The Dispatch Empire Strikes Back: Vader-Like Forces Of Darkness Suck The Other Paper Into A Black Hole

Bob Fitrakis
October 2, 2011

The late Herbert Marcuse, author of One Dimensional Man, and Noam Chomsky, America’s most cited scholar, both have pointed out the advantage of controlling news through private corporate conglomerates. In 1947, in his seminal book Inside USA, John Gunther called the Wolfe family of Columbus perhaps America’s most ruthless media monopoly.

Last week, the Wolfe family’s closely held private corporation, the Dispatch Printing Company, was at it again. The Dispatch bought up the last independent weekly newspapers in Columbus, owned by American Community Newspapers. They picked up the Suburban News Publication (SNP) chain of 22 local community weeklies; The Other Paper, a weekly entertainment and commentary newspaper; Columbus Monthly, the only serious magazine in the capital; and a dozen other specialty magazines including Columbus CEO and Columbus Bride. John F. Wolfe, the CEO of the Dispatch Printing Company, told Business First that, “Putting all of these titles under one roof opens up enormous and exciting possibilities for local readers.”


The Dispatch bought Columbus Alive in 2006, which was once the premier investigative weekly in the state of Ohio from 1997-2002. The paper never really recovered from the shock of 9/11 and increasingly moved away from muck-raking journalism and progressive social commentary to incredibly mundane middle-of-the-road political discourse.

Once acquired by the Dispatch, moderate discourse disappeared entirely as the paper pursued pay-to-play features to entice bar, restaurant and concert ads. There’s a massive vacuum in the capital city with the Wolfe’s Columbus Dispatch not only serving as the daily monopoly, but now its control of the Alive and The Other Paper dominates nearly all news and ad revenue in Columbus.

Democracy can only be served with more than one point of view. The Dispatch family has not endorsed a Democrat for President since Woodrow Wilson in 1916. The Wolfes, of German ancestry, exposed pro-German sentiments during World War I. On a local level, they tend to endorse Democrats they know are locks to win elections. But, the Dispatch’s clear bias is towards conservative ideology and politicians who serve their personal economic interests. Thus, their recent stunningly biased support for their longtime fair-haired boy Governor Kasich and their support for Senate Bill 5, will be their model for the former Democratic-leaning The Other Paper.

If The Other Paper survives.

The Other Paper, SNP and Columbus Monthly were originally owned by Max Brown’s CM Media, a media chain that began in 1975. Brown, an administrator under Ohio’s former Democratic Governor John Gilligan, dreamed of countering the influence of the Big Bad Wolfe family with his own media empire. He was never able to add the crown jewel, which would have been the return of a daily newspaper to provide a different perspective than the Dispatch.

The Dispatch destroyed their only daily competitor, the Columbus Citizen-Journal, at the end of 1985. The Dispatch simply failed to renew a joint operating agreement with the Citizen-Journal, which lacked its own printing facilities.

Brown’s vision of challenging the Wolfes centered around his ability to do his own printing with CM Printing. This ended when he sold CM Media and his printing presses to American Community Newspapers in 2007. In fact, CM Printing and later American Community Newspapers printed the paper I edit, the Columbus Free Press.

The Dispatch distinguished itself in the 1990s by covering up the blatant corruption of the Voinovich administration, including Governor Voinovich’s brother Paul’s ties to organized crime. They also purposely acted as apologists allowing George Bush and Karl Rove’s theft of Ohio’s 2004 presidential election. The will continue to report the real news in the capital The Dispatch’s power on paper is greater than ever. But, the pedestrian and propagandistic nature of their boring publications should serve to do them in.

With the internet at our disposal, we should do everything possible to boycott and discredit what remains the most ruthless media monopoly in America.

If you would like to see the Columbus Free Press published as a quarterly or monthly publication again, remember that we are a charitable 501(c)(3) and you can make your donation to us on our online store at

Bob Fitrakis is the Editor of the Free Press and and former investigative reporter for the Columbus Guardian and award-winning investigative journalist for Columbus Alive, where he authored a column “Bob Bites Back.”

Mr. Corruption: George V. Voinovich’s Dedication To Cronyism And The Profits Of His Family Business Motivated His 43-year Tenure As A Public Official

Dr. Robert Fitrakis
December 28, 2010

The giant headline proclaimed “Mr. Ohio.” On Sunday, December 12, the Columbus Dispatch spun a fawning Orwellian tale of George V. Voinovich as he retires from the Senate. One of the many incidents they missed was the part about the then-Governor Voinovich fleeing town after nearly being indicted by a grand jury for money laundering into his campaign.

The fact that Central Ohio’s daily monopoly remains silent to this day on one of the most corrupt administrations in the history of the Buckeye State should come as no surprise. Even when Gov. Voinovich’s Chief of Staff Paul Mifsud was charged with three felony counts and three misdemeanors, their reporting was apologetic and meager. The Dispatch’s Joe Hallett, Jack Torry, and Jonathan Riskind lionize the childhood of Voinovich and speak glowingly of his roots in the Collinwood neighborhood in Cleveland.

What the Dispatch always fails to point out, although it was originally leaked to me from a Dispatch reporter, were the ties Governors Voinovich and James A. Rhodes had to the mob. It’s not that Voinovich ever really hid those connections. He attempted to appoint a long-time friend, Ray Gallagher to an $80,000 a year state job after Gallagher had been convicted of theft in office.

Another of George’s buddies, Booker Tall, was indicted for writing checks to three nonexistent state employees. And who can forget his attempt to appoint alleged mobster and Teamster official Carmen Parisi to the Ohio Turnpike Commission?

But hooking up old friends was nothing compared to the real gangsters he hung around with in corporate Ohio. In one of the blatant and obvious pay-to-play schemes in the nation, Voinovich took $100 thousand from the Lindner family of Chiquita banana fame for his re-election campaign after approving $8.7 million of state funds to the family during his first term as governor.

Perhaps my favorite quote in the Dispatch article comes from Curt Steiner, the Communication Director and Chief of Staff during Voinovich’s first term as governor: “If Jim Rhodes was the Babe Ruth of Ohio politics, then George Voinovich is the Hank Aaron.” Rhodes, as FBI files show, was a small-time bookie who ran numbers and sold porn films in the OSU area prior to becoming governor. And Voinovich is the architect of Ohio’s prison industrial complex – much of it built by his own family business.

To understand Ohio, you need to recall that Speaker of the House John Boehner used to regularly publish the “Washington Union Boss Watch.” In one issue during the mid-90s, he alleged “close links between a labor leader and both the Clintons and organized crime.” Shocking, eh? What Boehner and the Dispatch missed is that when Voinovich was mayor of Cleveland, he gave the eulogy for Teamster mob boss Jackie Presser. At the Berkowitz-Cumin Memorial Chapel on July 12, 1988, Mr. Ohio said “He was a man who loved his fellow man. He made a difference in my life. I will miss him and pray for him.”

So like Rhodes before him, Voinovich did little to hide his organized crime ties. A re-reading of a Life magazine from May 2, 1969 entitled “The Governor…and the Mobster” should shed some light on how Ohio politics is done. The state is sort of like New Jersey without the glamour, and Snooki.

Remember, Voinovich’s spokesperson Michael Dawson called reputed mobster Carmen Parisi “A very good friend of the governor.” When Parisi failed to get appointed to the Turnpike Commission, the governor chose another interesting character, Umberto Fedeli.

Voinovich, as governor and senator, liked to make a public demonstration of his religious faith. He apparently knew the Lord’s Prayer, since he appeared to be the good shepherd to every reputed gangster, and made sure they shall not want.

One of my favorite quotes from the governor’s good friend Parisi, was an infamous uttering caught on tape. Parisi told Teamster driver Jerry Lee Jones: “The day after this [Teamster] fucking election, you motherfucker, no one’s going to bust your fucking head but me, from here down to your prick….Every time you turn around I’ll have someone give you a fucking beating. You understand me?”

Oh, and what about Umberto? Turned out while he was the chair of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, he was also the sole owner of the Fedeli Group Insurance Company, and those who got contracts to do business with the Turnpike coincidentally liked to do business with the Fedeli Group.

Yet, the largest story ignored by the Dispatch was the steering of prison and jail contracts to the Voinovich family business. Sure, the governor’s brother tried to hide it by changing the business’ name from the Voinovich Company to the V Group. The man who tried the blow the whistle on it, Joseph Gilyard, a Voinovich cabinet member in charge of the criminal justice system, was disparaged by the Dispatch and run out of office. And when the Inspector General David Sturtz began to look into the allegations, Voinovich fired him.

This is how Voinovich really played the game. His chief gubernatorial fundraiser, chair of his transition team and his chief of staff (who would later serve time), was the Voinovich Company’s executive vice president, Paul Mifsud. V Group lobbyist and former Company vice president Phil Hamilton coordinated personnel appointments for the newly election Voinovich administration.

So blatant was the governor’s brother Paul Voinovich’s involvement in pay-to-play politics, his older brother George had to promise in his initial 1990 gubernatorial campaign that “Pauly” would not be allowed to bid on state contracts. This promise was easily circumvented when Voinovich decided to give state monies directly to city and county governments, which allowed the V (Voinovich) Group to secure local government contracts funded by the state.

Also, Voinovich ran as a self-proclaimed “environmental governor” in 1990, even posing for a propaganda ad in a canoe. That didn’t stop him from immediately pushing for one of the world’s largest toxic incinerators, WTI in East Liverpool, Ohio. Not surprisingly, the money for the incinerator was linked to the notorious criminal enterprise known as the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and the owner of record turned out to be Von Roll, Ltd. of Switzerland, the company that tried to sell the nuclear supergun to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The governor’s brother Pauly emerged as the go-between between the criminal conspirators at WTI and the Voinovich administration.

In late August 1998, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Cincinnati sent grand jury evidence to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien concerning money laundering involving Governor Voinovich’s 1994 gubernatorial re-election campaign. Two complaints were filed against the Voinovich campaign involving money laundering and illegal and improper use of corporate funds for political purposes.

Voinovich narrowly missed being indicted by the Cincinnati grand jury after his treasurer swore under oath that he had told Voinovich about the illegal money laundering involving his brother. Voinovich explained to the grand jury that he had his hearing aid turned off, because he’s a vain man, when the money laundering was revealed to him by his treasurer.

It also helped that a key witness, Nick Mamias, a reputed “bagman” who laundered $60,000 from WTI into a joint venture company ECIC, Inc. with the V. Group, tragically died after slipping on the ice in 1997.

Mimi Myers, ECIC’s former office manager, testified under oath that her company functioned as a corporate shell in order to pay kickbacks to the V Group. Records show that ECIC paid the V Group $114,500 between April 1994 and September 1996. As Myers explained it, “Well, I always thought that it was returning a portion of the money that Mr. Fabiano was receiving as a lobbyist for WTI, which the V Group and Frank Fela got WTI as a client for Fabiano and Associates, and that this was paying them back for doing that.”

Can you say kickback?

The real legacy of George V. Voinovich is one of systemic pay-to-play corruption, kickbacks, and cronyism. Mr. Ohio, indeed.


Bob Fitrakis is the author of The Fitrakis Files: The Brothers Voinovich and the Ohiogate Scandal, which includes the article “The V Report” voted the Best Coverage of Government from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists in 2000.

Bob Bytes Back Archives: 10/23/1996 Deja V

by Bob Fitrakis

Who says crime doesn’t pay? Not the V Group, the Voinovich group of companies that specializes in building jails. You see, the Guv’s younger brother Pauly is at it again. His Cleveland-based architectural construction company may be connected to a man under indictment and investigation for alleged “influence peddling.” Seems Vincent Zumpano was indicted on October 3 in Steubenville for allegedly trying to bribe a county commissioner in order to secure a jail construction contract for Pauly’s firm.

Pauly’s company, officially, is “mystified.” And those 473 long distance calls from Vincent’s place of employment to the Voinovich firm between December 1992 and December 1995, as reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer and Cleveland Plain Dealer don’t prove nuthin’. And that’s why the Dispatch has the good sense not to write about it, but chose instead to put on Saturday’s front page aWashington Post wire story about bad sportsmanship among band leaders in Virginia!

More calls went to former employee and lobbyist for the Voinovich firm and the Governor’s original “transition director,” Phil Hamilton. Sound familiar? Remember Joe Gilyard and an Alive cover story six weeks ago about the Gilyard-Hamilton relationship? It’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friends. Here’s a quick take from Joe, fired by the Guv after he suggested that little brother Pauly may not be on the up-and-up. “This is exactly the type of thing Phil Hamilton wanted me involved in. They used to phone me, fax me, send messages constantly. He wanted me to let the counties know that the V Company had ‘the inside track’ on jail contracts.”

With Governor George’s much-coveted senatorial campaign now only two years away, isn’t it time to pull a Clinton? You know what I mean. Like when Wild Bill let the state police nab his out-of-control cokehead brother Roger. Think about it, Guv. Time’s runnin’ out.

V is for Voinovich
Meanwhile, Pauly continues to “hook us up good” here in Franklin County. You see the architectural firm of Voinovich-Sgro went-without any political influence whatsoever-and got themselves an unbid contract of nearly $1 million to design and manage a $2 million, I mean, $8 million-wait, now $11 million-Franklin County jail renovation.

Our illustrious county commissioners-all Republicans, same party as the Guv, wink, wink, nod, nod-approved the unbid contract last May. Good thing that Voinovich-Sgro is only the architect ’cause if it was the construction manager a 1988 state law would have required competitive bidding, which would have saved millions.

So the cost overruns are really the fault of those really bad construction managers, not Voinovich-Sgro. So much wasted taxpayer money, those bastards. Maybe Voinovich-Sgro could begin to phone and fax those evil construction managers, the Voinovich Companies, every day. I suspect they know the number.

Maybe they could build some special luxury condo cells, you know, like those corporations build at sports stadiums. Then, if Voinovich-Sgro turns in The Voinovich Companies for ripping us off, the construction manager company officials would have a place to stay in the style to which they have become accustomed. Is free enterprise great, or what?

Sybil Hall?
Another one of my favorite county officials is Treasurer Bobbie Hall, universally hailed as a financial whiz. That’s why I take her so seriously when she touts Bob Dole’s tax cut and attacks Bill Clinton as a “big spending liberal.” Reminds me of the movie Sybil with Sally Fields. You remember: Sally did that multiple personality schtick. Hall’s doing the same thing when she suggests that county property owners don’t need a 1 to 2.5 percent discount on our property taxes by pre-paying the bill monthly instead of paying in a lump sum.

Hall recently informed the Dispatch that she looked into the tax-saving program, “but has not seen a need or a benefit to the county’s finances.” Sybil, Sybil? Let me talk to Bobbie Dole, the tax-cutting gal!

Metcalf’s double-dipping

Look for Anthony Celebrezze III to justly blast Franklin County Recorder Richard Metcalf later this week in a commercial on “double-dipping.” Campaign insiders say the initial script is something like-use your best deep political voice-“He’s been on the public payroll for 45 years. He’s making $110,000 a year.”

Yes indeed. Seems a loophole in the law allows the former retired judge and public servant to collect some $60,000 to $65,000 a year in from the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) while bringing in $50,000 or so as our county recorder.

Look for Metcalf to counter with the usual “He’s got a well-known name and he’s been in office a really, really long time . . .”

Ain’t democracy grand?