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 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.
District Judge Timothy Black was appointed to his position by President Obama in 2009. Judge Black ruled that a key portion of Ohio law that outlaws deliberate lying in political campaign advertisements is unconstitutional
In this campaign season with negative ads in full attack mode filling our TV’s, I’ve been wondering why there have been no reported complaints to the Ohio Election Commission (See Below). An article in this morning’s Columbus Dispatch explains that on September 11, U. S. District Judge Timothy Black declared unconstitutional a key part of Ohio’s campaign law that prohibited campaign lying and provided for complaints to the OEC. (See Judge Black’s ruling here.)
This law protected the public via an independent commission. To me, it seems that revoking this Ohio law is a step backward for our democracy and a green light to the worst possible campaign advertisements.
Judge Black was appointed by President Obama is 2009. I’m sort of amazed that judge appointed by a Democratic president would take such action and I’m amazed that the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) filed a brief urging him to do so.
The ACLU in its amicus brief urged Ohio Revised Code 3517.21 (10) be ruled unconstitutional. It equated the OEC with “the government” and argued, “It is not the government’s place to pass judgment on what political speech is acceptable, and certainly not in the context of criticizing a public official. Political speech cannot be so flagrantly encumbered.”
Judge Black seems lost in a hopeless fog when he approvingly quotes the Supreme Court (and Frank Underwood):
“The remedy for speech that is false is speech that is true. This is the ordinary course in a free society. The response to the unreasoned is the rational; to the uninformed, the enlightened; to the straight-out lie, the simple truth.” United States v. Alvarez, 132 S. Ct. 2537, 2550 (2012) (emphasis supplied). The more modern recitation of this longstanding and fundamental principle of American law was recently articulated by Frank Underwood in House of Cards: “There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth.”
Michael Smith at his law blog takes Black to task for quoting Frank Underwood. Says Smith, “The true meaning of Underwood’s quote is probably the last thing the court wants to espouse.”
Judge Black seems hopelessly naive. Black writes, “In short, the answer to false statements in politics is not to force silence, but to encourage truthful speech in response, and to let the voters, not the Government, decide what the political truth is.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the forces for truth had a lot of money so that lies and misinformation could be revealed for what they are. But our political system doesn’t work that way. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in a society where voters had easy access to truth? Black gives no clue as to what could “encourage truthful speech.”
Lies have no place in the political arena and serve no purpose other than to undermine the integrity of the democratic process. The problem is that, at times, there is no clear way to determine whether a political statement is a lie or the truth. What is certain, however, is that we do not want the Government (i.e., the Ohio Elections Commission) deciding what is political truth — for fear that the Government might persecute those who criticize it. … Here in Ohio, there is no reason to believe that the OEC is positioned to determine what is true and what is false when it comes to political statements. In fact, it is entirely possible that a candidate could make a truthful statement, yet the OEC would determine a few days before an election that the statement is false, penalizing the candidate for speaking the truth and chilling further truthful speech.
We know speech isn’t free and the more money one has, the more speech one has. The assertion that, “we do not want the Government (i.e., the Ohio Elections Commission) deciding what is political truth,” to me seems unreasonable. We believe that there is a role for government in assuring citizens that the integrity of their food, drugs and water are maintained at an acceptable standard. Why does it make sense to think that there is not a role for government in assuring citizens that the integrity of their political processes also meet a reasonable standard?
Black has destroyed the Ohio law that gives a government agency (The OEC) some authority to check the most outrageous outright lies in political advertisements. Thanks to the ruling by Judge Black, the role for government in Ohio has been greatly diminished in assuring safety or assuring a fair playing field in our democracy. His thinking seems in the clouds and not grounded in the reality of our political world. His thinking makes no practical sense.
Judge Black Ruled Unconstitutional: Ohio Revised Code 3517.21(B)(9)-(10):
No person, during the course of any campaign for nomination or election to public office or office of a political party, by means of campaign materials, including sample ballots, an advertisement on radio or television or in a newspaper or periodical, a public speech, press release, or otherwise, shall knowingly and with intent to affect the outcome of such campaign:
(9) Make a false statement concerning the voting record of a candidate or public official;
(10) Post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate.
The Ohio Elections Commission
The OEC, originally established in 1974, was reformulated as a seven member body in 1995, and reestablished as an independent government agency. Membership consists of six members (three members from each major political party in Ohio), appointed by the Governor upon recommendation by the Democratic and Republican caucuses of the General Assembly. By statute, the seventh member cannot be affiliated with either major political party and is appointed by the six partisan members of the Commission.
According to the State Board of Education website, the focus of the state board is to deliver an education that will make “all students well prepared for success.” The definition of “success,” according to the state board, evidently is the acquiring of skills needed to earn a living, the skills needed for industry. What bothers me about the vision and objectives articulated by the leaders of Ohio education (see below) is that this vision / objectives for Ohio’s public education could just as easily be articulated by the ministry of education in North Korea explaining the vision / objectives for North Korean public education.
Yes, like North Korea, we want skilled and willing workers who will build our industries and make us competitive in the world. What is missing from the objectives for public education in Ohio listed by the state board is any mention of the importance of preparing children to be full participants and contributors to their democracy. This omission of any emphasis of a democratic purpose for public schooling is also evident in the Common Core.
Common Core standards are supposed to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn” and be “relevant to the real world.” But “real world” expectations are defined as preparing students for “success in college and careers” and “to compete successfully in the global economy.” As best as I can ascertain, in the entire document, there is no real discussion of life in a democratic society and the role of education in promoting democratic processes and democratic values. …
Democracy is hard to build as we are witnessing around the world. It requires a sense of shared community, respect for democratic values such as minority rights, concerns for the well being of others, freedom of expression, and the right to be actively involved in the political process. It requires a sense of being part of an inclusive and diverse body politic, of citizenship.
District 3 is a large territory — composed of Senate Districts 4,5 and 6
The state board website notes, “The State Board of Education was established in the Ohio Constitution in 1953 to ensure that citizens were given a voice in decisions relating to public education.” There are nineteen members of the state board. Each serve a four year term. Eight of the members are appointed by the governor and the other eleven members each represent a geographic district composed of three senate districts. We live in District 3 and this year we are empowered to elect one member of the state board to be the voice of citizens in this district on the board.
I see nothing in these two forums that deal with the issue of defining the purpose of public education in a democracy.
I am looking for a candidate to the state board who will seek to revise the mission / objectives of the state board so that it would be impossible to confuse it with the mission / objectives of the education in a totalitarian state. I am looking for a candidate who will advocate a mission for Ohio public education that focuses on building the capacity of children to be active and contributing citizens in a democracy.
The State Board of Education
The State Board of Education’s vision is for all Ohio students to graduate from the PK-12 education system with the knowledge, skills and behaviors necessary to successfully continue their education and/or be workforce ready and successfully participate in the global economy as productive citizens. Ultimately, all students will graduate well prepared for success.
To graduate all students well prepared for success, the State Board will focus on the following objectives:
Teaching 21st century knowledge and skills for real-world success;
Effectively delivering support for a high quality education;
Providing sufficient resources which are efficiently managed; and
Developing a statewide outreach and communication strategy on board policy and the importance of education in the 21st century.