I haven’t been following the Ohio coin scandal as closely as I should have been (or as you should have been, or as the national media should have been). But that case is obviously big-league stuff, with millions of dollars gone missing from the state worker’s comp fund and some of it probably havng gone to the Bush campaign. It’s hard to tell how the misdemeanors Taft will admit to relate to the larger scandal; apparently Taft took relatively little in this sort of petty graft from Noe.
Some notes and queries:
1. Is this a matter of Taft’s simply having been sloppy and maybe a little bit cheap, or is this simply the only thing the prosecutors can prove against him right now?
2. A plea of nolo contendere, which Taft will apparently enter tomorrow. is somewhat unusual. It isn’t, technically, an admission of guilt, though it has the same effect as a guilty plea; the defendant agrees to be convicted without actually admitting that he committed a crime, thus avoiding both the stigma of a guilty plea and the stigma of a “guilty” verdict from a jury. The prosecution doesn’t have to accept such a plea. If I’d been the prosecutor, I would have used that as bargaining leverage: if you don’t want to either plead guilty or stand trial, governor, then how about a little co-operation on these other cases? Do we know whether any of that happened? Alternatively, the prosecutors might have judged that Taft was clearly guilty of breaking the law but not obviously morally culpable, and decided to give him a break. That’s one of the things good prosecutors are supposed to do, as opposed to always wanting a pound of flesh.
3. It does look as if one-party Repubilcan rule in Ohio, as in Washington, has led not merely to corruption but to a we-can-get-away-with-it carelessness. The voters apparently are taking notice. Secretary of State Blackwell, the Katherine Harris of the 2004 election and a candidate to succeed Taft, is backing away from him.
4. Corruption is obviously the right theme for the Democrats to carry into the 2006/8 elections.