Democrat Attorney General candidate may face conflict in opioid suit

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio’s Democratic attorney general candidate is facing a potential conflict of interest that could affect his ability to prosecute the pharmaceutical industry in the state’s lawsuit over the opioid crisis if he is elected.

Former U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach has professional ties to a lawyer for one of five pharmaceutical companies sued by the state, a review by The Associated Press found.

Attorney Carole Rendon served as Dettelbach’s first assistant U.S. Attorney and briefly succeeded him when he resigned as U.S. Attorney in Cleveland. He later recruited her to his team at BakerHostetler, a law firm where health care industry cases are among his specialties.

Rendon represents Endo Pharmaceuticals in the lawsuit that Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine brought last year against five drugmakers.

The suit alleges the drug companies were complicit in causing Ohio’s addictions epidemic by intentionally misleading patients about the dangers of painkillers and promoting benefits of the drugs not backed by science.

It almost certainly would continue as one of the office’s highest priorities after DeWine leaves next year due to term limits. Dettelbach faces Republican State Auditor Dave Yost for the job in November in one of the nation’s most closely watched attorney general races.

Yet Dettelbach could be forced to recuse himself from the case if he’s been privy to inside information on Endo’s defense.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Dettelbach had to recuse himself from direct involvement in the years-long Cuyahoga County corruption probe when he was U.S. Attorney. That was because BakerHostetler, his then previous employer, represented a company implicated in the sweeping investigation, which ended in the convictions of more than 60 public officials, employees and contractors.

Former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, a Republican, said if Dettelbach’s ties to Rendon or BakerHostetler prevent him from being involved in the office’s top case, it could present challenges for him.

“The duty of loyalty and confidentiality to clients and former clients is a cornerstone of the law,” she said, adding that Dettelbach could face a situation where “he would not be able to be engaged in practical decisions on the case or make comments to the public informing them of what the intent of the office was with regard to that case.”

Originally published by AP.

Republican Troy Balderson leads 12th Congressional District race, poll finds

COLUMBUS, Ohio–A new poll in the special-election race for Ohio’s 12th Congressional District indicates that Democrat Danny O’Connor has work to do if he hopes to upset Republican Troy Balderson.

Balderson, a state senator from Zanesville, holds a 10-point advantage (43 percent to 33 percent) over O’Connor, the Franklin County recorder, among potential voters in the Aug. 7 special election, according to a Monmouth University survey released Monday. The Central Ohio district has been vacant since Republican Pat Tiberi stepped down in January.

In addition, two voter models by Monmouth – based on a historical midterm turnout and a Democratic surge – also show Balderson ahead, though near the range of uncertainty. Given that 21 percent of voters are still undecided, this means there’s a chance O’Connor still might be ahead, but it’s likely that Balderson has the lead.

The Monmouth poll found Democrats in the 12th District aren’t as enthusiastic about the race as they have been in earlier special-election races, where Democratic candidates have either won or were competitive in red-leaning districts.

“Balderson seems to be doing reasonably well with core GOP voting blocs, but O’Connor is not running up the score in areas where he needs to over-perform in order to pull off the upset,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a statement.

The survey found 44 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans have a lot of interest in the race. Forty-five percent of both Democrats and Republicans say they have been following the race at least somewhat closely.

“Democrats seem to be more settled on a candidate than Republicans and O’Connor may have an opening to win over some of those undecided voters. But the real challenge may be motivation rather than persuasion,” Murray said.

Joe Manchik, the Green Party’s candidate in the race, polled at 1 percent.

O’Connor is ahead 43 percent to 33 percent in his home county of Franklin, which includes about a third of the district’s voters. But Balderson leads in the rest of the district, which covers Delaware, Licking, and parts of Marion, Muskingum, and Richland counties.

The poll was conducted by phone between June 7 and June 10 among 501 voters in the 12th district. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points for the full sample and +/- 5.1 percentage points for the two likely voter models.

Originally published on Cleveland.com

Sherrod Brown, Richard Cordray Oppose Bipartisan Dodd-Frank Reform as Entrepreneurs, Small Businesses Celebrate

Community banks — and those who depend on them — have plenty to celebrate. For America’s cash-strapped entrepreneurs, Dodd-Frank reform, singed Thursday by President Trump, is long overdue.

The legislation raises the level at which financial institutions are considered “systematically important” and exempts smaller banks from several Dodd-Frank mandates. Community banks would not have to go through a costly “stress test” to prove their financial sustainability.

Passed with good intentions after the Great Recession, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has become a poster child for unintended consequences. The legislation inundated the U.S. financial sector with more than 400 new regulations — five times more than any other law passed since 2009. To enforce the legislation, the federal government hired 3,000 full-time employees.

As you might imagine, Dodd-Frank didn’t come cheap. Since its inception, the law imposed well over $36 billion in regulatory costs on the U.S. economy and flooded those affected with 73 million paperwork hours. Dodd-Frank costs roughly $112 per person and $310 a household to enforce, and it would take nearly 37,000 employees working full-time to complete the paperwork required by the law in a single year.

Dodd-Frank also created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency that imposes penalties on auto lenders, short-term loan providers, and other financial institutions outside the purview of congressional oversight. To date, the CFPB has ordered more than $5 billion in total penalties, making it more difficult for creditors to provide working Americans with the capital they need to start a business, cover labor costs and provide for their families.

Community banks — some of America’s most important lenders — are perhaps the most adversely affected. Prior to the passage of Dodd-Frank, an average of over 100 banks opened annually. Since then, only a handful of local banks have opened in the United States. Moreover, community banks have seen their asset share decline by 12.4 percent.

This is a devastating blow to American entrepreneurship. Despite making up less than 20 percent of the banking industry’s assets, local banks provide nearly half of its small business loans.

Without them, many entrepreneurs struggle to find capital to invest in a storefront, new employees and other business expenses. That initial seed money is integral for job creators to grow their businesses and provide employees in their communities with career opportunities.

Female entrepreneurs are especially in need of the credit that community banks have traditionally ensured. While women own one-third of all small businesses, they receive less than five percent of total dollars in conventional small business loans made. Last year, the average funded business loan for women-owned firms came out to $57,097 — down from roughly $100,000 the year before. The average size of a business loan for male entrepreneurs, meanwhile, remained stable at $103,604.

Women launch an average of 850 new businesses per day, but the decline of community banks makes it more difficult for them to stay afloat. Lawmakers can help female entrepreneurs by cutting the red tape strangling their lenders — and, by extension, their businesses.

This is a bipartisan priority. While Republicans have long sought to reform Dodd-Frank, Democrats also recognized the importance of protecting community banks from government overreach. In 2016, 70 senators signed a letter urging then-CFPB Director Richard Cordray to exempt local banks from many of the agency’s mandates. Led by Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, and Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, the Senate coalition described community banks as “essential to spurring economic growth and prosperity at a local level” and called for the CFPB to “prevent any unintended consequences that negatively impact” them.

They’re right. Now we can usher in a new era of American entrepreneurism — for men and women alike.

Originally posted on InsideSources 

U.S. Back At No. 1 Competitiveness Ranking — Will Trump’s Critics Ever Admit To Being Wrong?

Have Donald Trump’s policies had a big impact on the U.S. economy and its competitiveness? The answer, we think, is an obvious yes. Now comes a new report, based mainly on “hard” data, that confirms that.

The report comes from the IMD Competitiveness Center in Switzerland. Each year it ranks countries by 256 different variables to come up with its global competitiveness rankings.

For 2018, there was a surprise: The U.S. leapt three places to take over the top spot in global competitiveness — just ahead of Hong Kong, Singapore, the Netherlands and Switzerland. That jump was based on its “strength in economic performance and infrastructure,” ranking first in both areas.

That this is so shouldn’t shock anyone with any knowledge of what’s going on in the economy.

Optimism About Availability of Good Jobs Hits New Heights

Gallup

  • 67% say now is a good time to find a quality job
  • Optimism has been climbing throughout Trump presidency
  • Republicans driving drastic turnaround in outlook

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe that now is a good time to find a quality job in the U.S., the highest percentage in 17 years of Gallup polling. Optimism about the availability of good jobs has grown by 25 percentage points since Donald Trump was elected president.

Ohio jobless rate hits new 17-year-low in April

Columbus Dispatch

Ohio’s jobless rate hit a fresh 17-year-low in April as more people joined the state’s labor force and all of them found work, the state said Friday.

The unemployment rate was 4.3 percent last month, down from 4.4 percent in March 2018 and the lowest since July 2001 when the rate was 4.2 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

The rate remains above the U.S. of 3.9 percent.

Last month, 7,000 people joined the labor force and 11,000 found jobs, the state data show. The number of jobless workers dropped to 249,000 last month.

The lower rate came even as employers cut 1,000 jobs in the state last month.

The monthly jobless report is made up of two surveys: one of households and a second one of employers, and they don’t always move in the same direction.

Gains of 2,500 jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities sectors and 2,300 in professional and business services were offset by job losses in several categories: 2,900 jobs in leisure and hospitality; 1,800 jobs in manufacturing; 1,700 jobs in finance; and 1,400 jobs in government.

The loss in jobs last month comes after a good start in 2018 with the state adding 42,400 jobs since December.

Democrat Sherrod Brown’s appearance at forum begs question: Is he running for president?

Dayton Daily News

Sen. Sherrod Brown said his appearance at a progressive forum along with a number of potential Democratic presidential candidates does not signal he plans to seek the presidency in 2020.

Brown, D-Ohio, spoke Tuesday at the Center for American Progress in Washington, an event whose speakers included Democratic Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — all of whom who are talking about running for president.

Shoppers Spent at Healthy Pace in April

AP

WASHINGTON — U.S. retail sales rose at a solid pace last month, a sign that consumers may be rebounding from weak spending in the first three months of the year and driving better economic growth.

Retail sales increased 0.3 percent in April, the Commerce Department said Tuesday, down from a 0.8 percent gain in March, which was revised higher. The spending gains were spread across most retail categories, with big gains at furniture and clothing stores.

Spending is likely to remain healthy in the months ahead, buoyed by a strong job market that is showing early signs of lifting Americans’ incomes. The unemployment rate has fallen to a 17-year low of 3.9 percent. And measures of consumer confidence remain healthy, despite rising gas prices and a rocky stock market.

Clothing-store sales, fueled by price cuts, jumped 1.4 percent, while sales at home and garden stores rose 0.4 percent. A category that includes online and catalog sales rose 0.6 percent.

Consumer spending climbed 4 percent in the final three months of last year, the strongest increase in three years. Americans then cut back in January and February, but then spending rebounded in March.

Gas station sales rose 0.8 percent in April, less than some analysts forecast, largely reflecting price increases. Prices at the pump have risen steadily in the past year, driven higher mostly by oil price gains. Tuesday’s figures suggest that the price increases haven’t yet dragged down other spending, but that could change. Analysts expect gas prices to keep rising as the summer driving season gets underway.

The average price for a gallon of gas nationwide reached $2.88 Tuesday, up 17 cents from a month earlier and 54 cents from a year ago.

Retail sales are closely watched by economists because they provide an early read on consumer spending, the principal driver of the U.S. economy. Store purchases account for about one-third of U.S. consumer spending, while spending on services such as haircuts and mobile phones plans makes up the other two-thirds.

Amazon to build distribution site in West Jefferson, add 1,500 jobs

Columbus Dispatch

Amazon is expanding again in central Ohio.

The internet giant said Monday it will build a distribution operation in West Jefferson that will add 1,500 jobs to the region by the end of 2019.

It will become Amazon’s sixth major distribution center in Ohio and its third in the Columbus area.

“Amazon is committed to providing great opportunities for employment and creating a positive economic impact for the region,” Mark Stewart, Amazon’s vice president of North America customer fulfillment, said in a statement. “Our growth in Ohio is the result of an outstanding workforce and incredible customers, and we are proud to be adding 1,500 new jobs to the more than 6,000 Amazonians already working in the state.”

The announcement comes as Seattle-based Amazon continues to research sites for building a second headquarters, a massive project that promises 50,000 jobs and a $5 billion investment. Columbus is one of 20 finalists for the project.

Amazon is expected to announce the winner this year, with construction to start in 2019.

Amazon already has distribution centers in Etna Township in Licking County and Obetz in central Ohio, along with a much smaller center in Columbus as part of its Prime Now service. It also is planning distribution operations in North Randall and Euclid near Cleveland and in Monroe in southwestern Ohio.

Like Amazon’s other distribution operations in Ohio, the project in West Jefferson will be big compared with other distribution centers. The facility will be 855,000 square feet, and workers will pick, pack and ship customers items such as electronics, books, housewares and toys.

“We’re excited that Amazon is building a new fulfillment center in West Jefferson, which will help us build a stronger community for all,” said West Jefferson Mayor Ray Martin in a statement. “We’re proud of the business climate we have in West Jefferson, which is very attractive to industry leaders like Amazon.”

The announcement is just the latest of what has been a string of projects worth more than $2 billion that Amazon has developed in Ohio since 2011.

In addition to the distribution operations, Amazon has three data centers in central Ohio and wind farms in northwestern Ohio.

“It is great for Madison County and West Jefferson. On the aggregate, they are starting to have a real presence here (in central Ohio) in logistics fulfillment. … That reinforces the notion of a very flexible, capable location,” said Kenny McDonald, chief economic officer of Columbus 2020, the region’s economic-development arm.

McDonald said the new distribution operation is separate from Amazon’s second-headquarters projects, dubbed HQ2.

“They continue to see Ohio and central Ohio as a great place to do business,” he said. “Central Ohio fulfillment is becoming critically important.”

Under Republican Leadership US weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since 1969

WASHINGTON, April 26 (Reuters) – New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped to their lowest level in more than 48 years last week, suggesting that March’s slowdown in job growth was probably temporary.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 209,000 for the week ended April 21, the lowest level since December 1969, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 230,000 in the latest week. Claims appear to be settling after volatility in recent weeks caused by different timings of the Easter and school spring breaks.

The economy added 103,000 jobs in March, the fewest in six months. Economists shrugged off the modest gains as payback after February’s outsized increase in hiring.

The labor market is considered to be near or at full employment. The unemployment rate is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, not far from the Federal Reserve’s forecast of 3.8 percent by the end of this year.

The Labor Department said claims for Maine and Colorado were estimated last week. It also said claims-taking procedures in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands had still not returned to normal after the territories were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, viewed as a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 2,250 to 229,250 last week.

The claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid dropped 29,000 to 1.84 million in the week ended April 14. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims declined 9,750 to 1.85 million, the lowest level since January 1974.

The continuing claims data covered the household survey week from which April’s unemployment rate will be calculated.

The four-week average of continuing claims decreased 13,000 between the March and April household survey weeks, suggesting little change in the unemployment rate. The jobless rate has been stuck at its current level for six straight months.

Read online here.