A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Friday, June 10, 2005

So Much More Is The Matter With Ohio Than Even I Thought

Ohio Republican Governor Bob Taft has a nickname among those of us who don't care much for him or his party. We call him Bobblehead Bob.

It is a cruel taunt because it captures the physical stiffness of the man that comes across in pictures and on television; the body of a man whose consciousness is almost solely in head; rigid, numb, and inflexible; with the head moving, speaking, nodding, and responding as if it were merely placed atop the torso and not connected to it.

No politician in my memory had such an endemic somatic stiffness except for Richard Nixon.

You get a sense that Taft's stiffness is not like Nixon's, it is not the rigidity of a thickly stuffed official shirt hiding an angry and vengeful man who would peep from behind a mask of governmental dignity, habitually assumed.

Taft appears to be one of those unfortunates whose real feelings cannot find adequate expression in words or gestures, and have to be guiltily packed away in the body and never acknowledged. Such a man is nearly tongue-tied when confronted with facts that stir the feelings far beyond the capacity of the mind to repress them or the body to hold them.

I can only imagine how much it took for him to verbally express his outrage (I'm sure it was real--from all indications, the genuine corruption was lower down the ladder) at his "good friend" Tom Noe, who cost the state 12 million dollars with bad rare coin investments for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, and is now being investigated for laundering money into the Republican Presidential Campaign, in violation of the campaign finance laws.

And now this. Read 'em and weep Bob:

Workers' Comp Bureau Concealed $215M Loss; Taft, Petro Knew About Fund's Woes Many Months Ago

By MIKE WILKINSON and JAMES DREW

TOLEDO BLADE STAFF WRITERS

COLUMBUS — Democrats were screaming “cover-up” yesterday after state officials admitted that a high-risk hedge fund that the embattled Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation had invested in had lost $215 million in just a few months last year.


The bureau acknowledged that the fund, managed by a Pittsburgh-based investment firm, lost the money between February and September, 2004. MDL Capital Management relinquished control of the fund in November.

Although the bureau has known about the losses since September, it wasn’t revealed until yesterday, a day after The Blade began making calls upon learning that state investigators had uncovered huge losses at the bureau.

A spokeman for Gov. Bob Taft said last night that Mr. Taft had been told in September that there was an investment loss at the bureau — a loss of $10 million to $20 million.

Bureau records show that Attorney General Jim Petro’s office also was informed of the investment loss in September. Spokesmen said Mr. Taft and Mr. Petro did not learn the full extent of the loss until yesterday.

The investments with MDL are unrelated to the bureau’s coin funds managed by Mr. Noe, a prominent Toledo-area coin dealer. But the news of the MDL losses were revealed just a day after the Ohio Ethics Commission reported expanding its probe into whether bureau employees complied with state ethics laws. Earlier yesterday, before news of the MDL losses were reported, Inspector General Tom Charles confirmed that his office was investigating other bureau investments.

Tina Kielmeyer, the bureau’s interim administrator, disclosed yesterday that Terry Gasper, the bureau’s former chief financial officer, was forced to resign last year because of the losses. Earlier this year, however, bureau officials told The Blade that Mr. Gasper left for health reasons.
[emphasis mine--ed.]

James Conrad, forced by the unfolding Noe rare-coin scandal to resign as the bureau’s administrator, told Ms. Kielmeyer in his last meeting with her that the investment loss would require her “immediate attention.”

She said she and a management review team appointed by Mr. Taft Friday are looking for other questionable investments.

Ms. Kielmeyer, in a memo to Governor Taft yesterday about the loss, offered a chronology that both answers and raises questions about the deal.

Mr. Conrad wasn’t told about the losses until they had already occurred, although Jim McLean, the bureau’s chief investment officer, was aware of them.

The first inkling of problems surfaced in March, 2004, when the fund lost $7 million. Ms. Kielmeyer, in her memo to Governor Taft, said that Mr. McLean was assured that the managers would change their strategy. However, after recovering a bit in May, 2004, the fund went into free fall.

Ms. Kielmeyer said the bureau believes the fund managers “leveraged the fund beyond contractual risk parameters.” Ms. Kielmeyer also said “it’s questionable” whether the investment fit into the parameters of the bureau’s investment policy.

Mr. McLean was put on paid administrative leave yesterday, pending a management review of the situation.

Bill Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO and a member of the bureau’s Oversight Commission, said he didn’t know about the $215 million investment loss until yesterday.

Robert Cowman, the former chief investment officer of the bureau, said Mr. Gasper was the only other person he talked with regularly about the rare-coin funds that are now the focus of intense scrutiny from state and federal authorities. The bureau and Mr. Noe agreed last month to dissolve the funds.

Mr. Gasper was also investigated by the bureau in February, 1997, after allegations were made that he tried to steer bond work to a Cleveland bank in conjunction with Paul Mifsud. At the time, Mr. Mifsud, who died in May, 2000, was a consultant and a former chief of staff to then-Gov. George Voinovich.

Mr. Mifsud, who served as the governor’s chief of staff from 1991 to 1996, pleaded guilty in 1997 to two misdemeanors: obstructing official business and an ethics violation. He spent six months in a prison work-release program after pleading guilty to accepting a home-improvement project at a cut rate from a contractor who had received millions of dollars in unbid state contracts.

In an earlier story, The Blade reported that Mr. Noe identified Mr. Mifsud, a coin collector himself, as someone who had helped him get coin business.

In mid-April, The Blade reported that Ohio Republicans received more than $455,000 in campaign contributions from employees of the fund managers hired by the bureau for the “emerging managers” program in which Mr. Noe participated.

The big winners included the state Republican Party committees, which received $200,750, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who received $67,130, and Governor Taft, who got $61,875.

As word of the MDL losses filtered throughout Columbus, state officials reacted with caution or in the case of Governor Taft, refused to meet with reporters.

He would not do a telephone interview with The Blade yesterday about the investment loss. An aide said he was too busy working on the state budget.

Mr. Taft refused to comment when approached by a Blade reporter as his driver delivered him to the governor’s mansion in the Columbus suburb of Bexley at about 6:15 p.m. yesterday.“Call the office,’’ Mr. Taft said, referring all questions to spokesman Mark Rickel.

A state trooper then asked the reporter to leave the grounds as Mr. Taft entered the mansion.

Yippie Aye Oh Kyay.

If you know anything about Ohio, you know the long history of it's whited sephulcre of corrupt Republican politics. There was Mark Hanna, the turn of the century Boss of Cincinnati and the Karl Rove of his day. There was Jim Rhodes, the multi-term Ohio Governor, whose favors for incarcerated Cleveland mobster Yonnie Licavoli were splashed all over Life magazine, and who simply never replied to the charges and won several more terms as Governor.

And then there was George Voinovich himself, whom Paul Misfud worked for. Senator George V. is a peculiar case: back in the Clinton years there was some serious talk, early on, about his running for President or Vice President. But it died very, very abruptly.

George was a pragmatic and realistic Governor, and I wonder still if that same pragmatic realism, coupled with honesty to the national Republican Party Powers about his own behind the scenes affairs while Governor, caused his future status as a candidate to wither so suddenly.

But, be that as it may, the stink of corruption is all over the BWC and Governor Taft's staff. I wrote about it in the first of these posts below.

Ohio has been brought to ruin by both national and state Republican misrule. We are now beginning to get a peep at the why of it and the wherefore of it.

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