Pass along a news tip by clicking HERE.

Monday, November 05, 2012

2012 Hamilton County Ohio Democratic Party Sample Ballot

The Hamilton County Democratic Party in Cincinnati, Ohio has released its official sample ballot for the 2012 presidential election.  From President Barack Obama on down, the sample ballot lists the names of candidates who are running as Democrats.  It includes judicial offices.  You can print out the ballot and take it to the polls on Election Day Nov. 6:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dem David Krikorian Seeks FBI, Justice Dept. Probe of Election Eve Robocalls: Oh-02 Candidate Suspects Illegal Super Pac

Political Scandal Brewing Over Super Pac?
BREAKING NEWS -- The Hamilton County Democratic Party has now joined the call for a federal investigation:  "Without real and meaningful transparency, shadowy groups from almost anywhere could influence our  elections and we might never know it happened.  This should be regarded as an intolerable situation. " (You can read the complete text of the Democrats' statement about apparent tampering in the primary by scanning down the page.)

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- With suspicion mounting about  illegal activity by political dirty tricksters, efforts are now being made for a Justice Department probe into unusual events that could have swayed a SW Ohio primary election for Congress. David Krikorian is asking U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart to lauch a federal investigation into a flood of mysterious robocalls that urged SW Ohio voters to support an unknown candidate.  Krikorian told federal prosecutors (see letter below) he has information about "a clear violation of the law." The robocalls were anti-Krikorian -- he is a Cincinnati area resident who had the endorsement of Dems in Hamilton County. Krikorian was targeted by a group calling itself the "Victory Ohio SuperPac." But no such organization seems to exist. The calls on March 3 and March 5 blanketed the district and originated from a downtown Cleveland phone number, which has since been disconnected.  The wireless Verizon account -- if traced by authorities -- may reveal who was behind the robocalls.

Krikorian trails William R. Smith, a truck driver from rural Pike County, by 59 votes. Smith, 61, did not campaign, did not spend any money, and did not do anything other than file petitions to seek the nomination. There is a growing sense that Smith's candidacy -- he appears to have been an unwitting beneficiary -- was boosted by a dirty trick fueled by the mysterious Super Pac. Democratic Party officials plan to join Krikorian's call for a federal investigation, and are likely to schedule a press conference Tuesday announcing their decision.

Oh-02 is the congressional district east of Cincinnati. It has been represented by Republican Jean Schmidt, who lost in the March 6 primary to Brad Wenstrup, a physician and Iraq War veteran. Wentrup's win on the GOP side is considered an upset. But it was considered a fair contest. On the other hand, Smith's victory is seen as a fluke propelled by robocalls that seemed to come out of nowhere from a SuperPac that cannot be traced.

The Daily Bellwether has a copy of the letter Krikorian has drafted for Stewart, the chief federal prosecutor in Southern Ohioidate in last week's Democratic primary. Krikorian wrote:

March 12, 2012

Mr. Carter M. Stewart

U.S. Attorney’s Office

Cincinnati, OH 45215

Dear Mr. Stewart:

My name is David Krikorian and I am a candidate for the United States House of

Representatives in the Second Congressional District of Ohio, FEC candidate ID

#H8OH02090. I have firsthand knowledge and evidence that a likely violation of federal
statute occurred between March 3, 2012 and March 6, 2012 that had an adverse impact
on my campaign.
The activities in question were untaken by a group identifying itself as the “Victory Ohio
Super PAC”. 2 U.S.C. § 433(a) establishes a registration threshold for non-authorized
committees, as of March 12, 2012 no committee has registered with the Federal Election
Commission with the name: “Victory Ohio Super PAC”. Failure to properly register is
also a likely violation of Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Service Code § 6652. Failure to
file certain information returns, registration statements etc..
Additionally 2 U.S.C. § 434(a)(1) and (4) and (b) establishes reporting requirements and
expenditure notices for non-authorized committees regarding independent expenditures
that impact a federal election, as of March 12, 2012 no committee identifying itself as
the: “Victory Ohio Super PAC” has made any expenditure disclosures to the Federal
Elections Commission.
describes the facts of this case and includes the opinions of campaign-finance experts that
believe a likely violation of federal statute has occurred. The actions in question were a
series of automated phone calls, as USA TODAY reports:
“One version of the robocall took aim at Krikorian: "William Smith has an opponent
that describes himself as a Reagan conservative. … Please don't make a mistake
and embarrass the party. Vote for William Smith, the real Democrat for Congress."
March 12, 2012
Page 2
The recorded call ended with the disclosure, "This has been paid for by the Victory
Ohio Super PAC." Neither the FEC nor Ohio's Secretary of State have any record
of such a group. A call recipient's caller ID system generated a non-working phone
number from the Cleveland suburbs.”
Click here to listen to the robocall from the Cincinnati Enquirer’s website:
I would like to request a meeting with representatives from your office to formally
request an investigation into the above matter. I can provide additional evidence and
further details of the case as said meeting. My goal is to identify the people or entities
that are responsible for the Victory Ohio Super PAC and hold them accountable for what
appears to be a clear violation of the law.
David Krikorian
Candidate for the United States House of Representatives
Mr. Robert Warfel
Federal Bureau of Investigation
2012 Ronald Reagan Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45236
Ms. Anne L. Porter
U.S. Attorney’s Office
221 E. Fourth Street, Suite 400
Cincinnati, OH 45202

UPDATE: 3/13/2012, 9:11 a.m. -- Geoffrey Sea, a Southern Ohio resident near Waverly, has written an in-depth blogpost that suggests backers of a stalled nuclear fuel project outside Piketon were behind the robocalls. Sea said an ardent supporter of the plan, a former local Chamber of Commerce official and current county commissioner, recruited Smith to run.  Here's a tidbit from his report in a new blog called The SONG Sheet  (for Southern Ohio Neighbors Group):  "Cleveland, Mr. Beekman, and Ms. Schmidt, all have a definite connection. A Cleveland "entrepreneur," who is also a former USEC board member and former maverick candidate for mayor of Cleveland, has founded a company called "the Piketon Initiative for Nuclear Independence." It was this company, ePIFNI as they call it, that submitted the formal proposal for spent nuclear fuel storage at Piketon in 2006, a proposal endorsed by Congresswoman Schmidt and Chamber of Commerce Director Blaine Beekman. ePIFNI continues to submit bids for contract work at the Piketon site."

UPDATE 2: 3/13/2012, 1:48 p.m. -- Here is the complete text of the Hamilton County' Democratic Party's statement seeking a federal investigation into the robocalls:

"Tonight, David Krikorian, Democratic candidate for Congress in Ohio’s 2cd Congressional District has submitted a formal request (see attachment) to the US District Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio that an investigation be undertaken regarding certain events that appear to have taken place in the run-up to last week’s Ohio Primary Election.

Specifically, a series of robo-calls were placed to voters by an entity that identified itself as
Victory Ohio Super PAC.  Victory Ohio Super PAC appears not to be an entity that is
registered with either the Federal Election Commission or the office of the Ohio Secretary
of State.  Consequently it appears that Election Law violations may have taken place.  
The Hamilton County Democratic Party fully supports Mr. Krikorian’s call for a formal
investigation.   It is fundamental that voters have a right to know who is attempting to
influence their decision on Election Day.   We note that Hamilton County Republican Chair
Alex Triantafilou also has suggested an investigation of this matter is warranted.

Transparency in elections is of the utmost importance.  Voters should know who is
attempting to influence the outcome.  In the post Citizen’s United era of growing Super
PAC spending, this question is becoming murkier by the day.  What appears to have taken
place in South West Ohio only adds to the growing concern over this issue.   Without real
and meaningful transparency, shadowy groups from almost anywhere could influence our
elections and we might never know it happened.  This should be regarded as an intolerable

It is imperative that an investigation be undertaken to determine exactly what happened in
this election."

Friday, March 09, 2012

Ohio Taxpayers Fail To See Rosy Return On $900,000 State Loan for Cincy Biotech Startup: Fire Sale Auction Tied To Incentive Package Flop

Ohio Biomedical Loan Didn't Work Out   
By James McNair
Daily Bellwether contributor
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Five years ago, an Ohio startup company called SpineMatrix hailed its breakthrough technology in diagnosing lower back pain. Venture investors hopped on board with $17.5 million in seed capital. The Ohio Department of Development loaned $900,000 from its Innovation Ohio Loan Fund. In return, SpineMatrix pledged to build a factory and, within three years, create 76 jobs.  Backed with public money, the biomedical project was supposed to deliver a payoff for the state's economy.  The press releases sounded optimistic.

Along the way,  SpineMatrix moved from Akron to Blue Ash and changed its name to Verium Diagnostics in May 2011. But the wait for the company to deliver was all for naught, and the state’s roll-of-the-dice on a promising yet embryonic venture demonstrates the pitfalls of sinking taxpayer money in the private sector. Last month, an agent for ODOD announced a foreclosure auction of Verium’s assets. No estimate of their worth was provided in the public notice, but the assets included equipment, fixtures, inventory, personal property, accounts and other debts, none of which was described in any detail. The deadline to bid was Friday.

Ohio officials apparently have anticipated the company’s demise for some time. In a December report to the Ohio General Assembly, state Attorney General Mike DeWine included Verium on a list euphemistically calling deadbeat borrowers “non-compliant loan award recipients.” The outcome for Verium was the fire sale that was supposed to end Friday in a downtown Cincinnati law office.  Verium’s website,, says nothing about the company or its fate. A phone call to CEO William Christy was not answered. Verium appears to have simply packed it in, as there is no bankruptcy filing under its current or former name.

Alas, an unfortunate end to a little green shoot. Verium owned a patented, FDA-approved device that non-invasively scanned a patient’s neuromuscular system for underlying problems. The machines would be leased to spine centers. Former CEO Ben Shappley told an Ohio Venture Assocation gathering in 2008 that the company was in an “enviable” market position. “Right now,” he said, “there’s no competition for determining the physiology of low back pain.”



The Mystery Surrounding Oh-02 Democratic Mystery Candidate Grows Even More Mysterious: Online Bio Info Is For Another 'William Smith'

This is NOT William Smith of Oh-02
BREAKING NEWS 2:05 p.m. -- Robocalls that dissed Democratic-endorsed candidate originated from a Cleveland-area telephone number: 440-429-9200.  There were at least two spiels to southern Ohio voters from that number -- one on Sunday March 3, the other Monday on primary eve.  The Verizon phone line is now unreachable .  A recording says it is disconnected, changed or no longer in service.  And the SuperPac behind the robocalls looks to have vanished into thin air. 

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- At first, Democrats heard robocalls from a SuperPac that came out of nowhere virutally on the eve of the March 6 primary.  The calls touted a candidate who doesn't seem to have campaigned for office.  Now the blogosphere and e-mails have been primed with data about William R. Smith, the Pike County Democrat who appears to have won the party's nomination for the OH-02 congressional seat.  But the William Smith whose bio and photo are floating around online isn't the same William Smith who is the mystery candidate leading David Krikorian by 59 votes.  (The margin is so tight there could be a mandatory recount looming later this month.)  Somebody is circulating false information.  Whether by accident or intentionally, nobody can say for certain.  For example, the William Smith who ran in Oh-02 is 61 years old, according his voter registration data.  His birthdate is Jan. 16, 1951.    The William Smith whose bio is floating around the Internet graduated from Glenwood High School near Canton in 1960.  To be that person, the Oh-02 nominee from Pike County would have been 9 years old when he finished high schoool.  He would have been 14 when he went to U.S. Army Aviation School during the Vietnam War.  And he would have been 12 when he finished a "three-year apprenticeship at Timken, ending in 1963."

Neither the United Steelworkers of America nor Timken have a reputation for violating child labor laws -- it is extremely unlikely they put a 9-year-old to work in a steel mill.

LezGetReal, a Vermont-based LGBTA blog with a large following, seems to have created much of the confusion about Smith's background by publishing this data Thursday:  "According to the candidates’ profiles posted by Our Campaigns, Smith graduated from Glenwood High School in Canton in 1960 and is a retired tool grinder and abrasive specialist from the Timken Company. He was a member of the United Steelworkers of America for 12 years and served a three-year apprenticeship at Timken, ending in 1963. He attended the U.S. Army Aviation School in 1963 and the Air National Guard NCO Academy in 1970. That information would indicate time in the Ohio Air National Guard, though his bio doesn’t specify that.
He was trained in mediation and arbitration and was elected to four terms on the Stark County Central Committee and has worked for various Democratic campaigns. Stark County is in northern Ohio and surrounds the city of Canton. No information is given as to when Mr. Smith moved to Pike County.

Our Campaigns, a collective political website that has compiled data about thousands of races and candidates over the years, shows that the William Smith from Canton (Stark County) was a Democratic candidate in Oh-16 against Ralph Regula during the 1996 and 2000 elections.  It does not connect him to Oh-02.  As far as the earlier congressional contest, Regula eventually retired from Congress after defeating Smith handily.  By the way, the Pike County William Smith -- the Oh-02 mystery candidate -- did not run against Regula in 2000.  He voted at home in the GOP primary that put George W. Bush against John McCain -- Bush won and the rest is history.

So Ohioans still have a puzzler on their hands.  The bio online is mixed up.  William Smith -- who did not campaign but came out ahead on March 6 -- doesn't seem to be taking many phone calls.  Messages left at his home by The Daily Bellwether and others haven't been answered.  Also adding strangeness to this episode were robo calls from the Victory Ohio SuperPac  on Smith's behalf ahead of the primary.  Nobody can find out much about the Super Pac.  Victory Ohio was the name of the McCain-Palin operation in the state during the 2008 presidential campaign, and it does not remain in business.  The 22-second SuperPac robocalls complained that Krikorian had once called himself a "Reagan conservative" and went on to say that supporting Krikorian would embarrass the party.  A woman's voice in the robocall said:  "Please don't make a mistake and embarrass the party.  Vote for William Smith, the real Democrat."  A lot of southern Ohio Dems voted for Smith without really knowing much of anything about him.  And maybe the party has been embarrassed by the intervention of a SuperPac that materialized seemingly from nowhere . . .

At the moment, Open says Federal Election Commission records show there are 363 SuperPacs operating across the United States. They have raised $130 million and spent $74 million so far this election cycle. When The Daily Bellwether went through the list, it was unable to find a SuperPac named Victory Ohio.

[UPDATE: 11:22 a.m. -- Anastasia Pantsios at Ohio Daily Blog is now calling the Oh-02 contest "one of the most bizarre in the state -- if not THE most bizarre."  She is pointing out that Krikorian had a load of baggage (her words) and that someone could have recruited a candidate with a bland name like "Smith" to sow confusion.]

[ UPDATE: 11:53 a.m. -- The Victory Ohio robocall from March 5 can be heard on YouTube by clicking here.]

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hamilton County Judge Rucker's Dem Primary Opponent Gigged By Ethics Panel: O'Neill Wrongly Used 'Judge' In Campaign Material

Ex-Judge O'Neill in Downtown Cleveland
[UPDATE: 9:19 A.M. 3/1/2012 -- Hamilton County Democratic Party issues a press release that urges O'Neill to abandon any claim he is a sitting judge:  "We look forward to Mr. O’Neill running a clean and fair campaign.  While Mr. O’Neill promised Monday to make the required corrections, as of this writing on Wednesday Feb 29, his web site remains unchanged.  This is not the kind of conduct that we as Democrats should 
condone by any of our candidates, especially candidates running for a seat on the highest Court of our State.  Ohioans deserve a Supreme Court candidate who not only understands the law, but respects it as well.]  

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The Toledo Blade reports that Supreme Court candidate William M. O'Neill "violated the Judicial Code of Conduct by knowingly misrepresenting himself as a sitting jurist."  The story cites a ruling by a hearing panel chaired by Guernsey County Common Pleas Judge David A. Ellwood, who wrote:  “The fact that he is known as judge because of his tenure on the 11th District Court of Appeals and that as a retired judge he is known as a judge, he nevertheless as a judicial candidate is prohibited from using the term ‘judge’ before his name in campaign materials since he does not currently hold that office…"

O'Neill, a lawyer, is a Northeast Ohio resident who ran for the Ohio Supreme Court twice and lost.  This year, he faces a March 6 primary against Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Fanon Rucker, who is endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party.  The winner gets the nomination.  Rucker has pointed out that O'Neill has not been a judge for years.  He felt O'Neill was improperly using the title.  O'Neill told the Blade that he has spent more money on legal fees than on his campaign.  Still, it looks bad for a candiate seeking a seat on the state's top court to be accused of breaking the rules.  Judges are charged with enforcing the rules no matter how mundane or trivial, and they must obey them to the letter.  How else can judge demand others follow the law if they don't follow the law?

Blade reporter Jim Provance also noted:

"Canton-based 5th District Court of Appeals Judge Sheila Farmer, who serves as chief justice of the Courts of Appeals, must within five days appoint a panel of five fellow appellate judges to consider the lower panel’s recommendations.The hearing panel noted that a two-sided O’Neill campaign card refers to him nine times as “judge,’’ including the disclaimer of who paid for it, while describing him as “former court of appeals judge’’ once.
At last week’s hearing, Mr. O’Neill noted that then Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer had appointed him as a retired judge in 2009 to perform a marriage ceremony in Cuyahoga County, referring to him as “the Honorable William Michael O’Neill.’’ He was similarly titled on a 2011 retired judge seminar attendee list.
Mr. O’Neill said 20,000 of the campaign cards were printed and about half of them have been personally distributed. He said he will not distribute the rest and will ask via his campaign Web site for those holding the other cards to destroy them."
The Daily Bellwether just checked O'Neill's campaign website and he was still using the title "Judge," so he may be planning an appeal.  Or maybe he hasn't had time to pull down the term that implies he still holds office.  He has an impressive resume, but some Democrats feel he should give up his quest to become a Justice and step aside for new blood.  Here's what was on his site (you can see "Judge" three times) moments ago:

Judge O'Neill served ten years on the 11th District Court of Appeals from 1997 to 2007. He is a graduate of Ohio University, Cleveland Marshall College of Law and Huron School of Nursing. Before being elected and re-elected to the Court of Appeals he was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Ohio from 1984 to 1996. He has sat by assignment on the Supreme Court of Ohio at the request of the Chief Justice. 
Judge O'Neill is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam.

Judge O'Neill currently works as a Registered Nurse in the Pediatric Emergency Department of Hillcrest Hospital, an affiliate of the Cleveland Clinic. Mrs. OĆ­Neill died in a car accident in 1995 and Judge O’Neill raised his four children as a single parent near Chagrin Falls.

And this logo calling for the election of "Judge" O'Neill still appeared on the webite:

Jean Schmidt, Closet Democrat? Federal Finance Records Show House Dems Spent $$$ With David Axelrod Firm To Boost Her In 2005

Democratic Money Aided Jean Schmidt's Campaign
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- This has all the hallmarks of a Chicago story.  Federal Election Commission documents have surfaced in the past 48 hours that show the House Democrats' fundraising arm spent $12,000 on a "media production" aimed at helping Jean Schmidt.  The money went to AKP Message & Media, at 730 North Franklin Street, Suite 404, in Chicago.  That is the home of the political consulting firm founded by David Axelrod, who is President Obama's close adviser and strategist.  For unknown reasons, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed a report indicating it imade an independent expenditure in support of Republican Schmidt on Sept. 8, 2005.  At the time, Schmidt was running against Paul Hackett, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.  The Hackett-Schmidt showdown was a special election to fill the Cincinnati-area congressional seat that covers SW Ohio along the Ohio River.  Rob Portman -- now a U.S. Senator from Ohio -- was leaving Congress to join the Bush Administration.

Records Show Axelrod Firm Did Media For Schmidt 
Schmidt beat Hackett and held the seat for the GOP.  Apparently, she had help from the Democrats.   Here's some of what AKPD Media says about itself:

"At AKPD, we’re proud of our history. And we think when you get to know a little about where we have been, you’ll have a better sense of the unique strategy, discipline and creativity we bring to our work.
David Axelrod began his career as a journalist, and before long he was the Chicago Tribune’s political editor and columnist, the youngest person in the paper’s history to hold those positions.
But Axelrod’s passion was politics. He left the Trib and managed Paul Simon’s upset victory for the U.S. Senate in 1984. Following that race he founded Axelrod and Associates, which later became AKPD Message and Media.
He launched the firm with a mission—to provide superior strategic and communications advice and advertising for Democratic candidates and causes, and to do so with a sense of purpose and passion for ideals that underlie Democratic campaigns."

But there is more than one expenditure from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in support of Schmidt.  A month before the payment to Axelrod's from, another $12,680 went to Winning Directions, 2700 South Quincy Street, Suite 54D, Arlington, Va.  Winning Directions is a Democratic political consulting firm whose staff includes Jerry Austin, an Ohioan who ran Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign.  Austin is one of the best-known operatives in the state.  Take a look at his bio:

"Mr. Austin has worked on behalf of President Jimmy Carter, Senator Gary Hart, Senator Paul Tsongas, Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Senator Paul Wellstone, Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator John Glenn, Governor Richard Celeste, Governor Jim Guy Tucker, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Mayor Jane Campbell, Obama for President and numerous members of Congress.
"Mr. Austin was a member of the international delegation who witnessed the Marcos/Aquino election in the Philippines, the Pinochet Plebiscite in Chile and was an advisor to the SDLP in Northern Ireland when they beat Gerry Adams for the MP seat in Belfast. In 2006, he helped the MSZP retain enough seats in Parliament to remain in power in Hungary. 
"In 1988, Mr. Austin was Jesse Jackson’s National Campaign Manager and in 1992 he served as a Senior Political Advisor to Senator Paul Tsongas' campaign for President. Mr. Austin's governmental clients have included The Greater Cleveland Growth Association, Cuyahoga County Regional Transit Authority, and the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, The Cleveland School Board, The Columbus School Board, the State of Arkansas Highway Department and the State of Virginia Department of Health."
The Daily Bellwether has been making calls today asking why Democratic money was spent in support of Schmidt's 2005 campaign -- the year she won the OH-02 seat.  Perhaps there is a mistake and the money spent in opposition to Schmidt -- but the records don't say that.

So far, there have been no answers.  Hackett's office said he was out of town.   If you want to look at the records online at the FEC website, go to the Democratic Congressiional Campaign Committee reports filed in September and October 2005.  The expenditure for Axelrod's firm is on page 1,003 of the 1,004 page document that covers the period September 1-30 2005.

[UPDATE: 3/09/2012, 11:35 a.m. -- Jerry Austin has sent The Daily Bellwether an e-mail.  It says he had nothing to do with Jean Schmidt.  The e-mail speaks for itself:
I have never been part of an independent expenditure to help Jean Schmidt--now or ever.
I am not now nor have ever been an employee of Winning Directions. They listed me as a consultant on their website.
Please make your readers aware of this information.
Jerry Austin   

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Glimmer of Good News for Romney in Latest Ohio Polling: Bellwether State's Republicans See Him With Best Chance of Beating Obama

Ohio Republicans See A Bunch of Losers
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The numbers from the Quinnipiac University survey of  847 likely GOP voters in the Buckeye State give Mitt Romney a selling point ahead of next week's March 6 presidential primary.  He's got the highest percentage of Republicans who think he will be the strongest candidate against President Obama in November.   Forty percent of GOPers see him as being able to reclaim the White House -- nobody else in the primary field comes close.  By slight margins, even born-again evangelicals and Tea Party supporters give Romney the best chance of defeating the president.   And 35% of those who identify themselves as conservatives give Romney the edge over the current primary field.  Still, none of them are seen as able to whip Obama. When the pollsters asked Ohioans, "Who do you think would be the strongest Republican candidate to run against President Obama in the general election?" these numbers came back: