[Editor's warning: This story contains graphic content. Video NSFW]
An Ohio teenager wearing a T-shirt with "killer" scrawled on it gave a profane statement and made an obscene gesture in court as he was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Tuesday for killing three students in a school shooting rampage last year.
T.J. Lane, 18, had pleaded guilty last month to shooting at students in February 2012 at Chardon High School, east of Cleveland. Investigators have said he admitted to the shooting but said he didn't know why he did it.
Three students -- Demetrius Hewlin, 16; Russell King Jr., 17; and Daniel Parmertor, 16 -- were killed last February. Nate Mueller and Joy Rickers were wounded, as was Nick Walczak, who is paralyzed from the waist down, according to Reuters.
The families of the boys who died in the shooting have attended every one of Lane’s court hearings, The Plain Dealer said. Other victims' family members also attended Tuesday's sentencing, and read statements to the court ahead of Lane's sentencing.
Parmertor's mother, Dina Parmertor, was among family members who spoke after Lane's statement and before Fuhry sentenced him.
"I hope you have a cold, rough, unkind, harsh prison life with monsters like yourself," Dina Parmertor said. "I want you to endure years and years of pain, and abuse, which is in my opinion not harsh enough."
Holly Walczak, who spoke while her son Nick Walczak looked on from a wheelchair, told Lane he was lucky there were so many police in the courtroom.
"You are evil," Walczak said. "I will have to eventually forgive you. You will never be in my thoughts again."
Lane responded to the grieving families with two brutal sentences: "The hand that pulls the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory. F**k all of you." He then gave them the finger, according to NBC News.
Fuhry said Lane lacked remorse and examinations showed he had feigned mental illness. A bright student set to graduate from high school early, Lane instead long planned, prepared for, and then executed the attack, he said.
"This defendant has never shown any remorse and his actions today just confirmed what we have known all along," Geauga County prosecutor James Flaiz said at the sentencing.
The residents of what is likely to be the presidential election’s most critical swing state are already casting their votes. With a few days to go, 1.6 million people in the state have already voted for president. About a million of the votes cast have been absentee ballots, which are now at an 85 percent return rate for those mailed out. “Voting has gone smoothly in Ohio, and we expect that trend to continue through the close of the polls on Election Day,” Secretary of State Jon Husted said. A statewide poll released Saturday found Obama leading Romney by a significant six points in the Buckeye State.
The Democratic research super PAC American Bridge is going up with its first ads of the cycle, buying time in the Toledo area -- the Northwestern area of Ohio where the auto bailout has benefited President Obama -- to hit Mitt Romney with an ad based on the Monopoly board game.
The ad follows the game to hit Romney over the "let Detroit go bankrupt" headline, layoffs at Bain Capital, and his policy plans, with voiceovers from the candidate and some testimonials from Bain workers.
A dark money nonprofit group that has run more than $1 million in ads in the Ohio race for U.S. Senate told the IRS last year it did not plan to spend any money to influence elections when it applied for recognition of its tax-exempt status.
ProPublica first reported on the group, the Government Integrity Fund, after information from television station political ad files became available online (see our Free the Files project), showing extensive spending by the Fund.
The group's filings with the IRS illustrate how "social welfare" nonprofits, also known as 501(c)(4)s, are playing an aggressive role in this election, pouring tens of millions of dollars into races around the country, while taking advantage of the donor anonymity their tax status provides.
The Fund applied for IRS recognition last December and received the IRS' approval less than two months later.
Question 15 on the application asks, "Has the organization spent or does it plan to spend any money attempting to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any person to any Federal, state, or local public office or to an office in a political organization?"
Much hinges on this: Under the tax code, social welfare nonprofits may not have political campaign activity as their primary purpose, though exactly what that means is a subject of much debate.
Fund chairman Tom Norris, who signed the Fund's application, checked the "No" box on Question 15.
In a statement to ProPublica, the Fund said that "legally, the concept of ‘influencing elections' has been narrowly defined" and that "throughout its existence, [the Fund] has regularly consulted with experienced tax counsel to ensure it is in full compliance with the federal tax laws." (See the full statement.) Norris, a Columbus lobbyist, did not respond to calls.
Ads paid for by the Fund, which ran through the summer, praised Republican Josh Mandel and attacked Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. One spot features Mandel telling a veterans group, "I think this campaign is all about the past versus the future." A voiceover chimes in: "Josh Mandel served our country with two tours in Iraq. Now he's fighting for taxpayers, fighting for our future."
There are several reasons groups may prefer answering "No" to Question 15. Those answering "Yes" are instructed to explain in detail and list the amounts to be spent, which can lead to scrutiny that slows down the IRS approval process, tax experts say.
"Checking yes is a yellow flag for the IRS, which likely would cause the IRS to refer the application to an agent for consideration and follow-up questions," said Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, an expert in nonprofit tax law at the University of Notre Dame law school. "There could be donors saying, ‘I'm not comfortable giving to you until I know you are a 501(c)(4) and my identity is protected. So I want that IRS [approval] letter.'"
The Fund's IRS application did provide other clues about its intentions. In one section of the form, the Fund said its budget for 2011 was $78,000. It then projected a budget of $6.7 million for 2012, an election year, before going back down to $50,000 for 2013, a nonelection year.
Mayer said the IRS typically wouldn't scrutinize a group's spending until it files a tax return — and in the case of the Fund, the return covering 2012 could be filed as late as November 2013. If the IRS found that the Fund was improperly taking advantage of its status as a social welfare group, it could impose a fine and make the group operate as a political organization that does have to report donors.
The group's application for IRS recognition was signed under penalty of perjury, but Mayer said it was rare for the agency to pursue charges against an applicant for lying.
The IRS did not respond to a request for comment.
The Fund's application for tax-exempt status also sheds a bit more light on who is running the group. It names four men as board members, including Norris. Another of the board members, Jeffrey L. Dean, referred questions to Jonathan Petrea, who was campaign manager and district director for Mandel when he ran for the state legislature.
Petrea told ProPublica he had no official role in the Fund, but helped Norris find potential board members.
"I was just doing a guy a favor by putting him in touch with people who might be interested," Petrea said.
Norris and the Mandel campaign did not respond to questions about Petrea's relationship to the Fund or the candidate.
Petrea was also previously Ohio grassroots director for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative 501(c)(4) backed by the Koch brothers, and has recently done work for Energy Citizens, a group advocating oil and gas development.
The Fund's ads have been off the air since Sept. 6, according to the Brown campaign. (After that date, certain types of ad spending had to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.)
The group's attorney, William Todd, said he doesn't know about its plans "for future education efforts."
Update: It seems the Politico report that this "Stench" nick-name originated from was, indeed, satire. I thought it was funny, but apparently it was supposed to be. So...nevermind.
With 41 days left until election day, according to this Politico piece, Paul Ryan has already bailed out on Team Romney:
Though Ryan had already decided to distance himself from the floundering Romney campaign, he now feels totally uninhibited. Reportedly, he has been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, “If Stench calls, take a message” and “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.”
Can you believe that in a Romney *cough* administration this cry baby would be one car elevator accident away from running the country?
As Lawrence O'Donnell points out, no candidate has ever won a presidential election without winning the state of Ohio. Mitt Romney is trailing Obama in polls by 8 points in Ohio, and in a local poll in Toledo, Ohio (Lucas County) where both candidates are campaigning today, Obama leads 63.5 percent to 26.6 percent, with 10 percent undecided.
In May, a previously unknown group started pouring money into Ohio's U.S. Senate race, considered one of the most important in the country and currently the nation's most expensive. The group, the Government Integrity Fund, has spent over $1 million so far on TV ads bashing Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown and praising his Republican opponent, Josh Mandel.
Like many other such non-profit groups that are playing a dominant role in this year's elections, the Government Integrity Fund is shrouded in mystery. It isn't required to reveal donors, nor has it answered questions about who runs the group. The Fund's barebones website lists no contact information beyond a P.O. Box.
The only name listed on incorporation papers for the group is a Columbus lawyer, William Todd, who told ProPublica, "I really have no role in their affairs." (In June, Todd also declined to respond to questions from a Huffington Post reporter, citing attorney-client privilege.)
But previously unreported documents filed with an Ohio television station pull back the curtain a bit: the Government Integrity Fund is run by a state lobbyist who in turn employs a former top Mandel staffer.
The lobbyist, Tom Norris, is listed as the Government Integrity Fund's chairman and treasurer. Norris owns an Ohio lobbying firm, Cap Square Solutions, and last year hired a top Mandel aide, Joel Riter, to work at the firm.
Riter's role in the Government Integrity Fund, if any, is not clear. The former Mandel aide declined to say whether he is involved with the group that is chaired by his current boss and running ads in support of his former boss.
"I can't talk to you about this," he told ProPublica. "I'm not going to comment on any kind of involvement I have with anyone."
Norris did not respond to requests for comment, nor did the Mandel campaign.
The documents identifying Norris as the chairman of the Fund are public because of a Federal Communications Commission rule requiring TV stations to keep detailed records about political advertisers. The files can be valuable, offering a look at exactly who is spending and how much. Until recently, the documents were only available by physically traveling to stations. ProPublica's Free the Files project has spotlighted the issue and this summer the FCC passed a rule requiring the stations in the nation's top markets to upload the files to agovernment website.
The documents were filed with a Cincinnati NBC affiliate, WLWT, one of the stations the group has been advertising on. Here is a Fund ad that attacks Senator Brown for purportedly turning his back on his younger, more honorable self. "Young Sherrod Brown was independent of Wall Street," the announcer says. "Today Sherrod Brown takes big money from those same corporate interests."
The Associated Press reported last month that outside groups have spent $15 million supporting Mandel compared to about $3 million on the Democratic side.
We still don't know who is putting up the money for the Government Integrity Fund's ads because the group is a non-profit "social welfare" group, which don't have to release donor information or register with the Federal Election Commission. Such groups are supposed to be "primarily" engaged in promoting social welfare but they have been flooding the airwaves with political ads in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United case and decisions by regulatory decisions.
Besides identifying Norris as the chairman of the group, the form filed with the TV station shows that the Government Integrity Fund has an office at 208 East State Street, a few blocks from the state house in Columbus. Riter, the former Mandel aide, also has an office in the building.
Asked about his office at 208 East State Street, Riter said: "Whatever office Government Integrity Fund has is not mine."
Outside groups are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns, but it is common for politicians' former aides to be involved with such groups.
Riter first worked as an aide to Mandel during the candidate's stint in the Ohio legislature. Riter then became field director for Mandel's campaign for state treasurer, joining the treasurer's office as constituent and executive agency liaison after Mandel won the race. Riter left his state job in the treasurer's office after six months to become a lobbyist at Cap Square in 2011. According to state records, the firm lobbies for a range of interests, including the Ohio Ready Mixed Concrete Association and medical device companies.
Riter was featured in a Dayton Daily News article earlier this year investigating Mandel's practice of hiring former campaign workers for state jobs. (That piece led a Democratic legislator to file an ethics complaint against Riter, who has contested the charges.)
The Fund was created in May 2011 and an affiliated super PAC, the Government Integrity Fund Action Network, registered with the Federal Election Commission two months later.
The super PAC, which does have to report its donors, has not been active and raised just $10,500 through the end of June, all but $500 from New York financier and benefactor of conservative causes Roger Hertog. Hertog also gave $5,000 directly to Mandel's campaign last year. Hertog declined to comment.
Brown campaign spokesman Justin Barasky said that the Government Integrity Fund is the fourth largest outside group on the Republican side in Ohio, behind such national outfits as the Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS. "We don't know anything else about them," he said. "They are the only secretly funded group that is based here."
Mitt Romney is going to have some unwanted company on his upcoming bus tour across several swing states.
The Democratic National Committee announced on Thursday that it will stage its own four-day bus tour alongside the Romney campaign’s trip through Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio. The tour, called “Romney Economics: The Middle Class Under the Bus Tour,” will begin on Friday with a news conference in Alexandria, Virginia.
Organizers said they will highlight Mitt Romney’s record of failure as Governor of Massachusetts, the lack of support small businesses received from Governor Romney’s Administration and Romney’s proposed tax hike on middle-class families to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The DNC’s latest tour represents a reprise of the successful tour by the same name that the DNC conducted in June to respond to Mitt Romney’s tour at the time, which included stops in NH, PA, OH, IA, WI and MI.
“Throughout Mitt Romney’s career, middle-class families have frequently found themselves thrown under the bus as a result of his failed record and top-down economic policies,” the committee said in a news release. "When Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, the number of business start-ups fell by 10 percent and hit its lowest point during his last year in office. Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 in job creation, and Romney hiked taxes and fees by $750 million a year in addition to saddling the Commonwealth with the highest debt per person in the country."
The committee further stated that "Policies Mitt Romney has embraced as a candidate would only further erode middle-class security. Mitt Romney would hike taxes on the middle class to pay for massive tax cuts for wealthy Americans like Romney. Independent economists found that Romney’s plan would raise taxes on the average middle-class family with children by $2,000 in order to give hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires."
They also hammered Romney for favoring a tax plan that benefits millionaires and billionaires like himself while raising taxes on the middle class, as he continues to refuse to release more of his own tax returns. The DNC tour organizers insist that "Americans have a right to learn more about why Romney had a Swiss Bank Account, how low a tax rate he has paid and if he even paid taxes at all some years, and what his finances looked like while he was outsourcing jobs, offshoring his own money and laying off workers in the private sector."
Speakers on the tour include Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the committee, Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor and Chet Culver, a former governor of Iowa. Two state representatives from Massachusetts will speak at the opening news conference: Kathi-Anne Reinstein and David Linsky, both long-serving Democrats.
The Romney campaign announced its bus tour earlier this week, leading to speculation on what the itinerary might say about his pick for vice president. The final stop is in Ohio, the home state of the rumored front-runner, Senator Rob Portman.
The side of the committee’s bus features tire tracks over the words “Middle Class” and the slogan: “Romney Economics: Outsourcing, Offshoring, Out of Touch.”
More from House Speaker John Boehner's appearance on Face the Nation earlier Sunday: CBS Chief White House correspondent Nora O'Donnell asked the GOP Speaker of the House John Boehner, "What about pre-existing conditions? What about the millions of Americans that have pre-existing conditions and are discriminated against?"
"We believe that the way it is done within Obamacare is pushing the cost of health insurance for all Americans much too high," Boehner explains. "We believe that the state high-risk pools are a much more effective way to make sure that those with pre-existing have access to affordable health insurance."
"Access" to affordable health insurance," O'Donnell repeats, "You're not saying that you would be for a law that would prevent discrimination against those individuals?"
"No," states Boehner flatly, "We just believe there's a better way to make sure that they have affordable access to quality health insurance."
"So, when you repeal this (Affordable Care Act), what are you going to replace it with?" O'Donnell queries.
And with a twinkle in his eyes, Boehner responds "I just started pointing it out."