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The Odd Couple 

Gay-bashing Blackwell hires homo to chair his campaign.

Ken Blackwell has long gay-bashed for God, contending that homos resort to acts beneath even farm animals -- such as same-sex sex and really good interior-decorating. So it's curious that he recently tapped Summit County Republican chairman Alex Arshinkoff to co-chair his gubernatorial campaign.

Arshinkoff has a history of frequenting leather clubs and propositioning young men ["The Godfather in the Closet," June 11, 2003]. Despite Arshinkoff's obvious inferiority to cattle, Blackwell nonetheless decided to jump into bed with one of the GOP's most formidable fund-raisers, proving that Blackwell's "strong" Christian convictions carry less currency than cash.

Presumably Blackwell can now sympathize with what it's like to be a male prostitute. Or maybe he's just sending out the message that there's nothing wrong with being queer -- so long as you keep it in the closet.

No-bid whoring
Most state agencies try to hide the bribery involved in doling out public contracts. After all, there's a law barring agencies from awarding no-bid contracts to people who donate more than $1,000 to the official making the decision. But everyone knows that he who gives -- and gives big -- is suddenly the most qualified to do the state's business. The goal is not to be too obvious.

Yet the Ohio School Facilities Commission -- composed of Governor Taft's appointees, who hand out billions of dollars to build new schools -- doesn't even have to pretend. The law doesn't apply to it, according to a recent opinion issued by Attorney General Jim Petro's office.

The commission kept the opinion secret until recently, when state Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) pressed for its release. Since Petro sells no-bid contracts like discount wings at happy hour, Fedor wondered whether he was tailoring the law to cover his own high-mileage ass.

"This . . . tells us that for the past nine years, the OSFC has not had any restraints or regulations over pay-to-play contracting whatsoever," Fedor says.

Once the secret was out, the Commission quickly passed new rules limiting the donations contractors could make. But that doesn't erase a decade of legalized bribery.

"There is literally no telling how deep the corruption runs," says Fedor.

Partying like Russkies
With Ohio's economy and government doing a fine impression of the Soviet Union circa 1980, is it any wonder we're drinking like Russians too?

Last year, Ohioans spent a record $611.5 million on liquor, beating the old state record by $41 million, according to the Division of Liquor Control. And like the Russians, we don't have the taste -- or the money -- to go top-shelf. Ohio's best-selling liquor: Kamchatka Vodka (we can't pronounce it either), retailing at a priced-to-move $7.75 a bottle. It also comes in a durable plastic container for when you fall down drunk.

Take it off!
Those guys who hate Christmas are on another crusade, this time to prevent innocent kids from being strip-searched. The ACLU filed suit in federal court last week on behalf of eight students at the Vern Riffe Career Technology Center, who were given the Abu Ghraib treatment on January 20.

It began when two students reported $60 in cash, two gift cards, and a credit card missing.

So a group of teenage girls at the Piketon school were forced to empty their pockets, purses, and lockers. When that didn't turn up anything except Tiger Beat photos of Clay Aiken, the girls had to unhook their bras and pull down their pants to prove they weren't hiding the swag in their underwear.

The credit card later turned up in the car of the student who reported the theft. Too bad nobody thought to strip-search the Ford Festiva.

Inside the racket
A few weeks ago, this rag unveiled the scam of "spot delivery," in which dealers allow you to drive away in a new car thinking your financing is final, only to call days or even months later to kindly inform you that you'll have to either return the car or cough up hundreds, possibly thousands more to keep it ["Strings Attached," January 25].

After the story appeared, one longtime salesman called to elaborate on the scam, which he says targets working stiffs.

"The little guy ends up, for lack of a better word, getting screwed," he says. "It's almost a prejudiced outlook toward the less financially able consumers. When you get into the higher end of things, you get people who won't put up with the bullshit. [Salespeople] feel their client is more inclined to notice the fine print."

He should know. He began selling used Hondas just out of high school, then worked his way up the dealership pecking order. He now secures rare imports for well-heeled buyers, and doesn't want his name used for fear of offending clients.

Spot delivery gets more vehicles out the door, where they're likely to stay, he says, even if the deal was made under false pretenses. And it brings some nice perks to unscrupulous dealerships.

"The spot delivery is a way to guarantee your financing spiffs," he says. For salespeople, "spiffs" come in the form of cash, while finance managers receive catalogs from lenders, allowing them to pick out high-end watches, clothing, and furniture as a thank-you for sending them business.

"It's a good-old-boy thing," he says.

Greek to him
LeBron James was the first basketball player to sign up for the 2008 Olympics, which may bolster Team U.S.A.'s chances of beating Albania this time. But a less-known, more rootable local is being courted for international play -- and he probably wouldn't charge you 50 bucks to attend his birthday party.

Kosta Koufos, a junior center at Canton's GlenOak High, is being pursued by the Greek National Team. Born and raised in Canton, Koufos stands 7 foot 1 and weighs 240 pounds. Coaches from every top college in the country have been drooling on the GlenOak bleachers all season. But Koufos, currently sidelined with a broken foot, hasn't ruled out Greece.

"An Olympic team? Right now, I'm just 16 years old," he says, thrilled at the notion of playing for his mother's homeland. "It's just a dream."

Koufos does know where he won't be after GlenOak: the NBA. After LeBron made the leap straight to the pros, the league outlawed the practice. "If the NBA didn't change its rules, we'd have NBA scouts in here," says GlenOak athletic director Todd Sutton. "He's what they go to Europe to look for."

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