Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Life of the Party: my Jimmy Dimora profile

My newest feature, an in-depth profile of Jimmy Dimora, is now online. It tells the story of the embattled county commissioner's 32-year career and the federal investigation encircling him. It also appears in the October issue of Cleveland Magazine, available at bookstores now and other newsstands next week.

I'll be talking about the story on the radio tomorrow morning on 90.3 WCPN. It's one of several topics on the agenda for the Reporter's Roundtable, from 9:06 to 10 a.m.

Here are the headline and some key paragraphs:

Life of the Party
The most social of leaders, Jimmy Dimora built a career on connections and loyalty. It helped him turn Cuyahoga County’s Democratic Party into a nearly unbeatable machine. It may also be his undoing.

People are fond of Jimmy Dimora — lots of people. Dimora reigned for a decade as Cuyahoga County commissioner and Democratic Party chairman because of who he is. He stood out in a field of gray suits (even when he wore one) as the friendliest and funniest guy in local politics, the guy who showed up everywhere and cracked up crowds with outrageous jokes no one else could get away with.

That side of Dimora, not a caricature of angry arrogance, may be the key to understanding how he became a target of a federal corruption investigation. It may also explain why he insists he is innocent and, when asked at the press conference if he’d done anything wrong, he replied, “I’m not an angel, but I’m no crook,” and added, “I’m not doing anything different than any other public official does.”

Friends, allies and rivals have offered insights into how Dimora has approached politics, friendships, favors and connections throughout his 32 years in public office. Their accounts may help explain how Dimora got into trouble — how the most social of leaders, a guy who rarely said no to an invitation, who made deals over restaurant tables, who knows every political figure in town and what they want, who’s built a career on connections and loyalty, might have said yes to too many gifts, may have put in a good word for too many people and may have nudged and then lumbered his way over a line that he still doesn’t think he crossed.

Update, 9/16/10: Dimora was indicted Sept. 15 on 24 bribery charges and two counts of obstruction of justice. "I have done nothing wrong," he said afterward. See my blog posts on the indictment, his not-guilty plea, and his comments at the courthouse yesterday.
(If you'd like to link to my profile, you can use this shortcut:

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