n all likelihood, Congresswoman Jean Schmidt will be safely on her way to running in the November general election by the time this column is published.
Although I’m writing this on March 6, the day of Ohio’s primary elections, and Schmidt is facing three opponents for the Republican nomination — which is believed to be the most candidates running against an incumbent GOP member of Congress anywhere in the nation — Schmidt has a knack for defying the odds.
This is the woman, after all, who suffered no discernable consequences after she referred to the late John Murtha, a disabled Democratic congressman and decorated former Marine, as a coward for supporting the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq during a debate on the floor of Congress in November 2005.
At the time, Schmidt said she had received a call from her friend, Ohio Rep. Danny Bubp (R-West Union), who also is a Marine. “He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course,” Schmidt said. “He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do. Danny and the rest of America and the world want the assurance from this body that we will see this through.”
Except Bubp later told a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter that he never mentioned Murtha by name while talking to Schmidt and would never call another U.S. Marine a coward.
Then there’s the time in 2006 when the Ohio Elections Commission reprimanded Schmidt for falsely claiming to have a second bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati that she never received.
Ever since she first ran for public office in Clermont County in 1989, Schmidt had said she held degrees in political science and secondary education. But that claim mysteriously disappeared after she was first elected to Congress in August 2005, which prompted reporters to do some digging. Although the Elections Commission ultimately ruled against her and said Schmidt had a “reckless disregard for truth,” she still won against her GOP opponent in the primary election just five days later.
Last summer the House Ethics Committee ruled that the lawmaker violated rules when she accepted more than $400,000 in free legal assistance to fund a lawsuit against a political opponent. Schmidt is suing David Krikorian, a Madeira businessman, who ran as an independent against Schmidt in 2008, then ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary in 2010 and is running again this year. Krikorian distributed a pamphlet alleging Schmidt had received “blood money” from the Turkish government in return for her opposition to a congressional resolution that declared Turkey committed genocide against Armenia during a 1915 conflict.
Lo and behold, it turns out that the Turkish Coalition of America had been providing legal services in her lawsuit against Krikorian since spring 2009, but Schmidt never paid for it. The Ethics Committee decided Schmidt received an “impermissible gift” but somehow didn’t “knowingly” violate the law, and ordered her to cough up the cash. She’s still working on that.
Ronald Reagan might have been nicknamed “the Teflon president” for his ability to emerge unscathed from scandal, but Schmidt could probably teach the Gipper a thing or two in that regard.
The latest controversy swirling around the woman that critics call “Mean Jean” involves the decision by The Highland County Press to endorse Brad Wenstrup, one of Schmidt’s Republican opponents, in the primary. Shortly afterward, Barrett Brunsman — an ex-Cincinnati Enquirer reporter who serves as Schmidt’s spokesman — called The Highland County Press to complain about the endorsement. Some people have said the call was an intimidation tactic; whether it was is a judgment that I will leave for others to make.
Here’s what Rory Ryan, the newspaper’s publisher, wrote in a subsequent editorial after rumors about the call began percolating in political circles.
“Just days after our endorsement of Wenstrup, Brunsman asked me what it was about his boss I didn’t like,” Ryan wrote. “Before I share my response, please understand that in our endorsement of Dr. Wenstrup, there was not a single word of criticism of either Schmidt or (another opponent). But if they really want to press the issue, fine. We can go there.
“When I asked Schmidt about her Turkish Coalition of America contributions of almost half a million dollars, her initial response was to blame George Soros and a ‘left-wing media conspiracy,’” Ryan added. “That’s all well and good, except when the facts get in the way of the alibi. Soros did not sign Schmidt’s Jan. 3, 2012 letter to the chairman of the House Committee on Ethics where she amended her personal financial disclosure forms to include more than $400,000 from the Turkish Coalition of America.”
Schmidt’s strained explanation leaves me wondering if it was Soros who also doctored her resume and was really the culprit who first called Murtha a coward. Deflection, thy name is Jean.
If Schmidt does prevail in Tuesday’s primary, she will face either Krikorian or William R. Smith in the November election. One is a person who’s ran against her twice before and failed; the other is a person who hasn’t campaigned, filled out questionnaires or made public appearances.
Either person would be preferable to Schmidt and her slippery grasp on the truth.
When Cincinnati City Council voted 6-3 last week to approve almost $1 million in grants and loans to help a Hamilton soul food restaurant open a second location at The Banks, one of the members opposed to the deal was Christopher Smitherman.
The vote occurred after a week’s delay when council learned owner Liz Rogers owed more than $49,000 in back taxes to the federal government.
Smitherman’s opposition raised some eyebrows because City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. had recommended city financing for the project in an effort to attract small, minority-owned businesses to the riverfront district. Smitherman also is president of the NAACP’s local chapter and has lobbied vigorously for more minority inclusion on local projects involving taxpayer money.
Smitherman told The Business Courier that he opposed the deal because he couldn’t get a cash flow statement from Dohoney and he wasn’t sure the city should fund restaurants, which have a high failure rate.
“This is not about race for me. This is about the financial transaction,” Smitherman told reporter Lucy May. The fact that race became a factor in the debate shows that Cincinnati is not “post-racial,” he added.