Political Donor Admits Laundering

Political Donor Admits Laundering

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

COLUMBUS – Dublin man agrees to fine for funding family’s contributions. A Dublin securities broker who has openly contributed more than $400,000 to political parties and candidates since the 1990s admitted yesterday that he also laundered more than $100,000 through relatives.

Montford S. Will reached a deal with prosecutors in which he agreed to pay $47,500 rather than face criminal charges.

Will admitted that he reimbursed his wife and two stepchildren for $121,000 in contributions they made to a who’s who of state and local politicians, including Gov. Ted Strickland, Attorney General Richard Cordray, Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks and former state Rep. Kevin DeWine, now chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.

Will also paid relatives to give to the state Democratic and Republican parties.

In all, Will faced 19 counts of election-law violations, each of which carried a fine of up to $10,000. He and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien’s office reached a settlement in which Will agreed to pay $2,500 per violation.

His wife, Min Cha Lee, and stepchildren Kristopher Kuty and Lindsey R. Kuty admitted to violations, but the settlement calls for no fines against them.

The Ohio Elections Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to approve the settlement. If the commission rejects the deal, O’Brien could bring criminal charges.

The settlement would not bar Will from making political contributions.

“There’s an admission that there were contributions made in the name of another,” said Will’s attorney, H. Ritchey Hollenbaugh. “There’s other terminology that could have been alleged.”

Will, 65, has been one of Ohio’s top political donors since the 1990s and also one of its most enigmatic. He has rebuffed requests for interviews, and his donations follow no clear pattern.

He has given money to Republicans, including former Treasurer J. Kenneth Blackwell and former Gov. Bob Taft, and to Democrats such as Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and former Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow.

The bulk of his political largesse has gone to party organizations, and nearly all that to Democrats. Records show that of the $346,500 Will gave in his own name to political parties since the 1990s, all but $500 has gone to the Ohio Democratic Party.

Records show that Lee has donated to candidates and political parties since at least 1994. The criminal complaint, however, alleges violations going back only to 2006.

Will and Lee own a home in New Albany valued at $1.2 million. Neither is registered to vote in Franklin County, according to county Board of Elections data.

Philip C. Richter, executive director of the elections commission, said yesterday that he probably will recommend that it accept the settlement with Will.

Richter said one of the counts in yesterday’s complaint, involving a $10,000 contribution to Cordray last year when he was the state treasurer, also is the subject of a separate complaint already before the commission. It was filed by Mike Crites, Cordray’s Republican opponent for attorney general last fall.

Cordray has said his campaign will refund the $10,000 to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.

Yesterday’s complaint cites six contributions to the Ohio Democratic Party totaling $55,000, plus an $8,000 contribution to Strickland when he was running for governor in 2006.

Party spokesman Seth Bringman, also speaking for Strickland, said he could not immediately comment on what might happen with those contributions.

Ohio Republican Party Executive Director Jason Mauk said the state GOP will seek guidance from the elections commission about the $9,000 given to the state party’s candidate fund in 2006.

Other recipients of the allegedly laundered money were: former state Treasurer Jennette Bradley, the Summit County Democratic Party, Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley, former Franklin County Commissioner Dewey Stokes, Dayton Municipal Clerk of Courts Mark E. Owens, Clark County Municipal Clerk of Courts Guy A. Ferguson, state Sen. Chris Widener and Franklin County Treasurer Ed Leonard.

James Nash and Mark Niquette, The Columbus Dispatch. 5/23/09.