Jon Craig and the Rev. Michael Howard

WINNER: Through good old-fashioned reporting, Enquirer statehouse reporter Jon Craig helped uncover the identity of the conduit for a shadowy contributor who funded the campaign trying to force a vote on Gov. Ted Strickland's plan to place slot machines

Feb 10, 2010 at 2:06 pm


JON CRAIG: Through good old-fashioned reporting, The Enquirer’s statehouse reporter helped uncover the identity of the conduit for a shadowy contributor who funded the campaign trying to force a vote on Gov. Ted Strickland’s plan to place slot machines at seven Ohio horse tracks. It turns out the treasurer for the group was Tim Crawford of McLean, Va., the fundraising consultant for ex-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Strickland’s opponent in the 2006 gubernatorial race. Crawford is treasurer for New Models, the group that raised $1.55 million for the effort.

Crawford has extensive Republican ties, including work for the RNC and Sarah Palin. Many have speculated a casino company that doesn’t want competition from slots funded the effort. Crawford isn’t talking. Meanwhile, although New Models bears a nonprofit’s Web identity, it’s not a registered nonprofit and has no board of directors, no campaign finance filing history and no paperwork on file with the IRS or the Federal Elections Commission.


THE REV. MICHAEL HOWARD: It’s sad when human foibles tarnish a good cause, but that’s what is happening with Justice Watch. The group, founded by the late Rev. Maurice McCrackin, is based in the West End and has helped transition ex-felons back into society for almost 20 years through its residential program that offers substance abuse counseling and life skills training.

Sadly, The Rev. Michael Howard, a Justice Watch activist, is being sought by police for allegedly taking more than $100,000 from the organization. He’s facing charges of aggravated theft, forgery and unauthorized use of property.

Unfortunately, such actions just make it easier for critics to dismiss worthwhile causes like the one served by Justice Watch and makes it more difficult for successors.


BILL SLOAT: We enjoyed Sloat’s work years ago when he was the Cincinnati reporter for The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio’s best daily newspaper. We continued to enjoy his work even more once he retired and founded The Daily Bellwether, a blog that covered local and state politics, often with a satirical bent.

Using the connections he built over many years, Sloat covered news in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, frequently offering a fresh angle. Alas, his other work and family commitments began taking up more of his time, and the blog stopped regularly updating in March 2009.

Now Sloat has revived the blog, and once again he often scoops local publications with his journalistic acumen. Welcome back, Bill. We’ve missed you.

Check it out at


MIKE WILSON: The Springfield Township resident who (rightly or wrongly) takes credit for organizing the region’s Tea Party movement made good on his promises last December that his organization would be about more than protests. That’s when Wilson decided to challenge State Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery) for the Ohio 28th District seat. But if Wilson thought he would cruise to November’s general election, he can think again.

His old pals in the Republican Party began actively recruiting mainstream GOP candidates to run against Wilson in the May 4 primary. Now all that work has paid off. Tom Weidman, a well-known Republican who heads the Sycamore Township trustees and was County Commissioner Phil Heimlich’s campaign manager in 2006, has jumped into the race. Joining him is Vicky Zwissler, a small business owner and ex-member of Wyoming City Council. This is when we test whether the Tea Party has any political traction beyond angry mobs.