Published on Thursday, June 9, 2005 by the Toledo Blade (Ohio)
Kaptur Alerts Colleagues of Unfolding Scandal
Brown says illegalities put presidential election in question
by Steve Eder
WASHINGTON - As the word spread Tuesday night that the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation had lost $215 million in a high-risk investment, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur alerted her colleagues to the mounting concerns in her home state.
Miss Kaptur, during a statement on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday night, said "there is a major political scandal that is unfolding in the state of Ohio."
"The governor of our state has permitted millions and millions of dollars of workers' money from the Ohio Worker's Compensation Fund to be invested in high-risk investments," Miss Kaptur said in a statement that was placed on the congressional record.
Her accusations came just hours after the bureau acknowledged that it lost $215 million in a high-risk fund run by Pittsburgh businessman Mark D. Lay, who has contributed to Gov. Bob Taft's campaign, and other candidates, including some Democrats. The governor's office was notified of the loss last October, but a spokesman for Mr. Taft said yesterday he was not made aware of the concerns.
The $215 million loss - coupled with a failed $50 million rare-coin investment with Tom Noe, a prominent Republican campaign contributor - have given Democrats political ammunition against the GOP, which has dominated state government for years.
Democrats such as Miss Kaptur and U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown of Lorain say the latest scandals mirror problems in Washington and even call into question the results of the 2004 presidential election.
"Shame on the governor of Ohio," said Miss Kaptur, who put The Blade's Tuesday online story breaking the news of the $215 million loss into the Congressional record. "Shame on the state officials of the State of Ohio. What a tragedy they have perpetrated on the people of our state."
Mr. Brown said state government leaders have been "inept" and "incompetent" for a decade and the "depth of corruption in Ohio might set national records."
Mr. Brown called out Governor Taft, as well as GOP gubernatorial candidates Attorney General Jim Petro, State Auditor Betty Montgomery, and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.
"The governor's cronies have been losing money, and the attorney general, the auditor, and the secretary of state seem to hear no evil and see no evil," he said.
In this case, it appears "the people who are supposed to be the watchdog of state's government have all contributed to the corruption."
Mr. Brown, a former Ohio secretary of state, said the situation in Ohio mirrors problems in Washington.
"I've watched up close the arrogance of [Republican House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay," he said, "and I see the way Taft, and Blackwell, and Petro … and those folks run the state government."
Dan Allen, a spokesman for Mr. DeLay, responded yesterday: "The Democrats would like nothing more than to focus on these partisan attacks and ignore the fact that they have become the party of no ideas, no solutions, and no agenda."
Democrats say there is still more ground to be covered in investigating problems in Ohio, including a look at the 2004 presidential campaign.
Mr. Noe, whose attorneys told authorities two weeks ago that $10 million to $12 million of the state's assets were missing from the coin fund, is facing multiple investigations, including a federal probe into whether he laundered money into President Bush's re-election campaign. The Republican contributor was considered a Bush "pioneer" because he raised at least $100,000 for Mr. Bush's campaign.
"I think the George Bush campaign raised a lot of illegal money in Ohio," Mr. Brown said. "That puts the election in some question. I know these people stop at nothing and I know their incompetence kept a significant number of people from getting to vote."
President Bush has returned $4,000 in campaign contributions from Mr. Noe, joining Mr. Taft and a host of Ohio Republicans who have returned Noe campaign cash.
Scott McClellan, a spokesman for President Bush, told reporters last week that "there are some serious allegations that have been raised against" Mr. Noe.
"They have raised concerns with people in Ohio, they have raised concerns at the White House," he said. "And the President felt it was the right thing to return those contributions that came directly from him."
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