Thursday, June 16, 2005

Gutter Politics

Blog Slut from Mike DeWines Office
As I was driving down to Portsmouth from Columbus late Sunday afternoon, June 12th, I noticed a slew of DeWine for Congress signs along Route 23, in Scioto County. That would be Pat DeWine, son of Ohio Senator Mike DeWine. Once I reached Portsmouth, the DeWine signs were all over the place, especially on the properties of real estate developer Neal Hatcher and lawyer Clayton Johnson. As I was driving by the corner of Washington and Sixth Streets, in Portsmouth’s red light district, I thought I recognized the short senator, briefcase in hand, standing in the gutter in front of Portsmouth’s most prestigious house of ill repute, namely the law offices of Johnson & Oliver, Esq. Partially obscuring a DeWine for Congress sign, the senator was talking to a young man and a younger woman. With a digital camera, through a dusty windshield (through a glass darkly), I took a picture.
Mike DeWine in gutter outside Clayton Johnsons Office
Where Senator DeWine happened to be standing was appropriate, for the political gutter is where the DeWine name has been dragged in the last couple of years. The twenty-five-year-old Jessica Cutler, who worked in DeWine’s Washington office, created a blog to keep a few of her friends apprised of her promiscuous sex life, which she carried on primarily with family-values espousing Republicans. But her blog leaked all over Washington, and the petite Korean-American, who became known as the “blog slut,” lost her job and got a six-figure book contract, in that order. DeWine’s 35-year-old son Pat may have moved in some of the same gutters as Ms. Cutler. The younger DeWine left his pregnant wife and two children for a Republican lobbyist whom he had been having an affair with and whom he had the chutzpah subsequently to campaign with. “Pat and Girlfriend on the Campaign Trail.” Not only that, DeWine was accused by a political rival of having changed his vote on tax breaks for a company that had hired his girlfriend. 
Pat DeWine has shown about as much loyalty to those who elected him as he did to the woman who married him. First, he was elected to the City Council, where he served his constituents without distinction. “Then,” according to Michael Altman in the online Queen City Forum Magazine (, “DeWine jumps ship and runs for County Commission, where he wins and—after being sworn in six months ago—jumps to the next level again to run for Congress in the special election . . .” His political rise from City Council to County Commission to Congressional candidate was accomplished with the help of financial contributions from friends of his father, the senator. “There is a boatload of money fronting a guy who has never done anything to merit a seat in Congress,” the Queen City Forum blogger observed. “Republican PAC’s across the country contributed big bucks to Pat DeWine’s campaign for the Hamilton County Commission, knowing of course that it was just a stepping stone for higher office, and it was a way to stay in the good graces of Senator DeWine.” 
Peter Bronson in the Cincinnati Enquirer wondered aloud whether DeWine and his far-flung Republican PAC supporters had the inside scoop that Rob "Porkman" was going to resign his congressional seat, creating an electoral opportunity for the junior DeWine. Bronson asked rhetorically, “Did Washington PACs know DeWine was already planning to run for Congress, before Rep. Rob Portman was nominated as U.S. trade representative, opening the Second District slot?” The answer is fairly obvious. In the stock market, this is called insider trading and is against the law. In politics it is called helping the son of an influential senator and is apparently legal. The distinction seems slight, like the difference between slot and slut.
According to the Enquirer, Pat DeWine raised far more money than his rivals in his campaign for the congressional seat to be vacated by Porkman. But just last Tuesday, in the June 14th special election, DeWine finished a dismal 4th. That was no surprise, for neither Mike DeWine nor his son Pat are currently popular among conservative Republicans in the recently gerrymandered Second Congressional District. To loosely paraphrase a Second District Republican who wanted no part of father or son, the DeWinesap didn't fall far from the tree.
So Clayton Johnson, Neal Hatcher, and the other pork merchants of Portsmouth have backed another politician of questionable morals and ethics, only to lose badly at the polls again, just as they did when they backed Portsmouth Mayor Greg Bauer, who was recalled last June, by a margin of two to one, in spite of the big bucks spent to keep him in office. Portsmouth’s pork merchants did not back Bauer and Pat DeWine because of that hapless pair's penchant for the gutter, but because they expected them to continue the tawdry tradition of funneling public funds into the Portsmouth area, funds ostensibly appropriated for the economically disadvantaged but that end up in the pockets of those who make up the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership.
The defeat of Bauer and now Pat DeWine may reflect the inability of big bucks, in this age of blogging and Googling, to control the news and buy elections. The Portsmouth Daily Times continues to launder the news, the way drug dealers do money, but gutter politics and the corruption of local government are being reported on by people with candid cameras and computers, even if they are not by uncrusading reporters, and that should give us hope.