Watergate-style money laundering indictments stoke Ohio's stolen election fires
By Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
Online Journal Guest Writers
Oct 30, 2005, 00:22
federal probes rack Team Bush in Washington, three huge indictments for money
laundering and other pro-Bush election crimes involving Ohio
"Coingate" lynchpin Tom Noe have stoked powerful new Watergate-style
financial fires under Ohio's stolen 2004 election scandal.
A close associate of key Republicans, from George H.W. Bush
to George W. Bush to Ohio Senator George Voinovich to Ohio Governor Robert Taft
and many, many more, Noe has long been known as northwest Ohio's "Mr.
He has also been at the heart of speculation on how huge
numbers of votes in the Toledo area may have wrongly found their way into the
Bush column, helping the GOP again take the presidency in 2004.
While media attention focuses on Plamegate and on Noe's
financial scams, it overlooks his many years as chair of the Board of Elections
in Lucas County. He was deeply involved in controversial procurement deals that
brought Diebold opti-scan vote counting machines into inner city Toledo
precincts. Many of those machines suspiciously malfunctioned at key times on
election day. Sworn testimony in hearings conducted by the Free Press after the
election confirm that thousands of inner city voters were disenfranchised due
to Noe's decisions.
In a widely circulated 2003 fundraising letter, Diebold CEO
Wally O'Dell promised to deliver Ohio's 2004 electoral votes�and thus the
election�to Bush. O'Dell and Noe are two of Ohio's 19 GOP Bush Pioneer/Ranger
high money donors.
Sworn testimony in the Free Press hearings further confirmed
that Diebold technicians were given access to the machines procured by Noe,
compromising the Ohio recount, and were allegedly involved in the selection of
the precincts to be recounted, in violation of Ohio election law. Ohio requires
that precincts be "randomly selected" in a recount.
Noe's wife Bernadette chaired the Lucas County BOE leading
up to and during the actual November 2, 2004, balloting. Under her guidance,
Toledo-area officials purged some 27,000 voters from registration lists in late
summer 2004, just prior to the November presidential vote. The conduct of the
election under her regime was so deeply tainted with incompetence and fraud
that Ms. Noe announced her resignation effective soon after the election. The
scandals ran so deep that in the summer of 2005, the Republican secretary of
state, J. Kenneth Blackwell, was forced to make public a scathing report on how
Lucas County handled the election. Amidst the public uproar, the entire Lucas
County Board of Elections resigned.
The federal indictments against Noe include charges of
conspiring to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act through the use of two
dozen "conduit donors" who slipped the Bush-Cheney campaign some
$45,400 in 2003. Charges also cite Noe with causing the Bush-Cheney campaign to
file false reports with the Federal Election Commission. The total penalties
Noe faces on the three counts are up to $950,00 in fines and up to a total of
15 years in prison.
The indictments are reminiscent of the large
money-laundering schemes used by the Nixon-Agnew campaign in 1972 that led
directly to the Watergate scandals and Nixon's resignation. Among those
implicated at the time was George Steinbrenner, current owner of the New York
Yankees, who funneled money to the Campaign to Re-Elect the President (CREEP)
by giving his employees checks to pass on.
These new Ohio indictments do not speak to the $4 million
Noe is widely alleged to have taken from his mishandling of some $50 million in
funds from the Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation and other state agencies.
Some $12 million in state funds related to Noe's activities is known to be
Noe is a former near-bankrupt hobby shop operator, who sold
Beanie Babies, baseball cards and coins. His alleged activities in money
laundering for Bush enterprises date back more than a decade. His fortunes
turned around dramatically after he met Paul Mifsud, former chief of staff for
Gov. (now US Senator) George Voinovich, former military intelligence officer,
and Ohio campaign manager for George H.W. Bush in 1980 and 1988.
At the core of the latest charges are assertions that Noe
did an end run around the $2,000 federal campaign donation limit by giving his
own money to 24 associates and having them funnel it to the Bush-Cheney
campaign. The move was made to help fulfill Noe's promise to raise $50,000 for
the GOP presidential effort. Noel Hillman, chief of the U.S. Justice
Department's Public Integrity Section, brands the case against Noe as "one
of the most blatant and excessive campaign-finance criminal schemes we have encountered"
in recent years.
Key Taft aides such as Brian Hicks and James Conrad have
been forced to resign, with Hicks being convicted for failing to report a stay
at Noe's Florida home. Ohio Gov. Robert Taft has also been convicted of three
misdemeanor ethics violations, at least one of which involves a golf outing
with Noe, during which Noe claims he told Taft about the secret Coingate
The introduction of very large money laundering scandals
leading directly to the Bush-Cheney campaign in the state where the 2004
election was decided adds another dimension to the Plamegate scandals that have
put Team Bush under fire in Washington.
The "follow the money" syndrome that led to the
demise of the Nixon administration after its apparent triumph in the election
of 1972 may now be at play in the wake of Stolen Ohio 2004.
Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S
2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at www.freepress.org and www.harveywasserman.com, and of WHAT
HAPPENED IN OHIO, with Steve Rosenfeld, being published Spring 2006 by The New
Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor