August 7, 2009
As the axiom states: “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.” Strange and interesting things are happening in the legendary swing state.
First, it was Fox commentator, former Congressman, and originally freshly-scrubbed Nixon youth John Kasich emerging as the likely Republican nominee for governor of the Buckeye State.
Then, former U.S. Senator Mike Dewine announced his candidacy for Ohio Attorney General on July 22. In 2006, the then-incumbent Dewine lost to Democrat U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown by 12 percentage points, although final polls throughout the state showed him losing by twice that amount.
Why would a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives – granted he was most well-known for falling asleep during the Iran-Contra hearings – and U.S. Senator, be seeking the seemingly lesser office of Ohio’s chief law enforcement officer?
The answer is: he would be chief law enforcement officer in one of America’s most politically corrupt states – sort of New Jersey without the reputation. Historically, the Attorney General of Ohio has been the key position for covering up the state’s systemic corruption and two-party pay-to-play system.
Back in 80s, Ohio’s Attorney General was none other than Billy Joe Brown (original name: Barone) whose major political backer was Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. DeBartolo is most well-known as the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who was forced to sell the franchise after pleading guilty in a alleged scheme to bribe the former governor of Louisiana to secure a gambling license. Columbus police records indicate that DeBartolo has ties to organized crime and was a “person of interest” in a high–profile murder case in Columbus back in the 80s.
What Brown understood is that the Attorney General’s office is a good place to harass political enemies, dispense patronage, and cover up questionable activities by your cronies. The current Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray – most famous in Ohio for being a 5-time Jeopardy winner – has a well-deserved reputation for being squeaky clean and ethical.
Prior to Cordray, Mark Dann of Youngstown held the office briefly before being forced to resign amidst a sex scandal. Dann’s Attorney General’s office became a great place from which he and his appointees could shake women down for booty. Dann won, in part, because of the support of the election integrity movement which was hostile to Republican Attorney General James Petro, who went out of his way to thwart lawful Ohio Supreme Court supervised examination of the conduct of George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and Ken Blackwell in connection with Ohio’s infamous 2004 Presidential election.
What kind of Attorney General would Dewine make? Perhaps the best testament to Dewine’s character is in a piece written by Joe Gilyard, a former state cabinet member as Director of Criminal Justice Services during the Voinovich administration. Gilyard, a well-known Republican political operative recounts how he served as “Dewine’s hired gun” when he ran as Lieutenant Governor on the Voinovich ticket: “I was to protect him [Dewine] from sharks like Chief of Staff Paul Mifsud and even Governor Voinovich himself.” The late Mifsud was a former military intelligence officer and close friend of George Herbert Walker Bush, who ran his Ohio presidential campaigns in 1980 and 1988.
Mifsud would later serve time in jail related to falsification of government records in a contract-steering and bribery scandal. Early on, when Gilyard tried to blow the whistle on the corruption of Paul Mifsud, Dewine pledged his support. “…he thought Mifsud was a crook and we should go after him,” Gilyard wrote.
In order to go after Mifsud and Voinovich, Gilyard and Dewine would have to first clash with another legendary friend of George H. W. Bush, Franklin County Sheriff Earl Smith. Both Smith and the late John Walton Wolfe of Columbus’ politically-formidable Wolfe media conglomerate, used the Columbus Dispatch to go after Gilyard.
Dewine was openly and easily intimidated from the fight. As Gilyard colorfully recalled the story: “He [Smith] hurled invective upon invective on a now squeamish Mike Dewine, going so far as to call him Mike DeWeeny in the press.” The name stuck.
Gilyard wrote an eight-page memo about Smith’s activities that were under investigation by federal authorities. The memo was given to Mike Dewine, according to Gilyard. “He [Dewine] stood up, face whiter than usual, and said, ‘This meeting is over. Please put all your memos on the table.” Gilyard alleged that Dewine demanded all copies of the memo showing corruption by Smith and the Voinovich administration in order to cover up any investigation.
Gilyard admitted that “I went back to my office and destroyed everything except a hard copy and the disk. I took them home and secured them in case I needed them to prove my innocence in what had become a Machiavellian plan to steal $30 million in state bond money, give the Voinovich Company an ‘inside track’ to all county jail-building contracts and allow Earl Smith to escape from justice again.”
All of this is documented in a CICJ Books book I authored called “The Brothers Voinovich and the Ohiogate Scandal.”
Dewine, rather than stand up to the obvious corruption of the Voinovich administration, instead ran for the Senate because the heat was too hot in Columbus.
Now, Mike Dewine wants to return to Ohio’s capital city and be the state’s chief law enforcement officer. He originally denied that Gilyard ever wrote a memo outlining the corruption of the Voinovich administration. Gilyard lost his job after his photo appeared on the front page of the Wolfe-owned Dispatch newspaper portraying him as a criminal based on charges brought by Earl Smith, although Gilyard was later acquitted of all charges. Stress and high blood pressure had wrecked his kidneys.
Under pressure from the state’s inspector general, Dewine later found a copy of the memo in a vacation home desk vindicating Gilyard. But it was too late for Gilyard.
It’s hard to believe how corrupt the Voinovich-Dewine administration was in the early 90s. During those years, the terrorist/Al Qaeda-connected, now discredited Bank of Credit and Commerce International helped finance a toxic waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio as the regulatory wheels were greased by the Voinovich family.
Governor Voinovich’s brother Paul was paid $6000 a month retainer to lobby on behalf of the incinerator. Another money source for the incinerator was the notorious Swiss corporation Von Roll, a company that was busted for trying to sell a “supergun” to Iraq to lob nuclear warheads at Israel.
This massive corruption is what the spineless Mike Dewine escaped from by running for U.S. Senate. Now the man known for looking the other way when corruption runs rampant wants to be Ohio’s chief law enforcement officer, just in time to look the other way for the 2012 Presidential election.
Bob Fitrakis edits freepress.org and was one of the lawyers attempting to conduct the investigation of Bush, Rove and Blackwell in Ohio’s 2004 election.