COLUMBUS -- The shock waves from Ohio Governor Bob Taft's no
contest plea to four misdemeanor ethics violations have turned this state's
politics upside down. They also have direct roots in the stolen election of
Ohio's "Mr. Clean" governor has been forced to
admit he took gratis golf games and other insider graft and goodies. His
tearful no contest plea led to a nominal fine where lesser public figures could
have gotten substantial jail time. Taft faced up to two years in jail.
The mainstream media has indeed reported that these
gratuities have come from the usual thieves' den of contractors doing business
with the state of Ohio. It's also well known that Tom Noe has been prominent
among them. In fact, it has now been reported that Noe told Taft about
controversial rare coin investments that may have cost the state millions as
early as 2001, rather than 2004, as Taft has claimed. Also, the Columbus
Dispatch reported that Taft failed to report eight additional gifts valued at
more than $75: three between 1999-2005; five between 2002-2004. Columbus City
Prosecutor Steve McIntosh told the Dispatch that there wasn't likely to be a
"second round of misdemeanors."
But the media has ignored the fact that Noe is also former
chair of the Lucas County Board of Elections, a major Bush-Cheney donor, and a
key player in the theft of Ohio's 2004 electoral votes. He is reportedly under
federal investigation for laundering money into the Bush-Cheney re-election
campaign. Election Day chaos and confusion in Noe's predominantly Democratic
Lucas County helped give Bush a second term in the White House.
Time and again Taft has made public posturings about the
need for all state employees to be completely free of even the perception of
wrongdoing and corruption.
But the Taft sinkhole goes way beyond a few gubernatorial
golf games. Millions of dollars are now missing from the Bureau of Workers'
Compensation Fund, thanks to his friend Tom Noe's bizarre investment schemes.
Noe ran a Toledo coin shop before being fingered as some kind of investment
genius, designated to handle some $50 million in state funds. When he got the
account, Noe's first move was to write himself a check for fees well in excess
of $1 million. As of now, millions more are known to be missing in a
"Coingate" scandal that has made headlines nationwide.
But Noe was also at the heart of Ohio's 2004 stolen
election. As northwestern Ohio's "Mr. Republican," Noe was the
gatekeeper for Toledo-area GOP politics for a dozen years. He chaired not only
the Lucas County Republican Party, but also the Lucas County Board of Elections
As BOE chair, Tom Noe made a high profile acquisition of
Sequoia electronic voting machines, crowing about the speed with which they
were installed. But by 2004, Lucas County was knee-deep in malfunctions
involving the notorious Diebold opti-scan vote counters, which jammed before
and during Election Day. In precinct after precinct throughout the heavily
Democratic Toledo inner city, African-American voters were disenfranchised en
masse. Machines broke down, lines grew to three, four and five hours. Thousands
left without voting.
At the Glenwood School, voting machines were locked in the
principal's office. When he called in sick on Election Morning, hundreds of
African-American citizens were denied the ability to vote. The situation was
cemented by an edict from Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell
that paper ballots were not to be issued to Ohio precincts to cover when
machines broke down.
At other Lucas County precincts, as citizens have testified
under oath, unsuspecting voters were issued faulty markers which ruined the
ballots on which they were used. Inner city voters thus left thinking they had
voted when, in fact, their ballots were automatically trashed.
The overall situation in Lucas County became so infamously
twisted with incompetence, malfeasance and corruption that in mid-2005,
Blackwell was forced to issue a scathing staff report on voting practices
there. In response, he threatened to fire the entire board of elections.
Board Chair Bernadette Noe had already announced her
intention to resign. But independent researchers estimate that at least 7,000
votes were shifted in Lucas County from John Kerry to George W. Bush under her
regime. Many thousands of African-American residents, most of them likely Kerry
voters, were effectively disenfranchised.
The Toledo Blade reported that in the summer of 2004, 28,000
voters were "erased" from the Lucas County voter registration rolls.
The purge included voters like Barbara and Ralph George "who first
registered to vote for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and had lived in the same East
Toledo house for 44 years." The Georges had called prior to their
elimination from the voting rolls and had been told that they were eligible
The Blade also reported that 40 of the provisional voters in
precinct 4N were in the right room, but the wrong line on Election Day. All of
their votes were rejected as were 50 of the 67 provisional ballots cast in the
precinct. The volume of provisional ballots more than doubled when contrasted
to the 2000 presidential election.
Taft is the first governor in Ohio history to be charged
with misdemeanor ethics violations. His no contest plea opens a new chapter in
Ohio politics. Whether its roots in the stolen election of 2004 will be fully
exposed in the mainstream media remains to be seen. But we will continue to do
Wasserman & Bob Fitrakis are co-authors of the upcoming "How the GOP
Stole the 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008."