TOLEDO -- Reaction to the Tom Noe indictment is coming from both sides of the political aisle. News 11 has heard only a little bit from Republicans after the indictment was announced, but Democrats were quick to point out their view that these are serious charges.
Noe was a Toledo-area coin dealer and prominent GOP contributor. The indictment says he broke federal law by funneling $45,400 to President Bush's re-election campaign by recruiting and providing money to 24 friends and associates, called "conduits," who then turned around and made campaign contributions to the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign in their own names.
If convicted on all three counts in the indictment, Noe could face 15 years in prison and as much as a half-million dollar fine.
The US Attorney in the case says Noe set up the scheme to fulfill his pledge to raise $50,000 for a Bush fundraiser at a downtown Columbus hotel Oct. 30, 2003, according to the indictment. Noe wrote several checks in amounts just under the maximum allowable amount of $2,000 to avoid suspicion, the indictment said.
Federal investigators also allege Noe made his friends and associates fill out contribution cards and forms falsely certifying they were making the contributions themselves. The result was that Bush's campaign committee unknowingly submitted a false campaign report the Federal Election Commission, the report said.
Lawyers are trying to arrange for Noe's surrender. Federal prosecutors say he's at his home in south Florida and will probably turn himself in there, then post bond. Prosecutors say they have not discussed a possible plea agreement.
"It's outrageous," said former Lucas County Democratic Chair Paula Ross. She told us she's frustrated with how long it took investigators to return this indictment and they didn't name any of the 24 conduits the indictment says Noe used. "It certainly doesn't say much for those particular Republicans in terms of setting their own standards because they simply went along where Tom Noe wanted them to go," Ross commented.
When it comes to the Noe indictment, Lucas County Republican Chair Doug Haynam didn't want to go on camera with us but did say he wants the party to move forward and not dwell in the negative. Ross said there's been a lot of negative to talk about. "Too much has gone wrong at every level," said Ross. "I mean we're seeing indictments in Washington. We're seeing indictments in Columbus. Now we're seeing this Tom Noe indictment. We all know something has to be done to fix the system," she added.
Republican Auditor of State Betty Montgomery released a statement about Noe saying in part "...I'm pleased to see that (U.S. Attorney Greg White is) making significant progress toward identifying money lost and holding wrongdoers accountable."
Ross told News 11 that accountability is key for both parties when it comes to this case. "When somebody breaks the rules in a system we all need to have confidence in, citizens lose confidence in that system," said Ross. "As a Democrat, I very much resent this whole Republican money laundering scheme because it hurts us all."