Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bush Pioneer Noe Pleads Guilty to Illegal "Straw Donations" to Bush '04

As Steve Eder and Mike Wilkinson report in the Toledo Blade, embattled coin collector and political donor Tom Noe pleaded guilty today in federal court to three charges of illegally funneling campaign contributions to President Bush's 2004 campaign through illegal "straw donors".

Noe still faces charges related to the alleged fraud and embezzlement of millions of dollars of public funds from the state of Ohio.

The initial indictment against Mr. Noe on the illegal straw donations charged that Noe had directed some $45,000 of his own money through 24 donors to Mr. Bush's 2004 presidential campaign. These donations helped Noe achieve "Pioneer" status, a status bestowed on those Bush fundraisers who brought in upwards of $100,000 for the President's re-election effort.

When the charges surfaced against Noe, many politicians returned or disgorged campaign contributions from Mr. Noe, although some (like CA Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger) did so reluctantly. President Bush returned the $4,000 he received directly from Noe and his wife, but has yet to return the donations that Tom Noe has now admitted to funneling to the president illegally.

President Bush must disgorge those illegal campaign contributions now. If his committee no longer has the funds to do so, the RNC (to whom the White House steered all questions about the Noe contributions) should disgorge an equal amount. To hold on to this money is to not only benefit from a federal crime, but to acquiesce and approve of its commission.

The White House or RNC should resist seeing this as just the latest move in the ongoing political gamesmanship over corruption between Democrats and Republicans, and recognize that this is about the rule of law, by which all Americans must abide. Democrats should lay off the partisan rhetoric for once and let the Administration do what's right.

On the California front, state treasurer candidate Claude Parrish has refused to give back Tom Noe's campaign contribution of $5,000. He too stands in support of breaking the law for electoral advantage as long as he maintains this money.

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