Noe, Schmidt lobbied for lottery
Ohio GOP in action
Online gaming exec gained state audience
Documents show key figures engaged in lobbying
By STEVE EDER
and JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
COLUMBUS - The politically connected chairman of a Cincinnati-based online gambling company had the ears of key decision-makers in Columbus as he lobbied the state to sell lottery tickets through his Internet business.
While Roger Ach II pushed Ohio to offer online lottery ticket sales, the chief executive officer of the financially troubled Games Inc. had power brokers working to give him "20 minutes" with Gov. Bob Taft, according to documents released yesterday by the governor's office.
Even after issuing stock to some of the most influential Ohioans - including Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett and Brian Hicks, Governor Taft's former chief of staff - Mr. Ach was unsuccessful in convincing the state to put its lottery online.
The Blade first reported on Wednesday that Tom Noe, the former Toledo-area coin dealer under investigation, invested at least $150,000 of the state's money with the company.
Yesterday, Governor Taft said he met with representatives from Games Inc., but he rejected their pitch to sell lottery tickets over the Web.
Games Inc. has recently focused on gaming because online lotteries have yet to be approved by any state, a fact that company executives hoped to change by appealing to the Taft administration.
"The Company has also developed software for Internet Lottery Ticket sales," Games Inc. said in an SEC filing. "As it became evident the Internet Lottery ticket sales were going to be adopted more slowly than the Company had anticipated, the Company has focused more of its attention on the games business in general, never losing sight of its ultimate goal of being an electronic lottery retailer."
Earlier this month, Mr. Ach pitched his firm to Mr. Hayes of the Lottery Commission.
Mr. Ach, a prominent Cincinnati businessman who has contributed thousands of dollars to GOP candidates, convinced a number of Republicans to invest in the company. At least one prominent Democrat, Jerry Springer, a talk show host, also invested.
Jean Schmidt, a former Republican state representative from the Cincinnati area, also appealed to the governor's office on behalf of a Web-based lottery. Ms. Schmidt is currently running for Congress against Paul Hackett, a Democrat who served in the Iraq War.
The race has attracted national attention.
In a November, 2001, e-mail, Jon Allison, a staff member for Governor Taft, complained that Ms. Schmidt "continues to bug me on Internet lottery."
One year later, her state representative re-election campaign garnered a $1,000 donation from Mr. Ach.
Ms. Schmidt said through a spokesman that she does not remember any conversations with the governor's office about an online lottery, although she does remember that this was a significant issue at the time.
"The documents indicate that she is lobbying the governor on behalf of Roger Ach," said her opponent, Mr. Hackett. "After doing their bidding, she takes a $1,000 donation. That is the culture of corruption - documented."
And it gets better
Noe invested Ohio's money in gambling firm
Online lottery deals pursued
By MIKE WILKINSONand STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
COLUMBUS — Tom Noe used state money to try to pump up an online gambling company in which he and other prominent Republicans were investors, records show.
Mr. Noe invested at least $100,000 of the state’s rare-coin money into financially troubled Games Inc., which has plummeted in value in the last year as its CEO Roger Ach II, a politically connected Cincinnati businessman, sought public contracts.
Mr. Noe is among several prominent Republicans who have invested in Games Inc.
Brian Hicks, former chief of staff to Gov. Bob Taft; Bob Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party; former Senate President Stanley Aronoff, and Lucas County Republicans Patrick Kriner and Sally Perz all own shares in the company, records filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission show.
Jerry Springer, a Democrat from Cincinnati and a talk show host, is also listed as an investor.
The company operates a Web site that offers multiple gambling games. Mr. Ach has also sought contracts with state lotteries, including Ohio’s, to allow people to buy lottery tickets online using its software.
In addition to being a personal investor, Mr. Noe is quoted in a company press release touting the benefits of online lotteries. Mr. Noe, identified in the release as chairman of the Ohio Board of Regents, said an online lottery could help ease funding woes for education by making the state lottery more accessible
So it is odd how Schmidt and Noe were both lobbying for the same online lottery. But she never heard of Noe. Every prominent Republican Roger Ach could get his hands on was pimping for his lottery, yet Schmidt doesn't know Noe and can't remember calling the governor or a $1000 donation? It is one hell of a coincidence that she and Noe are connected to this lottery, pitched as a way to increase education funding, yet have no knowledge of each other? Very interesting.
posted by Steve @ 10:05:00 PM