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.

Monday, June 06, 2005

What's The Matter With Ohio, or Arrogance and Corruption Begin At Home

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Letter To The Editor

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Gilbert Cantlin, Fairview Park

A member of my church gave to me a copy of the Ohio Restoration Project. This project is led by so-called Christians who have a plan for Ohio. The project will target 2,000 pastors throughout the state to become "patriot pastors." These patriot pastors will be briefed on a specific political agenda and asked to submit names of their parishioners in order to increase a database to 300,000 names. These pastors will be asked to place voter guides in their church pews.

Ken Blackwell, Ohio's secretary of state and a governor hopeful, is named throughout the document. Blackwell will be featured on 30-second radio ads promoting this group's agenda and supporting the "Ohio for Jesus" rally set for the spring of 2006. At the end of the document are the words, "America has a mission to share a living savior with a dying world."

This is not America's mission. This is frightening, diabolical stuff for non-Christians and Christians alike. It is blasphemous to claim that any earthly kingdom is God's kingdom. The theological foundations of this movement are vacuous. They are set on the sands of opportunism, self-righteousness and greed.

  • Hey, you want opportunism, self-righteousness, and greed? Well, you've come to the right State!

Bush To Give Back $4000 In Noe Cash

Dems want GOP to return over $100,000


COLUMBUS — President Bush will return $4,000 in campaign contributions donated by Toledo area coin dealer Tom Noe and his wife, officials said yesterday.

A spokesman said the Republican National Committee will also return $2,000 contributed by Mr. Noe, who is facing multiple investigations for allegedly misappropriating at least $10 million in state money and possible federal campaign finance violations. The money will be refunded to charity.

But President Bush will not — at least for now — return more than $100,000 raised by Mr. Noe for his re-election bid last year, said Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the RNC. Democrats continue to call on the President to return all of the “tainted” money raised by Mr. Noe.

The spokesman said the President’s advisers are “continuing to monitor” the situation in Ohio, where a federal grand jury has convened to hear testimony on allegations that the coin dealer laundered political contributions to Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign.

Mr. Noe, who led the Bush-Cheney campaign in northwest Ohio, gained elite status as a Bush “pioneer” because he helped the re-election effort raise between $100,000 and $250,000.
During the campaign, Mr. Noe had frequent contact with Karl Rove, the architect of Mr. Bush’s re-election bid. Mr. Bush numerous times during the campaign visited Ohio, which turned out to be the pivotal state on Election Day.

A battery of state and federal investigations has been initiated during the past two months pertaining to how Mr. Noe obtained the contract, his business practices, political contributions, and the conduct of elected officials.

Last week, as fraud inspectors served a search-and-seizure warrant on Mr. Noe’s Monclova Township coin shop, his lawyers told Ohio authorities that at least $10 million in state assets were missing.

Governor Taft, who initially dismissed questions about the state’s investment and hailed Mr. Noe as a friend and leader for northwest Ohio, accepted the resignation of bureau CEO/administrator James Conrad a week ago, saying he was “outraged” at what had transpired with Mr. Noe’s rare-coin funds.

  • Now if you knew Bob Taft, like we know Bob Taft--with his balding pate, nerd glasses, bland remarks, and slightly fixed grin--you would know this is serious. You probably know him only from the fact that the libertarian Cato Institute thinks he's the worst governor in America. Outrage is just something we don't expect from old Bob.

Blackwell Had Few Concerns At First

He now says scandal has 'smell' of crime


COLUMBUS - Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell was not initially concerned or even shocked that the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation had invested $50 million in rare coins.

In fact, Mr. Blackwell told The Blade on April 5 that "most people" wouldn't find it "unreasonable" that the state had invested in rare coins with Tom Noe, who has said through his attorneys that at least $10 million of the state's assets are missing.

"When you run a fund the size of $18 billion and you're looking at $50 million, beyond what one's disposition might be, is that an irresponsible amount of risk? Most people would say no," Mr. Blackwell said on April 5 - two days after The Blade's initial report on the coin investment.

Two months later, Mr. Blackwell told The Blade that the coin scheme carries the "potential smell of organized crime" and needs to be addressed in the federal government.

"It's serious," he said. "It's not a marginal issue or an issue that you play with in the margins. This gets to the heart of the integrity of governance. It is an important issue."

Mr. Blackwell this week returned $3,000 in contributions from Mr. Noe.

Mr. Blackwell disputes that he had any interest in protecting Mr. Noe, or his wife, Bernadette. Mr. Blackwell accepted Ms. Noe's resignation from the Lucas County Board of Elections early last month amid problems at the county elections office unrelated to the coin scandal.

Mr. Blackwell said his "battle" with the Noes over the elections board serves as clear evidence that he would not allow a contributor to interfere with his decision-making.

"I just haven't been a favorite of the Noes for quite some time," he said, describing the couple as "rough-and-tumble political bosses."

  • Ah! The potential smell of organized crime, with undernotes of green pepper, and a hint of strawberries. Ken Blackwell sure has a way with words. No wonder the Patriot Pastors want him to do their radio commercials.

Montgomery Insists She Didn't Delay Action On Audit


COLUMBUS - On April 3, the day The Blade broke the story about the state's $50 million investment in rare-coin funds controlled by Tom Noe, Democratic legislators called on state Auditor Betty Montgomery and several other Republican statewide officeholders to investigate.

The story was published as some were pushing for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, which made the investment in rare coins, to reduce benefits to injured workers to save employers money, said state Rep. Jeanine Perry (D., Toledo).

"Everybody wants to know the answers when questions come out that affect people in the pocketbook," Mrs. Perry said two months ago.

Yet, it took 43 days after The Blade's first story for Ms. Montgomery to announce that her office would do a special audit of the rare-coin investment.

  • Dear, dear Betty Montgomery! She is such a demon for prompt and efficient government service. She made her name as a woman prosecutor who kept demanding the death penalty, and on the strength of this,became Ohio Attorney General. How did she become State Auditor? Well, when she reached the term limit on Attorney General, she found Jim Petro, the current State Auditor, who had also reached a term limit, perfectly willing to trade positions with her in the last election. Of course they didn't cross train beforehand, so Ohio lost in the deal on both positions.

  • And what better way is there to introduce Mr. Petro to you than this?

Petro Saw No 'Sense Of Illegality' At First In Coin Scandal



COLUMBUS - Attorney General Jim Petro waited more than a month to begin taking legal action after learning that two state-owned coins worth $300,000 were reportedly stolen from the suburban Denver office of Tom Noe's rare-coin venture with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

But Mr. Petro, who first read about the bureau's $50 million investment with Mr. Noe in The Blade on April 3, is adamant he took appropriate measures to protect the bureau's assets as soon as there were questions of wrongdoing.

"The first story simply said he was an influential guy in the Republican Party and he had a contract with BWC," Mr. Petro told The Blade last week. "I might have looked at it that it's not the world's greatest investment from my perspective, but that's not a cause of action."

While The Blade did report that Mr. Noe was a prominent contributor who had given thousands of dollars to Republican political campaigns, the newspaper did reveal on April 3 that two coins worth about $300,000 were reportedly stolen from a suburban Denver office and that $850,000 in bad debt had been written off. Soon after, The Blade reported that the debt was caused by a convicted felon hired by Mr. Noe and that an additional 119 coins were missing from the Colorado office worth $93,000.

Mr. Petro said last week that he waited until May to take any legal steps toward protecting the state's assets after monitoring the case during April. He filed suit May 24, and a judge agreed to freeze the assets and turn over the state's property to the bureau.

The fact that he did not take action sooner, his critics claim, is evidence that the attorney general was putting his contributor ahead of the state's interests - even as concerns mounted. Mr. Petro this week returned $6,000 in contributions from Mr. Noe, who is facing multiple state and federal investigations.

Mr. Petro has also acknowledged that Tom Noe's wife, Bernadette, may have contacted his office and successfully directed special counsel work to the law firm where she worked. He also considered the Noes to be friends.

Mr. Petro said he did what was legally prudent throughout the entire process and based on the information that he had.

  • Admittedly, he doesn't have nearly the nose Ken Blackwell does for the "smell of organized crime", but Jim Petro is the model of legal prudence, and Caution is his middle name, as he shows in this part of the affair below:

Mrs. Noe's Law Firm Had Deal With State

Coin dealer's wife may have lobbied to get debt-collection contracts, Petro says



COLUMBUS - Attorney General Jim Petro acknowledged yesterday that Bernadette Noe, a lawyer and wife of embattled coin dealer Tom Noe, "may have" successfully lobbied his office to direct thousands of dollars in contracts to her law firm to collect debt on behalf of the state.

"Tom never brought it up. I don't doubt that Bernadette may have," Mr. Petro said.

The Noes have given more than $200,000 in contributions to politicians, political parties, and political action committees over the past 15 years - including $6,000 to Mr. Petro's campaigns returned this week amid the growing scandal.

The prime example of influence-peddling, critics say, were contracts given to Mr. Noe by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation to invest $50 million of state money in rare coins. His lawyers have told Ohio authorities that up to $12 million of the state's assets are missing.

In 2003, Mr. Petro appointed Tracy Kidd, who like Ms. Noe was a part-time lawyer at the Toledo law firm Wise & Dorner, as special counsel to conduct debt collection. The appointment meant that Ms. Kidd, and potentially Ms. Noe, would receive as much as one-third of the $245,000 collected during her tenure as special counsel for the state.

In Ms. Kidd's application for the appointment, she listed Ms. Noe as a colleague who would be "handling work" received from the attorney general's office of collections enforcement.

"Qualifications" information about Ms. Noe included in the application also states that her husband is Tom Noe. [don't you just love it! ed.]

Ms. Kidd is the former wife of Joe Kidd, the former director of the Lucas County board of elections. He, along with several others, has testified before a federal grand jury investigating whether Mr. Noe funneled campaign contributions to the Bush-Cheney campaign through others.

Public records show that Ms. Kidd's state accounts were transferred to Matt Rohrbacher, at the law firm Rohrbachers Light Cron & Trimble in Toledo, where Ms. Noe was recently employed as an attorney.

Mr. Rohrbacher, who has received collections work for several years, directed all questions to the attorney general's office.

And here are some of the other tidbits making the papers:

  • Brian K. Hicks, the governor’s former chief of staff, rented Noe’s $1.8 million Florida waterfront home in 2001 and 2002, paying $300 and $500 a week — rates said to be far below the market price. He did not report the matter on his ethics statements.
  • H. Douglas Talbott, Taft’s former head of boards and commissions and now a Columbus consultant, accepted a $39,000 no-interest loan from Noe in 2000 so he could buy a $213,000 vacation home in Lakeside, Ohio. The loan was unreported.
  • Doug Moorman, a former Taft executive assistant, accepted a $5,000 personal loan from Noe in 2004 after he went to work for the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

Such a generous fellow Mr. Noe was! And not just with very favorable unsecured loans, either:

The Noe Dinner Club.

The Columbus Dispatch.

They jokingly called it the Noe Supper Club.

Beverly Martin, Taft’s deputy chief of staff, was a frequent guest, as were H. Douglas Talbott, Taft’s head of boards and commissions; Doug Moorman, an executive assistant; and Cherie N. Carroll, executive secretary for Brian K. Hicks, the governor’s chief of staff.

Sometimes others would join the party, including on at least one occasion Orest Holubec, Taft’s press aide who formerly ran the boards and commission office, which handles gubernatorial appointments.

The founder of the feast was Thomas W. Noe, coin dealer, major GOP political fundraiser, and manager of a $50 million investment deal with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

When the nights at Morton’s [the priciest steak house in Columbus--ed.] were over, Noe almost always picked up the check, sometimes running several hundred dollars, said sources familiar with the gatherings who would talk only on condition of anonymity.

Noe was no stranger to Taft’s staff. In addition to the social outings he organized, he was a frequent visitor to the governor’s office on the 30 th floor of the Riffe Center, 77 S. High St.

  • I'm certain it was one of those breezy, all-good-fellows-together, gatherings that he had with Bob's staff. After all, with a host that generous, wouldn't you feel a warm glow every time he showed up?

Associated Press Saturday, June 4, 2005:

Top Ohio Republican officials, including Gov. Bob Taft and Sen. Mike DeWine, also said they were giving up contributions from Noe totaling nearly $60,000. Many of the officials designated charities or a workers' compensation fund to receive the money.

Meanwhile, a former Taft aide has told federal authorities that he gave $2,000 to Bush's campaign at the urging of Noe and was reimbursed by the coin dealer. H. Douglas Talbott appeared this week before a federal grand jury in Toledo looking into whether Noe, who headed the Bush-Cheney campaign in northwest Ohio, skirted campaign finance laws by giving others money to donate, according to a report published Friday in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

  • Gee. No wonder Bob's outraged!


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