While Shady Theis’ MTR-front group runs hard hitting anti-Issue 3 ads, Gov. Strickland cuts race tracks a $364 million break on performance bonds as part of the process of installing 2,500 MTR VLTs.
While Shady Theis’ MTR-front group runs hard hitting anti-Issue 3 ads, Gov. Strickland cuts race tracks a $364 million break on performance bonds as part of the process of installing 2,500 MTR VLTs.
Issue 3 and this gambling debate is something of a mess, and Brent Larkin calls Gov. Ted out on allowing that to happen:
Ohio’s seven horse racing tracks will pay $65 million each to build slot machine parlors on their properties. The racetrack deal, engineered by Gov. Ted Strickland and his minions in the legislature, represented public policy at its worst.
Jeffrey Hooke, a Maryland-based casino expert and investment banker, said a fair price for each casino license would be in the $300 million to $500 million range. Hooke described the governor’s deal with the racetracks as “the greatest taxpayer ripoff in Ohio history.”
Strickland has made a mess of Ohio’s gambling climate. Any governor with a modicum of vision could have seen this coming and pushed a ballot issue that required a bidding process for casinos and racetrack slot machines.
But Gov. Strickland opposes an open bidding process, because that would make life difficult for MTR lobbyists Chris and Kim Redfern and the Ohio Democrat Party, all of whom will milk this gambling issue for every possible personal and political benefit.
Therefore, I am filing public records requests, as I am yet to read anywhere in the press of who met with Gov. Strickland’s administration on this deal. Just how was MTR selected as the company which would be used to fill holes in the budget? Was this just something Ted and Chris arranged at Club 185 in German Village over coffee and club sandwiches?
In addition, I will publish reports on just why Kim Redfern works as a lobbyist for these clients: Colonial Life Insurance, Thomas Fok & Associates, Information Control Corporation, Continental Real Estate, 3SG Corporation, Poggemeyer Design Group, Deloitte Consulting, TriVIN, City of Parma, PRIME Engineering, DCK North America, Berger & Montague, Informatica, Lawyers Development Corporation, PT Coures, and IQity.
And while the smart people over at LetOhioVote.org fight to questions of VLTs over to voters, the Ohio Grocers Association fights the unconstitutional application of the CAT tax to food, and judges properly stop the misuse of tobacco settlement money, I will expose the corruption of Ohio Democrat Party Chris Redfern and his wife Kim.
Let the fun begin!
The Dayton Daily News has an interesting column from Bill Hershey about the political fates of Ted Strickland and Sen. Jon Husted (R-Upper Arlington) which are both before the Supreme Court.
Here is my favorite part:
As for Strickland, the court has the ability to blow a hole in the delicately balanced state budget bigger than Duck Run, the governor’s speck-on-the map hometown in Scioto County.
LetOhioVote.Org has asked the court to affirm the right of the voters to decide whether video slot machines should be placed at Ohio’s seven racetracks as the state budget calls for.
If the court agrees, the group will launch a petition drive to put the issue on the November 2010 ballot and halt the state’s ability to begin collecting the $933 million the slots are supposed to generate over two years.
Without that money, Strickland will have to shuffle more than Muhammad Ali at his most nimble to balance the budget, a shuffle the governor most certainly wants to avoid next year when he’s up for re-election.
Between this, in addition to the misuse of tobacco settlement money, CAT food (ha!) tax, and money which was quite literally STOLEN FROM BLIND PEOPLE, Ted Strickland will have to shuffle around a lot even before this is all settled, when the next economic forecast comes out shortly.
Here is a question a wise friend posed to me- Could the wussy Senate Republican leadership which caved on Strickland’s patchwork budget end up being unprincipled and/or Machiavellian enough to give Gov. Strickland his much-desired tax increase? I don’t know.
In a column attacking Ted Strickland’s flimsy budget, Thomas Suddes had this to say about Ted Strickland’s executive order to expand gambling in Ohio:
Also ticking is a lawsuit by an anti-gambling lobby, LetOhioVote.org, demanding that Ohioans be allowed to vote on Strickland’s plan to install slot machines, managed by the State Lottery Commission, at Ohio’s seven racetracks. Strickland opposes a statewide vote. He and his allies claim a statewide vote would stall the slots plan, wrecking the budget. And they argue that voters authorized slots 36 years ago, in 1973, in approving a state lottery. (If so, storks deliver babies.)
From The Dispatch’s Daily Briefing:
Gov. Ted Strickland’s plan for slot machines at racetracks will get its day in court early next month.
The Ohio Supreme Court today scheduled for Sept. 2 arguments in a case pitting a group of conservatives against the Democratic governor’s plan to launch video slot machines next May without a public vote.
The group, LetOhioVote.org, claims that Strickland lacks the authority to order the Ohio Lottery to install 2,500 video slot machines at each of the state’s seven racetracks without an election on the matter. LetOhioVote.org is angling for a vote in November 2010.
There is no doubt that the courts will run in favor of LetOhioVote, as slot machines are not lottery machines. And while the spineless twerps in the Ohio Senate Majority added to the budget legislation which was an attempt to strip away your right to vote on gambling. I think just by the courts agreeing to hear the case are saying that the state is in the wrong.
Hopefully, even the staunchest supporters of gambling agree with me that Gov. Strickland, by balancing the budget on VLTs, is a sign of how pathetic of a leader he is. The Senate Majority is content with helping Strickland avoid making tough decisions and ignore the will of Ohio voters, while LetOhioVote will turn the question of gambling to voters and will likely force legislators to make the tough decisions that will help Ohio avoid a MASSIVE tax increase in 2011.
If the Ohio Republican Party had their act together, there would be no need for LetOhioVote.org.
James Nash of The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Ohio Lottery’s new Keno game is grossly underperforming. Could this be a sign that the MTR VLTs, which was one of the handful of gimmicks that Ted Strickland used to “balance” the state budget, will also underperform? The answer is “no”, according to Gov. Strickland’s information minister:
Strickland spokeswoman Amanda Wurst said Keno’s disappointing numbers aren’t a harbinger of slots’ performance.
“Video lottery terminals are a very different product and a very different game,” Wurst said.
She said the administration’s estimates took into account the slumping economy and are based on slots’ performance in neighboring states such as Pennsylvania and Indiana.
Phew! That is a relief. Thank you, Amanda.
And no matter the result, as long as MTR provides the machines, MTR lobbyist Chris Redfern & the Ohio Democrat Party will get theirs.
First, from James Nash:
Yesterday, Strickland aides released a series of proposed rules governing the racetrack slot machines that include a schedule of payments due and penalties for scofflaws.
In addition to the direct payments to the state, the rules require track owners to make $80 million in improvements to each facility, including $20 million in the first year.
The rules also would allow the racetrack casinos to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Tracks must submit applications for permits to operate slot machines, along with a business plan, to begin May 1, 2010. The business plans would be treated as trade secrets and not publicly released, according to the Strickland administration’s rules.
Strickland is counting on most of the machines running by May 2010 so the state can realize $933 million in licensing fees and profits that it needs to balance its two-year operating budget.
However, the timeline and financial projections could be threatened. A group of conservatives, LetOhioVote.org, has sued in the Ohio Supreme Court to force the racetrack slots to a public vote in November 2010.
In addition, a partnership of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Penn National Gaming Inc. is backing a ballot measure this November that would authorize new casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Cincinnati.
For those of you keeping score at home, VLTs are what Gov. Strickland balanced the budget with, in addition to using the unconstitutional tobacco settlement which dates back to Attorney General Betty Montgomery. But the courts are saying “NO.”:
The Strickland administration will mount an appeal to a Tuesday court ruling that would prevent the state from using $230 million in smoking prevention funding to help pay for home-care services under Ohio’s latest budget.
Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge David Fais’ decision bars the state from touching $230 million from the dissolved Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation. The battle over the money began in April 2008, when Gov. Ted Strickland outlined plans to use tobacco foundation money to partly finance a $1.57 billion jobs stimulus plan in the state.
With the money frozen while the legal fight played out, the state shifted the intended use of the cash to optional Medicaid services, a children’s Medicaid expansion and cancer screenings, said Strickland spokeswoman Amanda Wurst.
In my interview with Ohio AG Rich Cordray, he defended the state’s spending, saying esentially that because health care services for smokers costs the state money which was directed from other state services, Ohio can spend the money on whatever the hell it wants to. Apparently, the courts don’t agree.
Instead of leaving budget debates until 2011, when Ohio will have to figure out what to do with the $7-11 billion dollar deficit Ohio will have, LetOhioVote.org and other reasons for delays in VLTs (not to mention that they, like Keno, will underperform), in addition to the courts stopping the use of tobacco funds, could mean that Gov. Strickland might have his hand forced to make tough decisions. And while Strickland’s alternative answer might very well be a tax hike, a new budget debate would finally allow the Ohio House’s Republican minority to be heard on their ideas to reduce the number of government workers and reform unsustainable pensions.
In related news, as of yesterday, MTR’s stock price is down, which means MTR lobbyist Chris Redfern is slightly less filthy rich.
TruthPAC.org launched this morning, which is a new-anti gambling effort… or is it?:
It is unclear who is bankrolling this anti-casino effort. TruthPAC spokeswoman Sandy Theis said, “we expect money to come from a lot of different places from people opposed to this amendment but I don’t know where the initial money came from.” Theis said she would get an answer.
Theis most recently worked with MTR Gaming which filed suit last month at the Ohio Supreme Court hoping to knock the casino amendment off of the Nov. 3 ballot. MTR, chaired by Cleveland developer Jeff Jacobs, owns a Columbus area horse race track and casino in West Virginia that could be threatened by the Ohio casino proposal.
McLaughlin is also the personal pollster of MTR Chairman Jeff Jacobs. And MTR is the company providing the VLTs that Strickland unconstitutionally ordered to be placed in 7 racetracks. MTR is also the firm that Chris and Kim Redfern lobby for.
In addition, their treasurer is Michael Johrendt, a business and tax attorney who served as Gov. Ted Strickland’s treasurer from 2005 until December 2008.
Therefore, this sure looks like a gambling interest opposing another gambling interest.
There is nothing wrong with special interests funding efforts which cause political change. In fact, I’m not even an advocate for full disclosure, as it can set up individual donors up for retribution. And being in favor or opposed to the expanion gambling doesn’t come close to touching the real issues which make Ohio such a lousy place to conduct business.
But I will do what is necessary to expose the money laundromat that is quitely being set up to help Ohio Democrats. Could this group be part of that effort? Yes.
Below the fold is their press release from this morning:
This won’t make MTR lobbyists Mr. and Mrs. Chris Redfern happy. The Redfern’s hate competition, and already set up the deal to provide the machines, take advantage of the poor, and use the extra cash to buy self-cleaning solid gold toilets for their Bexley mansion.
Kyle Sisk apparently doesn’t believe in Ohio Democrat Party Chairman’s apparent disinterest in the lobbying which makes his family wealthier, and he notes:
For whatever reason, my point is that prior to Chris & Kim being lobbyists they probably had the vocal, financial, general support of 80% of the lobbying community.
Ask around today and I think you will find that at least 80% of the lobbying community would be fine with the Redferns vanishing from the face of the earth. Get a few drinks in some of said lobbyists and you’ll feel like you are hanging out in Hell’s Kitchen or on The Deadliest Catch.
Simply put: Competition is a funny thing.
The second Kim put a shingle up as a lobbyist that basically meant that anytime she GAINED a client then someone else was LOSING a client. Everyone was cool with Chris when he wasn’t competition, but the dynamics have changed.
They are taking food out of other people’s mouths (picture a lobbyist with his/her spouse & kids eat Ramen noodles because Chris & Kim Redfern stole their largest client).
The Redferns would be shocked to learn how many Democrats have their knives out, because with the MTR issue, the Redfern’s are treading on other people’s territory. And unlike private business, politics and lobbying is a zero-sum game where you only win at someone else’s expense.
Therefore, I will predict today that Mr. and Mrs. greed will lead to their early political demise.
Dennis Willard offers the first detailed update I’ve seen which shows how brilliant the LetOhioVote.org effort is:
An attorney for Let Ohio Vote, David Langdon from Cincinnati, produced two Ohio Supreme Court rulings of his own to argue the attorney general and secretary of state should move ahead with checking the language and certifying the signatures.
Carlo LoParo, a Let Ohio Vote spokesman, said it is the court’s responsibility to determine whether Strickland and lawmakers have the legal authority to stop a referendum on the slot machines.
”Brunner and Cordray do not have the authority to stop this. Their role is strictly administrative. They should have accepted the filings,” LoParo said.
The argument between Let Ohio Vote and the two officeholders will become moot once the court rules.
A decision against Strickland and lawmakers would give Let Ohio Vote the chance to gather the necessary signatures to put the issue before voters in November 2010.
And if the court rules in their favor, Ted Strickland is in big trouble:
Soon, Strickland might find himself back at square one with Harris.
By then, however, Strickland would have lost seven precious months and he would have to address anew the two-year budget that is so precariously balanced on the promise of $933 million in slot machine money.
If we had a seriously organized Republican opposition in Ohio, Senate Republicans wouldn’t have compromised with Ted Strickland’s plan to ignore the will of the people and expand gambling in Ohio, while ignoring the reform which might help Ohio avoid a massive 2011 tax-hike. But since Bill Harris and company are too lazy to fight Gov. Strickland, LetOhioVote.org is doing it for them.
(Please join their new Facebook page here.)
Laura Bishoff has a must-read article today for anyone interested in the unqualified hack, Mike Dolan, who is in charge of implimenting Ted Strickland’s VLTs in racetracks (That is, until the principled conservatives over at LetOhioVote.org put the issue before voters.)
In addition to giving a police officer lottery tickets in exchange for not reciving a speeding ticket, Ohio’s 1200 Keno machines have brought in less than 1/2 what was projected.
Make sure to read the entire thing. Apparently, Dolan’s only defender is Matt Cox, a quintessential bottom-feeder and Jim Petro’s former gubernatorial campaign manager in 2006 who quit at the last minute when Jim’s polls tanked.
More details will probably be reported tomorrow, but Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner rejected the 3000 signatures submitted by LetOhioVote.org, which is a conservative effort to put Ted Strickland’s VLT gambling scam on the ballot, claiming that this portion of the Ohio budget is “not subject to referendum.” But this battle over VLTs has just begun. Read more about it from James Nash at The Columbus Dispatch and Reginald Fields at The Plain Dealer.
From Gongwer ($$$):
VLT Suit-Harris: On another gambling matter, Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland) said Tuesday he has concerns that a separate lawsuit seeking to block implementation of video lottery terminals at Ohio horse tracks will delay or derail expected revenues.
LetOhioVote.org asked the Ohio Supreme Court late Monday to clear the way for it to challenge at a referendum Gov. Ted Strickland’s plan to install up to 17,500 slot machines at the tracks through the Ohio Lottery.
“There’s no reason that this could not have been sent to the ballot,” Sen. Harris said. He noted that the litigation would produce legal expenses for the state.
The voters have shot down gambling proposals on 4 separate occasions. Senator Harris, if you’re not going to promote the House Minority’s plan to reform state government, and if you’re not going to hold Gov. Strickland’s feet to the fire on this budget then get the hell out of the way- and let Tom Brinkman and others take over.
Late today, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in favor of a schedule for this law suit which could take up to a month for the parties involved to file arguments. (The dissenting Judges were Pfeifer and O’Connor, and both didn’t explain their objections.)
With these sorts of delays, and the possibility that Gov. Strickland doesn’t have the authority to permit VLTs at race tracks, Mr. and Mrs. Redfern should cash their checks from Mountaineer Gaming quickly.
My friend Gene Pierce (of Pierce Communications) was on Bob Connors radio this morning in Columbus, talking about LetOhioVote.org and the lawsuit filed in the Ohio Supreme Court in regards to Strickland’s VLTs.
Update at 11:15pm: Jesse Hathaway has some good thoughts on the subject here.
The press release is below the fold:
Update @5:09 pm- From an anonymous email…
I read your blog post and felt compelled to do some digging through a few SEC reports. Here is a nice tidbit from MTR Gaming Group, Inc.’s most recent SEC filing (8-K, July 15, 2009)
“The Registrant expects EBITDA [this means earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amoritzation] from continuing operations of approximately $18.5 to $20 million (after severance costs of $160,000 and strategic costs associated with lobbying and gaming efforts in Ohio of $350,000), compared to EBITDA from continuing operations of $18.0 million for the quarter ended June 30, 2008.”
This could answer some of your questions about who paid for what private plane. MTR spend $350,000.00 solely on lobbying Ohio to adopt slot machines in the last few months? Makes you wonder when they knew Strickland was considering it.
Compare this with what MTR Gaming has spent to lobby in Penn. in the last five years.
On July 10th, Kim Redfern, lobbyist for Mountaineer Gaming and wife of Ohio Democrat Party Chairman Chris Redfern, wrote as her Facebook status: “Great, I’m making national headlines now! I guess there is more than one “Redfern” grabbing the headlines. Ha!!” It included a link to AP’s Julie Carr Smyth’s report about politically connected lobbying interests, including Kim’s, which would directly profit from the passage of Ted Strickland’s flip-flop on VLT’s.
She may had had even more to laugh and smile about, as Mountaineer Gaming would be the provider of VLT’s to Ohio’s racetracks and their company’s stock price increased by 50% the same day that the Senate budget compromise was announced.
But after more media reports, and after Chris Redfern held a press conference where he was peppered with questions over his discussions with the Governor regarding Mountaineer Gaming (and blamed the story on me!), he isn’t smiling now.
A good question for a reporters to start answering is: Who pays for the Redferns’ extravagant travel? As I have mentioned before, Redfern married into wealth, so extensive travel is not surprising. However, a round-trip to D.C. on a chartered jet like this would cost roughly $10,000.
Here is a picture from Kim’s Facebook profile, which includes the caption: “Flying in style to the Obama Inauguration! Reese’s first plane trip at 1 1/2 months old!”
It is highly doubtful that the Ohio Democrat Party paid for the plane, as: 1) there is no record of this expense I can find, and 2) You can tell just by how they are sitting. My reasoning is: Most private jets have a layout with four “captain’s chairs” facing each other, with two on each side, and a sofa along the wall. It is proper etiquette for the host (or owner) to use captains’ chairs to face forward. Therefore, we can be quite certain this is someone else’s plane. (The windows show that this is not a Gulfstream or a Lear, so it is probably a Cessna or Haker.)
Was the jet provided by Mountaineer Gaming? Or was it provided by some other special interest trying to buy access to the most powerful Ohio Democrat via his lobbyist wife?
And, as Democrats claim to be the party of the common man- the poor, the downtrodden, the losers in life’s lottery- how many average Democrats would be able to spend 1/4th of their annual salary on a short airplane ride?
And while we are on the subject, did some special interest fund the Redferns’ extravagant trip to Florence?
And with the recent boost in Mountaineer Gaming stock prices, perhaps they can afford a new home in Tuscany?
Something about this stinks, and if this story involved all Republicans, Chris Redfern would have already been forced to quit his current position in disgrace.
It was less than three months ago when Gov. Strickland came out strongly against gambling, only to change his mind. Chris is a former State Representative, and left office so recently that he is prohibited by law from lobbying. But can Chris honestly say that he- the CHAIRMAN OF THE DEMOCRATIC PATTY- had NO conversations with the DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR Ted Strickland about this giant scheme to fill the budget deficit with VLT’s from a company which employs Chris’ wife? If you believe that, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.
The state keeps 50% of all net revenue, each track will pay $65,000,000 for a license, and each of the 7 racetracks can have up to 2500 VLTs.
Here is the text:
This is expected to raise (supposedly) $933 million over the biennium, but I still think a deficit will linger and Strickland better pray the gambling ballot issues passes. In the mean time, Senate Republicans bought Gov. Strickland more than 6 months of breathing room and he gets to campaign as a fiscal conservative who didn’t raise taxes. Great job, idiots.
In the mean time, Mr. Zanotti- Let the lawsuits fly!
The Akron Beacon Journal RIPS Democrats for the scandalous nature of Governor Strickland’s gambling proposal:
As Gov. Ted Strickland and state lawmakers reached a budget deal late last week, the dismaying story began to emerge about how electronic slot machines, or video lottery terminals, became the indispensable source of revenue. Julie Carr Smyth of the Associated Press cited the swarm of lobbyists commanding the Statehouse, gambling interests of all kinds looking to get their way.
The winners? Those seven horse racetracks where the 17,500 electronic slots will be located. Just a coincidence that Mountaineer Gaming, the owner of Scioto Downs in Columbus, includes among its lobbyists Kimberly Redfern, the wife of Chris Redfern, the state Democratic Party chairman? Or that Alan Melamed, a close friend and adviser of Speaker Armond Budish, represents the Ohio Legacy Fund, a consortium of Ohio racetracks?
Julie Carr Smyth reported that Mountaineer began lobbying the governor early, joined by Intralot, now positioned to handle the slots. Hard to shake the unseemly impression: The Democratic governor and speaker avoid a dreaded tax increase. Meanwhile, influential allies reap a portion of the benefit.
And the governor called the maneuvers of Senate Republicans ”disgusting”? Is this what he meant when he declared that he owned the slots issue?