Friday, June 03, 2005

Coin dealers, money laundering, and connecting the dots in Ohio 

Every Friday is Tinfoil Hat Day!

I just can't stop connecting those dots....

Dot One: As we surmised (awhile back), dealing in precious metals can be a front for a money laundering operation. In fact, the Treasury Department agrees:

The Bush administration, in its latest effort to nab drug lords and terrorist financiers, will require major dealers in gold, diamonds and other precious metals and gems to set up comprehensive anti-money laundering programs.

The provision applies to dealers who have bought and sold at least $50,000 worth of precious metals and gems. Dealers whose activities for the 2005 calendar year fall into that dollar threshold will have until Jan. 1, 2006, to set up anti-money laundering programs.

"The characteristics of jewels, precious metals and stones that make them valuable also make them potentially vulnerable to those seeking to launder money," said FinCen's director William Fox.

Congressional investigators have told the Treasury Department it needed to get a firmer grip on how terrorists may be using alternative means - such as trafficking in gold and hard-to-trace diamonds - to raise and move financial assets.
(via AP)

Dot Two: Rare coins are also hard to trace. Bringing me at once to the shenanigans in the Ohio Republican party. Pass the popcorn:

Ohio's "Coingate" scandal isn't just about the disappearance of up to $12 million in rare coins a state agency invested in, or even about the fact that the agency had no business investing public money in collectibles in the first place. It's also about an apparent culture of influence peddling and abuse of power in state government. Authorities must get to the bottom of this problem - wherever it may lead. More important, state leaders should quickly enact reforms to guard against the abuses this episode has exposed.

Two months ago, reports emerged that $300,000 in rare coins was missing from a collection in which the state Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) began investing in 1998 as a peculiar form of stock hedge. That was bad enough. But last week, word came that between $10 million and $12 million in coins had disappeared. [I.e., "disappeared" into somebody's pocket. But whose?] That caused BWC director Jim Conrad to announce his resignation, and launched a flurry of accusations and calls for legal action.

At the scandal's center is [Bush Pioneer] Tom Noe a rare coin dealer, former county GOP chairman, long-time party fundraiser and (until recently) member of the Ohio Board of Regents. He arranged and managed BWC's coin collection, sharing in the profits.

Noe, who faces several investigations, also has given campaign donations to virtually all statewide elected officials. But Noe is not alone. It was reported this week that Republicans have received more than $200,000 from 50 other brokers who have done business with the BWC. And that's just one state agency.

It all leaves an ugly perception - which may well be backed by reality - that Ohio state government runs on a "pay-to-play" basis, that political contributions buy state business. This is unacceptable. Ohio voters and taxpayers deserve far better.
(via Cincinatti Enquirer)

Shocked, shocked!

Of course, the Enquirer is a Republican paper and a cog in the wingerly apparat; the Enquirer's owners and backers are thoroughly enmeshed in, and have benefitted handsomely from the system they now editorialize against.

So, what if pushing the pay-to-play narrative is yet another piece of misdirection?

They heave a few polticians over the rail to divert our attention from... something.

But what? What could be worse for the Republicans than a massive corruption scandal in a state that they have totally wired? It would be irresponsible not to speculate.

Dot Three: A corrupt voting machines systems programmer would demand to be paid in laundered money; and those who paid him would want to use laundered money as well. Before dismissing this idea—I grant it isn't a theory—remember:
  1. We already know of Diebold one voting machines programmer convicted of fraud, and
  2. Diebold's Republican CEO said he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

And who is better equipped to put a corrupt systems programmer in place at Diebold then, well, the Republican executives of the company? Laundering their own corporate money through Thomas Noe's company, as part of the $10-12 million that got "lost"?

Oh, and did I mention that Diebold is headquartered in Ohio?

Please refer all comments containing the words "conspiracy theory" to The Department of No! They Would Never Do That!

After all, we already know that Florida 2000 was stolen—not through the chad fiasco, though that was bad enough, but by the systematic exclusion of likely Democratic voters from the rolls, well before the election.

NOTE Although individual electronic voting machines are hackable, the true vulnerability of an electronic voting machines system is that the votes are centrally stored and tabulated on a single server. That's called a single point of failure. "Give me the right place to stand, and I will move the world," said Archimedes. And give a corrupt systems programmer the right set of privileges, and one man, acting alone for those who paid him, could create all those little statistical anomalies that have so many worried about Ohio 2004.

UPDATE Here's an Ohio blog that's watching the saga unfold. Pass the popcorn!

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