Friday, May 20, 2005


Lousy coins get lousier

The Toledo Blade continues to trounce every other paper on the Tom Noe coin scandal. This week, reporters Drew and Wilkinson revealed that BWC internal auditor Keith Elliott back in 2000 advised Chief James Conrad about potential conflicts of interest with the investment. The bureau ignored Elliot’s advice to put a lid on it and continued to invest. In fact, as late as March, the bureau was ready to drop another $25 million into the coin fund, for a total of $75 million in coinage.

In other Coingate news, Blackwell is finally sticking his toe in the water to start his own investigation into Noe’s political fundraising. By our calculations, that’s five investigations underway, none of which are independent. We’re not holding our breath on this one either.

Oh yeah, and five Supreme Court justices recused themselves from hearing the Sunshine Law cases around the scandal. Together, the justices received over $23,000 in campaign money from Noe. My god, is there anyone who isn’t connected to this guy? Maybe. Alice Robie Resnick, the justice that Republicans fought like hell to take down with funny campaign money…remember her?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


What if you hold a press conference and no one shows...?

The proponents of tiny government must also be supporters of tiny press conferences, because that’s what they had yesterday. Our sources tell us The Buckeye Institute held a media event at the Statehouse in support of the Ohio TABOR amendment to limit state government that had only eight people in attendance – and most of those were opponents. Even the crown prince of Ohio’s tax and expenditure limit, Ken Blackwell, strolled in at the end.

In spite of their harping that the Ohio TEL amendment has nothing to do with the Colorado amendment, supporters trotted out former Colorado Senate President John Andrews, nonetheless, to tell people that Colorado really isn’t that bad off and that Ohio’s media has been snookered by “scare propaganda.” Although it’s been widely reported by dozens of credible sources that Colorado’s health care, education and infrastructure are suffering because of the spending limit, Andrews insisted those indicators weren’t really, well, indicators.

Here’s a hint: at a press conference, don’t tell reporters they’re dopes.
No surprise, we’ve yet to see any stories from either of the two members of the press who came. Will post if we see one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Coins are lousy investment - Part IV: "Profits" lowered

The Toledo Blade crew continues to run circles around the rest of the Statehouse reporters on the Thomas Noe affair. Drew and Wilkinson's latest story shows several interesting developments around the cash flow and investment returns of the fund, as well as the fascinating game of "chicken" being played around the various investigations and audits that are underway.

First, on the returns:
  • BWC spokespeople have told every reporter writing on Coingate that Noe's $50 million fund has made $15 million in investment returns. Uhhhh, that's not exactly right as it turns out. The Blade reports that the total is more like $13.3 million - but what's a million or two among friends?

  • That correction, according to our calculations, lowers the average return on investment rate to a paltry 4.3%. To provide some comparison, the average return for the investments of the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System was about 10%. Given its inherent risk, the coin investment should have had returns much higher than any average.

  • Of that $13.3 million, BWC only has $7.9 million in hand. The bureau allowed Noe to keep $5.4 million "to be reinvested." But no paper trail exists. Again, what's a few million among friends?
Now, we come to the investigations. In many ways, the coins story is really just a stage decoration to the larger, inside story about Republican finances, campaign donations and favor swapping. It's a story about how business careers and political careers conveniently keep crossing paths and serve each other. It's also an interesting story about how horribly incestuous and inbred the legal, political, investigative, and administrative circles are that are at the core Ohio's government and business community.

Yesterday's "big" announcement was that Betty Montgomery has called for a "special audit" of the coin fund. By our count, this means that there are at least four investigations going on simultaneously related to Noe: Montgomery's, Petro's, Tom Charles, and the FBI.

Since she is the state's auditor, Montgomery's announcement was not unexpected. What's been unexpected is that it would take a month and a half to make the decision, and that she would allow Petro to beat her to the punch. You can be sure Blackwell's and Petro's campaign staff took note.

But there is no way Petro, Montgomery or Charles are enthusiastic about their investigations because it means investigating their friends, allies and contributors. This isn't an into a few bad apples. This is - if any of them choose to be thorough - is an investigation into the core of the Republican party.

Petro and Montgomery, in particular, are in an enormously difficult situation since they are both running for governor. And, they are in difficult situation since the FBI is also waist deep in the muck. Neither can afford to be aggressive - but neither can afford NOT to be aggressive or it will turn into a campaign issue. Each has to anticipate the other's move and guess to what extent they are willing to go after fellow Republican politicians and deal makers.

In a similar vein, it's fascinating - and revealing - to see just how connected Republicans keeping turning up in this case. For example:
  • Noe is now being represented by "Rocky" Saxbe, a partner in one of the most connected law firms. Saxbe is also the son of former Ohio and US Attorney General, William Saxbe.

  • Montgomery can't use her own staff to investigate Noe because she and her staff "have known Noe for years."

  • KPMG, whom Montgomery has selected to audit the coin fund for her, is a heavy supporter and contributor to Republican candidates.

  • William Bodoh, the retired bankruptcy judge whom Petro appointed to liquidate the coin fund, is part of the Frost Brown Todd law firm that is also a big Republican supporter.
Not surprisingly, all this suggest that the Republicans are more interested in pretending to investigate rather than letting the chips fall.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Noe complaints targetted by CREW

From a release today:
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced today that it has prepared an ethics complaint against Representative Bob Ney (R-OH). CREW is releasing the complaint in the hopes of finding a Member of the House of Representatives willing to certify that the allegations are made in good faith and to forward the complaint to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for consideration.

CREW drafted the complaint, filed by then Congressman Chris Bell (D-TX), for which Tom DeLay was admonished last year.

[. . .]

“CREW is now publicly asking Members of the House to consider forwarding the complaint against Representative Bob Ney to the Ethics Committee because Mr. Ney has committed serious, unethical and possibly illegal acts,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said today. “Representative Ney needs to be held accountable for his unethical conduct,” Sloan said.


Buckeye Institute: It's not like Colorado - and so what if it is?

We wish the proponents of Blackwell's "Last In Everything" constitutional amendment would make up their minds.

First, they make themselves be verbal contortionists in order to deny that the Ohio amendment has anything in common with the one that's been destroying Colorado. Here's a brief reminder for the 4/20/05 Plain Dealer:
Blackwell called a hasty news conference Tuesday to debunk his critics . .

The Ohio proposal is substantially different from Colorado's, he said.
Now, in an apparent 180-degree message shift, Blackwell and his buddies at the Buckeye Institute have decided to bring in former Colorado Senate President John Andrews for a presser at the Statehouse tomorrow. Andrews is supposed to talk about how great things are there.

(Note to reporters: Shouldn't the fact that Andrews now makes his living pushing concepts like these amendments at the Claremont Institute, a radical rightwing group of the Buckeye Institute mold, automatically suggest that his opinions are, uh, worthless?)

Actually, we like the idea that they are bringing in Andrews. We hope they bring a whole string of Colorado supporters of the amendment over the next few months. It means that amendment supporters are losing the framing battle on this issue.

It reminds us of the old "Don't Think of an Elephant" psychology lesson that George Lakoff teaches. All you can think of is an elephant. It's like Richard Nixon saying he isn't a crook. Worked great for him.

So, please, pretty please, Buckeye Institute - keep reminding everyone that when they hear of the Ohio amendment, they should think of Colorado, where only the diehard wingnuts still apologize for the amendment.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Noe tax loophole - who knew?

This adds a new wrinkle to the whole tax reform debate.

Toledo area State Representative Peter Ujvagi, quoted in a new Blade article on Coingate:
“We’re going to continue to pursue what we call the Noe amendment.”

Mr. Ujvagi said he was referring to a sale-tax exemption on the sale of gold bullion and rare coins that are considered “investment grade,” which are the most expensive. He said the state has lost $34 million in potential tax revenue since 1992 because of the exemption, according to the Department of Taxation.
There is well-connected, and there is well-connected. Noe took care of the GOP and he took care of him.

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