Enjoyed attending the Dayton “Town Hall” meeting last night with Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor— Ed FitzGerald and Sharen Neuhardt.FitzGerald denounced his opponent, Republican Governor John Kasich, for his refusal to debate. He said that this refusal rests on a Republican calculation that most of the public won’t care. In this short video excerpt, FitzGerald’s deals with the profound question of how a democracy can function so that citizens have the information they need to make reasoned choices.
In the Dayton meeting, FitzGerald paraphrased a quote an early twentieth century journalist that, “The vitality of our democracy depends on the common people understanding complex issues.” FitzGerald didn’t identify the journalist who made that statement, but it sounds like something H. L. Mencken would write. I found this quote from Mencken that seems similar:
When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand.
FitzGerald asked: “How can the common people understand complex issues?” He said three entities have responsibility:
The common people have a responsibility as a citizens to do that research whether served to them or not.
Journalists have a responsibility to force public officials to talk about issues and to report on substantive issues, not silly issues — substantive issues in a substantive way.
Candidates who ask for your support have to show kind of respect by meeting with you and taking all questions like I tried to do tonight.
FitzGerald said that all three of these entities are failing and made the point that Kasish’s refusal to debate is an outrageous insult to our democracy.
The Dispatch reports that “Kasich has $4.6 million for re-election and FitzGerald has $248,000.” Much of Kasich’s money is going into 30 second TV ads. FitzGerald noted:
People cannot understand the complex issues and challenges facing this state by watching 30 second commercials. Would you ever make a an important decision in your life based on 30 commercials? If someone else came to you and had a big crisis in their life — medical or financial — and said “I know what to do because I saw a 30 second commercial.” And you’d say, “Are you crazy? Talk to an expert, do research, look at your options.”
The FitzGerald / Kasich contest — with its propaganda, misinformation and with the power of big money to shape public opinion — illustrates that the very infrastructure of our democracy is in very bad shape.
In Ohio’s State Treasurer’s contest the Democratic challenger, Connie Pillich, has a tough ad accusing the incumbent, Republican Josh Mandel, of “misusing the treasurer’s office in exchange for $100,000 from a crooked businessman.”
The businessman in question is Ben Suarez, owner and founder of Suaez Corporation Industries, a direct marketing company. The Cleveland Plain Dealer published an article in June describing Suarez’s schemes —selling hundreds of products that include:
weight-loss and dietary supplements, jewelry, collectible coins, cleaners and space heaters,
diet aids that the Suarez company claimed could prevent heart attacks, cancer and other diseases,
a get rich book
“unclaimed funds” from government accounts
In 2011 Suarez was in trouble in California. This article reports, “District attorneys there sought $4 million in civil penalties plus $2 million more in restitution, alleging false and misleading advertisements on the labeling of 17 Suarez Corp. Industries (SCI) products and the distribution of misbranded foods, drugs and medical devices in the state. One product in particular got special attention Suarez’s“Foot Choice Infrared Heat Massager.”
The conclusion of the letter Mandel sent to Bill Lockyer, the Treasurer of the State of California. Lockyer replied to Mandel: “It has been my experience that California prosecutors give the highest priority to putting an end to unfair business practices, preventing future abuse and where possible, recovering monies for consumer victims.”
Suarez wanted to find some political influence to make the California District attorneys to back off of their prosecution and so he turned to Josh Mandel. Laua Bishoff in her DDN article explains: “Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel wrote two letters advocating for Suarez Corporation Industries’ business interests in California at the same time that company founder Ben Suarez was raising $100,000 for Mandel’s campaign for U.S. Senate, according to records released by Mandel’s office to the Dayton Daily News.”
When longtime GOP donor Benjamin Suarez needed help from the Ohio treasurer’s office, he turned to Scott Guthrie to get it.
Only Guthrie wasn’t employed by Josh Mandel, treasurer of the state of Ohio. He was the campaign fundraiser for Josh Mandel, candidate for the United States Senate.
So why is a major businessman asking for favors from Treasurer Mandel through a fundraiser for candidate Mandel? That is one of the central questions remaining from the federal trial of Suarez that ended this week in Cleveland.
A spokesman for Mandel says it is “common throughout Ohio and America that constituents contact an official office for something unofficial or contact someone outside the official office for something official.” However, two legal experts say Guthrie’s interactions with Suarez and the treasurer’s office are suspicious and merit further investigation.
While Suarez was found not guilty of making illegal campaign contributions in 2011, no one is questioning that he gathered $100,000 for Mandel’s Senate campaign. And no one is questioning that Mandel took up Suarez’s cause in a California legal battle at the same time. …
It was Guthrie who executed the two favors Suarez sought from Mandel: two letters on the state treasurer’s official letterhead written to help Suarez Corp. Industries of North Canton fight its legal troubles in California.
And Guthrie twice helped Mandel solicit campaign money from Suarez: $30,000 in one instance, $100,000 in another. Guthrie personally picked up an envelope containing the $100,000 in checks after hours at Suarez’s company.
Guthrie’s actions don’t prove the existence of a quid pro quo — politicians trading favors in exchange for money — and in court Guthrie and others denied that there was any link between the letters and the campaign contributions.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that (the letters and the contributions) had nothing to do with each other,” he testified on June 19.
But the question of quid pro quo remains, according to legal experts, because of another central question raised by Guthrie’s testimony: If there is no link between the letters and the Suarez donations, why was Guthrie — and not a treasurer’s office employee — tasked with writing the letters Suarez sought?
“Certainly ordinary people would look at that and say it stinks,” said Ohio State University law professor Daniel P. Tokaji, an election-law specialist who read the 86-page transcript of Guthrie’s testimony.
The Republican ad smearing Dee Gillis shows her as a cigar smoking, martini swilling politician who voted herself a big raise. The DDN article points out her vote “would actually cost her $13,078 annually in lost compensation.”
I loved The Sunday DDN article written by Laura A. Bischoff and Lynn Hulsey — Law’s limbo means gloves off in hot race — about the outrageous lies told by the Republicans in the contest for the Ohio Senate’s fifth district.
Four years ago Republican Bill Beagle become senator for the fifth district by pouring money into negative ads against Democrat Fred Strahorn. Beagle raised only about $12,000 but the Republican Party and the Republican Senate Campaign Committee poured in over $900,000 more. Strahorn had only $341,089 to spend and couldn’t keep pace in the TV war. Beagle won 49,339 to 47,681.
Now seeking reelection Beagle has a strong challenger in former Tipp City mayor, Dee Gillis. The 1976 Ohio law that prohibited outright lies in political campaigns has recently been ruled unconstitutional and any restraint the law may have provided is now gone. The DDN article points to an ad produced by the Republicans that is almost funny in demonstrating how far a political party will go to slime an opponent. It is funny and also shameful — and in a democracy with any validity would cause such a howl of protest, it would backfire and work to hurt the Beagle campaign.
The DDN article says:
“Democrat Dee Gillis is a retired beauty salon owner and grandmother who served side by side with Republican Bill Beagle on the Tipp City Council. But their race for the 5th District Senate seat in Ohio has been anything but congenial.
An Ohio GOP-backed ad that hit mailboxes last week uses a doctored photo to paint Gillis as a cigar-smoking, martini-swilling politician who snatched a whopper pay raise at taxpayer expense as the city’s mayor.
Gillis doesn’t smoke, isn’t keen on martinis and didn’t really vote herself a city pay raise. In fact, if she is re-elected and still on the council in 2016, her vote would actually cost her $13,078 annually in lost compensation.”
In a 55 second video that he recorded for the Dayton Daily News, Rob Klepinger, the Democratic candidate seeking election to congress to represent Ohio’s 10th District, says he decided to oppose the incumbent Republican Mike Turner, because he “got tired of yelling at the TV.” Klepinger has taught chemistry in a local public high school for 20 years. He is 46 years old. Here is a transcript of his video:
Hello. My name is Robert Klepinger and I’m running for congress. I won the Democratic Primary of May 6 and I’m your candidate for Ohio’s 10th Congressional District. I’m running for congress because I got tired of yelling at the TV. I have no money to spend. I don’t even have the support of my own teacher’s union. I have no corporate sponsors. I’m just here to support the 720,000 people who live in our district. If elected I will work tirelessly to bring in better and higher paying jobs. I will work to reduce the interest on college student loans and I also will want to fight to increase the minimum wage. When the government was closed this last time, my opponent couldn’t even cooperate with the speaker of the house from his own party to reopen the government. I will work to cooperate. You must cooperate to legislate. Please vote for Rob Klepinger on November 4.
The 10th District includes all of Montgomery and Greene Counties and part of Fayette County.
In Ohio’s Attorney General Contest, challenger David Pepper is accusing the incumbent Mike DeWine of unfairly rewarding contributors with valuable contracts. In her DDN article this morning — Charges fly in spirited AG race — Laura Bischoff reports about Pepper’s “pay to play” accusation and cites a great article that she wrote in July that somehow I had missed.
Bischoff’s July article — Vendors gave big to DeWine, GOP — deserves a lot of attention and discussion. The article obviously was the result of many hours of research and outlines a strong a strong case that Mike Dewine, Ohio’s current Attorney General, used his office inappropriately.
Bischoff summarizes her research in the first paragraphs of the article:
In doling out lucrative collections contracts, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine passed over more experienced vendors in favor of a friend’s new collections agency.
His campaign and the state Republican Party received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from collectors as they sought work from the state.
And DeWine involved his former fundraiser and other politically connected people in a process that is supposed to independent from political influence.
Debt collection generates a lot of money for the state and a lot of money for the collectors. The Attorney General decides who to hire to do the collection and the work pays very well. The article reports, “The DeWine administration hires between six and eight third party vendors and between 74 and 118 attorneys each year to handle debt collection work. The state paid those agencies and attorneys a total of $137.9 million between 2011 and 2013.”
The right to hand out contracts worth millions of dollars provides a big opportunity for corruption. We can be thankful that Bischoff spent the effort to do the research which involved “reviewing hundreds of pages of state documents, campaign finance reports and other records relating to the attorney general’s role in picking outside attorneys and collections agencies that go after back taxes, defaulted student loans and other money owed to state government and public universities.”
Bischoff reports, “Of the 30 collections attorneys who contributed more than $10,000 to that total, the average annual earnings on debt collection work was $796,500 between 2011 and 2013. Of the 89 who contributed less than $10,000, the average earnings during that time period were $192,000.”
The article focuses on Dewine’s friend, Pete Spitalieri, who landed a contract to collect debt worth millions regardless that his brand new company had no experience in doing the work. Bischoff shows that Spitalieri gave money to the Republican party — $35,000 to the Ohio Republican Party, plus $23,000 to the Summit County GOP — which has sent Mike DeWine’s campaign $405,500 since 2010.
Spitalieri formed CELCO Ltd. on April 11, 2012 — just two days before DeWine’s office put out a request for proposals from collections agencies for the upcoming fiscal year. Three weeks later, CELCO turned in a proposal that acknowledged the company had no experience handling collections accounts.
Nonetheless, CELCO beat out several bigger, more established bidders, including ones that had a national footprint and licensing.
“We were absolutely flabbergasted,” said Barry H. Fromm, chief executive of Columbus-based Value Recovery Group, or VRG, which was founded in 1993 and had worked for the past five attorneys general. His firm got edged out by CELCO.