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Congo, Ohio 

Republicans offer another Friends & Family tax break.

Ohio House Republicans went on a retreat recently, and while attendees won't say what animals they sacrificed -- we're guessing bunnies and Sunday-school students -- lawmakers have identified their top priority: the estate tax.

Ohio's "death tax," as they call it -- payable by cash, credit, or Pabst tallboys -- affects estates of more than $338,000. Eighty percent of the revenue goes to local governments like Cleveland, which pockets around $4 million a year. The rest -- about $60 million a year -- goes to the state's new investment in Steve Irwin bobbleheads.

Republicans say the tax gives middle- and upper-class residents yet another reason to flee Ohio for places like Florida, which has no estate tax and "way hotter chicks," according to the brochures.

"We want these people to stay," says Representative Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green). "Folks are going to say, 'We can't afford to stay here.'"

But Governor Ted Strickland, a huge fan of Pabst tallboys, believes reducing the tax would rob the state of valuable revenue it can't afford to lose. That would make the state even poorer, basically turning it into a slightly colder version of the Congo. (In a recent Scene/MSNBC poll, most experts agreed the Congo "more or less sucks," except for its reasonably priced cat meat.)

As for people fleeing the state, Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey tells Punch that only 7,000 estates were taxed last year, and most of those people aren't that fun to party with anyway.

"Middle- and working-class Ohioans already bear the brunt of the tax burden," Dailey says. "If anyone is deserving of tax breaks, it's them. Not the wealthiest."

Jane's addiction
Former Mayor Jane Campbell has now offered excuse #467 as to why she lost her reelection bid.

Testifying before the Washington, D.C. City Council, which is considering a takeover of the city's ailing school system, Campbell blamed former Cleveland schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett for Campbell's loss to Frank Jackson.

"One of the issues was that the schools weren't improving as fast as they should," she told the council.

Make no mistake: Byrd-Bennett makes a fabulous scapegoat. If competence were a shiny new Cadillac, she'd be riding to work on a skateboard. But blaming her for losing the election is like the president blaming the soldiers for why he sucks at war.

This, after all, is Jane Campbell, a mayor so disliked she actually made Frank Jackson look appealing (though refs are now reviewing the play in the booth upstairs).

Yet Campbell is still fighting a nasty case of denial. Last year, she told students at Harvard -- where she'd been hired to teach a course in How to Suck at Mayor While Maintaining Fabulous Hair -- that the real reason she lost was race. Essentially, she was blaming God for not making her half-black.

Reached by prayer, God said that while he wishes he could take credit for her defeat, Campbell blew so much that he didn't need to intervene.

The fake purse dealer
You knew something was up when Mom traded in her $9.99 TJ Maxx purse for Prada, Fendi, Gucci, and Louis. But Mom's supply is about to run dry. Cathy DeMeio, one of small-town Ohio's largest dealers in knockoff women's accessories, has left the building.

It all started in November, when Uniontown police, prompted by a tip, sent an undercover cop into Cathy's Closet, DeMeio's Hartville store. "It was interesting," Officer Dan Allais says. "There were no signs, and you had to be a member to buy anything."

The agent filled out a membership form, bought a couple Kate Spades, and left. After verifying that the goods were fake, police pulled over DeMeio's car as some of her employees were headed to a purse party.

Subsequent searches of home and office revealed an impressive operation. "We literally confiscated thousands of purses, Rolex watches, and costume jewelry," Allais says. "It was over $1 million in property. She made a lot of money. I mean, she took everything from cash and checks to Visa and MasterCard -- probably American Express too."

Yet DeMeio, ever the gracious host, still helped the cops load her illicit wares. "It was odd," Allais says. "If someone took down my $1-million-a-year operation, I would be uptight about it. But she was calm, cool, and collected. She knew she'd been had, but she didn't appear upset."

Last week, DeMeio was indicted on two counts of trademark counterfeiting. (Apparently ripping off designers who have their stuff made by 13-year-old Asian girls is technically a crime.) Her lawyer, Don Malarcik, did not return Scene's calls.

Allais is keeping a low profile as well, knowing he has a gang of angry housewives to deal with.

No sex in this city
For all those who were wondering, Jen Schefft of Bachelorette fame is totally OK with being single. Kind of.

While it's difficult to be the ninth wheel at dinner parties, to watch all her friends have babies, and to not be invited out on couples' nights, she really is happy. Really.

At Schefft's recent Joseph-Beth book- signing, the crowd of Bachelor lovers wanted to believe her. "Isn't it true that Andrew [her first suitor] was cheap?" they asked. "Don't you feel you were used by the show?" "What girl do you think would have been better suited for Andrew?"

No, Andrew was not cheap, Schefft responded.

No, she did not feel used by the show. She was only 26 at the time and feeling desperate romantically. Her only regret: She and Andrew never had a chance to be a "normal couple" -- what with all the cameras and everything.

Also, Andrew didn't understand why she was so morose about moving to California and leaving behind her friends. "Yes," he told her, "it's tough to leave everything, but look at all you're getting in return." ("Jerk," a few audience members mumbled.)

But not everyone was a Jen supporter. A few just came for the free massages and chocolate.

"Personally," said one attendee, "I think Jen was a fool."

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