inc.'s challenge to how the RON petitions were gathered.
Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro has sided with the group trying to keep four election-reform constitutional amendments off the Ohio ballot . . .
In other words, when it came to the RON issue, Petro suddenly found enough independence to side with Ohio First Inc and abandon his responsibilities to represent the Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (who approved the RON coalition's petition gathering method).

Now, Petro first tried to say that the AG's office would represent "both sides." This didn't pass the laugh test for one hour. This arrangement so discomforted the first outside attorney, William Papmon, that he quickly bailed out:
Mr. Papmon resigned [Aug. 24], citing a conflict of interest because of Mr. Petro's opposing stance.
We know nothing about Papmon's background, but over the weekend, Larry James - a very well-connected lawyer - agreed to represent the SOS with the AG's office picking up the tab.

We believe that the interests of the RON coalition will be strongly defended. RON attorney Don McTigue is outstanding. James is a pal of Blackwell's and has a lot of juice to throw around the courthouse and Capital Square. Together, they will leave no stone unturned.

Or should we say, no clause of the Ohio Constitution will be unturned. In particular, Articles 2 (see 2.01C) and 16 seem to pretty clearly side with the RON coalition. If the Ohio Constitution is a self-contained entity, it trumps any subsequent legislative action.

We're offering 10-1 odds that Petro will be the loser (in more ways than one) when the Supreme Court decides this case. Any takers?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

 

Hackett would be outstanding candidate for Senate

Tim Tagaris pretty much says it all and covers it all: Message, Fundraising, Experience, Other candidates. Read it!

Not to detract from the good work of Ryan or Kaptur, but our instincts tell us Hackett will be Ohio's Wellstone.

 

More Petro 'pay-to-play' ?

It looks that way. From the PD:
Four of every five dollars requested by Attorney General Jim Petro for special counsel contracts for this fiscal year will go to law firms that have given money to his political campaigns.

. . .

[S]tate Democratic leaders said 41 of the 57 law firms receiving contracts on Monday have given Republican Petro more than $800,000 since 1998. Those same firms yesterday were awarded $15.4 million in contracts.
The Blade provides some of the details:
On the political contribution list, prepared by state Senate staff for Mr. Miller, the highest contributor to Mr. Petro was Hahn, Loesser & Parks LLP, which gave $95,016 since 1998 to the attorney general’s campaigns. The firm was approved for $500,000 in special counsel contracts at the meeting yesterday.

Second on the contribution list was Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, which gave about $68,611 to Petro campaigns. The firm was approved yesterday for $1.47 million in special counsel work.

Calfee, Halter & Griswold received the most special counsel work yesterday, $2.15 million worth, and gave $34,250 in political contributions to Mr. Petro since 1998, eighth on the list of 41 firms.

McMillan [sic], Sobanski & Todd gave the least amount, $200. The firm received $175,000 in special counsel work, according to the list.
Hello? MacMillan, Sobanski & Todd? Didn't you read the rules of the game? $200? Don't they teach you how to run with the big dogs in Toledo. (Actually, we are very puzzled by the hiring of MacMillan, Sobanski & Todd. Their specialty is trade secrets, patent, copyright and trademark issues. What the hell would BWC have to do with that?)

The special counsel work looks like it's been a cherry job in the past - if you had the right connections:
In 2003, Mr. Petro appointed Tracy Kidd, who like Ms. [Bernadette] Noe was a part-time lawyer at the Toledo firm of Wise & Dorner, as special counsel to conduct some debt collection.

The appointment meant that Ms. Kidd, and potentially Ms. Noe, would receive as much as one-third of the $245,000 collected during her tenure as special counsel for the state. The standard fee for special counsel is one-third of the first $30,000 of each claim collected, and an additional 10 percent for additional collections. [emphasis added]
Anyone surprised?

Monday, August 29, 2005

 

Washington Post slants RON coverage

A few days ago, the Washington Post profiled the Reform Ohio Now effort. Although the recognition of the campaign is nice (and deserved), parsing the following bit of the Post coverage suggests which side reporter Brian Faler was listening to:
As California goes, so goes Ohio? The Buckeye State is awaiting word on whether it will become the second state, in addition to California, to vote this fall on whether to change the way it draws congressional districts.

A Democratic-leaning group called Reform Ohio Now has submitted more than 500,000 signatures to put a handful of proposals on the state's November ballot, including one that would take the power to draw those districts from state lawmakers and give it to an independent panel. [emphasis added]
We understand it when RON opponents try to put the “Democratic-leaning” spin on the RON coalition, but it’s another thing for a Post reporter to fall for this attempt to re-frame this battle.

It would have been just as accurate if Faler had described the group as "leaning in favor of gambling” because some of the members had played poker before. In other words, the presence of some past and present supporters of candidates of the Democratic party doesn't, therefore, make this some hidden campaign of the Democratic Party, and the use of description like "Democratic-leaning" in this context is both terribly irrelevant and terribly offensive.

We’re not playing a semantics games here. The “Democratic-leaning” comment is an blatant red-herring and part of a planned effort to get the media to describe it thusly. Let us explain.

As anyone even somewhat close to the RON process knows, the amendments arose out of a frustration with 1) the GOP opposition to ending the bash they have thrown for themselves at the public's expense, and 2) the Ohio Democratic Party's inability to orchestrate any significant change.

The reality is that RON amendments evolved in spite of opposition, indifference, bewilderment and poo-pooing of among both the ODP and the GOP. Yes, indeed, many in the ODP have now openly endorsed RON and there was a big surge of support after the petitions were submitted. But the ODP establishment had nothing to do with the beginning of RON.

It is true that at least one of the RON initiators is a former high-level ODP officials (e.g., Paul Tipps). On the other hand, another RON initiator, Andy Douglas, is a former top GOP office holder (Ohio Supreme Court). Both have been around for a long time. Both claim to be disgusted by the direction of the state and alarmed at the lack of prospect for significant change. But, neither have reputations for being beholden to any entity, political or otherwise (except perhaps to their considerable egos). Both are considered, in fact, to be known mavericks.

Likewise, Douglas and Tipps were able to rally a couple of large unions (OEA and the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association) around the RON concept in its beginning stages. But neither union is synomous with the ODP either. Ironically, both have even incurred the wrath of the ODP on a regular basis because they have supported Republican candidates fairly often.

Douglas and Tipps were also able to gather support from a couple of major newspapers (e.g., the Dayton Daily News) very early in the process.

RON has become popular precisely because it will eliminate a huge layer of partisan political shenanigans - something both the GOP and the ODP will have to learn to live with.

The point of this ranting about the Post story is that the Dick Finans, the Kevin DeWines and the Ken Blackwells of Ohio plan on taking the most sick, sinister and cynical approach to attacking RON - to paint the RON amendments as just another example partisanship when nothing could be further from the truth.

The problem is that political reporters want every issue to fit into a nice, neat, predictable format. Democrats propose "A". Republicans oppose "A". Republicans propose "B". Democrats oppose "B". If they can't make a story fit that template, they change the story instead of tossing the template. If the square peg won't go into the round hole - fuck it, get a bigger hammer!

The Post isn't the only paper to fall for the "Democratic-leaning" frame. We were disappointed to see the usually sterling Jim Provance of the Blade get suckered in too:
RON - a coalition of Democrat-leaning groups like Common Cause, the Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio Federation of Teachers, and Planned Parenthood - had expected a court challenge but not until after the signatures were filed. [emphasis added]
Just two paragraphs later, Provance confesses
The Democratic political machine has largely remained quiet so far on the process . . .

So, to the reporters who read this blog, today's lesson is this: RON is NOT the product of the political machine of the ODP. It is not a covert scheme by Denny White and company. It is not the brainchild of the Democratic leaders of the Ohio House or Senate. So quit implying that it is.

ODP officials and candidates are certainly welcome to get on the RON bus. The same goes for the GOP. They are all welcome to join - but not lead. They are also welcome to stay on the sidelines.

But both the GOP and the ODP knows that Ohio voters in 2006 may judge candidates on where they stood on reform in 2005. Needless to say, a lot of candidates are already jumping on the RON bandwagon.

Finally, we'd like to give some kudos to
Elenamary and her fascinating, eponymous blog (subtitled, "Irish Xicana in Ohio Ponders") that covers many political and latino/hispanic stories. We discovered Elenamary while doing some research of this post, and it turned out that she had starting banging on the Post before we did. Her summary of Faler's story:
So many inaccuracies in so few words.
Well said!

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