No Money From Nobody, Again

I wrote about Bill O’Neill here last spring. O’Neill was the “no money from nobody” candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court. He doesn’t accept campaign donations. O’Neill is a Democrat, although he was not the Party choice this year partly because he won’t accept campaign contributions.

Here’s his rather interesting bio:

He is a former Judge, an Army Officer, a Registered Nurse and an adoptive parent. Upon graduation from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism he found himself on active duty with the United States Army three weeks later. As a young Lieutenant he served in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal. He retired from the Ohio National Guard as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1996. In 2007 Governor Ted Strickland inducted Bill O’Neill into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
Bill’s work career has been varied and interesting. He has been an apprentice Ironworker (Local 17); worked as a reporter for a small town newspaper (Sandusky Register); a television reporter for a major television station (Channel 4, Columbus); a union organizer for both the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO and the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA); a small business owner in Geneva On the Lake; a small town lawyer (Geneva); and a Pediatric Emergency Room nurse at Hillcrest Hospital, an affiliate of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Bill went to law school on the GI Bill and served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Ohio for twelve years before being elected to the 11th District Court of Appeals in 1996. He served two terms as Presiding Judge on the Court and sat by assignment on the Supreme Court of Ohio. In 2004 and 2006 Bill was the Democratic nominee for the Supreme Court and his legendary refusal to accept contributions as a Judge “No Money From No Body” landed him on the front page of the Sunday New York Times.
At age 50, Bill went back to school to become a nurse, and now he works nights in the pediatric ER of Hillcrest Hospital, an affiliate of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. He’s a proud father of four grown children, whom he raised alone after their mother, Shaylah, died in a car accident in 1995. His son Shawn served as a Loadmaster on a C-130 in Iraq and Afghanistan with the United States Air Force. Shawn’s twin sister Katie was a community organizer in Portland Oregon for several years and is now a Senior at Ohio University. Tiffany O’Neill, another Ohio University graduate, is a co-owner and founder of Vegan Sweet Tooth in the Cleveland area; and Brandon, the youngest O’Neill child attended The Ohio State University and Kent State. Today he is a logistical manager living in the Cleveland warehouse district.

Here’s the 2006 Times piece referenced in his bio.

Guess what? He won:

It is the third time O’Neill has run for the high court, and he has refused to accept campaign contributions in any of the contests. He is a registered nurse in the pediatric emergency department in a hospital near Cleveland.
A major theme of O’Neill’s campaign was that “money and judges don’t mix.” He proposes charging a $10 fee on every lawsuit filed in Ohio, which would raise money for judicial candidates and prevent them from taking contributions from donors who he says could influence the judges. Under O’Neill’s plan, Supreme Court candidates would receive $1 million each, with lesser amounts provided to lower-court candidates.
Last weekend, an Ohio State Bar Association committee asked O’Neill to remove materials from his website that implied justices could be bought by campaign contributions. He refused.

This is O’Neill from 2006:

Judge O’Neill’s assertion that seats on the Supreme Court are for sale infuriates many in the legal establishment in Ohio, and in July 2004 the Disciplinary Counsel of the Ohio Supreme Court began an investigation into whether Judge O’Neill had violated judicial ethics by making similar statements in the last campaign.
Judge O’Neill laughed when asked if the investigation worried him.
“I am a Vietnam veteran, and I lost my wife 10 years ago,” he said. “I raised four kids by myself. When you talk about fear, I fear big things in life. Being hauled before a disciplinary counsel does not qualify.”

40 replies
  1. 1
    Violet says:

    How incredibly refreshing. I like his idea of how to fund elections.

    Similarly, I’d love to see a pundit tax. They have to put money down on their prognostications and when they’re wrong the money gets used for something helpful and beneficial.

  2. 2
    Citizen_X says:

    He proposes charging a $10 fee on every lawsuit filed in Ohio, which would raise money for judicial candidates and prevent them from taking contributions from donors who he says could influence the judges. Under O’Neill’s plan, Supreme Court candidates would receive $1 million each, with lesser amounts provided to lower-court candidates.

    Nice: sneaking public campaign financing in by the back door!

    Congratulations on your victory, Justice O’Neill.

  3. 3
    rlrr says:


    Similarly, I’d love to see a pundit tax. They have to put money down on their prognostications and when they’re wrong the money gets used for something helpful and beneficial.

    Euthanizing pundits, for example

  4. 4
    PeakVT says:

    Call me anti-democratic if you want, but I just don’t think judges should be elected. It takes a lot of time and effort just to understand the big issues that executives and legislatures deal with. Just about nobody who isn’t a lawyer has the time or the expertise to evaluate a judge’s record. The appointment system we have at the federal level and in many (most?) states works just fine.

  5. 5
    Mark S. says:

    Electing judges is one of the most moronic things in our democracy. Unless you’re a lawyer you have very little reason to know who any of the people in these races are.

  6. 6
    geg6 says:

    He’s a widower, you say?

    Because I think I’m in love.

  7. 7
    Mudge says:

    And imagine what he has seen as a pediatric ER nurse…

    we can always hope his opinions are infectious.

  8. 8
    nellcote says:

    OT but speaking of money…from the tweet machine:

    GeorgeTakei I’m sending Donald Trump those Obama college records. His ELECTORAL College records. #5MillionPlease

  9. 9

    How could you not like this guy?

  10. 10
    red dog says:

    At last, a lawyer I can leave out the modifier “fuckin” in front of his profession.

  11. 11
    Violet says:

    @nellcote: Awesome!

  12. 12
    amk says:

    That’s great news, Kay.

    And excellent job on winning OH. Congrats.

  13. 13
    Raven says:

    This is great and I really admire him. This, however, don’t mean shit.

    “awarded the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal”

    He has to use it but those are show-up ribbons.

  14. 14
    Q says:

    So, if lawyers are as incorruptible as the Bar Association maintains, why is there a Bar Association Disciplinary Committee in the first place?

  15. 15
    Anya says:

    We need more Justice O’Neills. Congratulations!

    Kay, I’ve been meaning to actually send you an email, but I’ll kinda tell you some of the things I took away from my short involvement with the OFA campaign in Ohio.

    First, I feel like the experience transformed me. Everyone I’ve met in this trip was amazingly committed to social justice and to creating a better world. They were all amazing. But most of all, the regular people I’ve met inspire me. Despite the difficulties they face and the hardships they were all kind, welcoming and optimistic.

    I am so happy Sharod Brown won re-election but he really needs to do more for these people. The people I’ve met in the projects need to get some attention from their Senator. I haven’t met a single person who knew who Sharod Brown was. I think that’s just unacceptable. I know Senator Brown is one of the good guys but he really needs to do a lot more constituency work, specially in places like Cuyahoga. Some people didn’t even know he was a male politician. No one knows him in the African American or the latino neighborhoods I canvassed. I really think he should introduce himself to the people he represents. Please convey that message to him if you can.

  16. 16
    PurpleGirl says:

    @nellcote: I agree with Violet, George Takei is awesome.

    The judge is pretty awesome too; I’m glad he won this time.

  17. 17
    Petorado says:

    Thank you Justice O’Neill for proving that OU’s journalism program can turn out great people. The moral blow that Roger Ailes (the bad one) came out of the same school is too much to bear for Bobcat alums like myself.

    What an amazing life this man has lived.

  18. 18
    NotMax says:

    Kay, you might get a small boost of enjoyment from this tea party defeat in, of all places, Kansas.

  19. 19
    Anya says:

    @nellcote: Love it!
    NBC should be really embarrassed that this clown represents their brand.

  20. 20
    Felonius Monk says:

    Thanks, Kay.

    Stories like this always make me feel good about having grown up in Ohio. Geneva-On-The-Lake, boy, I haven’t been there for awhile.

    The Ohio of today that I read about seems so foreign to the one that I remember, but every time I visit it doesn’t feel that different.

    Thanks for all your work this past cycle — I know you made a difference.

  21. 21
    grape_crush says:

    Thanks for mentioning this guy. It’s a good story.

  22. 22
    Kay says:


    Please convey that message to him if you can.

    I will. I’m glad you had such a good experience.

    We had a neat thing happen here. We’re a small group, it’s a red county, we’re a political minority, etc. I know everyone in the local group of Democrats and liberals by now, so I’m accustomed to walking into one of our events and (literally) knowing every single person, some quite well. That changed this time out. I went to a debate watching party (the VP debate) and there was a whole group of people I have never met.

    I didn’t know half the people who were canvassing, and they’re “locals”. This was SUPPOSED to happen in 2008, but it didn’t, really, here. We had some new volunteers, but we were really still running everything in ’08. That wasn’t true this time out. The new people took over.

    I think it’s great :)

  23. 23
    TD says:

    Link to an article I wrote on the Crisis of Modern Conservatism.

    Read and “like” it — if you do in fact like it (and maybe even if you don’t).

    Also, I just got back from 12 days campaigning in Denver (I live in NYC). Slept 16 hours last night. Holy crap, the ground game was impressive out there.

  24. 24
    efroh says:

    This is such a great write-up. We need to get more of a focus on this guy – I hope Sullivan or TPM sees this post and links to it.

  25. 25
    Kay says:


    I don’t really know, I’ve never worked for a Senator, so I don’t know what the scheduling priorities are, but I would say that Brown makes an effort to reach each county (he spends quite a bit of time here, and he doesn’t win here). The problem with that may be that rural counties simply have fewer people in them. Maybe he shouldn’t devote so much time to counties with 30k population. I get that he’s Senator of the whole state but maybe it should be apportioned by people, not geography. Just a guess, based on what I’ve seen here.

  26. 26
    Ruckus says:

    It’s probably a lot like micromanaging. There is a lot to do to do the job correctly and while I don’t know their schedule I’d bet even a state the size of OH would be hard to cover and see/meet a majority let alone everyone who might be interested.
    I think we may have gotten too big in terms of population for the congress we have. And yet making it bigger would probably only complicate the clusterfuck that is congress anyway. Maybe it’s the structure/rules of how congress “works” that is the real problem, not the size.

  27. 27
    Democrat Partisan Asshole says:

    If I lived in Ohio, he’d have my vote. Good on him.

  28. 28
    Anya says:

    @Kay: He will be really welcomed by the people I met in Cuyahoga. I canvassed at 4 different projects (Garfield Heights, Lakewood, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, East Cleveland) and not a single person knew who he was. Even though the urban radios were heavily urging people to vote for Senator Brown. State Senator Nina Turner was a huge champion and she even spoke on behalf of the Senator at the victory party I attended. I asked her about how often the Senator visited his constituents in her district and she actually evaded my question and instead talked about how awesome Sharod Brown is and how much he supports President Obama.

    Of course I agree with that. I think Sen. Brown does a lot of outreach to the unions and rural area which is good. But he also needs to do the same in urban areas. I know he is really committed to the issues that matter to them but our reliable voters shouldn’t be taken for granted.

    Just to bring this point home, on the last two days leading to the election I was sent to work with USW and some of the people there (the locals) agreed that Sen. Brown needs to do more constituency work in the urban areas.

  29. 29
    Kay says:


    They were an interesting match at the top of ticket, Obama and Sherrod, because they had two big Democratic constituencies in Ohio that they could help one another with; labor for Sherrod and AA for Obama.
    I maybe get a different view of Sherrod because he is VERY active in voting rights (I am sometimes on conference calls with him) and that is definitely not a rural issue (although it should be).
    I once saw a documentary on Obama’s earlier career, and at one point Obama comes into a room where Democrats are watching the 2006 election returns (Democrats swept in Ohio in ’06) and Obama asks only one question and it’s “how is Sherrod Brown doing?” Brown went on to win.
    I just thought it was interesting.

  30. 30
    Anya says:


    once saw a documentary on Obama’s earlier career, and at one point Obama comes into a room where Democrats are watching the 2006 election returns (Democrats swept in Ohio in ‘06) and Obama asks only one question and it’s “how is Sherrod Brown doing?” Brown went on to win.
    I just thought it was interesting.

    The radio hosts at the urban radio described Sherrod Brown as: President Obama’s right hand man in the Senate, or “help President Obama and Sherrod Brown finish the job they started.” They were just the program hosts encouraging people to vote in between songs so it was not an actual ad.

    About the senator’s connection to his constituency, hey, I know I don’t have the full picture. Also, I am a little sensitive about the people I met. I am also very emotional right now. I really don’t want them to be forgotten after the election, and remembered only when Dems want votes. They are in such a desperate situation that it brakes my heart.

    I met one woman who works 3-jobs. She had such a small window of time to vote and she didn’t have the time to stand in line so we waited in line for her. She managed to vote between shifts. That woman has no health care despite working at three jobs. What Sharrod Brown is doing and his work in the health care law impacts her life, so it will be good that she knows who he is. She knew about ObamaCare because it effected her but she didn’t know Sharrod Brown’s role in getting that bill passed. She was planning on voting only for Obama since she didn’t know who the rest were, and didn’t want to vote for a republican by mistake. OFA’s door-to-door made the difference.

  31. 31
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @PeakVT: I also think electing judges is stupid. However, the thing of reviewing judges once they’ve been in office a while isn’t a horrible idea. Otherwise I don’t know how you remove them for ethics lapses and so on. However, it doesn’t seem to work well in practice. It politicizes the judiciary. Dumb.

  32. 32
    Joe_in_cle says:

    Thanks for posting this Kay, O-H! I canvassed out in Geauga county (definitely a red county) where Bill is from. He’s a good guy.

    People I spoke with who were unsure about Obama, or even leaning Romney, really responded well to hearing that O’Neill wasn’t taking campaign contributions from anybody.

    He ended up with like 51% there in a county Obama lost 60-40.

  33. 33
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Anya: God, yes, this is reality and these Republican motherfuckers that don’t care are killing our country.

    How much harder do the working poor have to work before they’re “deserving”?!

  34. 34
    Kay says:


    We’ve done a poor job telling the story of the health care law. I joke that they’re going to have to buy ad time, because the thing gets no accurate, substantive coverage.

    The one-on-one conversations do stay with you, I think. The funniest thing I heard was from a little boy (I was talking to his mother) and he volunteered this: “Josh Mandel is a politician you can’t trust” That came straight from a Sherrod radio ad. He had probably heard it so many times he knew it by heart, and he knew were talking politics so that was his contribution. So funny. They’re just picking all this stuff out of the ether. I wonder if it makes any sense to little kids at all.

  35. 35
    JoyfulA says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Appointed judges come from the same politically connected barrel as elected judges. It’s a conundrum.

  36. 36
    Anya says:

    @Another Halocene Human: It makes you really angry. Republicans are fed some crazy propaganda and they believe that everyone who doesn’t have a health care insurance or can’t pay for proper housing is a loser who deserves what they get. I don’t know what happened to their commen sense or humanity?

    @Kay: Can’t they do a big roll out in 2014 to educate people about what’s in the health care law? Can the HHS do something like that?

    I have a feeling republicans will regret calling the law Obamacare.

    That little boy is so precious. In our campaign office we had four little boys campaigning with their moms. I swear they were more informed about issues than many adults.

  37. 37
    dww44 says:

    @nellcote: There’s a very funny cartoon with the exact same theme. From Mike Thompson at the Detroit Free Press.

  38. 38
    Bill in Section 147 says:

    @Raven: I know what you meant but just to be clear the Bronze Star can be awarded for showing up, my nephew got one for being deployed in Iraq as an officer for the appropriate amount of time. My dad also was awarded the the Bronze Star but his came with a “V.”

    He passed a while back but he was never really proud of those type of achievements. Like a lot of people who serve he always felt he was just doing his job. My nephew didn’t even show his star off when he got back. He was mighty proud of a small silver commendation medallion he was given for service on a Navy vessel but that was given for actually doing something.

  39. 39
    debbie says:

    No mention of O’Neill’s vile opponent and his supporters who ran the ad accusing O’Neill of letting rapists go (Willy Horton, are you there?) when actually he’d written an opinion sending the case back to trial because of the lousy public defender? And all that that opponent could say was he had no control over whoever put that ad out (Hello, Kevin Boyce?), so it kept running? And best of all, the ad ends by asking viewers to call O’Neill’s opponent and thank him for his service to the community?

  40. 40
    Lavocat says:

    This man has some mighty big balls. I LOVE his response to the bar association which translates roughly as “Yeah, fuck you.”

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