My alma mater the University of Missouri-Columbia has been in the national news a lot this week. Both the University of Missouri system president and Columbia campus chancellor resigned Monday amid growing protests over incidents of racism.
That story has taken a backseat to the conflict between protesters and journalists covering the protests, pegged to an incident between a photojournalism student on assignment for ESPN and a group of student protesters and two university staff members.
State and federal laws are clear on who had the right to be where — that shouldn’t be for debate. Concerned Student 1950, the group behind the movement, realized as much, reversed its position Tuesday, and welcomed the media’s presence.
— Reuben Faloughi (@Big_Reub) November 10, 2015
When we journalists saw photographer Tim Tai pushed back by protesters, we felt what he was feeling. Many of us have been in his shoes. I enjoyed seeing and hearing healthy discussions and defenses of our First Amendment rights, especially among my non-journalist friends and acquaintances.
But the what should worry journalists more from this incident is why these protesters, many of whom were young black students, distrust the media.
“There were media personnel who were very hostile toward us when we asked to have certain spaces respected.”
— ConcernedStudent1950 (@CS_1950) Nov. 9, 2015
“It’s typically white media who don’t understand the importance of respecting black spaces.”
— ConcernedStudent1950 (@CS_1950) Nov. 9, 2015
“If you have a problem with us wanting to have our spaces that we create respected, leave!”
— ConcernedStudent1950 (@CS_1950) Nov. 9, 2015
Those tweets (which have since been deleted) reflect the larger narrative that the mainstream (read: white) media does not respect nor understand black pain.
Focusing on the protesters’ ignorance or disregard for the First Amendment while ignoring the fact they didn’t want journalists there only contributes to the media elitism Concerned Student 1950 spoke to.
Last month I spent three days in a National Institute for Civil Discourseworkshop about how to improve civility in politics and the media with representatives from those two factions as well as people from various community groups around the state representing the public at-large. While the discussion centered on political reporting and the 2015 presidential election, it also touched on the larger issues of distrust among politicians, the public, and the media.
The public group included several people of color. The journalist and politician groups were almost all white. Many members of the public said the media didn’t represent them nor wanted to represent them. The “We don’t need you” message, echoed by the Concerned Student 1950 movement, also came up in the workshop.
Those comments stung. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. Like most journalists, I want to help my readers better understand the world and believe I (mostly) do meaningful work. It’s not easy to hear someone say what I do doesn’t matter to them.
I had the same feeling Monday and Tuesday as I followed the coverage out of Missouri. The protesters were right — despite growing minority populations, the media is still predominantly white and male. Crime news disproportionately features African-American criminals, which perpetuates negative views.
Jonathan Butler, the hunger striker and founding member of Concerned Student 1950, told the Los Angeles Times that journalists were intruding on discussion happening within the tent city that had popped up on the quad.
“We were having some difficult dialogues there, talking about race,” Butlertold reporter Matt Pearce, a Mizzou journalism school alum. “That’s a very sensitive space to be in and be vulnerable in. It was necessary to keep that space very healthy, a very open space for dialogue, versus it being a space where people are going to cover a story, exoticize people who are going through pain and struggle.”
That sounds like an ideal space for journalists who listen big and can share the story to a greater audience. That’s the kind of story I left journalism school wanting to help tell. When did journalists become toxic to such a space?
I don’t have the answer to that question but it deserves our attention.
The initial solution from our small civility workshop was simple: Relationships. Relationships build the trust that is necessary to create and maintain a space for free and respectful exchange.
To everyone questioning how this could happen at a university known for its journalism school, I say there couldn’t be a better place for these events to unfold.
The j-school is known for its “Missouri Method,” where student journalists cover community news for a daily newspaper, NBC affiliate station, and NPR station owned by the university and run by faculty. In addition to gaining real-world reporting experience, these students have the time to reflect on and discuss journalism ethics and process in a classroom guided by mentors.
I look forward to reading, watching, and listening to their work, which will continue with them after they graduate. Meanwhile, I hope journalists can move the conversation past First Amendment rights and try to heal what’s broken.
So last time I posted something here it was about how I was ready for life to slow down.
Well, life had different plans for me and I was able to handle them so clearly I was wrong. I have no problem admitting I’m wrong… to myself.
We bought a house in mid-December — a beautiful old house that’s covered in wallpaper and wood paneling. We’ve decided to chronicle our renovation adventures in a blog. (I promise the pictures will get better.)
I left the Dayton Daily News for a job with Northeast Ohio Media Group, the newly-created digital company providing content to the Cleveland Plain Dealer and cleveland.com. NEOMG (a mouthful, I know) presented a great opportunity to write for the largest audience in Ohio without leaving Columbus and to use and build my digital skills. It’s been a good change.
Oh, and we added another dogchild to our family last week. Meet Layla, a 4-month-old terrier mix who was rescued on the coldest day of the year.
She’s already made herself right at home — finding the best toys, climbing on the couch to look out the front window and falling asleep in my lap.
By Laura A. Bischoff and Jackie Borchardt – Columbus bureau
COLUMBUS — In the three years since winning a close race for attorney general, Mike DeWine and his political team have been raising hundreds of thousands of dollars – often from lawyers who want state business — and then using that campaign cash to pay off a $2 million personal loan that DeWine made to his committee in 2010 and to build up a war chest for his 2014 re-election bid.
Firms that represent and are seeking to represent the state in securities fraud cases and other complex legal matters have given more than $1.3 million since 2010 to the campaign coffers of DeWine, the Ohio Republican Party and DeWine’s son, Hamilton County Appellate Court Judge Pat DeWine, according to campaign finance records and outside counsel assignments.
Of the $316,880 raised by Pat DeWine’s campaign, at least $91,250 came from lawyers and firms that do special counsel work for his father’s office, including $11,450 from Pat DeWine’s old firm, Keating, Muething & Klekamp, a Dayton Daily News analysis of campaign finance and AG records shows.
The contributions are perfectly legal as long as the donations aren’t contingent on the firms getting state work. But those who closely watch the nexus between campaign contributions and state contracts — often referred to as pay-to-play — say the pattern of contributions to DeWine’s office are troubling.
“We were hopeful that DeWine would improve this,” said James Copland, who studied pay-to-play in Ohio under Democratic Attorneys General Richard Cordray and Marc Dann for the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “Unfortunately, it’s only marginally better than Dann.”
Like previous attorneys general, DeWine picks law firms to serve on a panel to advise him on which securities fraud cases to pursue. The litigation can be expensive, drag on for years and can involve financial titans such as JP Morgan Chase, Freddie Mac and BNY Mellon. There are 27 firms on the current advisory panel, including 12 from Ohio.
Panelists are also eligible for the special counsel work, which can be lucrative. In 2012, Bank of America settled a class action lawsuit led by two of Ohio’s public pension funds and agreed to pay $2.4 billion to plaintiffs – the fourth largest securities fraud settlement in U.S. history. Law firms assigned to the case were awarded $152 million in fees, plus $8 million in expenses.
The Daily News examination found huge campaign contributions from some of the members of the panel, including some that came as DeWine was deliberating on which firms to put on the panel.
“It appears based on the timing on where some of this money has come in, there’s a rather overt effort to correlate contributions to DeWine’s campaign fund with the selection of these firms to get on the (advisory) panel,” Copland said.
Asked about political contributions from firms seeking work from his administration, DeWine said, “We always follow the law and we make full disclosure.”
Big money at stake
The attorney general hires outside firms to handle legal issues beyond the expertise of the office’s in-house lawyers, such as difficult debt collection or securities fraud cases. Debt collectors are paid a percentage of what they collect, general legal work is paid an hourly rate and firms working on securities fraud cases are paid on contingency — nothing if the state loses; a percentage of the settlement or award if the state wins.
DeWine gets final say on who does the work.
The Daily News examination found that the law firms on the panels tend to be the ones who get the work. Of the 27 law firms assigned to the cases that pay on contingency, 19 serve on DeWine’s panel. Most of them also contributed via PACs or employees to the Ohio GOP, Mike DeWine and/or Pat DeWine — more than $1.3 million from 2010 to 2013. About half of the donations came from firms whose main office is outside Ohio.
In comparison, the 16 firms that did not land spots on the panel were not big campaign contributors. Twelve of the 16 made no contributions, and the other four contributed a total of $95,675.
Berman DeValerio, a Boston-based firm that has served on the panel the past three years, donated $2,000 to Pat DeWine’s campaign on Aug. 16, 2012 – just a week after Mike DeWine told co-founder Glen DeValerio his firm had once again made the panel.
“I don’t know why they gave. You have to ask them,” Mike DeWine said. “Ask them. For me to surmise why they gave, it would be trying to read their minds.”
DeValerio did not return messages seeking comment.
University of Michigan law professor Adam Pritchard, considered an expert on pay-to-play in securities fraud cases, said it is common to see national law firms spreading money to allies of a key officeholder.
“You see these patterns all the time,” he said. “It’s not limited to just the candidate who is making decisions over who is going to get selected as counsel.”
Pritchard said other states have panels similar to one set up by DeWine. “The question is do these panels serve any useful purpose and the answer is probably no,” Pritchard said. “The reason to have the panel is to get these people in the door so they can make the campaign contributions. It gives them a tangible spot that they can see what they’re getting for their campaign contributions.”
DeWine, who is being challenged for re-election by David Pepper, a Democrat and former Hamilton County commissioner, noted that only 32 percent of individual donors to his campaign identified themselves as lawyers and thus eligible for special counsel work.
DeWine is a political powerhouse who has served as Greene County prosecutor, lieutenant governor, U.S. Senator and now attorney general, where he is highly visible as the state’s top cop. But most of what the attorney general does is manage Ohio’s largest public law firm with 1,400 employees, including hundreds of attorneys who do mostly civil litigation.
The securities fraud cases are a small fraction of the office’s legal load. DeWine said that of the 11 pending cases that will be paid on contingency, he inherited eight from his predecessors.
Campaign funding experts say it is not unusual for firms that get work under a previous administration to shift their campaign giving to the current officeholder. The attorney general can change outside counsel assignments as he sees fit, though it would be rare to switch firms midway through a complex case. Also, class action attorney picks are subject to court approval.
All officeholders raise money for their campaigns, but DeWine is in an unusual situation because he loaned his campaign an unprecedented $2 million in his 2010 bid to oust Cordray from the AG’s office. Often candidates — including Pepper — have forgiven personal loans to their campaigns. DeWine did not.
So far, DeWine’s campaign committee repaid $1.65 million to the Cedarville Republican but it still owes $350,000. Campaign finance reports due Thursday Jan. 30 will show who contributed to the DeWine political machine in 2013 and how much debt remains.
DeWine brushes off the idea that starting out $2 million in the hole has added fundraising pressure on him. “There is just always pressure to raise money for a campaign,” he said. “You got to raise money. So, there isn’t any more pressure just because there is a small debt remaining.”
The Ohio Republican Party, which received the bulk of the campaign contributions from firms seeking outside work with DeWine’s office, has funneled $977,537 to DeWine’s campaign fund since he took over as AG in January 2011.
Ohio law prohibits the use of political parties to sidestep contribution limits to candidates, and DeWine said that hasn’t happened under his watch.
“That would be illegal. You can’t do that,” DeWine said. “There can’t be any earmarking of money that goes to the ORP. No one can do that. That’s illegal and everybody knows that.”
‘I was surprised’
Under Ohio law, individuals and Political Action Committees may contribute up to $11,543 to candidates for statewide office and $34,631 to state parties. But the contribution limit is $1,000 for donors who receive an unbid contract from the officeholder. The more stringent limit, though, doesn’t apply to political parties, which allows law firms and PACs to give more to the officeholder’s state party.
The Daily News uncovered a violation to Ohio law that DeWine’s office said it would move quickly to address.
On the same day the New York law firm Labaton Sucharow submitted its proposal to serve on DeWine’s panel, four of the firm’s partners contributed $16,000 to DeWine’s campaign. That would appear to violate Ohio’s law, which caps at $1,000 donations from those seeking unbid state contracts to the officeholders who award the work.
After the Daily News brought the matter to DeWine’s attention, First Assistant AG Mary Mertz said the contributions would be returned and the firm would be ineligible for unbid work until 2015. Labaton officials had certified in their proposal documents that they had not exceeded the $1,000 limit.
“I was surprised,” Mertz said. “I don’t know what they were thinking.”
Attorneys from Cincinnati-based Keating Muething & Klekamp contributed $7,000 to DeWine’s campaign on July 6, 2012 – one week after they submitted their panel application. Pat DeWine was an associate at Keating Muething & Klekamp before joining the bench in 2009 and the firm hired Mike DeWine for a stint between his U.S. Senate loss to Democrat Sherrod Brown and his run for attorney general.
Both Keating Muething & Klekamp and Labaton Sucharow were selected for the panel.
Another firm, Dayton-based Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz served on the panel under Cordray. The firm did not contribute to DeWine in 2011 and was rejected for the panel in May 2011. The firm gave $25,000 to the Ohio GOP in June 2011 and was selected for the 2012 panel.
Pritchard said the state party serves as another step to obfuscate the perception that there may be a quid pro quo.
“The suspicious mind would say they’re just putting another link in the chain and it doesn’t change the substance, which is that these law firms get selected because they have made the campaign contributions or it is understood that they will make the campaign contributions,” he said. “I’m sure when you call Mike DeWine’s office they will say we pick based on the merits and the campaign contributions are irrelevant to our choices….The readership of your paper can decide which story is more persuasive.”
E-mails and schedules obtained by the Daily News show DeWine plays an active role in deciding special counsel assignments and he meets with politically connected lobbyists to talk about the assignments.
In July 2011, Republican political strategist Mark Weaver e-mailed DeWine to inquire how the attorney general would handle a public records lawsuit involving ESPN and Ohio State University: in-house attorneys or special counsel? Just two hours later, DeWine responded directly to Weaver via an e-mail sent from his iPad: “In house for now. If we use anyone, we would want it to be u.”
In June 2011, DeWine’s director of outside counsel, Michael Hall, sent an e-mail to the attorney general about Bob Howarth doing special counsel work. In an e-mail response DeWine gave an indirect endorsement of Howarth: “Ok thanks. If we ever need a seasoned guy. Politically savvy…former chief of staff to Rhodes.” Republican Jim Rhodes was Ohio’s governor from 1963 to 1971 and 1975 to 1983.
DeWine’s office calendar shows he met with his former campaign fundraiser David Myhal at least twice to discuss special counsel assignments. Myhal is now a lobbyist who has represented law firms that do business with the attorney general’s office.
Likewise, the calendar shows he met with Alex Arshinkoff, a well-connected lobbyist and the longtime chairman of Summit County Republican Party who represents four companies doing business with DeWine’s office.
The Summit County GOP is a big supporter of DeWine, contributing $271,500 to his campaign account since 2010.
Some states, such as New Jersey, have more stringent laws on campaign giving by state contractors than Ohio. New Jersey prohibits contributions from companies with $17,500 or more in contracted state work, with an exception for highway work.
Robert Stein, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies and author of some of California’s campaign finance laws, said states should go a step further: prohibiting contributions from any business seeking work from the state.
“If you’re bidding on a contract or receiving a contract you shouldn’t be allowed to make a contribution to the person,” Stern said. “Contracts are lucrative and people who get contracts like to say thank you — or say thank you in advance.”
E. Gordon Gee encouraged $50M investment in ‘unproven’ venture capital fund
By Laura A. Bischoff and Jackie Borchardt
Columbus — Ohio State University officials moved ahead with a $50 million investment in a risky new venture capital fund formed by former JobsOhio president Mark Kvamme despite initial warnings from OSU investment staff members, according to records obtained Friday by the Dayton Daily News.
By Jackie Borchardt and Terry Morris
Most Ohio businesses comply with the state’s smoking ban, but the majority of those caught breaking the law aren’t paying their fines.
More than $3.6 million in fines have been levied against Ohio businesses since 2007 for violating the state’s smoke free workplace law. Only $1.4 million, or about 38 percent, have been collected. The rate is slightly lower in the Dayton area, with only about 35 percent of its nearly $500,000 in fines paid through Aug. 31, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of Ohio Department of Health data.
Ohio voters approved a statewide indoor smoking ban in 2006, with 58 percent of the vote. The Smoke-free Workplace Act required three things of businesses: Prohibit smoking in any public place of employment, post no-smoking signs at entrances and remove ashtrays.
Enforcement of the law relies on anonymous complaints made through either a toll-free phone number or email. Businesses are only fined if inspectors, following up on complaints, determine the law was broken.
Many businesses ignored the fines for months, even years, while the law’s constitutionality hung in limbo in the courts. But since the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the law last year, officials are getting more aggressive in collecting what’s owed, most of which belongs to local health departments.
Mandy Burkett, chief of the tobacco and indoor environment section at the Ohio Department of Health, said every complaint is investigated, sometimes along with other complaints made about the same establishment. A letter listing the complaints is sent to an establishment, sometimes by mail and sometimes in person by a local health district employee who also performs the investigation.
Investigators look for signs of smoking — ashtrays in view, scent of stale smoke, patrons actually smoking — and usually try to look behind the bar in case evidence has been hidden.
A first offense in two years yields a warning. Businesses are fined $100 for a second offense, $500 for a third violation, $1,000 for a fourth violation and $2,500 for each subsequent violation. The department invoices businesses twice before turning over collection to the Attorney General’s office. Businesses can appeal fines first through an administrative review involving a third party and through the court system, dragging the process over several months or even years.
Zeno’s Victorian Village, a Columbus bar, appealed its fines to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2011. The court upheld the Smoke-free Workplace Act and the state’s power to enforce it as constitutional. Health officials said it was hard to get businesses to pay up while the case was pending.
The Supreme Court decision gave officials the green light to more aggressively collect fines and more businesses paid fines afterward, but most remain unpaid.
“We still have the holdouts and those are the people we’re continuing to do enforcement,” Burkett said. “Enforcement has become more complicated over years because we’re dealing with people who are more resistant to compliance with the law.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine suggested revoking liquor licenses, which are renewed annually, as a threat against bars and restaurants that weren’t paying fines. Fifteen establishments have been referred to the Division of Liquor Control since July 2011, including six in the Dayton area.
The referrals seem to work — all have started to settle their debts or chosen to close their business and one license has been revoked.
Miami Valley Sports Bar, on Watertower Lane in West Carrollton, was one of those bars to agree to pay before facing Liquor Control. The bar has been fined $63,100, according to state health department records. Owner Julie Delph said she paid a large lump sum up-front and is paying the balance of the fines at the rate of $1,500 a month.
“I fought it as long as I could,” Delph said. “My first fine was due to a cigarette butt near the front door. Another was because there was smoke in the air, although no one was smoking at the time. It’s been tough, but we’re putting this behind us. We’re taking the party outside.”
Delph said her bar is “doing good now,” preparing for what she considers her busy season. She said business tanked after she started enforcing the smoking ban last summer, but customers are beginning to come back.
“Rather than just shove them outside like outcasts, I want them to be comfortable,” Delph said. “This is also about survival for this business.”
Alan Pierce, supervisor for the Environmental Health division of Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County, said the bar is currently in compliance with the law and keeping up with payments. He said recent site visits have turned up no evidence of smoking there and no new complaints have been reported.
“It would be wrong to single them out just because of the numbers,” Pierce said.
The Liquor Control Board only considers referrals for establishments still not complying with the law, but DeWine wants to expand the option for compliant establishments with outstanding fines.
“I’d like to turn that hammer into a sledgehammer and really go after this with the ones who won’t pay the state back the money,” DeWine said.
FOE lodge in Springfield has most complaints
The Fraternal Order of Eagles 3491 has had 183 violations reported since 2007— the most of any establishment in the eight counties analyzed by the Dayton Daily News. Of those violations, only four instances resulted in fines totaling $6,950.
When the ban went into effect, FOE trustee Jerry Pike said it was difficult to impose and bad for business. Many members quit the club because they were no longer allowed to smoke inside and faced suspension if they did.
“When people, you stop them from smoking, they just quit coming and you lose business,” Pike said. “We provided a place out back where they could go outside and smoke but that was the best you could do.”
The FOE hired an attorney to handle its fines, adding to the cost whenever the local health department found a violation. As a result, Pike said they began enforcing a strict policy on smoking which allows barmaids and trustees to instantly suspend a member and bar them from entering the establishment if they are caught smoking inside.
At times, Pike said that’s led to resentment. One member is believed to have called in more than 50 complaints after he was suspended as payback. It resulted in unnecessary inspections and time wasted by both the health department and the FOE, he said.
“I feel that if you accuse someone so many times, you should be able to face your accuser. But even with an attorney you can’t do that,” Pike said. “So (anyone) can sit at home and complain about someone every day, all day long.”
Local health districts are reimbursed $125 per investigation and receive 90 percent of all fines paid. The other 10 percent stays at the Ohio Department of Health to cover administrative costs, and the department enforces the law in 40 of Ohio’s 125 health districts.
A 2010 survey of local health district employees found three-fourths of agencies lose money enforcing the law. Half said the state inspection fee does not cover the cost.
A majority of the employees said they can count on the state health department to aid in enforcement, but not the Attorney General’s office, according to results published earlier this year in the journal Public Health Reports. Only 13 percent said the office has done a good job in getting local businesses to pay outstanding fines.
About 27 percent of fines handed over to former Attorney General Richard Cordray’s office have been collected. Only about 17 percent of fines invoiced under DeWine have been collected.
DeWine said his office has to wait and rely on local and state health employees to do their jobs before his office can do its job.
“I share the frustration that locals have about this. They’re frustrated, I’m frustrated as well, that we cannot get an expedited process but that’s the way the system is set up,” DeWine said.
It takes, on average, about three months from the first Department of Health invoice to the first invoice by the attorney general. But administrative and court appeals can drag out the process over months or years.
Information provided by DeWine’s office show collections have increased since he’s been in office, from $90,284 in 2010 to $138,308 in 2011, $260,906 in 2012 and $182,439 so far this year.
More collected fines mean more money for local health districts. Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County has received a total of $84,772 from collected fines for smoke-free workplace violations since 2008.
The amount has increased each year from $3,510 in 2008 to $25,039 in 2012. The department has received $22,183 in 2013.
But that’s only a fraction of the total fines that remain outstanding in the county — $423,100. The department is due $380,000.
Pierce said compliance in Montgomery County has been very good — an estimated 95 percent — despite the contentiousness of the law.
“We’re talking about 95 percent of every workplace and public place,” Pierce said. “Some of the last few holdouts are starting to get the picture.”
Ziggy’s Ritz Night Club on North Springboro Pike in Moraine used to be one such holdout. The bar has accumulated the second most amount of fines in the Dayton area, with more than $39,000 in outstanding fines, 10 of them at Level 4.
Ziggy’s owner Elizabeth Enterman appealed a citation and $2,500 fine for unpaid citations in court. The 10th District Court of Appeals in December 2012 upheld the fines and the health department’s investigation methods.
Enterman said she agreed to a $1,000 per month payment plan, but the interest on the penalties makes it impossible to pay off. However, Enterman said she has just built a new outdoor smoking deck at Ziggy’s. Outdoor patios are exempt from the law if certain criteria are met.
“I have had to choose between paying the fine and paying my sales tax because business is down by 50 percent because people can’t smoke here anymore,” Enterman said. “This law is not making people quit smoking. It’s making people stay home.”
Public Health Dayton sends sanitarians in pairs to investigate complaints, and they also inspect restaurants, hotels, motels, schools, food trucks and more. Pierce said sanitarians need to have thick skin — they have been threatened, followed and harassed. There have also been instances, he said, where after sanitarians visit the first location, the phone tree starts.
“Others on the list hear we’re coming and we don’t find any other violations,” Pierce said.
Miami Valley Sports Bar owner Delph said her employees had confrontations with a few patrons about smoking indoors, but they’ve always been on good terms with the health department.
“I know they are doing their jobs,” she said.
Delph said she used to wish for long, cold winters, because they were good for business.
“I’ve changed my tune,” she said. “Now I wish for short, mild ones.”
Smoke-free Workplace Act by the numbers
At least 136 Dayton area businesses have been fined for violating the law
Only 38 percent of fines statewide have been collected, leaving $2.3 million on the table
80 percent of local outstanding fines are from the top 10 offenders
Officials estimate 95 percent of Ohio businesses comply with the law