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Published: Friday, 10/18/2002

Stratton, O'Connor denounce issue ad using their pictures

BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - The two Republican candidates for Ohio Supreme Court yesterday denounced a television ad airing on their behalf by AT&T and some other telecommunications companies.

Competition Ohio, financed by companies trying to break SBC Ameritech's hold on local phone service, purchased $230,000 of air time in Cleveland and Columbus to draw attention to its cause.

Against the candidates' photographs but without mentioning the election, a male narrator states that the two “are standing up for Ohio consumers and small businesses.”

But the group acknowledged there is little in the records of either Justice Evelyn Stratton or Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor to indicate how they would vote on telecommunications issues. The same is true for their Democratic opponents, Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Janet Burnside and Hamilton Municipal Court Judge Tim Black, respectively.

“The use of the names Evelyn Stratton and Maureen O'Connor in an attack on a competitor is wholly inappropriate and unauthorized,” Ms. O'Connor wrote in a letter to Competition Ohio.

“We are outraged by the advertisement's message and unequivocally denounce it,” she wrote. “Further, we demand its immediate withdrawal.”

Gregg Haught, legal counsel for the organization, said the ad is not designed to encourage the election of the two Republicans.

“This is part of a number of efforts in favor of competition to raise awareness of an issue we believe is critical for Ohio, local telephone competition,” he said. “We have raised the issue with all of the traditional means. ...”

Those seeking to do business with the Ohio treasurer's office would have to disclose which politicians they've supported financially and political parties would be limited in how much money they could give candidates under a pair of Democratic bills about to be introduced.

Many of the campaign-finance reform proposals already have been introduced in the General Assembly by both Democrats and Republicans but have gone nowhere. Others specific to the treasurer's office were proposed in June by Mary Boyle, the former Cuyahoga County commissioner challenging Republican Treasurer Joe Deters.

“It seems to us that the very best time, maybe the only time, to take up campaign-finance reform and treasurer's reform is immediately after the election when the scandals and corruption are fresh in the public's mind and when the pressure may well be strongest on legislators to do something,” said state Sen. Eric Fingerhut (D., Cleveland), sponsor of the Senate bills.

The treasurer proposals are designed to address questions raised about whether bankers and brokers contributing to Mr. Deters' campaign have been given favorable treatment in receiving state investment business. Mr. Deters has denied any link between contributions and state business.

Regrets, they've got at least one.

Ohio backers of Issue 1 held a news briefing yesterday. There was no news about whether the group would air TV ads - either to get the ballot issue passed or to target Gov. Bob Taft.

But there was lamentation about what the Ohio Ballot Board did last August.

Ed Orlett, director of the Ohio Campaign for New Drug Policies, distributed an Aug. 14 memo in which he balked at the Ballot Board's plan to say Issue 1 would require the state to spend an additional $247 million.

“Use a single year's appropriation [$38 million] with a reference to both `per year' and `for six fiscal years after enactment,'” he wrote.

The Ballot Board added the seven-year language, but opted for $247 million as a way to hit voters with a big number.

At the time, Dave Fratello, political director of the California-based Campaign for New Drug Policies, said he thought the language was accurate.

Since then, the group has complained about the wording, saying it is misleading. They say Issue 1 would save taxpayers $21 million per year, by diverting first and second-time drug possession offenders from incarceration to treatment.

“In retrospect, I wish I had registered my objections perhaps a little less gentlemanly and I suspect [Mr. Fratello] probably does too,” said Mr. Orlett, a former Democratic state lawmaker.



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