COLUMBUS - Thieves targeted the Ohio Democratic Party Headquarters this week,
stealing a computer and a high-tech communications gadget belonging to party chairman
Police said yesterday one or more burglars appeared to have climbed a wall Monday
and crawled through an unlocked second-story window overnight at the party headquarters
about three blocks from the Statehouse.
The break-in occurs at a time when the Ohio Republican Party is threatened
by one of the largest scandals to hit the state’s government in decades.
Some Democrats also say the break-in is eerily similar to a burglary
at the Lucas County Democratic Party Headquarters last fall, in which three
computers were stolen.
Police, though, said it is unclear if the theft had anything to do with politics,
or the investigations into investments at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’
“Until we find the person, there’s no way of knowing that,”
said Sherry Mercurio, a police spokesman, who said investigators lifted fingerprints
at the scene.
Yesterday, posters celebrating John Glenn’s accomplishments still hung
on the walls of the headquarters, a portable stereo sat on a desk, and a few
Sony Vaio desktop computers with flat panel monitors remained untouched.
The items belonging to Mr. White were a Dell computer valued at $800, a flat-screen
monitor valued at $250, and a $250 BlackBerry communications device.
The break-in occurred a week after the Ohio Democratic Party began airing a
30-second TV ad that links Republican office-holders with the state’s
failed $50 million rare-coin investment with Tom Noe.
Lawyers for Mr. Noe, a Republican fund-raiser, have told authorities that about
$13 million in assets are missing from the coin fund.
Jason Mauk, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said the state GOP had
nothing to do with the break-in.
“I certainly hope the implication is that this was not politically motivated,”
Mr. Mauk said. “I can guarantee from our perspective that this is not
He added, “It sounds to me like Mayor [Michael] Coleman has a crime problem
that they need to address.”
There were two other burglaries nearby on Monday night, both at restaurants.
In one case, someone smashed a window of a restaurant and stole $150 in property.
In another, someone used a piece of concrete to shatter a rear glass door of
a restaurant, police said.
Dan Trevas, a spokesman for Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, a Democratic gubernatorial
candidate, said every crime is taken seriously by police, and the burglary will
“The Republicans ought to be more concerned about the crimes that are
happening in state government,” Mr. Trevas said.
“The Republicans ought not to be throwing stones near the pile of glass
that used to be the house that they lived in.”
Mr. Mauk, the Ohio GOP spokesman, said Republican offices were targeted several
times by vandals during last year’s election.
“We’ve had our [headquarters] broken into and had our building
spray-painted pretty aggressively over the past year,” he said. “We
installed security cameras and that seems to have made a difference.”
To some Democrats, this week’s break-in is reminiscent with a
burglary in October at the Lucas County Democratic Party Headquarters about
three weeks before last year’s election.
In that case, thieves shattered a side window overnight at the headquarters,
stealing computers and sensitive campaign information.
Toledo police investigated, but were unable to make any arrests in the case.
Ten days after the break-in, Toledo police said greed - not politics - appeared
the be the chief motive for the crime.
Sandy Isenberg, who was chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party at the
time of the break-in, said yesterday the latest burglary “sounds more
and more like dirty tricks.”
“It’s no different than our break-in, through a window,
[they] took three very important computers, and left everything else,”
she said. “Come on - How strange is that? I find it extremely peculiar
The former Lucas County commissioner said the computers nabbed in last fall’s
break-in contained “loads and loads of information that could be used
in many different ways.”
“I lived through the Nixon era and I’m living through this convoluted
mess right now,” she said.
“And it would seem to me that the Republicans will stop at nothing to
further their cause. That’s unfortunate because there are many Republicans
out there who would and do find this situation that the state of Ohio is in
abhorrent of their beliefs and values.”
Roger Sanders, an attorney working on a Democratic voter protection project
last year, who had his laptop computer stolen during the break-in at Lucas County
Democratic Party Headquarters in October, said this week’s burglary “Looks
suspicious and it certainly sounds more like Watergate than Coingate.”
In August, thieves broke into the Ohio AFL-CIO headquarters in Columbus, stealing
eight desktop computers and two laptop computers, said Kent Darr, an AFL-CIO
Police have not made any arrests and the computers were not recovered, Mr.
One of the computers contained a letter - which was not backed up - that instructed
labor groups around the state on how to properly register voters.
On the eve of the Nov. 2, 2004, presidential election, two Wood County residents
filed a lawsuit against Americans Coming Together and three “partner”
groups, including the Ohio AFL-CIO.
The lawsuit alleged that their votes would be diluted because ACT and the other
three groups had fraudulently registered voters. Although there are copies of
the letter, the AFL-CIO does not have the original that could be submitted in
court, Mr. Darr said.