Rare coin dealer Thomas Noe was the Ohio regional fundraising chairman for Bush’s 2004 campaign. Beginning in 1998, the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation gave $50 million to Noe’s company to invest in rare coins. Noe, prosecutors now allege, promptly turned around and laundered more than $2 million of the money, using it to pay off old debts, finance his own business’s purchases and even landscape his house. Noe now faces 53 felony charges, and could be sentenced to as many as 172 years in prison.
Why did the government invest $50 million in money meant for injured workers in rare coins? One likely reason lies in the June admission by the former chief investment officer of the compensation fund that he took $25,000 from Noe in exchange for facilitating the deal. Another is the fact that before the scandal broke in 2005, Noe was one of the most prominent Republicans in the state. He earned his status the old-fashioned way: He paid for it. A long-time Ohio Republican campaign contributor, Noe and his wife have given more than $200,000 to Republican campaigns and funds, substantially increasing them when he got the first $25 million from the state in 1998 and again in 2002 when he got a second $25 million contract.
Noe may have even pulled off the ultimate in crooked campaign contributing: A review of his transactions by the Toledo Blade showed that a large portion of his contributions to state Republican candidates were made just after he transferred the state funds into his personal accounts. His largess was spread so widely in the state party that even the prosecutor handling the “coingate” case had to return more than $6,000 in contributions because they may have been laundered state funds.
And it appears Noe didn’t even come by his Pioneer status honestly. Unable to raise the $100,000, Noe pleaded guilty in May to separate felony charges that he solicited several Ohio politicians and former aides to Gov. Bob Taft to illegally use Noe’s own money to make contributions under their names to a 2003 fundraiser personally attended by the president. The U.S. attorney in the case said he would seek a harsh penalty due to the “potential loss of public faith in the presidential race.”