Local campaign finance winners and losers

Number one rule in journalism: follow the money.

When it comes to politics and who wants to buy your vote: follow the money.

When I look to see what I could and should support, I like to look at the money. In Montgomery County it takes a lot of work to do it- mostly because the Board of Elections (or Board of [S]elections as I like to call them) has an incredibly bad, non-ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant website.

Everything about campaign finance reporting, accountability, and researchability is convoluted in Montgomery County.

In my book, good honest campaigns are supported by a lot of small money donors. The first Obama campaign, the Bernie campaign. Small money, large base, is more than likely a good cause and campaign. When you have a very few big donors, typically it’s an attempt to “Buy the People, for the Donors” not “by the people for the people.”

In Montgomery County, on Nov 7th, this Tuesday, we have three campaigns that share a common thread: Burges and Burges Strategists out of Cleveland. These are the people Nan likes, that Sinclair and the Human Services campaign likes, and who DPS used on their last levy- and who they then hired for “marketing consulting” as a payback. I’ve written about them considerably.

Why do we hire consultants from out of town?

Is it biblical? Mark 6:4 “But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

This one makes sure to spread the money around locally to favored subcontractors. The main one being The Ohlmann Group, which also does work for Sinclair and Dayton Public Schools under a contract- even though DPS board members have publicly criticized the “work product” they’ve received.

Other favored contractors:

The funny thing is, I look down the list of donors, and, guess what I see? It’s pay to play. You have to donate to be a contractor. Like a kickback, only we don’t call it that.

Let’s start with Issue 3, the Human Services levy. This is only half a levy, they come back around and do this all again in a few years for the other half the levy. Why is this? Well, it makes more money for companies like Ohlmann and Burges, and it means that if a levy does fail, it’s only half their money gone.

Here is the complete report: Human Services Levy Campaign pre-election finance report 2017

Brought forward $358,965.27
Raised $272,132.54 this period.
Total on hand $631,097.81
Total spent to make you tax yourself? $411,749.07

That’s a lot of money. Where did it come from should be your next question. And, this is where is gets interesting- payroll deduction contributes a huge chunk. You work for any of the county agencies that benefit from this tax- you pay a vig out of your paycheck. There are literally 32 pages, 45 donations per page,  of print outs of donations from employees of Job and Family Services, Stillwater, Information Tech Operations, Human Services Plan and Develop, Development Services Workforce, Juvenile Court, Mental Heath Board, Developmental Disabilities Services, Public Health, County Commission, Human Resources.

Is this legal? Should it be? Well, this is how unions get so much power in politics. And, when you look at who backs these issues, unions are always all lined up behind them.

The other donors? It’s only 7 pages, 8 donors per page. 56 donors, and of those, only 14 are small money (less than $500) donations. Most are deposits of the money from the employees, and then the 24 big boys and contractors. $257, 400.

Dayton Development Coalition $10,000
Shook Construction $5,000
Miami Valley In Ovations $20,000
Ohlmann Group Inc $2,000
Downtown Dayton Partnerships Corp. $2,500
Sebaly Shillito and Dyer $2,500
Hocks Pharmacy Inc $900
Fifth Third Bank $7,500
PNC Financial Services Group $10,000
Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association $135,000
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce $1,000
University of Dayton $20,000
Burges and Burges Strategists Inc $3,000
Marty’s Personal Care LLC $1,000
Key Bank National Association $2,500
Jennifer Wolf $2,500
Colbert Family Health And Wellness $2,500
Dayton Public Services Union $500
Resident Home Association $2,000
Choices in Community Living $2,500
Total Homecare Solutions $5,000
Toward Independence INC $2,000
Oberer Construction Managers $2,500
Area Agency On Aging $15,000

Note the big money from the hospital lobby? Guess what? None of them pay a property tax, but reap huge money back from this levy.

And the Dayton Development Coalition and the Downtown Dayton Partnership- funded with some tax dollars. The Area Agency on Aging- is a primary beneficiary of these tax dollars- if not totally funded by them. Sounds fishy to you?

And of course, there is Burges and Ohlman- throwing a kickback amount for the windfall that comes their way. Pay to Play all the way. Apparently, $5K buys a big ad contract in Montgomery County.

How big?

  • Burges gets $90,629
  • Ohlmann gets $205,958
  • Spark Space Creative gets $47,096

And for the record, none of them are “union shops” and yet, all the promo materials they produce for the campaign- get Union bugs of some sort. The funny one is the signs- which have a “Graphics Art Guild” label- which isn’t a union, it’s a trade association.

On to Issue 4, the Sinclair Levy. I run the opposition campaign, on the Keep Sinclair Fair website.

thumbnail of Citizens For Sinclair

Click on image to download readable PDF

We don’t get to charge a vig to Sinclair employees to fund our property tax levy (again, one of two levies- this is the big one, the other was added 2 years ago, is much smaller). Unlike most of the county workers who benefit from Issue 3 who get charged payroll deduction, Sinclair staff isn’t represented by a union.

The saddest thing about looking at the payroll deduction is that President Stephen Johnson, who makes over $400K a year, only donates $100 a pay period, while one of his top lieutenants, Madeline Iseli, who makes about a third of his pay, donates $55.

Here the donations get mixed in with all the payroll deduction amounts. And the numbers get even bigger.

$628,116.27 brought forward
$51,586.17 raised this period.
$679,957,37 on hand
$408,786.39 spent.

Hmmmm, one thing sticks out. The amount spent on this levy- and the amount spent on Issue 3- $411,749.07.

Almost the same. It’s as if these two campaigns are in cahoots.

And why wouldn’t they be? Look who cashes in.

C3 Group $500
Sparkspace Creative $46,282.31
Ohlmann Group: $205,957.98
Burges & Burges: $82,287.485|
And of course, a ton of money to the fake union sign maker: Patriot Signs $18,300.21

If you compare the two campaigns- it’s as if central bookkeeping just sent duplicate invoices for the vendors. This isn’t the way things are normally done people. There is ZERO oversight of these vendors by the campaign committees- it’s as if the vendors just run the show.

The last campaign is the School Board slate. Or the Al-Hamdani, Bradley, Harris, Wick-Gagnet Committee. This is more like an actual campaign. No payroll deductions, but not exactly a normal fund raising distribution. Almost all the donations are $100 or more. Many of the donors don’t live in the district- some don’t live in the state. Union money, PAC money. These donations look very different than those of other candidates for school board.

thumbnail of Al-Hamdani, Bradley, Harris, Wick-Gagnet Committee

Click on image to download accessible PDF

Start total: $0
Raised: $50,503.00
Spent: $30,233.51

Most were raised at two fundraisers, one at Corner Kitchen and another at Coco’s (full disclosure, I have done work for Karen Wick and Jim Gagnet of Coco’s for years).

But, when it comes to who they spent their money with, the same names:

Burges & Burges: $12,000
Uriah Anderson (an employee of Burges- and Nan’s former campaign manager) $486.86
Spark Space Creative: $9,037.70
Patriot signs: $2,511.02

What is still missing is the money spent on media, and if that will be done by Ohlmann, or by Burges & Burges direct.

thumbnail of Rhynard, Jocelyn; Friends of Jocelyn Rhynard

Jocelyn Rhynard campaign finance report, click to download semi-readable PDF

For comparison, you can look at the finance reports of school board candidate Joceyln Rhynard where there are much more random donation amounts, and none of the same vendors. Full disclosure, she bought her actual union made signs from my company.

What is interesting is some of the same donors contributed to both campaigns- even though only four candidates can win.

As a final note, here are some photos of the Burges purchased campaign signs with the fake union bug.

Burges and Burges uses Patriot Signs who plae a fake union bug on their signs

Fake union bug of the Graphic Arts Guild on each campaigns signs





Montgomery County Voters Guide Issues

Statewide we have Issue 1 or “Marsy’s Law” on the surface looks like a victims rights law. Problem is, we already have almost all the parts of it on the books. It doesn’t need to be written into the constitution. When both prosecutors and public defenders are against it- you probably should be too. Vote NO on issue 1.

The issue that’s getting all the attention is Issue 2. It’s also a bullshit law, that probably shouldn’t be on the books. If we really cared about lowering drug prices or improving the delivery of health care, we’d have single payer and stop allowing hospitals to be duopolies with tax exempt status. And, we’d throw a bunch of them in prison for causing this country to have the most expensive health care in an “industrialized country.” But, here’s the thing- if drug companies are willing to spend $70 Million or more- to get you to vote no- do the opposite, just to give them the middle finger. It won’t save you any money- it won’t save the state any either- but, it will tell big pharma that the people are tired of being jerked around- $600 epi pens? Exactly. Vote YES on Issue 2.

Issue 3 is the Montgomery County Health and Human Services levy. Well, that’s actually a lie, it’s half of it, since they split it into two and staggered it. This is great for the campaign consultant they hire out of Cleveland to run their campaign – so we can give him lots of money- and waste it on campaign materials and all those ads (also good for local media outlets). But, here’s the thing, my mom is 89, and she depends on the services this levy provides, and so do a lot of other seniors. Sure, all of these quasi-public agencies could be run more efficiently and cheaper, but once again, we’re back to Single Payer Health Care or, real, efficient, well-run government in Montgomery County-and we don’t want to hold our breath waiting. It’s a lot of money, and we can’t advertise “move to Montgomery County if you want excellent care for you once you turn 65” – so, Vote YES on Issue 3.

Issue 4 is the Sinclair levy- the big part, 3.2 mils. They added a second levy 2 years ago for about a single mil. I didn’t have time to really organize resistance. I’m a big believer in affordable public education and think Sinclair is generally a good thing, however, Dr. Steven Johnson has a god complex- and can’t stop growing Sinclair and spending money. He’s extended services into branch campuses in Greene, Preble and even Warren Counties- none of which pay a dime in property tax. Hey Dr. Steve- go get tax levies passed in Warren, Preble and Greene first, before you ask us to keep paying for your grandiose plans of world domination. We’ve paid for 52 years in Montgomery County- at least those of us who haven’t been given tax abatement (80% of downtown properties and companies like GE and Emerson and Midmark). So, this November 7, vote NO on Issue 4 and help Keep Sinclair Fair.

There are other issues in various Montgomery County communities- and I can’t cover them all. These are the County wide ones.

You don’t have to agree with me, you don’t have to like what I say and you don’t even have to read Esrati.com- but, I know how many people do… you aren’t alone, and me, Google and the NSA are watching.

Opposition to Sinclair Levy, Issue 4 finally recognized

Vote no on issue 4, no more money for Sinclair until all counties payFront page story in the Dayton Day Old News on Monday about the Sinclair Levy, Issue 4, and they actually contacted me as the leader of the opposition to continuing to fund Steve Johnson’s grandiose plans. I thought I’d wait until Wednesday to write about it, since that’s the lag they have in their reporting with their new 3pm deadline for the print edition.

I did post the story immediately on the Keep Sinclair Fair website: Keep Sinclair Fair finally recognized in Dayton Daily. And, a few donations rolled in. We set up a 501(c)(4) PAC, Reconstructing Dayton to accept donations, and posted a list of our planned campaigns– so donors don’t have to say “I donated against the Sinclair levy”-  and can instead say “I was donating for Regional Government,” or simplifying tax collection. Because we know that in Dayton, to go against the herd is dangerous.

A few things to be aware of, while they always tell you “It won’t raise taxes” in the ad barrage that’s running, the reality is, they did raise the tax for Sinclair 2 years ago when they added their second levy of a single mil. This is their big one, 3.2  mils, for a total of 4.2 mils. And when they quote how much it costs the owner of a $100,000 home, they only claim the amount of the single levy. They also know that the brunt of the levy isn’t on residential homes- it’s on businesses and commercial real estate. For developers trying to rebuild Dayton, the Sinclair tax is just one more insult to injury. Remember, the people who give large amounts to the levy campaign- don’t have to pay the tax in the first place.

The next lie is about how students outside Montgomery County pay more for school and this makes up for the difference between the 52 years of property taxes and zero property taxes. They claim $47 per credit hour levels the playing field. If this is the case- just raise the cost of a credit hour by $47 in Montgomery County, cancel the property tax altogether, and move on. Why should only Montgomery County residents pay for 52 years? I only had a 30 year mortgage.

Dr. Steven Johnson says if the levy fails, there will have to be cuts. Well, with over 200 degree programs, maybe a few cuts won’t hurt. But, maybe he can start with cutting administrators salaries, including his. And, skip buying another building, Far Hills Baptist Church on Clyo- a block away from the Greene County line. That’s a $10M dollar saving right there.

I’m not anti Sinclair at all, but when Warren, Greene, Preble and any other counties Dr. Johnson want to serve start paying a few mils too, we’ll all be better off. Or here’s a novel idea, since Sinclair is so amazing, and your credits transfer directly to Wright State, why not merge with WSU and stop having two presidents, two of everything else and cut overhead substantially? That would be a true regional asset.

In the meantime, Keep Sinclair Fair is running campaigns on Facebook and if donations keep rolling in, we’ll buy some broadcast TV spots to counter the propaganda from the Tax and Spend Sinclair folks.


Vote NO on Sinclair Issue 4 and lower your taxes

Logic is something they are supposed to teach in college, yet, Sinclair Community College fails to use it when explaining their reason for only taxing Montgomery County property owners while having branch campuses in Warren, Preble and Greene Counties.

The Sinclair line is, residents of other counties have to pay double the tuition of Montgomery County residents. Yet, to become a “Montgomery County resident” only takes 6 months, while they’ve been taxing us for 52 years! And, by the same logic, if we just stopped taxing Montgomery county residents- and just doubled tuition, everything would be hunky-dory.

Sinclair has approximately 20,000 students. Montgomery County has about 540,000 residents, why we have to subsidize a training center for companies like CareSource, Premier Health and Kettering Health Network (who don’t pay the property tax- yet give big sums to the levy campaign) is a bit of a mystery. If the economic impact of Sinclair was so great, why is Warren County one of the fastest growing counties in the state? Could it be that their tax burden is so much lower than Montgomery County. Need proof- the Dayton Daily News built their “Print Technology Center” in Warren County 20 years ago- and now that the tax abatement has worn off- and no one reads their sad “Dayton Day Old News” anymore, they are printing in Indiana and selling their taj mahal.

Sinclair hasn’t fared well in performance measurements for value either. Wallethub did a study and Sinclair came in 2nd to worst of Ohio Community Colleges (only slightly besting Columbus State.)

I have no problem supporting Sinclair if they stop providing services outside Montgomery County- or begin to tax all the other counties they are operating in. That’s what we call “Keep Sinclair Fair” and have a site dedicated to the issue.

And because this community can be very petty to companies and people who go against the powers that be, we’ve set up a 501c4 political action committee, “Reconstructing Dayton” to work on issues of regionalism, ending cronyism and to help independent voices who support our goals.  We’ve also got some pet democracy projects to support. You can donate at will to Reconstructing Dayton to help defeat the unfair taxing of Montgomery County real estate to support the Sinclair Empire which stretches far outside our boundaries. Money will be spent to run a media campaign to inform voters that voting for Sinclair as it’s funded now is contributing to the welfare of other counties. No matter what Sinclair backers say.

We’ve seen plenty of examples of unfair taxation right here in Montgomery County, including the crazy rules of Austin Landing where only the retail workers pay an income tax. It’s time to stand up to the corrupt powers that allow this kind of punitive bullshit taxation to pass as “economic development” or a rational approach to growth.

Please consider donating and supporting our efforts to bring fair taxation to Montgomery County at all levels.



A little sunshine on Sinclair meetings?

Sinclair President Steve Johnson wants to have private talks about public issues.

Message sent to faculty and staff of Sinclair Community College

Dr. Steven Johnson thinks he can have private meetings with faculty and staff, to talk about very public things:

  • Health Sciences Center
  • Enrollment Task Force
  • State Budget Midbiennial Review (MBR)

“This meeting is open to employees of the college and is not intended to be a public or media event.”

Suggestion Steve- go work at a private university that accepts no public dollars.