Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ray Kapper, remarkable at 78

 Ray Kapper will have a birthday tomorrow.  No. 78.  You wonder how this remarkable guy will spend the special day.

Sitting across from him at lunch the other day, I had to ask myself how he has survived a couple of heart surgeries, a ripped ankle and doubtless  more common  infirmities to arrive in enthusiastic  condition to talk about,  among other things,  his work with First Tee, the youth development program with an injection of golf.

When I asked him later about this title, he paused on the phone and responded with a trickle of humor: "Godfather ...I like to stay behind the scene."  Or something like that.

Ray is an old-school politician who would be the first to admit that he doesn't have a firm grip on the English language.  More like a Damon Runyon character.  But he's been damned successful with an elegant watch and Cadillac because whatever he tries in life, it's with a full burst of vitality. He has what a lot of politicians don't have: a firm grip on whatever endeavor he's engaged in.

Democrat, city councilman, unsuccessful mayoral candidate (which left a bruise on his soul), Akron service director.  The latter title, more than one witness will tell you, added up to him being the best service director the city has ever known..

A lasting memory from my reporting days:  I walked into his office at City Hall after a heavy overnight snow storm. He had been up all night  and was now on the phone to one of his guys with unmistakable commands.

"I want those streets cleared as quickly as possible," he demanded.  "People have to get  to work this morning.  Got that?"

Don't get me wrong.  Ray and I have had our differences, none of them lasting.  But I never questioned his commitment to a better city.

The reason for the lunch?  A couple of months ago I had met him at a political event.  Hadn't seen him for awhile.  "We have to go to lunch," he said. '"I'll call you."

You hear that kind of casual promise quite often from a lot of people you never hear from again.

Weeks passed.  One evening our phone rang.  It was Ray.  He said he had not forgotten that we would share lunch.  He felt a  little guilty about waiting so long to call.  But he had made a promise that he didn't want to break.  That's Ray.

I, of course, accepted the invitation.  Like the old days. Besides, who, after all,  would dare  turn down a Godfather?

For the 78th time, Ray, Happy Birthday.


With Team DeWine, experience hardly matters

Didn't get into the Arshinkoff/Spitalieri/DeWine Bermuda Triangle in preceding post, saving the best for last. In assessing the Ohio attorney  general's magical powers of choosing the ablest private  firms for his collections agency,  legal experience can be trumped by political contributions.

As the Dayton Daily News reported, a veteran debt collections agency that had worked  with five previous attorneys general was bypassed in the awarding of lucrative work to a company that was formed only two days before DeWine set out to take care of his contributors. He chose, instead, CELCO, bossed by Pete Spitalieri, the Hudson guy who was channeled into DeWine's  world by Summit County Republican chairman Alex Arshinkoff, who has long enjoyed Spitalieri's generous contributions to Team Arshinkoff ($23,000).

That ain't the end of this, Folks.  The  Daily News reported that  CELCO's  proposal to win the job  "acknowledged the company had no experience handling collections accounts.''

Got that? Unqualified.

Although DeWine has engaged in mental jujitsu to dodge the issue, one of his spokesman said the winning firm was determined by "points" assigned to each supplicant.   With Arshinkoff doubtless adding them up on his special pocket calculator.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dayton Daily News: Arshinkoff a pay-to-play DeWine figure

The Dayton Daily News investigative  report on Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine's  elaborate campaign fund-raising scheme widened the narrative of the AG's  money machine by mentioning Summit County Republican chairman and lobbyist  Alex Arshinkoff as one of the varsity enablers. Who knew?

Still, it shouldn't surprise anyone.  Arshinkoff has long - and I mean long - prided himself in his ability to  lay piles of campaign money at the doorstep of this GOP pol or that one. The rule of politics Alex once breezily said, "is all about money."  He so impressed DeWine  that he once served as  the AG's  liaison  in northern Ohio .

Did I say lobbyist?  How about $10,000 a month  representing the University of Akron to Gov. Kasich?

In her telling report, the paper's prize winning investigative reporter Laura A. Bischoff
wrote that DeWine, despite his denials, has been  "actively  involved" in the lucrative debt-collection process in which special counsel appointees could pocket princely sums from their work with hundreds of thousands of dollars returned to his political coffers.

She wrote:  "A review  of his calendar shows  he has met routinely  with debt collection attorneys, vendors and their lobbyists, many of them with close ties to DeWine's political  operation."

How close?  Bischoff disclosed  this untidy plot device in which DeWine emailed top aides  on Feb. 20, 2011:

 "Please call Debbie Walsh in Alex arishnikoff (sic) office.  He wants to bring in Pete spiteleri (sic) ...The issue is collections.  So figure out who needs to be in the meeting."

Spitalieri is is a well-connected Hudson businessman, Republican contributor  and Arshinkoff's close friend.  They didn't plan to play ring-around-the-rosie at the meeting.

"In his first 16 months in office," Bischoff wrote,"DeWine met four time with Arshinkoff and Spitalieri  in his office, lunched with the two men at Spitalieri's property in Hudson and held a conference call with them, according to DeWine' work calendar.  DeWine said he doesn't recall meeting that many times with Spitalieri..."

Bischoff told me there was no point in calling Arshinkoff.  "He hasn't returned  any of my calls in more than 10 years,"  she said.

In a campaign year, this story will grow.   But in the event that the Beacon Journal editorial writers might possibly read it, will  they hesitate in damning DeWine's opponent, Democrat David Pepper, for raising pay-to play questions?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

DeWine ministry: Faithful to the AG's mission!

Re-posted from Plunderbund (Updated) 

When I think of Mike DeWine, I think of God-given goodness.

(Bear with me, folks.)

When I think of Mike DeWine, the over-achieving Republican attorney general of Ohio, I think of random acts of kindness, of rainbows, of the morning dew glistening in the break of day, of the yellow brick road of Oz, of....

At least , that's what Mike DeWine wants me to think. But he's been around long enough for me to have second thoughts, that his political career invokes something much less warmly engaging than his current public mythiness despite friendly editorial embraces from  Ohio's  mainstream media that levitate him. (See update below)

A few days ago, for example, the papers reported another DeWine foray into the private lives of same-sex married couples.  He wants to disrupt their bonds, challenging (with a 41-page brief) the  ruling by a federal judge that Ohio's law banning such marriages is unconstitutional.

So much, then, for random acts of kindness.

For DeWine, his further quest for  Biblical  correctness was hardly terra incognita.  His insistence on installing his own ministry in the AG's office has been widely reported.  He has joined a group of like-minded attorneys general in challenging employer-covered contraceptive insurance  under the Affordable Care Act.  Not a day passes that Mike isn't  out in the middle of the trench warfare that has been consistent with his pledge since he ran for the office to rid satanic  Obamacare  from the vanishing soul of America.


So consistently wrong  has his political intuition  been that he blindsided Mitt Romney by flip-flopping his endorsement of Mitt to his theocratic pew mate and perennial presidential candidate, Rick Santorum. (Some power couple!)  DeWine's  betrayal of Romney was obviously driven by his erring conclusion that Santorum would win the Ohio primary.  He didn't. No sharing the winner's circle  for DeWine, who was thought to have dreams of a promotion  to U.S. attorney general.

So much for rainbows.

You should also note that DeWine's ministerial life  includes a stint of teaching  a government course at Cedarville University, an evangelical Baptist  school in southwestern Ohio that, among other things, allows only women to teach Bible classes to  female students,  as Biblically inspired. It also has had a number of skirmishes with faculty over faith-based issues.   .

 You have to put some of his odd behavior in the context of his landslide defeat by a liberal  Democratic congressman, Sherrod Brown, who evicted Mike from the U.S. Senate with nearly 56 pct. of the vote in 2006. The AG must still feel the pain.

Meanwhile, DeWine  is now being accused by his Democratic opponent this year,  David Pepper, of  pay-to-play tactics by awarding lucrative state legal business to law firms that just happen to channel money into his campaign  treasury.

DeWine's apologists insist that there's no connection.  But the practice is and has been quite common by AGs over the years, so why deny it?.

So much for the yellow brick road.

So much for goodness.

So much for  the wholesome commitment to public service by our attorney general.

UPDATE:  In Dr.Phil tones, the Beacon Journal on Sunday editorially offered DeWine some feathery-friendly advice to "help himself from further questioning"  about his management of campaign contributions from law firms that are awarded business by his office.  The paper displayed some concern that a lingering issue  - of which the AG says he knows nothing - could be an "important opportunity" for him to "show the leadership" that he has so often displayed on other issues. (Leadership?  Vigorous opposition to same-sex marriages?  Demonic opposition from Day One to Obamacare?  Both of these occupy much of his time these days.)

The BJ editorial page has often had a soft spot for DeWine and just recently bedeviled DeWine's Democratic opponent, David Pepper, for complaining about the AG's backlog of rape kit tests.

The paper recommended a better paper trail on special counsel work for the AG, a sort of how-to on preserving his otherwise goodly career.  No further questioning here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rumor: Issa may Subpoena Derek Jeter next

Re-posted from Plunderbund 

Rep. Darrell Issa, America's grim subpoena king, apparently has decided that his pool of political targets is shrinking beyond recovery. He is said to be despairing, one insider said, because Darrell "loves to question famous people".  Indeed, there are now  whispers in the his ranks that Issa, an unrequited  madman really, may turn to sports for his next batch of subpoenas.

 Topping the list is Derek Jeter.  Issa reportedly wants to  question the Yankee star about the legitimacy of the infield fly rule, which the congressman considers just one more burdensome  regulation.  Jeter shrugged off the report, saying the rule is clearly  nonpartisan.  He also said he's never heard of Issa, who is in the Subpoena Hall of Fame for issuing a record 96 subpoenas since becoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2011.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Louie calls for battleships on the Rio Grande

Comparing the "invasion" of children  across the Texas border to D-Day, Rep Louie Gohmert  says we should use whatever force necessary to turn the kids back.     The Texas Republican, whose long record of linguistic rub-a-dubs would rank him over Yogi Berra, even suggests that we use "troops and warships".  Fortunately, Louie has never heard of tactical nukes. But he's still evolving.  Besides,wasn't our side the invader on D-Day?

Anybody want to answer this?

Who can explain to me how Republican social conservatives abusively assail abortion on one hand while demanding that thousands of youngsters who cross the border at risk to their lives should be sent back?   Anybody?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The third good thing to occur in Cleveland

If, as the saying goes, good things come in threes,  watch for one more good thing to happen in Cleveland. There's the Republican National Convention.  And in case you missed it,  LeBron James is returning.

The third? My hunch is that Johnny Manziel Football will tell the Plain  Dealer that he will spend the next four weekends reading poetry to Cub Scouts. (You heard it here first!)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

ObamaScare to be featured at GOP convention

In August 2013, I blogged on Grumpy Abe and Plunderbund that the 2016
Republican National Convention would be in Disney World.   The rationale seemed obvious:  The Republicans wanted a comfort zone for the many clowns in their party.

But as we learned the past week, my predictions are hardly foolproof. Soon after the party announced that it was going to Cleveland instead, I called a source at the RNC headquarters in Washington, known only  by his  code name of Whirlybird, and asked why the party would turn down such a friendly place as Tampa.

"Obama." he said, emphatically.   "Cleveland is overrun by Democrats.  If anything should happen to get negative headlines during the convention, Boehner will have the mike, the stage and the audience to blame it all on the president.  We're prepared to call it ObamaScare in the rise of Art Modell,  Dennis Kucinich and even Asian carp.  After careful deliberation, we couldn't think of a better place than Cleveland  for demonstrating to the world why Democrat Obama should be impeached."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

GOP convention in Cleveland? Credit Democrat FitzGerald

Re-Posted from Plunderbund 

Days in Northern Ohio have become much livelier in the heat of summer.  The past week or so, for example, has produced three tornadic events:  A real tornado in Medina County, LeBron James' epic decision to return to the Cavaliers,  and, of course, the Republican eruptive choice of Cleveland for its 2016 national convention.

So far, the GOP hasn't found a way to blame the tornado nor LeBron's flight from Florida - a key battleground state - on President Obama.   But Marco Rubio is doubtless still working on it  in James' case, including it in a new immigration reform package that will ship him back to Miami in cuffs.

The most interesting  response, however, is how the mainstream media  virtually ignored Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic candidate for governor, in the symbiotic local effort to  lure all of those Republicans to the oft-maligned city on the lake.  The hometown paper, with one major exception, handed out huzzahs for the efforts by the convention bureau, Cleveland companies and the Cleveland 2016 RNC Host Committee, headed by Terry Egger, the PD's former publisher.

The Beacon Journal, on the other hand, delivered to its readers a puffy Page One story from the Washington Post that "affirmed the influence of Sen. Rob. Portman"  in the GOP's decision  under the headline "GOP's choice of Cleveland reflects power of Portman".   The Republican senator, the article said, "pushed for months for the city as the site". Hint:  Portman was again elevated as a potential presidential candidate.  For now, it couldn't hurt. Or could it?

(About presidential politics: The Columbus Dispatch, which appears to be torn between advancing Gov. Kasich or Portman as the paper's choice for the Oval Office, focussed on Kasich, satisfied  that the convention would be a perfect national stage to dramatize  the "revitalization and fiscal turnaround that Ohio's Republican governor, John Kasich has managed to pull off in a few short years...")

And as for Kasich himself, he had nothing to say at all to the Dispatch's  Joe Vardon who asked about FitzGerald's role.   Said the governor:  "That's a question - I'm not in the middle of that kind of question.  I have no answer to that right now."

That non-rsponse measures well against one of George W. Bush's when a reporter asked a question about a nominee:  " I would have to ask the questions...I haven't had a chance to ask the questioners the question they've been questioning."

And where was FitzGerald in the planning and rollout of the convention site?  It wasn't until veteran writer  Brent Larkin, who retired as the PD's editorial director five years ago, stepped up.

Summing up his column in the subhead over his commentary:  "Credit FitzGerald with leadership, vision in landing 2016 GOP convention."

Larkin noted that FitzGerald, with Positively Cleveland CEO Dave Gilbert as early as two years ago engaged in  planning for a convention proposal.  Wrote Larkin:

"And Republicans may  not like it, but FitzGerald, a Democrat,  deserves far more credit than any other elected official for the city landing  the GOP presidential nominating convention.  Anyone who tries to suggest  a public official other than FitzGerald is the father of this process is simply not telling the  truth."

Well, now.  Larkin's incisive observation certfainly bumps up against the PD's own editorial page think tank that recently devoted a full page to questioning  FitzGerald's  ''leadership".

Having worked  in the field with Larkin for years, I'll take his word for it.