Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lugar Poll Shows Double Digit Lead Over Mourdock

An American Viewpoint poll taken on behalf of Sen. Richard Lugar shows him with a 14-point lead over Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. The poll results, as reported by a pro-Lugar blog, Capital & Washington, show Lugar leading Mourdock among likely 2012 Republican primary voters 45% to 31% with 23% undecided. The poll contrasts with a poll taken by Basswood Research on behalf of Club for Growth days earlier that showed Mourdock leading Lugar 34% to 32%, with 34% undecided.

Lugar supporters contend the Basswood poll numbers turned out as well as they did for Mourdock because the pollster used push poll questioning. The American Viewpoint numbers are not all good news for Lugar because he comes in below 50% as a six-term incumbent among members of his own party. That is a big shift in the poll numbers cited by Lugar's campaign only months ago when Mourdock first launched his campaign to unseat him. The American Viewpoint poll results indicate that 55% of GOP voters have a favorable impression of him and 53% approve of his performance, with 34% of GOP voters disapproving of him.

Basswood's poll was taken after Club for Growth began running a negative attack ad criticizing Lugar's votes in favor of government bailouts during his long tenure in the Senate. The Lugar campaign quickly responded to the ads with their own TV spot and blanketed Republican voters with at least two direct mail pieces that included negative attacks against Mourdock. Given that the American Viewpoint poll was taken after Lugar's TV and direct mail response, it would appear the negative view of Lugar is winning out.

Interestingly, Lugar's campaign is spinning the American Viewpoint numbers as an indication his message is resonating with voters even though his poll numbers have dropped markedly over those cited by his campaign just months ago. Before Mourdock launched his campaign, Lugar's campaign released poll numbers indicating that Lugar was more popular than virtually any Indiana politician, including Gov. Mitch Daniels, with 66% of all voters viewing him favorably and only 19% viewing him unfavorably.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Businessweek Takes In Depth Look At The Madoff Of The Midwest

Illustration by Mike Marsicano
It was always Tim Durham's goal to make the cover of every major business magazine in America. This featured story in the latest edition of Bloomberg's Businessweek by Annie Lowery is not exactly the kind of attention he fancied for himself though. A byline for the story describes Durham "in an epic midlife crisis may have crafted a Ponzi scheme even more complicated than [Bernie] Madoff's." Lowery's story has a great opening:

In the summer of 2007, Timothy S. Durham decided to throw himself a party for his 45th birthday. The CEO of a leveraged buyout shop in Indianapolis, Durham claimed to have made millions. He had also developed a penchant for the young, fun, and nubile, partying in Los Angeles and Miami and on his yacht in the Caribbean. In L.A., he owned National Lampoon, or what was left of it, and had been going to parties at the Playboy Mansion.
At the time, Durham told Daniel S. Comiskey, an Indianapolis Monthly reporter, he just wanted to bring “a little of that ‘magic’ to Indianapolis.” That magic meant 30 glamour models, flown in from Los Angeles, picked up at the airport in exotic cars from Durham’s collection, put up in a hotel, and paid standard modeling day rates, according to model Megan Hauserman. “He said it was a Playboy-themed party, so we should wear what we would typically wear to the mansion,” she says. The standard uniform there is lingerie and heels.
More than 1,000 people showed up at his 30,000-square-foot mansion in Fortville, an exurb of Indianapolis. Members of the Indianapolis Colts arrived, as did Kato Kaelin. Durham dressed like Hugh Hefner, in a plush robe. When he went to blow out the candles, his cake was frosted with his likeness in the center of a million-dollar bill.
Later, as reported in the Indianapolis Star, Durham posted photographs of the party to his Myspace page, including one of him getting a lap dance and two of the models kissing, nude. He dubbed it his “Fantasy Pajama and Lingerie Party.”
Durham had long attracted attention in Indianapolis, and not just for his parties. He was also one of the state’s biggest backers of Republican politicians. “Tim Durham was somebody who came out of nowhere in the late ’90s and kind of declared himself a very rich guy,” says Greg Andrews, managing editor of the Indianapolis Business Journal, who has covered Durham extensively. “He established himself as a player by being a tremendously large donor to candidates.” Those included Governor Mitch Daniels. Durham gave $105,000 to his 2004 campaign, making Durham the governor’s second-biggest individual donor that cycle. Over the years, he made some $800,000 in political donations, according to public records. The perceived gap between Durham’s private behavior and his support for conservative candidates led Matthew Tully, a columnist for the Indianapolis Star, to chastise Durham for his conspicuously libertine lifestyle. The column went viral, likely because of its link to those Myspace photos.
Durham was unfazed by the public admonishment. He kept throwing huge parties—though he set his Myspace page to private—and giving generously to the Indiana GOP. “That article ran about my R-rated Myspace page, and somehow I still get a lot of politicians wanting my money,” he told Indianapolis Monthly. “Apparently they didn’t see it. I’m going to give it to them as they come through the door now. ‘Didn’t you see this? I’m not someone you want to be associated with! I’m not a good influence!’ ” And he repeatedly boasted that Obsidian Enterprises, his leveraged buyout firm, had upped its profits massively in the last few years.
The party ended at 2 p.m. on Nov. 24, 2009. Uniformed FBI agents raided the offices of Obsidian, which were in the penthouse of the tallest building in Indianapolis, and the offices of its subsidiary, Fair Finance, in Akron. Agents hauled boxes of records and computer hard drives to idling trucks.
Check it out. It's well worth the read.

Indiana's GOP Delegation Totally Spineless And Without Principle

The Star's Maureen Groppe says all of Indiana's GOP congressional members plan to vote for Boehner's zero spending reduction plan to increase the national debt ceiling a few trillion more dollars, except for U.S. Rep. Dan Burton:

The state's six Republicans were expected to vote for it, with the exception of Rep. Dan Burton, R-Indianapolis, who did not say how he would vote.
Burton had pledged to vote only for a conservative "cut, cap and balance" plan that passed the House but was rejected by the Senate.

Rep. Mike Pence, a leading conservative voice, urged colleagues Thursday to back House Speaker John Boehner's bill.

I believe Congress is doing everything in its power to change the way we spend the people's money," the Columbus Republican said.
Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indianapolis, who has said most of his constituents oppose raising the legal borrowing limit under any circumstances, called Boehner's bill a tactical move and a "solid step in what is the continuation of a longer fight."
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, one of the House GOP freshmen with strong tea party ties, defended the movement against criticism that it is keeping lawmakers from reaching an agreement.

"No matter how many times you try to put them down or call them names, the tea party movement and many others that share their views have had a monumental impact on the debt ceiling debate," the Howe Republican said on the House floor. "Know this: If left to its own devices, Washington would have completed just another 'perfunctory' raising of the debt ceiling or worse -- more taxes and more spending."
They're all spineless, total frauds masquerading as fiscal conservatives. This plan does absolutely nothing to reduce federal spending. Not one dime. Stutzman totally insults his tea party supporters by pretending to support them by claiming they "have had a monumental impact on the debt ceiling debate." So monumental, it has produced a vote on a measure that produces zero reduction in federal spending. They're all phonies. We're sick and tired of these people pretending to be serious about fiscal restraint and then they vote for more of the same continued reckless spending like drunken sailors.

UPDATE: The Redstate blog in a post labeled "Suckers" aptly describes what is about to play out as we near the deadline for raising the national debt ceiling:

As I called it. John Boehner now has the votes to pass his plan.
Harry Reid just declared that the only compromise that will pass will be his plan. “The only compromise there is — is mine,” he said.
Harry Reid will take John Boehner’s plan, insert all the Democrats’ demands, and send it back to the House daring the GOP to kill “the Boehner Plan.”
The Democrats will line up to vote for it.
It will pass.
I do believe someone predicted this would happen.
Congrats, House Conservatives.

UPDATE II: The House passed Boehner's pathetic plan to raise the debt ceiling by a 218-210 vote. All of Indiana's GOP congressmen voted for it. Only 22 Republicans stood up against the failed House Republican leadership in voting against the plan, including U.S. Rep. Michele Bachman and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

More On GOP Council Refuses To Hear Public Testimony

Indianapolis' weekly alternative newspaper, Nuvo, gives a big thumbs down to the refusal of the Republican-controlled Metropolitan Development Committee to allow public testimony on the nomination of Richard Kraft, an employee of an engineering firm that has government contract work, to the Board of Zoning Appeals. I first wrote about this matter here. Here's the weekly's take on this sad episode:

Why bother being neighborly? The Metropolitan Development Committee this week rejected citizen efforts to ask questions during the process for making an appointment to the Board of Zoning Appeals and failed to provide a resume listing an appointee's credentials, a divergence from past procedure, long-time commission watchdogs say. "We've been doing this for years," says Norm Pace, land use chair for the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations. "Why all of a sudden is [the process] closed to public input? Why can't we see his resume? We're not there to cause problems, we're there to ask questions." When encountering citizens requests for input, the committee [Chairman Janice McHenry] responded as follows: "The rules are this is not a public meeting when we nominate people to committees for the city. It is at the chair's will if they want to entertain that . . . You are out of order and you will not be recognized."
As appalling as McHenry's actions were, which were vocally backed by Republican Councilors Jeff Cardwell and Virginia Caine, it was equally appalling that the Democratic council members just sat there and said nothing. I guess we shouldn't be surprised, though, since that is the way they conducted committee meetings under the leadership of former CCC President Monroe Gray. Not surprisingly, the Star's reporters and editors have had no comment on this public spectacle. While the Star was very vocal in its distaste for the way Gray ran the council and his ethical transgressions, the Star's editors have turned a blind eye to Dennis Ryerson's golden boy, Ryan Vaughn, who auctioned off his seat on the council for a job as a lobbyist with Barnes & Thornburg and then proceeded to sponsor and push city ordinances that directly benefit his law firm and its clients. Gray's transgressions were peanuts compared to Vaughn's flagrant self-dealing. It's all just another reason why you should have absolutely no confidence in anything this council does. Unless you're an insider making money off the government, you may as well get lost. Your voices will not be heard.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

First Wallace Ad Hits The Airwaves

GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Wallace hits the airwaves with his first ad. It seems to hint that he sees the Washington experience of U.S. Rep. Mike Pence as his opponent's Achilles' heel. Pence may just bolster that argument if he foolishly supports Boehner's plan to raise the national debt limit without first addressing Washington's appetite for taxing and spending.

Daniels Backs Boehner's Worthless Debt Proposal

Gov. Mitch Daniels has been taking time to lobby Indiana's congressional delegation to back House Speaker John Boehner's plan to raise the national debt limit--you know, the one that allows us to borrow and spend more money without making any real cuts in federal spending or achieving any real reductions in the unprecedented deficit spending by the Obama administration and the Bush administration before him. Daniels, one of the chief architects of that catastrophic spending plan as Bush's OMB Director, is on the side of the New World Order that's been working overtime raising all sorts of false flags about the economic demise we will face unless we commit to trillions of dollars more in spending they all know we can never repay:

 "I hope the Indiana Congressional Delegation will support Speaker Boehner's proposal. The terrifying, nation-threatening debt levels caused by past and present overspending and future overpromising will not be solved by any one action or in any one year. But the Boehner plan begins in the right place, with real spending restraint and would show Americans and world markets that we do not intend to commit financial suicide. I hope Congress passes it and then begins work immediately on step two of our long march back to national solvency and economic prosperity."
Real spending restraint, Mitch? Do you think we're that stupid? There are no spending restraints in the Boehner plan. They're illusory promises just as we've been fed time and time again by the Washington establishment. Even the Congressional Budget Office concedes that point. Indeed, the United States may be facing total economic collapse, but the seeds of that destruction have already been sown. No government in the history of this world has taken on as much debt as the U.S. government has taken on over the past few decades and survived. We just keep printing more and more dollars that aren't worth the paper they're written on to feed spending on wars that serve no American purpose and handouts to prop up foreign countries and banks controlled by our sworn enemies. Just as the Roman Empire fell so shall the United States of America. The only difference is that our own demise was all planned out by a New World Order committed to the elimination of American sovereignty so our new masters can rule us, picking and choosing winners and losers at will. It was the world's longest and most successful experiment in representative government and capitalism, but it doesn't fit the agenda of the self-appointed chosen ones who see it as their God-given right to rule over us as our masters.

Super Bowl Committee And Downtown Elites Picking On The Little People, No Surprise

Everything in Indianapolis now is about the Super Bowl. Tens of millions of dollars in new improvements to streets and sidewalks downtown are being made to spruce up downtown even though it was already one of the few areas of this city that doesn't look like shit. A police command center is being relocated to be closer to the center of Super Bowl activities instead of the neighborhood it serves. And new laws to screw over the little guy in order to put more money into the pockets of the insiders who are lining the pockets of the politicians are being proposed. I'm of course talking about the big power grab in the form of a proposed new city ordinance that would impose an entire menu of new regulations governing the conduct of special events. One of the more outrageous power grabs in the proposed ordinance is a requirement that homeowners and lot owners who live near Lucas Oil Stadium be required to pay $75 to obtain a special permit from the City in order to allow people to park on their property for a fee during the Super Bowl.

The Indianapolis 500 and the Indiana State Fair are two examples of events that have taken place for many decades and nobody ever saw a need to regulate private owners who take the lemon of the congestion and inconvenience posed by the special event and turn it into lemonade by making a small profit. But the insiders running the Super Bowl activities want to make sure that they totally control who can make money off the Super Bowl event next February, and they have no intention of allowing average residents to make one dime off of the event. WRTV explains:

Homeowners Linda Floyd and Hildermon Harris charge drivers to park in their yard during major sporting events and believe the city just wants a cut of their profits, 6News' Ericka Flye reported.
"We are 215 steps from (Lucas Oil Stadium), a two-minute walk. Who would not want to park on our property?" Floyd said.
Floyd and Harris said they live on prime real estate for parking and have been turning a profit during major events for years.
"The city has ignored us all these years," Harris said.
City leaders are proposing that residents pay a $75 fee if they want to turn their yards into parking lots.
"(The city) has the audacity to come in our area and tell us what we can and cannot do on private property. It's unfair, and we want it stopped," Floyd said.
Adam Collins, of the Department of Code Enforcement, said the proposal would require residents in certain areas to buy a permit if they want to use their yards for parking or for vendor activities during special events.
"It's legitimizing the industry. It gives homeowners, business owners, not only with residential parking, but with temporary signage, an opportunity to do things that would otherwise be prohibited," Collins said.
Some Hoosiers said they'd be willing to pay $75 for a permit to use their grass to make some green.
"It'd be fine with us," one resident said. "We could take care of the $75 right here where we're standing."
This is how the parking situation is going to go down during the Super Bowl. Most people coming into town for the Super Bowl will be staying at a hotel. The host committee will have a list of parking venues that out-of-town visitors will be steered towards during the event. I've got a hint for the people who plan to turn their small lots and yards into temporary parking for the event. You aren't going to be on that list. There will be an unprecedented number of vehicles brought into town, including limos, liveries and shuttle vans, to shuttle people to and from the Super Bowl events and their hotels to minimize the need for parking. The people who are driving themselves to the event will be steered to the parking garages owned or controlled by the downtown elites who believe only they are entitled to make money off of the Super Bowl. If this ordinance passes, none of these residents should comply with this ordinance and pay the $75 to the City. Dare them to come and arrest you for not complying with this ordinance. If the City has resources to commit to enforcing this power grab law during the Super Bowl, then something is really amiss. Not surprisingly, this ordinance will not apply to the Indianapolis 500, which has operated for a century and draws an even larger number of visitors annually than this one-time event will draw.

UPDATE: As an aside, has anyone else noticed how vigilantly the Ballard administration has been cracking down on the mostly-Muslim taxi cab drivers in town? Yep, they want to minimize perceived security risks so their goal is to put as many of the Muslim taxi cab drivers out of business before the Super Bowl as possible. I kid you not. Where's Andre?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

City Does Something About Bike Thefts After One Of Its Bikes Stolen

For the past several years, our downtown neighborhood has been plagued by bicycle thefts. The police don't even want to be bothered with filling out the reports because they occur so often. Suffice it to say, bicycle stealing has proven to be a lucrative business for the thieves. There have been 42 bicycle thefts downtown this month alone. Apparently, IMPD finally decided to make an effort to catch the thieves after a department training bicycle was stolen while sitting out front of IFD headquarters last week. From WRTV:

Indianapolis police are deploying a high-end bicycle as bait to try to catch downtown thieves who’ve swiped dozens of bikes so far this year.
Riders have reported 42 bicycle thefts downtown as of this month, marking a 75 percent increase compared to the same time period last year, 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.
"We actually had a complaint last week from a man … he's had two bikes stolen from him at his relatives and one stolen from him. So in the past month, he's had three stolen,” said Lt. Steve Atzhorn.
Guillermo Bolanco said he watched his bike get stolen while he was working on a ladder on a downtown building.
"The guy was so fast and he took my bike,” he said. "I say you buy a chain and lock it good and don't trust nobody."
Just last week, police learned that lesson the hard way when someone stole a department training bicycle parked in front of Indianapolis Fire Department headquarters.
Officers are now leaving a high-end bait bike unattended in areas experiencing a high number of thefts.
On Tuesday, they arrested a 17-year-old minutes after the bike was left in front of the downtown library.
"We set it out in areas that are experiencing the larcenies of bikes to see if anyone takes it," said Lt. Steven Atzhorn. "We've done that for the past two days and have arrested a couple of people for taking the bike that actually belongs to the police department.”
Investigators said it’s that critical bike owners buy a substantial lock and use it every time they leave their ride unattended. They should also make a note of the serial number, found on the bottom of the frame, to report to police if it is stolen.
"I've never had a bike stolen. I always lock them up,” said downtown cyclist Jaxon West. “If you don't want your stuff to run away, lock it up."

Will Mass Avenue Makeover Address This Eyesore?

I think David Andrichik, the owner of The Chatterbox, is a really nice guy and operates a  real treasure of an historic establishment on Mass Avenue, but I've been biting my lip for several years now about this horrible eyesore his business presents on the ever-improving Mass Avenue business district downtown. After reading on Fox 59 News' website about a makeover planned for Mass Avenue as part of Mayor Ballard's Rebuild Indy program and Andrichik's comments about it, even with its inconveniences, I simply can no longer remain silent. From Fox 59:

It's Indy's arts community and hub for all things cool in the city but even a hipster district needs a makeover once in a while. This fall, Mass Ave is getting a splash of orange, courtesy of RebuildIndy.

"The area has exploded. The Cultural Trail is good but it doesn't have quite the impact that it does unless we can do these roads and sidewalks a little better, they were very, very bumpy," said Mayor Greg Ballard . . .

"The work needed to be done," said David Andrichik of the Mass Ave Merchants Association. "That's a problem. No matter how much you would ask for it, it wouldn't necessarily get done until you get on a schedule and the money becomes available, and now it's in the line." . . .

Andrichik believes most merchants are pleased to have the improvements.

"Realistically, if you're a merchant in any kind of city, you have to realize there are going to be inconveniences along the way for construction," Andrichik said

I walk by this eyesore on the backside of The Chatterbox building every day on my way to work. I've checked city records and know for a fact that the business owner was cited several years ago for doing work without a permit and issued a stop work order. Instead of getting the necessary repairs made in conformity with city regulations, the business owner simply left the work unfinished since the day he was issued the stop work order.

People have repeatedly complained to the Mayor's Action Center about the eyesore, but the Ballard administration refuses to do anything about it because Andrichik, as the head of the Mass Ave. Merchants Association, advocated in favor of the Ballard administration's plan to privatize the City's parking meter assets in order to provide a big time financial windfall to a major Ballard campaign contributor, ACS, while shortchanging Indianapolis taxpayers. As a reward, the Ballard administration is turning a blind eye to this eyesore while his administration has hauled thousands of Indianapolis homeowners and business owners into court over the last several years and fined them for far less serious code compliance matters. I've heard several Mass Avenue business owners quietly complain about Andrichik's building, but all of them are afraid to speak up about it for fear of retribution. Just consider this a favor to the other business owners on the Avenue who think it's high time the City did something about this eyesore but are afraid to speak up about it.

UPDATE: The Ballard administration actually tampered with the online system on the City's website to remove references to the prior code violation issues referencing the stop work order issued on the property. Yep, there is very selective enforcement of code violators by this administration. Talk to the people who handle code enforcement and they will complain that political considerations often prevent them from taking enforcement action they would normally take against a property owner because someone higher up ordered them to back off.

Are DPS' Crime Stats For Indianapolis Believable?

Since the Public Safety Department failed to turn over crime statistics for 2010 to the FBI for inclusion in the Uniform Crime Report, there have been rumblings that the Ballard administration had been cooking the crime stat numbers to make things appear rosier than what they really are. Indeed, Mayor Greg Ballard claimed a 12.8% reduction in crime in Indianapolis as recently as May. The final figures belatedly reported to the FBI show a much less rosy picture, claiming a slight reduction over the previous year and a smaller decrease than reported nationally. Fox 59 News' Russ McQuaid explains:
The Indianapolis Department of Public Safety tells Fox 59 News it will send the Federal Bureau of Investigations the city’s 2010 crime statistics, several months overdue and more than two months after federal officials released national numbers.
The 2010 Uniform Crime Report shows a total of 54,650 serious crimes, from murder to stolen vehicles, in Indianapolis. That number is down 4.4% from 2009.
Criminal homicides, rapes, aggravated assaults and robberies totaled 9,508. That represents a 2.6% decrease from the year before but less than half the 5.5% national average decrease as reported by the FBI . . .
“I don’t know why those statistics weren’t submitted in a proper manner,” said Jim White, public safety lecturer at IUPUI and former Emergency Management Director for Marion County. “Conservatively saying you ought to have it done within 90 days. There should be no reason why you shouldn’t have it done within 90 days.”
In May, Mayor Greg Ballard announced that progress was being made on what he called the city’s “antiquated” crime reporting system. That day the mayor also announced a double digit decrease in crime in 2011.
“Through the first quarter of 2011, IMPD has reduced crime by 12%.”
When Ballard announced a 12.8% decrease in crime through April 23rdcompared to 2009, he was citing statistics based on Tiburon data, a preliminary reporting system, and numbers that had an “adjustment factor” applied. That double digit decrease was announced the same day the mayor said for the second summer in a row, Indianapolis Metropolitan police officers would be involved in a surge strategy to flood troubled parts of the city with additional officers to fight crime.
Six weeks later, on June 18th, during the first month of the surge, IMPD reported its year to date crime reduction had fallen to a 5.77% decrease, less than half the first quarter double digit decrease. A month later, on July 16th, the year to date decrease fell to 4.1%.
“I think what you have here is more data and you have a more accurate picture and, crime goes up, it goes down,” said White. “Historically the summer months you’re going to see a rise in crime.”
The public safety director’s office did not respond to a request for an interview.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New York Vote Fraud Indictments Focus On Absentee Ballot Fraud

This should come as no surprise since the Democratic Party engages in wholesale vote fraud in urban areas throughout the United States every election. The law has caught up with top Democrats in Troy, New York, who were committing vote fraud by forging signatures on absentee ballots. Did you read that, Todd Rokita? It's absentee ballot fraud, stupid, not in-person vote fraud that you wasted your entire tenure as Secretary of State combating. Where the absentee ballot fraud occurred in Troy should come as no surprise since it has always been a preferred place for Democrats to commit vote fraud:

Anthony DeFiglio, a former Troy Housing Authority clerk, told State Police two years ago that [Troy City Clerk William] McInerney had asked him in August 2009 to help collect absentee ballot applications from people in the Griswold Heights housing project. DeFiglio told investigators that voters in low-income areas were often unwittingly targeted for the fraudulent use of their ballots because they were less likely to do anything about it.
State Police, in court documents, have said they have evidence that [Rensselaer County Board of Elections Commissioner Edward] McDonough delivered a bundle of forged WFP absentee ballots to McInerney on the eve of the 2009 primary election.
McInerney resigned his post as city clerk today and is rumored to be copping a plea deal according to the Times Union. LoPorto and McDonough have already been indicted on 116 felony counts. Seven public officials and Democratic operatives have been identified as targets of the ongoing investigation.

Shock Poll Shows Mourdock Beating Lugar

A poll commissioned by the conservative political action committee, Club for Growth, claims to show State Treasurer Richard Mourdock with a small lead over incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar among likely Republican primary voters. Roll Call reports on the results of a poll taken by Basswood Research:

Mourdock had a small advantage over Lugar, 34 percent to 32 percent, in the Basswood Research poll released Tuesday. But Mourdock’s 2-point lead is within the poll’s 4.4-point margin of error.

The conservative, anti-tax organization has not endorsed Mourdock, but the Club for Growth President Chris Chocola has frequently criticized Lugar’s record. Earlier this month, the club sponsored television advertisements blasting Lugar across Indiana.

“An incumbent who sits at 32 percent in his own party’s primary, and trails a much less known challenger, is in a world of trouble,” Chocola, a former Indiana Congressman, said in a statement. “Senator Lugar is a very decent man, but it’s clear from the poll that after 35 years, Hoosier Republicans are eager for a more conservative alternative.”

About one-third of those polled, 34 percent, said they were undecided about the GOP Senate primary field.

Monday, July 25, 2011

GOP Council Committee Refuses To Hear Public Comment

Four years ago, Greg Ballard and the Marion Co. GOP council candidates railed against the Democratic-controlled council over the manner in which it trampled on the rights of the general public to testify at public committee hearings. Today, the Metropolitan Development Committee chaired by Councilor Janice McHenry ruled community activist Clarke Kahlo out of order when he attempted to offer public testimony on the nomination of Richard Kraft to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Other Republican councilors, including Councilor Caine and Councilor Cardwell, backed up McHenry's refusal to allow Kahlo to offer testimony. They falsely claimed public testimony had never been allowed from members of the public on nominees. McHenry and the GOP councilors are pissed off at Kahlo because he mounted an effort to block the reappointment of Jennifer Ping, a lobbyist for a law firm whose clients include those with an interest in alcohol permits, to the local alcohol board because she had treated members of the public so rudely when they remonstrated against the reissuance of problem alcohol permittees or the issuance of new alcohol permit applications. Ping's husband, a state employee, chairs the Metropolitan Development Commission.

Not surprisingly, the Republican councilors were thrilled to offer up Kraft's appointment to the BZA. He works for an engineering firm which does business with the City and helps fill the campaign coffers of the re-election campaign of Greg Ballard. In a laughable moment, Kraft said with a straight face under questioning by Councilor Brian Mahern that he would face no conflicts of interest serving on the BZA. Yep, he earns his living from government contracts, but he will have an open mind on matters that come before the BZA. Candidate Ballard four years ago promised to enact a city ordinance to bar city contractors and lobbyists from serving on the boards and commissions. As with virtually every other promise he made four years ago, he has not kept it. The Republicans have refused to appoint any of the people who actually played a role in their election four years ago to any boards or commissions. Some of us will gladly play the game of pay back this November for their disloyalty to us.

McHenry, who has demonstrated repeatedly during the last four years how inept of an elected official she is, simply does whatever she is ordered to do by Council President Ryan Vaughn, who traded his seat on the council for a job as a lobbyist at Barnes & Thornburg shortly after the Republicans captured control of the council four years ago. Vaughn has repeatedly carried the matters pushed by his law firm on behalf of its client's interests despite his obvious conflicts of interest. This Republican council is more corrupt and more arrogant towards the interests of average taxpayers than the Democratic-controlled council under Monroe Gray if that is possible. As a life-long Republican and GOP committeman, I can't wait to see many of these Republican councilors go down to defeat this November. They represent none of the values of the Republican Party. They only support the appointment of lobbyists and insiders who are making money off of government to city boards and commissions and who are throwing campaign contributions at them. It could be no worse under Democratic control.

Life In Straubville

There may have been plenty of money in the Public Safety budget for Indianapolis/Marion County to redecorate the offices of Public Safety Director Frank Straub and to hire a bevy of six-figure salaried employees to populate his newly-decorated offices, but police officers are told there is no money left in the budget for toilet paper, hand sanitizer, notebooks, pens and other basic supplies for the district offices. The image at left is a sign posted in a bathroom stall of the North East IMPD district offices warning users "there is no toilet paper" because "the city is out of funds." And despite Straub's top heavy staff, including his personal chauffeur, we learn that his staff neglected to file paperwork to renew a half million dollar federal grant for IMPD to combat human trafficking. Meanwhile, Mayor Greg Ballard continues to show he's in charge of Public Safety by hiding behind Straub's skirt pants.

The Cost Of TIF Districts

Fellow blogger Pat Andrews is doing yeoman's work as usual at her blog producing information about the horribly unfair taxing policies implemented by the City of Indianapolis for the sake of economic development. Indianapolis/Marion County now has 40 TIF districts and the Ballard administration is trying to start up even more TIF districts. The combined assessed value of the TIF districts represents $4.81 billion. Taxing districts included within the TIF districts are allowed to collect taxes currently on only the base assessed value, which is suppose to be determined at the time of the creation of the TIF district. According to figures Andrews received from the county auditor's office, the base AV for the 40 TIF districts in Indianapolis/Marion County is $1.45 billion. That means the taxes paid on the $3.2 billion representing the incremental increase in TIF district's AV is captured by the respective TIF districts, which totals more than $90 million in annual property tax revenues. Note that those figures don't include property taxes the taxing districts lose from property tax abatements that may be awarded to businesses and homeowners within the respective TIF districts.

What comes as a total surprise is Andrews' discovery that the base AV for TIF districts can actually decline rather than being frozen as we've always been told it is. Naturally, the base AV of a TIF district won't increase during its lifetime, but one has always assumed it would not drop either. Yet as property assessments have fallen across the county, so has the base AV upon which taxes are assessed for the other taxing districts within the taxing districts even though total AV within the TIF districts grew. According to the most recent figures gathered by Andrews from the auditor's office, all 40 TIF districts combined represented $203 million in real AV growth. At the same time, however, the base AV within the TIF districts fell by $43.4 million. This problem as Andrews notes is further exacerbated by the fact that TIF districts are never retired as they were intended when they were originally created. Instead, new projects are constantly being concocted to continue their life seemingly in perpetuity.

Remarkably, Andrews learned that the base AV in 15 of the TIF districts has actually sunk to zero, which suggests an erosion of the base AV has occurred over a number of years. Andrews notes that two of those 15 TIF districts with zero AV base entailed all government-owned property, which explains the zero AV base, but it does not explain the zero base AV for the other TIF districts. So under the rules of TIF districts the base AV may never increase but nothing prevents it from being decreased all the way to zero, which results in no tax revenues flowing to the affected taxing districts. What this all means is just more tax shifting to the rest of the taxpayers. Those of us who don't enjoy the direct benefits of the projects undertaken within TIF districts are required to pay higher property taxes to support basic governmental services such as police, fire, streets, sidewalks, schools and welfare services.

Pence's Insulting Campaign Strategy

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence officially kicked off his campaign for governor last month, but he has decided he won't discuss what he'll do if he's elected governor until after he secures the Republican nomination next May. His GOP primary opponent cause that strategy insulting, and I couldn't agree more. From the AP's Tom Lobianco:

Hoosiers used to the big ideas of Gov. Mitch Daniels time in office may find themselves a tad parched as they wait for ideas from the early front-runner in the race to succeed him in November 2012.
Rep. Mike Pence leads a small pack of candidates for governor handily in campaign cash and enjoys the status of being the Republican establishment candidate in a GOP-dominated state.
But one of his first campaign promises, made the day before he kicked off his campaign last month, was that he won't talk policy until after the May 2012 Republican primary -- which he's widely expected to win.
"I was insulted," said Fishers businessman Jim Wallace, who is challenging Pence for the Republican nomination. "I think that presumes voters don't care or don't know that there should be a serious discussion."
Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd won't comment, and the Pence campaign won't release the names of Republicans who are working on his policy team and advising him on state issues. But the campaign isn't lacking for experience: Chris Atkins, Daniels' former budget aide, is running Pence's policy operation.

Pence's lack of transparency about his plans if elected governor and who is helping him craft his policy positions instill no public confidence in him. This is rather strange behavior from a man who has had no shortage of opinions about how badly he thinks this country has been governed by the Washington decision-makers during his long tenure in Congress and prior to that as a radio talk show host. Pence's only saving is that his likely Democratic opponent, career politician/State House lobbyist John Gregg, is equally avoiding discussing his plans if elected governor. Gregg continues to run for governor as an exploratory candidate rather than make his candidacy official. He claims to be on "a statewide listening tour."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fair Finance Trustee Has Recovered Only $2.3 Million

The efforts of the bankruptcy trustee for Fair Finance to recover the more than $200 million Ohio investors lost in the company has so far recovered a little more than $2.3 million of the nearly $14 million in assets it has identified as potentially collectible according to an interim report prepared by the bankruptcy trustee. Among the assets the trustee has so far been unable to collect include large donations Tim Durham made to a number of Indiana campaign committees. Those include the following:

  • Gov. Mitch Daniels ($285,000)
  • Indiana Republican State Committee ($228,000)
  • Greater Indianapolis Finance Committee ($58,000)
  • Attorney General Greg Zoeller ($22,000)
  • Marion Co. GOP ($18,200)
  • Former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill ($5,600)
  • Former Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi ($193,000)
  • Lawrence Mayor Paul Ricketts ($40,000)
Only a handful of campaign committees have returned contributions to date, including Sen. Mike Delph ($10,000), House Speaker Brian Bosma ($10,000), House Republican Campaign Committee ($17,000), Rothenberg for Judge ($1,000) and former Mayor Bart Peterson ($3,000).

The trustee is also trying to recover money paid to several Indianapolis law firms a short time before the company's demise. To date, only Taft Stettinius has returned money to the trustee ($20,000). The trustee is still trying to recover from Voyles, Zahn, Paul, Hogan & Merriman ($50,000), Riley Bennett & Egloff ($75,000) and Rubin & Levin ($70,000).

Trustee expenses to date have totaled over $520,000, leaving net proceeds of just a little over $1.8 million. Suffice it to say, the investors in Fair Finance will recover very little of the money they invested in Fair Finance.

CORRECTION: The original post indicated the return of a $1,000 campaign contribution to Judge Rosenberg's campaign committee. It has been brought to my attention by Judge Rosenberg's campaign treasurer that the campaign committee referenced in the trustee's report was not Judge Rosenberg's committee; it was the "Rothenberg for Judge Committee." I regret the error and apologize to Judge Rosenberg for the confusion that the earlier report created.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More On Arrest For Contempt Of Cop

The video above as posted on the Internet by Ohioans for Concealed Carry, a nonprofit organization that represents the interest of gun owners, raises concerns not only about the police officer's conduct in this unlawful arrest but also the notification requirement contained in Ohio's law. Ohio, like Indiana, has a law that permits gun owners to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm. Ohio's law requires a person stopped by a police officer to inform the police officer immediately if he is carrying a concealed weapon by permit. The video shows the police officer's reaction when, in my opinion, he falsely accused the driver of the car of failure to comply with the notification requirement.

A Canton, Ohio police officer's dash video captures two city police officers pulling up to a parked car with a driver and a passenger, who appear to be speaking to a woman. Naturally, the police officers suspect the woman of being a prostitute and the two men of being a john and a pimp looking to procure her services. One of the police officer's actions, in particular, crosses way over the bounds of lawful enforcement conduct. This officer orders the men in the car to remain there. The police officers order a young man in the rear of the vehicle to get out of the car where he is placed under arrest, handcuffed and searched. He is then interrogated about how he knows the driver and the woman. What the probable cause is for his arrest is your guess, but from the later discussion it is apparent the police officer believes the young African-American man was the woman's pimp. The officer falsely accuses him of providing him a false name.

The woman is then questioned about whether she is soliciting sex. She is asked if she is carrying a "shooter" to which she replies in the negative. The officer accuses her of being a prior offender, to which she responds that she had been arrested many years ago for solicitation on two occasions but was no longer working as a prostitute.

The officer questions the driver of the car last. The driver clearly made an effort to inform the officer he had a permit to carry a gun and had taken it out to show him, but the officer was simply not listening to him. The officer asks him how he knows the woman and then accuses him of lying when he gave a response he didn't like. When he tells him to step out of the car, he asked him why he keeps trying to hand him a piece of paper, to which he responds, "Because I have a conceal carry permit." He then asks him if he has a weapon on him to which he responds, "Yes." The officer then goes ballistic and starts cursing the man and accusing him of failing to notify him. He then tells the woman to "get lost" and "get the hell out of here."

Not surprisingly, the officer arrests the driver and tells him he's going to jail. "That shit you just pulled, I could blast you right in the mouth," the officer said. "You're going to get a felony on this." He repeatedly curses him. He threatens to cave in his head, calls him stupid and threatens to put a gun to his head. The officer becomes even more upset when a dispatcher can be overheard advising him that the driver of the vehicle has a conceal carry permit. He goes on a rant about letting "dicks" like this guy carry a gun. He keeps calling him a "lying bastard" when there is no evidence the man lied. "He's fucking going to jail," the officer says. The officer charged him with failure to inform and stopping in the roadway, both misdemeanor offenses but not before telling him he wished he had put 10 bullets in him and let him drop as soon as he learned he was carrying a gun. "And I wouldn't have lost any sleep," he added. He repeatedly accused him of trying to pick up a prostitute despite the man's insistence he knew her from when he used to drive a cab.

In the case of each of the driver, the other young man and the woman, they all cooperated and treated the police officers respectfully. The police officer, in turn, could not have been more abusive in his treatment of them, constantly cursing at them and calling them names. The officer told the driver he would basically stalk him and pull him over and have his car towed every time he saw his car on the street in the future.

The Hotair website reports that the Canton Police Department has suspended the police officer in question and started an internal investigation into the arrest. Based on his actions in the video, he is clearly unfit to serve as a police officer. Hotair also provided this statement from the Canton police department's chief:
I want to assure our citizens that the behavior, as demonstrated in this video, is wholly unacceptable and in complete contradiction to the professional standards we demand of our officers. As such, appropriate steps were placed in motion as dictated by our standards, policies and contractual obligations. Those steps included: The officer immediately being relieved of all duty. The incident has been referred to the Internal Affairs Bureau for what will be a complete and thorough investigation. As bad as the video indicates our officer’s actions were, there is a due process procedure to follow. That process is designed in the best interest of both our employees and the citizens at large. That process will be followed in this case as in all others. Anyone shown to be in violation of our rules and regulations will be help appropriately responsible as dictated by all the facts. ~Chief Dean McKimm
Ohioans for Concealed Carry have expressed concerns that the notification requirement in Ohio's conceal carry law raised First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment concerns. Indiana's conceal carry law found at IC 35-47-2 does not appear to have a similar notification requirement as provided in the Ohio law.

Update: This video uploaded to YouTube showing an Oceanside, California officer stopping a person to confirm he has a license to carry a concealed firearm is an excellent example of how a police officer should conduct himself when performing his duties.

Dick & Barry's Unforgettable Bromance

Richard Mourdock's Senate campaign has a humorous take on Sen. Richard Lugar's introductory re-election video ad in which Lugar finds himself running away from Barack Obama as fast and hard as he can, notwithstanding his warm embrace of his presidential candidacy just three years ago.

Ninth Circuit: Calling For Obama's Assassination Is Protected Free Speech

A California man convicted of threatening then-presidential candidate Barack Obama after posting racially-tinged comments on an Internet chat forum calling for his assassination has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Here's what Walter Bagdasarian, a man of African descent, posted on the Internet during the 2008 presidential election:

"Re: Obama, fk the niggar, he will have a .50 cal in the head soon" and "shoot the nig"
Bagdasarian, who actually had a .50 caliber gun and ammunition in his home when police arrested him after posting the comments, waived his right to a trial by jury. A federal district court judge found him guity as charged. It's a federal crime to knowingly and wilfully threaten to kill, kidnap or threaten bodily harm upon a major candidate for the office of president or vice-president. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that neither of Bagdasarian's comments constituted a "threat" within the meaning of the statute. The statement that he would "have a .50 cal in the head soon" was merely a prediction wrote Judge Stephen Reinhardt in an opinion joined by Chief Judge Alex Kosinski. The "shoot" statement was merely an exhortation to others to take violent actions against Obama according to the opinion. Accordingly, Bagadasarian's comments were protected by the First Amendment. Judge Kim Wardlaw dissented, arguing that Bagdasarian's conviction should be upheld taking into consideration the surrounding circumstances under which he made the threatening comments, notwithstanding his public apology following his arrest.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Taxpayers Continue To Fight Losing Battle Against Ballard's Pay To Play Parking Garage For Broad Ripple

Without any watchog prosecutor looking over their shoulders, the corrupt administration of Greg Ballard is moving full speed ahead with its plan to give $6.35 million to one of his largest campaign contributors, who employs Ballard's former chief of staff, to build a new parking garage in Broad Ripple. A carefully orchestrated public forum on the controversial parking garage deal, which is intended to reward Ersal Ozdemir's Keystone Construction for his generosity to Ballard's campaign, was conducted last night by the Ballard administration. Questions posed by the general public were screened just like the administration does at every Mayor's Night Out event. If the Ballard-appointed moderator doesn't like your question, he tosses it out or rephrases it to the administration's liking to the point the question doesn't even remotely look like the question originally posed by the questioner. WRTV's Kara Kenney, one of the few media watchdogs in the local media, was there to look out for your interests:

Some taxpayers are raising new concerns about Indianapolis' plan for a $15 million mixed-use parking garage in Broad Ripple, claiming the city contributed to the parking problem by granting too many parking variances to businesses.

Taxpayers will pay $6.4 million for the parking garage, 6News' Kara Kenney reported.

"(The parking garage) addresses the symptoms. It doesn't address the root cause of the problem, which is the liberal dispensing of zoning variances over the last two decades," said Clarke Kahlo, of Meridian Kessler Neighbors Helping Neighbors. "That falls squarely in the lap of the city administration over the past two decades."
Kahlo referred to a 2007 study from Walker Parking Consultants that found parking issues arose mostly after 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Kahlo contends that the parking garage is not needed.

"If you visit Broad Ripple after about 9 to 10 p.m., it's almost like 'Animal House,'" Kahlo said.

Deputy Mayor of Economic Development Mike Huber said he disagrees with the contention that the parking garage isn't needed . . .

Some attendees questioned the safety of the Broad Ripple Avenue and College Avenue location, while others wanted to know more about the appearance of the garage.

Other questions were similar to those raised by the 6News Watchdogs in a story last month, including campaign donations by the developer to Mayor Greg Ballard, why taxpayers will not share in the revenues of the garage and what some call a lack of transparency.

The city and developer have not revealed the purchase price of the property.

"I feel we're being as transparent as we can for a few reasons. All seven competitive bids are all online," said Huber. "I do feel looking at just the parking revenues the city can collect is short-sighted. We feel it's better if it's privately owned and managed, put back on the tax rolls, because that formula generates more taxes for the city."

Some taxpayers disagreed.

"I think that's very problematic. There's no city control and no city ownership or stake in the project after it's been initiated," said Kahlo.

Conrad Cortellini said the garage will discourage people from walking, biking and taking mass transit to Broad Ripple.

"It's the proverbial putting lipstick on the pig," said Cortellini. "We don't want the pig. Art is not going to make it more acceptable."
"The parking variances is something we definitely need to look at, but it's also something that's been happening over many, many years," Huber said. "What we're trying to do is respond to this need that's existed for a long time within Broad Ripple for a structure."
Kahlo's point about the Broad Ripple parking problem being self-inflicted by city and business leaders is well taken. Fellow blogger Pat Andrews took a look at zoning variances that have been granted in recent years in the Broad Ripple business district that have allowed businesses to open without the required number of parking spaces. She found 7 variances that have been granted just in the last few years that permitted new businesses to open up without providing adequate off-street parking. In those 7 variances alone, a deficit of 226 parking spaces was created within the business district beyond what would have been permitted had the variances not been granted. As we speak, Kilroy's has a plan to open up another bar/restaurant at a busy Broad Ripple intersection that would take dozens more parking spaces out of use.

The City allows new businesses to be established that are not providing sufficient off-street parking and then tells the taxpayers there is a problem they must pay to fix. You are then required to give $6.35 million to one of the Mayor's largest campaign contributors to build a new garage from which he will receive 100% of the economic gain. Indianapolis is the most anti-taxpayer city in America. Ordinary taxpayers are nothing but slaves to an elite group of insiders who line the pockets of the politicians, who then turn around and hand out your taxpayer dollars to them like candy as a reward for their participation in Pay To Play.

The Ballard administration's refusal to release the financial details of Ozdemir's insider deal is an outrage. Even worse is the refusal of the state's Public Access Counselor to force the adminstration to release this information. It claims the information involves trade secrets, but the administration gave the media similar financial information that had been furnished by the other bidders competing for the garage deal without claiming the information was a trade secret. Anyone with a brain could tell you there is absolutely nothing a court of law would ever consider a trade secret in those documents tendered by Keystone Construction. It's total bullshit. They're hiding the information because it proves just how bad this deal is for taxpayers. If we actually had a federal prosecutor in this town who wasn't part of the currupt poltiical culture that runs this city and state, all of these characters would be hauled before a federal grand jury and questioned under oath about how this deal came about to reward one of Ballard's largest campaign contributors with $6.35 million of your taxpayer dollars.

State Election Division Attorneys Offer Legal Memorandum To Help Defeat Ft. Wayne Ordinance

Opponents lobbying to defeat a proposed ordinance in the City of Ft. Wayne to bar city contractors from making contributions to city candidates get more help from attorneys with the Indiana Elections Division. Councilor Tim Pape (D) shared with the Journal-Gazettte's Benjamin Lanka a memo the Elections Division's co-counsel penned against the proposed ordinance:

Dale Simmons and Leslie Barnes, co-counsels for the state division, wrote a four page memo dated Monday providing detailed reasoning for why the proposal does not comply with state law.
"We believe the proposed ordinance unlawfully attempts to exercise the 'power to conduct elections,' which is a power expressly withheld from municipalities by the General Assembly," they wrote. "If this were not so, it would be easy to anticipate the confusion wrought in the administration of elections by numerous and conflicting local campaign finance regulations."
The reasons cited by the election division are similar to those cited by critics since the proposal was first discussed: mainly, state law prevents local communities from enacting their own election or campaign finance restrictions . . .
Pape sent the opinion to Council Attorney Joe Bonahoom and asked for his reasoning to decide the bill was appropriate.
Bonahoom said home rule allows a city to exercise any power not denied by the state. While state law does withhold the power to conduct elections, Bonahoom said this bill seeks only to regulate city contracts, not political contributions.
"This is really an effort to regulate local purchases and local contracts," he said.
Bonahoom said while a judge might disagree with him, generally when there is doubt to whether a unit of government has the authority to regulate an action, the government gets the benefit of the doubt in the matter.
Simmons and Barnes said arguments to characterize the bill as a contract issue instead of a campaign law fail because the bill revolves around campaign contributions and prohibitions, penalties and reporting requirements.
"In sum, the ordinance attempts to alter, supplement and contradict state election law regarding political contributions," they wrote.
Bonahoom said attorneys are notorious for having varied opinions on difficult legal matters, and the state election board has a vested interest in keeping control of all election powers.
"While I respect their opinion, it would seem to me that they have an interest in protecting their sovereign authority based on State law," Bonahoom wrote in response to Pape's request.
It's curious that the State Elections Division has done nothing to nullify a Jeffersonville ordinance enacted in 2006 which limits campaign contributions by city contractors to $200 a year if it believes such ordinances violate state law. It also confirms Secretary of State Charlie White's contention that he really has no power over the State Elections Division to administer election law in this state.

Goldsmith Defends Lugar Against Attack Ad On Bailouts

The campaign of U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar has chosen an unlikely person to defend him against an attack ad being aired by the conservative PAC, Club for Growth, hitting Lugar for votes in favor of federal bailouts, including a bailout vote for New York City back in the 1970s. For those of you old enough to remember, New York City faced bankruptcy back in the 1970s and received assistance in the form of federally-backed loan guarantees to shore up its debt problems. Defending Lugar against the misleading ad in a letter to the editor in today's Star are Deputy New York Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and D.C. lobbyist David Gogol:

Thirty-three years ago, the biggest default story in America was not the federal government but New York City. A House Democrat majority proposed a bailout that could have cost taxpayers $2 billion. The crisis, which could very well have cascaded across the country, was averted when one freshman conservative Republican senator from Middle America shocked everyone with the courage and imagination to craft a solution that fully protected federal taxpayers.
Now that same Republican is being castigated for this very political courage and creativity that have exemplified his career. A paid television commercial strangely takes this act of fiscal conservatism and leadership and turns it upside down, claiming that the senator has been part of the Washington bailout problem and that "he even voted to bail out  New York City."
The senator is Republican Dick Lugar and the charge is simply wrong. Now more than ever we need senators who know how to force government to operate both effectively and within its means.
A little history:
In 1978, as New York City lurched toward defaulting on its debt, national credit markets began to respond nervously. The state of New York -- with its own problems and a relatively small budget itself -- could not step in, creating even greater concern as to the consequences of default by the largest city in America.
With Democrats controlling both Houses of Congress and the White House, the only issue was how much and under what terms would New York City receive help.
Lugar did not support the initial legislation. Although concerned about the impact of bankruptcy on the country, he had three principal objections:
The loan guarantees did not force financial discipline. If New York City had too much debt, how would giving it more debt be helpful?
Federal and Hoosier taxpayers were not protected. If New York City defaulted on the federally guaranteed debt, the U.S. taxpayer took the loss.
Without imposing any restrictions on open-ended guarantees, every city would follow along asking for federal assistance.
Despite his status as a freshman with less than two years in the Senate, he chose to confront the president, leaders of the Senate such as Jacob Javits and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and the Democrat supermajority. He did so not for political gain (few Hoosier voters would care) but because the bill did not protect taxpayers.
The current ad seems to suggest the country would have been better had he given a fiery speech in opposition and then voted against a bad bill that would have passed. In private meetings, in speeches and in the media, he persuaded the Senate, and ultimately the House, that President Carter's bill would not, in the end, save New York, and the U.S. taxpayers would lose $2 billion.
His effort confused friend and foe alike. Why would Dick Lugar get involved? With no political upside, the junior senator from Indiana could have skated. His involvement and courage corrected a flawed bill and protected U.S. taxpayers.
The final bill, which contained almost all of Lugar's suggested improvements, passed with significant Republican support and required the state of New York to take a high degree of responsibility. It required elimination of spending and budgetary excesses joined with shared sacrifice by the citizens, city vendors, workers and officials. And it contained stringent repayment provisions to ensure that the federal loans were repaid on time and expeditiously.
In the end, New York City repaired its budget and repaid its debt, and the U.S. government made a profit. And no other city has ever sought federal loan guarantees.
In 1978, and as he has throughout his Senate career, Dick Lugar did not take the politically expedient road or the easy vote to make a political point. He took a politically risky road to make a difference. The New York prescription stands out sharply as a fiscally responsible example of political courage, the very opposite of the ad's political claim.

I'm not sure why Lugar's campaign would seek the assistance of Goldsmith. He is thoroughly despised by many Republicans in Indiana, who are frankly glad he now living and working in New York. Goldsmith's dirty hands, however, were all over many of the corrupt deals that have taken place under the administration of Mayor Greg Ballard the past four years.

The story of New York's debt woes actually preceded Lugar's election to the Senate. Then-President Gerald Ford turned down an initial request by New York to bail it out in 1975. The New York Daily News responded with this headline: "Ford To New York: Drop Dead." Ford eventually cowered and agreed to go along with a $2.3 billion loan to New York. It didn't help him much politically. He lost the state and the election to Jimmy Carter. In 1978, Congress passed and Lugar supported a federal loan guarantee for $1.65 billion. Most Republican senators voted against the loan guarantee in the Senate, which was overwhelmingly controlled by the Democrats. has also weighed in on Lugar's side in the debate over whether he supported the NYC bailout. The Club for Growth ad cited a $9.4 billion bailout Lugar supposedly supported for the city. Factcheck explains what he actually supported and that it wound up costing federal taxpayers nothing:

Lugar not only voted for the bill, but guided its passage and proposed an amendment that changed the initial $2 billion loan guarantee limit to $1.5 billion. (Later it was increased to $1.65 billion at the Senate-House conference meeting.)
But Lugar had nothing to do with the 1975 bailout. He was then the mayor of Indianapolis. He was not elected to the Senate until 1976. Also, it's worth noting, even this bailout didn't cost the federal government anything in the end. Pro Publica, a nonprofit investigative website, reports that "all the loans, loan premiums and fees have since been repaid."

Right or wrong, the Club for Growth ad is probably a net loss for Lugar. He is forced to defend a vote he made more than 30 years ago, reminding voters just how long he's been in the Senate. It has also forced Lugar to take to the airwaves ten months before next year's primary election to defend his record. I'm not sure why Club for Growth is hitting Lugar so hard with his votes. If the Lugar's friends in the media are to be believed, conservatives are not impressed with his challenger, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Reports claim Mourdock floundered badly during an earlier appearance before Club for Growth this year. Nonetheless, the group is dropping big bucks early in the race aimed at weakening Lugar.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dan Burton Donor Arrested As Agent For Pakistani Government

NBC's Pete Williams is reporting on the arrest of an agent of Pakistan's intelligence service for making illegal campaign contributions to several political candidates. Politico has identified Indiana's U.S. Rep. Dan Burton as receiving $5,000 from Syed Ghulam Fai.

Law enforcement sources say the FBI has arrested an agent of Pakistan's official state intelligence service, accusing him of making thousands of dollars in political contributions in the United States without disclosing his connections to the Pakistani government.
Syed Ghulam Fai will appear in federal court this afternoon in Alexandria, Virginia. He's not charged with being a spy. But he is charged with being an unregistered agent or lobbyist of the Pakistani government.
He's the exective director of a group called the Kashmiri American Council, the sources say, and he has given tens of thousands of dollars to congressional candidates and party organizations. U.S. officials say there's no reason to believe that members of Congress or other organizations that received his contributions were aware of his government connections.
Politico's Ben Smith reports that Fai also contributed to President Barack Obama, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee and U.S. Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY).

Today's news comes as former U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks announces her intentions to oppose Burton for the 5th District nomination next year. Dr. John McGoff already announced his third bid to defeat Burton, and former U.S. Rep. David McIntosh is also expected to run for the 5th District seat.

UPDATE: Burton tells the Star's Maureen Groppe that he is shocked to learn his long-time supporter is actually a spy for the Pakistani government.

"I've known Dr. Fai for 20 years, and in that time I had no inkling of his involvement with any foreign intelligence operation and had presumed our correspondence was legitimate," Burton said in a statement.

Burton tells Groppe he will donate the contributions he received from Fai to charity if it turns out the contributions were illegal. According to the FEC database, Burton received $7,500 from Fai over a several year period. WISH-TV's Jim Shellas claims Burton received $10,000 from Fai, while Politico pegged the number at $5,000.

Wyss Fights Ft. Wayne Ordinance Banning Contributions From City Contractors

State Sen. Tom Wyss, not known for supporting ethics reform during his long tenure in the Indiana Senate, is openly opposing efforts by Ft. Wayne City Councilor Liz Brown (R) to ban Ft. Wayne mayoral and council candidates from accepting campaign contributions from city contractors. Wyss asked and received from the Legislative Services Agency and the state elections board opinions stating that the proposed ordinance was not authorized under state law according to the Journal-Gazette's Benjamin Lanka. Wyss, who lives in a home he owns on Indianapolis near northside while representing his Ft. Wayne district in the Senate, is now asking Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller to weigh in with a similar legal opinion.

State Sen. Tom Wyss wants Indiana’s attorney general to issue an opinion on the legality of the bill before Fort Wayne City Council that would ban city contractors from making political donations to city politicians.
In a letter dated Thursday, Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, asks Attorney General Greg Zoeller for an opinion on the bill written by Councilwoman Liz Brown, R-at large, just a few days after a divided council voted to introduce the legislation for discussion.
After being contacted by Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, about the issue, Wyss said he did some initial investigations to the bill’s legality. He checked with Indiana’s Legislative Services Agency and the state election board, both of which told him the bill is not permitted under state law. The request for an attorney general opinion is intended to help his constituents avoid having to pay to defend a lawsuit if the bill is challenged, Wyss said.
“I don’t want to see taxpayers pay stupid tax money to defend a suit,” he said.
Bryan Corbin, spokesman for Zoeller, confirmed the office’s receipt of the letter but said the attorney general has not yet decided whether to offer a legal opinion on the subject.
He said the opinions are not binding but are given to assist state government clients in navigating their way through complex intergovernmental questions.

Lanka has more on what Brown's proposed ordinance provides:

It would prohibit a company, company owner, company owner spouse, company subcontractor, subcontractor owner or subcontractor owner spouse from doing business with the city if that person made political donations to city candidates or elected officials during the previous year.
A company that violates the proposal would have the opportunity to have the contribution returned to avoid penalty. A company that does not remedy its violation is subject to having its contract canceled and being banned from any city contract for three years.
Opponents have argued that Brown’s bill not only has First Amendment problems but also violates state law that prohibits communities from enacting their own election or campaign finance laws.

In a separate story, Lanka picks up on the fact that another city, Jeffersonville, has had an ordinance on the book for years that severely limits the amount of money city contractors can contribute to city candidates without any legal challenges. Lanka describes the Jeffersonville ordinance that was adopted in response to the influence contributions by city contractors was having over city government:

In 2006, the Jeffersonville City Council approved an ordinance limiting how much city contractors could give to municipal candidates and elected officials. Unlike the Fort Wayne proposal, however, the law does not prohibit such political gifts.
Jeffersonville Councilman Keith Fetz, D-3rd, championed the proposal after noticing a number of no-bid contracts awarded to companies who made political contributions to the mayor at the time.
“We were all concerned it was sending the improper message that campaign contributions equal government contracts,” he said.
The law broadly addresses many areas of ethics, but Section 2.14 deals with contributions to elected officials. It essentially limits contractors who have done business in the preceding four years or are seeking a city contract from donating more than $200 to a political candidate in a year.

Larry Wilder served as Jeffersonville's counsel at the time it enacted the ordinance. He explained how the city carefully crafted the ordinance to lessen free speech concerns:

Larry Wilder, chief litigation counsel for Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan, helped write the bill in 2006 when he also worked for the council. He said giving money to candidates is viewed as a form of free speech, so the city was careful not to ban political gifts outright. The council tried to determine what level of contribution would still be significant to a local race but could not finance it completely, he said.
In the city of nearly 45,000 people, Wilder said, council races can cost as little as $5,000 while mayoral candidates can spend up to $100,000. Fort Wayne’s mayoral race is expected to cost up to $1 million this year.
Wilder said he would be concerned the Fort Wayne law would be challenged because it prohibits all political donations by contractors.
Jeffersonville worked under the premise that the city could pass a law adding restrictions to state law but could not reduce state restrictions. He compared it to the fact cities can lower speed limits on state highways within their limits.

As this blog has pointed out on numerous occasions, Pay To Play is the way of doing business in Indianapolis and throughout the state with few restrictions on who can make campaign contributions. Mayor Greg Ballard receives nearly 90% of his campaign contributions from Pay To Play contractors and their employees. These are the same people who help finance his overseas junkets and provide him free meals,  and free concert and sporting event tickets. Ideally, the state would enact a uniform law that would restrict campaign contributions by government contractors, but the Jeffersonville ordinance is certainly a step in the right direction.

Don't expect any changes in Indianapolis any time soon though. Our City-County Council President, Ryan Vaughn, is a lobbyist for the state's largest law firm, Barnes & Thornburg, that lavishes large campaign contributions on state and local candidates. Vaughn's law firm effectively controls Indianapolis city government by exercising total control over the council's business through Vaughn and through its order-taker mayor, Greg Ballard.

Monday, July 18, 2011

O'Keefe Strikes Again

Project Veritas' James O'Keefe has done it again. His latest undercover video documentary project follows two individuals posing as Russian drug dealers attempting to apply for Medicaid benefits at welfare offices in the state of Ohio. Unbelievably, the welfare workers coach the men on hiding assets, not to worry about their immigration status, their illicit drug business or whether their minor sister who is turning tricks for money can obtain free abortions when she becomes pregnant. Without batting an eye, the welfare workers urge them to send their little sister to Planned Parenthood whenever she becomes pregnant. O'Keefe has been accused of selectively editing the undercover videos he has targeted against Planned Parenthood and ACORN. According to the Daily Caller, O'Keefe is providing unedited, complete footage to state attorney general offices around the nation.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Democratic City Council Candidate Has Tough Time Complying With The Law

Kostas Poulakidas, who is running for the Indianapolis City-County Council in District 4 against Republican incumbent Christine Scales, may be an attorney at a big law firm in town, but he seems to have a tough time complying with the law. A reader of this blog forwarded this photo below of a campaign sign for Poulakidas at the corner of Sherman Drive and 46th Street four months before the November election in the right of way in violation of a city ordinance regulating political signs. During the 2008 general election, Marion Co. Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy complained to the City of Indianapolis' corporation counsel because Mitch Daniels' gubernatorial campaign had placed campaign signs along Meridian Street that violated the city's ordinance regarding the size of political signs and demanded the City order the signs taken down.

The city's ordinance regulating political signs isn't the only law Poulakidas has violated. In 2010, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission found that Poulakidas had violated Indiana's Fair Housing Act by placing an ad on Craigslist for a condominium he and his wife owned at 2230 N. Pennsylvania Avenue in the Fall Creek neighborhood that indicated a preference for leasing to a couple as opposed to a single person. The National Fair Housing Alliance filed the complaint against Poulakidas because it believed he was trying to discriminate against single mothers with children. The ICRC sided with NFHA. Poulakidas, who represented himself before the ICRC, was ordered to cease and desist from posting advertisements for his condominium that expressed a preference for couples and was ordered to pay $3,663.62 for the costs NFHA incurred in pursuing the complaint against him.

New York City Losing $13.5 Billion In Property Tax Revenues Due To Exemptions And Tax Breaks

The New York Post provides some staggering statistics on the magnitude of property in New York City that is either exempt from taxation or the beneficiary of a property tax break. While the City's annual property tax revenues generate $17.6 billion in annual revenues, it is losing $13.5 billion because of tax breaks.

It might just be the ultimate act of forgiveness.
A new analysis of the city's property-tax rolls found that religious institutions, wealthy private colleges, hospitals and other nonprofits -- and even Madison Square Garden -- are exempt from an astonishing $13.5 billion in property taxes.
The Independent Budget Office, which released the review yesterday, reported that, just in the last two years, an extra $1 billion in potential property taxes were placed off limits to city tax collectors.
"Some of the breaks are permanent, and may actually be more than estimated," the IBO said, noting that the city's tax assessors don't have much reason to boost values on buildings they know to exempt.
The lengthy list of those living the zero-tax life ranged from nonprofit institutions ($2 billion in exemptions) to the MTA ($751 million) to Madison Square Garden, still enjoying the fruits of a sweet deal reached during the Koch administration that's now worth $15 million a year . . .

The story indicates Indianapolis' former Mayor Steve Goldsmith, now NYC's Deputy Mayor, is looking to move city-owned property back to the tax rolls, which owns more than 7,500 properties that could generate $5 billion in property taxes. Ironically, Goldsmith deserves a lot of the blame for tax shifting that has reached mega proportions here in Indianapolis.

Property taxes have become completely unfair, if not unconstitutional, in my judgment over time because of the number of exemptions and tax breaks afforded to some taxpayers at the expense of others. Many organizations claiming tax exemptions as nonprofits are nonprofits in name only. In reality, they operate as corporate giants with high-paid executives who run their organizations as business enterprises. Businesses with the right political connections are handed out property tax abatements and special tax incentives like candy. The creation of TIF districts allow them to command use of what property taxes they do pay to the exclusion of other taxing districts for development uses that benefit only their interests. Even more alarming, publicly-owned property is increasingly being used for private commercial benefit free of taxation. Look at Lucas Oil Stadium, Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis' public golf courses or the Indianapolis International Airport, for examples of this.

Essentially, we have created a system of taxation in this country at all levels of government where the people who have enough political pull within the system can get the decision-makers to enact, interpret, apply and enforce the tax laws to curry favor with them in consideration of their political support, while shifting the tax burden to the people who lack clout to fund the costs of government. Equal protection under the law when it comes to taxation has simply become a figment of our imaginations.

Journal-Gazette Wonders If Campaign Contributions Influence City Government

Politicians throughout Indiana are bought and paid for by a relatively small group of contractors and law firms that receive the lion's share of contracts dispensed by the politicians to their benefactors. Government in Indiana is as corrupt as neighboring Illinois. The only difference is that the corruption that takes place in Indiana is not prosecuted as it occasionally is in Illinois. It doesn't help in Indiana that the news media has proven to be incompetent as watchdogs for the taxpayers. The Journal-Gazette's Benjamin Lanka makes a feeble attempt to discuss the role of pay to play in the Ft. Wayne mayor's race in a story entitled, "Do contractors' gifts taint politics?".

Money influencing politics is nothing new. People have been giving to politicians for centuries.
Yet whether the amount of money given to city politicians is problematic, especially by those seeking to do business with the city, is not an easy question, according to numerous officials.
Some argue the cure is worse than the perceived disease.
All four major mayoral candidates took contributions from people or businesses that also make money from city government, although incumbent Mayor Tom Henry hauled in by far the biggest share . . .
Henry has been successful in raising money for his re-election campaign, thanks in large part to donations given by companies – and their employees – that do business with the city.
Since the start of 2010, Henry has raised $427,750, according to campaign finance reports. A study of those reports by The Journal Gazette showed about 60 percent of that money came directly from firms working for the city or people working for those firms.
While Lanka's story mentions that 60% of his contributions came from city contractors, the story names no names. If you study contributions made to state and local officials in Indiana, you very quickly learn that the bulk of their money is coming from the same group of contractors that receive contracts from Republican and Democratic elected officials alike. So powerful is the influence of these contractors over our elected officials that it is a complete waste of time for ordinary citizens to even discuss matters that bear on these government contractors' business.

Watch any public meeting televised on Indianapolis' public access station, WCTY, and you will constantly see the voices of the public shot down in favor of the ruling class. God bless folks like Pat Andrews for attending Indianapolis city council meetings and asking the right questions, but the points she raises are met with outright lies and deceptive responses from elected councilors and members of the Ballard administration who defend their corrupt actions. Media watchdogs are nowhere in sight to hold them in check. As Andrews speaks, the camera catches the influence peddlers turning up their noses and making snarky comments to one another. They know they've bought the outcome they seek and smugly wonder why any ordinary taxpayer would think their voice could possibly matter in a public debate.

I suppose I should be thankful that at least Lanka and the newspaper that employs him asks the question of whether the contrators' money taints our governmental processes. The Star's editor, Dennis Ryerson, has declared that there is no such thing as pay to play politics and forbids his reporters from writing any stories that question the motives of the contractors who finance our elected officials' campaigns despite the overwhelming evidence of just how much it has corrupted the process. Candidate Greg Ballard four years ago bemoaned the influence government contractors had in helping then-Mayor Bart Peterson raise millions for his re-election. Back then he had to scrape together a couple of hundred thousand dollars from individual citizens who were concerned about the direction of city government. Today, he sits on a multi-million dollar campaign war chest financed almost exclusively by the same contractors who were financing his opponent's campaign. Are we to believe those people who found him so objectionable four years ago now favor him for any reason other than the fact that he's the one passing out public dollars to them?

Friday, July 15, 2011

OmniSource Deal Smells Worse The More We Learn

The IBJ's Cory Schouten picks up a few more details on how the $300,000 payment by OmniSource in consideration of Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry's office agreeing to drop all criminal charges against the giant scrap metal dealer that arose out of a lengthy and costly investigation will be divided up. A $45,000 contingency fee will come off the top to pay Greg Garrison, who brought the original civil forfeiture action on behalf of the county, and a second lawyer that Terry Curry's office brought into the process after Curry took office. That would be a Democratic operative, Mark Sullivan, who is getting an equal split with Garrison, even though he came into the lawsuit very late. The deal also has an OmniSource executive claiming he was misled to believe the funds would all be paid into a fund to benefit police training.

First in line to be paid: Contingent-fee private attorneys Greg Garrison, who filed the initial civil forfeiture case while under contract with former Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, and Mark K. Sullivan, an outside attorney brought on by Curry as Garrison's co-counsel. The pair will split 15 percent of the settlement, or $45,000, plus filing fees.
The remaining $255,000 will be split, with 20 percent going to the prosecutor's office, 75 percent going to IMPD, and 5 percent for a joint fund administered by the prosecutor and director of public safety, said Chief Deputy Prosecutor David Rimstidt.
The total going to IMPD, about $191,250, does not sit well with OmniSource officials.
The company would not have agreed to the deal if they knew the settlement would pay an "ounce of tribute to this scurrilous investigation," said Ben Eisbart, a vice president at Fort Wayne-based Steel Dynamics Inc., OmniSource's parent company.
OmniSource intended the "donation" to be used for law enforcement programs, including training on how to prevent scrap-metal theft, an extension of the company's own more-than-$1 million investment in anti-theft measures at its five local scrap yards, Eisbart said.
"The citizens of Indianapolis will be infinitely better served by having well-trained individuals than by paying some lawyers," he said. "We're beside ourselves. We want to meet with the prosecutor to find out where it went off the track. This was never about money."
Garrison, for his part, is extremely upset Curry decided to drop the case against OmniSouce. "Letting those guys go in the face of the powerful evidence that supported both the criminal and civil cases is inconceivable to me," Garrison wrote in an e-mail to IBJ on Thursday. "Damn." And just who is Mark Sullivan? Let's look back at this item the AP back in 2006 about a State Police cover up of an 18-year-old murder investigation:

A grand jury has indicted two retired Indiana State Police investigators in an unsolved murder, saying they covered up evidence implicating a former Pike County prosecutor as a possible suspect in the 18-year-old slaying.
Former investigators James Verle and Larry Eck were free on bail Thursday after their arrests Wednesday on felony perjury charges.
The indictment says they misled investigators by removing then-prosecutor Mark Sullivan from a list of potential suspects in the June 1988 murder of Rick Deffendall at his Oakland City home. It also says they ordered a subordinate to exclude information that linked Sullivan romantically to Deffendall's ex-wife from state police files.
"This grand jury can only assume that the motivation for such cover-up is that such evidence would be damaging to Sullivan," the indictment said.
The indictment does not suggest Sullivan was involved in Deffendall's death, but rather faults the investigators for failing to pursue him as a suspect. State police never interviewed Sullivan in the case, the document states.
It doesn't stop there. Curry also hired a throwback to the disgraced former prosecutor James Kelley as his chief deputy, David Rimstidt, mentioned in Schouten's story discussing the OmniSource deal, who served in that same capacity for Kelley. While Kelley served as prosecutor back in the 1970s, he hired Joe Miller, a suspected drug dealer and child molester, as his grand jury bailiff in consideration for sexual favors Miller performed for Kelley according to information that I learned from a retired Indianapolis police vice officer who investigated both Miller and Kelley at the time. Kelley didn't seek re-election and left town after the Star reported his presence at a late-night party on Indianapolis' eastside where three men in attendance at the party were later executed and dumped in a field up in Hamilton County. Kelley had urged the friend of the three men who first reported them missing not to mention his presence at the party when the man met with Indianapolis police homicide investigators according to former Indianapolis Star reporter Dick Cady.

Miller, who went on to make a vast fortune manufacturing and selling an illicit recreational drug, Poppers, last year committed suicide after federal investigators raided his business and home for an undisclosed reason. Miller was one of the largest campaign contributors to state and local Democrats in the years preceding his death. Curry attended an event hosted by Indiana Stonewall Democrats in Miller's honor prior to his election as prosecutor. The more we learn about Terry Curry, the more we're concerned about the integrity of his office, which he promised to restore when he ran for the office last year.