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GOP fund-raiser asks to change not-guilty plea

/ Source: The Associated Press

A major GOP fund-raiser charged in a scandal over a state rare-coin investment asked to change his not-guilty pleas Wednesday on separate federal charges that he illegally funneled donations to President Bush's re-election campaign.

Coin dealer Tom Noe's attorney and the U.S. attorney's office jointly filed a request Wednesday asking a federal judge to set a change-of-plea hearing as soon as possible. The filing did not indicate what the new plea will be.

Noe had denied illegally funneling $45,400 in contributions to President Bush's re-election bid. He is accused of skirting the $2,000 limit on individual contributions by giving money directly or indirectly to 24 friends and associates, who then made the campaign contributions in their own names.

Noe also has been charged in state court with stealing at least $1 million of an ill-fated $50 million investment in rare coins that he managed for Ohio's workers compensation bureau. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

The investigation into the coin scandal had been a major embarrassment for Republicans, who dominate state politics. It prompted lame-duck Gov. Bob Taft and two former aides to plead no contest to ethics charges.

In the fund-raising case, federal prosecutors allege that Noe arranged a contribution scheme to fulfill his pledge to raise $50,000 for a Bush fund-raiser at a downtown Columbus hotel Oct. 30, 2003. Ohio proved to be the pivotal state in Bush's 2004 re-election.

Noe wrote several checks just under the maximum allowable amount of $2,000 to avoid suspicion, the federal indictment said. All the checks were written in the eight days leading up to the fund-raiser.