Friday, May 9, 2008

Despite denials, Freedom Center is greasing legislators' palms in Columbus

As reported in this Enquirer blog, on April 15 (tax day!), the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center hosted a cocktail reception at the offices of its high-priced lobbyists in Columbus to lubricate legislators for inclusion in upcoming the State Capital Budget Bill.
The Freedom Center has $3.75 million in pending requests, including an astounding $1.4 million to relocate its front door.
Last week, the Blue Chip Young Republicans joined the opposition to further NURFC tax funding, prompting this blog item in the Cincinnati Beacon.
Surprisingly, Paul Bernish the official spokesperson for the NURFC replied to that blog entry, challenging the Blue Chippers stating that the Blue Chippers press release essentially accused them of trying to "buy a legislator," which was "close to accusing the Freedom Center of commiting [sic] a criminal act."
So, COAST decided to research campaign finance records to see how much money NURFC executives and Board members are spreading around to powerful legislators. What we found was nothing short of astounding. The entire COAST compilation is here.

NURFC executives and Board members donated a total of more than $80,000 over the past three years to the Governor and key members of the Ohio House and Senate.

Of that amount, these executives gave more than $45,500 to Democrat Ted Strickland's campaign for Governor alone, including $20,000 from ultra-wealthy NURFC supporter John Pepper and his wife. NURFC executives have pinned their Capital Bill hopes on the Governor's insistence on including it in the bill.

They gave an additional $6,300 to Democrat State Senator Eric Kearney, who is the chief legislative champion for funding this year, going so far as to organize a Black Legislative Caucus bus tour of the NURFC all the way from Columbus.

Republican Michelle Schneider, who carried the NURFC's water for 2006 Capital Funding received $3,750 for her efforts. Not a bad return for the NURFC - the raked in $2 million in state funds that year.

Bill Seitz, who is working behind the scenes in the State Senate for NURFC funding at present has received more than $2,800.

The only local elected official to openly champion NURFC funding, liberal democrat Todd Portune, received more than $28,705 from a fundraiser hosted at the home of John Pepper. How did the Peppers' obtain this favor for their failed project? Perhaps from the contributions they helped funnel to Portune?

Bernish concluded his blog entry by challenging Blue Chip President Jeff Cappel about the claimed implication of illegality: "Surely that's not what you intended."
Well, COAST does not know what Capell intended, but it suggests to its readers that the actions of the NURFC speak for themselves.
URGENT, the capital budget bill will be released any day: Please contact your legislator soon to tell them you oppose further taxpayer funds for the NURFC:

Senator Gary Cates
Senator Bob Schuler
Senator Bill Seitz
Senator Eric Kearney
Senator Tom Niehaus

Representative Jim Raussen
Representative Lou Blessing
Representative Bob Mecklenborg
Representative Steve Driehaus
Representative Tyrone Yates
Representative Tom Brinkman, Jr.
Representative Michelle Schneider
Representative Courtney Combs
Representative Bill Coley
Representative Joseph Uecker
Representative Shannon Jones
Representative Danny Buhp

Finally, please send an e-mail to COAST to let us know you contacted your legislator and their response on NURFC funding. Thank you.

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