Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Somerset Pays $500,000 To Settle Fair Finance Fraud Claim

Somerset CPAs, P.C. has agreed to pay $500,000 to the Fair Finance bankruptcy trustee to settle a claim made against the accounting firm for more than $760,000 convicted Ponzi schemer Tim Durham funneled to the firm through affiliated companies he controlled according to a court filing in a Ohio federal bankruptcy court. Trustee Brian Bash alleged that Fair Finance did not receive any value in exchange for the fees Somerset charged to the affiliated businesses, including Fair Holdings, DC Investments and Obsidian Enterprises, because they were insolvent at the time the services were performed and relied entirely on funds made available by Fair Finance to operate, making the transfers to the accounting firm fraudulent.

Meanwhile, an attorney for Durham has filed his objections to a recommendation by federal prosecutors in the southern district of Indiana that he receive a 225-year prison sentence and be ordered to pay $209 million in restitution to the small Ohio investors of Fair Finance who he was convicted of defrauding. Durham's attorney disputes the size of the losses incurred by the investors and blames federal prosecutors, in part, for the demise of the company. Durham's attorney John Tompkins called his proposed sentence "absurd." Tompkins attributed the company's demise to a raid of the firm by FBI agents and the ensuing bad publicity discussing the allegations that he operated Fair Finance as a Ponzi scheme.

Early Voting In Marion County Down 25%

Ten days ago, Marion County elections officials were reporting that early voting was up 18% over early votes cast during the same period of the 2008 presidential election when Obama narrowly carried red state Indiana by the narrowest of margins. County election officials in the state's largest county now report that early voting is down 25% from 2008. Fox 59 News, quoting election officials, says that approximately 35,000 votes had been cast through Tuesday compared to 47,000 votes that were cast during the same period in 2008, a 25% decrease in early voting participation. Marion County Clerk Beth White is blaming the fall off on the fact that voters only have a choice of voting at her office in the City-County Building, while in 2008 there were two satellite voting sites for early voting. White touted the uptick in voting in news reports ten days earlier despite having only one location at which to cast an early vote. A decrease in early voting participation in Marion County may bode well for the prospects of Republican statewide candidates. In 2008, Obama carried Marion County by a more than 100,000-vote plurality compared to a less than 50,000-vote plurality for Gov. Mitch Daniels in his landslide win over Jill Long-Thompson. In the Attorney General's race and the School Superintendent's race, the Democratic candidates carried Marion County by a more than 60,000-vote plurality. The Democrats also handily won county-wide races for Treasurer, Coroner and Surveyor in 2008.

Poem Authored By 19-Year Old Obama Described As Anti-Semitic

As a young man, Barack Obama liked to write poetry, much like his mentor and father-like figure, Frank Marshall Davis. One poem written by Obama titled "Underground" has been interpreted by Jim O'Hagan as being anti-semitic. Take a look at the poem, and I think you will agree that it must have a meaning other than its literal interpretation.

UNDERGROUNDUnder water grottos, caverns
Filled with apes
That eat figs.
Stepping on the figs
That the apes
Eat, they crunch.
The apes howl, bare
Their fangs, dance,
Tumble in the
Rushing water,
Musty, wet pelts
Glistening in the blue.

So was Obama moved to write about apes stomping on fig trees and eating them? Or is it an allegory as O'Hagan claims? The American Thinker's Jack Cashill, who was the first to figure out that Obama's "Dreams From My Father" was actually written by Obama pal Bill Ayers, notes that O'Hagan persuasively argues that references in the Qur-an to apes are symbolic of Jews and figs are symbolic of the Middle Eastern lands where figs were predominate, including Palestine and Syria. What do you think? I suspect that the poem was actually written by Frank Marshall Davis and Obama simply claimed it as his own as a student at Occidental College where it was published in the school's literary magazine, "Feast" in the spring of 1981.

Pence Campaign Comfortable With Poll Showing Nine-Point Lead

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette's Niki Kelly reports on an internal poll released by the campaign of Republican gubernatorial hopeful Mike Pence. The poll shows Pence holding a 9-point lead over Democrat John Gregg, 46-37%. Libertarian candidate Rupert Boneham's support is at 5% according to the poll, with another 10% undecided. The poll has a margin of error rate of 5.6% and includes only likely voters. That contrasts with a recent internal Gregg poll claiming only a 6-point Pence advantage over Gregg, 46-40%, with Boneham receiving the support of 6% of the likely voters surveyed. A Howey Politics-DePauw poll taken in September gave Pence a 47-34% lead, or a difference of 13 points. It appears to me that support for Boneham's third party candidacy is eating into Pence's potential advantage over Gregg. I still think Pence is a clear favorite to win, but his winning margin may not be as large as some Republicans had anticipated earlier in the campaign when Pence held a commanding double-digit lead over Gregg.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ticket Scofflaw Judicial Candidate Under Fire In St. Joseph County

South Bend attorney Andre Gammage is the Democratic candidate for probate judge in St. Joseph County. Gammage had the endorsement of the South Bend Tribune until the newspaper learned that he had accumulated 153 parking tickets since 2008. Gammage took care of the unpaid tickets after he decided to run for judge, but The Tribune withdrew its endorsement of his candidacy upon learning of his disregard for paying his parking tickets until he became a candidate. Others are calling on him to withdraw as a candidate. St. Joseph Co. GOP Chair Deb Fleming is among those now calling on Gammage to withdraw:

"I believe that Mr. Gammage would not set a good example for the young people the probate court needs to help," party Chair Deb Fleming said in a press release sent out by the party Tuesday night. “If he had any integrity, he would withdraw his name from the ballot."
State Sen. John Broden, the St. Joseph Co. Democratic Party Chairman, called Fleming's suggestion that Gammage withdraw "ludicrious" and "a truly sad day for politics in St. Joseph County." Gammage's Republican opponent, Jim Fox, is not asking Gammage to withdraw as a candidate, but he thinks his opponent's disregard for the law should be a consideration in next Tuesday's election. According to The Tribune, the city of South Bend agreed to settle Gammage's unpaid parking tickets by allowing him to pay $1,530 of the $2,520 he owed for the unpaid tickets with late fees after it tracked him down and asked him to pay up. The Tribune quoted Indiana University law professor Charles Geyh in announcing its decision to rescind its endorsement of Gammage. "If someone is constantly violating the rules of the law, and only paying up when finally tracked down, I would be worried that it showed a manifest disregard for the rules," Geyh said.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Patrick Fitzgerald Joins Law Firm Of Obama's Former White House Counsel

It's business as usual in Chicago. After protecting President Barack Obama from criminal liability for his corrupt relationship with convicted political fixer Tony Rezko, former Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has been rewarded with a partnership in the Chicago office of New York-based law firm giant Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The firm counts among its partners, Greg Craig, Obama's first White House Counsel, who had to help navigate Obama through Fitzgerald's investigation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's attempt to sell Obama's Senate seat, from which he resigned shortly after being elected President but before he was sworn into office.

Interestingly, Skadden Arps represented The Tribune Company, the parent company of the Chicago Tribune, in a transaction that took the company private in 2007. Gov. Blagojevich was caught on wire-tapped phone conversations discussing an attempt to shake down The Tribune Company's CEO Sam Zell for campaign contributions in exchange for his help in providing public financing for Wrigley Field, to aid the company in the sale of the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise to the Ricketts family. Fitzgerald has recently come under criticism after two reporters for the Chicago Tribune, who broke the story about Fitzgerald's office wiretapping Blagojevich's phone conversations, revealed in a new book that Fitzgerald is the one who tipped off the Tribune's reporters of the wiretaps before Blagojevich could complete a deal on the sale of the Senate seat. Fitzgerald's office closely protected potentially damaging phone conversations Blagojevich had with Obama and Rahm Emanuel discussing Obama's replacement in the Senate.

Skadden Arps' Greg Craig was the Obama White House transition attorney who conducted the investigation of the Obama campaign's discussion of the Senate seat with Blagojevich and prepared a whitewashed report that cleared Obama, Emanual, Valerie Jarrett and others close to Obama. Fitzgerald's investigators dismissed Blagojevich's claim that Rezko had given at least $25,000 cash to Obama when he ran for the Senate just like it ignored Rezko's financial role in helping the Obama's purchase their southside mansion.

UPDATED: Illinois Pay To Play has learned that the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform is conducting a preliminary investigation of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago to determine if obstruction of justice may have occurred as a result of the office's leaks to the media of its ongoing investigation of Gov. Rod Blagojevich during the period of time that the former governor was attempting to sell Obama's Senate seat. The focus of the inquiry is based upon disclosures made by the two Chicago Tribune reporters in their new book about their exclusive accesss to government transcripts and wiretaps gathered by the U.S. Attorney's Office as part of its investigation of Blagojevich and others in Illinois state government during a highly sensitive period of the investigation.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ballard Budget Veto Gives New Meaning To "It's My Way Or The Highway"

Mayor Greg Ballard exercised his line-item veto on the City-County budget to exact punishment against the Democratic-controlled council, which rejected his call for higher property taxes and, instead, took $15 million away from his number one priority-the Capital Improvement Board in the form of a PILOT. The people most harmed by his action today, however, appears to be the City's residents. Despite relatively small differences in the bottom-line budget as passed by the council compared to Ballard's introduced budget, the Mayor declared that it created a $35 million deficit and slashed the budget by that amount to make up for a supposed deficit his own introduced budget failed to address. The budgets hit hardest by the Mayor's veto pen include the Sheriff's Department, Prosecutor's Office, the courts, and the offices of the Auditor, Assessor, Recorder and Surveyor. In a particularly vindictive move, the Mayor axed funding for the City-County Council's legal counsel and CFO. He also killed a plan to fund new classes of police and fire recruits. Although the Mayor has no legal authority to veto the CIB's budget, which included the $15 million PILOT, he issued an edict stating that he would not authorize the release of any funds for what he deems an "illegal action." Fellow blogger Pat Andrews had more analysis on the Mayor's budget action here and here. Andrews notes the difference in appropriations and revenues between the Mayor's introduced budget and the budget passed by the council. The Mayor's budget collected only $3.1 million more in revenues than the Democrat's budget, but the Mayor's budget called for $9.9 million more in spending.

UPDATE: The Star has more on the Democrat's reaction to the Mayor's veto action today, who assert that Indiana law prohibits the Mayor from reducing the budgets of constitutional officeholders and the judicial officers:
City-County Council Democrats and all nine Marion County elected officials -- all Democrats -- released a statement this afternoon blasting Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's budget decision as "the lowest level of 'my way or the highway politics.' "
Ballard, a Republican, used his line-item veto to delete a line allowing spending by county agencies of $32 million in local income taxes, their entire share. His aim was to save money for an expected deficit in the 2014 budget -- and also to entice Democrats back to the negotiating table.
The Democrats' statement focused on the potential severe cuts their offices will face early next year and said the council-passed budget -- approved 18-11 on Oct. 15, with two Republicans voting crossing over -- was responsible. It "protected home owners from unnecessary tax increases and provided critical new funding for public safety," the statement says.
It continues: "The Mayor's action today to divert nearly thirty-two million dollars from critical County government services represents the lowest level of 'my way or the highway politics.' It is reckless, irresponsible, and in fact unlawful for the Mayor to decide to cut critical services like prosecution of crimes, death investigations, court administration and child support. Indiana Code specifically prohibits the Mayor from vetoing any part of the budget for countywide officers specified in the Indiana Constitution or for judicial offices or officers." . . .  
"The Mayor says that public safety is job one," the Democrats' statement says. "Illegally reducing the budget of constitutional and judicial officers and jeopardizing public safety undermines the commitment he has made to voters. The Council and countywide elected officials have been transparent since the budget process began. We passed the City County budget more than two weeks ago. The Council's minor changes to the Mayor's proposed budget have been well-known for some time. The Mayor's eleventh hour veto is an attempt to force the Council to accept his recommendations without questioning the long-term effects."
The Indiana Code does back the Democrats' contention that Ballard's use of the line-item veto to slash the funding of constitutional and judicial officers is illegal. I.C. 36-3-4-14(b)(1) specifically prohibits a veto for the following:  "An ordinance or resolution, or part of either, providing for the budget or appropriating money for an office or officer of the county provided for by the Constitution of Indiana or for a judicial office or officer." In addition, I.C. 36-3-4-14(b)(2) prohibits the mayor from using his veto pen regarding a portion of the CIB's budget: "An ordinance or resolution approving or modifying the budget of a political subdivision that the legislative body is permitted by statute to review."


President Obama Required To Show Photo ID To Vote In Chicago

President Barack Obama and Democrats nationally have decried voter ID laws as nothing more than an attempt by Republicans to depress legitimate registered voters from casting a vote in elections. So there is a bit of irony in seeing a Chicago Board of Elections worker ask President Obama to present a photo ID in order to cast an early vote in the November election. President Obama dutifully responded by showing the election worker his Illinois driver's license. Illinois election law does not require voters who cast their votes at election precincts on election day to present a photo ID unless they are a newly-registered voter who mailed in their voter registration application or a majority of election judges at a polling place challenge a person's vote. As demonstrated here, Illinois law also requires voters who are casting an in-person vote at early voting to present a photo ID. I'm not sure what Illinois' rationale is in requiring a person to present a photo ID at early voting but not at the polling places on election day. It seems like a distinction without a difference.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Indianapolis Again Paying Off More Than Indiana Law Requires To Bisard Victims

I feel deeply for the victims of the Officer David Bisard crash. Nonetheless, the law is the law. Why is a cash-strapped city paying more to these victims than they are entitled to collect under Indiana's Tort Claims Act? The City earlier paid out $1.55 million to the family of Eric Wells, who was killed in the crash. Today, the City announced that it is paying out $2.3 million to settle with two other victims. Kurt Weekly is being paid $1.35 million and Mary Mills is being paid $975,000. The maximum payout allowed under Indiana's Tort Claims Act for the injury or death of one person is $700,000. Apparently Mayor Greg Ballard either has the most incompetent attorneys advising him on these settlements, or he is blatantly ignoring the law. Whichever is the case, it's just another reason why this man must be removed from office before he inflicts more financial harm on the City of Indianapolis than he already has as a consequence of his pay-to-play politics that are bankrupting this city. Is the guy now trading lawsuit settlement claims for campaign contributions? As one former attorney of the city's corporation counsel office said to me, "It's incomprehensible. This would have never happened when Bart Peterson was mayor."

Another Cruise Ship To Be Docked On Mass Ave Courtesy Of The Taxpayers

If you liked the cruise ship-style building Schmidt & Associates designed and docked at Mass Ave and New York Streets, which effectively destroyed the historic flat iron building fronting New York Street, then you'll like their latest docked cruise ship with a splash of color they've planned for Mass Ave and Michigan Streets. The bow of the ship will feature a giant, Times Square-styled video screen. I'm not sure what the historic preservation folks will have to say about a flashy video wall in the middle of a historic business district, but it should provide for an interesting debate. The plan announced by the Ballard administration today hinges on relocating Fire Station #7 and the Indianapolis Fire Department headquarters, along with a credit union, from their current location at this site. The Ballard administration decided it would move the fire station to College and Michigan Streets in the heart of the historic Lockerbie neighborhood without bothering to consult with the neighborhood or its own fire department. The neighborhood recently voted unanimously to oppose the proposed site for Fire Station #7.

The Ballard administration also sought to minimize the public cost for this project. A press release gives you the impression the City is only kicking in $3 million from the downtown TIF district for parking for the 235 market-rate apartments planned for the site, along with street-level retail and commercial space. The City's press release claims the developers, Paul Kite and J.C. Hart Company, are purchasing the land for $5.4 million. The developers are actually placing that much money in escrow, which it can then access in its entirety to construct its new development. The City only gets to keep the money if the project doesn't come to fruition. These costs also don't take into account the millions of dollars that will be needed to relocate Fire Station #7 and the Indianapolis Fire Department headquarters.  The administration boasts that the new develop will generate $500,000 in property taxes and $275,000 in income taxes annually once the project is completed; however, all of the property taxes revenues will be captured by the downtown TIF district, which is used as a slush fund by the Mayor to hand out tax dollars to developers and contractors who bankroll his campaign, pay for his overseas junkets and lavish him and his wife with gifts and free country club memberships.

The Trivializing Of Presidential Elections

An appearance on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" or "The View" is as close as you're going to get to a serious interview with the President of the United States to make the case that he deserves four more years.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

McCain Withdraws Support Of Mourdock Until He's Satisfied By An Apology

Sen. John McCain proves once again why he is a thorn in the side of the Republican Party since he deliberately threw the 2008 presidential election to the unqualified, ineligible impostor from the most corrupt elements of the Chicago political machine. McCain, who just campaigned on behalf of Richard Mourdock's Senate candidacy earlier this week, announced to CNN's Anderson Cooper that he will no longer support Mourdock until he is satisfied with a public apology and admission by Mourdock that he misspoke in last night's Senate debate when he stated that a woman's pregnancy resulting from a forcible rape was "God's intention." If Republicans by some stroke of luck manage to win control of the Senate in this year's election, the leadership should make sure that McCain receives no committee chairmanship.

O'Keefe Strikes Again: Takes Down Top Democratic Congressman's Son

Project Veritas' James O'Keefe's mission of proving that the Democratic Party's efforts to thwart state voter ID laws and other voter integrity laws are merely a cover for their conspiracy to commit wide scale vote fraud in elections across America took another step forward today. In his latest undercover investigative operation, O'Keefe catches the son of Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), Patrick Moran, openly embracing a vote fraud scheme to allow persons to vote in the name of registered voters who don't plan to vote in next month's presidential election. Moran served on the campaign of his father's re-election campaign working in offices shared by the re-election campaign of Barack Obama and Senate Democratic candidate Tim Kaine. Patrick resigned from his father's re-election campaign after O'Keefe made the undercover video public today.

Ballard To Announce Fire House Plan He Hatched In Secret With Pay-To-Play Contractors

You learned exclusively on this blog that Mayor Greg Ballard had hatched a secret deal with his pay-to-play contractor friends who bankroll his campaign committee, pay for his overseas junkets and lavish gifts, and free meals and country club memberships on him to locate the city's largest fire station from its current location on Mass Ave to the heart of the Lockerbie neighborhood to make room for new development along the booming Mass Ave. Tomorrow, Mayor Ballard will officially announce his plan, one that has already met with a resounding, unanimous vote of the Lockerbie People's Club in opposition to the proposed new site at College and Michigan Streets to make room for the development of the current fire station site. Ballard will be joined at tomorrow's press announcement by David Andrichik, head of the Mass Ave Merchants Association and Cassie Stockamp, President of the Athenaeum Foundation, neither of whom reside in our neighborhood, but both of whom stand to benefit financially from a massive investment of public funds in private development at a time when the City lacks resources to provide adequate public safety services for the City's residents. Ballard, his council friends who pushed the TIF expansion plan through the council and the pay-to-play contractors have all known for months that the new fire station would be relocated to Lockerbie, but they deliberately withheld that information from residents, leading them to believe that a project other than what was planned would occur on a vacant parcel in their neighborhood. Councilor Vop Osili, who represents the Lockerbie neighborhood and who sponsored the downtown TIF expansion ordinance that makes possible the latest publicly-financed private development efforts, has essentially told his constituents who are unhappy with the proposed new location for Fire Station #7 to drop dead. Osili claims the parcel on which the proposed fire station is to be built is on the side of the street represented by Councilor Joe Simpson, and that he has nothing to say about the proposed new site. By the way, since the media won't tell you this when tomorrow's announcement is made, the Ballard administration rejected competing development plans for the fire station site that did not require an investment of your public tax dollars. That's just how much of an enemy of the taxpayers this corrupt man has become.

UPDATE: The pay-to-play winners are developer Paul Kite, Schmidt Associates and J.C. Hart according to the IBJ's Cory Schouten. I hope he does his job and digs in a lot deeper than this initial article reveals. Yes, you are going to pay to build another parking garage that will only benefit the contractors and developers who are filling up Ballard's campaign pockets with cash.

Trump Offers $5 Million Charitable Donation In Exchange For Release Of Obama's College And Passport Records

Donald Trump promised a bombshell announcement today that could change the course of this year's presidential election. Instead, we got this video message from Trump offering to pay $5 million to the charity of President Barack Obama's choice if he releases his college applications and transcripts and his passport records by October 31. Oh, I see, we're going to have to wait another week to find out what Trump promised that he was going to disclose today at noon. Why am I not surprised? After all, he's kicking off another season of "The Apprentice" and we all know how much those ratings mean to him. Clearly, Trump is suggesting the bombshell information to which he has alluded is contained within those records, none of which is news to folks who have followed this blog. We're assuming that he is alluding to previous rumors that have circulated that Obama used an Indonesian passport and citizenship while attending schools in the United States after his mother returned him to the care of his grandparents in Hawaii when he was still a boy. Obama moved to Indonesia with his mother as a young child after she married an Indonesian citizen, Lolo Soetoro. According to Obama's school records from Indonesia, Soetoro was identified as his adopted father and his citizenship was listed as Indonesian. The media four years ago decided it didn't matter that Obama had acquired citizenship in another country, and our courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have all indicated that it does not disqualify him from serving as president. I have my own thoughts about what it means to be a natural born citizen, but until the Supreme Court decides to take the issue seriously, we're just pissing in the wind. Meanwhile, Trump will probably make an extra $5 million just by talking about an issue some of us have talked about for years without any compensation or fanfare--just as a matter of civic virtue. This is not "Let's Make A Deal," Mr. Trump. It's about something far more important than the dollar signs flashing in your eyes and your personal vanity.

Faux Outrage: Donnelly Co-Sponsored Legislation Denying Abortion Funding To Rape Victims

As I wrote last night, I cannot defend Richard Mourdock's statement on abortion during last night's debate that a child conceived as a consequence of rape was something "God intended." Mourdock's Democratic opponent, Joe Donnelly, was quick to condemn Mourdock's statement.  "What Mr. Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape," Donnelly said in a statement released shortly after last night's debate. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is busy doing damage control this morning for Mourdock and his fellow Republicans, reminds us that it was Donnelly who co-sponsored legislation that would have denied abortion funding for victims of rape and incest. The bill's only exception was for "forcible rape." In defending his support of that legislation, Donnelly's campaign stated that the purpose of the legislation was "to ensure that no federal dollars go toward funding of abortion-related services. That was the original intention of the legislation, not to redefine rape." Mike Pence also supported this same legislation. Yes, both Donnelly and Mourdock are pro-life. Here's the statement released by Sen. John Cornyn, Chairman of the NRSC:

“Richard and I, along with millions of Americans – including even Joe Donnelly – believe that life is a gift from God.  To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous.  In fact, rather than condemning him for his position, as some in his party have when it’s come to Republicans, I commend Congressman Donnelly for his support of life.   

“But this election is about big ideas and the reality that our country is going in the wrong direction.  If you support Obamacare, government bailouts, reckless spending and higher taxes than you should vote for Joe Donnelly.  But if you believe, as I do, that our government is too big, our taxes are too high, and we are passing an irresponsible debt onto future generations, than Richard Mourdock is your candidate to help get our country back on track.”   

Those Darn E-Mails

Several e-mails circulated by the State Department within hours of the September 11th terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi during which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed discussed the fact that an al Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Fox News sources, at least 300-400 national security officials in our government received these e-mails. So why did the Obama administration deny the obvious for almost two weeks? Was their confidence in their ability to control the mainstream media message so high that it believed it could always control the message being communicated to the American people no matter how overwhelming the evidence was to the contrary?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

You're On Your Own, Mr. Mourdock

I'm not even going to try to defend it. If our Republican candidates want to make absurd, thoughtless comments affording no exceptions in cases of rape and incest, then they can fend for themselves in defending their asinine statements. In what was otherwise an excellent performance in tonight's debate, Richard Mourdock had to open up his mouth and say that a pregnancy that resulted from a rape was intended by God. Mourdock's post-debate statement hardly helps his cause. "God creates life, and that was my point," Mourdock stated. "God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that He does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick," stated Richard Mourdock. Nobody has to twist your words to find issue with what you said. Richard. Is all I have to say is that if your wife or daughter were raped and you expected her to carry that baby to full term, then you're just sick in my mind. I find the practice of abortion as a means of birth control abhorrent, but I find forced conception even more abhorrent. It's the economy, stupid. Why do you have to get sidetracked with these sideshows? Have you learned nothing over the past six months?

Code Violations Reported At IMPD's East District Facility

The building that houses IMPD's East District roll call facility and the City's homeland security facility doesn't have an operating fire sprinkler system. As a consequence, a firefighter is paid to watch over the facility on a 24/7 basis. I mentioned rumors about this problem a couple of weeks ago when I told you how the Ballard administration was trying to pull a fast one on Lockerbie residents and move Fire District Station #7 from Mass Avenue to the heart of the eastern downtown neighborhood on the Lockerbie North parcel at Michigan and College Streets. WRTV's Jack Rinehart confirms the rumor in a report today:
Fire and building code violations are putting Metro police employees at risk and raising questions about government oversight at the renovation of the IMPD East District Roll Call facility.
The fire sprinkler system installed at East District Roll Call was never approved, and so far, it has failed to work, but Metro police and civilian employees were moved into the building anyway nine months ago.
A firefighter remains on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because the fire sprinkler system in the building will not send an alarm to an outside security company or fire dispatch.
According to city codes, the contractor is required to submit a plan before construction begins and the building is occupied.
"In most cases our plan review, they do review them. But for whatever reason, I don't think our plan reviewer had a chance to see these plans. I'm not sure (why not)," said Indianapolis Fire Department Fire Marshal Fred Pervine . . .
Rinehart reports that the contractor responsible for renovating the former Eastgate Mall for use by the City is paying $35 an hour to have a firefighter monitor the building 24/7. The City will be paying the building's owner $87,000 a month in rent beginning in January for a 25-year lease.

Star Endorsements In Indy Area House Races

The Star's endorsement doesn't have the weight it did during the heyday of the Pulliam media empire, but candidates still make an effort to get the newspaper's endorsement. There are several hotly-contested house races in the Indianapolis area following redistricting, and the Star has some interesting choices. In District 87, the Star picks Democrat Christina Hale over incumbent Republican Cindy Noe. The editors apparently don't think Noe did enough to criticize the Daniels administration's handling of child welfare issues. In District 92, the Star chooses Republican Tim Motsinger over Democrat Karlee Macer to take the seat now held by Phil Hinkle based on Motsinger's "depth of experience and better grasp of key issues." The Star favors Democrat Justin Moed over Republican A.J. Feeney-Ruiz to replace Mary Ann Sullivan, who chose to take on State Sen. Brent Waltz. I thought this would be a very competitive district, but Howey Politics rates it as a "Safe Democrat" seat. Finally, in District 100, which seems like it has been represented forever by John Day, the Star picks Republican Scott Keller over Democrat Dan Forestal. The Star likes Keller's "independence" and his support for raising taxes to finance a billion-dollar regional mass transit system. Keller is typically a very hard campaigner. Some folks have wondered why he has been blowing off neighborhood meetings and campaign forums attended by his Democratic opponent.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Carson and May Debate

From left to right, Carlos May, Amos Brown and Andre Carson ( photo)
U.S. Rep. Andre Carson and Republican Carlos May met in what will be their only debate before this year's election on the "Afternoons with Amos" show hosted by Amos Brown on WTLC-AM radio. In his opening statement, May went after Carson for casting votes he says contributed to higher energy costs, a claim refuted by Carson, who shot back that May would threaten the social security system with a privatization plan. Both candidates support some role for the federal government in dictating education standards. On immigration reform, May said he would deport undocumented aliens who have committed crimes, while providing a path to citizenship to children of undocumented aliens brought into this country by their parents. Carson emphasized his current support for the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for children of undocumented aliens brought here by their parents. Carson touted his success at bringing home over a half billion federal dollars to the 7th District. Carson took a swipe at Mayor Ballard for taking credit alone for federal funding he says he obtained for resurfacing Indianapolis' streets. You can listen to the audio from this afternoon's debate by clicking here. It currently only includes the first segment of the one-hour debate. [The full audio of the debate is now accessible. Please check it out]

UPDATE: The Star's Mary Beth Schneider has more here. She quotes Carson as saying federal spending cuts will be achieved through ending the war in Afghanistan, while May said he would look for savings through the elimination of "waste and fraud." May promised to vote to repeal Obamacare if he is elected, which Carson supported and voted for. May also accused Carson of being inaccessible to his constituents according to Schneider, a charge that Carson denies. “I am not going to let him use this race as a WWF wrestling match ... to falsely accuse me of not wanting to debate, where he can use this as a platform to get his name out there to do a favor for the Republican Party so he can one day run for what he really wants to run for, and that’s (county) treasurer or city council,” Carson said.

Early Voting Down Sharply In Lake County

It appears the infusion of Chicago-style politics into Indiana's presidential election four years ago has dissipated this year with the Obama campaign all but conceding the Hoosier state to Mitt Romney, who polls have shown holding a double-digit lead. At the half-way point of early voting in heavily-Democratic Lake County, election board officials report that 10,378 early votes have been cast. In 2008, there were 36,000 early votes cast by election day. At the current rate, early voting is down nearly one-third. That compares to the 18% higher rate reported by the Marion County Election Board this past weekend. In 2008, Obama beat John McCain by fewer than 30,000 votes, 50-49%, to win Indiana's 11 electoral votes.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's A Question Of Priorities

There has been much consternation among members of the downtown mafia and their friends in the mainstream media about the impact of forcing the CIB to give up part of its cash cow to help shore up next year's city budget. To hear them speak, you would think the CIB's solvency is threatened if it has to use any of its $67 million in cash reserves, which puts it on much stronger financial footing right now than the City-County government's $1.1 billion annual budget. Mayor Ballard's only solution to the problem of adequately funding basic city services was to hike property taxes on persons who have already been hit hard by the economic downturn over the past four years. At the same time, Ballard has pushed through major expansions of the downtown TIF district that further erodes the tax base that funds basic city services at the same time his administration pushed through a $20 million public financing of a new, 1000-space parking garage for a downtown developer that will occur in a TIF district, meaning that no property taxes will be paid for many years to come on the new development to pay for basic city services.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, Mayor Ballard this week called for further privatization efforts to find money to fund our crumbling city parks. The head of IndyVisit, formerly known as the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, whines in the IBJ that the lack of direct flights into Indianapolis' new billion-dollar airport terminal imperils his efforts to lure organizations to host their conventions in Indianapolis after a $200 million expansion of the city's convention center and a $60 million public subsidy for the construction of the new J.W. Marriott Hotel. It is suggested that public subsidies may be in order to fund direct flights to cities like San Francisco in order to entice more groups to host their conventions here and help fill up the downtown hotels. IndyVisit's CEO claims that the city has lost 10% of its potential tourism business due to the lack of non-stop flights. Apparently the fact that the city now has among the highest tax rates in the country for visitors is not a factor in attracting conventions to Indianapolis.

We are always told each time that we are asked to pony up more money to subsidize the business activities of downtown that such additional contributions will help grow city revenues that will benefit all of the city's residents. From where I'm sitting, these contributions are only draining city resources that are available to fund essential city services. Fellow blogger Fred McCarthy says it best in describing the contempt our city leaders have for our residents:
One does not know whether to laugh or cry when, simultaneously with this outcry about an attempt to fund public safety, the mayor is announcing that we can’t handle the public parks system and he is, hat in hand, asking taxpayers to put that system on an "alms" basis.
Now he wants citizens who are forced to subsidize professional sports with tax money, but who cannot afford to buy a ticket into the palaces built with that tax money, to come up with more money to use the only publicly financed recreation facility within their financial range.
It is difficult to imagine a more outrageous example of contempt for the residents of this city. One gets the impression that all would be well at city hall - and the editorial offices - if we didn’t have to waste so damned much money providing municipal services like police and fire protection for citizens outside the mile square!

As He Did In 2008, Obama Relies Heavily On Illegal Foreign Donations To Finance His Campaign

Four years ago, conservative blogs were aflutter over reports of foreigners making millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, largely because his online contribution system contained no edits and audits that would allow the campaign to filter out illegal campaign contributions from foreign sources. The mainstream media totally ignored those reports. Four years later, President Barack Obama's re-election campaign continues to rely heavily on foreign donations to finance its campaign in clear violation of federal law. The New York Post demonstrates in a story today how a British citizen was able to contribute to Obama's campaign, while that same foreign subject was unable to make a campaign contribution to Romney's campaign in a similar manner.

The Obama re-election campaign has accepted at least one foreign donation in violation of the law — and does nothing to check on the provenance of millions of dollars in other contributions, a watchdog group alleges.
Chris Walker, a British citizen who lives outside London, told The Post he was able to make two $5 donations to President Obama’s campaign this month through its Web site while a similar attempt to give Mitt Romney cash was rejected. It is illegal to knowingly solicit or accept money from foreign citizens.
Walker said he used his actual street address in England but entered Arkansas as his state with the Schenectady, NY, ZIP code of 12345.
“When I did Romney’s, the payment got rejected on the grounds that the address on the card did not match the address that I entered,” he said. “Romney’s Web site wanted the code from the back of card. Barack Obama’s didn’t.”
In September, Obama’s campaign took in more than $2 million from donors who provided no ZIP code or incomplete ZIP codes, according to data posted on the Federal Election Commission Web site.
The Obama campaign said the FEC data was the result of “a minor technical error.”
“All the ZIP codes and numbers are real and can be verified,” spokesman Michael Czin said.
It is simply remarkable how low the bar is set for Obama on every level when it comes to scrutinizing his public and private actions. Any other politician in America would have long ago been driven from public office and prosecuted and imprisoned if he had attempted half of the criminal activities Obama has engaged in throughout his political career, dating back to the time he first served in the Illinois state senate. When the media allowed then-Attorney General Janet Reno to cover up a massive effort by President Bill Clinton's re-election campaign to raise millions in illegal campaign contributions from Asia, the federal law banning foreign contributions essentially became a dead letter law. The Democratic Party viewed that as an open invitation to allow the rest of the world to participate in our electoral process.

Early Voting Up 18% In Marion County

Four year ago, an increase in early voting in Marion County served as a harbinger of Barack Obama's historic win in a traditionally red state. The latest figures from the Marion County Clerk's office reports that early voting is running 18% higher than it was four year ago at this same point. Marion County voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama four years ago, but it supported Mitch Daniels re-election bid for governor by an even larger margin over his Democratic opponent, Jill Long Thompson. Early voting statewide in 2008 was not as high as it was in 2004 when George W. Bush beat John Kerry easily in Indiana with two notable exceptions. The state's two largest counties, Marion and Lake, turned out in higher numbers and both voted heavily for Obama over McCain. Good news for Republicans can be found in higher early voting in heavily Republican counties like Hamilton County than was reported four years ago.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hoosier Lottery Puts Privatization Documents Online

The Hooiser Lottery has now made available documents related to the award of a 15-year privatization deal with an Italian-owned company, GTECH, including the final contract the state signed with the company. A quick review of the contract reveals that it is strikingly similar to the privatization agreement the state of Illinois' lottery entered into with Northstar, a joint venture between GTECH and Scientific Games. The contract headings, definitions, and terms are virtually identical, suggesting that attorneys for the state of Indiana simply "cut and paste" the Illinois contract. GTECH has promised the state of Indiana $1.76 billion in revenues during the first five years of the agreement. Illinois officials have already been feuding with Northstar because it failed to meet income targets provided for in its contract with the state. Efforts by the state of Illinois to force Northstar to pay a penalty under the contract were unsuccessful during an arbitration of the parties' dispute.

Scientific Games, an incumbent vendor with the Hoosier Lottery, has protested the awarding of the contract to GTECH. In a letter written by attorneys at the law firm of Krieg DeVault, Scientific Games complains that the award of the contract to GTECH violated the Indiana Administrative Code, Indiana's procurement statute, Indiana's Antitrust Act and the equal protection and due process clauses of the state's constitution. Scientific Games' attorneys complains that the process for protesting contract decisions in the Indiana Administrative Procedures Act was repealed in February, 2011 and no substitute regulations were promulgated. When Scientific Games' attorneys asked the Hoosier Lottery's attorney what procedures were to be followed for protesting an award, the attorney told them that the protest procedures could be found within the Request for Information; however, Scientific Games' attorneys complain that the RFI provided no procedure or deadline for protesting a final decision.

More specifically, Scientific Games' attorneys complain that the Commission awarded the contract to GTECH without seeking best and final offers from the bidders despite their being only a 1.7% difference in income offered by the second-highest offer. The protest letter complains that the Commission discriminated against bidders by not sharing all questions and answers submitted during the bidding process by competing bidders. Scientific Games complains that the evaluation criteria used by the Commission were "vague and ambiguous" and that the Commission failed to property evaluate its business plan since its transition costs would be less as an incumbent vendor. In a reply letter from the Commission's attorney, the Commission denied the "blanket allegations" contained in Scientific Games' protest letter. It added that the allegations were too "general and conclusory" to offer a formal response. It gave Scientific Games' attorneys one day to respond after taking nearly a week to respond to Scientific Games' protest letter.

As a Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette story earlier complained, little information can be gleaned from the proposals submitted by the two bidders because so much of their responses have been redacted under a claim of confidential and proprietary information.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gregg Steps Up Attacks On Pence

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg took off the gloves and came out swinging at Republican Mike Pence during last night's gubernatorial debate. Gregg again claimed that Pence has been ineffective during his twelve years in Congress for failing to pass any legislation and having a poor attendance record, claims denied by Pence. Gregg described Pence as being a "show horse" and not a "work horse," citing a survey of congressional staffers taken a few years ago. He claimed that the only person who had described Pence as being a hard-working congressman was Pence. Gregg added that Pence was "about down to being a one-trick pony." Gregg appeared frustrated at polls that continue to show him lagging far behind Pence. Will his stepped up attacks against Pence work?

The Chicago Way: CTA Inflates Bus Miles Traveled To Defraud Federal Taxpayers

A report in today's Chicago Tribune says the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) stands accused of inflating the number of miles its buses traveled as far back as 1982 in order to obtain greater funding from the federal government. A watchdog group says by "fraudulently over-reporting" the number of miles CTA buses travel while in service that the transit agency received at least $150 million more from the federal government than it was entitled. The CTA claims it follows federal guidelines, but Cause of Action cites "insider audit information" from six years ago to support its contention. Cause of Action blames the clout of Valerie Jarrett, Obama's top White House staffer and former CTA Chairman and Robert Rifkin, former general counsel for the CTA and now general counsel for the DOT, for allowing the CTA to continue defrauding the federal government.

CNN Managing Editor Defends Crowley In E-Mail

TMZ has obtained an e-mail CNN Managing Editor Mark Whitaker sent to the cable news agency's staff trying to blunt criticism about Candy Crowley's role as a substitute teleprompter to aid President Obama's performance in Tuesday night's debate with Mitt Romney. Whitaker accused the Romney camp of engaging in pre-debate attempt to intimidate her, defended her misleading fact-checking intervention to rescue Obama on the Benghazi terrorist attack question, and attributed the need to allow Obama much more speaking time because "he speaks more slowly."

"Let's start with a big round of applause for Candy Crowley for a superb job under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. She and her team had to select and sequence questions in a matter of hours, and then she had to deal with the tricky format, the nervous questioners, the aggressive debaters, all while shutting out the pre-debate attempts to spin and intimidate her. She pulled it off masterfully.

The reviews on Candy's performance have been overwhelmingly positive but Romney supporters are going after her on two points, no doubt because their man did not have as good a night as he had in Denver. On the legitimacy of Candy fact-checking Romney on Obama's Rose Garden statement, it should be stressed that she was just stating a point of fact: Obama did talk about an act (or acts) of terror, no matter what you think he meant by that at the time. On why Obama got more time to speak, it should be noted that Candy and her commission producers tried to keep it even but that Obama went on longer largely because he speaks more slowly. We're going to do a word count to see whether, as in Denver, Romney actually got more words in even if he talked for a shorter period of time."

It's no wonder Romney's camp would have been doing pre-debate spin about the potential for Crowley's bias to appear during Tuesday night's debate. After all, she described the Ryan-Romney ticket a couple of months ago as the "ticket death wish." The notion that CNN would go as far as to conduct a word count to prove that Obama said no more than Romney in the additional time Crowley allotted to him to speak is laughable.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Candy Saves Barry From Toughest Debate Question

The scene during last night's debate was almost surreal. A question from an an audience member during last night's town hall style debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney about the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, set up Romney for an opportunity to really pounce on the security failures that made the attack such an easy feat to accomplish. Shockingly, President Obama claimed that he had attributed the act to terrorism during his first comments the morning after the deadly attack despite the administration's public insistence for two weeks that the September 11 attack occurred as a result of a spontaneous demonstration outside the consulate gone awry in response to a YouTube video mocking Islam. When Gov. Romney challenged Obama's claim, he stood by it and, on cue, Candy Crowley, the debate's moderator, chimed in with an instant fact-check saying the President was correct, citing the transcript of his comments that day. Although she added that the administration had it wrong on the cause of the attack, her overt siding with Obama during the debate was tantamount to a referee during a game throwing a flag against a player for a penalty. It had all the appearances of a coordinated effort by the Obama campaign with the moderator to minimize the fallout of the only foreign policy question of the night and the one that posed the most risk for damage to Obama.

As they say, context matters. The President's comments the morning after the terrorist attack was a general statement that did not specifically characterize the cause of the preceding night's deadly attack. "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for," Obama said. The President himself in the days to come repeatedly refused to attribute the attack to an orchestrated terrorist attack. It was only after nearly two weeks of denials in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that the administration finally conceded it was a terrorist attack and not the supposedly offensive YouTube video. President Obama's response dodged the thrust of the question, which is why the administration had denied Stevens' request for additional security prior to the September 11 attack. He also doubled down on his accusation that Romney was seeking to politicize the deadly attack after Romney criticized the President for hopping aboard Air Force One to attend a Las Vegas fundraiser and a Colorado rally right after making his vague and general comments the morning following the attack.

What played out following the debate in the talking head community was a replay of what occurred the day of the deadly attack when Gov. Romney was roundly criticized by the media for condemning the Obama administration for suggesting the outrage in the Muslim community over the YouTube video justified the coordinated protests throughout the Middle East against the U.S., even though the State Department distanced itself from a public statement issued by the U.S. Egyptian embassy after it came under attack by unruly protesters the same day. For several days, the media focused on the so-called gaffe by Romney instead of the abysmal failure of the Obama administration to provide adequate security for Ambassador Stevens and his staff. Similarly, the media instantly tried to portray Romney's insistence that the Obama administration had steadfastly denied the Benghazi incident was a planned terrorist attack as a blunder in order to redirect attention from an obvious Obama weak spot.

Overall, I thought both candidates acquitted themselves well during last night's debate. They both obviously brought their A game. I was disappointed at some of the questions, which I felt reflected a left-leaning agenda on the part of the biased moderator. For the life of me, I don't understand why Republican presidential candidates election after election agree to debate moderator choices who are so clearly in the Democratic candidate's camp. I thought Crowley repeatedly cut off Romney from responding to several debatable assertions Obama effectively made against Romney's record and positions in an effort to prevent further scrutiny by Romney. For those keeping time, Obama had about three more minutes of talking time than Romney to speak. A CNN instant poll taken immediately after the debate gave the advantage to Obama by a 46-39% margin; however, on important economic questions asked of the poll respondents, Romney appeared to have the advantage.

Here's the video of the exchange that has Romney supporters hopping mad:

Hoosier Lottery Privatization Cover Up?

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette's Niki Kelly sought answers about why Hoosier Lottery officials chose GTECH over gaming rival Scientific Games to manage the state's lottery for the next 15 years, effectively handing day-to-day control of the important state revenue generator to the Italian-owned company. What she got instead was an opportunity to review documents that were so heavily redacted that they were unreadable. More importantly, Lottery officials have so far refused to make public the agreement it said that it had signed with the company last Friday. The Daniels administration is already under fire by Scientific Games for conducting an unfair bidding process that resulted in GTECH's award despite a neglible difference in their bottom line offers and without consideration of transition costs since Scientific Games is an incumbent vendor for much of the lottery's operations. From the Journal-Gazette:
Hoosier Lottery officials made public the two bids to take over key operations of the system.
But the nearly 1,700 pages of documents are so heavily redacted that Hoosiers still have no idea how the new manager plans to hit lofty revenue targets. The bids also weren’t placed online for citizens to read. They are only available in a downtown Indianapolis conference room.
And despite finalizing the 15-year contract with GTECH Indiana LLC on Friday – and sending out a news release about it – the lottery has yet to release that agreement . . .
Gov. Mitch Daniels said Tuesday he would be willing to talk with lottery officials about whether GTECH and competitor Scientific Games went too far in their redaction of so-called “trade secrets.”
“I’m in favor of folks knowing all they can,” he said. “The more information folks have, the more obvious it will be that this was just a smart management move.” . . .
That business plan was a large part of the bid, and lottery officials said earlier this month that it included expanding the customer base by selling tickets at big box retail stores.
But those plans and more have been redacted from the documents available for public review, including how the games themselves would be improved and marketed.
Some of the pages that were left untouched included statistics comparing the Hoosier Lottery with other states and various biographies of GTECH employees.
Also, the bid promised to name Fort Wayne community leader Ian Rolland to its advisory board, along with Ball State President Jo Ann Gora and former professional basketball player George McGinnis.
State House insiders could have predicted in advance that GTECH would be awarded the lucrative contract by hook or crook simply by virtue of the fact that the company was represented by Barnes & Thornburg's Bob Grand and Brian Burdick. The two were at the center of the corrupt awarding of the costly and flawed privatization of FSSA's welfare services for the benefit of ACS, a company they represented which formerly employed then-FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob, a close political confidante of Daniels and Grand. Burdick's sister, Betsy, is a also a deputy chief of staff in Daniels' office.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Daniels Portrait Unveiled

The official portrait of Gov. Mitch Daniels painted by Lafayette artist Richard Halstead was unveiled at the State House. What do you think?

Rasmussen Poll Shows Big Lead For Romney Over Obama In Indiana

What a difference four years make. The latest Rasmussen poll of likely Indiana voters shows Mitt Romney with a commanding lead over Barack Obama. The poll of 600 likely voters has Romney leading Obama by 13 percentage points, 54-41%. The Rasmussen poll mirrors a Howey-Depauw poll taken three weeks ago that similarly showed Romney with a commanding double-digit lead, 52-40%. In 2008, Obama edged his Republican opponent, John McCain, by a little more than 25,000 votes, a difference of just one percentage point, 50-49%.

Indiana seems to stand alone among the battleground states that Obama carried in his historic 2008 victory that is firmly back in the Republican column this year. In neighoring Ohio, Obama defeated McCain by just four percentage points and many polls have consistently showed Obama with a narrow but similar lead over Romney in the Buckeye state this year. In Missouri, polls have shown Romney leading Obama, but not by the double-digit margins we've seen here in Indiana. McCain won Missouri by the slimmest of margins in 2008. The two candidates have traded leads in Florida where Obama won by a little more than two percentage points in 2008. Romney has held very slim leads in North Carolina, which Obama won by less than one-half of a percentage point in 2008.

Coats Pitching Mourdock To Indiana Voters

Gov. Daniels Sold Chicago On Indiana?

An observant reader wonders why this Chicago Water Management truck spotted recently would have an Indiana license plate. Are Chicago municipal vehicles leased in Indiana?

Carmel Council President: Mayor Brainard Lied About $100,000 Payment To Libman

A plan to bail out the Carmel Redevelopment Commission has hit a snag after Carmel City Council President Rick Sharp discovered that a $100,000 payment was made to the former head of the Regional Performing Arts Center, Steven Libman, who resigned amidst allegations by Mayor Brainard that Libman was having an inappropriate relationship with a staff member and misusing funds. The story blew up shortly after Libman's abrupt resignation after it was learned that Brainard had hired a private investigator to spy on Libman. According to Sharp, both Brainard and the city's legal counsel, Doug Haney, had insisted that no settlement payment had been offered to Libman in exchange for his resignation. From WTHR:

A Carmel City Council member is calling for the ouster of the City Center's Development Commission after discovering its leaders paid the former CEO of the Palladium $100,000 to leave and not file a lawsuit.
After the CEO of the Carmel Palladium abruptly resigned last year amid serious allegations of misconduct, Eyewitness News has learned of a six-figure settlement to help him go away.
The discovery came as the Carmel City Council set out to investigate the Redevelopment Commission Debt . . .
Until now, Councilman Rick Sharp says City Attorney Doug Haney and Mayor Jim Brainard denied paying Libman any money. New documents now show that was not true.
Sharp revealed that the mayor and city attorney later paid $100,000 to Libman to keep Libman from filing a lawsuit against them. The settlement had never been disclosed to the council.
"When you're trying to deal with a body, an entity, an administration that has proven that they will actively cover up things, it's kind of tough for me to pull the trigger on a potential $200 million debt issue until I can feel that I have clearly gotten to the bottom of it all," said Sharp.

Sharp tells us he won't vote for the bailout until the city becomes more transparent.

In a statement released to reporters, Brainard defended the $100,000 settlement as a necessity for avoiding litigation with Libman over his firing. Brainard said he was unable to discuss the settlement details due to the confidentiality of the agreement. He suggested Sharp's criticism had more to do with his mayoral ambitions than his concern for the payment being made. "It would seem, however that the campaign for mayor has started early," Brainard said.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ballard Lies: Tells Councilors Homestead Credit Only Benefits The Rich

In an appalling appeal to class warfare politics, Mayor Greg Ballard told a caucus of Republican councilors ahead of tonight's City-County Council meeting where the council  took up adoption of the city-county government's 2013 budget that the homestead property tax credit only benefited the rich, and that middle and lower income taxpayers would not be affected by its elimination. Ballard has proposed elimination of the tax credit, a move that would increase property taxes on homeowners by about $8 million annually. Despite riding an anti-tax wave to win his upset election over former Mayor Bart Peterson in 2007 and proclaiming his mantra of making public safety job one, Ballard has turned into a tax-and-spend liberal, insisting on a tax increase on homeowners to help close a $50-$60 million budget deficit for 2013.

An analysis of the homestead credit by Ballard's own controller proves that his claim that only the rich would pay more taxes if the homestead credit is eliminated is patently false. About 38% of  homeowners, including many of those living in higher taxed areas with higher-assessed homes receive no benefit from the homestead credit because their taxes have already hit the 1% cap imposed under state law. As fellow blogger Pad Andrews' explains, the city controller's figures show that a majority of the tax increase that will result from the elimination of the homestead credit will be borne by those owning homes valued at $150,000 or less. Those figures show that only 99 homeowners will see a tax increase of $100 or more with an average home value of $368,674, while more than 46,000 homeowners with an average home value of $103,2227 will see a tax increase, albeit a smaller tax increase on average than those with higher-priced homes who have not yet reached the state-imposed property tax cap. "So, eliminating the homestead credit has little to do with rich folks paying their due," Andrews notes. "The tax increases will tend to hit those with lower value homes. If you live in a higher tax area, then you'd escape a tax increase for a home value lower than someone living in a lower tax area."

Ballard took office in January 2008 with the benefit of a 65% increase in the county option income tax passed by the Democratic-controlled council and signed into law by Peterson, the so-called public safety tax, which was intended to shore up a budget deficit and to provide sustainable funding for the city's public safety departments. Voter discontent over the income tax increase, coupled with skyrocketing property tax bills, helped Ballard win a narrow victory over Peterson and elect a Republican-controlled council. State lawmakers passed landmark property tax reform legislation that brought permanent property tax relief to property owners; however, all taxpayers were hit with a permanent one percentage point increase in the state sales tax to pay for the tax relief afforded to property owners. Ballard, for his part, made the Peterson income tax increase permanent despite campaigning against its enactment. Despite the promise the tax increase would allow for the hiring of 100 more police officers, the City now has a police force that is 300 officers smaller since enactment of the public safety tax increase. Ballard blamed the economic recession and property tax caps on the lack of funds to adequately fund public safety.

Two years into office, Mayor Ballard pushed through more tax increases to bail out the CIB, which claimed to be running a $47 million deficit and at risk as a going concern because it had assumed full responsibility for the $20 million a year in operating and maintenance expenses on the newly-opened Lucas Oil Stadium, and because it had no revenue stream to cover the added costs after giving billionaire Jim Irsay's Colts rent-free use of the stadium. As a consequence of raising the city's hotel taxes and auto rental tax, Indianapolis now has one of the highest tax rates of any city in the country for visitors to Indianapolis despite the large investment the City has made in expanding its convention facilities to attract more conventions and visitors to the city. Visitors pay a hotel tax rate of 17%, an auto rental tax rate of 15% and a food and beverage tax rate of 9%. The CIB now sits on a $67 million cash reserve, even after making a $33.5 million public subsidy to billionaire Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers, who claims without substantiation that his NBA franchise is losing money and who has threatened to move the team elsewhere if the CIB didn't pick up maintenance and operating expenses for the Fieldhouse, even though the team gets rent-free use of the facility and retains most of the revenues from non-game events hosted at the Fieldhouse.

Rather than eliminating the homestead credit, Democratic councilors proposed an alternative $15 million payment-in-lieu of taxes (PILOT) to be assessed against the CIB on the nearly $1.5 billion in facilities it operates in downtown Indianapolis that are used primarily for the for-profit benefit of the billionaire sports team owners and the downtown convention business. Mayor Ballard immediately denounced the PILOT as a move that would imperil the financial stability of the CIB despite its ongoing private discussions with Herb Simon to re-up the multi-million dollar public subsidies for his Indiana Pacers. In the real world, the Ballard administration and the CIB would be undertaking discussions with the two billionaire sports team owners to pay their share of property taxes like every other business owner in this city, particularly given how much the City is forced to spend every year providing public safety services for the events at these facilities. The Hulman-George family has always paid its fair share of property taxes on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which conducts far fewer events annually than either the Fieldhouse or Lucas Oil Stadium. It's not fair that billionaires Jim Irsay and Herb Simon get rent-free use of these facilities for their multi-million dollar business organizations and pay absolutely nothing in property taxes on those facilities. The only people favoring the super rich over ordinary taxpayers in this debate is Mayor Greg Ballard and the Republicans on the council who've followed his misguided fiscal policies over the past five years in lockstep. Time and time again Ballard has chosen the side of the downtown mafia that is filling his pockets with campaign contributions, free tickets, meals and country club memberships and other lavish gifts and overseas junkets over ordinary taxpayers.

I find myself in the unusual position as a life-long Republican and elected Republican precinct committee person siding with the Democratic-controlled council on this matter. Fortunately, the Democratic budget that rejected elimination of the homestead credit was approved on an 18-11 vote. Two Republicans voted with the Democrats, including Councilors Christine Scales and I believe Councilor Jason Holladay, but I'm not certain of Holladay's vote. On a 16-13 party-line vote, the council also approved the CIB budget, which included the $15 million PILOT. The Republican arguments that the PILOT is being illegally imposed was effectively shot down by the council's counsel, Fred Biesecker. Republicans argue that because an assessment on the property was not made by March 1, the PILOT could not be imposed as part of next year's budget. Biesecker pointed out that on one prior occasion, a $4.9 million PILOT was collected from the CIB several years ago. Biesecker noted that no tax had been assessed that year by March 1 on CIB properties before the council adopted the PILOT. He further reminded councilors that a PILOT is not a property tax by definition; rather, it's a substitute payment for services provided to otherwise tax-exempt property. He added that the enabling statute for the PILOT merely imposes a cap on the amount that may be assessed; it does not provide the specific manner for assessing the property. Further, Biesecker says that state law allows for assessments to be imposed on property omitted from the tax assessment rolls for up to three prior years.

UPDATE: The Mayor's office wasted no time putting out a statement to denounce the council's actions tonight on the budget:

"Budgeting is not a one-year exercise.  It requires prudence and a focus on the long-term fiscal health of our city.  The budget in any particular year must help set up future budgets. 
"The Council majority's current plan is unfunded, increases spending, more than doubles the deficit for 2014, and strips support of our downtown economy in order to give tax breaks to a select few. 
"The budget I proposed to the Council this year was responsible for the long haul and ensured that income tax dollars are being used to support our police officers and firefighters.  There is money for public safety in this year's proposed budget, but only if the Council has the will to make tough choices.
"In the meantime, we must talk frankly about what public safety and criminal justice will look like over the next 20 years.  If we don't, the budgeting process will be painful for the next few years.
"I will spend the next few days reviewing the final document adopted tonight and the many options afforded me by law as Mayor of Indianapolis."
Incidentally, the Mayor has no legal authority to veto the CIB budget as it is a separate municipal corporation over which he does not serve as the executive. The audacity of the mayor to accuse the Democratic-controlled council of stripping "support of our downtown economy in order to give tax breaks to a select few." This coming from a man who accepts free floor seats to all the Pacers games and then instructs his appointees to the CIB to hand out a $33.5 million subsidy to the billionaire owner of the team. This coming from a man who gave $6.5 million of our taxpayer dollars to the man who bankrolls his campaign and pays for overseas junkets that he and his wife take after tripling the rates we have to pay to park at the damn metered spots downtown so his money man can build a new parking garage from which he alone will derive financial reward. Nearly 50,000 homeowners, Mr. Mayor, is not a "select few." How dare you attack working class homeowners. You are simply pissed off that the CIB won't have the money to give your buddy Herb another multi-million dollar public subsidy. You don't care about public safety, and you sure as hell don't care about the ordinary citizens who pay the lion's share of taxes in this community. You have turned into the worst enemy of the people who busted their asses to put you in office. You are a worse traitor than Benedict Arnold.

Rasmussen Poll Puts Mourdock Up By Five

A Rasmussen poll released today with just three weeks to go in the U.S. Senate race between Richard Mourdock (R) and Joe Donnelly (D) shows Mourdock with a 5-point, 47-42% lead over Donnelly. Other polls have shown the two candidates statistically tied in the race to succeed Senator Richard Lugar (R). Mourdock trounced the six-term incumbent in the May primary election, capturing 61% of the vote. Mourdock has been repeatedly lambasted by the mainstream media in Indiana, which is seeking revenge on him for toppling their favorite Washington insider. The race has become one of the most costly Senate races in the country with millions of dollars in independent expenditures being spent by SuperPACs on behalf of both candidates. The Rasmussen poll of 600 likely voters was taken October 10-11 and has a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Rasmussen is viewed as one of the most reputable polling firms in the country. Its polling during the 2008 presidential election proved to be the most accurate of all polls.

Rahm Wants Audit Of Chicago Parking Meter Company

The 75-year, $1.15 billion lease that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley hatched in cooperation with the Chicago law firm which now employs him has proven devastating to Chicago city finances. Daley's successor, Rahm Emanuel, is now turning over every stone in an effort to get out from under the deal. His predecessor spent all of the money the City got from the lease to close a budget deficit. Manuel is now ordering an audit of Chicago Parking Meters LLC to determine if it's living up to its end of the bargain. From the Chicago Tribune:
At a time his administration is locked in a dispute over a $14.2 million bill with the company that controls Chicago's parking meters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is ordering an outside audit to make sure the firm is living up to its contractual obligations.
The mayor has called for a look at the Chicago Parking Meters LLC agreement to make sure the company's revenue collections match the number of parking meters used around the city. Emanuel also wants to make certain the private consortium is meeting operating standards for things like participation by women- and minority-owned subcontractors.
But Emanuel spokeswoman Kathleen Strand would not say what — if anything — the mayor will do if the audit finds evidence the company violated the terms of its contract.
The second-year mayor inherited the 75-year, $1.15 billion lease the City Council agreed to under Mayor Richard Daley in 2008. Experts have said there's not much he can do to break the lease, especially given that the city already spent much of the proceeds.
Still, the parking meter deal remains roundly reviled, and Emanuel has pledged to make sure the city isn't paying more than it should. His administration stopped payment this summer on $14.2 million the company says it's owed for out-of-service parking spots, a total that has since topped $50 million. City officials want more time to analyze data before paying, and the company has threatened to go to mediation amid terse exchanges of correspondence.
The parking meter audit will be followed by audits of the city's leases of the Chicago Skyway and lakefront parking garages, according to an administration news release. All three leases will be audited periodically going forward, the release stated.
Will Indiana's next governor ask for an audit of the Indiana Toll Road lease now that Gov. Mitch Daniels has spent all of the $3.8 billion the state netted from the 75-year lease of the toll road?

Star Opposes PILOT, No Surprise

Given that the Indianapolis Star is a co-conspirator in the downtown mafia, which regularly picks the pockets of ordinary taxpayers in order to fund the personal financial endeavors of the organized crime syndicate that controls the City's purse strings, it should come as no surprise that its editorial board opposes a City-County Council proposal that would take $15 million from the cash reserves of the CIB to pay for basic city services:

If Democrats who control the City-County Council proceed today with their short-sighted plans to drain $15 million from the Capital Improvement Board, it's likely to cause long-lasting problems for the city on multiple fronts.
First is the financial damage the move would inflict not only on the CIB, which operates Lucas Oil Stadium and other Downtown venues, but also the local convention trade, Indiana Black Expo and arts programs, which are supported by the agency.
Second, and potentially worse, are the ramifications inside the Statehouse. Powerful state Sen. Luke Kenley said last week that a decision by the council to raid the CIB's accounts would be "counterproductive" in moving forward on future projects that require the General Assembly's approval. The city must have Kenley as an ally if there's any hope of finally building a mass transit system in the region.
Kenley's objections are based on recent history. The CIB faced a $47 million budget deficit less than four years ago. The city turned to the Statehouse for help, and lawmakers gave Indy's leaders $18 million in loans and the authority to raise taxes.
Those moves worked so well that the CIB has now built up a cash balance of about $67 million. Council Democrats are eager to use that money to help plug a shortfall in the city's 2013 budget.
But the CIB isn't as financially comfortable as it might appear. The agency has been building up reserves in anticipation of repaying several loans, including more than $33 million owed to investors that helped finance Circle Centre mall and Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Central Newspapers Inc., The Star's former owner, was among the investors in the 1990s that loaned the city money to build the mall and the stadium.
On Friday, Indy Chamber President and CEO Scott Miller described a council committee's decision to take money from the CIB as "irresponsible" and one that "creates a fiscal cliff that would be a detriment to long-term stability, economic attractiveness and job growth in the city."
Taking cash from the CIB is undeniably tempting in the short term. But it would create long-term problems that residents and their leaders would regret for years to come.
The Star is trying to build the case for another general tax increase like the 65% income tax increase it supported 5 years ago, the so-called public safety tax that was suppose to be a permanent solution to funding public safety. A true watchdog of the taxpayers would be calling for an audit of the City's books to determinate what happened to all of those higher taxes we've been paying. A true watchdog of the taxpayers would ask why the CIB told the public that it required a major tax increase, which was also supported by the Star editorial boarad, three years ago in order to remain solvent but somehow was able to give a $33.5 million subsidy to billionaire Herb Simon for his Indiana Pacers and still manage to sock away $67 million in cash reserves. A true watchdog of the taxpayers would be honest with the public and concede that the CIB is not worried about its ability to pay its debts if it has to pay a $15 million PILOT but whether there will be enough money to pay Herb Simon's next extortion demand. A true watchdog of the taxpayers would ask why the City can tap TIF funds as a matter of convenience to shore up city finances when those funds are supposedly necessary to meet the long-term financial debt obligations of the TIF district. None of these are questions that will be asked by the Star because it long ago ceased to serve its role as a watchdog of the taxpayers when it became a financial investor in the CIB's long-running Ponzi scheme, a financial interest its editors have conveniently omitted in the past whenever it discusses matters pertaining to the CIB until fellow blogger Paul Ogden called them out on it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Scientific Games Finally Figures Out Lottery Deal Was Fixed

Scientific Games should know that when you lie down with dogs you wake up with fleas. After losing out on a 15-year privatization deal with the Hoosier Lottery to a rival company, GTECH, the company is crying foul. According to the bids the two companies submitted, GTECH promised $1.76 billion in returns to the state during the first five years of the contract compared to the $1.73 billion promised by Scientific Games, a difference of only 1.7%. The Indianapolis Star reports that state lottery officials did not provide an opportunity for the leading bidders to submit a best and final offer, which is typically what the state will do in such deals where so much money is at stake. Scientific Games is also the Hoosier Lottery's largest gaming vendor currently and argues that transition costs would be very minimal as a consequence compared to the costs of choosing an outside firm. From the Star:

The selection process allowed lottery officials to request a “best and final offer” from the bidders. In closely competitive bidding wars, such requests can sometimes generate better deals than those initially proposed.
Lottery records obtained by The Star through a public records request show that GTECH promised the state $1.76 billion over the first five years of the contract, while Scientific Games promised $1.73 billion, a difference of only 1.7 percent.
Still, lottery officials did not provide an opportunity for the two companies to improve their bids through a best and final offer, according to Scientific Games’ protest letter.
James Herbert, a lottery consultant with Rhode Island-based Pure Play Technologies, said governments aren’t usually required to request best and final offers, but it makes a lot of sense to do so if the bids are roughly equivalent.
“If the two vendors were considered to be relatively equal, then it would make sense to do a best and final offer for the people of the state,” he said.
In Indiana, lottery profits help fund public infrastructure projects and pension funds for teachers, police and firefighters. Boosting those revenues has been the main objective of the privatization efforts. GTECH’s promise of $1.76?billion would generate $500 million more than lottery officials projected the state would bring in on its own. Under the deal, GTECH, a subsidiary of Italian company Lottomatica, would receive a bonus for exceeding its promise but would be penalized for falling short.
Al Larsen, a spokesman for the lottery, couldn’t say why lottery officials declined to ask for best and final offers. “I don’t have any clarification for you on that,” he said.
The Hoosier Lottery didn't ask for best and final offers because this deal was fixed before bids were even tendered just like every other privatization deal undertaken by the Daniels' administration. GTECH was represented by Barnes & Thornburg's Bob Grand and Brian Burdick. Hello! You know, the same guys that represented ACS in the crooked privatization deal of the state's welfare services that made a mess of things. Scientific Games should have known better since it hopped in bed with GTECH to win a similar contract in Illinois where a Democratic lawmaker accused the administration of Gov. Pat Quinn of rigging the bidding process:
After Chicago privatized parking meters and the Skyway, Illinois sold off the state lottery in 2010 to a private company. State Representative Jack Franks says that deal was fixed, and Franks is calling for a legislative investigation of how Governor Quinn's administration struck the deal. Franks, the state auditor general, and a government watchdog investigation both identified conflicts of interest in the contract process.
"We are very excited to partner with the Illinois Lottery to be your private manager. Our group is the coming together of the world's leading lottery companies: G-Tech and Scientific Games." This from the internal video that Northstar Lottery Group produced to land the Illinois contract in September 2010, with a projected net income of nearly $5 billion over five years.
A year and a half after the panel appointed by Governor Quinn selected Northstar, State Representative Franks is calling for an legislative investigation of the deal.
"The contract was preordained to go to Northstar, because they got the contract before the votes were even counted," said Franks, who represents northwest suburban Marengo.
"He is completely incorrect" replied Gov. Quinn press secretary Brooke Anderson. "We followed the law. The procurement was conducted in accordance with all applicable state laws and awarded to a highly-qualified bidder who made a commitment to the best deal for the state. Northstar presented a bid that, over the first five years of the contract, was $600 million above the other bidder."
Franks, who opposed privatizing the lottery from the beginning, says the governor should rescind the contract until misconduct charted by the state auditor general can be sorted out.
The state investigation concluded that "failure to follow any statutory or administrative processes for a procurement that involves a $2 billion state asset, the Illinois Lottery, increases the possibility that the procurement was not conducted in a fair and transparent manner."
"We saw what happened when the former mayor privatized the parking meters," Franks said. "It was a fiasco, and it cost the citizens hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions over the term. This is multiplied by 10."
Last month, the Illinois Statehouse News found evidence of irregularities in the state selection process and reported that Northstar and G-Tech donations were funneled to Quinn's 2010 campaign. When asked about the allegation, the governor's spokesperson issued a firm denial.
Of course we now know that the partnership between Scientific Games and GTECH missed its profit targets by $100 million during the first year of its contract with the Illinois Lottery. Nonetheless, a mediator found that Northstar didn't have to pay the penalties Illinois claimed it was owed under the privatization deal when the company failed to meet its profit targets.