Each new revelation of businessman Anthony M. Cafaro Sr.’s machinations to control the politics of the Mahoning Valley begs the question, “Why would a millionaire many times over bother with such a minor-league endeavor?”
Call it the arrogance of inherited wealth.
Cafaro, his brother, John J., and their sister, Flora, won the lottery of life when they were born to William M. Cafaro, who began his very successful career in business with the Ritz Bar on Youngstown’s East Side. When he died, Bill Cafaro had built the Cafaro Co. into one of the nation’s top shopping-center developers.
To be sure, the siblings worked for their father in the company headquarters on Belmont Avenue, but when you’re growing up and money is no object, you have a different perspective of the world than that of the hoi polloi.
It’s now clear that in Anthony M. Cafaro Sr.’s case, the perspective led him to believe that local government was his domain and that public employees, especially elected officials, were his minions. Thus, as numerous court documents relating to government corruption in the Valley show, Cafaro, the retired president of the Cafaro Co., used his wealth and influence to orchestrate the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal conspiracy.
He is identified in the indictments of three lesser players as “Businessman 1,” the mastermind of the grand scheme to block Mahoning County commissioners from buying Oakhill Renaissance Place, thereby stopping them from relocating the county’s Job and Family Services agency from the Cafaro Co.-owned Garland Plaza on Youngstown’s East Side.
The three lesser players who are facing more than 80 criminal charges for their roles in the Oakhill conspiracy and are set to stand trial in March are: former county commissioner and now Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally; former county Auditor Michael Sciortino; and Youngstown Atty. Martin Yavorcik.
Why lesser? Because they’re small fry compared with Big Tony.
That point is being emphasized because this writer has a sinking feeling – based largely on the noncommittal attitude of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine – that Cafaro is going to spit the hook.
DeWine and other prosecutors seem to have a skewed view of government corruption. They think that getting rid of corrupt officeholders and other public employees will clean up local politics.
But as the front-page story in Thursday’s Vindicator illustrated, without individuals like Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., who are willing to use their financial might to influence the outcome of elections, there would be no government corruption.
The story by politics writer David Skolnick was based on affidavits that show Cafaro deeply involved in the 2010 race for county commissioner in which Carol Rimedio-Righetti was challenging incumbent David Ludt.
Ludt and Commissioner Anthony Traficanti voted to purchase Oakhill Renaissance Place, and to relocate JFS. Commissioner McNally objected.
Not surprisingly, Ludt was targeted by Cafaro, who supported his challenger, Rimedio-Righetti, in the Democratic primary. The businessman sought to funnel money to her campaign through intermediaries. Ludt lost his re-election bid.
This is just the latest example of how venal Cafaro has become toward politicians he considers his enemies.
Thus, this writer’s recent reminder to Attorney General DeWine that his ultimate goal should be to get Big Tony, the mastermind.