When Scene sat down with Marc Dann shortly after he slapped around Auditor Betty Montgomery to become Ohio's attorney general, he'd eased off the Molotov-cocktail attacks on the Republican cartel in favor of guarded euphemisms ["Imagine . . ." December 13, 2006]. No matter how much we wanted to trust him, we still found ourselves checking our wallets on the way out. As we've long learned here in Cleveland, Democrats aren't much better than Republicans. They're just not smart enough to steal as much.
But it seems Dann was just playing it cool. In just three months in office, the former divorce lawyer has burned more shoe leather than Jim Petro did in his four years (or more accurately, his 45,893 rounds of golf). Meanwhile, white-collar crooks also report corruption is now way harder to pull off than it was under Montgomery's tenure. Yang's Chinese Restaurant further reports that orders from the AG's office for "everything on the menu in a big plastic bucket" have dropped off sharply.
In his first 100 days, Dann took an ax to former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's harem of Republican special-counsel attorneys, firing nine of them. A few weeks later, he announced he would hire a staff of lawyers and investigators to prosecute predatory lenders, and put them where the need is greatest: right here in Cleveland.
Last week, Dann took on insurance behemoth Marsh and McLennan, suing the firm to turn over files in a rate-inflation-fraud investigation. Just two days later, he announced he'd strong-armed Time Warner into a $175 million settlement to pay the state back for money it lost during the company's securities-fraud scandal.
Though such initiative is clearly outlawed by the Ohio Must Suck Act of '92, Dann appears unafraid to hit the heater. "As they get thrown over the plate, I'm gonna swing at 'em," he told Scene.
Unfortunately for us, we'll have to cancel our new series of Laziest Man in Law Enforcement jokes.
The unstoppable elf
While at least 16 lefties around the country waddle toward Congressman Dennis Kucinich's presidential campaign, smitten by his antiwar stance, the Federal Election Commission has proved again what Clevelanders knew all along: Kucinich's lone skill is holding press conferences starring Dennis Kucinich.
Remember his last campaign, when he blew $2.9 million in taxpayer money just to make himself a punch line on The Daily Show? Turns out Kucinich (D-Playland) was also putting on a clinic on how to violate federal election law.
An FEC audit shows that Kucinich kept spending taxpayer dollars long after he was ineligible to spend the cash. In the FEC's eyes, the congressman was eliminated from the race on March 4, 2004, after which he could use only private money. (Others believe Kucinich was eliminated in fifth grade, when doctors discovered he was an alien sent to earth to scare children and take up valuable space in Fourth of July parades.)
Despite being ineligible, Kucinich's ego, which has its own charge account at Dillard's, pressed on. He campaigned until July 29 -- the day Democrats picked John Kerry and finally shook Kucinich from their leg. In the meantime, he spent almost $2 million more -- almost $500,000 of which came from money that included federal funds. The feds can't say exactly how much extra taxpayer cheese the elf blew, but they've asked Kucinich to repay $135,515.
Kucinich also failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions and expenses, and failed to itemize another half-million dollars in contributions. The report officially makes Kucinich's run the least successful campaign since Punch's failed bid for treasurer of the Harbor Inn Dart Team, which we lost to a guy named Ron.
The campaign did not return multiple calls, but would presumably defend the congressman's decision to continue embarrassing himself. Though he earned only four votes, do you know how many of those little shampoos you can steal in five extra months on the campaign trail?
Adventures in banking
Erica Respress was a bright-eyed 28-year-old when she got her first job with National City in 2002. As assistant manager of a West Akron branch, she was charged with denying loans to people her parents' age, refusing to refund overdraft charges for struggling moms, and humiliating tellers in front of the customers.
But Respress had a Banana Republic card to pay off. So she decided to become more task-oriented.
From 2002 until 2005, she processed 11 fraudulent loans totaling $220,000, using the names of relatives -- including her own grandma. Yet the scheme proved unprofitable. She found herself using the funds merely to make payments on the loans, which isn't a very fun way to commit crime, now is it?
So she decided to also steal directly from her customers, giving her $800,000 to feed her shoe addiction.
But all good robberies must come to an end. On March 7, a federal grand jury indicted Respress on five criminal counts, including felonious stupidity.
Drunks & cinema
The theme for this year's Cleveland International Film Festival is "Confess" -- as in "Confess . . . that Adam Sandler is the best actor of his generation." But organizers can expect to hear some unlikely confessions, including "I love you, man" and "I'm soooo wasted."
The festival, which opens Thursday at Tower City, expects one of its biggest turnouts Saturday, when film geeks head downtown to see The Rape of Europa and discuss cinema verité's influence on the Real World/Road Rules Challenge.
But as your liver is well aware, Saturday is also St. Patrick's Day. That's when much of the West Side, along with some spare drunks from Solon, will descend on downtown to engage in a friendly jousting match with their vital organs. And there's a good chance some of these lads will get a hankering for a Quarter Pounder, available only at the Tower City food court. Cinema verité, meet Shamus O'Munchies.
Patrick Shepherd, the festival's associate director, says he doesn't expect the crowd to cause problems. The festival, which drew 50,000 people last year, has survived the drunken holiday before, he says, and has never had a problem with ticket sales or Quarter Pounder supply.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.