Wednesday, February 02, 2000

Reds, Bengals benefit Bedinghaus

Money totals a third of donations

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The owners of the Reds and Bengals and their families provided about one-third of the campaign money raised last year by Bob Bedinghaus, the Hamilton County commissioner in charge of building the teams' new stadiums.

        The Republican county commissioner, who has led the county's effort to build taxpayer-financed riverfront stadiums for the franchises, filed a 1999 year-end campaign fi nance report with the Hamilton County Board of Elections showing he raised $158,318 in 1999 and had $147,979 in the bank as of Dec. 31.

        Of the $158,318, $44,000 came from businessman Carl Lindner, who became principal owner of the Reds last year, and 11 members of his family.

        The county commissioners are negotiating a lease for a new Reds ballpark, which is to open on the riverfront in 2003.

        Bengals President Mike Brown, whose $400 million football stadium is scheduled to be completed by August, gave Mr. Bedinghaus' 2000 re-election campaign $2,500. Another $11,000 came from Brown family members and lawyer Stuart Dornette, who negotiated the Bengals' lease agreement with the county.

        In 1996, Mr. Bedinghaus was the chief campaigner for a half-cent-on-a-dollar sales tax increase to pay for stadium construction that was passed by Hamilton County voters. Since then, he has been the county's point man in negotiations with the teams and in the day-to-day construction of the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium.

        Mr. Bedinghaus said voters could draw their own conclu sions from the campaign contributions.

        “That's for the people to make their own independent judgments,” Mr. Bedinghaus said. “To suggest that Carl Lindner is not going to contribute to a Republican county commissioner is kind of ridiculous.”

        Republican County Commissioner John Dowlin, who is also running for re-election this year, received no money from the Lindners or Browns in 1999. Mr. Dowlin has been a vocal opponent of the riverfront stadiums. He reported having $11,408 in the bank as of Dec. 31.

        Mike Brown said he gave the Bed- inghaus campaign money because “Bob has taken a stand for the future of Hamilton County.”

        “He was willing to risk his political future,” Mr. Brown said. “We need more people like him in politics.”

        Mr. Bedinghaus said he expects more contributions from the same sources throughout this year's campaign.

        For decades, Mr. Lindner has been known to shower campaign contributions on favored candidates for city and county office, mostly Republicans. He also is a major donor to national candidates.

        Aided by the contributions from the Lindners and Browns, Mr. Bedinghaus ended the year with a campaign fund that dwarfs those of the two Democrats vying in the March 7 primary for the chance to run against him this fall.

        Democrat Marilyn Hyland, who has been running for the Bedinghaus seat since losing to Commissioner Tom Neyer Jr. in 1998, raised $12,088 in 1999 and had $385 in the bank as of Dec. 31.

        The other Democrat in the race, Cincinnati City Councilman Todd Portune, was not a candidate for county commissioner in 1999 and did not have to file a year-end report. Tuesday, he would not say how much he has raised since declaring his candidacy Jan. 6, except to say it is “more than Marilyn and less than Bob.”

        “I think the facts speak for themselves,” Mr. Portune said of Mr. Bedinghaus' contributions from the Lindners and the Browns. “Getting money from the major owners of the entities you are negotiating with certainly raises questions.”

        Mr. Portune spent $243,862 in his council re-election campaign last year. But, in December, he filed a post-election campaign finance report that did not account for where $53,013 in contributions came from.

        Mr. Bedinghaus criticized Mr. Portune for not filing an amended report showing where the $53,013 came from, seven weeks after the Dec. 10 filing deadline.

        “At least my campaign discloses where the money comes from,” Mr. Bedinghaus said.

        Mr. Portune said records were destroyed when a flooded ceiling collapsed at his campaign headquarters. Tuesday, he said his campaign treasurer had retrieved the deposit records from the campaign's bank and was reconstructing the report to show where the money came from.

        “We'll file an amended report soon, and we'll account for every penny,” Mr. Portune said.

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