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Published: Friday, 6/3/2005

Local GOP struggles with issue of Noe's donations

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Kaczala Kaczala
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Local Republican elected officials indicated yesterday they won't immediately join a parade of top Ohio GOP politicians who vowed this week to give up campaign contributions from embattled Toledo-area coin dealer Tom Noe.

And the Lucas County Republican Party hasn't decided what to do about contributions and loans from Mr. Noe since 1998, when he began managing a state rare coin fund that is the object of a criminal investigation involving at least $10 million in missing funds. U.S. Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine, and Gov. Bob Taft were among Republican officials who promised Wednesday to give the Noe campaign money to charities or the state.

County party Chairman Sally Perz, following testimony before a federal grand jury looking into Mr. Noe's fund-raising on behalf of President Bush, said no decision has been made on funds received from Mr. Noe, including $65,000 in loans made to keep the struggling political organization afloat.

Toledo Councilman and mayoral candidate Rob Ludeman said he hasn't decided if he will give up $1,400 in contributions from Mr. Noe and wife, Bernadette, since 2000. Mr. and Mrs. Noe are both former chairmen of the local party organization.

Ludeman Ludeman
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"It's not a lot of money, and we have made no decision," said Mr. Ludeman, who noted that Mr. Noe has not yet been charged criminally.

County Auditor Larry Kaczala said his final campaign report showed his account had a balance of about $1. "In my mind the accounts have been closed [since] last January." He claimed it would be illegal to use personal funds to repay the donations. Mr. Kaczala said Mr. Noe and his wife, Bernadette, each gave $2,000 to his campaign.

"I want to do the right thing with these donations," said Maggie Thurber, county commissioner, who testified before the grand jury on Wednesday. She said she's waiting to hear from attorneys about $2,150 in contributions from the Noes since 2000. She stopped short of promising to return the funds.

She said she believes the money should not go to charity but be returned to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, which owns the coin funds formerly controlled by Mr. Noe.

Gene Zmuda, now a Toledo municipal judge, received $1,000 from Mr. Noe in 2001 when Mr. Zmuda was a Toledo councilman.

"That campaign account is closed, and I transferred whatever balance there was to the [county Republican] party," he said.

Blade Staff Writers Mike Wilkinson and Dale Emch contributed to this report.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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