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Bush Election Theft Saga Heats Up In Ohio

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Ohio's Governor Bob Taft, and his partner in crime in stealing the 2004 election in Ohio, President George W Bush, have a lot in common. Bush holds the record for the lowest approval ratings of any President in US history, and at a whopping 26%, Taft holds the title for the lowest approval rating for any Ohio governor since the University of Cincinnati started the poll 25 years ago in 1981.

And Taft's numbers are not likely to head upward any time soon. In what can only serve as another reminder of his conviction in 2005 on ethics charges, on June 13, 2006 the Ohio Supreme Court ordered Taft to turn over documents in response to a request by state Senator, Marc Dann, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, which Dann contends may help determine what happened to the money missing from state's Bureau of Worker's Compensation Fund.

In February 2006, one of Bush's Ohio Campaign chairman's, Thomas Noe, was charged with 53 felony counts for his role in the disappearance of millions of dollars from the rare-coin fund he managed for the BWC, including 22 counts of forgery, 11 counts of money laundering, 6 counts of aggravated theft, 8 counts of tampering with records, 5 counts of grand theft, and 1 count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

The Ohio auditor 's office has said Noe, and some of his former business associates, owes the state over $13.5 million. A special audit from an outside firm, released in February 2006, alleges Noe's lavish lifestyle was bankrolled with money from the $50 million he controlled in two rare-coin funds for the BWC.

The same day that Noe received the first $25 million from the Ohio BWC fund, on March 31, 1998, the audit found that Noe transferred $1.375 million to his Vintage Coins and Collectibles company to buy coins for the state fund but according to the audit, Vintage "did not possess the inventory levels necessary to support the sales transaction. "

The audit also found 15 transactions totaling $3,930,000, labeled as coin purchases from Vintage Coins, but in "12 of the 15 transactions," the audit said, "Vintage check registers reflected a negative cash balance at the time the deposits were recorded. "

After the 15 transactions, auditors found that Vintage Coins financial records showed payments of: $504,657 to a line of credit in the name of Noe; $227,049 in direct payments to Noe; $542,675 in payments to "related companies; " $1,020,676 to "related individuals, " and $176,088 worth of payments to builders and home appliance companies for Noe's homes.

Legal documents released in May, 2006 allege that Noe wrote out checks to his friends for over $440,000 from the state 's funds, and then forged their signatures and deposited the money in accounts he controlled.
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Although it is now known that the investigation into this matter was initiated before the 2004 Presidential election, the voters in Ohio was kept in the dark until the Toledo Blade broke the story on April 2005.

A few days after the Blade story was published, Taft jumped in to publicly defend Noe claiming that Noe has "probably been the most effective advocate for this part of the state in Columbus that you've got and you're going after this guy."

"You're trying to kill him," Taft said, "for some reason."

But the facts in the case reveal that nobody was picking on poor Tom Noe. The Ohio attorney general says Noe may have stole as much as $6 million and many critics are speculating that at least some of the missing money was funneled to Republican politicians all over the country, from Washington DC to Ohio and all the way to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

According to the Toledo Blade, Dann wants Taft's records released on "the supposition that they will shed light on what the governor knew about wrongdoing at the Bureau of Workers' Compensation."
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Since April, Taft has been fighting to keep the documents secret which include weekly reports compiled by his top aides. The Ohio high Court will now review the records in private and decide whether they should be made public.

The June14, 2006 Blade, reported that Dann "has said more documents could shed additional light on why up to $13 million is unaccounted for in the state's rare-coin investment controlled by Tom Noe and why the state lost $216 million in a risky hedge fund managed by Mark D. Lay of MDL Capital Management, of Pittsburgh."

Taft's ethical lapses became public last summer on June 14, 2005, when Taft sent a letter to the Ohio Ethics Commission stating that it has, "recently come to my attention that I failed to list a number of golf outings or events on my financial disclosure forms over the past several years." Taft apparently expects the public to believe that a total of 52 golf outings paid for by Noe just slipped his mind.

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Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for OpEd News and investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America.

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