Thursday, July 15, 2004

Finan quits as county's lobbyist after just 6 months

By Cindi Andrews
Enquirer staff writer

The Hamilton County commissioners' stormy six-month relationship with former Senate President Richard Finan ended Wednesday when he quit as their Statehouse lobbyist.

"I just decided it wasn't worth the effort," Finan said, declining to elaborate.

County leaders also declined to give a reason for Finan's departure, which was effective immediately.

But his letter landed a day after several lawmakers suggested the county might not get $14 million it was expecting from the state to help pay for its two new sports stadiums. It also came five months after Commissioner Phil Heimlich criticized Finan for chairing Commissioner John Dowlin's contested re-election campaign.

The tussles highlight a split in the Republican Party, which controls both the General Assembly and most Hamilton County offices. A conservative faction led by Heimlich and state Rep. Tom Brinkman is often at odds with the old guard, which includes Dowlin, Finan and state Rep. Bill Seitz.

Finan and his Columbus firm, Calfee, Halter & Griswold, were hired in January to push the county's interests in the General Assembly and state government for $3,000 a month. Invoices indicate his firm mainly worked on a county debt refinancing proposal.

Finan said he also discussed with some lawmakers the money that Hamilton County was counting on in the next two-year state capital budget, expected to pass late this year. The state promised up to $81 million toward Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park construction in 1998 but has paid just $67 million.

That was news to state Rep. Patricia Clancy, she said Tuesday. The Colerain Township representative said Finan had talked with her and others about funding for an arts and technical school on the riverfront, but he never talked with her about stadium money.

"The subject should have been broached before now, because people are working on the capital bill," Clancy said.

Finan lobbied for the school on behalf of Manchester Bidwell Corp., a Pittsburgh company that's proposing it. Finan is also registered as a lobbyist for six other clients, including the city of Cleveland, the Cincinnati Art Museum and Paramount's Kings Island.

Finan, of Evendale, spent three decades in the General Assembly, culminating with six years as leader of the Senate. He joined Calfee after term limits forced him out in 2002.

A longtime ally of Dowlin, Finan served as co-chairman of his re-election campaign this year. When Cincinnati Councilman Pat DeWine mounted a rare Republican challenge, Heimlich objected to Finan being both the county's lobbyist and a participant in a contested primary. Heimlich supported DeWine, who won.


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