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Friday, September 24, 2004

Voter Registration Fraud -- Spreading

Even if Ohio is drifting more firmly to Bush, this is still considered a swing state. So, the voter registration fraud in Lake and Summit Counties that I posted on yesterday is now an AP Wire story.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer summarizes both incidents in one story today.

Elections officials have said hundreds of absentee ballot applications and dozens of voter registration cards are in question. Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson, also involved in the probe, said the problems are more significant than originally thought.

"We've seen voter fraud before, but never on this level," Coulson said Thursday. "I grew up in Chicago and this looks like the politics of Mayor Daley in the '50s and '60s."

Lake election and law enforcement officials said their investigation is centered on absentee registration attempts by the nonpartisan NAACP's National Voter Fund and an anti-Bush, nonprofit group called Americans Coming Together, or ACT Ohio.

The National Voter Fund could not be reached Wednesday or Thursday at its Washington, D.C., offices.

A spokesman for ACT Ohio, however, said the group believed the allegations would prove groundless.

No comment from the ACT Ohio on their site, but to their credit on their news round-up for yesterday, they link to articles about the scandal.

Considering the push by anti-Bush groups to get people registered, the suspicion of wrong-doing has to be falling more heavily on them. And it looks like problems are also developing in Michigan.

Overzealous or unscrupulous campaign workers in several Michigan counties are under investigation for voter-registration fraud, suspected of attempting to register nonexistent people or forging applications for already-registered voters, election and law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Officials in Wayne, Oakland, Ingham and Eaton counties have been contacted about the problem, which appears to be an outgrowth of unprecedented efforts by political interest groups to register thousands of new voters before the November election.

<> State Elections Director Christopher Thomas said he hoped criminal prosecutions would result. Thomas, who has held his post for more than 20 years, said the scale of voter-registration drives this year and the irregularities were like nothing he had seen before.
Ingham County Sheriff's Detective Mark Bowser said an investigation of suspected registration fraud has been under way since late August and could be turned over to the county prosecutor by the end of the week.

Bowser said it is unclear how widespread the problems are. He said the investigation has reviewed "a couple thousand questionable registrations."

Representatives from two groups whose workers have submitted apparently-fraudulent applications -- the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM) and Project Vote -- downplayed the issue Wednesday, insisting that it involved only a handful of workers and a limited number of registrations.

The Anyone But Bush crowd is looking more desperate and showing a greater willingness to get as dirty as they think he is. Congrats.


Eastlake Update -- Nothing

Just a small article saying that an update on the sewer levy scandal might come next week. Eastlake and Lake County are still arguing over the amount and responsibility. The article is more about what the money was to be used for and how.

Gone in 4 Years or So

The Cleveland area Imam who lied about his links to terror groups, and was convicted for lying on his immigration applications has officially had his citizenship stripped. This will take a while. He first has to serve 2 months in federal prison -- but doesn't report until after Ramadan -- November 22 (showing just how much America hates Muslims). His deportation is several years away. First he has his appeal on his conviction to the 6th Circuit. Then he will have to have his immigration hearing. He will be in the US for at least 4 more years. Gosh, is this a reactionary, un-free, civil liberties denying country or what?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Plenty of Voter Registration Fraud to Review in Ohio

Looks like Lake County is not the only place where some ham-handed attempts to get the voter rolls swollen.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office confirmed Wednesday that it has joined the investigation into alleged voter-registration fraud in Summit County.

At issue, according to county Board of Elections Director Bryan Williams, are 803 voter registration cards received by the board over the past two months. <>"The common thread is they are for addresses that don't exist," Williams said.
Williams said the elections board has computer records on all addresses in the county and when an attempt to register someone for a nonexistent address is made, "the computer kicks it out."

While no new bad-address cards came from the AFL-CIO after those first 50 last month, Williams said all of the cards in question had "Cuyahoga County Board of Elections" printed at the bottom of the form.

The rest of the bad-address cards were either forwarded from the Cuyahoga elections board or sent directly to the Summit County elections office in unmarked envelopes, Williams said.

And "in many of them, the handwriting looks similar," he said, noting the cards have "a common source, common handwriting and common mistake of nonexisting street number."

In a lot of cases, Williams said, the street names were misspelled in the same way.

"It implies that the same person is making the same mistake," he said.

"This is my first presidential election (on the job), but those who have been here before say this is unprecedented," Williams said.

Because Ohio doesn't include choosing a party at voter registration, it's not possible to know what campaign the registrations could have helped, had they been accepted.

This is just going to be ugly.

Additional item of interest. Ohioblog by Steve Love of the Akron Beacon Journal as he blogs on the Presidential election in Ohio. Worth reading for those obsessesed with the "swing states."


Eastlake -- ODOT Fallout

ODOT is no longer giving private loans though its ODOT State Infrastructure Bank. All because of the Eastlake mess.
SIB was established in 1996 to dole out money for highway and transit projects. The program was started with $30 million in state funds, and it uses $60 million the state receives annually from the federal government.

To date, SIB has loaned $225.6 million through 72 loans. It has received $89 million in payments, Cunningham said.

Municipalities and companies can borrow money for highway and road projects and aviation, rail and other transportation facilities, according to SIB's Web site.
So naturally the private loans have been going towards "roads" and "access" to industrial parks. Sounds like the whole SIB thing is something of a scam. Bothers me that a transportation department would become a subsidized lender for private development.

It's amazing, to realize this ODOT-Eastlake mess actually started coming to light a couple years ago, but is only now getting coverage. ODOT had filed its lawsuit against Chiapetta (and Eastlake) back in 2002. At that time, US House of Representatives member Steve LaTourette looked into the matter. Nothing happened. He was contacted by the Eastlake's law director to talk to ODOT, because even then the City realized it had screwed up badly -- telling you just how long Eastlake's been trying to cover this up. All evidence, and the fact that Eastlake is still scrambling to avoid the debt, suggests that events happened as indicated.

You would think, though, that Capri Cafaro, the Democrat challenger to LaTourette would seek to make a big deal out of LaTourette's connections and the fact that Chiapetta was a donor and supporter. She really can't though. She has her own shady history with her family being from the Youngstown area and its ties and dealings with one Jim Traficant. She really has to avoid trying to bring up scandals lest the blowback be worse for her.

I don't know whether she has tartgeted Eastlake much, but if I were her, I'd be flogging the City's debt and the ballpark and LaTourette's connections. LaTourette has a access road street off of Vine Street going into the ballpark named for him. All because he pledged to get Eastlake some $4 million in federal grant money -- that hasn't come through yet (keeps getting held up, as part of the highway bill). These days, you would think that pushing that in Eastlake might generate a little more support for her and against LaTourette.

Voting From Home in Lake County

A little more on the slow growth story of voter registration fraud in Lake County. We now get some names:
At least one Lake County voter would have made quite a comeback to cast a ballot Nov. 2.

He has been dead for more than two decades, elections officials said.

In a seemingly lesser miracle of wayward democracy, an elderly nursing home resident who only scrawls a shaky "X" when signing official documents suddenly regained a firm, crisp cursive signature when she registered.

Both the dead man and the elderly woman were signed up by voter registration advocacy groups, Lake County elections officials said.
She said that the registration of the deceased man was filed by the National Voter Fund, the registration arm of the NAACP, and the woman in the nursing home was registered by the group Americans Coming Together, known in this state as ACT Ohio.

She said ACT Ohio had been to two Lake County nursing homes and a number of registrations were now in question.

A spokesman for the National Voter Fund could not be reached. Its Web site,, says it is a nonpartisan effort to increase participation of the African-American voter.

Jess Goode, state communications director for ACT Ohio, said the Lake County allegations would turn out to be nothing.

"We honestly believe that there is nothing to this and that it was based on confusion and miscommunication," Goode said. "We have tough, professional standards and . . . a well-trained staff.

"Our goal is to make sure more Ohioans are able to vote legitimately."

ACT is a partisan group formed with the specific intent to oust President Bush from office and promote Democrats on all ballots, according to its Web site,
Nothing at the Ohio ACT site or the ACT blog about this.

Right now, this looks like little stuff and there is nothing indicating that this was widespread fraud by these groups. It just plays well to trumpet the "dead guy back on the voter rolls thing." Not good, but kind of nickel-dime stuff. Easily pinned on one "rouge" staffer or employee. They bury and don't give more info on what I think is more troubling and questionable.

They don't identify the group who apparently requested absentee ballots for entire blocks. That, to me, could be the bigger fraud issue. Entire blocks being signed up for absentee ballots suggests a concerted effort and likely fraud. That should have been the more important focus for the article. The attempts to make voting more "user friendly" seems to be having a dangerous effect on making voter fraud far easier. I have a real problem when I hear so many people talking about how important it is to vote, and it is a vital right and even a privilege to do so; but then seem to think voter registration should be like an internet poll.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Eastlake Update -- Throw the Former Mayor Under the Bus

The News-Herald Editorial Board can't quite do it yet -- too many qualifiers and caveats in the piece -- but they are finally starting to decide that former Mayor DiLiberto not only may be scum and have helped drive Eastlake deep into the red, but that he would make a convenient scapegoat for the problems. The editorial concerns the loans guaranteed by the city to bring a business and jobs to the city -- and the ensuing fraud, stupidity and/or corruption.
Meanwhile, two letters to ODOT from then-Mayor Dan DiLiberto indicated that DiLiberto was aware Chiapetta had received the full $2.4 million but that another $615,000 was necessary for him to complete the project.

But DiLiberto said he didn't read the second letter, written in August 1999, before signing it.

The letter was written for DiLiberto's signature by Chiapetta's attorney, the late J. William Petro. "He faxed the letter to my office," DiLiberto said. "I gave it to my secretary to have it typed, John came to my office in a big hurry, so I signed the letter without reading it. (Chiapetta) took the letter and left."

The letter was reproduced in these pages last Saturday. It consists of two brief paragraphs. There is no reason why DiLiberto shouldn't have read it, even though the beneficiary of the loan was standing over his shoulder, impatiently waiting for his signature.

Rubber-stamping a request of that magnitude without being fully aware of its contents cannot be excused.
All those who actually believe he didn't read the letter before signing it, shout. (Sound of crickets chirping.)Whether the city gets stuck with the defaulted loans is up in the air, because ODOT screwed up royally in not following its own procedures and protocol. This was just yet another new piece of corruption to be exposed in the last few months.

Meanwhile, Eastlake City Council had a rather contentious meeting over budget cuts as people started jockeying to save jobs and position themselves to remain in office or just try to look like the "good guy."
While some on council think it would be best to keep one of the city's pools open, others think a bigger concern should be the laying off of police officers.

Council President Chuck Hillier is concerned about closing both the city's pools.
"If you close the final pool you'll have enough to keep one police officer," Hillier said. "We're still a community and a community is more than police, fire and roads."

But Councilwoman Lynn Moon Curtis and Councilman Robert J. Mahler think everything possible should be done to save the jobs of the police officers.

Curtis said with fewer police officers, the city will pay more in overtime.
"It doesn't make sense to me to lay off three police officers, keep the pool open and complain about police overtime," Curtis said.

Police Chief John Ruth and Fire Chief Richard Sabo criticized council for considering recreation before the safety forces.

"I'm vehemently opposed to laying off police officers in any situation," Ruth said.
"I continue to see where council has trouble differentiating between wants and needs. You felt safety forces were important enough to put a levy on the ballot, so what has changed? Quit dealing with your wants and deal with your needs. You need to get your priorities in order."

Sabo urged council to keep in mind that the fire department is understaffed by six firefighters.

Law Director Joseph R. Klammer also warned finance committee members that safety forces should be a priority.

Klammer said if the police and fire departments are understaffed, it could trigger lawsuits claiming the city was negligent.
Meanwhile no one knows whether they have to start paying back the overpayed property taxes collected; and they have to get a budget submitted for approval by the state oversight committee in 2 weeks. Looks like a fun couple of weeks ahead.

But Who?

A potentially big story in Ohio, out of the 11th largest county in the state.
Lake County Elections Board trustees today will discuss the possibility of criminal charges being brought against at least two issue advocacy groups and potentially a political candidate regarding suspected illegal absentee ballot applications.

Janet F. Clair, elections board director, said she is investigating numerous applications and is likely to ask trustees to refer the matter to Lake County Prosecutor Charles E. Coulson. Her investigation had not concluded Tuesday, she said.

Trustees will meet at 8:15 a.m. today in Painesville.

Clair said questionable applications have come in from large neighborhood blocks in which the entire area is requesting absentee ballots.

Others have come from an issue advocacy group canvassing nursing homes, she said.

Several signatures on some ballot applications also appear not to be genuine, Clair said.
Unfortunately, the article doesn't say who the "issue advocacy groups" are. Do I have some suspicions since I live in Lake County? No first hand knowledge. I was troubled when I received a mailing from the Bush-Cheney election committee that included forms for a voter to send to the local board of elections for an absentee ballot, but didn't worry much about it.

A month ago there was trouble with the AFL-CIO voter registration, but hardly seemed that big a deal.

Right now, if I hazarded a guess. I'd think it might be something being pulled by America Coming Together (ACT) . They have been involved in some questionable voter registration activities in Ohio previously.

Worth watching.

You Don't Say

The guy killed at a bar for a cigarrette? Seems alcohol may have had something to do with the situation. You think? In a bar? At 1:30 am?

The article doesn't clear things up. The 2 main figures were both drunk, and the others who apparently help stomp the guy to death haven't been caught. The dead guy was 6'2", 300 pounds. The guy he was fighting -- 5'7", 145 pounds. At times the article seems confused as to who did what.

Looks like the big dead guy was the one bumming the smoke, not the other way as earlier reported. You get the feeling that there is a lot more here than is coming out at the moment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Things Not Purchased at Target

I'm a big fan of rampant consumerism. No problem with it. Still there are certain things that just made me shake my head while on a recent Target run.

Nivea for Men did an ad campaign talking about how men hate shaving. How they would rather do anything else (except the obvious -- grow a beard). Stupid commercials.

Well, now they have a different option. Any guy feeling stupid enough to try Nair for Men? Comes in body cream or roll-on. Really, this is when you know the whole metrosexual thing has reached its tipping point. When men are doing the same stupid things to themselves that women do. Take a step back. And if you must try it, read the warning:
Every guy reading that just involuntarily crossed his legs or cringed.

For family entertainment, how can you beat this?

Found of course, in the children's DVD section. There were two web site addresses on the back of the DVD Case. Apparently made by Nest Family, which also does Jay Jay the Jet Plane. The amusing thing to me, is that the distributor is Anchor Bay Entertainment. This family company has some wonderful films in its catalog

that goes to the heart of the Nest mission statement.

Monday, September 20, 2004

One Hell of a Nic Fit

I really hope there is more to this than just not letting some guy bum a smoke.

A crowd outside a Denison Avenue bar beat a Cleveland man to death early Sunday after the man apparently refused someone's request for a cigarette.

Ricardo Leon, 23, of West 67th Street, died shortly after being taken to MetroHealth Medical Center at 2:46 a.m.

Police have arrested a 25-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman in connection with the beating. They have not been charged, Cleveland police spokesman Lt. Wayne Drummond said.

The beating occurred outside Partners Pub at West 62nd Street and Denison Avenue.

Partners Pub owner Bob Schmidt said an employee told him that Leon had been drinking amiably with other customers until someone asked him for a cigarette and he refused. A doorman tried to break up the fight, which spilled out into the street, "but there were too many people for him," Schmidt said.

Kim Kaminski, who owns a building next door to the bar and recorded some of the beating on videotape, said at least three or four people took turns kicking Leon. Kaminski said he gave the videotape to police.

There has to be more to it.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Excuse Me, What Did I Just Step In?

I wonder, do you get to keep your full pension from the State of Ohio, if you are convicted of graft and corruption while in office? I'm not accusing (really), I'm just wondering now that the FBI is looking into this:
The FBI is helping the Ohio Inspector General's Office and the Eastlake Police Department look into whether an Eastlake developer improperly received $3 million in state loans.

Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Painesville bureau of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said his agency is looking into the matter involving developer John Chiapetta, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the city of Eastlake.

"We've been in contact with the Eastlake Police Department, and we are monitoring what's going on," Wilson said Friday.

Wilson would not comment further on the investigation.
Police, the FBI and Inspector General's Office appear to be investigating whether city Engineer Steve Guard and ODOT officials were tricked into approving paperwork necessary for Chiapetta to receive an additional $615,000 loan from ODOT.

On Thursday, The News-Herald reported that Guard said his required signature was not on any of the five Exhibit C forms necessary for Chiapetta to receive the full $2.4 million in ODOT loans.

Guard was never presented with that paperwork.

He recalled being asked for his signature on paperwork stating that Chiapetta had done the necessary amount of work to receive another $615,000 from ODOT.
But Guard said he thought the $615,000 was still part of the installments from the $2.4 million. Therefore, he signed off on it.

But that raised questions about two 1999 letters from former Eastlake Mayor Dan DiLiberto to ODOT.

The letters apparently show that DiLiberto was aware that Chiapetta had received his full $2.4 million and supported Chiapetta obtaining the additional $615,000 from ODOT.

ODOT spokesman Brian Cunningham said the two letters from DiLiberto, dated July 22, 1999, and Aug. 5, 1999, are vital to the continuing investigation.

In the letters, DiLiberto tells ODOT that an additional $615,000 is necessary for Chiapetta to complete the project and that the city engineer had approved the work.
In the August letter, DiLiberto states:

"As requested in the State Infrastructure Bank Loan Agreement, I have reviewed this with the city engineer and agree that all disbursements to date have been appropriate and in accordance with the original construction contract agreement. However, I also recognize that there has been an unforeseen cost overrun. I and the city engineer believe, to the best of our knowledge, that the additional $615,000 loan from the State Infrastructure Bank will complete the Eastlake Industrial Park project according to its plan."
The two letters apparently contradict an earlier statement by DiLiberto that he signed for the additional $615,000 without knowledge of any prior payments to Chiapetta.

On Friday, DiLiberto said he didn't actually read the August letter, written on his behalf by attorney J. William Petro, who represented Chiapetta at the time. Petro has since died.

William Petro's brother is Jim Petro, who was the state auditor and is the state attorney general.

"Petro asked me to sign a letter authorizing the payment for work at the industrial park," DiLiberto said.

"He faxed the letter to my office, and I gave it to (Secretary Addie Zingale) to have it typed. John came to the office in a big hurry, so I signed the letter without really reading it. (Chiapetta) took the letter and left."
Yeah, this looks good. There's even a set of missing files. Sure it just contained a bunch of old newspaper articles.

And if the Eastlake City Council thinks it can get away with passing off all the problems of the city off on the ex-mayor, it should pay attention to what is happening in the rest of Cleveland. Looks like people have woken up and aren't letting local city councils raise their taxes by taking away the reciprocity tax credit. Oh, they can try, but they face a real battle as people learn and spread the word.

Cities can make up all the excuses they want, just as the states have and the federal government has. What it comes down to, is that when people aren't working, earning the same level of money, the amount of income taxes goes down. When that happens, you reduce the spending. You don't increase the amount of taxes to make up the difference. Otherwise, you exacerbate people's problems and drive people away. Especially at the local level. There is no graduated taxing level. They guy making $25,000 a year is taxed the same as the one making $75,000 a year. When the times are tough (and they are in Northeast Ohio) people aren't going to just bend over to pay more so the local officials don't have to make hard choices in the cuts. You wanted the job, you asked for it, you face the consequences of the tough choices.

The Revolution Is Here

Take a day off to watch a football game in another state, and you miss the big stuff.
A Prohibition-era state law that prohibited stores from selling liquor on Sundays ends today, which means liquor stores can be liquor stores, even on the Sabbath.

The owners of Simone's Beverage & Deli on Detroit Avenue in Lakewood plan to take advantage of the new rules and open today at 1 p.m., the earliest the law allows for Sunday liquor sales.
Sunday is no longer exclusively a day of worship and rest. It has become the second-busiest shopping day of the week, behind Saturday, retailers say.

The 71-year-old liquor law had already been loosened for bars and restaurants in communities where voters approved of Sunday sales. Today, Ohio becomes the 32nd state to allow full Sunday sales, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

Of the 18 liquor stores listed in the Cleveland Yellow Pages and still in business, six of them contacted on Saturday said they planned to open and sell liquor on Sundays.



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