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Edwards critical of rare-coin deal during Ohio trip

EDWARDS

Former vice presidential hopeful John Edwards talks about ending poverty during his Ohio visit.

JAY LAPRETE / AP Enlarge

COLUMBUS - Another possible 2008 White House contender visited Ohio yesterday and spoke out against the rare-coin fiasco that has engulfed state government.

"It looks like the people of Ohio have been taken advantage of in order to help a buddy and it's been very costly for the state," said John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator who was the Democratic candidate for vice president in 2004.

After a speech in Columbus, Mr. Edwards echoed comments made a month earlier by Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean about the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation rare-coin scandal. The bureau invested $50 million in rare coins with Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe.

Mr. Noe's attorneys have acknowledged that up to $13 million of the bureau's assets are unaccounted for.

Admitting that hindsight is 20/20, Mr. Edwards demurred to say whether the scandal could have helped his running mate Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) win the presidency last year.

"I have no way of knowing whether it would have impacted the election," he said. "It's greatly troublesome."

Ohio Republican Party spokesman Jason Mauk said that Mr. Edwards also should have addressed the bureau's $215 million losses in an offshore hedge fund, instead of playing political games.

"It's hypocritical for John Edwards to be pointing fingers on this issue," he said. "His own campaign took thousands of dollars from a Democrat investment manager accused of mishandling Ohio employer investments.''

Pittsburgh-based MDL Capital Management chairman Mark D. Lay, who ran the failed hedge fund, has given $2,000 to the Kerry campaign and $10,000 to a Democratic political action committee.

Mr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont who ran for the presidential nomination in 2004 and is a possible candidate in 2008, said on May 31 that President Bush should return all donations from Mr. Noe.

"Tom Noe's name has been added to the growing list of big-time contributors to President Bush's re-election campaign being investigated for criminal wrongdoing," Mr. Dean said in May.

As part of his fight against poverty, Mr. Edwards visited Columbus and Cleveland yesterday to speak in favor of increasing the minimum wage.

He said that presidential ambitions had nothing to do with his itinerary of Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, and New Mexico.

"My campaign now is not a political campaign," Mr. Edwards said. "It's a campaign to end poverty in this country."

In Cleveland, Mr. Edwards attended a fund-raiser for the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus.

The scandal in the Bureau of Workers' Compensation was a topic of conversation at the event, which was attended by about 150 people, said State Sen. Marc Dann (D., Youngstown).

Staff Writer Steve Eder contributed to this report.

Contact Joshua Boak at:

jboak@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.

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