When Not Enough Is Too Much

RadarThe Columbus Dispatch for Saturday October 27, 2007 reports that more than $1.3 million was spent on the recent effort to repeal the Community Defense Act (CDA). The Toledo Blade for the same date has a similar if more detailed report. Both articles report the same amount of money spent (which may be a low figure) but give vastly different amounts of money donated by the Buckeye Assoc. of Club Executives (BACE), a group of strip club owners and managers and General Video of America (GVA), a Cleveland based pornography distributor. The Dispatch reports that BACE put up $640,000 and GVA contributed $345,000 in cash and in-kind donations. This adds up to about $985,000 about $315,000 short of the total spending reported. The Blade reports BACE putting in $785,500 and GVA contributing $431,042. This total is about $100,000 shy of the reported total spending. Neither report indicates what earlier spending reports revealed- that substantial donations came from out-of-state pornography producers. So why is that not covered in the stories and is the reason for the discrepancy that journalists are giving the No On Issue 1 Committee (the Committee) a break (or maybe reporters just can’t add)?

The report in the Blade speculates that the only winner was the Craig Group, a Columbus political consulting and marketing company that ran the initial signature collection effort. They got a million dollars to get the job done. They couldn’t do better than to turn in signatures at a validity rate under 33%. They blame the short time frame. Frankly, we don’t buy these excuses. In 2004 signatures were gathered by a group of mostly volunteer gatherers at a rate exceeding 50% in a similar time frame. When Phil Craig, President of the Craig Group, says “…there’s no way to know what the validation rates are going to be” he is correct. You never know for sure, but you can sabotage your own effort when you engage in practices like the following:

  • Hire convicted felons to gather signatures- it’s illegal in Ohio

  • Engage in fraud to get people to sign, then get caught by media who are only too happy to expose it to the public

  • Take on an issue that would de-regulate sex businesses, businesses most people would prefer either didn’t exist or if they must exist, that they do so in someone else’s neighborhood- something which requires some form of regulation

  • Make sure everybody knows what you’re about by opening your campaign with a press conference where strippers in tight pink t-shirts give impassioned speeches which reveal how much money they are making, mostly from boyfriends and husbands of women watching from home

  • Act as agents for corporations whose leadership who have no qualms about, and in fact are proud to engage in, exploitation of a man’s natural desire to view attractive women’ bodies and women’s perceived need for income for a number of reasons, often including broken families

Phil Burress, President of CCV, put it very succinctly in the Blade article. He said

“They tried to hijack our name and then changed it…They put people on the street who lied to voters, saying the petition would close down strip bars. … They hired ex-convicts to collect signatures, which is a violation of the law …So we’re supposed to be surprised when, out of 612,000, they’ve only got 181,000 [valid] signatures?”

So we definitely disagree that the Craig Group is a “winner” in this situation. The whole effort is a “loser” for many reasons.

The Blade has a quote from Sandy Theis, a spokesman for the Committee that is a stunning revelation of her ability to twist the truth of events in order to make it appear that, somehow, her side of the issue had been presented with some unfair disadvantage. Theis says

“It shows the importance of having good-quality control to catch problem circulators and problem petitions early in the process,”

Indeed! It also shows the necessity of actually desiring to engage in quality control. Since the signature gatherers hired by the Craig Group were producing signatures by engaging in fraud, quality control was not really necessary. Only after journalists began to investigate and report on the open, obvious and illegal methods being used was some form of “quality control” begun. It consisted of firing a few of the most egregious practitioners of fraud and supposedly discarding their petitions. As we have blogged about previously, Theis claimed that petitioners had been “trained and retrained.” This didn’t stop the fraud, as several journalists reported.

Theis then goes on

“This shows what a huge favor the lawmakers did for CCV [Citizens for Community Values] by not making them go the referendum route”

Theis is completely disingenuous here. The fact is this law (the Community Defense Act or CDA) was passed in substantially its present form by the Ohio House of Representatives by a wide margin in the 2006 session and sent to the Ohio Senate. It appeared to be set for an easy passage. Then high profile lobbyists for the sex industry, the same sex industry that employs Ms. Theis, began the financial and political political wire-pulling and log-rolling in the Senate. Senate leadership caved to sex industry lobbying pressure and allowed the bill to be virtually gutted. That was the version that passed.

What followed was a CCV led ballot initiative petition drive to pass the CDA as it was originally designed. The strategy was to get signatures to authorize the collection of enough signatures to bring the law to a general election up or down vote. People were begging to sign these petitions. They wanted the law. Once the ballot initiative drive was qualified, the Ohio Legislature had a window of time in which to pass the proposed law or face the political embarrassment of being bypassed by the electorate. When it became clear that those behind the passage of the referendum were serious and that they were prepared to do the same thing that virtually the same coalition had accomplished in 2004 with the Marriage Protection Amendment, the legislature passed the law substantially intact, albeit at the last possible minute. This, despite tremendous financial and political pressure from sex business lobbyists (the same lobbyists that represent gambling interests) and political maneuvering from their allies in the legislature. Sorry, Ms. Theis. Unlike the strip clubs, CDA supporters got no special favors from the legislature.

The sex industry spent money by the wheelbarrow full, unleashed the PR hounds and engaged in fraud in order to reach the ballot. That failed. Now they are trying to get the courts to see it their way. Jennifer Brunner, the Secretary of State, whose job it is to see that elections are conducted in a fair and legal manner, is engaging in a game of electoral brinksmanship. It is notable that her husband Rick has done legal work for the strip clubs and is a registered lobbyist. Shouldn’t this mean that she should recuse herself from the process, as her predecessor, Ken Blackwell did when he had a conflict of interest? She has notified the Committee that they did not qualify for the ballot but she has not notified the local boards of election (see our earlier posting on the same subject for details). This means as of right now Issue 1 is a live ballot issue. Should this be qualified for the ballot by judicial fiat, it is imperative that the word get out that voting on Tuesday Nov. 6 is of vital importance.