Strickland Mum on Support for Ex-Treasurer Ensnared in Pay-to-Play Scheme

Former governor appointed Kevin Boyce, now connected to deal for illicit political cash

Ted Strickland
Ted Strickland / Rona Proudfoot

Ted Strickland, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio, is staying quiet about his support for ex-state treasurer Kevin Boyce following an investigation indicating Boyce knew about a pay-to-play scheme orchestrated by his deputy in 2010.

Boyce, now a state representative and candidate for Franklin county commissioner, was appointed treasurer at the end of 2008 by Strickland, who was then governor of Ohio. During Boyce’s two years in office, his deputy treasurer reportedly arranged a scheme to give state contracts to Boston-based State Street Bank in exchange for political contributions to Boyce’s re-election campaign.

Strickland has supported Boyce in his candidacy for county commissioner, appearing at an event for him this month. Strickland praised Boyce as a "strong voice for fiscal responsibility" when he announced his appointment as treasurer in 2009.

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Amer Ahmad, Boyce’s deputy, was indicted, convicted, and sentenced for his role in the State Street scheme, but Boyce himself was not implicated until now.

An investigative report released by the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month placed Boyce at a March 2010 meeting that included a discussion of the exchange of state pension fund custody contracts for campaign contributions.

Also present at the meeting were Mohamed Noure Alo, a Columbus lawyer connected to the scheme, Vincent DeBaggis, a State Street executive, and Robert Crowe, a Boston-area lobbyist for whom State Street was a client, along with Ahmad and Boyce’s chief fundraiser.

"The in-person meeting occurred on March 3, 2010, in Alo’s law office in Columbus, and was attended by the incumbent Treasurer, Ahmad, Alo, DeBaggis, Crowe, and the incumbent Treasurer’s chief fundraiser. At the meeting, Ahmad demanded that State Street make direct monetary contributions to the incumbent Treasurer’s campaign," the report states.

Shortly after the meeting, Ahmad demanded that State Street send $25,000 to Boyce’s campaign within five days to obtain the state contracts. Crowe arranged for more than $20,000 in contributions, and Ahmad awarded the contracts to the bank at the end of the month.

According to the SEC report, the arrangement funneled at least $60,000 in illicit political contributions to Boyce’s election campaign.

Boyce has denied attending any meeting about trading state business for political cash.

"Had I been in that kind of meeting, not only would I have shut that down immediately, but Amer would’ve been fired. And it’s that simple," Boyce told reporters Thursday.

Boyce’s lawyer said that Boyce does not remember the lunch and had no conversations about exchanging state contracts for campaign contributions.

According to state emails, Boyce, his fundraiser, and his deputy had a lunch scheduled at the office of Alo on March 3, the alleged date of the meeting in the SEC report, the Dayton Daily News reported. Emails show that Boyce’s assistant ordered the treasurer lunch for the meeting—a "Bistro Club" sandwich.

The new revelations are likely to present problems for Strickland’s current campaign, despite the support he has received from prominent Democrats, including Boyce.

"Ted Strickland promoted Kevin Boyce to State Treasurer and, through scandal after scandal, continues to support Boyce in his political career," said Matt Borges, the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. "It’s terrible judgement and definitely not the sort of leadership Ohioans want representing them in Washington."

A representative for Strickland’s campaign did not respond to a question from the Washington Free Beacon about whether he still supports Boyce in light of the SEC’s findings.

Strickland faces a primary challenge despite being endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party. The former governor has drawn fire from his opponent, Cincinnati city councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, and other leading Democrats for refusing to participate in primary debates.

If he wins the nomination, Strickland will face incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R.) in the general election.