The state's top elections official said Monday he accidentally invested
in a company that makes voting machines.
Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who is seeking the Republican
nomination for governor, said he discovered the shares for Diebold Inc. while
preparing a required filing for the Ohio Ethics Commission.
"While I was unaware of this stock in my portfolio, its mere presence may
be viewed as a conflict and is therefore not acceptable," he said in a letter
included in his filing.
Blackwell said his investments are directed by an accountant and financial
adviser without his knowledge or help, "similar to a blind trust."
He said a manager of his investments account at Credit Suisse First Boston
bought 178 shares of Diebold stock at $53.67 per share in January 2005. Blackwell
said the manager did not follow instructions to avoid such investments.
He said 95 shares were later sold at a loss but he still held 83 shares until
discovering them and liquidating them Monday, also at a loss.
The state negotiated a deal with Diebold last year for $2,700 per touch-screen
machine. In a statement given in May as part of a lawsuit, Judith Grady, who
oversees the secretary of state's compliance with the 2002 federal voting act,
said Blackwell was not involved with price negotiations.
What had been a mundane political duty took on new meaning last year after
Gov. Bob Taft's failure to report several golf outings led to his no contest
plea to ethics violations. He was fined the maximum $4,000.
Bob Paduchik, a spokesman for Attorney General Jim Petro, Blackwell's rival
in the GOP primary, called for further investigation.
Democrats weren't buying Blackwell's explanation.
"If he can't manage to know what's in his checkbook, why would the people
of Ohio want to trust this man with the state's checkbook?" said Brian
Rothenberg, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party.