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Bush "Pioneers and Ranger" Are Under Investigation
The Toledo Times
Criminal probes entangle numerous fund-raisers
By JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
December 18, 2005

Tom Noe is not the only top Bush fund-raiser under criminal investigation this year. He shares that distinction with seven others.

Federal and state authorities are investigating the Bush Pioneers and Rangers, individuals who raised at least $100,000 or $200,000 for President Bush's re-election, for bribery, money laundering, stock manipulation, and extortion.

Democrats have said that as investigations continue, there will be "enough [convictions] for their own prison softball team."

"The Republican culture of corruption, it knows no bounds. It's a deterioration of values." said Amaya Smith, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.

In Ohio, investigators have dug into the finances of two Bush Pioneers - Mr. Noe and Larry Householder, the former speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, who is under grand jury scrutiny for the alleged skimming of campaign funds.

Mr. Noe was indicted in October by a federal grand jury in Toledo on charges of laundering donations to Mr. Bush's re-election campaign. State officials have accused the former Toledo-area coin dealer of stealing $4 million from the rare-coin investment he managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Nationwide, other Bush fund-raisers are at the center of scandals involving the government, prominent corporations, and the public's trust.

On Thursday, a federal jury found James Tobin, a Maine political consultant, guilty of jamming the Democrats' phone lines in New Hampshire three years ago. He could serve five years in jail and pay a $250,000 fine.

A federal grand jury in Florida indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in August on conspiracy and wire fraud charges in the purchase of gambling boats, whose former owner was later murdered. Mr. Abramoff continues to be under suspicion for his lobbying actions on behalf of a slew of Indian casinos.

Investment banker P. Nicholas Hurtgen was federally indicted in May in a hospital construction extortion scam. A former aide to Tommy Thompson, the Wisconsin governor who later became a Bush cabinet member, Mr. Hurtgen faces a maximum of 80 years in jail and a $1 million fine if convicted on all charges.

"Co-conspirator No. 1" in the November plea agreement by U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R., Calif.) is defense consultant Brent Wilkes, according to Mr. Wilkes' lawyer. Accused of bribing the congressman with $635,000, Mr. Wilkes also was subpoenaed by Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle in connection with the money laundering charges leveled against former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R., Texas).

Billionaire Maurice "Hank" Greenberg was ousted in March from AIG, the Shanghai property insurance company he built into a revered powerhouse because of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into his alleged stock manipulation. Also, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has filed suit against Mr. Greenberg detailing a history of misdeeds.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in November that the FBI is investigating Manuel Stamatakis, a management consultant who once chaired the region's port authority. A grand jury has convened to examine the suspect insurance contracts Mr. Stamatakis negotiated as the agency's chairman.

Despite these scandals, Ms. Smith said that Democrats plan to focus on their "own positive message" in 2006 elections.

"Republicans are going to have to deal with their own issues," she said. "We can't deal with those issues for them."

Contact Joshua Boak at: jboak@theblade.com or 419-724-6728.

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