Friday, December 08, 2006

 

Playing favorites, BWC style

Why is it that those who scream the loudest about the invisible hand of the marketplace are so often wanting to cheat as often as they can get away with it?
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation also provided The Dispatch with information showing that the employers for whom legislators or the governor’s office lobbied the bureau had their rates reduced by as much as 93 percent in a given year.

That includes an 88 percent reduction in the base rate paid in 2005 by Armbruster Energy, a business owned by outgoing state Sen. Jeffry Armbruster, R-North Ridgeville. The bureau does not release dollar amounts of the savings.

Although Armbruster says he did nothing improper, an internal e-mail written by a bureau official earlier this year appeared to question the reduction and noted "this is not the first time we helped him/his business out."

The details are part of an ongoing investigation into whether political influence or anything improper was involved when the bureau performed "manual overrides" of its computer system to lower premium rates for certain employers.

. . .

Bureau auditors flagged 27 of 36 overrides that they examined from January 2003 to September 2005 for not following agency rules or not having enough documentation to determine whether the reductions were justified.

E-mails involving those 27 overrides showed that at least six legislators and the governor’s office had asked for consideration on behalf of the businesses involved.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

 

GOP money faucet opened for Pryce as it closed for DeWine

David Hammer at the AP details the final fundraising fury in Ohio:
Filings by federal election campaigns showed how crucial the final days of October and first week of November were in Ohio contests, such as DeWine's against Democrat Sherrod Brown, that helped decide the balance of power in Washington.

. . .

DeWine spent $3.6 million in the final weeks, but lost to Brown, who continued to get plenty of national help and spent $1.5 million of his campaign money to win handily, 56 percent to 44 percent.

. . .

When the RNC took advertising dollars from DeWine, it threw much of it to help Rep. Deborah Pryce's re-election bid in the Columbus-area. At one point in mid-October, Pryce's campaign also was raising $30,000 a day, spokesman George Rasley said. Pryce needed almost all of it to survive.

Pryce kept her Columbus-area seat against Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy by a mere 1,055 votes, and a recount in the race continued Thursday. FEC filings Thursday show Pryce spent nearly $1.2 million and Kilroy spent slightly more than $1 million between Oct. 19 and Nov. 27.

From Oct. 23 to Nov. 3 alone, Pryce paid Strategic Media Services of Washington, D.C., $671,316 for television advertising, a number that shocked Kilroy campaign manager Scott Kozar.

"Two-point-six million dollars was my budget for the whole cycle and she spent a fifth of that in one week?" Kozar said. "She had a significant fundraising advantage."

In addition, national Republicans spent $1.8 million on the Pryce-Kilroy race and national Democrats spent $1.6 million.

 

Bob Bennett's world

Bizness as usual from your citizen-loving GOP:

1) GOP tries to sabotage Minimum Wage vote with Sub. HB 690 (from the AFL-CIO):
This bill attempts to rewrite the Ohio Fair Minimum Wage Amendment and deny groups—such as home healthcare workers—their newly entitled minimum wage. HB 690 also strips out some of the worker protections in the voter-approved amendment. We cannot let this happen!

The new wage rate will begin on January 1, 2007, even if HB 690 doesn’t pass. We cannot allow those who have vehemently opposed raising the minimum wage to undercut our success on November 7 and deny low-wage workers their rights!

Call your state representative today and tell him or her to respect the will of the people. Tell him or her to Vote NO on HB 690!
• OCSEA says that GOPers tried (but apparently has now abandoned) to use HB 187 to gut civil service protections in public employee hiring and promotions:

• OCSEA also reports that in the state's capital budget bill draft, GOPers have inserted a clause guaranteeing that Ohio will operate two privately-owned prisons, regardless of cost or security provided.
According to the new language, the deal would cement in law the contracts of no less than two private prisons, regardless of how well the contractor performs and regardless of the need for the facilities. The language would also exempt the private prisons from ever being considered for closure.
• Then there is HB 695 that (well chronicled by Russell at the BuckeyeStateBlog and, btw, when is someone gonna give him one of those primo blog jockey jobs???) preemptively lays down a rule-making minefield for the incoming Stricklanders.

• Oh, and besides crippling the new administration, screwing the state's work force and rewarding corporate chums, the GOP can't resist throwing throw some red meat to the christocrats (from Ohio2006, also via the good folks at BSB:
Once again signaling their determination to push divisive partisan legislation during the lameduck session, Republican legislators revived an extreme anti-abortion law and voted it out of committee today. The bill, HB 239, has been essentially dormant since it was introduced by Rep. Michelle Schneider (R) in May.
Lest we forget, behold the words of (still) Chairman Bob, post elections:
In a very real sense, in some ways we needed this. We need the reminder that our service to the people is at their discretion, and if we let them down it can easily be taken away.
Except, that is, when a pond of lame duck loons wants to deliver a big fat f-you to the electorate and strut their egomaniacal stuff a few last times.

And maybe someone in the steno pool might want to ask Bennett to clarify if these final few weeks are the new GOP or the old GOP or the slightly-used GOP or what?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

 

Questions raised about the scope of the OH-15 recount

The sampling of the ballots got underway this morning. But the scope of the recount is being questioned by some elections experts. If the recount shows a pattern of differences with the offficial numbers, the BOE could order a recount of all ballots.

Although county officials assert they could only do the sample recount of 3% of the vote, a Dispatch story today reported that the Franklin County BOE was going to go above and beyond the call of duty by agreeing to an initially review 10% of the ballots, not just 3%. Indeed, it seemed like the Bill Anthony and the FCBOE is willing to bo the extra mile.

But long comes Ned Foley, Election Law Director at OSU's Moritz College of Law, who makes a convincing argument that because the recount involves a federal office the 3% minimum not only does not apply, but that the applicable federal law suggests that ALL ballots must be recounted:
As my colleagues and I have discussed previously, it is not at all clear to us that it is permissible under state law for local officials to review only 3% [or 10%] of VVPATs rather than all of them, despite the obvious administrative desirability for this more limited review. The part of the elections code governing recounts provides that any candidate may apply “for a recount of the votes cast at such election in any precinct” (§3515.01) and that the Secretary of State must order a recount “in a district election” when the margin of victory is less than one-half of one percent (§3515.011). These two provisions regarding requested and automatic recounts clearly contemplate the recounting of all ballots rather than just a fraction of them.

More to the point, another section of the code specifies the procedures for conducting both permissive and mandatory recounts (§3515.04), and states that “the board of elections, in the presence of all observers who may be in attendance, shall open the sealed containers containing the ballots to be recounted, and shall recount them,” not a portion of them. Likewise, still another section provides: “Upon completion of the recount of the ballots of all precincts listed in an application for a recount . . . or in the case of a [mandatory] recount as provided in § 3515.011,” the board shall file an amended return indicating any change in the results.

The upshot of all these provisions would seem to mandate the recounting of all ballots in a congressional race where either a candidate puts up the money for a recount of all precincts or an automatic recount of the race at the government’s expense is required because of the narrow margin of victory. Because a separate section of state law makes the VVPAT the “official ballot to be recounted” (§3506.18), a recount of all ballots in a race would appear to mean a recount of all VVPATs.
But after making a cogent case for a 100% recount, Foley raises some serious doubts about whether the FCBOE is capable of doing a broader review 220,000+ ballots cast in the OH-15 before the "safe harbor date" of Dec. 12 (or Dec. 15, if a permissable 3-day extension is granted):
Were they to review manually each one of these ballots in a single week, they would need to count 31,593 of them per day, or 1,316 per hour working round the clock—without even allocating any time for double-checking or resolving discrepancies between this manual count and the initial machine count.

. . .

Simply put, there is no point in requiring voting machines to produce spools of paper if there is not enough time for election officials to unravel these spools and examine them.
Foley also suggest that this raises ominous signs for 2008 when a statewide recount of votes cast in a presidential contest could be required.

Regardless, it makes sense to us that Kilroy's campaign should NOT be agreeing that 3% or 10% fulfill statutory requirements of the recount.

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