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Scandal inspires donation-banning bill



Published: Tue, June 28, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The bill faces an uphill battle to be passed into law.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- With the revelation that two-thirds of the investment companies hired by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation gave millions in campaign donations to politicians, it's time for a bill banning the practice, says the legislation's sponsor.

State Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, said the connection between campaign contributions, largely to Republican state officeholders, and contracts given by the BWC is troubling.

The Plain Dealer reported Sunday that BWC money managers gave nearly $5 million to Republicans from 1997 to 2004. Almost two-thirds of the 212 managers were contributors.

Senate Bill 151, sponsored by Dann, prohibits any BWC investment manager or business entity from making campaign contributions to state candidates, and prohibits the BWC from awarding an investment contract to an investment manager or business entity who made contributions within 24 months immediately preceding the awarding of the contract.

The BWC's investment losses are more than $240 million, including a $215 million loss in a hedge fund, and up to a $13 million loss from a rare coin investment managed by Tom Noe, a prominent GOP contributor. There are several investigations ongoing related to the BWC investment scandal.

Quick passage

Because of that, Dann said his legislation should be quickly moved through the state Legislature and passed into law.

Dann sent a Monday letter to state Sen. Jay Hottinger of Newark, acting chairman of the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee. In the letter, Dann asks Hottinger, R-31st, to hold committee hearings on the bill, which is co-sponsored by the Senate's 10 other Democrats.

Hottinger couldn't be reached late Monday to comment.

"Ohioans are losing trust in state government," Dann wrote Hottinger. "The appearance of pay-to-play, now a pay-to-steal environment, is undeniable."

State Republicans and Democrats accuse each other of playing politics with the BWC scandal. Dann has been the most vocal critic of the BWC scandal on the Democratic side.

Gov. Bob Taft received $700,000 from BWC money managers, the most of any elected official in the state.

Contribution ban

Taft supports a ban on future contributions from money managers to governors and gubernatorial candidates, said Mark Rickel, his spokesman. Taft hasn't seen Dann's proposal, but is interested in reviewing it, Rickel said.

Dann said hearings on his bill could be scheduled for next month, and when the Senate reconvenes in early August, it could pass the legislation. Dann said that except for state Sen. Timothy Grendell of Chesterland, R-18th, Republican state legislators have offered no assistance to exposing the truth about this scandal. Republicans control the state Legislature.

If past history is any indication, Dann could be in for an uphill battle.

State Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd, got legislation approved by the Senate's State and Local Government and Veterans Affairs on legislation to prohibit campaign contributions to certain state, county and local candidates and officeholders from those who work for them, or would work for them if they were elected.

But the bill, with nine Republican and five Democratic co-sponsors, is sitting in the Senate waiting for a vote.

skolnick@vindy.com




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