Ms. Noe's own scandal: Wife of Ohio GOP fundraiser does some election reform of her own
In yet another surreal twist in Ohio’s “coin-gate” scandal, the wife of Bush’s chief Ohio fundraiser, Tom Noe—who is currently embroiled in campaign finance and money laundering probes—surprised poll workers and observers alike by disrupting the ballot count during the 2004 general election, RAW STORY has discovered.
Bernadette Noe, who served dual roles as chairman for the Lucas County Republican Party and the Lucas County Board of Elections, sent twelve “partisans” into a warehouse on Election Day, according a memo authored by Ohio’s Director of Campaign Finance Richard Weghorst who was present at the time.
The assertion is part of a comprehensive investigation prepared for Ohio Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell regarding reports of irregularities in Lucas County. The report found gross failures on the part of Ms. Noe’s board in preparation for and administration of November’s election. (Read the memo in PDF)
The Board was “directly responsible for the inefficient and unorganized election process” in the county, the report said. Weghorst found they had failed to lock and secure ballots and voting machines; manipulated the three percent hand recount; and failed to properly remove Ralph Nader from county ballots.
But perhaps the most striking event directly linked to Ms. Noe was what Weghorst described as “a note-worthy incident relating to security” on the evening of the election.
Weghorst, who was present at a local warehouse where ballots were being tabulated, says in his report that “two groups of partisan volunteers totaling approximately twelve people" arrived, whose "purpose for being there was not immediately known nor requested."
When the volunteers refused to leave the premises, Weghorst called the police, who then escorted the group away from the warehouse. It later emerged they had come at Ms. Noe's request.
A Diebold employee, Robert Diekmann, was also present at the warehouse that night.
Ms. Noe and the machines
Ms. Noe was an advocate of Diebold’s optical scan software as chair of the Lucas County Board of Elections. In April 2004, she and another fellow Republican board member voted to approve a $350,000 contract with Diebold to lease machines for the election. The county was forced the lease the equipment after a deadlock and a rebuke from Blackwell.
"It's going to cost us more than we thought it would, but it's going to be a fair election,” Ms. Noe said at the time. “I am confident with the system we will have with Diebold.”
“Every vote is going to get counted, and it is going to be an efficient election,” she added.
The contract was no-bid. After Democrats on the board revealed a cheaper bid from another company, the Lucas County board was forced to open the contract for bidding, over Ms. Noe’s objections.
The contract was eventually awarded to Diebold.
Diebold has faced scrutiny in Ohio, particularly after comments by the firm’s chief executive in 2003 to Ohio Republicans in which he declared he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
One Ohio election official recently admitted a Diebold lobbyist offered him $20,000 in an effort to woo the county to purchase Diebold machines, which he diverted to the local Republican Party.
Additional allegations against Ms. Noe
Reminiscent of an account reported on by RAW STORY regarding ballot tampering in Clermont County, Ohio, Ms. Noe was involved in an incident through which Republican volunteers were brought in to “assist” processing returned voter confirmation postcards. On her authority and that of several other board members, partisan volunteers were allowed to copy the returned cards.
They were subsequently caught by a Lucas County Democratic official peeling the return stickers off the voter confirmation cards, and were told to leave. Weghorst’s inquiry found no evidence they had been supervised.
The investigator's report was submitted in April 2005.
Bernadette Noe resigned from the Lucas County Republican Party and from her position as head of the Board of Elections in December, saying she wanted to spend more time with her family.
In April, the Toledo Blade reported Ms. Noe acted improperly as chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party in accepting $65,000 in loans for the party from her husband. She is also involved in a scandal surrounding an aide to Ohio governor Bob Taft (R) staying for a reduced rate at her vacation home.
Bernadette Noe is married to the now-infamous Tom Noe, who invested millions of dollars of state funds into rare coins and who is currently the target of a wide-ranging inquiry. Noe, a Bush Pioneer, also allegedly laundered money into President Bush’s reelection campaign by paying others to donate.
Tom Noe, the owner of several shady business ventures, including Vintage Coins and Collectibles, funneled an estimated fifty million dollars into his own personal and business accounts as well as to the state’s GOP candidates. Noe’s rare coin venture came at the expense of The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, for whom he acted as the sole fund manager.
The Noe coin scandal has widened to include investigations into Taft as well as other GOP candidates from across the state, including several Ohio Supreme Court justices.
Rep. John Conyers (D–MI) is expected to ask the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel today.
"The facts that have come out indicate a culture of corruption in the Ohio Republican Party," Conyers in a statement to RAW STORY. "An investigation such as this, which is rife with conflicts of interest, begs for the appointment of an independent prosecutor who would be immune from the partisan gamesmanship we have seen so far."