June 23, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Tanzania: Politics: State Government: Newsday: Ohio Governor Robert Taft (RPCV Tanzania) Struggles With Scandal

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tanzania: Special Report: Ohio Governor Bob Taft, RPCV Tanzania: February 9, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: RPCV Bob Taft (Tanzania) : June 23, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Tanzania: Politics: State Government: Newsday: Ohio Governor Robert Taft (RPCV Tanzania) Struggles With Scandal

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Ohio Governor Robert Taft (RPCV Tanzania) Struggles With Scandal

Ohio Governor  Robert Taft (RPCV Tanzania) Struggles With Scandal

Ohio Governor Robert Taft (RPCV Tanzania) Struggles With Scandal

Ohio Governor Struggles With Scandal

Associated Press Writer

June 23, 2005, 12:27 PM EDT

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- What should have been a time of triumph for Ohio's governor after a tepid six years in office has become a nightmare of heavy investment losses for the state and allegations of political favoritism and cover-up.

Republican Gov. Bob Taft, a member of one of America's most distinguished political families, had hoped to spend this spring focusing on his proposal to update Ohio's Depression-era tax system.

Instead, in what is probably the twilight of his career, the 63-year-old Taft is mired in a scandal that started with a questionable state investment in rare coins and has the governor and other Republicans all the way up to President Bush scrambling to give back potentially tainted campaign contributions.

"There are some days on this job I wish I'd stayed in teaching," Taft, a former Peace Corps volunteer in East Africa, quipped during a recent speech.

Taft's approval ratings are at record lows.

"His political service is over to the state," said Charles Burke, a political science professor at Baldwin-Wallace College. "I don't think he could be elected dog catcher in Cincinnati."

Politically, the scandal may not matter to Taft, who has all but ruled out seeking another office when his term ends next year. But his legacy could be at stake.

Taft's great-grandfather was William Howard Taft, the only man to serve as president and chief justice. Yet the 27th president did not even carry his home state when losing re-election in 1912 and today is known as the answer to the trivia question: What president was so fat he could not get out of his bathtub?

The long line of political service extended through Taft's father and grandfather, both U.S. senators. His grandfather Robert A. Taft was a GOP conservative, isolationist and New Deal foe known as "Mr. Republican." He tried three times without success to get the nomination for president in the 1940s and '50s.

Things had been looking up for their descendant, with Republicans finally lining up with Taft on the tax changes.

"It was clear from an outsider's view at least, this was really an attempt to give Taft a legacy," said Gene Beaupre, a political scientist at Xavier University in Taft's hometown of Cincinnati.

That success seemed all the sweeter given Taft's lukewarm history with the Legislature. Lawmakers rejected his plan to let patients sue their HMOs and to require the safe storage of guns, and they forced him to cut school funding to close a budget gap instead of raising cigarette and alcohol taxes.

On Wednesday, the day after lawmakers approved the tax plan, the biggest news in the state was the governor's failure to file the proper ethics forms relating to golf outings over several years.

At this point, Taft's greatest accomplishment is probably a 10-year, $23 billion plan to renovate many of Ohio's schools.

As for the shadow cast by the scandal, Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said: "He's not focused on headlines. He's focused on accomplishing good things for the state. He feels we've made great progress with this tax reform plan."

The rare-coin investment scandal at the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation broke just as lawmakers were considering Taft's proposed tax changes.

Democrats, fuming over a decade of GOP control, charged that coin dealer Tom Noe was hired to manage the coin investments because he was a big Republican contributor. Taft at first defended the investment as a moneymaker but later said he was outraged when it was learned that up to $12 million was missing along with more than 100 coins.

He suffered another embarrassment when a top aide acknowledged he knew in October of a $215 million hedge fund loss at the Workers' Compensation Bureau but did not tell Taft. Democrats accused the administration of a cover-up.

Taft can be witty and personable in private, once scrambling to plump pillows for a reporter recovering from a back injury. Asked if he had seen the latest "Star Wars" movie, Taft said with a chortle: "I'm kind of working hard on the Earth as we know it."

Yet in public he is sometimes stiff and defensive and given to jokes that fall flat.

Burke said politicians with far worse problems have eventually emerged with their reputations intact.

"What does anybody remember about the Contragate scandals of the Reagan era?" Burke said. "In a lesser way, governors have the same kind of experience."

When this story was posted in June 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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