Dems Blast Romney Again on Auto Help

WARREN, Ohio — Leaders of the Democratic parties in Mahoning and Trumbull counties and union members at General Motors’ Lordstown Complex summoned reporters Thursday to point out how federal support of the automaker helped to preserve the company’s Lordstown plant and led to the success of the Chevrolet Cruze built there — and to again drive home the point that Mitt Romney opposed that intervention.

The press event, held at Diane Sauer Chevrolet, was intended to coincide with the conclusion of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, said David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic party.

It also came on the day that GM regained its crown as the world’s largest automaker, with 9 million vehicles sold around the globe in 2011, and announced that the Cruze has become the best-selling Chevrolet nameplate around the world with more than 1.13 million sold since 2009.

Supported by President Barack Obama, the auto industry loans, from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, “saved” the Lordstown plant, Betras remarked. In addition to preserving the jobs at the plant and adding new ones when production went to three shifts, Betras noted that Sauer is selling Cruzes and seeing increased foot traffic at her dealership. “There is not one business” in the Mahoning Valley that isn’t affected, he said.

In contrast, the party chairman said, “Mitt Romney has said on the record he would have let GM go down, that it was the wrong use of [Troubled Asset Relief Program] money to make a loan to the auto industry,” he said.

Romney notably opposed assistance to the auto industry in November 2008 when he wrote a column for The New York Times titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

As a General Motors dealer, the loan to the automaker “obviously helped me out,” Sauer said. Even ignoring that factor, however, “everybody in Trumbull County” depends on the jobs at the Lordstown plant, she said.

“Obviously the Cruze is a big shot in the arm to our area,” commented Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka, chairman of the Trumbull County Democratic party. He also announced at the event that Trumbull County would soon be buying or leasing its first Cruze “to replace some Impalas that are gas guzzlers,” he added.

“Whether you think the loans were the right ting or the wrong thing, the fact is that they worked,” said David Green, president of UAW Local 1714. “That’s the important thing for people to understand.”

What Romney doesn’t understand is that every autoworker job supports seven to 10 jobs outside the auto industry, said Jim Graham, president of Lordstown UAW Local 1112. “We’ve got about 5,000 people out at Lordstown. Do the math and you come up with a number that would have been affected” had GM gone out of business, he said. The former Massachusetts governor also doesn’t understand the damage to the auto supplier network overall that a GM collapse would have triggered, Graham said.

Betras noted that 12.4% of the state’s workforce is supported by the auto industry, and more than 80,000 Ohioans are employed directly by parts manufactures.

Ford’s CEO, Alan Mulally, said a collapse of the supplier network would have affected Ford’s viability as well, Betras pointed out.

Production is good at the plant, Graham reported, and there is a 61-day supply in the field, “which is phenomenal for this time of year,” typically a slow time for auto sales. “The cars are still selling and its going to continue to sell,” he predicted.

If Romney is the GOP presidential nominee, Mahoning Valley voters will be reminded that he “would have let the Lordstown plant get knocked to the ground” and his time at Bain Capital, which recently has become a thorny issue for Romney, will be discussed as well, the union leader said.

Copyright 2011 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

Airbus Has Development Deal with National Composite Center, Companies

KETTERING — The aircraft manufacturer Airbus has reached a five-year agreement with the National Composite Center and six companies to develop the next generation of advanced materials for commercial planes.

NanoSperse LLC, a participating company that is housed within the National Composite Center in Kettering, has been producing a compound since 2009 that is used to coat military jet engine parts to protect them against erosion. The new deal with Airbus will give NanoSperse an opportunity to serve the bigger market for commercial aircraft, its president, Art Fritts, said Thursday.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Airbus Americas chairman Allan McArtor and National Composite Center management will announce details of the agreement at the center Friday. The deal provides an international market for the new materials Ohio companies will develop, Brown said.

More criticize inspector general for speech at GOP dinner

Founder of office says Meyer should be suspended or fired; latest concern involves nepotism

Two former state-government watchdogs criticized Inspector General Randy Meyer’s decision to speak at a Republican fundraising dinner yesterday, and one called on Gov. John Kasich to suspend or replace him.

“I’m amazed the governor hasn’t taken action yet on him — either to fire him or suspend him,” David Sturtz, Ohio’s first inspector general, told The Dispatch. He was appointed by Gov. Dick Celeste, a Democrat, in 1998 and kept on by Republican Gov. George Voinovich through 1994.

“I started that office. I am disappointed in what Mr. Meyer did,” Sturtz said. “It takes away from the foundation of that office. You can’t be impartial if you’re going out giving speeches to a political group.”

Ross County Probate and Juvenile Courts Judge Richard Ward, the inspector general during Voinovich’s second term, said Meyer exercised “poor judgment,” but he stopped short of saying he should lose his job.

“I’m a judge now. One of the first things we consider is if the person is a first offender or not. Has the rest of his life been worthwhile?” Ward told The Dispatch.

“I have no idea what kind of job he’s doing. I would not think it would call for a termination of the position in any way. We’ve all made a mistake somewhere along the line and exercised poor judgment.”

It is unlikely Kasich will move to replace Meyer, a former chief investigator in the state auditor’s office whom he appointed about a year ago.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said, “out of respect for the statutorily defined independent role of the inspector general, it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to weigh in any more than it would be to weigh in on independent judicial or law enforcement bodies.”

Meyer — who is responsible for investigating fraud, waste, abuse and corruption inside the executive branch of state government — was the guest speaker at a Clinton County Republican Party Century Club dinner on Jan. 9. The standard ticket price was $100 per person.

Meyer lives in Wilmington in Clinton County and commutes to Columbus in a state car. He spoke about integrity in government and told about 125 in attendance about his office and cases it worked on last year.

Both Ward and Sturtz said they never gave speeches to political parties and instead spoke to nonpartisan groups: law enforcement officials, state departments, lawyers, and civic organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.

Their comments came as Democrats sought to put more pressure on Kasich to act.

State House Minority Leader Armond Budish of Beachwood urged the Republican governor yesterday to suspend Meyer and review his “future ability to fairly and objectively carry out his duties.”

Though state law allows for the governor to remove an inspector general from office, it is unclear whether Kasich could suspend Meyer, who used to work for Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor when she was auditor.

State Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern has also called for Meyer to step down.

And a new letter to Kasich signed by Budish and Senate Minority Leader Capri S. Cafaro of Hubbard raises a number of concerns, including that an employee in Meyer’s office is related to former GOP House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, who leads the Casino Control Commission, an agency under Meyer’s oversight. Carl Enslen, deputy inspector general for external affairs, confirmed that he is Davidson’s son-in-law.

Meyer does not plan to comment on efforts to suspend or replace him, Enslen said.

“We’re going to continue forward with the work we have before us,” he said.

Enslen said this week that Meyer would speak at Democratic events, too, if asked. He said yesterday, however, that he doubts any Democratic group will make such a request and it would be improper to talk to any more GOP organizations, “given what’s been said.”

Dispatch reporters Joe Vardon and Jim Siegel contributed to this story.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Josh Mandel

(P.S.- You still have a day job, and it’s not being a candidate for the U.S. Senate).

According to Bloomberg News, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce alone spent $2.8 million in Ohio in attack ads in Ohio targeting Sherrod Brown alone. On top that, the Karl Rove-led American Crossroads SuperPAC spent nearly a million in ads attacking Brown last fall, as did 60 Plus and the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee. How much did Sherrod Brown or third party groups spend in his defense in response? Zero.

The Chamber’s attack ads have been blasted as false. Meanwhile, Josh Mandel has his own consistent problem with telling the truth about Sherrod Brown, too. Mandel has been caught lying about Sherrod on the stimulus and even on Sherrod’s political fundraising as well.

Grant to Pay for New ZFD Truck

A federal grant is helping the Zanesville Fire Department provide a better service to the community.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown announced on Thursday that the Zanesville Fire Department is receiving $676,013 for a new vehicle.  Zanesville Fire Chief Craig Stemm said the award is made possible by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grants program.

Latest Poll Shows Brown With Big Lead Over Mandel

COLUMBUS — More than seven months out from the general election, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown holds a commanding lead over Republican challenger Josh Mandel among registered Ohio voters, according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll released Thursday.

The electorate is nearly evenly divided over the so-called Heartbeat Bill, a measure now pending in the Ohio Senate that would give the state the most restrictive abortion law in the nation.

Cordray’s first action as consumer-finance chief is examining payday lenders

WASHINGTON — When Richard Cordray convenes his first field hearing today in Birmingham, Ala., as director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the site, setting and subject matter couldn’t be more appropriate.

In the city that witnessed some of the bloodiest confrontations of the civil-rights era, Cordray will hear testimony on the payday-loan industry, which has acquired a reputation as a bad boy of the commercial credit world.

Assailed by some for enticing low-income customers into a cycle of repeat borrowing at high interest rates, payday lenders have drawn the ire of state regulators nationwide. Their penchant for setting up shop in poor minority neighborhoods has made their business model a target for civil-rights activists as well.

Industry supporters say payday lenders provide much-needed short-term credit to consumers who are largely underserved by banks and who can’t borrow cash from friends and family.

When compared with alternatives such as bouncing checks or paying reconnection fees on utilities, they argue, short-term payday loans are a good deal, despite interest rates that can run upward of $15 to $20 for every $100 borrowed.

Years of attacks by consumer advocates, unfavorable court decisions, tighter state regulations and the recession have hurt the industry. From a high of more than 24,000 in 2006, the number of payday-loan stores fell to 19,600 in 2010, industry analysts say.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have outlawed high-interest payday loans, which allow cash-strapped workers to borrow against their next paychecks.

In Alabama, which has more than four payday lenders for every McDonald’s restaurant, the industry faces no major statewide attack, thanks to a powerful lobbying presence in the Legislature, said Stephen Stetson, a policy analyst with the Arise Citizens’ Policy Project, an anti-poverty organization in Montgomery, Ala.

Ninety-three of Alabama’s 1,105 payday-loan stores are in Birmingham, a city reeling from a declining tax base and the loss of thousands of steel-industry jobs. Last month, City Council member Lashunda Scales persuaded her colleagues to impose a six-month moratorium on new payday-loan stores.

With the momentum from today’s hearing, Alabama might well be tugging at the welcome mat the industry has long enjoyed.

“We’re very excited about the possibility of the federal government exercising some regulatory control on these dangerous products,” Stetson said.

Industry representatives say such criticisms are unwarranted. In fact, most customers are satisfied with the product, said Jamie Fulmer, vice president of Advance America of Spartanburg, S.C., the nation’s largest nonbank provider of cash-advance services, with 2,600 stores in 29 states.

Used mainly by people who don’t have credit cards, payday loans are small short-term loans, usually for a few hundred dollars, that are guaranteed by borrowers’ coming paychecks.

Fulmer said capping interest rates on payday loans was a bad idea because lenders couldn’t be profitable at the 36 percent annualized rate that many states have adopted. That would force lenders to close and drive borrowers to unregulated Internet lenders, he said.

Fulmer plans to attend the Birmingham hearing. He said he was encouraged that regulators, consumers and industry representatives would have a forum to discuss the importance of credit access for low-income workers and how best to provide it.

Ohio Dems howl at state watchdog’s partisanship, poor performance

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – Ohio Inspector General Randall Meyer, who was appointed last year by Gov. John Kasich and who is expected to show neutrality, prompted howls of criticism Thursday from Democratic leaders in the state legislature when it was learned that he, as the non-partisan investigator of the executive branch, headlined and keynoted a Clinton County Republican Party fundraiser on January 9.
In today’s letter to Gov. Kasich, House and Senate Leaders questioned Meyer’s participation in a GOP fundraiser and called for his suspension. Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood)  told Kasich that “the integrity of the Inspector General’s office” is at stake and that suspending Meyer would “give the Governor the opportunity to review the facts and make an informed decision about Mr. Meyer’s future ability to fairly and objectively carry out his duties.”
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Senate Democratic Leader Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard) added, “Inspector Generals are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard and that includes avoiding partisan political activity in order to protect the integrity of the office.”
The Ohio Inspector General is a non-partisan agent responsible for investigating fraud and corruption of state officials.
The duo said Meyer’s participation in a political fundraiser last week should be taken as an “extremely serious breach of protocol for a public official charged with objectively investigating wrongdoing in state government” because it “undermines the credibility of this office and weakens the public’s trust of its investigatory findings.”
The letter of outcry was triggered when Meyer participated in his home county’s Republican fundraiser.
Late last year, Kasich and Taylor announced Meyer’s appointment at the Clinton County Courthouse in Wilmington, where Meyer was a police officer from 1994-99.
In conjunction with a separate report highlighting the lack of meaningful investigations by his office, the Democratic leaders said, “At a time when people on both sides of the aisle are raising questions about the potential for corruption and misconduct by lobbyists and special interests, we believe the role of the Ohio Inspector General has never been more important.”
They said that when Meyer was appointed, they withheld criticism even though he was a registered Republican and a former employee of Lt. Governor Mary Taylor.
Citing growing concern that Mr. Meyer’s partisanship is impairing his ability to objectively investigate potential wrongdoing in state government, they listed reasons why he should be suspended or removed.
  • As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, Mr. Meyer has only conducted 12 investigative reports, the fewest from the Inspector General’s office since 2007.
  • An investigation was requested regarding a possible conflict of interest between Ohio Superintendent Stan Heffner and one of the nation’s largest education testing companies and nothing has been done.
  • Instead of focusing on wrongdoing in state government, Mr. Meyer has targeted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by placing a link on his office’s homepage to encourage complaints about this program.
  • Also, a question has arisen about the possibility that a relative of former Republican House Speaker and current chair of the Casino Control Commission Jo Ann Davidson has been employed at the Inspector General’s office.  If so, how might that impair the impartiality of potential investigations into the Commission?
Because the Inspector General is the state’s watchdog and must maintain a reasonable distance from the political activity and interests of those he is charged with potentially investigating, Budish and Cafaro said, “We believe his participation in the most partisan of activities – political fundraising – and other questionable partisan activities warrants immediate action.” They said lack of action will further weaken the integrity and credibility of the Inspector General’s office and “it will reinforce the idea that state government is unaccountable to the people of Ohio.”
Subsequent to the letter to Kasich, the Ohio Democratic Party has requested records of Inspector General Randall Meyer’s participation in the Clinton County GOP fundraiser. The public records request asks for all communications between the Inspector General’s office and the Clinton County Republican Party concerning the Century Club Dinner, the Inspector General’s travel schedule on January 9 and reimbursements for mileage, gas and travel he may have received on January 9.
Previously, Meyer, 45, worked in the auditor’s office since 2003. Taylor then named him chief of investigations in her office in 2007. Before that he worked as head of investigations into public corruption for then-Auditor Betty D. Montgomery, where reports said he “uncovered millions of dollars in fraudulent activities.”
Additionally, Meyer also spent four years working as a gang investigator for Montgomery when she was attorney general from 1999 to 2003. He’s a Navy veteran who attended Franklin University in Columbus.
Information from the Columbus Dispatch was used in this article.

Kaptur cites auto industry recovery in Toledo appearance

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) highlighted the success of the domestic auto industry since the bailouts of 2009 in a joint appearance with the head of a United Auto Workers local Thursday in Toledo.

Miss Kaptur said the occasion of bringing up the resurgence of domestic auto production by General Motors Corp., Chrysler Group LLC, and Ford, was in connection with the Detroit Auto Show now taking place.

She also happens to be in a tough campaign against fellow Democrat and colleague Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland) in the primary election March 6. Also in that race is political newcomer Graham Veysey, a Cleveland entrepreneur. Miss Kaptur and Mr. Kucinich have been put in the same congressional district which now stretches from Toledo to Cleveland.

Ray Wood, president of UAW Local 14 based at the Toledo GM transmission plant on Alexis Road, said the UAW political action committee has not made an endorsement in the primary contest but that he is personally backing Miss Kaptur.

Mr. Wood said employment at the transmission plant, known to many as Powertrain, fell to 50 workers in 2009. Now it has 1,800 workers and is adding employees.

“We absolutely remember two and a half years ago. We had no idea whether we were going to be able to survive,” Mr. Wood said. “We support those who supported us.”

Jim Robinson, assistant manager of Tom’s Tires on Alexis Road across from the plant, said the revived auto industry has shown up in his business.

“Our sales last year were up 7 percent over the year before and a lot of that I know is the auto industry,” Mr. Robinson said.

Miss Kaptur aimed her comments not at her opponents in the March 6 election but at Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination and the likely opponent of President Obama in November.

In 2008, Mr. Romney opposed taxpayer loans to the auto companies saying they should go through bankruptcy and let the market restructure the industry to “shed excess labor, pension, and real estate costs.” A bailout, he said, would lead in the long run to the demise of the domestic auto industry.

“At the time, I thought how could the son of a former governor of Michigan who was close to the automotive industry say that,” Miss Kaptur said. “He went on to found Bain Capital. He made a lot of money in the process of closing companies down. I know that President Obama understood how vital this industry is to America. There are some who make millions closing production down and there are other people, like President Obama, who help to re-employ millions of people including those in our own community.”

Democratic leaders want Kasich to suspend Inspector General

Democratic legislative leaders today called on Gov. John Kasich to suspend Inspector General Randall Meyer, following reports that the nonpartisan government watchdog gave a speech at a recent Republican fundraiser.

“We believe this to be an extremely serious breach of protocol for a public official charged with objectively investigating wrongdoing in state government,” said a letter signed by House Minority Leader Armond Budish of Beachwood and Senate Minority Leader Capri S. Cafaro of Hubbard.

“In fact, we do not believe that the Inspector General should be participating in political fundraisers for either party, as his office has suggested. The Ohio Inspector General’s appearance at political fundraisers undermines the credibility of this office and weakens the public’s trust of its investigatory findings.”

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Meyer spoke at a Clinton County Republican Party “Century Club” dinner on Jan. 9, where the standard ticket price was $100 per person. Meyer, who was appointed by Kasich in 2011, defended the speech, and a spokesman earlier this week said that he would likely speak at similar events in the future.

“Inspector General Meyer is interested in opportunities to talk about the importance of integrity in government with community groups, including political organizations from both sides of the aisle,” spokesman Carl Enslen said on Tuesday. “Up to this point, however, he has only had a single invitation from one side.”

In the prepared text of his speech, Meyer acknowledged that when he was asked to speak at the dinner, he hesitated.

The letter from Budish and Cafaro said there is “growing concern” that Meyer’s partisanship is impairing his ability to investigate wrongdoing in state government. Among the examples cited: the office has conducted only 12 investigative reports; nothing was done regarding a requested investigation into a potential conflict of interest involving the state superintendent; and his office employs a relative of Jo Ann Davison, the chairwoman of the Casino Control Commission, a body that falls under the scope of Meyer’s office.

“We believe his participation in the most partisan of activities – political fundraising – and other questionable partisan activities warrants immediate action,” the letter said.

The letter does not specifically mention a suspension, but a statement from Budish sent with the letter calls on Kasich to “immediately” suspend Meyer.

Paid for and authorized by the Ohio Democratic Party, not authorized by any federal candidate or campaign committee. David Pepper, Chairman, 340 East Fulton St, Columbus, Ohio 43215.