31 March 2014

As 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. Republican."



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 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 nineteen 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 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 fifteen 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 mis-handling 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 missing.



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 for more than a decade. His fortunes turned around dramatically after he met Paul Mifsud, former chief of staff for Voinovich, former military intelligence officer, and Ohio campaign manager for George H.W. Bush in 1980 and 1988.



At the core of 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 investment/slush fund.



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.



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Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at http://www.freepress.org/ and http://www.harveywasserman.com/, and of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO, with Steve Rosenfeld, being published Spring 2006 by The New Press.