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« Stirfry

Political death from a thousand cuts

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


Published April 21, 2007

When Attorney General Marc Dann fired his "top cop" Rick Alli for double dipping receiving a paycheck from the state as well as the city of Youngstown the initial announcement Friday was made by his spokesman, Leo Jennings. But as the day progressed, Dann, who still maintains his home in Liberty Township, contacted reporters to explain the action.

It was a clear indication that the attorney general knows he has a huge political target on his back and that every misstep will become front page news because Republicans will make sure of that.

Dann, a Democrat who played a major role in his party's sweep of all but one of the statewide offices last year, was largly responsible for voters believing that the Republicans had corrupted government during their 16-year control of the executive branch.

His contention that the GOP had created a culture of pay-to-play struck a responsive chord with Ohioans. It was a given that he would become Republican enemy No. 1 in the state.

Thus, when the Columbus Dispatch broke the story a couple of weeks ago that Dann had accepted campaign contributions from manfacturers of Tic Tac fruit machines and other such devices that many believe are being used for illegal gambling, Republican bloggers went to town.

And when it was revealed by Dann that Alli, a veteran Youngstown officer, was still on the city payroll after he became a state employee, the GOP spinmeisters went into action.

If Dann and his advisers, led by Jennings, a former union official and political operative, thought this was a one-day story, they're mistaken. Reporters for Ohio's major newspapers smell blood and will be scrutinizing Dann's major appointments with a fine-toothed comb.

The only way the attorney general can prevent his political death from a thousand cuts is by vetting his appointees the way reporters would do and forming a believeable explanation for whatever skeletons may exist in their closets.

In the alternative, Dann may want to get rid of individuals who have the potential of dragging him down.

Whether he likes it or not, his coming from the Mahoning Valley automatically makes him suspect in the eys of statewide reporters. This is also true for Jennings.

If Dann does not get a handle on this situation, it will be a very long four years and whatever good he does will be overshadowed by the cut, after cut, after cut from the press and his political enemies.

To his credit, Dann showed in the Alli case that he is not afraid of making tough decisions to preserve his credibility. He will continue to be tested.


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