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The Larry Householder enterprise: Ohio’s ‘largest bribery, money-laundering scheme’

January 2, 2021 at 3:00 pm

According to an FBI indictment issued in July 2020, Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder accepted more than $60 million in bribe money from FirstEnergy Corp. in exchange for a $1.3 billion public bailout.

Why judicial races matter to Black Lives Matter

September 2, 2020 at 5:29 pm

1 in every 10 black men in their thirties is in prison or jail. Sentences for black men committing the same federal crime are 19.1 percent longer. Why? Many stages of the criminal justice system are behind these statistics. For instance, prosecutors decide what charges to bring and what sentences […]

‘Boldly Bankrupt’ at the University of Cincinnati: How privatization corrupts public universities

April 30, 2020 at 2:34 pm

We know there is a crisis in higher education. We see the symptoms in higher tuition, lower graduation rates, and record student loan debt. Too often, the narrative about what’s causing these problems is the idea that these universities just aren’t being run similarly enough to private businesses. Is this true, though? We’ve […]

Justice is a bargain: 7 questions for Charmaine McGuffey, candidate for Hamilton County sheriff

March 30, 2020 at 11:27 am

In Hamilton County, OH, the county I live in, the sheriff’s office has recently been involved in several high-profile police brutality incidents. In May 2018, the sheriff’s office agreed to a $500,000 settlement after a corrections officer, Jason Mize, shoved a 61-year-old man, Mark Myers, headfirst into a cinderblock cell so hard […]

How to connect race and class to win against divide-and-conquer narratives

August 6, 2019 at 8:07 pm

One of the best workshops I went to this year at Netroots Nation was called “The Race Class Narrative: Putting It to Work.” Put together by SEIU and conducted by Josh Keller (SEIU Minnesota State Council), Tinselyn Simms (SEIU), and Christopher Lampkin (SEIU 1199NW), the seminar helped me answer a question I’ve had for a while: […]

13 ways it costs more to be poor

March 7, 2019 at 9:45 am

In July 1960, James Baldwin wrote the following in an article in Esquire, “Fifth Avenue, Uptown: a Letter from Harlem”: “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” This week @girlziplocked asked a wonderful question on Twitter.  What's something about being poor that middle-class people […]

If you want to get the money out of politics, vote in congressional elections

October 10, 2018 at 2:57 pm

I talk to people all the time about politics and one of the things I hear most often is: “We need to get the money out of politics.” Everyone seems to have ideas how to stop this, ranging from third parties to repealing Citizens United to the “small government” ideas of libertarians.  

While researching voting recently, I stumbled across a great report by the U.S. Bureau of the Census on voting in congressional elections that suggests one of the big reasons our government works for the wealthy is that the wealthy vote. 

Here’s a look at the statistics, and why more people voting could go a long way toward reducing the influence of money in politics. 

Dark pleas and the justice gap: 7 questions for Michael Donnelly, candidate for Ohio’s Supreme Court

September 30, 2018 at 10:29 pm

I met Judge Michael Donnelly at an event in Cincinnati where he spoke about some of the issues he was seeing in the justice system. He opened my eyes to a few of the challenges our judicial system faces, so I asked him if he’d answer a few questions. 

1. Transparency in the plea-bargaining process is a major platform of your campaign. Can you explain why?

Five things to keep repeating if we want a better economy for everyone

September 3, 2018 at 11:39 am

I was talking this week about the Mueller investigation with a guy I know from Western New York.

He said he’s sticking with Trump because of the economy and because he believes Trump and his tax cuts for the wealthy are responsible for the current strong economy.

I’ve heard this from many many folks who have bought into the narratives that corporate special interests create about our economy. It’s likely you’ve heard some of this advertising and framing:

  • Tax cuts create jobs
  • We need to grow the economy so everyone will benefit
  • Free markets
  • Regulations “hold back” the economy
  • I’m a capitalist, you’re a socialist
  • The private sector is better at everything

And so on. This powerful marketing is used by corporate special interests to elect politicians who will do what corporate special interests want. More power and money for them.

In my experience, we tend to be good at critiquing these claims without describing what would make a better economy. What should we be striving for? Where do we want to be if we can get there?

Towards this end, I thought I’d share the 5 simple points I’ve found to be most successful in talking about the economy.

ECOT: $2.1 million in donations to Ohio politicians, $1 billion in charter school contracts

July 18, 2018 at 12:39 pm

ECOT stands for the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. It is a charter school founded in Ohio in 2000 by businessman William Lager and is a story that hasn’t received nearly enough media attention. Probably because it highlights everything that’s wrong with for-profit charter school entities delivering public services.

From 2001 to 2016 Lager’s ECOT received more than $1 billion from Ohio taxpayers to deliver an appalling graduation rate. In 2014, the graduation rate was under 39 percent. For the 2016-17 school year, it was up to a little over 40 percent in four years.This ranks as worst in the nation.

The state of Ohio is working to recover $80 million in overbilled state funds. In 2016, an Ohio audit estimates the school was paid for 9,000 more students than ECOT could document for the 2015-16 school year. In 2018, the state is still working to recover the money, which has since increased to $80 million.

Dave Yost, the Ohio auditor who has himself spoken at past ECOT graduations, said:

With the level of incompetence displayed by both the school and (the Education Department), the regulator, it’s amazing that any money went to education whatsoever.

Over this same period of time, William Lager has donated more than $2.1 million to influential Ohio politicians including several speakers of the Ohio House and Andrew Brenner, the chair of the House Education Committee.

Because much of the news coverage in Ohio only focuses on small pieces of this story at a time, here’s the full story of how ECOT scammed Ohio.