CLEVELAND, OH – On January 4, 2022, Dennis John Kucinich filed a “complaint” with a jury demand against the owners of Russian-owned Advance Communications and its employees Chris Quinn, John Caniglia and Seth Richardson. The filing number is CV 22 957922.
Local Rule 8.0(B) of Cuyahoga County’s rules of practice required Kucinich’s attorneys, Aaron Minc and Andrew Stebbins, to “state in the caption the general nature of the action.” The complaint they filed for Kucinich does not state either in the caption or preamble that the action is for defamation, libel and or slander.
The local rule continues that, “The Clerk is authorized to refuse to accept for filing any case that does not contain a Case Designation Form indicating the category of the cause and any related cases, pending or closed, or if the case has been previously filed and dismissed.” Kucinich’s “complaint” was accepted by Cuyahoga County Clerk of Court Nailah Byrd. She’s the daughter of former Cleveland schools Superintendent Barbara Byrd Bennett.
The “reviewing official” examining Kucinich’s pleading does not learn until the parties, jurisdiction and venue section of his unspecified “complaint,” specifically the 9th averment on page 3, that the action is for libel, defamation, slander and false light invasion of privacy. Kucinich’s four “counts” against Advance and its news business entities and employees charges that the following information they published about him – as a public official – maliciously and recklessly disregarded the truth. Candidates under Ohio laws are public officials.
- On or about February 5, 2021, Defendants published an article to Cleveland.com titled, “Dennis Kucinich fuels possible run for Cleveland mayor with money from longtime FirstEnergy supporter Tony George.”
- On or about February 5, 2021, Defendants published an episode of the “This Week in the CLE” podcast on Cleveland.com in which Defendants doubled-down on the written defamation against Plaintiff by stating that campaign finance records required to be filed with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections were released which showed that the Plaintiff had taken “a significant amount of money from FirstEnergy.. . .”
- The False Statements authored and published by Defendants further constitute defamation by implication as they intentionally mislead readers, and voters in Cuyahoga County, to believe that Plaintiff consorted with FirstEnergy and their misdeeds, and is therefore a corrupt politician, and was involved in the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history.
- Defendants published the False Statements intentionally and maliciously to place Plaintiff in a false light, as Mr. George, cited in the article has never been connected to the House Bill 6 scandal, and had donated to several other candidates in the mayoral race. In the referenced articles and podcast, Defendants did not attempt to connect any other mayoral candidate who received political contributions from Tony George to the House Bill 6 scandal.
To be clear, any allegation that Plaintiff took money from FirstEnergy or consorted with FirstEnergy was completely erroneous. Defendants made these accusations intentionally and with knowledge of their falsity. Defendant Caniglia interviewed Plaintiff prior to publishing his allegations. He could have easily asked Plaintiff a determinative question to confirm the truth or falsity of the allegation. However, upon information and belief, Defendant Caniglia intentionally and recklessly failed to ask Plaintiff about his story’s false and defamatory hook, i.e., whether the Plaintiff or his campaign did in fact receive financial backing for his mayoral campaign from First Energy.”
I conducted an online search of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and Ohio Secretary of State website to examine Kucinich’s 2021 mayoral, and 2018 gubernatorial, campaign finance records his complaint implied existed and was available for public review in its second count. There’s no need to “ask plaintiff” anything if the records are available.
It’s Kucinich’s duty to have identified his campaign donors by name, address and affiliation; and how his treasurer spent their money. The mandated filing deadlines for the 2021 mayor’s campaign was 12 days before and 38 days after the primary and general elections no later than 4 p.m. Not 4:01 p.m. or any day after. Voters were supposed to be able to review campaign finance reports that were 90 percent accurate and complete pursuant to Section 3517.11 of the Ohio Revised Code.
An online search of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections website for Dennis Kucinich’s 2021 campaign finance reports returns three results. Cleveland voters currently do not have online access to his pre-primary, post-primary, pre-general election and post-general election campaign finance filings for the 2021 election season.
A search of the Ohio Secretary of State’s link to campaign finance reports produces the same “nothing” results for Kucinich’s 2018 campaign finance filings for Ohio governor. It does not mean the documents do not exist, or that he missed the filing deadlines. It means the officials at both state election agencies are negligently discharging their duties and not making them fully-available online if they do exist.
It is in those online-absent public documents where the “Advance” allegations against Kucinich can be found if they’re true pursuant to Sections 3517.10, 3517.11 and 3517.13 of the Ohio Revised Code. If Kucinich’s campaign treasurer did not file, then what’s required to be in Kucinich’s online campaign finance records are resolutions from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reporting him to the Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney pursuant to Section 3517.11 of the Ohio Revised Code. Kucinich’s litigation implies that he’s fully-disclosed his campaign finance activities in the manner spelled out by law; and that verification of the allegations against him at the time of publication was possible.
Kucinich’s “complaint” is 12 pages. 57 pages with exhibits. He raises the argument that instead of the Plain Dealer and cleveland.com simply covering the 2021 mayor’s campaign, they targeted him for derogatory news coverage. He’s alleging the false published information Advance cannot prove is true portrayed him in a “false light” to achieve their goal. Doing so affected his “brand.” Read.
“Significantly, Defendants’ intentions and dislike of Plaintiff are not a secret. In the course of events, Defendants published articles “passionate[ly]” advocating to the public that “[w]hatever you do, don’t vote for Dennis Kucinich.” They baselessly claimed that Plaintiff was “remarkably ignorant of municipal finance” and engaged in “constant violence-mongering.” Defendants also published a column with a headline that stated that the most “narrow and clear path” to successfully stop Plaintiff “from returning as Cleveland’s Mayor … required targeting his reputation.” See Exhibits 1 and 2, attached. This evidence is only the tip of the iceberg.”
Advance will have 28 days to respond to Kucinich’s complaint. He has time to amend its filing defects to avoid Baker & Hostetler’s use of the local rules violation to seek a dismissal his attorney will have to waste time and hours drafting a response to avoid. Kucinich has “precedence” on his side in Ohio and Supreme Court of the United States rulings that a difference exists between opinions that don’t have to be proved; and information presented within opinions as facts that must be proved. These instructions are found in Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co. (89-645),497 U.S. 1 (1990).
We also think the connotation that petitioner committed perjury is sufficiently factual to be susceptible of being proved true or false. A determination of whether petitioner lied in this instance can be made on a core of objective evidence by comparing, inter alia, petitioner’s testimony before the OSHAA board with his subsequent testimony before the trial court. As the Scott court noted regarding the plaintiff in that case, “[w]hether or not H. Don Scott did indeed perjure himself is certainly verifiable by a perjury action with evidence adduced from the transcripts and witnesses present at the hearing. Unlike a subjective assertion the averred defamatory language is an articulation of an objectively verifiable event.” 25 Ohio St. 3d, at 252, 496 N.E. 2d, at 707. So too with petitioner Milkovich.
A relationship with a conflicting presence that may favor Kucinich is Benjamin Newhouse’s $2000 donation to one of his opponents, Mayor Justin Bibb. Newhouse’s Russian alien descendant, Solomon Isadore Neuhaus, purchased the Plain Dealer in March 1967. The publishers, editors, vice presents and reporters work for his family and its privately-owned national media empire.
There are no “unapproved” words published in the Plain Dealer or Cleveland.com. From the Newhouse publication’s and website’s first story about Bibb’s desire to seek the job of Cleveland mayor he was being “marketed” to Clevelanders. I was a candidate in 2017 and I have my own false light issues with the publications.
Not one time did the Plain Dealer or cleveland.com publish a story detailing how Jeffrey Johnson served on Cleveland city council as a Twinsburg resident while campaigning to lead Cleveland. In contrast its coverage of my appeal of a Boston Heights traffic citation was characterized as an “arrest” instead of the issues I raised about the lawful acts of the village’s officials relative to the non-jailable civil offense.
Bibb was aided by all the known facts the Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com’s editors and reporters omitted. Not one time did the Plain Dealer or Cleveland.com share my platform of free municipal hospitals, physicians on EMS squads, a curb to the faucet water line replacement program and ensuring police and every other workers obeys federal, state and local laws associated with the duties of their public employment.
During my 2009 campaign for re-election as East Cleveland’s mayor, the Plain Dealer endorsed my opponent without disclosing he’d missed 53 percent of the meetings he was supposed to attend as president of council; and that he’d earned 10 D’s and 8 F’s between Morehouse University and Cleveland State University. Not a word was mentioned of his being fired from the only management job he’d ever held within 6 months.
I do understand Kucinich’s concern. Not a word was mentioned about Basheer Jones living between South Euclid and Cleveland Heights while serving, unlawfully, on Cleveland city council. His votes might have gone to the other candidates had the city’s largest newspaper fairly covered and exposed flaws in all the candidates; and not just him.