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.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Sugarcoated failures

Apparently the some in the steno pool are going to let Bruce Johnson depart in honor, despite the near-consensus that Ohio economy is virtually directionless.
Johnson counts to his credit the attraction of more than 823 successful economic development projects that have generated nearly $10.6 billion in new investment in the state, retained 159,315 positions and created 64,235 jobs.
Taft also sings the high hosannas for Johnson's efforts:
"Lieutenant Governor Johnson played a pivotal role in transforming Ohio's economic development strategy and has effectively positioned the state to attract business investment in the future."
In fact, during his tenure, Ohio has sustained a net job lost of over 150,000 jobs including over 193,000 in manufacturing, has seen demands for food assitance rise by over 50%, and has earned itself and "F" for high education affordability (just to name a few metrics).

At least Johnson admits to what tune he was fiddling instead of doing his job:
"I'm proud of the many accomplishments we've made to improve Ohio's economy, including lawsuit and tax reform, which are making a tremendous positive impact on the state's business climate."
So, there you have it. Johnson's accomplishments for the last 5 years: less consumer protection and phoney tax reform. If we had another five years of this "positive impact" and some guy named Borat might be making a movie about us.

Good riddance, Bruce.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


More on Strickland/Fisher and economic development

It's obviously early in the process, so we are still looking for hopeful signs. We found some in a recent Ohio Public Radio interview in which the duo seem to hit issues of high interest to us:

Link to education? Check.

Link to health care? Check.

Pursue a unique strategy? Check.

Establish public accountablity method? Check.

And, here are a few particular tea leaves that Fisher left in his cup for observeers to pick through. Sure, some of its rhetoric, but actually some of phrasing he uses are more or less code words that are meant to signal to experts where they intend to go:
Every state has its own unique, natural strengths. We will inventory those strengths and invest in those strengths. And make Ohio first in areas where we can attract the best and brightest talent and the best and brightest companies and workers from around the world and the country.

. . .

You cannot separate out primary and second and higher education from economic development and growth. So obviously we have a strong interest in making sure that every child in Ohio graduates not just with a certificate of graduation but with a certificate of skills that helps them succeed in the global market place, and helps them get the best possible job, preferably in Ohio, where they can raise a family and live here for the rest of their lives.

. . .

Gov. Strickland and I talked about creating an economic growth scorecard by which we can measure our progress and you can measure our progress.
Again, we think there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Kilroy to play hardball with recount

Good for Mary Jo and her staff! Sounds like we'll have a lively fight to the end in OH-15, with the nation watching. From the Hannah Report (sub. req'd):
Facing a recount and 2,600 disputed provisional ballots, the campaign for Mary Jo Kilroy said Monday she was "ruling nothing out" in her ongoing battle for the 15th Congressional District.

That could include a possible court challenge, Campaign Manager Scott Kozar told Hannah News after the Franklin County Board of Elections named incumbent Republican Deborah Pryce the victor Monday morning.

. . .

Democrats said the electoral review was only just beginning. "It's basically election night at 2 a.m. - three weeks later. There's a lot to be resolved," said Kozar, pointing to thousands of ballots rejected in Democratic-leaning Franklin County. He said it was unclear how many registered voters were in the wrong precinct or otherwise disenfranchised. "That's all going to come in the coming days. There are probably a couple of categories, but we won't know until the recount is completed."

. . .

A number of questions around provisional voting have lain unresolved at the federal level since 2005, when Democrat John Kerry gave up on an election challenge in Ohio. Some states have elected to accept provisional ballots in the right county but the wrong precinct, while others have not. Ohio falls in the latter.

At the state level, the General Assembly has passed election reforms since the presidential election, though without Democratic support.

"It's the first time for a recount under HB3 (DeWine)," noted Kozar. "This is uncharted territory."


Fisher to oversee Ohio economic efforts

We think this is a good move on Strickland's part, and although it appears at first to just be a repeat of Taft's appointment of Bruce Johnson to head the DOD, it's not.

Johnson, for starters, never showed any particular finesse for economic development. Johnson' background was that he was a political insider who had worked as a corporate hired gun in one of the uber insider law firms, Chester Wilcox Saxbe. Johnson also worked as COS for former Columbus mayor Greg Lashutka (keep in mind that the high point of economic development under Lashustka was the opening of the now-deserted City Center Mall). Johnson, also served as a state senator on the Ways and Means committee.

But being a corporate lawyer, or a political staffer or a committee member tinkering with state taxes doesn't really help one understand anything about real economic development. As a matter of fact, we believe Johnson's background actually hurt him, and gave him a very narrow view of "what's wrong in Ohio."

Ideologically, Johnson was shackled with a trickle-down view of economics and a blind faith in the marketplace.

Worse, Johnson has absolutely no sense of economic strategy and in his world, unfortunately, that's great, because the marketplace will take care of that. All government has to do is prime the pump and urge the pigs to come drink at the trough.

Likewise, Johnson saw little value in developing broad relationships with stakeholders and partners. Little was done to bring together both business and labor groups. There was no outreach to the broad spectrum of economic think tanks around Ohio and the nation. And far too little was done to bring together and unleash the wealth of knowledge in Ohio's universities and academic institutions.

Thus, Johnson did little more than be the cheerleader for inane, silly initiatives like the Third Frontier, corporate tax overhauls, venture capital confabs and expensive "market Ohio" efforts.

And what did that get Ohio? Bupkus in regard to jobs. Unfortunately, Johnson's doofus approach also drove a lot of wedges between stakeholders.

As we have written in the past, Ohio's economic problems can't be solved with "better marketing" or "better access to investment capital" or "fewer taxes." Only simpletons, reporters and Republican ideologues buy into this crap.

Lee Fisher, on the other hand, is no slam dunk for success, but he gives us reason for optimism. Although a lot of people associate Fisher with being a legislator and attorney general, he has some decent management cred. Under his guidance, the Center for Families and Children had developed a reputation for results and well-run operations. Fisher also spent time on the Board of Directors of two publicly-traded companies, REX stores and OfficeMax.

Of course, running the AG's office is no easy task either. Skeptics may try to blow this off, but Fisher took the job seriously enough that he enrolled and partcipated in several senior management programs offered to executives at Harvard and the Weatherhead SoB at Case Western.

Fisher also seems to pride himself in being able to reach across broad spectrums of constiuencies to achieve specific goals.

Taxpayers clearly are demanding that something be done about Ohio's economic direction. This will be a tough job for even the best candidate, and we don't envy Fisher in this regard. The good news is that he can't really do any worse than his predecessors from the prior 16 years. But there are plenty of people in Ohio with some very, very good strategic concepts about economic development that can be tapped - if the political will is really there.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Oh yeah?

Picture 1

Perhaps "can't" was the best word for Deb's peeps to use in this situation, especially since the Dispatch - despite it's own silly reporting on the vote count - never was stupid enough to say it can't happen.

Now let's recall that the Dispatch's pseudo-analysis in fact did everything but guarantee that its endorsed candidate would be the winner:
If yet-to-be-counted votes follow patterns of those already tallied in the 15 th Congressional District, Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy would gain almost 1,800 votes districtwide on incumbent Deborah Pryce but still fall short.

. . .

There’s no reason to think that uncounted absentee ballots would favor either candidate in numbers greater than those already included in unofficial totals.

Scott Kozar, Kilroy’s campaign manager, said yesterday that provisional ballots will provide the Democrat’s hoped-for victory.

"When all those votes are counted, we’re going to swing it to victory," Kozar said.

DeStefano dismissed that as wishful thinking.

"Kilroy continues to play fast and loose with the facts, still claiming there is this gold mine of provisional (ballots) on campus when in fact there is not," he said.
In fact, as insiders can attest, the phrase, "There’s no reason to think that uncounted absentee ballots would favor either candidate in numbers greater than those already included in unofficial totals," was being thrown about verbatim by the Pryce camp before the Dispatch story was printed, and Nash, Haddix and Vitale should be embarassed for having been rope-a-doped on this matter.

Now, a Kilroy victory is clearly still a long shot. We think there is a lot of potential for a few more twists and turns in the vote count. Hope springs eternal, and all that . . .

But it's nice to know that several dozen sphincters at Pryce's HQ did the ole' squeesh-squish big time this morning.


Tom told to give it up

From the AP:
A judge today ordered a former GOP fundraiser convicted of embezzling from a state investment in rare coins to repay the state $13.7 million.

. . .

Also on Monday, Noe's former right-hand man pleaded guilty to tampering with records. Prosecutors agreed to drop a charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity against Timothy LaPointe, who was once Noe's close friend.


More on the OH-15 recount

From the AP:
The official numbers are due at the secretary of state's office Tuesday, spokesman James Lee said. Once the state office verifies a recount is required, it would notify county election officials that they have 10 days to complete the recount. Lee said that notice could be sent Tuesday, which would mean the recount would have to be done by Dec. 8.


Recount triggered in Kilroy-Pryce race.

Fantastic, and, ahhhh, now things get interesting!

The AP reports that Pryce's lead has dropped to the level needed for an automatic recount:
The four-member Franklin County Board of Elections certified final vote totals that gave Pryce the victory in the 15th Congressional District over Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy by 1,054 votes, a net loss of 2,482 from Pryce's unofficial election-night count. The tighter margin is within the half-percent required to trigger an automatic recount, director Matthew Damschroder said.
Keep the faith!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?