Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Pay To Play Through?

Bob Taft just got lawyered up. Taft admitted he had accepted free golf outings without disclosing them to the Ohio Ethics Commission. Knowingly doing this is punishable by six months in jail, $1000 fine, or both. One of the people Taft allegedly played with was Tom "Short Change" Noe of Coingate fame. From the Columbus Dispatch (sub req):

Taft said in a June 14 letter to the Ethics Commission that it has "recently come to my attention that I failed to list a number of golf outings or events on my financial disclosure forms over the past several years."

The governor said he is still gathering information, but "it appears a series of matters" that should have been disclosed weren’t, and he wanted to notify the commission.

"I stand ready to cooperate with any review the commission wishes to conduct and seek the commission’s guidance on how to make reimbursements and/or provide the appropriate disclosures," Taft wrote.

In a statement, Taft said he takes "full responsibility" for any omissions but declined further comment "on the advice of counsel."

William Meeks, a Columbus criminal lawyer representing Taft, could not be reached last night.

Taft did not report any golf outings, including with Noe, on his financial disclosure forms for the past two years, records show.

One could argue that this was simply an oversight, but this is how Taft dealt with similar instances by other state employees during his tenure.

Also from The Dispatch

• Randall A. Fischer resigned as director of the Ohio School Facilities Commission in July 2002. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors for accepting free rounds of golf, hockey tickets and meals from contractors to whom he awarded unbid contracts worth millions.

• Former Consumers’ Counsel Robert S. Tongren quit in November 2003 after an investigation found he accepted dozens of expensive golf outings and meals from utility lobbyists. He admitted to four misdemeanors.

• When a probe in September 2003 showed that Richard P. Frenette, manager of the state fair, and other employees improperly accepted golf passes and other favors from vendors doing business with the fair, Taft called on the Ohio Expositions Commission to "take prompt and appropriate action." Frenette quit two days later.

• Taft issued a quit-or-be-fired ultimatum in August 2002 to Gino Zomparelli, director of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, the day after a probe found he and 30 other turnpike officials were showered with golf outings, free meals and sports tickets by companies doing business with the agency. Zomparelli quit the next day.

Quit or be fired, that's pretty strong. Will Taft issue the same ultimatum to his bathroom mirror? This leads me to ask two questions.

First, Taft's approval rating was at 19% before the scandal broke. At what point do they come for you with the torches and pitchforks?

Secondly, last year Grover Norquist was caught on tape call Bob Taft among other things, corrupt. What did the National GOP know about all of this last year?

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