Who Rules Cincinnati?: Seven Corporations Dominate Cincinnati’s Economy, Society, and Politics, Leading to Poverty and Distorted Development

A new study titled “Who Rules Cincinnati?” published on the Internet today argues that seven corporations have dominated the City of Cincinnati’s economy, society, and politics, leading to “distorted development” and “grotesque contrasts between rich and poor” with “a particularly damaging impact on the African American population.”

The study, a compendium of information on Cincinnati-based corporations, their revenues, profits, the salaries of their officers, and their political contributions, also describes the role of corporate coalitions such as Cincinnati Business Committee (CBC), Downtown Cincinnati Incorporated (DCI), and Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC).

The study also found that two families, the Lindners and the Peppers, the first associated with American Financial Group and the second with Procter and Gamble, play an inordinate role in the financing of local political campaigns and candidates.

This is the first such study of wealth and power in Cincinnati since Polk Laffoon IV wrote “Who Runs Cincinnati?” published in the former Cincinnati Post in the 1980s.

The 100-page study based on corporate and government documents and written by independent scholar Dan La Botz is posted on the website of Cincinnati Studies at cincinnatistudies.org/studies.html.

The principal findings of the study are:

  • Seven corporations, by virtue of their enormous wealth and power, dominate the economic and social life of Cincinnati: 1) Procter & Gamble; 2) Kroger; 3) Macy’s/Federated Department Stores; 4) Fifth Third Bancorp; 5) Western and Southern Financial; 6) American Financial Corp; and; 7) E.W. Scripps.  They can be said to rule Cincinnati, and, among them, Procter & Gamble plays the predominant role.
  • In Cincinnati the seven dominant corporations and some other companies guide all the important civic, cultural, and social organizations of the city.  They influence or control the boards of directors of foundations, universities, museums, and social welfare organizations.  They sit on boards while community members and working people are virtually excluded from participation.  Middle-class and working-class people have almost no role in these organizations or at best have token representation.
  • Cincinnati corporations and wealthy families play an inordinate role in financing and shaping local politics.  Corporate Political Action Committees or PACs, such as the P&G PAC, and corporate families loom large in local, regional, and state politics.  The Lindner family (American Financial Group) and the Pepper family (Procter & Gamble) make large financial contributions to political candidates and ballot issues.  These firms and families contribute significant funding to local Republican, Democratic, and Charter candidates in order to shape the city’s government and the educational and judicial systems.
  • To achieve their goals, Cincinnati corporations have created a series of private organizations — CBC, DCI, 3CDC — which have usurped democratic control from the city council, from city agencies and from the public.  Creation of the “strong mayor,” abolition of the planning department, and handing over public planning functions to private organizations have all worked to the detriment of public discussion, debate, and democratic control.
  • Control of the city’s economic and political life for profits and the accumulation of corporate wealth and property has made Cincinnati the third poorest mid-sized city in the United States.  Social and economic indicators in areas of unemployment, health care, segregation, and education reflect devastation from corporate priorities.  Cincinnati’s middle-class and working-class neighborhoods have declined while corporations focused on downtown development.  The inevitable growth of crime out of poverty further degrades the lives of all working people in Cincinnati while also imposing the heavy costs of the police and judicial apparatus.
  • Corporate control of Cincinnati’s economic and political life has preserved and sometimes deepened patterns of racial segregation, discrimination, and outright racism.  The focus on downtown development and emphasis on expensive entertainment and luxury consumption, redefining the city in terms of the interests of white suburban visitors, and creation of a climate of fear of African Americans have all worked to the detriment of the city’s black population.

The study’s recommendations call upon Cincinnati’s citizens to organize in social and political movement to change the city’s direction.  “Cincinnati’s priorities need to change from development that favors narrow corporate objectives to development that strengthens neighborhoods, creates industrial, technical, and service jobs with high wages, and that favors a green, sustainable economy,” writes the author.

Author Dan La Botz, an independent scholar and community activist, previously taught history and Latin American studies at the University of Cincinnati and Miami University.  He is the author of several books and many articles on labor, social movement, and politics in the United States and Mexico.

Cincinnati Studies, a voluntary association of scholars, activists, and community residents dedicated to studying political, economic, social, and cultural developments in the city of Cincinnati, publishes its studies online at www.cincinnatistudies.org.

Cincinnati Studies will be publishing other studies on Cincinnati dealing with the issues of race, health, education, housing, and women.

See www.CincinnatiStudies.org.

Dan La Botz can be reached for comment through the CincinnatiStudies.org Web site.

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