John Kerry, George Bush, and their assorted yes-men have been promising to improve the lives of Clevelanders. But while factories close and wages sink, only one select group seems to be benefiting from their blather: TV-station owners.
According to advertising logs, WKYC Channel 3 has proved the biggest winner in the presidential sweepstakes. The Kerry/Edwards campaign has thus far blown $1,249,375 with the station, while Bush/Cheney has spent $915,575. The cheapest ads, on the morning talk show Living It Up! With Ali and Jack, cost just $200 apiece. The most expensive ad was bought by Kerry, who paid $5,000 for a single spot during a NASCAR race.
Over at Channel 5, Kerry has spent $874,817, while Bush has blown $691,740. "They're playing a lot on all our news shows," says Paul Crow, who manages advertising traffic. "After that, it's Oprah, Wheel [of Fortune] and Jeopardy! Jeopardy! is just killing right now."
Channel 19 was the only station in town where Bush outspent Kerry, $365,555 to $287,040, perhaps because Republicans are as popular here as Jews are in Syria. But even lowly WUAB is milking the cash cow, raking in $33,800 from Bush and $61,325 from Kerry.
These numbers don't include all the money from independent groups like MoveOn.org and the Media Fund, which are throwing millions at bashing Bush. When those groups are factored in, the presidential campaign has brought Cleveland TV owners $6.8 million so far. The best part: The gravy train will only pick up speed over the next three months.
PETA has declared war on Colonel Sanders, and the battle has come to Cleveland.
On August 6, KFC's Live and Cookin' Caravan will pull into the African American Family Picnic at Luke Easter Park. It's one stop on a 12-city tour, as KFC searches for the best new side dish to add to its menu. But PETA will be waiting for the Colonel, and those vegans fight dirty.
"We're protesting everywhere it stops," says PETA's Dan Shannon, and he gets as excited as a rooster in a henhouse when he explains what happens to chickens before they get rolled in 12 herbs and spices -- i.e. live scalding, painful debeaking, etc.
Shannon is also miffed at what he sees as KFC's subtly racist targeting of blacks. "There's no bones about it," says Shannon. "They're pursuing the African American market. Their CEO mentioned it in a conference call I listened in on. Most of these stops [the Caravan] makes are at African American festivals."
KFC spokeswoman Bonnie Warschauer is used to having her feathers ruffled. "What PETA really wants [editor's note: gasp!] is a vegetarian world," she writes. "We want PETA to know that their corporate terrorist activities won't be tolerated."
Shannon's most recent terrorist act would have been a giant billboard of Pam Anderson on display for Cleveland commuter traffic. It shows Anderson next to the quote, "Boycott KFC." Shannon claims he was turned away by the conservative billboard companies in town.
Mike Matonis, a sales rep at Clear Channel Outdoor, has never heard of him, however. "I think if I had seen Pam Anderson come across my desk, I would remember it," he says.
Perhaps it would serve PETA well to find better spokespeople. Its list of supporters reads like a VH1 Where Are They Now? special, with the likes of Jason Alexander, Bea Arthur, and Richard Pryor, who Shannon optimistically notes is "very much not dead."
But PETA's campaigns have changed the way other fast-food eateries do business. McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's have complied with suggestions offered by Shannon and friends. Taco Bell could be more difficult. Since its meat is technically closer to particle board than beef, it might be difficult to drum up sympathy for abused wood shavings held together by glue.
Out of service
Being a judge and all, you'd think Nancy Russo would have a healthy respect for the subpoena process. But a top attorney says otherwise.
"In 27 years of civil-rights practice, I've never had a public official work so hard to avoid service," says Cincinnati lawyer Al Gerhardstein. "She's just working very hard not to tell me what she knows."
It all started with a political ambush. In 2002, Mark Miller -- who was running for Common Pleas judge against Russo -- left a fund-raiser at Massimo da Milano. Russo supporter Richard Summers apparently suspected Miller was tipsy. He alerted Cleveland Police Officer Jimmy Simone as well as Channel 19 and The Plain Dealer. Simone pulled Miller over in Westlake -- nine miles outside his jurisdiction -- and arrested him for allegedly driving drunk. It was a great moment of wholesome politics, Cleveland style.
Miller challenged the charge and won, but the scandal tainted his bid for the bench, and Russo was reelected.
So Miller filed a lawsuit, claiming that he was set up. Now Gerhardstein is trying to subpoena Russo to see what she knows about the plot. Yet Russo has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid being served with a subpoena, Gerhardstein says.
A process server went to Russo's home twice. In one case, Russo ripped up the subpoena and left it on the front lawn, Gerhardstein says. Another time, someone else at her house did the same thing. So Gerhardstein went to the judge's chambers and dropped off the subpoena himself. As he was leaving, he says, a sheriff's deputy came running up, grabbed his briefcase, and tried to stuff the subpoena back in.
"You can't do that," Gerhardstein said. "I just left that with the judge."
The deputy said the judge didn't want it, Gerhardstein says. A tussle over the briefcase ensued, and Gerhardstein was handcuffed and charged with disorderly conduct. "I think it's outrageous, and I will fight it until the end," he says.
Russo has a different version of events, though she won't say what they are. She's filed trespassing and theft-of-mail complaints in relation to the incidents at her home and adamantly denies that she is trying to avoid being served. "I would never do that," she says. "It's the manner in which this has been done. The result is, I have had no choice but to file complaints."
Maybe so, but there's no way she'd buy that excuse if it were used in her courtroom.
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