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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ohio Governor Taft Indicted on Four Charges for Ethical Reporting Omissions

As Andrew Welsh-Huggins of the AP reports, Ohio prosecutors filed four first degree misdemeanor charges against Governor Bob Taft today for failing to disclose gifts on ethical reporting forms. While only four charges were filed (one for each yearly reporting form with omissions), Governor Taft failed to disclose more than fifty separate gifts, many of which were golf outings.

The facts appear to be fairly cut and dried - Taft received more than fifty gifts worth more than $75 each, and failed to disclose them. His one apparent defense is that he didn't knowingly fail to disclose them.

Cutting into that defense are a series of public comments made as recently as May of this year, in which Governor Taft demonstrated his awareness and understanding of the ethical reporting requirements for public officials in the state. During a speech he gave to the Xavier University Ethics Institute in May, Taft even specifically mentioned golf outings, which constitute the bulk of the omissions on Taft’s ethical filings. (See the official list from Taft of the events he failed to disclose.)

Adding to Taft's problems, several of the golf outings were with coin dealer Tom Noe, whose hefty political contributions helped land him a $50 million contract to invest funds for the Ohio Worker's Compensation Bureau. This May, after an investigation into Noe's financial dealings, Noe revealed that he was missing up to $13 million of the state's cash. At the time, Taft defended his golfing buddy's integrity. Perhaps he should have been worried about his own.

If he is convicted, Taft faces up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine for each charge.

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