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May 25, 2005

Coingate touches Taft

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that over the past seven years the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has invested $50 million in two rare-coin funds—not exactly a safe investment in the best of circumstances—controlled by Tom Noe, a well-known Republican fund-raiser.

You’ll also know that Noe is being investigated by both the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI for possible federal campaign contribution violations. And that around 120 of the state’s coins—worth about $400,000—have gone missing. Last week, Ohio’s Inspector General launched an investigation into the Noe coin funds, and the state’s decision to invest in them. Yesterday, the state sued Thomas Noe Inc on behalf of the BWC, and a judge froze the assets of the two coin funds. But what happened next is much more interesting:

Also yesterday, the state’s rare-coin scandal reached into the office of Gov. Bob Taft. Ohio Inspector General Thomas Charles asked the governor for e-mails, phone records, and personnel files for former Chief of Staff Brian Hicks and three other current and former employees of Mr. Taft’s office.
“During the course of our investigation, information has come to light that certain members of the governor’s staff may have received lodging accommodations and other items by Mr. Noe,’’ Mr. Charles wrote in a letter to the governor’s office.
…Mr. Hicks told The Blade that he paid $300 to $500 for five nights in the 3,600-square-foot waterfront home in 2001 and stayed there again for a few days a year later… People familiar with the area said it costs between $2,500 and $3,500 a week to rent homes similar to the Noes’ property.
…Mr. Hicks resigned as Mr. Taft’s chief of staff in 2003 to start his own lobbying and consulting firm. That firm, Hicks Partners, was hired by the Bush-Cheney campaign and the Republican National Committee to raise money in Ohio for the President’s re-election campaign. The fund-raising included an October, 2003, lunch event in Columbus that raised $1.4 million for the campaign.

So now the scandal has reached pretty much every part of the Ohio Republican machine—plus the revelations are likely far from over. And it all started with Noe— the Republicans’ northwest Ohio campaign chairman in the 2004 presidential race, and a Bush “pioneer.”

More here, here and here.

Posted by Stephen at 11:52 AM in Politics | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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