Look Who’s Talking to CCV

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports about the demise of the anti-porn, anti-gay, anti-anything different Citizens for Community Values are greatly exaggerated. In fact, the antiquated group is probably affecting your life in ways you haven’t even imagined.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports about the demise of the anti-porn, anti-gay, anti-anything different Citizens for Community Values are greatly exaggerated.

In fact, the antiquated group — often referred to simply as CCV — is probably affecting your life in ways you haven’t imagined and talking behind-the-scenes to public officials who might surprise you.

For starters, the person who was CCV’s former vice president and attorney has now infiltrated Cincinnati City Hall, where he works on a daily basis. But more on that in a moment.

CCV is best known for its efforts to pressure the region’s convenience stores into stop selling soft-core pornographic magazines like Playboy (hardcore magazines having been run out of town about a decade earlier by then-Hamilton County Prosecutor Simon Leis Jr., now the sheriff).

More notoriously, the group was behind Article 12, a Cincinnati charter amendment passed by voters in 1993 that prohibited city officials from enacting or enforcing measures to give “minority or preferential status” to gay or bisexual people, preventing them from seeking protection against discrimination or hate crimes.

Before voters repealed it in 2004, the law was the only one of its kind in the United States, helped cement Cincinnati’s reputation as a backward burg and cost the region an estimated $45 million in lost convention business.

Although Cincinnati voters might have tired of CCV’s hateful antics by the time of the repeal, voters statewide still were prone to being misled by the group’s distorted rhetoric. That same year, CCV was among the organizations stumping for a gay marriage ban in Ohio, which was approved at the polls.

Since its overwhelming loss on Article 12 five years ago, CCV has been relatively quiet at the local level. Instead, the group has focused on passing a state law restricting how strip clubs operate (a watered down version of which was approved by the Ohio Legislature).

The group’s latest cause du jour began in June 2008, when CCV organized a news conference at Cincinnati City Hall. Featuring the Rev. Charlie Winburn — an ex-city councilman who was reelected to public office last month — as the keynote speaker, the group publicly asked CityBeat to stop running adult services advertisements in our newspaper and on our Web site.

Winburn and the CCV coalition also delivered a letter to us that falsely claimed CityBeat’s outlets were the “primary avenues through which the sex-for-sale industry in Greater Cincinnati markets their destructive services.”

Among the letter’s signatories were Leis; Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr.; and Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Monzel.

Winburn tried to tie the ads to the plight of sex slaves and exploited immigrants who are forced to work as prostitutes, but offered little connecting the problem to ads in CityBeat. Nevermind that there only were 14 documented cases of sex trafficking in Hamilton County as of 2008, although that’s 14 too many.

We responded to the bullying by filing a federal lawsuit last year charging the coalition led by CCV of conspiracy to violate our First Amendment rights and tortuous interference with our business relationships.

After several months, as CityBeat prepared for depositions, CCV and the city of Cincinnati approached us with offers to settle. The city agreed to pay CityBeat $2,500 to settle the claims and cover any related costs; terms of the CCV settlement are confidential.

What’s not confidential, however, is information revealed during the discovery process about the genesis of CCV’s campaign. The group and Winburn, who was a paid contactor for CCV, were spurred on by a partially successful case in 2007 against Orlando Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Florida. In that case, the paper settled and agreed to drop adult ads as well as pay police $10,000 for its investigation. Also, three newspaper employees who were personally charged agreed to perform 100 hours of community service.

What Winburn and CCV apparently didn’t realize was the Orlando case involved an undercover sting that essentially caught the three employees knowingly and willingly accepting ads for illegal services. That didn’t happen here because CityBeat doesn’t accept such ads, and drops ads if legitimate concerns are raised.

Regardless, it didn’t stop Winburn from taking a trip to Florida for “research” to talk to police about the case.

Additionally, the documents show CCV’s efforts began in February 2008 with Winburn contacting religious, political and law enforcement leaders to join the cause, as well as visiting restaurants urging them to drop CityBeat’s distribution racks. Sources say Winburn told African-American clergy that the ads were responsible “for getting our teen-age girls pregnant.”

Winburn’s vouchers turned into CCV to receive payment states “the police chief is strongly interested in working with CCV,” and notes that Leis allegedly said CCV has “his 100 percent support and cooperation in going after CityBeat.” Further, Winburn’s vouchers indicate if the newspaper didn’t willingly drop the ads, they would ask County Prosecutor Joe Deters to pursue criminal charges.

Yes, this is how public officials are spending their time and taxpayer money, despite cries of budget deficits and diminishing resources.

But we’ve got to wonder just how truthful and accurate Winburn’s vouchers are.

Documents indicate Winburn met with Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou on June 17 and July 21, 2008, to discuss the effort; and met with Convention and Visitors Bureau President Dan Lincoln on March 20 and Aug. 21, 2008.

Triantafilou acknowledged the meeting. “I don’t recall particulars from any of the two meetings you referenced. I do recall Charlie discussing several things with me in 2008 and one of those many things was his concerns with CityBeat,” he told us.

“The Hamilton County GOP took no official position and there was no official ‘sanctioning’ or ‘endorsement’ of any kind. This was never a matter for the Executive Committee and, frankly, I didn’t give any of the CityBeat things much thought after hearing about this dispute. This is not because we agreed or disagreed with any part of it, it just was not our fight.”

For his part, Lincoln only was supposed to meet with Winburn alone to discuss various issues. David Miller, then CCV’s vice president and attorney, also showed up and they steered the topic to CityBeat.

“Charlie asked for the meeting under the premise of catching up with him on different issues,” said bureau spokeswoman Julie Calvert. “When he got here, there was another person from CCV, which was a surprise to (Lincoln).

“(Winburn) never asked Dan for anything and nothing was ever promised or given,” Calvert added. “We wouldn’t get involved with anything like that. We stay out of political issues.”

Here’s how Winburn’s report describes the session: “Dan Lincoln supports CCV’s position to have a region clean and free of advertisement that sexually exploits women.”

That’s something CityBeat agrees with. Oh, and we also like apple pie and puppies.

Miller has since resigned from CCV and become Winburn’s chief of staff, receiving a salary paid by taxpayers while he does research and drafts legislation for the councilman.

That’s a City Hall office that we’ll be keeping a close eye on.

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