In the last forty years, you cannot name a candidate with as thin of a resume to run for U.S. Senate in Ohio as P.G. Sittenfeld. Even Josh Mandel had served several terms in the Ohio House of Representatives and was elected (the year before) State Treasurer before running. Even George Voinovich had served as Mayor of Cleveland for 8 years before his ill-fated bid in 1988.
Sittenfeld recently gave a speech at the Ohio Statehouse, an august Greek Revival building designed to give gravitas to someone… who has never served a second in the Statehouse, to declare, yet again, that he is still running. (Seriously, that is what the campaign told the press in advance of this “major” speech).
Ironically, the backdrop of Sittenfeld’s “I’m still a viable candidate” presser was memorial dedications from the Lincoln funeral re-enactment at the Statehouse. There were no supporters of Sittenfeld behind him. He literally stood alone in the midst of leftover funeral decorations.
Sittenfeld has made it clear that he has no intention of dropping out, so it’s time for the media to start the process of “vetting” him by examining his history and record. Even to virtually all Democrats, Sittenfeld is a blank slate. Sittenfeld admitted yesterday that if he’s the nominee, he will not be able to financially compete with Rob Portman and his nationally well funded conservative allies to define him on their terms to voters, just as Team Kasich was able to do with FitzGerald.
Sittenfeld himself suggested that with so little known about him and his short entry in politics, there’s not much material for Republicans to use to attack him if he’s the nominee. My response: “Yeah, I remember that being argued with Ed FitzGerald.” So can Sittenfeld survive the vetting a nationally targeted political race in which he admits he will not being able to respond through paid media? No, because he’s already faring poorly before campaign ads.
The media has already reported facts that poke holes in Sittenfeld’s thin resume. Holes that will allow Portman’s massive warchest advantage to define Sittenfeld just as Kasich and the RGA was able to define FitzGerald in a resource mismatch that did not allow FitzGerald to counter the narrative, leading to his inevitable defeat.
It’s an argument the Youngstown Vindicator reported Mahoning County Democratic Chair (and ODP’s former County Chair of the Year) has made:
Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras, a strong Strickland backer, said, “P.G.’s experience is paper thin. Rob Portman is an experienced politician. Republicans will spend millions of dollars. You need a Democratic candidate who’s been vetted by voters. What Democrat has been more vetted than Ted Strickland?”
Broken LinkedIn claims
Sittenfeld lists only three jobs outside his City Council position. Unfortunately, all of them present opportunities to paint him as someone who overstates his limited experience and accomplishments.
At first, I was really impressed that Sittenfeld had worked in the Corporate Communications & Public Affairs Office of Google. But I wanted to know more about what he did there, and I was confused why he was there only three months. I thought it was strange that Sittenfeld doesn’t include a job title or description of his time at Google. It turns out it was just an internship. I could find no interview where PG has talked about what he really did during that internship or anything more than he turned down a job offer and found the offices there projected a “comfy corporate environment.”
Again, this sounds incredibly impressive to have someone be a reporter for the “Grey Lady.” But a reporter at the Youngstown Vindicator looked into it, and this is what he found:
“The only article I could find that he wrote — there could possibly be more — was in May 2006 about a Princeton student taking a course taught by her father. Sittenfeld was an undergraduate student at the university when he wrote it.”
One article in over a year and six months? How does this not look like Sittenfeld is trying to cover gaps in his resume while overstating his involvement with the New York Times? To date, Sittenfeld’s campaign has offered no rebuttal to the Vindicator‘s report.
There is a gap in Sittenfeld’s resume from August 2008-until August 2009. I could find no profile story that mentions what he could have been doing in that time. Let me repeat that: there’s an entire year of his life in which he says nothing about what he did after finishing his post-graduate education.
This is Sittenfeld’s most substantive job before being elected to City Council. In fact, some would say being part of such an organization is almost pitch perfect for someone looking to run for local public office. Sittenfeld’s degrees are in English & American Studies and not education. He has no reported experience in management, either. So how did Sittenfeld land this position?
“The organization’s director is Darlene Kamine, a former juvenile court magistrate. Sittenfeld’s father, Paul, was a member of the nonprofit CLCI’s board in 2013, according to the organization’s tax records. Meanwhile, Kamine’s daughter, Elida, an attorney, works for Sittenfeld in his council office, as well as being paid as a consultant by his council campaign fund.”
His father is the managing director of a private wealth management firm. Sittenfeld’s fathers sits on the board of the organization that hired Sittenfeld. Two years later, Sittenfeld then runs for City Council, gets elected, and then hires his boss’s daughter to be one of his two City Council aides and separately as a paid campaign consultant. Yeah, no potential problems here, right?
Sittenfeld’s LinkedIn profile show a missing year, exaggeration of his experience, and signs of cronyism and nepotism. That’s what was simply found in an hour on, ironically, Google.
Poor campaign finance record
On top of that, not only is P.G. Sittenfeld under investigation for failing to report his campaign donors on time (six months late, actually), there’s this question raised about how he’s used his Cincinnati city council campaign funds:
Campaign finance records indicate Sittenfeld’s campaign paid $3,150 in 2014 to Radio One Cleveland, which owns WERE, whose audience primarily is black. Recently, the show aired a prime spot in Cleveland – 5 p.m. on Mondays.
You can applaud the cleverness of using city council campaign dollars for a Cincinnati race to build up your name in Cleveland for a future federal race. But you also cannot ignore it shows a willing to abuse the campaign finance system. It’s hard for Sittenfeld to run against Portman on the the corruption of money and Citizens United when he has shown such disregard for the spirit and letter of campaign finance laws in his own short career.
Maybe you’ve also heard how Sittenfeld was the top fundraiser and vote getter in the 2013 City Council races. Here’s what you probably didn’t know about the fundraising claim:
Some prominent Cincinnati Republicans, including Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini and St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt, have cut checks to Sittenfeld’s City Council campaigns. GOP donations will dry up, Triantafilou says.
“I know those people who do support him occasionally. I have never met a single one of them who would ever be for P.G. over Sen. Portman,” Triantafilou said.
Sittenfeld got Republican support in that race (both financially and at the polls) because he was a Democrat who opposed the city spending additional money on the streetcar project (a project intended to make Cincinnati attractive to millennials that Sittenfeld now claims to represent.) John Cranley, the newly elected Mayor in 2013, won as an open opponent of the streetcar who vowed to kill the project. He defeated a fellow Democrat, Roxanne Qualls, who was pro-streetcar. A number of actually progressive, pro-streetcar members of City Council lost their re-election in 2013 to streetcar opponents.
Yet, within weeks after winning re-election, Sittenfeld publicly announced he would vote to save the project. While glad to have his decisive vote, there are progressives who are uncomfortable with Sittenfeld willing to take the path of least political resistance during the campaign while others stayed true to themselves and lost. The conservatives who donated and voted for him believing him to be on their side are livid to this day. Combined that with Sittenfeld’s repeated promise to Democrats that he would drop out if Strickland ran, and you’re already able to paint Sittenfeld as someone you can’t trust.
The media is just starting to vet Sittenfeld and already are poking holes in his incredibly thin resume that raise more questions than answers. With nearly 90% of the electorate not knowing him, there is fertile ground for the Republicans to introduce him on their terms, just as they did FitzGerald. With massive turnover in only a two-month-old campaign, Sittenfeld’s campaign has been a train wreck on the process side. His thin resume, with all its gaps and exaggerations, is not going to be a good shield for him to weather the GOP attack machine, either.