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Blind Man Squawking 

Voinovich swings at Kerry from the safety of FirstEnergy's pocket.

Former Cleveland Mayor and Senator-for-Life George Voinovich recently had some tough words for John Kerry. In a press release, Voinovich accused Kerry of trying to eliminate coal as an energy resource, "causing a spike in electricity costs for Ohio businesses."

The reasoning was a tad circuitous. Kerry never said he wanted to eliminate coal, Voinovich staffers admit. But over his two decades in Congress, Kerry voted for more stringent pollution controls at coal plants. Those restrictions "would force us to rely on natural gas," says Phil Park, a spokesman for Voinovich. "Natural gas prices tend to fluctuate greatly. That just doesn't help Ohio's manufacturers right now."

While that may be true, it conveniently ignores the fact that Northeast Ohioans already pay some of the highest rates in the country -- and double what they pay in southern Ohio -- due to FirstEnergy's sweetheart deal with the state. But you won't hear about any of this from Voinovich, who long ago took up residence in FirstEnergy's pocket.

During the 2003-04 election cycle, FirstEnergy gave the senator $18,500. Overall, utilities chipped in $263,437 to Voinovich's campaign. It's been more than enough to buy his silence.

But since Voinovich is suddenly concerned about electricity prices, surely he'll lead the fight against FirstEnergy's latest plot, in which it's asked the Public Utilities Commission for another $3 billion in welfare, which will be tacked on to consumers' bills. "I don't know," Park says. "I haven't heard anything about that."

Fighting for you!
Speaking of good government . . . Back in the halcyon days of the Clinton era, the U.S. EPA developed new rules to clamp down on ground-level ozone, a colorless pollutant that causes more lung damage than sitting through an R.J. Reynolds board meeting. But the rules scared the Ohio EPA witless. That's because our state's dinosaur coal-fired power plants put out tons of pollution every year. And the owners of those plants, including FirstEnergy and American Electric Power, keep the Ohio EPA on a very short leash.

So in 1997, the state sued the federal agency. The case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled it a draw: Ohio must conform to tighter pollution restrictions, the supremes said, but the U.S. EPA was ordered to give states more flexibility.

Eight years later, Ohio is no closer to reducing pollution. The state recently landed back among the leaders for the worst air quality in the nation. Thirty-three counties, including Cuyahoga, do not meet the new ozone restrictions. Fact is, our air is even dirtier today than it was in 2000.

So what does the state do? It sues the federal EPA again. "We're just looking for the flexibility to choose the controls that we feel are best for Ohio," says spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer.

She makes a valid point. After all, look where flexibility has gotten us so far.

They just can't quit
You gotta know when to fold 'em, goes the old saying. But that time has yet to come for the Moneypenny gambling gang, felony indictments or not.

Mike Moneypenny of Rittman stands accused of skimming millions from the "Vegas Night" fund-raisers he held for area charities ("The House Folds," February 4). The charges could bring a decade-plus in prison.

But if the accused is running scared, he doesn't show it. Witnesses say that Moneypenny is a regular at weekend games in Akron and that he threw his chips into a June 12 Texas Hold 'Em tournament in Copley.

Yet it's somewhat hard to go unnoticed when the games keeps getting robbed. The Copley game was held up at gunpoint on June 13. On the witness list is none other than Alecia Moneypenny, daughter of the kingpin. She'd been dealing at the game, the same crime for which she copped a plea as a co-defendant in the case against her father.

Shirley Artymovich, a former Moneypenny dealer nicknamed "the Gambling Grandma," was also spotted in a conspicuous place: the front page of The Plain Dealer. She was working behind the counter at the Akron game when it was robbed. A security guard killed the would-be thief.

Not that the Gambling Grandma is a likely candidate for rehabilitation. She has three misdemeanor convictions for gambling -- you're supposed to get a felony after the second. Yet she's hoping for another misdemeanor on her most recent charge; she too was indicted this winter with the Moneypenny crew.

None of this would seem to endear the Moneypennys to the man who holds their fate: Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Thomas Pokorny. Then again, the crew may be betting on good odds in the case. When it comes to throwing the book at those before him, Pokorny is known for having a weak arm.

The spoiled spoiler
Dennis Kucinich rolled out his latest spin on his presidential campaign in an interview with the Washington political newspaper The Hill. Denny's new take: He's not on a national quest for ego feed. He's selflessly protecting John Kerry's left flank from fellow nutbag Ralph Nader.

"It's important that Democrats know that there are people, leading spokespersons in the party, for peace, for civil liberties, for health care, fair trade . . . so that they can't say, 'The Democrats don't represent me,'" he told The Hill. "Isn't it much better to have [liberal ideas] expressed through the person of another Democrat than to have it expressed through the person of a third-party candidate?"

The funny part is that Kucinich believes himself a "leading spokesperson" for the party. The not-so-funny part is that he's burned through hundreds of millions in federal tax dollars to allegedly neutralize the feeble Nader, which Tonya Harding would have done for 50 bucks and a case of Natural Light.

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