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The corruption that engulfed Cuyahoga County right up to its bathroom stalls was built on the time-honored tradition of quid pro quo, an ancient Swahili expression meaning "Don't forget to feed Jimmy."
It's that very logic that led to the downfall of politicians, businessmen, lackeys, and even a judge, each one of whom buttered the county's bread in hopes of a little gravy in return. But Bridget McCafferty blazed a refreshing new trail to her own demise.
In more than 10 years on the bench of Cuyahoga's Court of Common Pleas, McCafferty cultivated a reputation as something slightly less than a straight-faced arbiter of the law. In legal circles, she was widely regarded as a smiling, robed clown who had a knack for rendering verdicts that were reversed on appeal more often than they were upheld. A robed duck could have quacked more meaningful decisions, and without the $100 fund-raiser suppers.
Indeed, McCafferty would never even have been elected to the job, conventional wisdom at the justice center snack bar went, if she weren't so impossibly Irish.
"She is the dumbest legal person I have ever met," one attorney said of McCafferty in a Scene article that rated county judges back in 2003. "Once she gets into the courtroom, she has no idea what she's doing."
"A brain-dead political hack," another barrister raved.
But they clearly knew little of McCafferty's savvy away from the bench.
The judge joined colleague Steven Terry in breaking a lull in the county's corruption scandal when both were arrested by federal agents back in September 2010. Terry went down for rigging a foreclosure case for Frank Russo in exchange for campaign cash.
And McCafferty? She earned a 14-month vacation in lady prison for influencing cases to help out Russo, Dimora, and others. No money for Bridget, no free patios, no ponies for her niece in return: just the satisfaction of another job shittily done.
"This case has destroyed her career and shattered her life," McCafferty's lawyer said after the March verdict. "But it doesn't define her life."
And it sure doesn't shatter her one-way ticket to this year's Award for Corrupt Official Too Stupid to Get Anything for the Effort. Who's the brain-dead political hack now?
Our final honoree this year needs no introduction in these circles, though he could use a couple of orange crates to help see over the podium.
A near-perennial Modell honoree, Dennis Kucinich ammoed up for three years to make 2011 one to remember. It all started in January, when the congressional figurine finished contemplating a lackluster meal he had consumed in a federal cafeteria back in April 2008. The repast in question — an olive pita wrap, hold the steak — was served with a rogue olive pit tucked inside. His rage simmering for years afterward, Dennis! considered his numerous options: suing the government that houses the cafeteria. Suing God for inventing olives. Perhaps a month of yoga with his pals from Jupiter, followed by a lawsuit against somebody.
But the righteous score was a $150,000 suit against the company that runs the cafeteria — a suit Dennis! filed on account of his "loss of enjoyment," among other things. He later dropped the suit after being advised that nobody much cared to read about his dental work anymore.
Besides, there were greater battles to be waged on behalf of his home state. Most notably: the battle to gallantly flee that home state in favor of one that's more embracing of nutjobs with plastic hair. Coincidentally, congressional leaders were starting to look serious about slicing up Ohio's district map, which meant Dennis! might be forced to — gasp! — fight for his job against the rare opponent more formidable than a bowl of probiotic yogurt.
Yes, Dennis! could actually lose. And how have all of history's great leaders responded in that moment when their power has been challenged? Why, they have promised to take their talents to Washington state — a decision Dennis! arrived at based on the fact that nobody had specifically told him not to go there.
"I intend to stay in Congress," he said quite a number of times, including occasionally in response to people who actually asked him about it. "I just don't know where my district will be." A spokesperson! confirmed that he's been courted by 20 states, though it is unclear whether those states were seeking a lawmaker or an ornament for their congressional gardens.
Then, in a shocking move that shocked no one, Dennis! filed for candidacy in Ohio during the last week of 2011. Yes, an entire year of what looked very much like disingenuous posturing turned out to be ... disingenuous posturing! And nobody does it like Dennis!
For his noble treatise on the unsung value of frivolous litigation in the face of vengeful olive pits, and for his dutiful service to his home state for so long as it's convenient, we present Dennis! Kucinich with this year's Forty Years and the Sons of Bitches Are Still Buying This Bullshit Award.
Thank you for joining us, everybody. Don't forget to tip your strippers, and yes, they can make change for your dollar bills. In the unlikely event you should find your car where you parked it, remember that replacement hub caps can be procured at Kash's Auto & Salvage over on Woodland. See you next year!