OH-01: ORP Demands That Driehaus (D) Return "Tainted Funds" Raised by Dann

You knew it was coming. Today the Ohio Republican Party issued a press release asserting that challenger State Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill) should reject campaign funds collected at a fund-raising event in December at which Marc Dann was the headliner, arguing that "condemning Marc Dann while lining your campaign coffers with money he raised is just pure hypocrisy."

Is this the equivalent of Democratic demands that Republicans cough up money raised by convicted GOP power broker Tom Noe? Unlike Dann, Noe's misdeeds were financial and specifically included breaking campaign finance laws. However, that distinction may be too subtle to neutralize the attacks.

Not all Republicans gave up their Noe-related campaign contributions (for example, three Ohio Supreme Court Justices put it Noe-linked money escrow but have not relinquished it), and they certainly complained about the attacks at the time, arguing that Noe's contributions were ubiquitous and the recipients were unaware of Noe's malfeasance at the time. But these Dann-based attacks on Democrats will become a steady drumbeat nevertheless, and they present Democratic candidates with a difficult choice.

UPDATE: Hilarious! Driehaus responds that Dann never made it to the fundraiser - he was invited but couldn't make it. "Sometimes those Republicans don't get their press releases exactly right," Driehaus said. In any event, he continued, it's ironic for the GOP to make this demand because Chabot had a fund-raiser with the ethically-challenged Newt Gingrich. "It's just silly," he said.

Strickland Says Dann Lied to Chief of Staff Haseley - Was It a Crime?

Mark Niquette has just posted on The Daily Briefing that Gov. Ted Strickland says Marc Dann lied to his Chief of Staff, John Haseley, when Haseley asked Dann point-blank about rumors of Dann having an affair with a subordinate. "It was denied. Categorically denied," Strickland said.

Strickland also said that the incident affects the way he perceives things about the Dann, but "I’m not going to say someone should be removed from office because they told a lie to somebody else." (He also denied that the affair alone is sufficient reason for Dann to resign or be impeached.) However, Strickland said that lying that amounted to perjury would be "something else."

If Strickland meant to suggest that lying to a public official can't be a crime unless it is under oath, he is incorrect. Aside from perjury, there is the crime of obstructing official business:

2921.31 Obstructing official business.

(A) No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official’s official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official’s lawful duties.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of obstructing official business. Except as otherwise provided in this division, obstructing official business is a misdemeanor of the second degree. ...

Haseley is a public official who was conducting an authorized act in trying to get to the bottom of the rumors about Dann engaging in immoral conduct, a matter that impacts state government, and Dann's act of lying hampered or impeded Haseley in performing that act.

Husted (R) Signals Slower Pace on Impeachment

Yesterday Democrats indicated that an impeachment resolution could be introduced as early as today, but House Speaker Jon Husted (R-Kettering) refuses to be rushed into it. Today Husted told William Hershey of the Dayton Daily News that he wants more information before proceeding:

"I think there is a big difference between asking someone to resign and moving forward with the impeachment process. What we do will set the standards for how anyone will be impeached in this state going forward and that is a serious constitutional question."

Husted has asked veteran legislator and former judge William Batchelder (R-Medina) to study the impeachment process and related issues and report back by the end of the week. House Democratic Leader Joyce Beatty told Hershey that she agrees with having Batchelder conduct this sort of review and that two Democratic House members will assist him (which strikes me as unlikely to occur in anything but symbolic form). [UPDATE: The three legislators selected to lead the Caucus’ efforts to explore articles of impeachment against Danns, all attorneys, are Jennifer Garrison (D-Marietta), Dan Dodd (D-Hebron), and Mark Okey (D-Carrollton).]

The GOP has every political incentive to want the impeachment process to grind along slowly, maximizing the media coverage of details that emerge during the process and keeping Dann in the public eye as close to November as possible. However, it seems likely that Dann will in fact step down at some point, cutting short the official proceeding ... although it's hard to guess exactly when that will happen.

More Democrats Call for Resignation, and a Few Refuse

Democratic candidates for the Ohio House continue to add their voices to the call for Marc Dann to resign:

OH House-92, Debbie Phillips (D-Athens): “I am angered and disappointed that Attorney General Marc Dann allowed the unprofessional and intolerable atmosphere in his office. Sexual harassment and intimidation cannot be tolerated—Ohioans deserve better from their elected officials. Dann’s conduct and his failure to correct the problems in his office have no place in public life. Therefore I am calling for Dann to resign his office immediately.

"The work of the Attorney General’s office is more important than any one person, as the Governor and other officeholders stated in their letter to the Attorney General. For the good of the office, and to preserve the public trust, Marc Dann should resign immediately.”

OH House-20, Nancy Garland (D-New Albany): "I support the Governor and other Democratic officials in their call for the Attorney General to resign. The actions of the Attorney General and those in his office are inexcusable and he can no longer effectively carry out the duties of his office."

However, I'm seeing a few reports of Democrats who won't join in.

Brad Dicken writes in the Chronicle Telegram that State Rep. Matt Lundy (D-Elyira) in the neighboring 57th House District says Dann should resign, but State Rep. Joe Koziura (D-Lorain) in the 56th House District said he would not vote to impeach:

“I think this is between him and his family,” Koziura said. “He has not done anything to violate any law… or any of the duties of his office.”

The other discordant notes are from two county party chairs in the Mahoning Valley, Lisa Antonini of Mahoning County and Christ Michelakis of Trumbull County, who told David Skolnick of the Vindicator that they would not call for Dann to resign. Antonini said she respects Strickland's decision to ask Dann to step aside but thinks it's between Dann and his family, and Michelakis said he didn't want to call for Dann's resignation solely because Dann is a local resident.

Skolnick also reports that Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles), State Sen. Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard), State Rep. Sandra Stabile Harwood (D-Niles), and State Rep. Ron Gerberry (D-Austintown) all agree that Dann should quit. Cafaro's comment is notable because Dann endorsed her to take over his Ohio Senate seat. She told Skolnick that she is not surprised that Dann is fighting to stay on, but Dann should quit "for the sake of the Democratic Party and his family."

The Meaning of "Misdemeanor" For Purposes of Impeachment

[UPDATE: After posting the following I noticed that Pho has covered this ground and more here, especially as to the effect of impeachment proceedings being final, i.e., not reviewable in any court.]

The prospects for impeachment hinge in large measure on the meaning of the word "misdemeanor" in the following provision of the Ohio constitution:

§ 2.24 Who liable to impeachment, and punishment

The governor, judges, and all state officers, may be impeached for any misdemeanor in office; but judgment shall not extend further than removal from office, and disqualification to hold any office under the authority of this state. The party impeached, whether convicted or not, shall be liable to indictment, trial, and judgment, according to law.

I heard Steven Steinglass, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, commenting on the meaning of the word "misdemeanor" in this context just now on "The Sound of Ideas" on WCPN. Steinglass is a co-author of The Ohio Constitution: A Reference Guide (Greenwood Publishing 2005), so he speaks with authority on this question.

Although in modern legal parlance "misdemeanor" refers to a minor crime, usually defined as one punishable by six months imprisonment or less, Steinglass said this is clearly not what was intended in the constitution because it would be absurd if officeholders could be impeached for minor crimes but not for serious crimes. Instead, the word must be construed in historical context as a way of referring generally to any kind of misdeed. Because its meaning is so generic, the General Assembly has wide latitude in deciding how to define it. In other words, it means what the legislators decide it means when they apply it.

ADDENDUM: I should also mention that the topic of what might count as a misdemeanor came up while Prof. Steinglass was on the telephone. He pointed out that while Dann's initial lie to investigators about whether Jessica Utovich had spent the night at his condo apparently doesn't qualify as perjury because it was not made under oath [actually, Dann had been sworn, so it was under oath in that sense, but he changed his statement before signing the deposition], it could still amount to obstruction of justice. While technically the Ohio Senate wouldn't be bound by the statutory definition of the crime of obstructing justice, it is worth noting that the crime is defined very broadly in the Ohio Revised Code when it comes to deception:

2921.32 Obstructing justice.

(A) No person, with purpose to hinder the discovery, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of another for crime or to assist another to benefit from the commission of a crime ... shall do any of the following:

. . .

(5) Communicate false information to any person;

(6) Prevent or obstruct any person, by means of ... deception, from performing any act to aid in the ... prosecution of the other person ...

OH House-19 & 28: Statements by Harris (D) and Pillich (D) on Marc Dann

A pair of candidates renewing their bids for the Ohio House after impressive performances in 2006 issued these strongly-worded calls for Dann's resignation yesterday:

Marian Harris (D-Columbus) - "Marc Dann can no longer effectively serve the people of Ohio as the Attorney General. His lack of action in correcting a deplorable atmosphere of sexual intimidation and harassment in his office by high level staff was unforgivable and cannot be tolerated in any elected official. His hiring of friends with no qualifications for the high level, high paying jobs they were hired to do was inexcusable. By his actions he has violated the public trust.

"He should resign immediately."

Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery) - “The attorney general’s office should exemplify the best of all workplace practices. But Marc Dann’s leadership has fostered a culture that condones an unprofessional, hostile environment and sexual harassment both in and out of the office. There is no room for this sort of environment in any government agency – especially the Office of the Attorney General. The employees in that office and the people of Ohio deserve better. In 2006, the Democratic Party ran on a platform to clean up Columbus and restore integrity to our government. Mr. Dann has failed to live up to that promise. I am deeply disappointed in Mr. Dann and urge him to resign immediately.

“If Dann refuses to resign, our legislature should begin proper removal procedures. We need an attorney general who is committed to the professionalism and integrity that the office demands. The sooner we get one, the better.”

Pillich also notes in her press release that as an attorney she has represented women victimized by sexual harassment in the workplace, and she also advises small businesses on workplace issues including sexual harassment policies and procedures.

OH House-58: More on Potential Replacements for Barrett

Aaron Marshall reports in the Plain Dealer today that ODP Chair Chris Redfern has identified four candidates interested in being screened for appointment to replace former state representative Matthew Barrett, all elected officials from Huron County: Huron County Commissioner Mike Adelman, Huron County Auditor Roland Tkach, Norwalk Mayor Sue Smith Lesch, and former Huron County Judge Tom Heyman. The deadline for applications is this Thursday (5/8).

Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt, brought in by Norwalk Law Director Stu O'Hara to evaluate the evidence against Barrett, has decided not to file criminal charges in connection with his projection of a topless photo to a classroom of high school students and the subsequent investigation.

UPDATE: I see that Brad Dicken of the Elyria Chronicle Telegram has the gory details on Barrett's misbehavior, including explicitly blaming his own son for the photos (even to the extent of having his son describe downloading pornography to the police), having at least 60 photographs of women (many topless of explicit) on his computer, and receiving such photographs from at least two women with whom he had inappropriate relationships.

More Notes on a Scandal

A few random thoughts for the moment, much more to come:

* The alacrity and unity displayed by prominent Democrats yesterday is undeniably a tribute to strong party leadership. Gov. Strickland and ODP Chari Chris Redfern, et al., have acted decisively and swiftly and with an astute plan, displaying party unity, resolve, and even creativity in the various steps that have been (and will be taken) to isolate and pressure Dann.

* Another part of the explanation for the speed and unanimity with which this is all happening is that there is more misconduct on Dann's part than has so far been publicly revealed. Party leaders are aware of it and have taken it into account.

*The Dann mess overall is helpful to the GOP politically, but the Democrat's shock and awe approach is taking away some of the benefits. The ORP was salivating over challenging every Democratic candidate over whether they support Dann or not, and it looks like that particular stratagem has been negated. By taking the initiative on impeachment, the Democrats have effectively joined the ORP on the moral high ground, and may have foiled ORP hopes to keep Dann in office as long as possible.

* A resolution of impeachment passes the Ohio House of Representative on a simple majority vote. I expect that to happen easily. It may even be unanimous, and could come today or at least very shortly. It then goes to the Ohio Senate for trial, where a 2/3 majority is required for conviction. There will be further investigation (with subpoena power) in the run-up to the trial.

Danngate: Likely Replacement Scenario

[UPDATE: The scenario I heard late yesterday is reported in the Dispatch this morning; I didn't see it until after I posted this.]

Late yesterday I heard that the following plan for the aftermath of the Dann mess is under active discussion and appears to be gaining traction:

* Strickland's Chief Legal Counsel Kent Markus will be appointed interim Attorney General following Dann's resignation or removal but will not run for election in November;

* Treasurer Rich Cordray will run for Attorney General in the special election without giving up his current post; and,

* If Cordray wins the special election he will then give up his seat and Strickland will appoint a replacement, presumably a high-profile county treasurer and/or an officeholder with statewide campaign experience. From my northeast Ohio perspective, Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher [scratch that, total non-starter] come immediately to mind but there are many others who would fit the bill.

The appeal of this plan is that everybody involved is a blue chip individual and nobody gives up an elected post to participate. In that regard, here are some salient points:

* Markus served as Chief of Staff to Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher when the latter was Attorney General and Deputy Chief of Staff to former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno;

* Markus is a close ally of Governor Strickland, making him an attractive person for the difficult role of rebuilding the Attorney General's office in a temporary caretaker role;

* Cordray has a stellar career as a government attorney, having served as Ohio's first Solicitor General and having handled cases in the U.S. Supreme Court: and,

O Frabjous Day! Callooh! Callay!

This gets better and better. State Rep. Sandra Harwood (D-Niles) has told the Warren Tribune Chronicle that the Ohio House Democratic Caucus held a conference call this afternoon and decided to begin impeachment proceedings tomorrow, and to vote on the articles of impeachment by resolution.

“I don’t know how he can be effective,” Harwood commented to the newspaper about Dann's apparent intent to stay on. “We’ll know more by tonight." What happens tonight -- more behind the scenes efforts to talk Dann out of resisting? “I’m very angry and disappointed he’s given this valley another black eye,” Harwood said. “I’m very angry about this.”

Redfern: Dann to be Booted From Democratic Party

This from the Dispatch (emphasis added):

The Ohio Democratic Party, which strongly backed Dann’s come-from-behind campaign in 2006, is preparing to sever its ties with Dann. Chairman Chris Redfern said he expects the party’s executive committee to rescind its 2006 endorsement of Dann when it meets Saturday, which Redfern said would make Dann an independent officeholder. Democrats also are prepared to lead the impeachment drive, Redfern said.

So, Dann is to be excommunicated - I didn't know that was an option.

If he's no longer a Democrat and hangs on until September, what happens if he resigns at that point? Who gets to appoint a replacement? UPDATE: Reading the constitutional provision helpfully supplied by Pho, it doesn't appear to depend on party status - Gov. Strickland would appoint the replacement.

2nd UPDATE: Just for the record, it has become clear that Redfern isn't talking about a technical expulsion from the party, like having a membership revoked, but a symbolic and practical cutting off of Dann from the party. Dann would still technically be elected to office as a Democrat, but in effect would be an independent because his support and access would be eliminated.

Wulsin, Driehaus, Boccieri, and Goyal Join Chorus on Dann Resignation

If it takes Dann hearing from every prominent Democrat before he figures out that he has to go, we'd better get the process started. Here are four more:

OH-01 Challenger Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill): "It is time for Attorney General Marc Dann to resign. Previously, I had called on the Attorney General to cooperate with the investigation and the investigation now shows unacceptable behavior by the Attorney General and staff. I join Governor Strickland and elected Democrats across the state of Ohio in asking the Attorney General to do what is best for the state of Ohio and the Office of Attorney General by stepping down."

OH-02 Challenger Victoria Wulsin (D-Indian Hill): “Marc Dann’s behavior has tarnished the reputation of the Ohio Attorney General’s office. I join Governor Strickland and other Democrats, asking for his resignation.”

OH-16 Challenger State Sen. John Boccieri (D-New Middletown): “I am outraged that the Attorney General of the state of Ohio has neglected the duty and honor of public service. The cronyism and lack of attentiveness to protocol and detail in Attorney General Dann’s hiring practices has led us to this tragic moment in Ohio’s history. I feel for his wife Alyssa and his children, who must endure the embarrassment he has caused to them and to the people of the state of Ohio. I further regret the embarrassment his conduct and the conduct of certain members of his staff have caused for the Mahoning Valley and all of Northeast Ohio. The people of this region, having endured a parade of self-serving public officials, are disappointed that our first chance in a long time to shine has been mired by the behavior of Marc Dann and key officials within his office. We support the ongoing investigation to determine whether any criminal lines have been crossed. However, it is clear that ethical and moral lines have been disregarded. For this reason, I support the calls for Marc Dann’s resignation immediately.”

State Rep. Jay Goyal (D-Mansfield), 2007 Yong Democrat of the Year: “The controversy surrounding Marc Dann makes it impossible for him to effectively serve the people of Ohio. The citizens of this state are best served by Mr. Dann leaving the office of Attorney General.”

UPDATE: OH-15 challenger Mary Jo Kilory called on Dann to resign previously. The Dispatch reports that State Rep. Dan Dodd (D-Hebron) has as well. Add to that this new statement from State Rep. Steve Dyer (D-Green):

“I am extremely disappointed in the actions of Mr. Dann,” said Rep Dyer. “There is no other option but for him to step down in light of the revelations of the past few days.”

Dann E-Mail to Staff

Here is the full text of Dann's interesting email message to AG employees, relating his response to the governor's request to step down:

All --

Last night, I received a call from Governor Strickland advising me that he and the other statewide Democratic office holders along with the minority leaders of the House and Senate were planning to ask me to resign today.

That letter has been sent.

I wanted to share with you what I told the Governor.

I told him that he and the other officeholders, as well as the members of the legislature, should continue to expect that we will continue to provide high-quality legal services to all of them. I told the Governor that we will continue to make our law enforcement partnerships work to protect the people of the State of Ohio.

I told him that our consumer protection and environmental protection and civil rights work will continue on behalf of the State of Oho

That is exactly what I am doing today. I am in the office, have rolled up my sleeves and am working on behalf of the people of State of Ohio.

I hope all of you will do the same.

I think that there is a great chance that we can continue to do great work for the people of the State.

I know that this is difficult, and I am truly sorry to have put all of you in this position. But our work is too important to do anything but our jobs today.

The media is interpreting this is a flat refusal to resign, but I'm not so sure. It doesn't come out and say that he will never resign. How hard would that have been to say? It says instead that he won't stop working, etc. Okay. For how long? And how about that phrase, "I think that there is a great chance ..." Not quite an absolute. More like a calculation that maybe things will work out.

Sooner or later Dann will recognize that he has no chance of regaining any support, and he will step down.

Read It, Savor It - Text of Letter

For the record, here is the full letter from Gov. Ted Strickland, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Treasurer Richard Cordray, House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty, Senate Minority Leader Ray Miller and Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern to Dann:

Dear Attorney General Dann,

We write to you tonight to ask that you resign your position as Attorney General of the State of Ohio.

We believe that your actions have irreparably harmed your ability to effectively serve the people of our great state.

The work of the Office of the Attorney General matters more, and is far more important, than any one person. In many, many cases it is all that stands between the people and the powerful. Sadly, we no longer have even the most remote hope that you can continue to effectively serve as Attorney General and that is why we are asking for your resignation.

We also want to make you aware that if you do not choose to resign, Democratic members of the Ohio House of Representatives will immediately introduce a resolution seeking your impeachment. We sincerely hope that this action will not be necessary and that you will act in the best interest of the people of Ohio by tendering your resignation Monday morning.

I feel better and better each time I read it. It is the right thing to do, and the unity displayed by Democratic leadership is encouraging.

I am also happy that the Governor stood on the Statehouse steps today and said this:

“I think it’s very important that Democrats send the message that will clear our own house.

"We promised the people when we sought these offices that we would do our best to serve them confidently, sincerely, honestly with integrity. That was our commitment.

OH House-46: Dunn (D) Calls On Dann to Resign

Darlene Dunn (D-Sylvania Twp) sent this letter to the editor:

Like many Ohioans, I came into 2006 frustrated -- fed up, really -- with the stagnation, lack of transparency, and self-aggrandizement gripping Columbus after more than a decade of Republican rule. And like a majority of Ohioans, I was ready and eager to put my trust in an Attorney General who would hold our state's leaders -- and presumably himself -- to a "higher standard." Marc Dann has abused that trust, and in so doing, he has done a disservice not just to his own office, but to the mandate clearly expressed by Ohio voters in November 2006.

In 2006, a building frustration had become a fever pitch. Ohio voters were fed up with the status quo in Columbus. Old policies, and retread Republican officeholders, weren't bringing in new jobs and new businesses to Ohio. It appeared that the primary "accomplishment" of those in Columbus was to line the pockets of the few at the expense of the many. Self-dealing seemed to be the primary currency of our state's leaders.

But the voters responded, and we did so in a sweeping fashion. To crib an old saying, we "threw the bums out" and brought in the fresh faces and fresh ideas Ohio so badly needed. Marc Dann's egregious transgressions against both his office and the public trust are particularly hurtful because the voters' mandate for change still stands, and the rest of the Class of 2006 is ready and willing to pursue this change. Every single day in which Marc Dann remains in office stands as an affront not only to the voters, but to his own party and the ideals for which it still stands. He must step down now in order to allow the voters' mandate to continue to move forward under Governor Strickland.

I supported Marc Dann wholeheartedly in 2006 because he promised to effect change in, and set a "higher standard" for, the Attorney General's office. I still support, and believe in, the promise of a higher standard. But Marc Dann has failed under any standard. The promise of change still thrives, but Marc Dann cannot, and should not, play any part in effecting this promise.

Darlene Dunn
Sylvania, OH

Light Posting Notice

Bad timing, I know, but I won't be doing my regular blogging for the next several days due to non-blogging obligations.

Just for the record, put me in the group calling for Dann to resign, and calling on the governor and other Democratic leaders to ask for his resignation. Hopefully much more on this soon.

In Defense of Process

First off I should premise the essay with the revelation that I consider myself one of Subodh Chandra's many friends and take great pride in being what I believe is the first person to blog about his run for Attorney General back in 06. I have not talked to him at all since the recent events unfolded.

The morning of Marc Dann's press conference last Friday I put up a bad joke as my status on Facebook: Chris thinks that Marc Dann has a bright career ahead of him directing porn. OK, it was in poor taste, but when has that ever stopped me?

Marc Dann is certainly one of the most interesting figures on the Ohio political scene. I laugh when I read people say he rode on Ted Strickland's coattails. Would there even be any "coattails" for Dann to ride upon if it wasn't for Dann's work involving coingate? He was an early adopter to using the blogosphere to promote his political agenda and quickly became a hero within the young medium. That was until Subodh Chandra stole his online thunder by being a better candidate in just about every way.

I consider the day I met Marc Dann one of the seminal crossroads of my life. It was at the 2006 Warren County Democratic Party dinner. As I was talking to then Congressman Sherrod Brown, at the time high from his reconciliation with Paul Hackett, when he suddenly grabbed the arm of Marc Dann and said to him, "Marc, let me introduce you to Chris Baker. He's got some really great ideas and I think you should listen to him." Maybe Sherrod was just trying to blow me off and dumped me on Dann. Being as insecure as I am, I can't help but keep that as an option. Still, my better, more self assured self hopes that it was something more.

Dann is Toast. No Butter or Jelly.

"Gov. Ted Strickland says that Attorney General Marc Dann going unpunished while forcing out three top aides appears to show a double standard in his office."

There won't be an announcement until the Governor actually has the report in his hands, but that's a mere formality.

Jennings and Utovich Also Gone, Dann Admits Affair, GOP Calls for Resignation

All the gory details in the Dispatch. Also the Beacon Journal and the Blade.

If Dann doesn't quit on his own, I now expect that Gov. Ted Strickland will demand his resignation shortly. No, not just that I expect it, I want him to.

What a shame. Dann stepped up the mission of the attorney general's office and was producing good results. But, he is not the only visionary person who could be in charge there, and he bears the responsibility for letting the office slip into disarray under incompetent and unprincipled managers of his own choosing.

UPDATE: The Warren Tribune Chronicle has announced that it will call for Dann's resignation in an editorial tomorrow. Moreover, the editorial board apologizes for endorsing Dann in 2006.

Gutierrez is Gone

So sayeth The Daily Briefing [or at least that is the recommendation of the investigation ordered by Marc Dann]. Three other AG employees are to be disciplined -- Leo Jennings, Edgar Simpson, and Joyce Chappel. I would rather have seen Jennings let go.

Is it enough? That probably depends on the details in the investigative report and how Marc Dann handles it, which in turn will likely influence the governor's reaction. Today's press conference is crucial.

I have not called for Dann's resignation in anything that I have written, although I have said that he should go the extra mile in terms of full disclosure and independent investigation.

UPDATE: Openers says that it is Edward Simpson, not Edgar, and doesn't mention Joyce Chappel. The report says that Dann showed "poor judgment" by inviting a woman staffer to the condo he shared with Gutierrez and Jennings last September.

Marc Dann needs to own up to the finding of poor judgment, apologize to the people of Ohio, and pledge to do better. Rejecting or diminishing it will not serve him well, in my opinion.

News and Notes: General Assembly Races

Duly noted:

OH House-17 - State Rep. Josh Mandel (R-Lyndhurst) has returned from a seven-month deployment to Iraq, his second. He is opposed in the November general election by attorney Bob Belovich (D-Broadview Heights).

OH House-20 - Nancy Garland (D-New Albany) has been endorsed by the Ohio Federation of Teachers. "I feel grateful to have the support of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, an organization that represents over 20,000 teachers across our great state," Garland said. "As a Representative, I will stand up for our state's public schools to make sure our teacher's have the right tools to educate our state's young people. Ensuring that our state's students have a bright future will be one of my top priorities."

OH House-33 - State Rep. Tyrone Yates (D-Cincinnati) would appreciate some measure of credit for the 28% interest rate cap imposed by the new payday lending bill, HB 545. He points out in a press release that it is closer to his proposed 25% rate cap than to the 36% limit sought by others. “My colleagues have joined me in offering strong reform for this predatory industry,” said Rep. Yates in a press release that characterizes the new bill as drawing upon his own. “We have come together, Democrats and Republicans, agencies and non-profit groups, legislative and executive branches to do the responsible thing for Ohio’s consumers and pass a bill that will be a model for the nation."

OH House-48 - Yesterday the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill sponsored by State Rep. Edna Brown (D–Toledo) that allows juvenile victims of teen dating violence to file petitions for protection orders in Juvenile Court. “Thirty other states have statutes on their books addressing dating violence, and I am proud that Ohio may soon join them,” Rep. Brown said. “This is good public policy to protect young people in Ohio from becoming victims of teen dating violence.” The issue came to Rep. Brown’s attention when Shynerra Grant, a 17-year-old girl from Toledo, died at the hands of a young man she had previously dated. Rep. Brown also noted that teen dating violence is more common than many people realize, and that statistics indicate that adult victims of relationship violence often have a history of violent relationships that started when they were teens. Brown's bill also strengthens current domestic violence laws by expanding the definition of “family or household member” to include a foster parent.

Strickland to Sign Energy Bill Today

The Rotunda Insider is reporting that Gov. Ted Strickland will sign the bipartisan energy bill today at 2:00 p.m. The bill has flaws but is still a significant victory for renewable energy and hopefully does enough to cushion consumers and businesses from runaway rate hikes.

A web site devoted to the renewable energy industry says that the new law could create a market for between 5,000 and 7,000 megawatts of new wind energy capacity by 2025, and calls it a catalyst for alternative energy development across the nation:

Ohio, as a major industrial state, ranks fourth in power consumption (behind only Texas, California, and Florida) and this market will move the needle nationally for renewable energy. The legislation can also be expected to jump start interest in wind manufacturing in Ohio's world-class manufacturing sector, which may bring advantages of scale and cost to the whole industry. ... "As Ohio goes, so goes the nation," said Erin Bowser of Environment Ohio.

New Quinnipiac Poll: Clinton Outperforms Obama Against McCain in Ohio

A new Quinnipiac Poll of the key swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida is out today and it confirms that Hillary Clinton's recent primary victories and the continued focus on Rev. Wright have propelled her to at least a temporary ascendency over Barack Obama in head-to-head matchups against John McCain:

Ohio
48% Clinton
38% McCain

42% Obama
43% McCain

Pennsylvania
51% Clinton
37% McCain

47% Obama
38% McCain

Florida
49% Clinton
41% McCain

43% Obama
44% McCain

The pollster notes that this is Clinton's strongest overall performance in two years of such polling. "If the super delegates are looking at electability, these results could be a shot in the arm for Sen. Clinton. No one has won the White House since 1960 without carrying two of these three swing states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And she clearly is running much better against Sen. McCain than is Sen. Obama, at least for now," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

While Clinton is clearly experiencing a bump, my overall reaction to this poll is surprise that Obama's recent travails haven't pushed him further down than this. If this is Obama's nadir, he is still in pretty good shape. He is still statistically tied with McCain in two states and leading in the third. If he succeeds in regaining traction with working class and older white voters from this point forward he remains a strong candidate against McCain.

News and Notes: Ohio Congressional Races

Keeping track:

OH-01 and OH-02 - All four candidates -- challengers Steve Driehaus and Victoria Wulsin and incumbents Steve Chabot and Jean Schmidt -- have been invited to a candidates meet and greet hosted by CincyPAC tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Mixx Lounge, 1203 Main Street in Cincinnati. Questions and RSVP to sean-at-cincypac-dot-com.

UPDATE: OH-02 - Victoria Wulsin (D-Indian Hill) has issued a statement noting that Exxon Mobil reported record quarterly profits of $11 billion today, up 17% from the first quarter of last year, and demanding that Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) stop serving as a rubber stamp to the failing policies of George Bush. (For example, Schmidt voted against legislation to provide tax incentives for the production of renewable energy and energy conservation while repealing subsidies to oil companies.) “The price gouging of Ohio families by big oil companies has got to stop,” Wulsin said. “We all know where these runaway profits are coming from. They are coming from the pockets and pocketbooks of Ohioans who are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet.” Consumers in the tri-state area are paying an average of $3.64 at the pump. “When I’m elected to Congress, I will put an end to the free giveaways of tax breaks to oil and gas companies. I am committed to working with other members of Congress to put the needs our families first.”

OH-06 - Today the Warrensville Tribune Chronicle and the Steubenville Herald Star report on a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-St. Clairsville), called the American Steel First Act, which requires certain federally funded construction projects to use only American steel. The bill responds to testimony at a Congressional hearing that revealed that Chinese-made steel has been used in the fence along the Mexican border. "This just makes common sense," Wilson said. "Taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize projects that then force their jobs overseas." He is also concerned about safety issues arising from using steel that has not been tested.

OH-10 - CQ Politics reports that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) sent a letter to his congressional colleagues last week proposing to allocate Michigan and Florida delegates according to the composite findings of three polling firms, one selected by each campaign and a third chosen by the other two companies. “Simple, accurate and cost effective, this solution is nevertheless no substitute for actual voting,” Kucinich wrote. “But it is better than any other solution proposed thus far.”

OH-11 - The Seattle Medium has published an editorial written by Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland), pointing out the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, especially among young African-American women, and calling for less abstinence-only education and more "discussing the issue of STDs in or schools, churches and homes in order to stem the tide of this growing problem."

OH-13 - Yesterday Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley Twp) co-authored a letter to the Department of the Interior urging it not to adopt a proposed rule that would allow visitors with concealed weapon permits to carry loaded guns into national parks. Current rules require that such weapons be unloaded and stored. “In 2007, 2.5 million students, families, and visitors from across the country visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park with the assurance that our nation’s national parks are among the safest places in the country,” Sutton said in a press release. “There is no good reason to overturn a regulation that has served the American people and our valued natural resources so well. Retaining the current regulation will ensure the safety of the public.”

OH-16 - State Sen. John Boccieri (D-New Middletown) is marking the fifth anniversary of George Bush declaring "Mission Accomplished" by pointing out that many things are left unaccomplished in Washington: (1) U.S. military personnel still being injured and killed in Iraq ("It's clear after 5 years of civil war we need to bring our troops home safely, honorably and soon"); (2) returning soldiers not being provided with "everything they need from healthcare to education;" (3) bad trade deals that "take away Ohio's workers' ability to compete fairly in the global market [and] don't protect the environment or workers' rights;" (4) "hundreds of families in our area don't have health insurance;" (5) the cost of fuel is "crippling our economy as our families confront choices between putting gas in their cars and other necessities." As he says in conclusion, "It's clearly time for a new direction and leadership with a new vision. Our families literally cannot afford to wait any longer."

OH-18 - Rep. Zack Space (D-Dover) is quoted in the Washington Post today, marvelling that Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN) and Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY) endorsed Barack Obama. Chandler's district is likely to go for Clinton by a large margin on May 20th. "That's courageous," he said. Space remains neutral on the presidential race.

McCain's Stinker of a Health Care "Plan"

Today as John McCain holds a "town hall" rally at the swank new Intercontinental Cleveland to promote his do-nothing approach to health care policy, members of the AFL/CIO will be outside holding giant Band-Aid signs and delivering thousands of band-aids signed by working people. They are demanding real health care reform. McCain is offering more giveaways to the insurance companies.

Yesterday ODP Chair Chris Redfern hosted a press conference call with Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan and State Senator Sue Morano (D-Lorain), a practicing registered nurse, to set aside any illusions about McCain's poorly-conceived health care proposals. Although McCain has said that his plan "doesn't leave anyone behind," the fact is that it continues the disastrous Bush policy of ignoring the 47 million uninsured Americans.

Kevin Sack spelled it out in a comprehensive comparison of health care plans in the New York Times in March. Both Democratic candidates have plans that focus on universal coverage, although they differ slightly in their approach. McCain's plan is about using tax policy purportedly to promote competition in the health care marketplace. Assuring coverage for all simply isn't his priority. He doesn't even have an estimate of how many of America's uninsured would likely gain coverage under his plan.

As for what the McCain plan does include, it's all great news for corporations and bad news for ordinary people. First, he would eliminate the longstanding tax exemption on health benefits paid by employers. Without this incentive, the gradual trend of employers dropping health benefits will accelerate dramatically. As pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, "the result would likely be an erosion of employer-sponsored insurance and an increase in plans bought on the open market." McCain's alternative of providing tax credits to individuals for health costs is a classic Republican scheme that gives a big boon to the wealthy but does little good to struggling working families. Those who are poor or have high medical expenses simply can't afford the up-front costs. (In other words, it's a lot like the GOP-favored health care savings accounts, which a GAO report just out shows are increasingly popular as a tax shelter for the wealthy.)

Second, McCain would allow policies to be sold across state lines. Cross-border insurance sets up a classic race to the bottom. In other words, it allows "health-insurance companies to escape state regulations they don't like, such as rules allowing for appeals when companies deny coverage and rules requiring insurers to cover people with various conditions or to cover particular types of treatments. The companies would likely gravitate to the states with the regulations they most favored." State mandates that could be avoided include coverage for emergency room care (currently required in Ohio but not required in six other states), direct access to OB/GYN, coverage of colorectal cancer screening, and mental health parity. As Redfern said in the conference call, the McCain plan "lowers the bar for what qualifies as adequate health care."

As for people with pre-existing conditions, McCain has made vague noises about setting up a Medicaid trust fund to help them. That makes no sense, since Medicaid is a program for the poor and pre-existing conditions can make even middle-class or wealthy people uninsurable. This is particularly shocking since McCain himself is a cancer survivor, and cancer survivors are put directly at risk by the changes McCain wants to impose.

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