Having Fun With Elections, and Ghosts in the Machines

There's no better way to wrap up a grueling election season than to gather to eat, drink and make fun of everyone on Election Night. At least that's the thinking behind "All Kidding Aside," a

Sean Hughes/photopresse.com

Gary Wright says CCV operated "a network of deception."

There's no better way to wrap up a grueling election season than to gather to eat, drink and make fun of everyone on Election Night. At least that's the thinking behind "All Kidding Aside," a new project featuring parody songs about the Cincinnati political scene.

A gaggle of local political and media pranksters have been writing material for a CD that's a takeoff on The Capitol Steps, the funny Washington D.C.-based singing group. Sixteen songs have been completed by the group, which includes lobbyist/strategist Marie Gemelli-Carroll, marketing guru/musician John Fox (no relation to CityBeat's editor) and Sound Images troublemakers Jack Streitmarter, Charlaine Martin and Jay Petach.

An announcement is expected this week about financial backing for the CD, which would be produced at Sound Images, as well as a possible second CD about Cincinnati's incoming mayor and city council. In the meantime, "All Kidding Aside" gets its first semi-public airing Tuesday.

That's when the group gathers with politically-minded friends to watch local election results and, at the appropriate time, unveil the new material. Apparently four tunes from the CD will be performed live: "Hooray for Cincinnati" (to the tune of "Hooray for Hollywood"), "City Council Man" (to the tune of "Secret Agent Man"), "The Banks" (to the tune of "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off") and "Downtown Medley" (to "Summer in the City," "Downtown" and "American Pie").

A full public performance could be announced as soon as CD details are ironed out.

A new report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) raises more questions about the ineffectiveness of electronic voting machines in Ohio and lends credence to the ongoing belief of many that President Bush stole the Ohio election, and therefore the national election, in 2004.

The GAO had been investigating the more than 50,000 complaints of voting irregularities the U.S. House Judiciary Committee received following the election.

The report found that, among other things, some electronic voting machines were able to be altered without being detected, the votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate, falsifying election results without leaving evidence of such an action could easily be done, access to the voting network was easily compromised because not all electronic voting systems had supervisory functions password-protected and locks protecting access to the system were easily picked and keys were simple to copy. Many of these fabulous touch-screen machines were manufactured by Diebold, whose Canton-based CEO, Warren O'Dell, famously pledged before the 2004 campaign to deliver Ohio to Bush.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media seem to have missed the GAO report and continue to miss the Diebold connection to the bigger story. That includes The Enquirer, which ran a peppy front-page story Oct. 30 about the new Diebold electronic voting machines about to debut Tuesday in Butler County. The story, under the headline "E-voting system: 'It's easy'," amazingly never mentions Diebold once, nor does it raise the specter of Ohio voter fraud or Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's dubious oversight of the statewide election system.

For that kind of information, you'll have to see www.freepress.org/departments/display/19, a Web site operated by the Columbus (Ohio) Institute for Progressive Journalism. Find the full GAO report at www.gao.gov/new.items/d05956.pdf.

Neither Religious nor Right

More than a year after voters repealed Article 12 of the city charter, some of the donors who anonymously contributed money to (unsuccessfully) preserve Cincinnati's anti-gay law and (successfully) pass a statewide ban on gay marriage might finally be dragged into the light. In a complaint filed Oct. 26 with the Ohio Elections Commission, two prominent Cincinnati activists accused Equal Rights No Special Rights, Citizens for Community Values (CCV) and their respective chairpersons, Councilman Sam Malone and Phil Burress, of failing to comply with Ohio's campaign fund-raising and disclosure laws.

Gary Wright, president of Equality Cincinnati who as former chair of Citizens to Restore Fairness led the repeal effort, joined former Cincinnati Mayor and Council-woman Bobbie Sterne in saying that the two ballot issues campaigns combined disclosed the actual source of less than 1 percent of their contributions — of the more than $2.4 million raised and spent, only $13,000 was attributed to named donors. What's more, the complaint alleges the organizations transferred money between themselves to hide the identity of contributors and offered donors the option of anonymous contributions, even setting up online mechanisms to do so.

"What we have here is a network of deception with CCV Action at its hub," says the joint release from Wright and Sterne. "We believe that most of the average donors to CCV's campaigns are honest people who trusted CCV to follow election laws. We may disagree on the issues but I think we would all agree that fair, honest and legal campaigns are important for democracy."

But they say a handful of "big money donors" are more likely to have known what was going on and the whole system of deception was probably set up "to satisfy just a few people with a lot of money pursuing a hidden agenda."

The next step is waiting for the Ohio Election Commission to review and set up a hearing date for the complaint.

Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 138) or pork(at)citybeat.com

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