Cliff Arnebeck

Cliff Arnebeck, who could pass for Clark Kent, transformed himself into Superman as he came to our rescue in times of democratic crisis. I first encountered Cliff when I was campaign manager during Tom Erney’s 1990 run for Chalmers Wylie’s 15th district congressional seat. Cliff also ran against Wylie in the Republican primary. I planned a series of debates where Wylie failed to attend but Cliff always showed up. Cliff was one of the most honest and forthright speakers I’d ever heard. He shared the same democratic values put forth by the Erney campaign. He wanted to get rid of the “permanent Congress” that dominated U.S. politics. We became political friends and allies on key issues.

The next time I remember Cliff’s work is when I wrote about his attempt to prevent the city’s destruction of the old Ohio penitentiary, using historical preservation laws to preserve it. Later, I supported his lawsuit that successfully challenged the 2000 Ohio Chamber of Commerce's financing of a campaign to defeat Democratic Justice Alice Robie Resnick. Early on, Cliff realized that the Chamber was involved in illegal court packing and results would be devastating for democracy in Ohio. I was also especially impressed when Cliff agreed to join the Reverend Gary Witte and I on a last-minute trip to the Mansfield prison’s death row trying to get a last testimony from Johnny Byrd before his impending execution.

Cliff and I were two of the four attorneys who challenged the 2004 Ohio presidential election results. He was one of the original attorneys who heard the public’s testimony in hearings we held all over the state about election irregularities. As a result of the numerous election complaints, US Representative John Conyers called congressional hearings in Washington DC and Columbus, where Cliff and I testified. Conyers issued a long report on the irregularities causing the election results to be challenged in the US House and Senate.

Cliff played a key role in subsequent litigation regarding the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. The Moss v Bush case sued to overturn the 2004 election results and the King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association v Blackwell case sued to correct the election results and seek fair election reforms. Fighting for free and fair elections then became Cliff’s main political purpose in life.

Starting in 2005, Cliff shared an office with the Columbus Free Press and independent media center. We continued to collaborate on election integrity activities including books, articles, conferences, radio shows, movies, hearings, election protection, speaking engagements and more lawsuits. Cliff and I took testimony from Michael Connell, the Bush family and Karl Rove’s IT guru responsible for the system that flipped votes in 2004, just prior to his untimely death in a small plane accident. Cliff was a tireless advocate for election reform and exposing political corruption. He represented me in court several times in my lawsuits to prevent election rigging in the state.

Cliff was a happy warrior, always in good humor, and he and his wife Sibley were a constant presence at the monthly Free Press Second Saturday Salons. The Free Press awarded them a “Libby” award for the devotion to community service.

Ultimately, Cliff began as a corporate Harvard lawyer who gave up much of his fiscal well-being to fight for democracy. Cliff passed away in December 2022 in Michigan of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.