June 20, 2005
When did they know about Noe?
In the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, did Ohio Republicans hush-up allegations that fundraiser Tom Noe had laundered contributions to Bush’s election campaign? Did they also conceal a massive loss that the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation had incurred in a hedge-fund investment? And if these scandals had been known before Ohio went to the polls, would it have changed the outcome of last year’s election? The Toledo Blade reports:
In the final weeks of the 2004 presidential race, the nation focused on Ohio as both campaigns carefully choreographed every move by their candidates, knowing one misstep could throw the keys to the White House into the hands of the opponent.
The national media scrutinized every detail of the high-stakes political battle, as President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry crisscrossed Ohio, energizing their bases and reaching out to swing voters in the Buckeye state, which ultimately decided the race by fewer than 120,000 votes.
At the same time — beneath the surface and out of public view — allegations were swirling that Tom Noe had laundered contributions into President Bush’s campaign, and facts were emerging that the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation had lost $215 million meant for injured workers in a Bermuda hedge-fund.
… The Blade has learned that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio knew of the campaign-finance allegations against Mr. Noe about three weeks before the November, 2004, election, giving it little time to do a thorough investigation. Mr. Noe, a Toledo-area coin dealer, was chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in northwest Ohio.
Democratic allegations of a GOP cover-up in the loss of $215 million managed by a Pittsburgh firm have [also] surged in the last few days. Records released last week show that high-ranking aides to Gov. Bob Taft worked to suppress revelations about the hedge fund loss in the final days before the presidential election.
“Would it have been enough?” asked Jim Ruvolo, a Toledo consultant who was chairman of Mr. Kerry’s presidential campaign in Ohio last year. “With only 118,000 votes, it doesn’t take much.”
… The air was thick with talk in Toledo about investigations surrounding the Noes long before last year’s election. It centered on contributions to the Bush campaign at an Oct. 30, 2003, fund-raiser in Columbus, where Mr. Noe sponsored a table and invited a number of people to attend.
At issue was whether Mr. Noe gave others money in order for them to give to the Bush campaign, allowing him to skirt federal spending limits, law enforcement sources told The Blade.
Noe, of course, is also at the center of the Coingate scandal, which involves a $50 million investment by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in rare-coin funds controlled by Noe. Up to $12 million of that cash is now, uh, “unaccounted for.” Concerns about the bureau’s investment also predated the 2004 election, but again appear to have been kept from public view until the Blade started digging:
In a 2000 review of Mr. Noe’s coin investment, Keith Elliott, manager of internal audits for the bureau, wrote that the practices of the coin fund “could potentially expose both the BWC and the fund managers to adverse public scrutiny regarding the appropriate use of state funds.”
In the year before the election, a number of concerns about the coin fund came to the attention of top state officials, who failed to make them public.
First, in October, 2003, two state-owned coins worth $300,000 were reported stolen in the mail, and then a 2004 audit of the venture’s Colorado subsidiary showed that 119 coins worth $93,000 were reported missing.
Naturally, God’s Own party dismisses the idea that any of this could have influenced the outcome of the election. Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, told the Blade that “the President won on the merits of his candidacy.’’
Apparently with a little help from Noe’s laundered funds and a major cover-up.
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