Ohio: Red State in the Red

Thank you to the ever-resourceful Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post for pointing out an amazing article that ran last Sunday in the Toledo Blade. The story highlights two crucial and controversial issues in Ohio that arose, unannounced to the voting public, just prior to the 2004 presidential election. First, credible allegations emerged that Tom Noe, chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Northwest Ohio, may have laundered money in order to increase his personal contributions to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Second, the loss of about $215 million from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation fund, from investments made under former governor and Bush supporter George Voinovich (R-OH, who is now known for alienating Bush with his lack of support for John Bolton) was hidden until after the election, as well as smaller losses in the compensation fund due to alleged mismanagement by Mr. Noe, who is also a rare-coin dealer.

“In an Oct. 26, 2004, e-mail to [former bureau official and appointee James] Samuel, [bureau manager James] Conrad wrote that the ‘entire value’ of the portfolio that MDL managed was down about $225 million. . . [b]ut the state did not release any information about the [net] $215 million loss until June 7 [2005].”

“Three weeks ago, Mr. Noe's attorneys told law enforcement authorities that $10 million to $12 million of the state's rare-coin assets were ‘unaccounted for’. . . 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.”

Would these allegations have been enough to tip Ohio into the blue column? I think that would be a stretch. But I also think that the Blade lays out some fairly compelling evidence that there was an active cover-up on the part of Ohio Republicans to make absolutely sure that no facts were revealed until the elections were over. At the very least, it appears that Noe could be convicted for money laundering (and possibly outright theft) and Ohio Republicans will lose some credibility. More importantly, I think that the story will serve as another cautionary tale about the investment of public retirement funds falling under the control of elected officials. President Bush will certainly have his work cut out for him if he chooses to stop by Toledo to pitch his proposal for private investment accounts for Social Security . . . though he may want to wait until all of the facts about this latest public investment scandal come to light – I’m sure that they haven’t yet.


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