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Published: Sunday, 5/29/2005

Before we gloat, no more '-gates'

"[Tom Noe] was making money for the state; what's the problem?" - An irate Gov. Bob Taft, April 7

"I am outraged, angered, saddened, sickened by what we learned yesterday from Mr. Noe's attorney." - A "fed-up" Governor Taft, May 27

"I think this is purely political, and the truth doesn't lie. When all is said and done, they will not find anything." - Tom Noe, in the April 13 Toledo Free Press

" ." - Tom Noe, in more recent weeks

Well, let's not be too hasty. Tom Noe is presumed innocent - and as of this writing the man hasn't even been charged with anything.

But still. I mean, when one of Mr. Noe's various attorneys called state officials (even as fraud investigators gathered at his client's vault) to say that $10 million to $12 million was "unaccounted for," well, c'mon.

But, hey. Maybe it'll turn out to be Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick. If it does, taxpayers better ask about the provenance of that candlestick, and whether it's state property.

Even as some were aghast at a public investment scheme featuring rare coins, jaws dropped even more after we learned that coins, ladies and gentlemen, were just a part of Ohio's portfolio.

A Christmas card signed by Jackie O., something else signed by Thomas Jefferson, a rare photo of a beardless Abe Lincoln, and that cone-shaped bra Madonna wore on tour.

Boy, Tom Noe's not kidding about the "collectibles" part of his business, is he? And far be it from me to imply that trafficking in collectibles isn't a worthwhile pursuit.

Just not with taxpayer-dollar investments.

(Hey, Madonna's bra? I made that up. Gotcha, didn't I? You couldn't tell if that was one of Mr. Noe's "collectibles," because who knows, it could have been!)

Oh, this just gets richer and richer.

A few rare coins lost. No, wait, more like 119 coins. No, wait, make that $10 million. Or maybe even $12 million. What's a little loose change among friends?

And that is precisely the point. The level of "friendliness" in Columbus is a little too chummy.

This entire mess (for want of a better word) looks more and more to be a sad and near-classic illustration of the blessings of political friendship.

And let's not make the mistake of gloating too much over this Republican scandal. While the GOP happens to be the party in power in Columbus, cronyism is hardly limited to one political party or another. It just must be the Republicans' turn.

Oh, and one more thing: Can we please find a better nickname than Coingate for all this?

No more -gates!

Not in name, and (oh, why not think big) not in practice.



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