Sunday, October 5, 2003

Inside City Hall: Lynch donors expand



By Greg Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

One signpost of Damon Lynch III's journey from incendiary street preacher to button-down candidate will come Oct. 23, when he will disclose who has contributed to his campaign.

Some of the names will surprise. Already, the Lynch committee has raised more than $20,000, with checks from downtown retail honcho Stan Eichelbaum (whose livelihood Lynch is boycotting), basketball great Oscar Robertson and former mayor and television talker Jerry Springer.

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Then there's the man who calls himself "the great equalizer," the only man who could write a big check to Lynch and attend a fund-raiser for President George W. Bush: Stan Chesley.

"I frankly think he's a leader and I respect leadership," said class-action lawyer Chesley, who gave Lynch the maximum contribution of $1,000. "Look around the rest of City Council. I see a lot of people who don't have nearly the leadership potential he does."

Chesley is married to Susan Dlott, the federal judge who presided over Lynch's lawsuit against the city for alleged racial profiling.

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Broadcast news: It didn't help him much in Cincinnati, but Republican Pete Witte got 30 seconds of face time on international television last Wednesday.

BBC reporter Matt Frei and producer Karina Rozentals came to Cincinnati last week to cover Bush's fund-raising trip to Indian Hill - and the state of the Ohio's economy. "The Wittes are voters Mr. Bush can count on, but like many Americans they're worried that Iraq is distracting the president from the troubled economy," Frei reported as the Wittes tossed a football with their daughter, Lillyin Price Hill.

"Ann now has to work part of the time, and Pete has had to lay off people from his engraving business."

Witte's quote: "I have a hard time thinking I won't support President Bush come re-election time, but you know, I want to feed my family."

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More money: Cincinnati Republicans have been determined to whack down every attempt at campaign finance reform in city politics since 1995. And through legal challenges and a 2002 ballot effort to repeal taxpayer-funded campaigns, they've been mostly successful.

Enter Charterite John Schlagetter.

Schlagetter is proposing a city earnings tax credit of up to $50 for residents who make contributions to city political campaigns. The tax credit would only be available to candidates who agree to voluntary spending limits of three times a council member's annual salary, now $57,893.

The Fair Elections Coalition, which has pushed for public financing as a way to curtail the influence of big-money political donors, has already endorsed the Schlagetter proposal.

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Opening lines: With 26 candidates for City Council, nothing candidates say matters unless voters remember their names. That's why some candidates go to extremes with mnemonic devices, repeating them in every stump speech:

Laketa Cole: "When you go to the poll, vote for Cole."

Sam Malone: "On Election Day, don't leave me alone. Vote for Sam Malone."

Terry Deters: "Everyone asks me if I'm related to Joe (the state treasurer.) On Nov. 4, I am."

Leslie Ghiz jumps straight into the delicate subject of how to pronounce her name. "Pronounce it however you want. Just make sure you remember it." For the record, it's pronounced with a hard "G."

City Hall reporter Gregory Korte can be reached at gkorte@enquirer.com or 768-8391.




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