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Montgomery drops claim that Dann took tainted cash

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COLUMBUS - After The Blade reported last week that state Sen. Marc Dann would return $60,000 in campaign contributions from the Lucarelli family and their associates who operate a Cleveland-based medical-care organization, state Auditor Betty Montgomery's campaign for attorney general accused her opponent of accepting money from a convicted racketeer.

What the Montgomery campaign didn't realize was that $10,000 of the contributions came not from Samuel G. Lucarelli, who was convicted in 1989 on racketeering charges - but from his son, Samuel L. Lucarelli.

Mr. Dann urged Ms. Montgomery to apologize for falsely claiming that the Democrat took money from a convicted racketeer.

Ms. Montgomery's campaign said it would no longer press the issue.

The back-and-forth over the Lucarelli contributions has intensified the sparring in a contentious race for attorney general that pits Ms. Montgomery, a former two-term Republican attorney general, against Mr. Dann, a state senator from suburban Youngstown who raised his profile as an early critic of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation investment practices.

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The Blade's analysis published last week said the members of the Lucarelli family and their associates have contributed at least $218,000 to Ohio political candidates and that their company, 1-888-OhioComp, had received about $29 million from the Bureau of Workers' Compensation for providing managed care services to thousands of state employers.

Last week, after being contacted by The Blade, Mr. Dann decided to return $60,000 in contributions he had received from the associates of 1-888-OhioComp, which provides managed services for Ohio employers through a Workers' Compensation program.

The Blade reported last week that dozens of managed-care firms have collected $1.374 billion from the bureau since 1997, and the executives and associates of the managed-care operations have contributed at least $610,000 to political candidates.

On Sept. 7 and at a news conference the following day, Mr. Dann said he would return the contributions he had received from the associates of 1-888-OhioComp in case he was charged with examining the bureau's managed-care system as attorney general.

Mr. Dann said he was returning the contributions to maintain impartiality, not because 1-888-OhioComp had done anything wrong.

In a Sept. 8 press release and a statement released on Wednesday, Ms. Montgomery's campaign referred to Mr. Dann accepting $60,000 in campaign contributions from "convicted racketeer Sam Lucarelli and members of his family."

In a letter on Wednesday, Jason Lucarelli, the president of 1-888-OhioComp, wrote that Samuel G. Lucarelli is his father and Samuel L. Lucarelli is his brother.

Jen Detwiler, a spokesman for Ms. Montgomery, said yesterday: "We had every indication to believe it was Samuel G. Lucarelli. Marc Dann for six days did not deny that fact. And then in his statement [Wednesday], he does."

Contact Steve Eder at:

seder@theblade.com

or 419-724-6272.

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