- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state’s chief elections officer, accused of mishandling the presidential vote in Ohio, sent a fund-raising letter for his own 2006 gubernatorial campaign that was accompanied by a request for illegal contributions.

A pledge card with the letter from Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who co-chaired the Bush-Cheney election campaign in Ohio, said “corporate & personal checks are welcome.” However, corporate donations are illegal in Ohio.

His spokesman, Carlo LoParo, said yesterday that any corporate donations would be returned.

Mr. Blackwell said the request sent to Republican donors and activists was an oversight. His campaign’s fund-raising coordinator, Jeff Ledbetter, said the printer used a template for an issue committee, which is allowed to accept corporate donations.

Mr. Ledbetter told the Columbus Dispatch that no corporate donations had been received in response to the letter.

Mr. Blackwell’s letter also praises Republicans for helping deliver Ohio to President Bush.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, who prepared a report on election problems in Ohio, said the letter supports suspicions that Mr. Blackwell’s actions as secretary of state during the election “stemmed from partisan political motivations” to help Mr. Bush.

Mr. Conyers said the letter “evidences Secretary Blackwell’s poor judgment at best, and the manipulation of election administration for partisan purposes at worst.”

A group of voters citing fraud has challenged Mr. Bush’s 118,500-vote win in Ohio with the state Supreme Court, citing irregularities including long lines, a shortage of voting machines in minority precincts and problems with computer equipment.

Mr. Blackwell has maintained that he is permitted to campaign for Mr. Bush and that Ohio’s election system has checks and balances to ensure fair elections.

“I have an obligation to follow the law,” he said.

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