It’s hard to be a more terrific fraud than Armond Budish. Fifteen years lying to seniors on television to get them to liquidate their assets so they live on public assistance (after Budish takes his cut, of course) selling them pointless and expensive cosmetic dentistry…that ought to convince anyone. But no, there’s a six figure no bid public teat off which to suckle, laundered to his wife, then lied about, to the Ohio Legislature for 9 years. Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo never learned Armond’s lesson – if you’re going to be stinkingly corrupt, you’d better buy the media too, so instead of crowing COUNTY IN CRISIS ’til they’re hoarse, they’ll quietly edit your words on demand, then endorse you, ignoring your taxpayer gravy train because you’ve spent the past 15 years lining the pockets of the NBC affiliate in town. Paging Tom Beres.
Even Ray Charles could see this fraud from a mile away, but the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, and every media glitterati in town, has spent the last year crowning Budish as if he were the second coming, lying through their teeth too, stitching up endorsements, corralling lap dog media puff pieces from the cocktail circuit of NEO’s great and good, all for a meritless, senior fleecing money laundering camp following pimp whose entire platform for county executive is a vapid recitation of platitudes so boilerplate it’s an insult to cookie cutters.
The exact same process has produced Issue 7, the sin tax renewal of Art Modell’s 19 year old chump’s deal. Armond Budish and the sin tax are the same work product, both manufactured and rolled off the same assembly line that built an empty Med Mart, is building a hotel with county money, is funneling casino tax revenue this minute to the wealthiest people in Northeast Ohio by the millions. What wrought Armond Budish and the sin tax also strip mined Slavic Village, my birthplace, putting every cent of property value on my grandmother’s street into some yacht’s gas tank floating in an oh so quaint Connecticut harbor.
When will we wake up? We cannot let money govern us like this anymore. Just look at what it’s done to our city, our county, our country. This rigged game doesn’t work. At all. It works only for the wealthiest and most powerful, a tiny minority shrinking so rapidly it’s an overstatement to call them the 1% anymore. Armond Budish, who has no reason to be elected other than money, is the Platonic Form. It’s his platform, his entire argument, it’s all his supporters claim, and he’s proud of it. Do we enjoy being played for such fools?
I made a bet entering this race, that voters have already turned this page, that they indeed see what’s right before their eyes, whether or not their public airwaves sit bought and paid for in silence, too. By not raising or spending any money on my candidacy, I hope I’ve proven there is another way – that we can govern ourselves, rather than letting money govern us. I spent a career in this rigged game, and I’ve spent another lifetime on the outside of it looking in.
Now, it reminds me of my days in the former soviet republics with eerie certainty – we aren’t on some slippery slope, we’ve careened down it straight into the cess pit below. The only difference between our rigged game and post soviet dictators is scale – Armond Budish is a small time street hooker in comparison, at least in Armenia, they know to purchase the entire TV station.
I’m ready for this challenge, and I hope I’ve convinced voters too. Lord knows I ain’t perfect – none of us are. The choice between cursing the darkness forever, or lighting my candle, wasn’t easy. I should be the last guy standing up and asking for votes. But based on all my experience, good and bad, I have a unique capacity to see and fight injustice, and an even more unique capacity to smell a rat. And this is no time to sit on the sidelines.
I made a promise when I left Armenia in 1998 after watching a coup and two rigged presidential elections. I told my Armenian colleagues trying to keep me there that I was leaving to fight for my own democracy just as hard as they fought for their own. I had no idea how hard that fight would be.
On May 6th, Cuyahoga County can turn a page. Let’s do it.