Atty Gen: Dann (D) Comments on Noe Trial
Attorney general candidate State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township), a leader in exposing the pay-to-play scandals involving several government agencies and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, is travelling to Toledo this afternoon on the occasion of the opening day of Tom Noe's state trial on embezzlement and other charges. Noe is the GOP powerbroker and long-time friend and contributor to leading Republican officeholders who pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges that he laundered illegal contributions to the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign.
Later this month the Ohio Elections Commission will hear Dann's complaint alleging that Noe also laundered illegal contributions to his opponent, Auditor Betty Montgomery (R), and other Republican candidates for statewide office. Dann filed the complaint after Sue Metzger, a former Noe employee who had served as a conduit for the Bush funds, acknowledged that she had also been used to funnel money to Republican candidates for Ohio governor and Supreme Court.
I talked to Dann in the car, on his cell phone. When I asked him to explain the connection between Montgomery and Noe, he pointed out that Montgomery "has received $8,000 in contributions from Tom Noe over the course of her career," and that "in Tom Noe's affidavit to the Ohio Supreme Court, to try to move the case out of Lucas County, he actually took credit for electing Betty Montgomery as Attorney General, when she won in 1994 against Lee Fisher." He said that "they have an incredibly close relationship," citing the videotape of Justice Judith Lanziger's swearing-in ceremony recently posted at ProgressOhio, which shows Noe calling Montgomery one of his best friends.
Dann pointed out that Montgomery "had a chance, as the lawyer for the Bureau of Workers Compensation when the system was set up, to prevent the type of corruption that Tom Noe was able to execute against the Bureau from ever happening." Certainly, he continued, "she had the obligation as Auditor over the past four years to detect it. So, she could have been the hero in all this, and instead she either intentionally (because of her friendship with Tom Noe), or incompetently, turned her head the other way." Dann confirmed that Montgomery is from the Toledo area (Perrysburg, actually, which is in Wood County "but is part of the Toledo metropolitan area") and Noe and Montgomery "have a long-term friendship and relationship."
When I asked Dann to comment on the historic significance for the State of Ohio of the trial of Tom Noe, he said "clearly, this is the chance, with people under oath in a judicial proceeding, to get to the truth about how the checks and balances so broke down as to allow Tom Noe to convince the Bureau of Workers Compensation to invest $50 million of small business injured workers' money in a rare coin investment, and when things were clearly going badly with the investment, how he was able to persuade those people that were resonsible for holding him accountable to not pursue any kind of an action against him."
"The idea that we were throwing around hundreds of millions of dollars at the Bureau of Workers Compensation with no lawyers looking at the contracts and no oversight whatsover [shows that] the separation of powers really broke down," he continued. "What I think that the trial will do is show the people of Ohio how that happened."
I asked Dann to comment on today's Bliss Poll, which shows him trailing Montgomery by 38% to 24% with 35% undecided. Dann pointed out that Montgomery "was elected with 64% of the vote four years ago." Thus, it is very significant that she is only at 38%. Dann's showing of 24% is comparable to the other non-gubernatorial Democratic statewide candidates (they lead their opponents, but their numbers are all in the 20s). "What we've seen in the other polls is that the numbers are very small, and my number is about the same as all the others," he said. "We're all new statewide candidates." Dann said that this trial "is going to be a big factor" in how the large number of undecided voters make up their minds. Also, Dann said, "I think frankly that a lot of Republicans who are supporting Montgomery are going to be appalled when they learn that while she was in charge of keeping these things from happening, the state was ripped off in a very, very brazen way."
Montgomery is on the defense witness list for the trial. However, she probably won't testify, if at all, until the defense presents its case, and that isn't likely to happen until after the election. Dann said he doesn't know if she is a character witness or will be presented to "prove that maybe everybody knew what Noe was doing with this money. You can't be guilty of fraud if the person you were defrauding actually knew what you intended to do with the money."