Saturday, July 16, 2005


Diebold, Blackwell accused of pay-play scheme

The capital city is being rocked by a story this morning in the Columbus Dispatch in which Matt Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, says a representative of Diebold paid $10,000 in January 2004 to the Franklin Co. GOP in an attempt to sway the the county's decision on voting machines. Damschroder, a Republican and former county chair of the party, also claims that the Diebold rep, Pat Gallina, boasted about a $50,000 donation he had written to a political group associated with Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.
Pasquale "Pat" Gallina arrived unannounced, Damschroder said.

"I’m here to give you $10,000," the elections director recalls Gallina saying. "Who do I make it payable to?"

"Well, you’re certainly not going to make it out to me," Damschroder says he told Gallina. "But I’m sure the Franklin County Republican Party would appreciate a donation."

Gallina wrote the check, and Damschroder says he took it on Jan. 9, 2004. That weekend, Damschroder said, he mailed the check to the county party.
Damschroder's revelation's were made to an assistant county prosecutor amid an ongoing fight in the state over voting maching suppliers involving Diebold and ES&S.

Damschroder's allegations could be severely damaging to Blackwell, a candidate in the 2006 govenor's race.
In May, he said, Gallina called him and bragged about a $50,000 check he had written to Blackwell’s "political interests."

"Isn’t it great that Diebold and the county are going to do business?" he says Gallina asked him.

Damschroder said Gallina went on to tell him that he had met with Norm Cummings, a Blackwell campaign consultant, in Washington, D.C., to work out a deal: Diebold would cut the price of its electronic voting machines to $2,700 each if the company had a guarantee that it would receive all of the state’s business.

"Then Gallina tells me that he then wrote a check for $50,000 to Blackwell’s political interests."

Carlo LoParo, Blackwell’s spokesman, called Damschroder’s assertions "wild accusations" and said, "You can’t point me to anything that substantiates what he says."

LoParo acknowledged that Gallina had contributed to Blackwell’s campaigns since 1998 — Blackwell received $8,000 from Gallina during that period — but denied that any of Blackwell’s campaign interests received $50,000 from Diebold or Gallina. Blackwell is running for governor.

"I have no idea why he (Damschroder) would say anything like that other than that every encounter we’ve had with Matt Damschroder has shown a little bit about his character," LoParo said.

Gallina would not say yesterday whether he wrote a $50,000 check to any organization associated with Blackwell. He would say only that all of his donations are public record. He would not say whether he wrote a $50,000 check to a 527 organization, which does not have to report donations, or to a political fund that has not yet been required to disclose its financial statements this year.
The news may also hurt the career of Damschroder. The county election board is considering suspending him and the county prosecuttore is investigating if he broke any laws.

Friday, July 15, 2005


Kasich, trial balloons and unnamed sources

Has anyone else noticed that, more and more, the Dispatch is playing fast and loose with unnamed sources. Maybe it's an undiagnosed case of millercooperitis, but it seems that the editors have an "anything goes" when it comes to running comments from people who don't want to be named.

We have no particular quarrel with people that want to provide background information, have no real stake in the matter and aren't trying to spin a story. On the other hand, it's a load of crap to protect a source over what amounts to a political gossip game when the source has some poker chips in the pot.

Take, for example, this bit of doublejointed flimflammery in the Dispatch this morning:
A source close to Kasich said the former Westerville congressman told him that if he were elected governor, "Heads would spin and cronyism would be ended. It would be a total do-over, and you can bet that Democrats would be involved in the government and in the solutions."
Ssshhhh! Don't tell anyone, but we are 99.9999% sure that "source close to Kasich" is one Tim Timkens, the kazillionaire bearings scion from Canton.

Tim has been shopping the Kasich-for-Governor plan to all his backslappin' buds and a few select members of the Statehouse steno pool for about 10 days now. (If Tim hasn't called you by now, bitches, it means you ain't shit in the capital city.)

So, now that you know it was Timkens, ask yourself: Is there any conceivable professional reason why the Dispatch should run the story without naming him. Doesn't it seem like the public deserves to know that one of the richest, most powerful families in the state is trying to dictate whom the next friggin' governor will be?

Let's not forget the second half of that sentence, the part about how Kasich is going to clean up the cronyism and share his bed with the Democrats. Cheeze-n-crackers-got-all-muddy, is Timkens really going to try to convince us that John is Ghandi, U Thant, and the Lone Ranger all wrapped up in one Super Savior?

Let's do a very brief Q & A about John Kasich for those that forget:
Ladies and gentlemen, he's just what Ohio has been missing to be great: A Fox fascista who's already 100% in the control of the likes of AEP, First Energy, Nationwide, Merck, Timken, National City, Fifth Third, AMD, BP, ExxonMobil, CIGNA and GSK? Heck, it sure would do away with all that messy pay-to-play stuff that Marc Dann keeps complaining about. He's already bought and paid for!

In short, he's one of the few Republicans that could actually make Taft look good in comparison. And a curse on those reporters who enjoy carrying the water of the likes of Tim Timken.

[UPDATE: Brian also posts about this here, and one of his readers post this nice-and-brief summary of why Kasich is no moderate.]


Friday Basil blogging



Common Cause endorses RON amendments

We thought it was great to see that Common Cause announced yesterday that it was had officially joined the effort to get three amendments passed to get the three Reform Ohio Now amendments passed. Common Cause represents both sides of the political spectrum who are interested in accountability and keeping citizens' voices strong in the election process.

With less than a month to go, the RON effort is making it's last and important pushes to gather enough signatures to get the measures on the fall ballot. The coalition backing the amendments have organized a number of signature gathering "events" around the state to facilitate this process and recruit new volunteer. Use this link to find an event near you.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Taft's, Hick's "Envision" problems

Although much of the focus of the various "pay-to-play" investigations has been on BWC and ethics, the thing that has the GOP very nervous is a widening investigation into various unbid contract.

As we have noted, former gubernatorial candidate and current Cuyahoga County Commission Tim Hagan has had a suit against Taft and his operatives over unbid contracts, but the suit has languished over jurisdictional questions. The recent decision by Tom Moyer hopefully puts this case on the front burner.

But we have been reminded of an effort begun last year by Hagan's brother Bob, a state senator from the Youngstown area, to get the Inspector General to investigate the too-convenient-to-be-legal relationship among Envision Pharmaceutical Services and past/present members of the Taft administration.

In September 2004, Sen. Hagan wrote to IG Tom Charles to ask whether two former high-level members of the Taft administration, Brian Hicks and Cherie Carroll, had improperly steered an unbid $9.13 million contract to Envision to administer the state's new Best Rx low-income pharmacy program. Hagan wondered how Envision, which has offices in Ohio, Florida and California, had beaten out other benefit managers. He also asked if Hicks and Carroll had violated the state's "revolving door" laws prohibit lobbying by former state officials for one-year.

Back then Hicks' and Carroll's names were mainly familiar to lobbyists and politicians. Now their infamy has, ahem, gotten a little bigger.

But apparently because of their political status and Hagan's lack of clout (not a criticism of Bob - he's a done a great job fighting for the right issues in the Senate), Charles was not enthusiastic about pursuing the investigation back then.

The Youngstown Business Journal picks up the story from there:
In a phone interview yesterday, Hagan said the inspector general told him earlier that it was difficult to get phone records and other information relevant to the investigation, and it “might be a daunting task” to pursue. Hagan wanted the investigation to continue, he replied.
Sen. Hagan persisted and Charles apparently changed his mind:
“When everything else started to crumble around this governor, [the inspector general] said there may be some validity to these charged,” Hagan said.
Now, the Hicks/Carroll ties to Envision are no secret. Both the Dispatch and the Plain Dealer Hicks have reported on this.

The point of all this is that there is quite a bit of discussion going on that Charles is, indeed, now digging into these records and looking for conflicts related to Envision.

Furthermore, the public records suit being pursued by State Sen. Marc Dann and others could blow this whole matter open. If Taft, Hicks and the others are forced to produce their phone records, calendars and email, you better believe that the Democrats' investigators will make a the search records pertaining to Envision one of their top priorities.

By the way, Envision honchos are pretty well-known to the RNC. Together Envision chairman Jim Mindala and CEO Kevin Nagle have contributed over $84,000 to Republican campaigns since 2002.


Taft: Panic mode setting in?

You know it's got to be the start of bad day when Taft gets up in the morning to see headlines like this:
and polling like this that shows he is universally despised by virtually every sex, race, age and ideology.

One might be tempted to think he'd head back to bed and pull the covers over his head.

But Taft and his cohorts have long given up on salvaging their reputation. Damage control to his image would, obviously, be futile and a diversion from the bigger problems. Now this circle is in full defensive mode with their goal to keep their ass out of jail and contain the growing scandal.

Readers better believe that what's at stake with Marc Dann's executive privilege lawsuit is not just about BWC. The documents and reports that Taft is trying to shield may help connect the dots with other investigations having to do with unbid contracts.

We will have more on this last point in a post later today.


ABJ Editorial: Karl the hardballer

Another "extreme" editiorial board weighs in on Rove. From the Beacon Journal:
After months of pretending otherwise, the president and his team now face the reality that Rove did have something to do with the unmasking of a CIA covert operative. An illegal something? That's for the special prosecutor to decide. The White House must first address the political problem.

What better way to do so than to fudge, Clinton style? Republicans have been parsing furiously, proclaiming that Rove didn't actually use the name of the agent and may not have known that she was operating under cover. They insist Rove was merely playing the capable editor, guiding Matthew Cooper of Time away from a dubious story.

Karl the noble? Try the hardballer. Rove sought no less than to discredit an administration critic, Joseph Wilson, the husband of the agent and the former diplomat sent by the CIA to explore whether Iraq had tried to buy nuclear weapons fuel in Africa, as the White House wanted the country to believe. Come to think of it, that was so much spin, too.
Let's see, that leaves the score this way:


Dayton Daily: Bush still misleads on Rove, Iraq

In contrast to yesterdays stench from the Plain Dealer, today we can enjoy a fresh air from the lead editorial in Dayton's paper:
The facts so far don't show Mr. Rove definitively doing anything illegal. But he did try to discredit a critic of the president; he did allow the White House to put out wrong information; and he did let a reporter twist in the wind for two years, in a determined effort to protect himself. (Another reporter also is in jail.)

And the CIA should not have to worry about political operatives putting out any information about intelligence officers.

If a Democrat had done such a thing, Republicans would be accusing him of being willing to do anything in the name of politics, even undermining the country.
We took some heat yesterday for criticizing the PD. Several critics challenged us to find other editorials better than the PD's limp offering that was sprinkled with RNC talking points.

Challenge taken, as we will be certain to monitor the Ohio press for editorials on Rove and post the results. We're fairly certain the PD's defenders on the left will have second thoughts.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Taft thumbs nose at subpoenas

Gov. Bob has official notified State Sen. Marc Dann that he intends to ignore his subpoena to provide a deposition on his executive privilege claim. More precisely, state AG Jim Petro, who is representing the governor's office in this matter, was who notified Dann and the courts. CoinsForChange has the scoop here.

Dann's attorney, Fred Gittes, promised, in response to turn up the heat. From his response to the AG's office:
I urge you and the Governor to reconsider your position by tomorrow afternoon. In the absence of further modification of your position, particularly as to the Governor who is asserting the privilege, I will be forced to file a motion to compel the witnesses’ testimony with the Court and seek an appropriate extension as to the filing of evidence.
Although you can't be 100% certain about these things, we have to believe that most courts are going to frown on the defendent unilaterally deciding who can and can't provide a deposition. We also believe that the courts are not going to be sympathtic to blanket refusals that cover people no longer in public service, i.e., Brian Hicks.

The blog also reports that Petro has hired Columbus law firm Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur to help him with the case. So that means that Taft not only has a criminal defense team to protect him from pending ethics charges, but he also has an attorney for his various suits, plus his attorneys now have attorneys. How in the hell does Taft keep them all straight?


Taft served with deposition papers . . .

. . . and may be forced to testify as early as Friday on his executive privilege claim. Although it may not happen Friday, sooner or later Taft, Jon Allison, Brian Hicks, Jim Conrad, Jim Samuels and Mark Nedved will have to speak under oath.

The Blade has it here.

Also, Sen. Marc Dann, the man behind the suit challenging Taft's refusal to release key documents, has more here and here.


Moyer blocks Cleveland-area courts from hearing Taft suit

Yesterday, we had a post about Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice dragging his feet on deciding about jurisdiction involving a suit alleging that the Taft administration swapped unbid state contracts for political donations.

Well, Moyer finally made a decision and it was to exclude all 34 judges on the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. Moyer says he will instead appoint a retired, visiting judge to hear the case.

That suit was filed by Cuyahoga Co. Commission Tim Hagan, and Moyer argued that because of Hagan's influence on the court's budget the county's sitting judges should be excluded. Even the pleas of the county's chief judge, a Republican, couldn't change Moyer's mind.

If there is a silver lining in this, it's that Moyer didn't shift jurisdiction to Franklin or Hamilton counties which are dominated by Republican judges. Nevertheless, until Moyer announces who the judge will be, we're left sitting with a "devil you know" conundrum.

However Hagan's lawyer, Ken Seminatore, seems optimistic for reasons he explained to the Dispatch:
"If I am permitted to complete discovery, it won’t make any difference what judge hears this case because the massive rape of the Ohio taxpayer by these defendants will be apparent to anyone," Seminatore said.


Plain Dealer: Wanker de luxe

We still remember when the Plain Dealer had serious pretentions about being in the same league as the Times and WaPo. Now is settled for being the same league as Fox News. From today's editorial:
However, case-watchers say there appears little chance that Rove will be prosecuted; there's considerable question as to whether the woman, Valerie Plame, was indeed a covert agent, and his motivation had nothing to do with impairing intelligence operations, as the law demands. He has appeared three times before a grand jury investigating the matter. [emphasis added].
When you resort to killing stories (can we call it pre-emptive martyrdom?) and running RNC talking points in your editorials, you've pretty thumbed your nose at the Pulitzer committee.

Maybe Doug Clifton can audition to be the stand when John Gibson goes on vacation.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Taft's RICO problem, and we don't mean Puerto Rico . . .

A wee news item in today's Dispatch reminded us of another enormous scandal hanging over the Ohio GOP's head.

Last year, Cuyahoga County Commission Tim Hagan and a regional group of the American Friends Service Committee filed suit against the Ohio Republican Party alleging that Taft, his staff and members of the legislature traded BILLIONS of dollars of non-bid state contracts in exchange for campaign contributions.

From ONN (link may not work - try a Google cache):
The lawsuit said Ohio taxpayers, voters and candidates have been harmed by the alleged practice.

The lawsuit asked for restitution for any illegal political contributions made in violation of Ohio's competitive-bidding laws and sought the appointment of a monitor to oversee compliance.

"It is not about `pay to play' politics," the lawsuit said. "Rather, it is about forthright `pay to profit.'"

[. . . ]

In all, 22 Republican officials and organizations were named in the suit.

Under the alleged scheme, part of the proceeds from inflated unbid contracts are "kicked back" as political contributions to elected officials, the lawsuit said.
Last August, the Ohio GOP could get away with dismissing the lawsuit as "frivolous" and the public (and to a large extent, the courts) would have believed it.

But that was then, this is now, and now every corner of the state is familiar with the stench of Republican corruption. And even the insiders are starting to get their sphincters in a knot about this case.

Joe Hallett's story serves to remind us of the seriousness of Hagan's allegations and also to point out that Ohio Chief Justice Tom Moyer has inexplicably delayed making a decision about whether the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court will retain jurisdiction:
On May 27, Taft and other defendants asked Moyer to disqualify the entire Cuyahoga County court from hearing the case because the judges’ budgets are, in part, controlled by Hagan and the other two county commissioners.

On June 7, Richard J. McMonagle, a Republican and the presiding judge of the Cuyahoga County court, urged Moyer, also a Republican, to let his court keep the case, rather than transfer it to Franklin County.

"It would seem to me that the defendants would like this matter heard in Franklin County, which is more strongly a Republican area than in Cuyahoga County, which is a strongly Democratic area," McMonagle wrote. "I do not think any of the judges on this bench will be tainted because of their political persuasion. I believe it would be a mistake to change jurisdiction and, therefore, indicate that indeed there is a political persuasion here."
Is there a defense attorney in Ohio that isn't on retainer to a GOP client?


And Samuels still works for the state?!?!

Like failing to report the MDL losses, this latest revelation makes it pretty clear Jim Samuels knows nothing and cares nothing about whether a major state agency functions properly.

In fact, we had some run-ins with eye patch-wearing Samuels about a decade ago at BWC and we found him then to be an arrogant jerk whose main job - at least then - was to put out political fires and defend the gospel of St. Jim. Conrad was actually easier to deal with than Samuels.

Anyway, we can't think of one bit of value Samuels could bring at his new post at the Department of Taxation.


Ethics commission deadlocked on Hicks?

One of the bigger fish in the swirling Republican corruption scandals may be getting a pass from the Ohio Ethics Commission.

In its monthly meeting yesterday, the five-member commission (one seat is vacant) failed to reach an agreement to refer accusations against Brian Hicks, Taft's former chief of staff, to prosecutors. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations on ethics charge violations for Hicks runs out July 31 (two years after he left office).

The Commission apparently provided no explanation for it's lack of action. Given that the Commission also didn't announce it was dismissing the complaint against Hicks, one would have to assume that Commission a majority of members simply didn't want to take a stand one way or another on the matter and will the statute of limitations to take the matter out of their hands.

The Blade has more here, but we suspect there is something else going on.

The public case against Hicks appears to be pretty compelling. Hicks spent at least one week in the nearly $2 million dollar Florida Keys home of Tom Noe - a week that only cost Hicks $500. Now, anyone who has even tried to take their family to Orlando knows you can't get a week anywhere for 500 bucks.

The Commission didn't have to tie up all the loose ends to the case. It only had to show that there was a preponderance of evidence in order to refer it to the prosecutors.

Clearly, the prosecutor can act independently of the Commission members, but the Commission members must realize that they are getting dangerously close making a joke of themselves and the whole reporting process. If they can't stand the heat from the Hicks case, how are they going to withstand the flames when the Taft case hearings get hot and heavy?


Taft to fight deposition?

More bad news for Taft. The state's Supreme Court - recused of several members who have connection a connection to Tom Noe - has agreed to consider whether Gov. Bob Taft can continue to claim executive privilege in order to block the release of memos, reports, calendars and other documents related to several BWC scandals.

One of the juiciest developments is that this would allow the deposition of Taft, but it appears that a separate fight may loom over just that issue. From the Plain Dealer:
The high court ordered an expedited schedule for the parties in the complaint, which was filed last week by Sen. Marc Dann, a Youngstown Democrat.

Dann is fighting for access to weekly reports that Taft's office received from Conrad and Jim Samuel, Taft's BWC liaison.

Conrad resigned amid a burgeoning scandal touched off by the agency's investment with rare-coin dealer Tom Noe, a generous Republican contributor and fund-raiser. Taft demoted Samuel.

Dann said he considers the court's decision to take his complaint a victory, and said he hopes to depose several key players in the case who might have information about the memos, including Taft and his former chief of staff, Brian Hicks.

Rickel said the governor's office intends to comply with the court's order, but attorneys are still reviewing issues surrounding a deposition of the governor.

The court's order gives both parties five days to collect and present evidence, 10 days each to file briefs, and five days for final reply.
We will try to post later about what the timing of such an expedited schedule would be.

Monday, July 11, 2005


Paul Hackett for Congress

Readers may notice that we have posted a link for contributing to Paul Hackett's campaign to be elected to Congress from Ohio's 2nd district in the southwestern part of the state.

The choices in that district are stark. One one hand we have Hackett, a Democrat going up against Republican Jean Schmidt.

We don't know anything about how good his campaign structure is, but Hackett is THE perfect candidate. He is veteran of the Iraq and participated in the Fallujah campaign. Although he had a law-practice going, he re-upped in the Marine Corps reserve in order to take on a 7-month stint in Iraq. Get it - this guy is a certified hero! We understand that he is articulate, too.

What's more, he has to right position on the war, Social Security, health care and a host of other issues. We urge everyone to go to Hackett's web site to learn more, and, hopefully, to volunteer.

Jean Schmidt, his opponent, is more than willing to be a good lap dog for the Bush administration. She has already shown her willingness to belly up to the pig trough in Ohio, and there will be more of that if she is sent to Washington.

Progressives need to put their money where their mouth is and help Hackett turn his election into a referendum on the direction of our state and nation.


Blowing the horn or blowing smoke

Several different people (see the always-intelligent Chris Geidner, for example, and General Washington) have posted their takes on last week's story in the Plain Deal in which Doug Clifton seemed to be asserting that the paper has had to sit on two blockbuster controversies in order to protect their sources. Clifton linked it to the jailing of NYT reporter Judith Miller:
Who in America goes to jail just for doing his job? Nobody, unless you happen to be a reporter.
As we've noted in the past, we are not attorneys so we can't ground our reaction to all of this in strictly legal terms. And, our biases always lean pretty acutely to the First Amendment direction. Nevertheless, there is something about Clifton's comments that rankle us.

First, Clifton's comment that "people who would face deep trouble" is more than a little ambiguous, even if the next sentence does make a reference to jail.

We'll get back to this, but first let's look at the the murkiness of it all. As Josh Marshall has indicated, there is a lot of information around that suggests that the Judith Miller situation is probably different than the one Matt Cooper faced.

Josh has been suggesting for some time that Miller's problems may have to do with her being the source of information that was at some point later published in the information chain. We wouldn't be the first to speculate that, given Miller's close ties with Chalabi and his circles, she may have played a role outside of her reporting duties in making sure that that the Plame's cover was blown.

Back to Cooper and his source (we now know one was Rove), we think that there an distinction between passing on illegally received information whose publication isn't illegal versus perhaps legally obtained information whose publication may be illegal.

Clearly, at this point no one knows where Rove got his info on Plame. If it was from Miller, that's probably an illegal source. But, it's still plausible to us that Rove might have a legal source for his information.

Regardless, the conveyance of the information to Cooper for the purpose of publication seems to us to be a separate and potentially illegal act, and a different kind of situation than the normal jail-the-report-to-make-'em-talk story. We know that this may be not be the best analogy, but it would be sort of like the situation with shared copyrighted music: how you obtained the music in the first place would be a separate matter from the act of sharing it.

Now, let's return to the PD. Josh Marshall has also been sharp about analyzing the DOJ guidelines for compelling testimony form journalists: "It's not to be done for idle curiosity or to tie up loose ends, but only when the prosecutor believes he's zeroing in on a crime. And even then they're not supposed to do it unless all other alternatives have been exhausted."

Now, Clifton fails to reveal whether he is worried about federal inquiries or whether it might be at about getting heat some other level. Without knowing more, it seems to be a leap to assume that a PD reporter would be compelled to reveal a source.

To us, there are two main probabilities. The first is that Clifton is assuming the worst will happen, and perhaps even exaggerating the threat a little bit.

The second is that Clifton is correct and publication of the information now - based on their source - would bring bring an investigation and the threat of jailing to the reporter.

But, would Clifton really publish a story based solely on a source like this? We don't think so. Reporter friends tell us that more often than most people would think, they get information that sure seems as if it was taken illegally. The general rule of thumb is that you must find other sources that will confirm this information.

And Clifton knows this. Hell, the PD did 9 months of stories based on data from stolen computer disks. But they found a way around it.

So, as much as we'd love to know the content of the two stories he references, we think Clifton's lament - based soley on what he chose to reveal - sounds to us to be more of a journalistic problem, not a legal one.

[Update to fix typos - sorry Chris.]


Cherie pie

So, Cherie Carroll - event planner, White House travel agent extraordinaire and Brian Hicks' secretary while in the Taft administration - all that time had an untapped "super lobbyist" bottled up inside of her? Who knew? Snaps to you, girl!

From Julie Carr Smyth at the PD:
Carroll, a Mechanicsburg native with a high school education, had a key role in the early days of Hicks Partners. She landed contracts, under her own name, with Envision and five other clients while Hicks was prohibited from lobbying in Ohio during the first year after he left state government, according to state records.
And after her hard work of lobbying for them for a year, what does that mean ole' Brian do to sweet Cherie?
Within weeks of his ban being lifted, Hicks registered to represent all six himself.

Actually, this is not a new revelation. This had been reported by the the papers several months ago. We just wanted to remind everyone that:
On May 23, Charles asked Taft’s office for telephone and e-mail records as well as the personnel files for Hicks, Carroll, [Orest] Holubec and [Douglas] Talbott. He said he had found during his investigation that “certain members of the governor’s staff may have received lodging accommodations and other items” from Noe.
We already know that Hick's got the AAA+ discount at Chez Noe in Florida, that Talbott got a no-interest loan for a downpayment on his Lake Erie home from Noe, and that Tom picked up the tab for Cherie's trip to Bush's 2001 Inauguration.
But, Charles' reference "lodging accommodations and other items" seems to describe something broader.

And, Charles has yet to release his report on his investigation. We hear that may happen soon.

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