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Published: Tuesday, 2/14/2006

Indictment shows GOP's corruption, Democrats say

BY STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Democratic National Committee officials said yesterday's indictment of Tom Noe is a prime example of the corruption plaguing Washington and Columbus.

The 53-count indictment against the former GOP fund-raiser comes on the heels of the guilty plea entered last month by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is at the center of a wide-reaching corruption scandal in Washington.

Both Mr. Noe and Mr. Abramoff share the elite status of Bush "Pioneers" because they raised at least $100,000 for the President's re-election campaign in 2004.

Mr. Bush has returned $4,000 in campaign contributions from Mr. Noe and his wife, as well as $6,000 from Mr. Abramoff, his wife, and a client, but he has not returned the money the men raised for his re-election campaign.

Yesterday, the DNC reiterated its call for Mr. Bush to return money raised by Mr. Noe and other "indicted fund-raisers."

"Tom Noe stole millions from Ohio workers and used it to help elect a governor who became the first convicted criminal to lead Ohio and a President whose administration is even more corrupt than Richard Nixon's," said Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the DNC.

After Mr. Noe was indicted on separate federal charges in October on accusations he laundered $45,400 in Mr. Bush's re-election campaign, an RNC spokesman said his organization already returned money from Mr. Noe and his wife, and "will take other appropriate actions if the situation warrants it."

Mark Weaver, a Republican strategist, said the indictment will not tar the entire party. "Voters are smart enough to know that the actions of one person don't reflect on any one party," he said.

"Democrats will want to try to take advantage of this situation for their partisan, personal gain," Mr. Weaver said. "It's to be expected, even though it is unfortunate."

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft last summer was convicted on misdemeanor criminal charges for failing to report gifts on his ethics forms, including some from Mr. Noe. Two of Mr. Taft's former aides have been convicted on similar charges, and two more were charged last week.

Last month, Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean kicked-off a national ethics reform campaign at the Statehouse in Columbus because he said he believes Ohio is "at the center" of some of the corruption that touched both state and federal government.

Other elite fund-raisers have been under investigation.

Brent Wilkes, a defense consultant, is connected to U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's (R., Calif.) bribery scandal.

Fred Wertheimer, the president of Washington-based Democracy 21, a campaign-finance reform advocate, said corruption scandals often run in cycles.

"When you get to a moment where serious corruption issues and various kinds of government related scandals are occurring, it says that the time is now for very basic government reforms," Mr. Wertheimer said. "Often in these circumstances, some elected officials will try to sell cosmetic reforms."

Contact Steve Eder at:

seder@theblade.com or

419-724-6272.



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