Friday, February 12, 2016

Public Interest Group Targets Indy Officials for Violating Indiana's Civil Forfeiture Law

The Virginia-based Institute for Justice has filed suit challenging Indianapolis' use of civil forfeiture.  The Indianapolis Star reports:
For several months, Jack and Jeana Horner did not have their two vehicles, and they did not know why or where they had been taken. 
Law enforcement officials seized the Horners' 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2003 Ford F150 in August 2013, after they suspected that Jeana Horner's son, who was borrowing the vehicles, used them to transport marijuana. Jack and Jeana Horner, who did not know about the drugs and did not face any criminal charges, spent more than nine months trying to get their vehicles back. 
The Horners exemplify an ongoing problem with civil forfeiture in Marion County, said Sam Gedge, an attorney for a national nonprofit group that is now suing city and law enforcement officials in Indianapolis.
There are two basic problems with Indiana's civil forfeiture law.  First, the Indiana Constitution says that the Common School Fund (which provides low cost loans for schools) is to be made up of "all forfeitures."  Attorney General Greg Zoeller has issued an advisory opinion that "all" doesn't actually mean "all" and that civil, as opposed to criminal, forfeitures can be excepted by the legislature.  The opinion is rejected by virtually every legal expert who has looked at it, including, it would appear, all the justices of the Indiana Supreme Court.

But there is a second problem, namely in how its being applied.  Even if the legislature can carve out civil from all forfeiture, despite a constitutional provision that says they appears to say otherwise, the law still says that civil forfeiture proceeds can only be kept by insofar as they cover law enforcement costs of the particular action that led to the civil forfeiture. All excess funds, by statute, have to go to the Common School Fund.  As the Star notes (and I have noted numerous times previously), that is not happening:
The state law in question is interpreted differently by each county. Some meticulously account for the investigative costs and send the remaining dollars to the school fund. Many do not put money into the school fund. In Marion County, forfeited funds are divided between the law enforcement agency and the prosecutor's office, according to court records.   
According to memorandums of agreement between the agencies, the prosecutor's office gets 30 percent of forfeited funds. The remaining 70 percent goes to IMPD or to the Metro Drug Task Force, a group of officers from Marion and neighboring counties, depending on which law enforcement body is involved in an investigation.
Officials also say forfeited funds do not fully cover their investigative costs. 
In other words, Marion County/Indianapolis officials take a collective approach to determining law enforcement costs.  But that is a direct contradiction to the statute saying court costs are determined on a case-by-case basis. As I noted previously on my blog, the statute defining "law enforcement costs" in a civil forfeiture action is IC 34-6-2-73:
"Law enforcement costs", for purposes of IC 34-24-1, means:

(1) expenses incurred by the law enforcement agency that makes a seizure under IC 34-24-1 (or IC 34-4-30.1 before its repeal) for the criminal investigation associated with the seizure;

(2) repayment of the investigative fund of the law enforcement agency that makes a seizure under IC 34-24-1 to the extent that the agency can specifically identify any part of the money as having been expended from the fund; and

(3) expenses of the prosecuting attorney associated with the costs of proceedings associated with the seizure and the offenses related to the seizure.
In Serrano v. State, a civil forfeiture case not involving a legal challenge to the practice, the Indiana Supreme Court went out of its way to note the publicity over the abuse of civil forfeiture and to point out that IC 34-6-2-73 requires that law enforcement costs be calculated on a case-by-case basis.  From a footnote to that decision the Court said:
From the proceeds, the court may except law enforcement expenses incurred ―for the criminal investigation associated with the seizure and a prosecutor‘s expenses associated with the forfeiture proceeding and the expenses related to the criminal prosecution. Ind. Code § 34-6-2-73 (2008). Whether this limited diversion, calculating actual expenses on a case-by-case basis, is consonant with the constitutional command that ―all forfeitures‖ be deposited in the Common School Fund is an unresolved question.
Still, despite a law directly on point and a Supreme Court directive, county prosecutors across the state, including Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, continue to ignore the law and pocket 100% 100% of civil forfeiture proceeds as law enforcement costs.

Unfortunately since defendants are no longer considered a party to the case when the civil forfeiture proceeds are being divvied up between the agencies, there is no one to object when law enforcement walks away with 100% of the proceeds with nothing going to the Common School fund..  So it is very difficult to get judicial review of the practice.  Still judges are supposed to be demanding proof of law enforcement costs as to that particular action and insist that a check for the excess amount be cut to the Common School Fund.  Many judges, including those in Marion County which have for at least a decade allowed law enforcement to keep 100% of civil forfeiture proceeds, are simply not doing their jobs.

Unfortunately Marion County Prosecutor has greatly expanded his use of civil forfeiture, while continuing his predecessor's practice of pocketing 100% of the money in violation of Indiana law.  The numbers bear that out:
According to the complaint, Marion County law enforcement agencies received an average of $888,112 in forfeited funds annually from 2003 to 2010. That number reached about $1.5 million in 2011 (the first year Curry took office), the complaint says.
There is an irony that law enforcement officials, including Prosecutor Curry, are charged with the responsibility of enforcing the law against lawbreakers, yet they insist on blatantly violating the Indiana Constitution and statutes in order to pocket money taken from those same lawbreakers.

Here is a copy of the civil forfeiture complaint which appears on the Institute for Justice's website.  Also, below are links articles I've written about Indiana's civil forfeiture law:

Saturday, October 24, 2015, Republicans in Michigan Lead Effort to Curb Civil Forfeiture Abuses

Sunday, April 26, 2015, Senate Democrats Turn Back on Civil Liberties in Supporting Civil Forfeiture Enthusiast for Attorney General

Friday, January 16, 2015, US Attorney General Holder Halts Abuse of Federal Civil Forfeiture Laws By Local Police Agencies

Wednesday, October 9, 2013, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry's Expansion of Civil Forfeiture Leads to Targeting Alleged Prostitutes for Shakedowns

Tuesday, July 23, 2013, Civil Forfeiture Critic Wins Right to Proceed With Malicious Prosecution Case; Notice Pleading Still Rules in Federal Court

Friday, May 3, 2013, Federal Grants and Civil Forfeiture: The Real Story Behind the Drug Task Force Prostitution Busts

Friday, April 5, 2013, The Indiana General Assembly Can Fund School Security With Civil Forfeiture Proceeds

Tuesday, July 26, 2011, An Example of Marion County Forfeiture Abuse: City Refuses to Return Woman's Vehicle Unless She Signs Waiver for Damage Police Caused During Search

Wednesday, July 13, 2011, Marion County Prosecutor's Office Confirms Dropping Felony Charges Against Omnisource; Omnisource Says Agreement to "Donate" $300,000 Unrelated to Dropped Charges

Friday, June 3, 2011, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry Omits Facts on Civil Forfeiture, Makes Disingenuous Argument for His Office's Continued Violation of Civil Forfeiture Law

Tuesday, May 17, 2011, It's Time for State's Judges to Enforce Civil Forfeiture Law By Demanding a Case-By-Case Calculation of Law Enforcement Costs With Rest Going to Common School Fund

Friday, May 13, 2011, Governor Mitch Daniels Vetoes Forfeiture Bill That Would Have Provided Windfall to Law Enforcement; Attorney General Greg Zoeller Fibs About How Forfeiture Works in Practice

Monday, May 9, 2011, Governor Daniels Needs to Veto SEA 215, New Indiana Supreme Court Opinion Suggests New Law Giving Law Enforcement Civil Forfeiture Windfall Is Unconstitutional

Wednesday, April 27, 2011, Indiana Supreme Court Unanimously Rejects AG's Opinion That Constitution's "All Forfeitures" Does Not Include Civil Forfeiture

Wednesday, April 6, 2011, Judge Tosses Out Civil Forfeiture Lawsuit, Expresses Doubt Civil Forfeiture Law is Constitutional

Saturday, December 18, 2010, State Superintendent Bennett Avoids Blaming Attorney General Zoeller for Not Insisting Prosecutors Pay Civil Forfeiture Money Owed to School Fund

Friday, November 19, 2010, Prosecutors Sued for Failing to Pay Money Owed to Common School Fund

Friday, September 10, 2010, Nuvo's Considine Looks at Civil Forfeiture and the Common School Fund

Sunday, August 15, 2010, Civil Forfeiture Misdeeds; The Role of the Attorney General

Thursday, July 22, 2010, Indiana Civil Forfeiture Law - Where is the Money Going?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Businessman Bill Smythe Announces Run For Hamilton County Commissioner

Press release published for a friend of mine.  Great guy who will fight against corporate welfare and push back against the never-ending efforts by some Hamilton County Republicans who want to raise taxes.
Fishers IN- Bill Smythe wasn't looking to run for office, but circumstances begged him to step up, including a recent decision to start a $142 million project with practically no local input or discussion. He believes voters and business owners across Hamilton County will be glad he did. 
Bill Smythe is a businessman and a family man, married to his wife Brenda for 34 years.
Bill Smythe
He isn't a power broker. He isn't looking to enrich his connected friends with contracts. He's looking out for the best interests of all Hamilton County citizens, with a focus on solutions without losers.
Bill has repeatedly brought people together so their voices could be heard. He recently formed a Route 37 business alliance, has fought higher food & beverage taxes, and helped form the Tavern League of Indianapolis to protect small business owners. Smythe has always stood up for others in the face of big government. Running for County Commissioner is his latest action in his consistent advocacy.
Smythe is like so many other business owners when he says, "I'd rather just run my business, make my living, and enjoy my family, but I'm concerned for the future of Hamilton County. The voters need a voice here, and it seems the only voices that get a hearing are vendors, and it compelled me to run for Commissioner."
Contact: Bill Smythe @ b_smythe@comcast.net

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Governor Pence's Selection of Holcomb as Lt. Governor Leaves Conservative, Populist Wing of GOP Out in Cold

Today Governor Pence announced he selected former State GOP Chairman Eric Holcomb to be Lt. Governor, replacing Sue Ellspermann.  Holcomb, whose selection will have to be confirmed by the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly, will also be Pence's running mate in his re-election bid this year.

Media types like Mary Beth Schneider, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz and Matt Tully immediately praised the selection.  Even Democrat Jennifer Wagner weighed in with a column saying Holcomb was a "smart move."

The fact that a bunch of left-wing political columnists, a liberal Democrat, and a "moderate" Republican who acts as the party's Establishment mouthpiece thinks a decision is a good one should
Eric Holcomb
send off alarm bells for GOP populists and conservatives.

Tully even goes so far as to claim that the selection will help "shore up the [GOP] base."  Does Tully really believe that Holcomb has a big following among tea party people and evangelicals?  He does not. That's why the former GOP state chairman was heading for a third place finish in the U.S. Senate race before the Pence people threw him the lifeline of being Lt. Governor.

The aforementioned individuals all buy into the media's simplistic assumption that Pence is very popular among conservatives and that where he needs shoring up is among moderates.  It is safe to say that Schneider, Shabazz, Tully and Wagner don't spend a lot of time with members of the tea party and evangelicals who make up the majority of the GOP.  If they did they'd shocked to find out how alienated and angry they are at the Governor.  Whether it is the Governor's support for more local taxes, regional cities, Common Core-lite, "the Fix" and other measures. they feel the Governor has abandoned them at nearly every turn.  When it seemed like they were ready to give up completely on Pence, the Governor sent evangelicals an olive branch with his defense of religious freedom in his state of the state speech, a position that made people like Schneider and Tully uncomfortable.  Holcomb though makes them feel comfortable and that should be no comfort to conservatives.

Holcomb is widely considered to be an establishment, Chamber of Commerce Republican.  That part of the GOP coalition, by far its smallest component in terms of actual voters, was already solidly in Pence's corner.  They are, after all, thrilled with the Governor's willingness to use the power of government and Hoosier's tax dollars to help out big business.  For many people though Pence's approach smacks of corporate welfare, a policy which is an anathema to populists of all poltiical stripes and gave rise to the Tea Party some 10 years ago.

Holcomb does nothing to shore up Pence's unpopularity with the very populists who are dominating the GOP presidential campaign.  Many of those people who support candidates like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson live in Indiana.  Can Holcomb build a bridge to those people while playing down his establishment, Chamber of Commerce reputation?  Doubtful.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Redoing My New Hampshire Primary Predictions

Last week, I made the last minute decision to change my prediction in the Iowa Republican caucus...changing my choice on who would win the state from Donald Trump to Ted Cruz.  That paid off big time as Cruz defied the polls and pulled off the victory.  My only mistake was dipping so low
as to try to pick the fourth place finisher on the Republican side, choosing Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to occupy that position instead of surgeon Ben Carson.  Okay, I also did err picking Bernie Sanders to edge out Hillary Clinton but since Clinton only won by a tiny fraction of 1% (.25%), I'm counting that as a victory too.

I've decided to emulate the Iowa caucus and make some last minute tweaks to my New Hampshire primary.  On the heels of Florida Senator Marco Rubio's widely-panned debate performance Saturday night, I am going to reshuffle my predictions.  Instead of Saturday afternoon's prediction of the top three finishers being, Trump-Rubio-Cruz., I think the negative press about Rubio's performance is going to help Ohio Governor John Kasich move past the Florida Senator.  I also see Cruz doing a bit better than expected. So my predicted finish is going to be Trump-Cruz-Kasich-Rubio.  Trump will be at about 30%, while Cruz will finish with about 18%.  Kasich and Rubio will also score in the teens.

On the Democratic side, I see Bernie Sanders victory  margin as being in the range of 12%-15%, much less than the 30% that some polls have.  I reiterate my earlier prediction that the Clinton camp will spin (successfully) the closer than anticipated loss as a win for Hillary.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Will Football Ever Be The Same?

Tonight's Super Bowl features an intriguing matchup of the old versus the new guard.  Quarterback Peyton Manning, soon to turn 40, leads his experienced Denver Broncos against 26 year old quarterback Can Newton and his Carolina Panthers.  Denver and Manning went to the Super Bowl just three years ago, losing in a blowout to Seattle 43-8.  Carolina hasn't been to the Super Bowl since 2004 when New England quarterback Tom Brady engineered a last minute drive that led to an Adam Vinatieri field goal and a Patriots victory over the Panthers.

Oddly that great game, one of the few Super Bowls decided by a last minute drive, is more known for
Picture from www.stopcte.org
what happened at halftime, namely  the infamous Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction."

I have the erie sense that this Super Bowl, number 50 or L if you're still using Roman numerals, may be the end of an era.  In September 2015, researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University announced that they had identified chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 87 of 91 (96 percent) deceased NFL players that they had examined and in 79 percent of all football players. 

No amount of precautions against concusssions can fix the problem with CTE.  CTE is caused by repeated blows to the head that can fall well below concussion level.   The symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, agression, depression anxiety, and, eventually, dementia.  These symptoms often show up decades after the football player stops playing.

It doesn't appear there is any way around CTE.  Better designed helmets do not eliminate the problem. 

The pipeline to the NFL is made up of youth leagues, high school and college.  It is only a matter of time before worried parents start putting their kids into sports other than football.  Eventually that pipeline is going to dry up and the popularity of football, no longer a participatory sport for many people, will wane.

So celebrate tonight's Super Bowl. Football may never be the same starting tomorrow.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Expecting the Unexpected in the New Hampshire Primary

Predictions for Tuesday's New Hampshire primary:
Although Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' lead in some polls is 30% plus, expect the margin over victory to be a notch or two less than 20%.  I'll go with Sanders with an 18% victory.   Although that should count as a solid Sanders win, the Hillary Clinton campaign will manage to spin it into her mounting a "comeback" similar to that of her husband in 1992.  In politics, particularly these early states, candidates are judged by whether they exceed expectations.  With the polls setting the bar so low, it would be difficult for the former Secretary of State to not better expectations.

On the Republican side, New York businessman Donald Trump leads the state with a 30.7% polling average on Real Clear Politics. Two tracking polls though show Trump at 35% and 34%, a 21 and 17 point lead, respectively over the candidate in second place Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Trump like Sanders though suffers from the horrible problem of expectations.  In Trump's case, if he falls below 30%, the media will label his performance a failure.   I expect though Trump will just clear the 30% bar with Rubio in the low 20% range...I'm going with 22%.  I expect Texas Senator Ted Cruz to score about 15% with the rest of the candidates being relegated to (mostly) high single digits.  In another week, dropouts will result in the Republican race narrowing to Trump, Cruz and Rubio.

This time bet the farm on Sanders and Trump, just don't give up too many points in doing so.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Quinnipiac University Poll Shows Dramatic Tightening of Democratic Presidential Contest

A Quinnipiac University poll released today shows a dramatic tightening of the race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  In the poll of 484 registered voters, Clinton edges out Sanders 44-42.  Clinton's 2 point lead compares to the 31 point lead she enjoyed over Sanders in a Quinnipiac poll issued in mid-December.

The poll also matches up the three top Republicans against Clinton and Sanders.  In virtually every poll Trump shows up as the worst general election candidate, which is also the finding in the Quinnipiac poll which has Trump losing to Clinton by 5 points and Sanders by 10.  Cruz meanwhile is even with Clinton and loses to Sanders by 4 points. Florida Senator Marco Rubio fares the best, beating Clinton by 7 points and even with Sanders.

In short, Trump is the worst Republican general election candidate and Rubio is the best.  On the Democratic side, despite Clinton's claims she is more electable, Sanders polls as the better general election candidate.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Senate President Pro Tem David Long Faces Challenger

I recall a certain political blogger saying that a "compromise" bill that expands Indiana's civil rights law to include the LGBT community, while also purporting to protect some level of religious freedom, would be opposed both the right and the left and would never pass.   Indeed that is what happened.  This week, leaders in the Indiana Senate took that compromise bill, SB 344.  Although the bill passed out of committee, it was clear it did not have support to continue on.

I believe that blogger, who was of course me, also warned that Republicans who supported the bill would likely face a primary challenger.  Today we learn that Senate President Pro Tem David Long, one of the legislators leading the charge on SB 344, has drawn an opponent who seems very well qualified. The Indianapolis Star reports:
John Kessler
In the aftermath of a legislative fight for gay rights,Indiana Senate leader David Long is facing a primary challenge from fellow Republican John Kessler.
Social conservatives have been looking for a challenger to Long ever since he announced in November an effort to expand the state's civil rights laws to add protections for gay Hoosiers. Kessler appears to be that candidate.   
The Fort Wayne resident filed his paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State's office today to take on Long in the May 3 primary.
Kessler directs of the Center for Economic Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. He is an adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a conservative think tank, and was a one-time military veterans liaison for U.S. Senator John McCain, according to a resume posted on IPFW's website. He is also a disabled Marine Corps veteran.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Trump Train Derails in Iowa

Well, I guess Donald Trump is not a "winner" after all, at least not in Iowa.

Last night a record number of Iowa caucus goers elevated Texas Senator Ted Cruz to victory with 28%.  Trump finished second with 24% followed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio with 23%.  As a result, Cruz will receive 8 presidential convention delegates, Trump and Rubio 7 each, Ben Carson, who finished fourth, won 3 delegates while Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who finished fifth and sixth respectively, each won 1 delegate.

Okay, not really.  The Iowa caucus last night was actually a series of county caucuses which actually
Texas Senator Ted Cruz
functions to select delegates for both Iowa's Congressional District Convention and the Iowa State Convention. They are the bodies which actually choose the delegates for the presidential nominating conventions, and they don't always choose the to support the same people that is chosen in the original county caucuses.   But those developments happen way down the road, long after the public has turned its attention away from Iowa and to other states.

Trump led in all the Iowa polls released the week before the caucus.  Last night though not only a record number of people showed up for the Republican caucus, but also a much higher number of them (63%) were evangelical than expected.   None of the polls expected the evangelical vote, which tends to favor Cruz, to be that great.  Also, the polling which was conducted several before the caucus didn't catch last minute shifts in support.  I suspect Trump's decision to skip the last debate hurt him as did Republicans who have continuously pointed out the very liberal positions Trump has taken on issues over the years.

But the caucus process itself also undermined support for Trump.  Iowa employs a 15% threshold requirement for support.  So if in a county Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Chris Christie etc., have the support of less than 15% of the caucus goers, those candidates' supporters have to shift to another campaign to support.  Polls show that Trump is not a popular second choice for many voters, so when those Iowans supporting those other candidates had to shift their allegiance, the beneficiaries were Cruz and, likely even more so, Rubio.  None of the caucus shifting would have been shown in the polls.

I expect that after the New Hampshire primary next week, the race will consist of three major candidates, Cruz, Trump and Rubio.  While the split field has helped Trump's polling in the past, I think the smaller split vote is soon to become his enemy.  Trump has a ceiling on his support more so than Cruz or Rubio.  I think eventually the majority of the GOP vote is going to coalesce behind a single candidate not named Trump and, for the first time, I'm betting that candidate is Marco Rubio.  All along I couldn't envision the the path to Rubio's eventual nomination.  But I finally saw it last night.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Iowa Presidential Caucus Predictions: Bet the Farm on Cruz, Sanders

I'm going to go out on a limb here and make some predictions about what's going to happen at tonight's caucuses in Iowa.

Republicans:  Last week on Jon Easter's JohnnyStir program, I predicted that Donald Trump would win Iowa.  I now want to change that prediction. I think Senator Ted Cruz will win Iowa, narrowly edging out Trump.  Third place will be Florida Senator Marco Rubio followed by Kentucky Senator
Rand Paul, nearly reaching double digits.  Ben Carson, who one time led the Iowa polls, will fall to fifth.

In the last couple days, two polls that were released show Trump's lead over Cruz at 1%.  Two others showed the lead at 5% and 7%.  I don't buy that Trump supporters, people who will stand out in the cold for hours to hear him speak, won't go to sit in a warm church basement for a couple hours to vote in the caucus.  But I think, in the end, the Cruz organization will push him ahead of Trump...albeit barely.  Exit polls will show that a key factor in the Cruz win will be Trump's decision to skip the last debate.  While that decision only influenced a small percentage of voters, it would only take a small slice of the electorate to push Cruz ahead of Trump.

Democrats:   Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has led in most Iowa polls though a Quinnipiac University poll released today shows Sanders ahead by 3%.  Although the polling edge goes to Clinton, polls are poor tools when it comes to measuring enthusiasm.  There is no doubt there is a major enthusiasm gap in the race that heavily favors Sanders.  I think Sanders will win by at least 5%.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mummy Dummy Precinct Appointments Make Difference in Hamilton County GOP Chairman's Race

The results are in for the Hamilton County GOP Chairman's race and the 71 "mummy dummy" last minute precinct appointments by outgoing Chairman Pete Emigh tipped the balance for his favored candidate Fishers city councilor Pete Peterson.   Acting County Chairman and candidate Laura Campbell had removed the mummy dummies from participating in the caucus for not meeting the requirement that they be in place 30 days before Emigh resignation and failing to meet other requirements.  That decision, however, was overturned by the Rules Committee of the Indiana GOP
which offered no explanation for how the mummy dummies could participate despite rules that seemed to disallow them.

Pete Peterson
In Saturday's morning's vote, 51 of the 71 Emigh's "mummy dummies" showed up to cast a vote for Peterson.  The vote was 151 - 115, a 36 vote difference.  Because those challenged 51 mummy dummies appointees had to cast provisional ballots due to the Campbell challenge we know how they voted, i.e. 51-0 for Peterson.  In other words, without the mummy dummies, Campbell would have won 115-100.

I have, for years, struggled to explain to precinct committeemen the effect of mummy dummy appointments in undercutting their authority at slatings and caucuses.  Too often though they focused solely on whether their vote was coerced, and then assumed when it wasn't, that the election was fair.  What the focus should be on instead is the large number of mummy dummy appointments to rig the process by diluting,  and in some cases, obliterating, the voting power of the grass roots workers.  What happened in Hamilton County is the perfect example of how party bosses are allowed to rig the process and render meaningless the wishes of grass roots party workers.

Following the vote tally, Peterson immediately called for unity.  Given that his victory margin was due solely to Emigh's appointed mummy dummies, it is unclear how well received that call will be received, especially by party workers who witnessed their authority to pick the chairman undermined by the outgoing chairman and the State GOP Rules Committee.

I find it interesting that part of the order from the Rules Committee allowing the mummy dummies to participate in the election is that the caucus would be closed to the public.  According to the statement:
The caucus will be closed with only those on the caucus board,tellers, candidate watchers and staff designed by the State Committee or Hamilton County Central Committee present.
No word yet on whether Campbell will appeal the decision to the State GOP Committee, an option she still has under rules.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Real Donald Trump - Liberal Values, Liberal Positions


A new ad exposes Trump for the liberal positions he has taken over the years, including many of recent vintage.  I have outlined them below:

HEALTH CARE

"Everybody has to be covered."  Supports universal health care that is "going to take care of everybody."  Who is going to pay for it?  "Government." "Single payer works in Canada, works in Scotland."

TAX INCREASE

Proposed the largest tax increase in history, $5.8 trillion

GUNS

"I hate the concept of guns."

REPUBLICAN PARTY

Joined the Reform Party because "Republicans are too crazy right."

NEW YORK CITY VALUES

"I have lived in New York City and Manhattan all my life.  So my views are different than if I lived in Iowa."

PARTIAL BIRTH ABORTION

"I am very pro-choice...in every respect."  Would not ban partial birth abortion.

NEGOTATING A NUCLEAR DEAL WITH IRAN

"Hillary would do a good job.  She surrounds herself with good people."

FORMER SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI

"I'm very impressed with Nancy Pelosi.  Very impressive person.  I like her a lot."

BANK BAILOUTS AND STIMULUS

Supported them.  Praised President Obama:  "We have someone who knows what he is doing."

THE CLINTONS

"Hillary is a very great friend of mine.  Her husband is a great friend of mine.  I think she is very, very capable."

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

"For people who have been here for years, are hard workers with good jobs and are supporting families, it's very, very tough to say you have to leave. Get out.  You can't just throw everybody out."

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Indiana State GOP Approves Rigging of Hamilton County Chairman Election

In what should be an affront to every grass roots Republican party worker who toils in the trenches, the Indiana State GOP Rules Committee today reinstated 71 mummy dummy precinct appointments that had been made by outgoing Hamilton County GOP county chairman Peter Emigh in order to rig the election for the candidate, Fishers City Councilor Pete Peterson, he supports as his replacement.  The appointments had been vacated by Vice County GOP Chairman Laura Campbell who became acting chairman upon Emigh's resignation.
Pete Peterson

Many of the Emigh mummy dummy PCs did not even know they were appointed prior to the chairman's resignation. The appointees included Peterson's daughter, his mortgage broker, vendors who do business with Fishers, Fishers city employees, and others that were certain votes for Peterson.  Only a few of the mummy dummy appointees had been involved previously in Hamilton County politics.  Of course, the sole reason for a "mummy dummy" to be appointed to a PC or VPC slot is to attend a convention or a caucus and outvote elected PCs and others who do the actual grunt work in the party.

I have not yet seen a document justifying the Rules Committee's decision.  Two state party rules would seem to completely control the matter.  One is that precinct committeemen and vice precinct committeemen have to be appointed 30 days before the resignation of a county chairman to be eligible to vote for the chairman's replacement.   The Rules Committee must have completely ignored this rule which is in place precisely to prevent the sort of thing that happened with Emigh's appointments. The other rule is that the county chairman has absolute discretion to remove appointed PCs and VPCs. 

Although it was self-serving, Campbell was exactly right to remove the appointees. To allow scores of mummy dummy PCs and VPCs to vote this weekend for Emigh's replacement, is an insult to the hundreds of Hamilton County GOP activists who toil in the trenches, making phone calls, knocking on doors, stuffing envelopes.  There are few rewards for that type of grass roots party work, but one is the ability to vote for county chairman and other county leadership.  Today the Rules Committee told those workers too bad, that people who haven't done a lick of party work have an equal right with party workers to cast a vote for county chairman.

The Rules Committee today could have handed down a decision that supported the power and authority of grass roots party workers.  Instead they sided with party bosses who rig elections to stomp on the preferences of those grass roots workers.  Let's hope in the days ahead that the State GOP organization revisits the issue and rewrites the rules and enforces them to protect party workers instead of party bosses.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Race for Hamilton County GOP Chairman Gets Ugly

Big developments in the Hamilton County Republican County Chairman's race.  Recently a letter circulated in Hamilton County detailing Pete Peterson's supposed criminal history.  Prior to my being forwarded the letter, I was sent Peterson's a document which purported to be a listing of his criminal offenses.  Upon examining the document, I concluded it was a list of arrests and charges, often without clear indication of how the charges were disposed of.  Plus, I had no way to be 100% sure it was THE "Pete Peterson."   Further, the criminal charges I saw were approximately a quarter of a century old and the fairly minor offenses that might have been disposed of with diversion if they weren't dismissed outright.  The only offenses in this century were minor traffic violations in Hamilton County.

Needless to say, I wasn't impressed and decided not to publish.  Apparently because there was some suspicion as to who authored and sent the letter, The Constitutional Patriots, in a letter authored by Dwight Lile, disavowed doing so.

In more pertinent news, acting Hamilton County Chairman Laura Campbell sent a letter firing the 71
Laura Campbell
precinct and vice committeemen appointed by outgoing Hamilton County Chairman Peter Emigh.  Emigh had clearly made the appointments to try to rig the vote for county chairman later this month for the candidate he favored, Pete Peterson.  Campbell is also a candidate.

In an email to State Republican Chairman Jeff Cardwell, Campbell, who is also a candidate for the Hamilton County Chairman, explained her decision:
When I looked over the list, I was shocked to see that about 71 people (the “Emigh Appointments”) had been appointed to the list on 11/29/2015. Upon a review of the names of those 71, it became clear to me that Emigh was attempting to stack the deck to ensure Peterson would win. The 71 that were appointed included Peterson’s daughter, his mortgage broker who co-signed on his home loan, vendors who do business with Fishers, Fishers city employees, and a host of others who would clearly vote for Peterson. Only a few of the Emigh appointees have ever had anything to do with Hamilton County Republican politics.
I immediately contacted Kim Good, our central committee secretary, who had no idea that Emigh was resigning and had not received notice of any of the Emigh appointees mentioned above as the rules require.   At this point I knew that as acting Chairman, I had 30 days to hold the caucus and did not have to do it on January 5 as Emigh and Peterson wanted.
...
The Emigh Appointments were not in compliance with our rules, done for an improper purpose, and will disenfranchise the hundreds of elected precinct and vice precinct committeemen who actually do work on behalf of our Party and make Hamilton County the stalwart of Republican Politics that it has become.
Campbell then goes on to explain in exhaustive detail the rules she looked at and the basis for her decision. This includes the fact that the rules appear to require those eligible to vote be in office 30 days before a vacancy to vote.  Nonetheless, the state rules clearly specify that appointed PCs and VPCs, as opposed to those PCs who are elected and VPCs who receive their appointment from an elected PC, serve at the discretion of the county chairman. So Campbell, the acting county chairman, seems perfectly within her authority to remove the "mummy dummy" PC appointments that were clearly made for the purpose to rig the vote.

Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness is challenging Campbell's decision with the State Republican Party Rules Committee which is today hearing the matter.  Fadness is one of the "mummy dummy" appointees who was put into place to cast a ballot for Peterson and now finds himself unable to do so.
I just want to say "thank you" to Campbell for making this decision.  For years, I have seen these county chairman elections, as well as vacancy and slating caucuses, rigged by the county chairman appointing mummy dummy PCs to outvote the elected and appointed PCs who do the actual work in the party.  Even though Campbell's move benefits her, it was the right decision to make.

I hope that this blowup in Hamilton County encourages Chairman Cardwell and other members of the State GOP organization to make some much needed changes to the rules to stop the practice of "mummy dummy" appointments that so undermine the power of grass roots party workers.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wal-Mart Set to Give Pay Increases to Its Employees; More on the Costco $20.89 An Hour Average Pay Myth

Wal-Mart, which liberals like to cite as an example of corporate irresponsibility for its low pay, will be giving its employees pay increases later this year.  Yahoo Finance reports:
Wal-Mart is giving raises to the vast majority of its U.S. employees as part of the world's largest retailer's previously announced investment in its workforce. The move comes as it seeks to hold onto workers in an increasingly competitive market.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Wednesday said more than 1.2 million U.S. hourly workers will
get wage increases on Feb. 20. The company, the largest U.S. private employer with 1.4 million total workers, also said it will provide free, basic short-term disability to full-time hourly workers. And it will start allowing workers to accrue paid time off as they earn it.
...
Last February, Wal-Mart announced that it would raise base employee wages for 500,000 workers to $9 an hour last year, with plans to move it to $10 per hour, next month. The company also said new entry level workers hired after Jan. 1, 2016 would start at $9 per hour, but move to at least $10 an hour after completing a six-month training program. Then last June, Wal-Mart said it would raise starting wages for more than 100,000 U.S. department managers.
In total, Wal-Mart's CEO Doug McMillon said in October that last year's investment in wage increases, along with improved training, cost $1.2 billion. McMillon also said the company expects to pump $1.5 billion in to its workforce this year, although at the time he did not give details.
Wal-Mart has maintained that if it keeps its workers happy, they will serve customers better. That will lead to higher sales. Retaining and attracting workers is critical as a stronger labor market increasingly offers workers more opportunities to jump around/
"The competition for talent is strong," said Craig Rowley, global leader of consultancy Hay Group's retail practice. "It's strong because there are fewer people to hire."
What a unique idea - the market forcing an employer to pay more to retain employees who have options to work elsewhere.
Of course, liberals like to cite the example of Costco allegedly paying its hourly employees an average of $20.89 an hour, before counting overtime or benefits.  The claim was made by the Costco CEO, W. Craig Jeline, a major contributor to President Obama re-election campaign.  In speeches, Obama has cited the Costco $20.89 an hour claim as proof as to what corporations can do if they want to.  
I use "allegedly" in the above paragraph because there is absolutely no data to support Jelinek's self-serving claim which has garnered wide-spread good will Costco.  The $20.89 an hour claim has been widely reported in puff pieces about the company, without the media doing a scintilla of investigation to see if it is actually true. An example is Bloomberg News' June 2013 article "Costco CEO Craig Jelinek Leads the Cheapest, Happiest Company in the World" in which the author contrasts the $20.89 an hour Costco allegedly pays its employees to Wal-Mart's then average of $12.67 for full-time hourly employees.

Fortunately, there is a website, Glassdoor.com, which allows employees to self-report their pay.  As I noted in an article I wrote in February 2015, the thousands of Costco employees who report their pay on the website show them making nowhere near the $20.89 average claimed by Jelinek.   From the reporting, the $20.89 an hour claim seems to be a top salary for unskilled hourly workers, certaiunly not an average.  It does appear Costco pays its employees substantially better than Wal-Mart, but the difference is likely much, much closer to $3 an hour rather than the $8 an hour based on the $20.89 claim.

I have also talked personally to Costco employees, none of whom confirmed the $20.89 an hour claim.  Occasionally, I still get comments on the February 2015 article, including some from people who claim to work there.  (I haven't figured out how to shut them off and would like to since I'm tired of monitoring them.)  Two people who claim to be Costco employees recently wrote in to dispute my assertion the $20.89 an hour claim was phony;one noted that he made $14.50 an hour at Costco after four years while the other one said "top pay" at Costco is $20.89 an hour. Those comments don't begin to support the $20.89 an hour AVERAGE pay claim made by Jelinek, The other day, I received a comment who I think tells it straight about employment at Costco:
I have worked at Costco for five years now. I make just over 15$ an hour. I also drive a forklift in the evening, so I get an extra .25 an hour for the last two hours of my shift. I have decent benefits, that are great when you are first starting out at Costco in a part-time capacity and have a wife and children to take care of. I also have a fair amount of vacation and sick time, also handy with kids, though I manage to burn through it more quickly than I earn it. Kids get sick after all. Also, there is a limit throughout the year as to how many times you can use your sick time, regardless of how many times you need to use it to take care of your kids. I have been written up in the past and threatened with suspensions, what ever, my kids are sick I'm going to take care of them. As far as the raises and bonuses go, those are measured strictly through hours worked and have nothing at all to do with work ethic (which in my personal opinion breeds lazy, overpaid employees). So, regardless of how hard I work, at this time I have over 700 hours before my next raise. Since it's January which begins the slow season, Costco slashes its hours regardless of the needs of its employees, I'm getting between 24 and 28 hours a week right now. I have another 1700+ hours until I will receive my first bonus check. 1700 hours at 24 hours a week...
As far as a cost of living adjustment is concerned, I have never heard of that taking place, and I have never received any such thing within my 5 years of employment. I am however pressured to donate a portion of my pay check towards the employee club and united way 1-2 times a year, regardless of the fact my family already donates time and makes donations towards other charities of our choosing, but my personal charity isn't reflected in Costcos numbers, so they really appreciate it when we as employees can help out. Numbers, that's what I believe it comes down to at Costco. Big numbers, which they have. They have a lot of employees, many of which like working there, because they're skill sets and poor work ethics would never allow them the opportunity to slowly slug their way to 20+ an hour anywhere else. Is Costco a bad company to work for? No, I've worked for worse. However, I've also worked for much, much better. Companies that wanted you to succeed as an individual, companies that gave you the tools and guidance to do so. That's what gets to me, so many people talk as if Costco is one of the best companies out there. It's just another corporate conglomerate that's trying to make money. It's not trying to better the world or be the best company to work for if you have a strong work ethic and vision. Am I going to quit anytime soon? No, I need the money, I need the benefits... at least until I manage to get through school. Then I will leave. So, if you just got out of high school or recently dropped out of college and have no real drive to succeed at life and just want to skim buy for the next 20+years, yes... Costco is probably a pretty good fit for you. However, if you want more out of life than just some 20$ an hour carrot being waved around in your face, you may want to take into consideration the possibility that the "Costco is the best retail place to work" perception may be more of an Urban Legend than fact. Anyways, like Costco, don't like Costco... It's a multi-billion dollar, international company that opens up plenty of new stores all over the world every year... It's not going any where or changing it's business practices anytime soon.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Nate Silver Analysis Finds Trump Most Unpopular GOP Candidate With Independents, Democrats

Over at Five Thirty Eight Politics, Nate Silver has an excellent article in which he examines the popularity of the Republican presidential candidates over the past six weeks. Here is what Silver found when looking at Gallup polling data in which voters are asked whether they viewed candidates as "favorable" or "unfavorable":

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While Trump's favorability ratings have improved among Republicans over the last several weeks, he still is more unpopular than any Republican candidate not named Jeb Bush, Chris Christie or John Kasich, all card carrying members of the Establishment.  Meanwhile Trump rates by far the most unpopular candidate with independents, sporting a -27 rating, more than half of Bush's -13 rating.  All other GOP candidates are in single digits, both positive and negative.  Meanwhile Trump has a -70 rating with Democrats, a figure almost double Cruz's negative rating of -37.  While Trump no doubt appeals to some Democrats and independents, when looking at the total picture the Silver analysis show that those voters are less inclined to support him than the other Republican candidates.

Silver then expanded his analysis to see if the results would be duplicated with other pollsters.  Using favorable-unfavorable poll information collected by the Huffington Post, he finds Trump leading the pack at -25 followed by Jeb Bush -22, Rick Santorum -22, Rand Paul -16, Christie -13, Mike Huckabee -12, Carly Fiorina -8, John Kasich -7, Ted Cruz -7, Marco Rubio -1, Ben Carson 0. 

Before the Democrats start celebrating the unpopularity of the Republican candidates, they should consider that their own leading candidate, Hillary Clinton, sports a -8 rating among the voters.  The only presidential candidate with a positive rating is Bernie Sanders at +3.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

GOP Establishment Set to Back Trump to Stop Conservative, True Believer Cruz

I'd like to say I'm surprised.  RedState has an article today "The GOP Establishment Goes All In for Donald Trump" about how members of the Establishment are set to cut a deal with Donald Trump for their support.  In the article, "Streiff" from RedState pieces together several quotes showing GOP consultants and House Republicans are ready to line up behind Trump. 

Here are the reasons for the unholy alliance cited in the article:
1) Trump is merely an "opportunist" who they can "suck up to" and cut deals with. Cruz,
Donald Trump
however, is a true believer who would push the GOP establishment out of power.
2) Trump's political views lack substance and are malleable.   When people ask "where's the beef" when it comes to his views, the Establishment will be more than happy to provide that beef.
Streiff goes on to outline why he believes a Trump candidacy doesn't strike fear in the Establishment's heart:
... their objection to Trump is not based on anything that Trump stands for… to the extent we can presume to know what that may be… but rather on aesthetics. Trump is in their social circle. They go to the same parties. They play golf together. They belong to the same clubs and are on the boards of the same philanthropies. Trump is quintessential establishment. What they don’t like is his public (I say public because I’ve never met Trump and certainly never been around him in a private setting) persona. They don’t like his populism. They don’t like his seeking the adoration of the mob rather than ruling the mob. But, push come to shove, he is one of them, they are convinced they can deal with him because he really doesn’t have any guiding principles above self-interest. In other words, they are Trump but with better public manners.
Cruz, on the other hand, represents something they have never had to deal with: a man who actually believes what he is campaigning on.
The claim that Trump is a populist is where I part company with Streiff.   I have long argued that the GOP needs to move in a more populist direction, focusing on the concerns of working men and women instead of cozing up to the Wall Street and Chambers of Commerce.  Ilya Somin writing for the Volokh Conspiracy, says it best when he notes in his article "The Conservative Case Against Trump" that the New York businessman's "disdain for constitutional property rights and his long history of crony capitalism should also trouble conservatives, or indeed free market advocates of any kind."

Ever the opportunist,Trump is not riding a populist wave. Trump is instead riding the populist reaction to the GOP Establishment for so long ignoring the concerns of working men and women to focus on crony capitalism, i.e. taking money, directly and indirectly,from the pockets of ordinary folks to enrich corporate elites...people like Donald Trump.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Who Should a Libertarian Leaning, Limited Government Republican Vote For?

On my way back from Florida, I was able to hear the middle part of the GOP presidential debate after leaving the airport and watch the conclusion on the debate on television.  What I heard left this libertarian-leaning, limited government wanting for better candidates.

Rubio - I so want to like Florida Senator Marco Rubio.  Unlike some conservatives, I'm not bothered by his trying to broker a compromise that would fix our very broken immigration system.  But every
Sen. Rand Paul
time I hear Rubio talk about privacy issues, I cringe.  He has no problem with the Patriot Act or the NSA metadata phone collection program and says it should be expanded.  He said Snowden is a traitor for exposing the program.  Of course, if Snowden had not reported the existence of the program, our federal government would be still collecting data on every cell phone call made in the United States, a program which has been held to be a violation of the 4th Amendment.  (People on the national security committees, like Rubio, knew about the program and did nothing to reign it in.)  Rubio also chided Ted Cruz for voting against a defense bill that would allow the indefinite detention of Americans without so much as a hearing if they're accused of working with terrorists.  Ugh.  I have to wonder how far Rubio would go in taking away Americans' liberties in the war against terrorism.

Christy - Never been a fan of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  But I would be willing to my objections if he wasn't so bad on some key issues..  Christy like Rubio is willing to trample on Americans' privacy if he deems the cause is just.  Christie also has zero respect for federalism.  His comment that the federal government should aggressively enforce marijuana laws in those states where they've decided to decriminalize or legalize marijuana is about as anti-10th Amendment position as a Republican could take.  His law and order act is so 1990s and does not reflect the views of many, if not most, Republicans today.

Bush - Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's comment that Apple CEO Tim Cook should be have his arm twisted to give up client's private information without first obtaining a warrant is absurd.  Warrants are easy to get.  If there is probable cause to believe someone is conspiring with terrorists, go to court and get a warrant. 

Trump - New York businessman Donald Trump has displayed in past comments he has zero respect for federalism and has no understanding of how separation of powers works.  He believes he can just issue "executive orders" to not only override Congress but decisions under the Constitution that are left to state and local officials.  No one criticizing President Obama for abuse of executive orders should even consider voting for Trump.

Cruz - Of all the aforementioned candidates, Ted Cruz is the best on federalism and privacy issues.  But even he has backed down at times when faced with concern his positions might not be popular with the GOP electorate.   And Cruz, like Bush and Trump, supports aggressive interventionism and seems to want to give the military a blank check when it comes to spending.   Those are also positions opposed by many Republicans.

The only one who seems to "get it" when it comes to privacy and federalism, as well as the need to tread carefully in overseas military engagements, is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who unfortunately wasn't on the stage.  The Republican Party sorely missed his voice last night. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Favorite of Hamilton Co. GOP Establishment Takes on Powerful Indiana State Senator

A major political battle is brewing in Hamilton County.  Luke Kenley, head of the Senate Appropriation Committee and the key legislator on budgetary matters, is being targeted for defeat in his bid for re-election this year.   Members of the Hamilton County GOP establishment, including Pete Peterson, a member of the Fishers City Council and a leading candidate for county chairman, Establishment have decided to back political newcomer Scott Willis instead.  Willis' facebook page can be found here and link to his campaign website can be found here.

According to the bio on his website, Willis has served in the Marines and is still active as a Colonel
in the Marine Reserves.  Upon returning from active duty in Iraq, Wilis founded Arnett Management Solutions which "focuses in pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturing and works with Fortune 100 and small companies alike."  Later he started a second company called Jarhead Holdings, which invests in commercial and residential real estate and currently owns and manages properties throughout Hamilton County.

Kenley sports a likewise impressive resume. Kenley was a 1st Lieutenant in the Army and graduated from Harvard Law School.  Kenley owns and operates  a grocery store in Noblesville.

What has apparently triggered the Hamilton County GOP establishment opposition to Kenley is the Senator's opposition to some proposals that could lead to higher local taxes and his unwillingness to support some of the spending measures supported by local GOP politicians.  Three cities in the district, Carmel, Westfield  and Fishers, are led by Mayors who have aggressively pushed corporate welfare schemes, often funded by higher taxes, as a so-called economic development tool.  Willis lists "strategic economic development" and "funding our schools" as a priority.

It remains to be seen whether Willis can overcome the institutional advantages Kenley has as an incumbent Indiana state senator.  What is most interesting about this race, is that the challenge to Kenley, who has not always been a favorite with Tea Party Republicans, is actually coming from the Senator's left.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Rand Paul Excluded from Debate Because of Delayed Release of Poll That Would Have Qualified Him

CBS News reports:
A new poll out Wednesday from the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics would have gotten Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, onto the main stage for the Fox Business Network's Republican debate, but the network is sticking to its guns and telling him the results will stand.
Add caption
The Fox Business criteria, released in late December, said that a candidate had to place among the top six candidates nationally in an average of the five most recent national polls recognized by Fox News, or in the top five in either Iowa or New Hampshire, based on recognized polls in those states. They used 17 polls during the selection process, which are listed in a memo from the network.
The catch (for Paul, at least): The polls had to be released by Monday, January 11 at 6 p.m. ET.
The Des Moines  Register concluded their polling by Jan. 10 - the same as the Quinnipiac and ARG surveys, which were included - but they did not release the poll until 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, 36 hours after the deadline. Paul placed fifth in that poll, and including it as one of the five most recent surveys considered would have put Paul in a tie for fifth place with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 4.2 percent, according to CBS News calculations.
It is a shame if the decision stands and the libertarian-leaning Republican Rand Paul is not included in the debate.  Paul's views against an interventionist foreign policy and supporting individual privacy enjoys significant support among Republicans, particularly younger GOP voters.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

New Polls Show Hillary Clinton in Serious Danger of Losing Iowa

While Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has consistently polled ahead in New Hampshire, home of the country's first presidential primary, the expectation has always been that Hillary Clinton would go into that defeat having first won the Iowa caucus.  Now new polling out of Iowa suggests a Sanders' surge in that state may leave Clinton with an 0-2 record before heading off to the Nevada caucus and South Carolina primary held later in February.

A poll released today from Quinnipiac University shows Sanders with a 49-44 lead over Clinton in the Hawkeye state.  A Quinnipiac poll just a month ago showed Clinton with an 11 point lead.  The new Quinnipiac poll shows Clinton with a major gender gap problem. While Clinton enjoys a 16 point lead over Sanders among women (55-39)), men favor Sanders by 31 points(61-30). In December, the Quinnipiac poll showed Clinton winning with women by 27% and losing men to Sanders by 13%.

Meanwhile, Public Policy Polling (PPP) also issued an Iowa poll today showing Clinton leading Sanders by 6 points in Iowa.  In mid-December, a PPP poll had Clinton leading Sanders by 18 points in that state. In short, both the Monmouth and PPP polls show double digit movement towards Sanders in just one month period.

Recent polls not only are showing movement away from Clinton in favor of Sanders, but the polls also showing movement from Clinton toward Republican candidates in head-to-head matchups. Given there has been no major stumbles by the Clinton on the campaign trail of late, it is not clear what is driving people away from supporting Hillary Clinton

In a very much related development, the Clinton machine is now hitting Sanders disingenuously asserting Sanders does not support Obamacare.  Actually Sanders wants to go further than Obamacare, mandating single-payer (government) insurance coverage for everyone.

Governor Pence Avoids Taking Position on LGBT Bill, Insists Freedom of Religion, Conscience Will Be Protected

In his State of the State speech tonight, Governor Mike Pence did not take a position on adding LGBT protections to Indiana's civil rights laws.  But he expressed very strong support for religious freedom:

"I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the Constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work. ... And no
one should ever fear persecution because of their deeply-held religious beliefs."

The attorney in me noted a key point the Governor made, namely that Indiana's Constitution not only protects the freedom to worship and exercise one's religious faith, but also protects "freedom of conscience," a distinction that makes Indiana's constitutional provision regarding religious freedom more broad than that contained in the First Amendment.

Pence's words seem to suggest that legislation authored by Senator Travis Holdman,(R-Markle), a bill which appears to have the support of the Indiana Republican leadership in the General Assembly, does not sufficiently protect religious freedom.  As currently constituted the proposed law provides no protection for an individual's religious freedom or conscientious objections to such things as participating in a same sex wedding.

Freedom Indiana was none too happy with the Governor's speech: 
"This is a complete letdown. In his speech tonight, after 10 months of allegedly listening to Hoosiers, Governor Pence chose to punt the critical issue of civil rights protections for gay and transgender people to Indiana lawmakers. We are disappointed in his lack of leadership on an update that we know a majority of people in our state support. 
... 
Governor Pence may have taken a major step toward his re-election tonight.  Contrary to the poor political advice he's been given in the past, Governor Pence appears to have reached the conclusion that standing up for religious freedom is smart politics. We will see if he lives up to those words as the legislative session continues.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Leading Republican Candidates Gain Ground and Now Lead Hillary Clinton in Head-to-Head Polling

While the first nationwide poll in two weeks show little change in the Republican field, it does show the leading GOP candidates dramatically improving their position with respect to the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton

The Fox News poll (conducted jointly by Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R)) released yesterday has Donald Trump with 35% leading second place candidate Texas
Hillary Clinton
Senator Ted Cruz who checks in with 20%.  Florida Senator Marco Rubio (13%) and Ben Carson (10%) are the only other candidates in double figures. 

The anti-establishment candidates (Trump, Cruz, Carson, Carly Fiorina and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul) total 70%.  This is the level the anti-establishment candidates have polled at for several months, with the only change being supporters shuffling among the anti-Establishment candidates.  It is difficult to see a scenario in which an Establishment candidate like Rubio or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie can win in this environment.

The previous Fox News poll in mid-December had Trump at 39% and Cruz second at 18%.  No news there.  The changes are well within the margin of error.

The major change in the Fox Poll is the general election head-to-head matchups.  In the mid-December Fox poll, Trump trailed Clinton by 11%.  The new poll has him leading her by 3%.  That is a gain of 14% in less than a month.

Trump is not the only Republican whose fortunes against the likely Democratic nominee have greatly improved.  In the earlier Fox poll, Cruz polled even with Hillary Clinton.  In the most recent one he leads by 7%.  Rubio went from a 2% lead in the mid-December Fox poll to 9% in the most recent one.

To summarize, in about three weeks, Trump gained 14% in head-to-head polling with Hillary Clinton, while Cruz and Rubio each gained 7% during that time. 

It should be noted that a Fox poll in mid-November showed Republicans doing much better in head-to-head matchups than mid-December Fox poll.  But that was also during a time Hillary Clinton was experiencing substantial set-backs during her campaign.  She's widely considered to have corrected those problems although Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continues to garner substantial Democratic support in the polls.  In fact, the Fox poll shows Sanders with 39% support, the highest he's ever polled nationally.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Religious Freedom Activist Makes Howey Politics 2016 Power 50 List

Congratulations to Monica Boyer who made it the Howey Politics 2016 Power 50 List. Finishing 38th this is what Brian Howey had to say about Boyer:
Monica Boyer
38. Monica Boyer: The Kosciusko County Tea Party activist is said to be recruiting a primary challenger for Senate President David Long and others who would support SB100. She's had success on this front, playing a key role in defeating not only U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, but moderate State Reps Rebecca Kubacki and Kathy Heuer in 2014.  
If the social conservatives revolt from Gov. Pence over the civil rights legislation, Boyer will be fanning the flames. On her blog this week, she is quoting Dr. Peter Scaer who is terming
SB100 as "Orwellian" and on the verge of the "truly awful." She believes
SB100 will "put a target" on Christians and is "weaponizing" the politically correct movement. Boyer's blog, "Not On My Watch," is a must-read for gauging the social conservative/ evangelical right.
In the list, Howey recognized the extraordinary power of the Indiana legislature has relative to the Governor, naming Speaker Brian Bosma as No. 1 and Senate President Pro Tem David Long as No. 2 on the.  Gov. Mike Pence finished third on the list.  Unlike the power wielded by the executive in virtually every other other state, in Indiana the governor's veto can be overridden by a simple majority of both chambers (most require 2/3) and the governor has no line item veto.

The rest of the top 20 on the Howey list are as follows:
4. John Gregg 5. Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann 6. U.S. Rep. Todd Young 7. State Sen. Travis Holdman 8. U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman 9. State Sen. Luke Kenley 10. U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly 11. Supt. Glenda Ritz 12. Baron Hill 13. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett 14. U.S. Sen. Dan Coats 15. U.S. Rep. Luke Messer 16. Chris Paulsen 17. Eric Miller, Curt Smith, Micah Clark and Jim Bopp Jr. 18. NCAA President Mark Emmert 19. Tom New and Marty Obst 20. Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke
The Howey publication, including the list, can be found here.

Resigned Hamilton County Chairman May Have Stacked the Deck for Hand-Picked Successor

Probably no place in Indiana is home to more political cronyism than Hamilton County.  In a December 31, 2015 story announcing the resignation of Hamilton County Republican Chairman Peter Emigh, the Indianapolis Star had this to say about politics in that county under Emigh's tenure:
Emigh and former Executive Director Andrew Greider were criticized by some party members after they helped form private political action committees to steer money to specific primary candidates they favored in races against other Republicans.
Emigh managed the Shamrock PAC, which mainly aided Westfield candidates, and
Pete Peterson
Greider managed the Royal-Tiger PAC, which mainly aided Fishers candidates.
Neither PAC is active today. Before the May primary, Emigh ceded control of the Shamrock PAC to the son of Westfield Mayor Andy Cook, who then donated more than $99,000 to his father. About $37,000 from the Shamrock PAC was transferred to a new PAC that remains active, HCL PAC.
Emigh also was criticized for managing employee retirement accounts in Carmel, Noblesville and Westfield valued at nearly $70 million — all cities whose mayors he has backed financially through a PAC.
Emigh and Greider have said they are acting as private citizens, not as party officials using party resources, when backing candidates with the two PACs. Emigh has said his job has had no influence on whom he supports in races.
Sure...the fact that Emigh would continue to make a ton of money managing retirement accounts in Carmel, Noblesville, and Westfield if the right person won the Mayor's race had absolutely no influence over who he supported in those races.  Emigh expects people to actually buy that nonsense?   As luck would have it, Emigh supported all the incumbent mayors who also sent work his way.

Now that Emigh's crony-tarnished tenure is about to close, it appears he is taking one more step to ensure that the insider deals continue in Hamilton County.  Reportedly, during the last month of his being chairman, Emigh made 70 plus party appointments to the county's 216 precincts, appointees who will be eligible to vote for his favored candidate, Pete Peterson. treasurer of the party and president of the Fishers City Council.  Laura Campbell, who is currently vice chairman of the party and a newly elected member of the Carmel City Council, may also be running.

People may remember Peterson as Treasurer of the Royal Progress Committee and author of the infamous letter on behalf of that committee asking businesses in Fishers for $3,500 if they wished to have exclusive meetings about the future of the city.  This is from the letter:
I invite you to assist us by becoming a Member of the Royal Tiger Progress Committee for an annual membership fee of $3,500, where we can meet to discuss your suggestions and ideas about improving our community.  Members will be invited to exclusive meetings throughout the year in Fishers where we will plan to present a brief program to discuss current issues in the community followed by some open discussion.  We will be able to share information about what is happening in Fishers, in many cases before you hear about it in the news.
(An interesting side note I stumbled across during my research for this article:   Hamilton County election officials redact the names of all Treasurers of campaign committees, including PACs and those of individual candidates.  It is not clear what possible authority there is for redacting what is obviously public information.)

Some lengthy but necessary background on the change in rules that now allow county chairmen like Emigh to stack the deck. Until the mid-1980s, county chairmen were elected at a county party convention in June following the May primary at which precinct committeemen were elected. Both PCs and county chairman served two year terms. However, only elected PCs were eligible to vote at the June convention. That changed with statutory revisions in the middle 1980s, the so-called John Sweezy forever bills.  (Sweezy was the long-time Marion County GOP chairman at the time.)  The bills (which have since been replaced by party rules) set it up so that both the county chairman and PCs would be on four year terms but the county chairman would be elected in March, nearly 3 years after the election of the PCs.  As a result, PCs appointed to fill vacancies by the county chairman could vote for the first time. The change allowed the county chairmen to hand pick many of the very people who would be voting at the county convention.

Elected PCs must actually live in the precinct they represent. However when it comes to a county chairman appointing someone to represent a precinct, that person can come from anywhere in the county.  Appointed PCs serve at the will of the chairman and can be replaced if they don't agree to vote "the right way." I once was removed as an appointed PC because I wouldn't vote for the re-election of the county chairman.

Laura Campbell
Another twist is that while the person elected as PC is a public record, if the county chairman appoints someone to a PC slot the name of that individual is not treated as a public record.  Obtaining a list of party precinct workers is next to impossible.  County chairmen typically guard those lists as if they were embarrassing family secrets. swapping in and out names when needed to rig not only county convention votes but also caucuses held to fill vacancies in elected office.

As if being able to appoint a slew of PCs wasn't enough, the rules now also make a vice precinct committeeman eligible to vote for county chairman. Although technically PCs can pick their own VPCs, party rules require that the selection be "certified" in writing within a week after the election of the PC.  If an elected PC fails to meet this deadline, and few do, the appointment of a VPC also passes permanently to the county chairman. Elected PCs and their selected VPCs have to live in the precinct he or she represents. But a PC (and VPC) appointed by the county chairman can live anywhere in the county.

The result in Marion County is that generally about 85% of PC slots eligible to vote at a county convention are appointed by the county chairman.  Probably 95% of VPCs slots are via appointment.  A county like Hamilton County is not nearly as bad for those wanting to challenge the party establishment due to the large pool of Republican voters available to run and be elected as PC,   Still Hamilton County has enough precincts that the opportunities for someone like Emigh to put his finger on the scale and influence the vote are enormous.  Campbell can still win the race against Peterson, but Emigh is going to make sure Peterson has a big head start.

The time has long passed for Indiana Republican Party to change its rules so that we return to a system that encourages the election of PCs.  Those elected PCs should not have their power and authority undermined by county chairmen appointing folks to outvote those elected PCs who have earned the trust of their friends and neighbors at the ballot box.