Monday, January 30, 2006

Jim Petro's Very Special Counsel

Yesterday the PD ran a bombshell story alleging that gubernatorial candidate Jim Petro gave out special counsel assignments quid pro quo to law firms that contributed to his AG campaign and took work away from firms that supported his challenger in the AG race. I missed this during my chaotic weekend (two preschool birthday parties, helping with a Sunday School megaclass and a head cold. Amazing I'm still standing), so hats off to High and Broad and Psychobilly Dems for flagging it.

As usual, being woefully late to the party won't keep me from making a few observations.

First, it sucks to be the BJ. How did they get scooped on this? I fear we can expect them missing more important stories as they shrink the paper down to pamphlet size.

Second, Jack Morrison is one of the most respected attorneys in the county of any poltical stripe. He's and active R and, yes, Alex Arshinkoff's retained counsel, but he just isn't the political hack Camp Petro wants desperately to make him appear. For the first and last time I approvingly quote Alex: If Jack Morrison says it happened, it happened.

Third, it explains a great mystery: why Alex switched his declared allegience from Montgomery to Blackwell. Alex doesn't generally go for hard-right moral-police firebrands and they generally don't approve of his foul mouth and alleged closethood. I assumed he was riding the prevailing winds that are blowing in J.Ken's direction, but it now appears that he and Petro have some history.

Fourth, the Petro flak's claim that the firm switches were the result of Amer Cunningham and Renner, Kenner being close to Alex is laughable. Roetzel is wired into politics on both sides of the aisle. In Summit County being wired into the Republicans generally means breaking bread with Alex. Amer may be closer (it is after all David Brennan's alma mater), but Roetzel surely has its share of Alex friends.

Fifth, query what Petro's real break with past practice was. Was it that he awarded special counsel fees as payback, or was it that he was explicit about it?

Sixth, this is a devastating allegation against Petro. It backs up previous similar allegations with some true heavy hitters. More importantly, it plugs right into the criticisms of special counsel fees that both Democrats have been making. In a year when political fortune will be dictated by a candidate's distance from the Culture of Corruption®, this may be the last nail for Petro.

Finally, it also hurts Betty Montgomery. Dann and Chandra have both staked out positions that the AGs office farms out excessive special counsel work. Both can promise to cut down on special counsel contracts, saving Ohioans money. Chandra has an edge in this regard as he actually slashed special counsel spending at the Cleveland Law Department. Montgomery's best resume line is tightening procedures and spending in the Auditor's office. If Dann or Chandra can point out where she failed to do so as AG, they have a potent campaign issue.


Anonymous said...

Don't be fooled. It's ALL about which firms get special counsel work. If Arshinkoff gets to help helps hand out the work, he's happy. Petro never let Alex hand out any work. In fact, he fired Alex's gang and gave contracts to other people. It's all about expanding the fat man's sphere of influence.

Petro's history with Arshinkoff began when Petro shut down corruption in the Mahoning water district, where two Alex cronies served on the board. Both were replaced and laws were changed to clean up future practices. Arshinkoff has never forgiven.

Anyway, Blackwell should keep Alex tucked away. He took Betty from 1st to 3rd, then jumped ship.

Since Ken advocates turning gays back to hetero-life, I wonder if he's having any success with his new co-chair? Paisely's gotta love this.

Word is that Arshinkoff's endorsement might not be shared by all in the Summit ranks. The county's top elected Republican, State Senator Kevin Coughlin, is rumored to be endorsing Petro.