Sunday, September 25, 2005

Miller Turns to Pulliam For Help

Several weeks back a reporter for the Indianapolis Star paid a little visit to Advance America founder and Grand Dragon of Moral Righteousness Eric Miller to interview him about a series of investigative articles Advance Indiana published on this site detailing considerable self-dealing by Miller as head of Advance America and questionable tax and lobbying reports filed by his tax-exempt organization. After previewing just a smidgeon of that interview, Advance Indiana is confident that Miller was left quaking in his boots. And from a legal standpoint, Miller has plenty to worry about.

Since the Pulliam family allowed the Indianapolis Star to be sold to Gannett several years ago, conservative Republicans and Christian fundamentalists have complained that the paper has taken a distinct turn to the left under its new management. The staunchly conservative Russ Pulliam has, however, remained on at the paper in a lesser role as the paper's associate editor. In that role, he occasionally contributes columns that are always pleasing to conservatives. So when Miller began feeling the heat of an impending investigation by the paper of his questionable activities, who better a person for him to turn to for support than Russ Pulliam.

Pulliam's column in today's Indianapolis Star offers a glowing tribute to Miller entitled "Retirement isn't in his plans." Pulliam, in reflecting on Miller's 25 years at the healm of Advance America, opens with the observation that Miller could qualify for early retirement. "At 55, he's achieved his conservative political and social objectives, and this week he's celebrating the 25th anniversary of his organization, Advance America," Pulliam said. "If anyone could be credited for inventing the Religious Right in Indiana, the honor should go to him," Pulliam continued. Pulliam then asks, "So will Miller retire peacefully, with state government in reasonably conservative hands? Miller's response: "No way. My liberal friends would like for me to retire to Florida, but I'm staying in Indiana, and I'm staying in the battle for families and freedom."

Of course, if Mr. Pulliam had bothered to read Advance Indiana's reports on Miller's self-dealing, he could have answered that question for himself. As Advance Indiana has reported, Miller pocketed more than $1 million from the organization in the form of six-figure salaries, six-figure legal retainers for his law firm and other benefits paid to Miller during just the most recent period of the organization's 25-year existence. The cash cow Miller has created for himself at the expense of his tax-subsidized organization is just too good to walk away from. At least until the government decides to take a look at the efficacy of this cozy little arrangement.

Pulliam credits Miller's run against Governor Mitch Daniels in the 2004 Republican primary for "push[ing] the governor a little more to the right on some social issues such as abortion and gay marriage." He does not mention the public brawl Miller, Micah Clark and other far right Christian fringe elements have been carrying on with Daniels over his non-discrimination policy towards gays and transgendered persons in state government. Pulliam even describes Miller as a "kingmaker" of sorts "in state politics on the conservative side of the spectrum in the 1980s and 1990s", conjuring up earlier images of D.C. Stephenson playing a similar role in the Indiana Republican Party during the 1920s as the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.

Miller's biggest impact has been on the Indiana General Assembly according to Pulliam. "Give or take a few notches on the ideological spectrum, Miller's social and economic views have ample representation in state government, especially in the General Assembly," Pulliam said. "House Speaker Brian Bosma, for example, is sympathetic to Miller's views" compared to the "more moderate" Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Garton according to Pulliam. But Pulliam adds that even Garton's caucus "has shifted in recent elections to the more conservative direction represented by Miller."

While Miller may be able to muster sympathetic words in his hour of need from Russ Pulliam, the real test of his influence at the paper will be determined by whether the new management of the Indianapolis Star will carry through with their investigation of his management of Advance America and inform the public on the extent of the abuses of the organization's tax-exempt status which have made Miller a very wealthy man. Advance Indiana is betting that the Indianapolis Star will do the right thing and blow the whistle on Miller.


Anonymous said...

So what, we are just left to wait and see if the Star does the right thing...

Any suggestions on what can be done to let the Indianapolis Star/media/A.G. know that there are plenty out here that want this investigated?

Gary R. Welsh said...

As an unpaid volunteer, I have spoon-fed as much as I humanly can to the local media to alert them to the problems with Miller and Advance America. At least I can say the Star is conducting an investigation. Nuvo is completely missing in action--I really expected that publication to pick up and run with the information. Susan Brooks is the U.S. attorney with jurisdiction to investigate a 501(c)(3) organization, but political corruption apparently isn't very high on her list of priorities, particularly given her and her husband's strong political ties to the Republican Party.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing this issue to light.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks TDW-enjoy reading your blog daily.