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  • Tom Sussi

Campaign Contributions Payoff Big For Columbus Businesses

OCTOBER 28, 2021



GUARDING YOUR TAX DOLLARS Former state lawmaker Bernadine Kennedy Kent is following the money.

BakerHostetler law firm, Smoot Construction and Progressive Marketing and Management all share a few things in common.


All three contributed to the political campaigns of Mayor Andy Ginther, City Council President Shannon Hardin or both of them.


And all three have been awarded generous City of Columbus contracts without having to go through the city’s bidding process. How can this be, you ask, isn’t it illegal?


It certainly smells, but the City Charter allows both the mayor and city council to declare a service(s) an emergency and expedite the bidding progress.


  • To date, more than $615,000 of your tax dollars have been paid to BakerHostetler to investigate a few dozen citizens complaints filed against Columbus Division of Police officers during last summer’s riots.

  • City officials paid Smoot Construction $84,500 of your tax dollars last year to remove the 20-foot Christopher Columbus statue that sat in front of City Hall for 65 years.

  • And over the past five years, city officials have paid Progressive Marketing and Management more than $2 million of your tax dollars for marketing services. Yes, the City of Columbus has its own marketing department, a big one.

Former Ohio state Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent tipped off The Sussi Report to Progressive Marketing and Management’s sweetheart deals with the city and we have teamed up to get answers to some questions.

  • Why didn’t the city use its own marketing personnel?

  • Why did the city declare marketing services an emergency?

  • What did taxpayers receive for that $2 million?

With hopes of answering those questions, Ms. Kennedy Kent and The Sussi Report filed several public records requests with the city. We are told they are working on filling them.

The Sussi Report reached out to Kimberly Blackwell, CEO of Progressive Marketing and Management. Ms. Blackwell didn’t respond but her attorney, Larry James, did. In an email, James wrote, “She (Kimberly Blackwell) put in the work and earned every dime.”


The Sussi Report also learned that the Ohio State Attorney General’s Office filed tax liens on behalf of the Ohio Dept. of Taxation. According to Franklin County Court of Commons Pleas records, Blackwell owes $24, 679.50 in personal income taxes.


Perhaps you’re familiar with Kimberly Blackwell’s dad, Ken Blackwell, former Ohio Secretary of State.



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