Thursday, June 23, 2005

Taft Getting Clubbed

Governor Bob Taft of Ohio is in deep trouble.

Facing an investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission over whether he broke state law by failing to list golf outings on his financial disclosure statements, Gov. Bob Taft yesterday said he has “no intention of resigning.”

“I have a year and a half to go,” Mr. Taft told reporters after an event in downtown Mansfield. “I have a lot of work I want to get done.”

Ohio Democrats have been calling for the governor’s resignation since he disclosed Tuesday, after being questioned by The Blade, that he had “failed to include outings in which I participated” on his annual financial disclosure statements.

Bill Wilkinson, an attorney representing Tom Noe, a Toledo-area rare coin dealer and prominent Republican fund-raiser, confirmed yesterday that Mr. Noe had golfed with Mr. Taft “a couple of times.”

But Mr. Wilkinson would not disclose who paid for the golf outings that Mr. Taft participated in with Mr. Noe — whom Mr. Taft had reappointed to the Ohio Board of Regents and had appointed to the Ohio Turnpike Commission.

The Blade reported yesterday that a source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, ran into Mr. Noe in 2002 at Toledo’s Inverness Club and that Mr. Noe told him that he was playing golf with Mr. Taft. Mr. Noe is not listed as a source of a gift on Mr. Taft’s ethics statement.

State law requires officeholders to list each source of gifts over $75. A round of golf at Inverness for a guest is about $140.

It is a first-degree misdemeanor to knowingly falsify an ethics form, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

You know that things are getting dicey when the subject of an investigation forcibly insists that he has “no intention of resigning” — see Spiro Agnew’s statement two days prior to his resignation in October 1973 — and can count the amount of time he has left in his term — in 1974 Richard Nixon trotted out a calendar that counted down to January 20, 1977.

What do you bet Taft’s letter of resignation has been written and he’s working on his statement that he’s planning to “spend more time with his family”?