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From the Chronicle-Telegram:

Former state Rep. Matt Barrett won’t be charged for reportedly lying to police about knowing women in topless photos — one of which he displayed to a high school class last year — found on a state-issued memory stick.

Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt found nothing to warrant charges against Barrett, said Norwalk Law Director Stuart O’Hara, who declined to provide specifics.

Okay. Whatever.

But this is too much:

[Barrett's Attorney Jack] Bradley said Barrett wasn’t trying to derail the police investigation when he lied about knowing the women because he believed officers were trying to determine how the pictures ended up on the memory stick and how they were projected, not their identities.

“He wasn’t trying to mislead the investigation,” Bradley said. “It was very embarrassing to know the women in the photos.” [my emphasis]

Say what?

It was too embarrassing to know the women in the photos to tell the truth to the police? Who knew that that was a good excuse for getting out of trouble?

Sigh. Someone wasn’t too embarrassed to know them. How else did they end up on the flash drive? I would think that the opposite was true – someone was coveting and admiring those women, that’s why they got enshrined in a photograph and memorialized on the flash drive.

What got Barrett embarrassed was getting caught.

Honestly. Why can’t anyone take the blame like a … oh never mind.

When is this state going to get women heads of political parties? Another thing to research – how many of the 88 counties’ political parties, GOP or Dem, are headed by women? I know someone knows.  Maybe I need to hit up my Know It Now friend – this does sound like the perfect Know It Now question doesn’t it?

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 3:15 pm May 3rd, 2008 in Culture, Gender, Government, Law, Ohio, Politics, Scandal, Statehouse, Women | 9 Comments 

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Thank you Plain Dealer.

The post with the link to the audio and text is here.

From the post:

In the interview, he admitted that the scandal had turned his office into a political joke, but he refused to resign.

He said he knew he should have fired his aide and neighbor, Anthony Gutierrez, a failed business owner who had trouble staying away from alcohol and Dann’s office help. But Dann said he couldn’t stand to tell Gutierrez’s children that he had let their father go.

Dann apologized and said he accepted responsibility for his actions. He also admitted that he was naive when he came into office.

I highly recommend reading the rest of the post and listening to the audio. I want to highlight one question though:

Q: Wasn’t there a policy in your office that forbids supervisors from having sexual relationships with subordinates?

I knew what I did was “intrinsically wrong, and I take responsibility.” My office has a policy about sexual harassment, but it does not mention anything about consensual relationships. I am working to correct that.

Structures that allow consensual relationships in the workplace without other rules, that are enforced, in relation to inferior and superior position and authority are inherently in danger of this type of thing playing out.

To say that there need to be more women in leadership roles could lead people to think that I don’t believe that men can lead without these dangers lurking everywhere. I don’t think that. State Treasurer Rick Cordray’s office most likely doesn’t even remotely mirror anything that’s transpired in the AG’s office.

However, he also has women placed in high positions of authority. And it is a tone one sets. Likewise with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and State Auditor Mary Taylor. These individuals set a tone that sends a signal about what simply will not be tolerated. That doesn’t mean that instances will not arise that require discipline, but the likelihood of them being acute rather than chronic and systemic is greatly reduce.

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 11:44 am May 3rd, 2008 in Culture, Government, Marc Dann, Ohio, Politics, Scandal, Social Issues, Women | Comments Off 

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In this post, I mentioned impact as one of those terms that gets extra meaning in a legal context compared to when we use it in a conversational sense. And in regard to the Women’s Voices Women’s vote controversy, it is impact that has everyone most concerned, but also ties into the concept of not always making illegal that which we don’t like, support or approve of.

There are more than enough links on a Google Blog Search of “wvwv” to help you see where people come done: incredibly incompetent screw-up, bad management and poor planning but no intent, or out-right planful hope for implementing voter suppression tactics.

But it’s the impact of what has happened that, as voters, we most need to understand. It appears that there has in fact been a negative impact: confusion, at a minimum and, at worst, voter suppression (people not being registered who could have been).

Again – I go back to President Bush and torture: there, he had an intent to have torture proceed, he referenced the law as giving him the authority to let torture proceed and yeah, there’s negative impact there. For me, there’s just no justification. But that’s another post.

How about with what the Ben Espy-Jules Pfeiffer report substantiates as having happened in the office of Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann? Intent to harm seems to be there, based on intimidation and threats made to subordinates by superiors and in relation to sexual relations and so on – the hostile work environment scenario.

Did anyone break laws? It’s not so clear.

But has there been and is there and will there continue to be a negative impact? Well – it’s very difficult to say no, there’s no negative impact. Image, morale, chances in future races, ability to raise money, to elect a Democrat to the White House with Ohio’s support. These all must be considered. So I would argue that the impact has been negative.

Now, with WVWV, there is a lot of evidence that the group has pursued voter registration for the last four years but that there also have been complaints about practices that have led back to WVWV.  The reason we should be concerned about complaints is because of the negative impact of messing up voter registration efforts: in this most recent case with WVWV, the allegations are that the impact has been voter suppression related to Obama supporters, or at a minimum African-Americans.

But let’s be clear here: even without any intent whatsoever, no plan but just incompetence, if the result, the impact, is voter suppression, we absolutely must question, review and revise the methods used to achieve the end: getting more voters registered.  Why? Because of the high value we place on the foundation of our democracy: people’s participation in the government that is elected.

Based on what I’ve read, it seems as though WVWV is capable of this assessment and under the flame-throwing watchdog tendencies of the blogs, at a minimum, should be able to convene itself and correct itself.

But, regardless of whether it’s voter registration, torture or a work environment, the question of whether someone has broken the law should be absolutely mute if the impact of the actions is unacceptable. And when we see that, when blogs see that, that’s part of what we try to illuminate.

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 11:27 am May 3rd, 2008 in Blogging, Campaigning, Elections, Government, Law, Marc Dann, Ohio, Politics, Race, Scandal, Voting, Women | 1 Comment 

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Impact. Intent. Perception. Image.

When you are in law school, these words take on very specific meanings – they become terms of art in dissecting whether someone has “broken the law” or not. But we know that the legal determination doesn’t necessarily make whatever was done (or not done), acceptable. The determination merely reflects an assessment of behavior or circumstances based on legislation proposed by legislators and signed by a mayor or governor or president. Whether or not it represents what we actually believe is okay can be and often is very different.

One of my favorite BlogHers, Professor Kim Pearson, tweeted about an article written by Helen Thomas in which she quotes President Bush admitting that he approved of torture. His excuse? Because the law lets him.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann is twisting in the wind right now as a result of admitting to improprieties related to a romantic relationship with a subordinate and many other allegations now substantiated by an internal investigation of his office. But how many of you had a conversation before the report was released yesterday that involved one or more people saying, “But did he break the law?” as if that is all that matters in this instance.

But now let’s take something much closer to WLST: Women’s Voices Women’s Votes. I stopped updating this thread because there is just so much out there now about this organization. However, I want to link to two pieces posted yesterday.

The first was written by actor Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (an Obama supporter) and appears on The Huffington Post. She filmed and still supports and promotes WVWV’s efforts to register voters and to focus on unmarried women. Here’s her take:

The news reports [about WVWW] came about because there was evidence that an individual or a small group of individuals affiliated with WVWV may have issued misleading robo-calls in North Carolina designed to suppress voter turnout in African American neighborhoods. I find these activities appalling and hope WVWV will immediately disassociate themselves from such individuals and denounce such actions.

I am not affiliated with WVWV in any way other than participating in this PSA campaign, and I debated whether to ask WVWV to pull my PSA from their website. In the end, I realized the message of the PSA is more important than the actions of some its members. Every woman, 18 or older, should exercise their right to vote for the candidate and the issues they believe in. As women, we are a powerful voting block. But that does not mean we will automatically align with female candidates.

My spot was set in a replica of the Oval Office and entitled “Who Do You Want in Here?” This was meant as a legitimate question, not to serve as an endorsement for a particular candidate. The PSA was meant to inspire women to vote regardless of their party or their position. The PSA, like me, is not pro-Clinton, but rather pro-women. And yes, you can be both.

Well done expression. I know exactly how she feels.

Alex Koppelman (also an Obama supporter) of Salon.com’s War Room published this post yesterday. I encourage you to read the entire column but here’s one excerpt that highlights the blogosphere’s role:

Last Thursday and Friday, North Carolinians received the following message:

Hello. This is Lamont Williams. In the next few days, you will receive a voter-registration packet in the mail. All you need to do is fill it out, sign it, date and return your application. Then you will be able to vote and make your voice heard. Please return the voter-registration form when it arrives. Thank you.

In all, that robo-call was made 182,236 times. Those who received it would be justified in being very confused. First, at least some of them had already registered to vote. And second, the registration deadline for the state’s primary, which is on Tuesday, had already passed by the time the calls were made. Also, WVWV appears to have violated North Carolina law because it did not provide contact information in the message, or a way for recipients to decline future calls. WVWV is subject to civil penalties for the infraction.

Soon, the blogsphere was abuzz with accusations. But the coverage of the incidents was severely flawed, and people like Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall — who has written for Salon and is one of the blogosphere’s most respected residents — were lobbing criminal allegations against WVWV before all the facts were in. In fact, some had made these charges even before they knew who was behind the robo-calls. Writing about the calls on Marshall’s TPM Muckraker on Tuesday, before WVWV had been identified as the source of the calls, Paul Kiel said, “Here’s another for the annals of vote suppression.” Kiel further characterized the calls as a “scheme.”

The situation has become a classic Andre Agassi image is everything versus did they actually do anything illegal textbook example. Throw in the passion of this election cycle, the devotion of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supporters and you have what Booman Tribune aptly described as “a big mess.”

I wrote about how badly I feel that I didn’t know and very unlikely could have ever known, as well as whether I should have known. And my involvement was as minimal if not more minimal that Louis-Dreyfuss. I will also feel badly about the minimal role – because I don’t like being duped or feeling duped. Regardless of whether what WVWV did is illegal, the image of screwing up so badly is bad enough to warrant concern and apprehension. Condemnation to the tone of some? Well – if you feel it’s intentional voter suppression, support case and condemn. I cannot condemn anyone for feeling that way – I completely understand. And I am sorry.

I wrote Digby to tell her how perfect her post on this episode was. I didn’t ask for permission to re-publish what she wrote to me, but I will tell you that she was very comforting, reiterating how difficult it is to be a blogger and feel a responsibility to ourselves as well as a community. This reflection of hers which she shares with me demonstrates why there is a reason why, no matter what WVWV has been involved in, you can trust that Digby is our favorite female blogger, in reality, intent, image and perception.

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 9:06 am May 3rd, 2008 in Barack Obama, Blogging, Campaigning, Elections, Gender, Government, Law, Marc Dann, Ohio, Politics, Science, Voting, WH2008, Women | 2 Comments 

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