Bush fund-raiser gives testimony in federal campaign finance probe

7/7/2005
BY MIKE WILKINSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jessica  Scottie  May, an associate with the Hicks Partners lobbying fi rm, leaves the federal
courthouse with her husband, Brett Buerck, left, and her attorney, who was unidentifi ed.
Columbus-based Hicks Partners is run by Brian Hicks, former chief of staff to Gov. Bob Taft.
Jessica Scottie May, an associate with the Hicks Partners lobbying fi rm, leaves the federal courthouse with her husband, Brett Buerck, left, and her attorney, who was unidentifi ed. Columbus-based Hicks Partners is run by Brian Hicks, former chief of staff to Gov. Bob Taft.

One of the fund-raisers hired to raise money for President Bush's re-election in Ohio appeared before a federal grand jury in Toledo yesterday to testify in the Tom Noe case.

Jessica "Scottie" May spent about 30 minutes with the grand jury that is hearing testimony and reviewing evidence regarding allegations that Mr. Noe skirted campaign finance spending limits by contributing to the President's re-election campaign through other people.

After she left the federal courthouse, Ms. May said she was a witness in the case.

"I [gave] them responses to their questions," Ms. May said.

The Bush-Cheney campaign hired Hicks Partners, a Columbus lobbying firm, to raise money in Ohio. Hicks Partners is run by Brian Hicks, a former chief of staff to Gov. Bob Taft.

Mr. Hicks is under investigation for having spent vacation time at Mr. Noe's Florida home.

Local jeweler Jeffrey Mann was identified as a witness during the grand jury session.
Local jeweler Jeffrey Mann was identified as a witness during the grand jury session.

Ms. May is an associate of the firm and is known for her fund-raising skills.

Hicks Partners handled the arrangements for an Oct. 30, 2003, luncheon with President Bush in Columbus that is part of the focus of the federal investigation.

An estimated $1.4 million was raised that day.

The Bush-Cheney campaign paid Hicks Partners $54,253 between September, 2003, and April, 2004, for fund-raising services, records show.

Federal authorities have been looking into whether Mr. Noe gave a number of people, including several prominent Toledo-area politicians, money in order for them to contribute to the campaign. Many of them attended the October fund-raiser.

When asked yesterday outside the federal courthouse if she knew if Mr. Noe had given money to others for the purpose of making contributions, Ms. May said: "I certainly had no knowledge."

In addition to the Bush-Cheney campaign, Hicks Partners was a consultant in several other races and campaigns, including Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger's campaign, of which Mr. Noe was chairman.

Only one other person was identified as a witness during yesterday's grand jury session. Local jeweler Jeffrey Mann appeared before the grand jury. He and his wife, Corrine, donated $2,000 each to the Bush-Cheney campaign.

"I gave them honest and truthful testimony," Mr. Mann said afterward.

Yesterday's grand jury session marked the second time the U.S. attorney's office has brought witnesses before the grand jury.

In June, several local public officials and high-profile people testified before the grand jury, including City Councilman Betty Shultz and Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber.

Former Toledo mayor Donna Owens, now a member of the Ohio Industrial Commission, former state representative Sally Perz, and former Lucas County Elections Board director Joe Kidd also testified last month.

Each contributed $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney campaign, except for Ms. Thurber. Both she and her husband, Sam, who also appeared before the grand jury, contributed $1,950.

During her visit to the federal courthouse, Ms. May was joined by her attorney, who was not identified, and husband Brett Buerck, the former chief of staff of Larry Householder when the latter was the speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives.

Mr. Buerck is a target of a separate federal grand jury investigating corruption allegations that involve Mr. Householder, now the Perry County auditor.

In May, 2004, a federal grand jury subpoenaed records from firms hired by the House Republican Campaign Committee that Mr. Householder controlled, from Mr. Householder's campaign committee, and from Tom Whatman, a former executive director of the Ohio Republican Party.

Two months earlier, an anonymous nine-page memo surfaced that said the House Republican Campaign Committee overcharged for some campaign work, and the vendors that received the extra money paid kickbacks to Mr. Householder and his campaign aides, including Mr. Buerck.

Mr. Householder and Mr. Buerck have maintained they did not violate any laws.

Contact Mike Wilkinson at:

mwilkinson@theblade.com or

419-724-6104.