Thursday, August 9, 2018

Uncounted Provisional, Absentee Ballots Provide Opportunity for Democrat to Win Ohio Special Election After All

Yesterday I wrote an article on the special congressional district race in Ohio in which I said GOP candidate Troy Balderson "appears" to have narrowly edged out the Democrat Danny O'Connor in a heavily Republican district located near Columbus, Ohio.   On election night, Balderson's lead was over 1,700 votes, giving him a nearly 1% edge on his opponent.  If the margin is less than .5% then under Ohio law an automatic recount is triggered. The speculation was whether the uncounted
Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor
provisional and absentee ballots might be enough to kick the race into recount territory which Balderson would like to avoid.

It "appears" now that a recount may be the least of Balderson's fears.  First, Franklin County, home to Columbus, Ohio, discovered some uncounted ballots which, when counted, narrowed Balderson's election night lead of 1,754 to 1,564.   Then there remains 5,048 absentee ballots and 3,435 provisional ballots to count.  The latter ballots are from people who do not appear on the voter registration rolls, but who are willing to sign an affidavit saying they are eligible to vote.  If just 59% of those 8,481 ballots break for the Democrat - which is quite possible given the enthusiasm gap favoring the Democrats in the district - O'Connor wins the election by 77 votes.

While I am not sure how many provisional ballots are typically cast in Ohio congressional races, the figure of 3,435 seems extraordinarily high.  What you are likely to see - if the winner ultimately "appears" to be O'Connor after counting these additional votes - are Republican attorneys challenging the provisional ballots that put the Democrat over the top.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ohio Special Election Results Confirm Almost Certain Blue Wave This November

Yesterday, the special election in Ohio Congressional District 12 provided yet more evidence that a blue wave is coming this fall.   In results from last night, it appears that Republican Troy Balderson will narrowly defeat Democrat Danny O'Connor.  The final result depends on absentee and provisional ballots, but Balderson will likely win by a few hundred votes when all ballots are tallied.

Ohio District 12 is a heavy Republican district which has been held by the GOP since 1980.  Republican Pat Tiberi won the district by nearly 37 points in 2016.  Tiberi ran far ahead of Donald Trump who won the district by 10 points.  Then in 2018, Balderson wins it for the GOP again, but this
time with less than a 1% margin. 

Over at Fox News, a political analyst (I use that term charitably) declares the result of the Balderson-O'Connor contest to be a sign there will be no blue wave this fall and the positive impact of Donald Trump's last minute visit had on Balderson's victory.  Of course, that's crap political analysis.  Ohio District 12 was competitive in the special election for one reason and one reason only:  Donald J. Trump.

Supposedly Balderson was cringing about Trump's last minute visit to the district, which no doubt ginned up the Democratic opposition to his candidacy much more than it motivated Trump Republicans.  Fortunately for Balderson, he also had the endorsement of a politician in Ohio who. unlike Trump, is actually popular with general election voters, Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich who also used to represent the district in Congress.  On election night, Balderson thanked Trump, but neglected to mention Kasich's support which no doubt was much more helpful in securing the narrow victory.  Not smart since Balderson will need Kasich's support to win in the remtach set for November.

Taking a closer look at the county-by-county vote in Ohio 12 is noteworthy.  The Franklin County portion of the district, the northern suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, went heavily for the Democrat in contrast to recent history.  Delaware County, the wealthy suburban county immediately north of Franklin County, used to vote heavily for Republicans and gave Tiberia 72% of the vote in 2016.  In the special election though, Balderson only received 54%of the vote in Franklin County

In politic prognostication, the margin of election victories matter.  When heavily Republican districts are barely being won by the GOP, that means there are a whole slew of closer districts which will not not survive the blue wave that only a fool does not see is coming.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Majority of People Supports Roe v. Wade...Or Do They?

Yesterday I tuned into the Morning Joe political show.  The discussion focused on the newly-appointed, not yet confirmed, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.  The hosts put up a new NBC / Wall Street Journal poll which showed 71% of the people were against reversing Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that established a constitutional right to abortion.  

As is typical with the media, these "Do you support Roe v. Wade" poll results were accepted as proof
that the pro-life position on abortion is highly unpopular and it is a winning political issue for Democrats who skew heavily pro-choice.  Of course, that overlooks the fact that the pro-life Republican Party have been beating the Democrats at the ballot box us using the abortion issue for 40 plus years.  But let's not confuse left-leaning journalists with facts.

NBC News reporter Heidi Przybyla appearing  Morning Joe program said the notion that Roe established "abortion on demand" is simply a false anti-abortion rights talking point  She then decried the possibility, if Kavanaugh is confirmed, that, even if Roe is not overturned, there will be a continued chipping away of abortion rights with the court allowing states to enact restrictions.

The "abortion on demand" language may be a pro-life talking point but that does not make it false.  In 1973, the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade did read into the Constitution a sweeping right to abortion that included unfettered abortion on demand during the first two trimesters of pregnancy.  In 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaffirmed Roe v. Wade, modifying its holding only slightly by replacing the artificial second trimester cutoff point, which no longer approximately reflected viability which had moved to an earlier point due to medical science advances.  Casey did allow states to enact more regulations on abortion prior to viability, but only if those regulations did not impose and "undue burden" on the right of a woman to seek an abortion.  That means government cannot place "substantial obstacles" that result in any woman wanting an abortion being able to get one. 

Since 1973, states have tried to pass laws regulating the abortion procedure. Most of these laws are highly popular with  the public, but they have been struck down as not being permitted under Roe/Casey.    Let's examine some of the latest (May 2018) Gallup polling on abortion.
Abortion should be legal under all circumstances: 29%
Abortion should be legal under most circumstances:  14%
Abortion should be legal only in a few circumstances: 35% 
Abortion should be illegal in all circumstances:  18%
Should abortion be legal in the first trimester:   60% yes, 34% no.
Should abortion be legal in the second trimester: 28% yes, 65% no.Should abortion be legal in the third trimester:  13% yes, 81% no 
Should abortion be legal "when the woman doesn't want the child for any reason":  46% yes, 53% no 
Other measures requiring parental consent and informed consent laws are also quite popular although those poll questions were more dated.
The highlighted responses are completely contradicted by the actually holding of Roe v. Wade.  So then why is Roe so popular?  

Simple.  It is because the general public does not know the sweeping abortion rights Roe v. Wade establishes as required by the Constitution.  No doubt those people answering the polls think the decision only provides a very limited right to abortion,.  

That Roe v. Wade, the one establishing only a limited right to abortion, is the one they want upheld.  Unfortunately, that is not the real holding of Roe v. Wade.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

In Declaring Support for Trump, Indianapolis Star Cartoonist Confuses Trumpism With Conservativism

Let me just say that  I am long a fan of Indianapolis Star cartoonist Gary Varvel's work.  In an era in which our local paper has shrunk in size, importance and quality, the Star has managed to retain one of the best, if not the best, political cartoonist in the country.  The fact he has also been (note the use of the past tense) a solid conservative, makes it even better.

In a column yesterday, Varvel explained how he went from being a Trump critic to a Trump supporter.
Gary Varvel
The thesis of his pieceis that Trump has proven himself a true conservative by his actions and thus deserving of the cartoonist's support.

In a comment to the article, I wrote how Varvel is confusing Trumpism with conservativism.  Here is that comment with some editing and additions:
Sorry, Gary Varvel, but I respectfully must question your conservative bona fides. You may have been late joining the Trump cult, but you're clearly drinking the Kool-Aid now, abandoning all objectivity and independent thought at the door. I'm sorry, but we real conservatives don't support huge federal deficits, including supporting a tax cut funded completely by borrowing against the next generation. We don't support ridiculous trade wars that result in higher prices for consumers and costs Americans their jobs.  
We real conservatives don't attack American democratic values and institutions, including calling our free and independent press "the enemy of the state." (No one knows better than me the liberal bias among reporters. But our free press is the only thing that can ultimately hold public officials accountable.) 
We conservatives support the rule of law. Trump clearly believes he is above the laws that others need to follow.
A true conservative would be upset about a foreign power, especially one hostile to American interests, meddling in our elections and would demand to know what happened.  Instead, Trump and his minions in Congress are doing everything they can to obstruct and discredit the investigation, protecting not only the administration from accusations of wrongdoing but Russia as well.  That is not conservativism.
We conservatives support open, honest government.   We don't support elected officials using their positions to personally enrich themselves as this President and others in his administration have done. Corruption should not be something tolerated because of the team jersey one is wearing.  
We real conservatives don't engage in race baiting and respect women, including those who are harassed in the work place or are sexually assaulted by powerful men.  Conservatives support women feeling empowered to speak out.  Trump mocks those women and their new found freedom to support sexual harassment.  To Trump, the man is always wrongly accused...unless he's a Democrat.
Real conservatives value democracy around the world and support liberty and human rights. Trump attacks democratically-elected leaders who defend freedom in their own countries while embracing dictators who kill political opponents and journalists and engage in horrific human rights abuses. 
I'm sorry, Mr. Varvel, you are no longer a "conservative." You are a Trumpian. There is a difference. A huge difference.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Indiana GOP Leaders Reaction to Attorney General Groping Allegations Reveals Double Standard

The Indianapolis Star reports:

Three of Indiana's top Republican leaders called on embattled Attorney General Curtis Hill to resign following allegations that he inappropriately touched four women at an Indianapolis bar in March.
In coordinated statements Thursday night, Gov. Eric Holcomb, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate leader David Long demanded that Hill, a fellow Republican, step down immediately. They also called for an Indiana inspector general investigation — which Inspector General Lori Torres said Friday morning would occur. 
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill
A chorus of other voices, including Lt. Gov Suzanne Crouch and Secretary of State Connie Lawson, both Republicans, would soon join.
...
In their joint statement, Long and Bosma said they believe Hill's accusers "are telling the truth regardless of the attorney general’s denial of these allegations."
Then you have a statement a few days ago from Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer:
“It’s important to be clear: As the Republican Party, we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and that’s the standard to which we all should adhere. Actions like these alleged have no place in public life or anywhere else."
Sounds good, except when you consider that Chairman Hupfer is also a big supporter of President Trump who is credibly accused of sexual assault by some twenty women, sixteen more than the number who accused Hill.  Last night at a rally in Montana, Trump mocked the #MeToo movement that has encouraged women like Hill's accusers to come forward and talk about sexual harassment.  Yesterday was also Fox News executive Bill Shine's first day on the job joining the Trump administration with the title "Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications."    Shine was fired at Fox News for his role in covering up sexual harassment at the network, including incidents involving Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly.

Attorney General Hill should not concern himself about resigning because there will no doubt be a job waiting for him in the Trump administration.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Anger Over Trump's Internment of Children Finally Awakens Republicans to Fact Trump Is Political Liability

President's Trump's policy of separating children from their parents who attempt to cross the U.S. border illegally (and contrary to the President's lies, it is his policy, not the law) has infuriated all but the most die hard members of the Trump cult  It seems the Trump policy, more than any other, has finally awakened the public to the fact that our President, far from being a "patriot," cares not one bit about the American people. Of course, many of us would say that fact should have been obvious from Trump's history before arriving in the White House. After all, the man tried to use eminent domain to take away a little old lady's house for more parking for limos for his casino, ran a bogus "university" that bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from people desperate to improve their lives, and has stiffed scores of employees and small business owners. And that's the short list.

Maybe more importantly, the anger the Trump policy is creating might have finally awakened Republicans in Congress to the fact the Trump is leading them off a political cliff.  While it is virtually impossible for the GOP to lose the Senate in 2018, a strong economy and gerrymandering could have kept the inevitable double figure loss of GOP House seats to a minimum. Trump's internment of children, however, could instead lead to staggering losses in the House one that might lay the ground for Trump's impeachment if the coming Mueller report sets forth the case (it likely will) that the President committed impeachable offenses.  Trump has few Republican fans in the Senate. If the GOP is slaughtered in the 2018 mid-terms, do not think for a second that 17 or so GOP Senators can't be found to vote for Trump's removal so he's not a political albatross in 2020.

Trump did defeat 16 other GOP candidates during the nomination process.  But in politics you are not a "winner" unless you succeed in general elections.    There is absolutely nothing to suggest Trump has broad Reaganesque-like appeal to the general electorate that would justify so many elected Republican officials ditching their integrity and values to board the Trump Train.  Trump lost the popular vote to the most unpopular Democratic candidate in history.  He only won the Presidency thanks to the Electoral College.  If 39,000 votes in three states were switched, we'd be talking about President Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump. Every drive through Columbus, Indiana?  Less than the population of Columbus decided the 2016 election.

There is nothing that has happened since the 2016 election that suggests Trump has broadened his very narrow appeal.  Indeed Trump has shrunk the size of the Republican Party and turned off independents.  Then you have continually evolving demographics which favor Democrats.  As I said on election night, Trump's election will prove to be the greatest thing that every happened to the Democratic Party.  The unpopularity of Trumpism will for decades taint my GOP and the conservative values I have supported all my life.  Nothing "winning" about that.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Apology to Commentators on Blog

My apologies to those who have attempted to comment on my recent blog articles.  Apparently the feature is not working.  I will work to try to get it fixed.  Until then, perhaps people should just consider I am right so why bother with a response?  Unless, of course, it is to publicly congratulate me for being right.  I like it when people do that.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Toll Roads Appear on Horizon Thanks to Indiana General Assembly

During the 2017 Indiana General Assembly, our legislators increased the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon.  While I was concerned about such an increase, particularly because the gas tax is not dedicated 100% to road improvements, my bigger concern was a provision in the bill which bestowed upon the Governor the unilateral authority to impose tolls on Indiana interstates.  

I loathe toll roads.  Tolling limited access roads like interstates divert large volumes of traffic to non-
tolled, local roads not capable of handling the additional vehicles.   Those cars end up in neighborhoods where people work and play.  Their safety is endangered.   Home values decrease as more cars speed by residents' front doors.

There is one thing though I hate more than toll roads.  I utterly despise when legislative bodies abdicate their responsibility by giving the executive what should be legislative power, particularly when it is a blank check to raise my taxes (yes, tolls are a tax).  Undoubtedly Republican legislators who control the legislature were thinking they  could escape responsibility for raising taxes in the future by giving Governor Holcomb the power to impose tolls, a move that would be highly unpopular with voters.  Plus, their thinking is that since the Governor is a Republican, he can be trusted  to handle the tolling authority in a responsible, i.e. conservative, way. 

For the sake of taxpayers, let's hope so.   From an Indianapolis Star article from Monday:
 
A strategic plan that could clear the way for Indiana to add tolls to its interstate highways, including inside the I-465 loop in Indianapolis, is being developed by a state contractor.
The state just signed a $9.6 million contract with HNTB Indiana Inc. to study the impact of tolling and provide project planning if the state chooses to move forward with tolling
The administration of Gov. Eric Holcomb is required to study tolling under the road-funding plan lawmakers passed in 2017 but hasn't officially decided to impose the fees on motorists. 
Under the law, Holcomb also is permitted to draft a strategic plan "if the governor determines that tolling is the best means of achieving major interstate system improvements in Indiana." 
Delegates to the 1850 Indiana Constitution Convention purposefully gave the Indiana General Assembly the power to check the power of governor.  That is not done when the legislature bestows upon the Governor what is essentially legislative power.  It is particularly irresponsible when the legislature gives the governor the unfettered authority to raise taxes.  If tolls happen in Indiana, which looks very likely, let's not forget to blame the legislators who made those new taxes possible.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Closer Look at California Primary Results Reveals Democratic Surge in Participation

After writing about the California primary election results being favorable for the Democrats, I ran across an article written Dan Palmer of The Hill who wrote an article titled "There is No 'Blue Wave' in California."  In the article, Palmer aggregates the partisan vote in the California jungle primary and then concludes that, since Republican candidates received more vote than the Democratic candidts in virtually every key district the Democrats have targeted, the GOP will win those districts in the fall.

The article includes a description of Palmer's background:
Dan Palmer is a Republican donor and conservative political strategist. He served as executive director of United We Stand, planned the potential transition of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and supported the campaigns of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) and President Trump.
Given Palmer's background, I am certain he is well aware of the absurdity of his political analysis.  No
doubt he is simply doing what so many conservative commentators are doing these days, telling their audience what they want to hear rather than the far more painful truth. (For another recent example, take Newt Gingrich's piece "The Red Wave is Growing.")  

In analyzing election results, you compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges.  Mid-term elections get compared to mid-term elections.  Presidential election years get compared to other presidential election years.  Why?  Those elections feature starkly different electorates.  Likewise, those who turn out for a general election are far different than those who turn out in the primary which proceeded it. 

That is a phenomenon I personally experienced while running for the House in 2000.  I won the primary for the northwest Indianapolis district.  My Republican opponent and I combined had the primary vote than did the Democrat.  But on the day of the general election, I did not beat my opponent 2-1, but rather only received, rounded off, 40% of the vote.  What happened?  Different electorate.  Voters did not like George W. Bush in that district, and they turned out in droves to vote against him.  My candidacy experienced the collateral damage of increased Democratic-leaning turnout spurred by a race at the top of the ticket.

Again, no doubt Palmer is well aware of the silliness of extrapolating primary vote to predict general election results.  But the primary election results can be used to measure partisan trends in those California Congressional districts.  In employing the apples to apples, oranges to oranges principle of political analysis, I have compared the aggregate partisan primary turnout in 2014 compared to 2018 in the key California districts at play this fall.  Below is what I found.




District 7 10 21 22 25 48 49 50
2014 GOP Vote 34,197 27,495 24,039 49,255 32,028 63,513 56,558 48,413
2014 GOP Pct 51.9 57.3 64.2 74.4 66.7 72.3 61.5 73.7
2014 Dem Vote 31,726 20,465 13,402 16,986 16,005 24,384 34,849 17,269
2014 Dem Pct 48.1 42.7 35.8 25.6 33.3 27.7 38.5 26.3
2018 GOP Vote 37,627 48,475 23,575 42,554 46,042 55,842 53,343 64,706
2018 GOP Pct 46.6 52.2 64.0 59.1 52.9 53.5 48.8 64.0
2018 Dem Vote 43,039 44,437 13,821 29,406 40,992 48,517 55,927 36,439
2018 Dem Pct 53.4 47.8 36.0 40.9 47.1 46.5 51.2 36.0
Democrat Primary Share Increase 10.6 10.2 0.4 30.6 27.637.625.419.4

These tables show that while both parties experienced much higher primary vote in 2018 than 2014, the Democrat primary vote share increased in every district, some districts significantly.  
That is consistent with the markedly increased Democratic turnout that has has been seen in virtually every special election race since the 2016 presidential election.   Primary results do not mean the Republicans will lose those districts, however.  Again, the general election electorate is much different than the much smaller turnout that happens in a primary.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

California Primary Election Results Fuel Democrats' Hope For a Congressional "Blue Wave"

A few years ago, California, via referendum, adopted a "jungle" primary system.  Basically the way it works is that all primary candidates are lumped onto one ballot for the voters and the top two candidates move on to the general election, regardless of party.

It was a reform supported by then Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  However, like most election reforms, there have been unintended consequences.  One of those "unintended consequences" is that in a multi-candidate field, the primary vote could be so splintered that candidates from one of the
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Russia)
major parties could be closed out of competing in the fall despite the fact that party could prevail in the general election.  California is particularly ripe for such an outcome because the state has easy access ballot law leading to primary races featuring a lengthy list of candidates.  In several races on Tuesday, candidates finished second, and advanced to the general election round, with as little as 15% of the vote.

On election night 2018, the Democratic takeover of the House, if it happens, may come down to late-reporting California.  There are a number of takeover targets in California in which Republican congressional candidates but are vulnerable due to Trump's unpopularity in their district  But the jungle primary presented the very real possibility that the Democratic primary vote would be so splintered that the GOP candidates would take the top two positions, leaving the Democratic opponent closed out of a very winnable general election race.

A review of Tuesday nights election results reveals that with the exception of one congressional contest, California Democratic candidates avoided being shut out of the general election.  Here are the election results in a few of the most prominent such districts:

California 10
Denham (R)  24,640  37.7%
Harder (D)  10,244  15.7%'
Howze (R) 9,394  14.4%

Calilfornia 39
Kim (R) 18,851  22.0%
Cisneros (D) 16,623  19.4%
Liberatore (R) 11,990  14.0%

California 48
Rohrbacher (R) 33,198  30.4%
Keirstead (D) 18,827  17.2%
Rouda (D) 18,782  17.2%
Baugh (R) 17,601  16.1%

California 50
Hunter (R) 43,233 48.7%
Campa-Najjar (D) 14,445  16.3%
Wells (R) 11,626  13.1%

A notable exception is California 8, a district based in San Bernandino County that is currently represented by Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican.   That district though was always a long-shot for Democrats to win.

California 8
Cook (R) 29,403 41.5%
Donnelly (R) 16,024 22.6%
Doyle (D) 15,264 21.4%

By any objective measure, the Democrats should be happy with the California election results which set up the party to win several California congressional districts in the Fall.  But over at Fox News Trump TV, analysts don't deal in objectivity.  They deal in propaganda as well as the proverbial whistling while walking by the graveyard..  Fox News analysts are celebrating the second place primary finish of GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox who had the enthusiastic backing of President Trump.  While the importance of having a major GOP statewide candidate on the general election ballot (top ballot races spur turnout and the Republicans were shut out in the CA Senate race) cannot be underestimated, the notion that a Republican, much less one closely tied to Trump, is going to win the California governorship this Fall is absurd. 

Equally absurd is one Fox analyst who extrapolated the party primary vote in key races to what is likely to happen in the general election.    As any political analyst knows, the voters who go to the polls in a low-turnout primary do not equate, in any way, those who vote in a general election.  I know that from personal experience.  As an Indiana house candidate for a district on the northwest side of Indianapolis, I won the GOP primary in 2000.  My primary vote and that of my GOP rival totaled more than twice the Democratic vote in the district.  So did I win the general election, much less 2-1?  Nope, I received about 40% (I always round up) of the vote that Fall.  Voters in my district did not like George W. Bush and Democratic-leaning voters turned out heavily to vote against him.

There was certainly nothing in Tuesday's California election results that indicates the possibility of a blue wave this fall has diminished.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Constitutional Amendment Is Needed to Clarify and Limit Presidential Pardon Power

One semester while teaching political science classes, I assigned a unique exercise.  After reviewing the text of the Constitution and its amendments, including how various provisions in that document have been interpreted, I asked my students to write about a particular constitutional provision the Framers got wrong and how that provision should be changed.

I was unprepared for the response.  Most of my students wrote that the Constitution was perfect as was written.  Not a single syllable needed to be changed.  From my students' responses, you would think the assignment was to identify changes to the Bible.   While I had succeeded in teaching my students about what the Constitution said and what the courts have ruled the document's various provisions meant, I had failed to teach my students how to think creatively, to ponder, even question, the application of the
Constitution in practice.

Far from perfect, even the Framers realized very quickly they had a glitch in the original embodiment of the Electoral College, a problem that became apparent with our first constitutional crisis, an electoral college vote tie in 1800 between, then, Vice-President John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  The 12th Amendment fixed that flaw, abandoning the idea of the single electoral vote (with the Vice-President being the runner-up) for the idea that electors would cast two votes, one for President and one Vice-President.  As a side note, no my conservative friends the Electoral College is not now operating as intended even as set out in the 12th Amendment.  The Electoral College has always intended to be a bulwark against the democratic impulses of the masses by leaving the decision of the President up to a wise group of citizen representatives elected by the less wise voters.  The Electoral College was never intended to rubber-stamp the decision of the voters, even at the state level.

I can easily think of things in the Constitution and its amendments that could, indeed should, be changed.  I think all 435 members of the House having to run every 2 years is a bit much.  The line between Congress' power to declare war and the President's powers as Commander-in-Chief could use clarification.    I was never sold on the two term limit for President established by the 22nd Amendment.  It makes the President a lame deck that second term, rending him (or her) ineffective.   I also think the 2nd Amendment was poorly crafted and could have better written (to more clearly protect private ownership of guns).  Then you have things in the Constitution that are written well, such as the 10th Amendment, which have been rendered practically useless by judicial interpretation.

One provision though that has not gotten much attention is the President's constitutional power to pardon.  Article II states:
The President...shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
That is it  The language does not appear to provide any limit (with the exception of impeachment and that it be a federal crime) to the President's power of impeachment.  That lack of context, lack of limiting language, led to the President and his "attorney" Rudy Giuliani to recently claim that the President has the absolute right to pardon anyone.  This interpretation allows for the legal use of the pardon power to obstruct the Mueller probe by pardoning those caught up in the investigation (including President pardoning himself).

Did the Framers actually intend the pardon power to be as sweeping and open-ended as suggested by the lack of limiting language in Article II?  Highly doubtful.  The Framers were, in fact, very fearful of centralized, unchecked power, including a strong chief executive exercising king-like powers. It makes no sense that the Framers intended to sharply curtail the power of the President in several areas (which limits have been eroded over the years thanks to a complicit Congress and the federal courts' expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause) on one hand, but give the President absolute, unchecked power in another area.

The Framers intent can be garnered from looking at the history that guided the adoption of the pardon language.  In the late 18th Century, when our current Constitution containing the pardon language was drafted then ratified, criminal prosecutions were handled almost entirely by states.  There were very few federal crimes at the time of the Constitution.  Crimes like treason and bribery were handled by the feds from the early days of the Republic, but almost all other federal crimes required the involvement of  the federal government or its officials somehow.  Indeed, the very limited nature of the then federal criminal code is highlighted in Federal Paper #74 in which Alexander Hamilton reassures readers that the President's unilateral pardon power in the Constitution is not too broad (and there was no need for legislative approval) by discussing its application involving just one federal crime, treason.

During the last 150 years, our Congress has passed numerous federal criminal statutes, using as a bridge to that authority the Commerce Clause.  Many if not most state criminal laws now have a federal equivalent.  Today, our federal government employs an army of prosecutors and judges to enforce the ever increasing number of criminal statutes passed by Congress.

While the number of federal crimes and prosecutions has expanded exponentially, the language setting forth the President's pardon power remains the same.  While I would like to see the federal role in criminal law enforcement cut back substantially, that back door way of of placing proper limits on the President's pardon power seems to be a pipe dream.  To mix metaphors, that ship has sailed.

My proposal is more direct.  A simple constitutional amendment that requires that the United States Senate approve all pardons.  The Senate has to approve treaties, cabinet appointments, judges, why not pardons?

Senatorial approval of pardons is not that much of a hurdle for a President, but it would likely stop the problem of a President misusing his authority to pardon friends, political supporters, or even the more obscene use of the pardon power to obstruct a criminal investigation into wrongdoing involving the President's campaign or his administration.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

President Trump's Efforts to Obstruct Mueller Investigation Continues With "Spygate" Nonsense

President Trump recently took a new angle in his push back against the Muller investigation, namely a claim that the the FBI surreptitiously placed a "spy" in his campaign to gather information on the contacts various Trump campaign officials were having with Russian officials.  According to Trump, "Spygate" was part of the bureau's political agenda to gather information to try to prevent the election of Donald Trump and help Hillary Clinton.

Of course, the truth is something else entirely.

During the campaign, Donald Trump made extensive use of the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton
for her handling of emails and her private server, conduct which could have led to the hacking of classified information.   (An ironic side note:  Trump has refused to take security measures to ensure the cell phone he uses for government business is not subject to hacking.  Hypocrisy?)  Opinion polls show a definite drop in support for Hillary Clinton after the FBI reopened that email investigation just days before the election.  Indeed, outside of the candidates themselves, no person in America is more responsible for Hillary Clinton losing and Trump being elected President than FBI Director James Comey. 

So when voters went to the polls, they knew all about the FBI's investigation involving Hillary Clinton. What was not made public by the FBI was that the agency was also conducting a counter intelligence investigation involving Russian interference into the election that had ensnared Trump campaign officials.

To recap, the Trump "Spygate" claim is that the FBI, at the behest of the Obama administration, embeded a "spy" in the Trump campaign to gather information to launch an investigation into Trump campaign involvement with Russian officials.  This, according to the theory, was done for political purposes, namely. to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump.  It does not.   But if Comey and the FBI were conducting this investigation to politically harm the Trump campaign, why was the fact of that investigation kept a secret until after the election?  

One thing though you quickly learn about Trump and his Kool-Aid drinking enablers is that facts simply do not matter when pursuing an agenda.   Indeed when asked about a sit-down Trump interview with Muller, Trump's TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said that might not be a good idea because truth is "relative" concept and that Trump's "truth" about what happened might not match up with Muller's.

Of course, the FBI did not embed a "spy" in the Trump campaign  Instead the FBI used a confidential informant to follow up on information it had learned regarding Russian officials contacting members of the Trump campaign team.  Confidential informants are used all the time during investigations and are an essential part of the activities of law enforcement.

Months before the election, both campaigns were specifically warned that the Russian government might try to interfere in the 2016 elections and to let the bureau know if they were contacted as part of this effort.  The Trump campaign then went on to have numerous contacts with Russian officials, including the notorious Trump Tower meeting hosted by the President's son, and said absolutely nothing to the FBI.   The Trump campaign was more than willing to accept help from Russia and other foreign countries to win the election.  Despite the claims of TV lawyer Giuliani, it is most certainly against the law for a candidate in a federal election to accept assistance from a foreign government or even a foreign national not associated with a government.

It looks more and more like Trump campaign officials, if not Trump himself, were involved in substantial criminal activity in an effort to win 2016 campaign.  Trump's "Spygate" nonsense is nothing more than a continued effort on his part to obstruct justice and undermine the legal institutions that would be handing down that justice.  Patriotic Americans who care about the rule of law and its democratic institutions cannot let that happen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Fake Endorsements By the Marion County (Indianapolis) Republican Party

A Republican mailing recently set off one of my pet peeves.  On an oversized post card, Brian Durham, a candidate for Marion County Sheriff. claimed that he had been "endorsed by the Marion County Republican Party."

No, Brian, you were not endorsed by the Marion County Republican Party  You were endorsed by the
Marion County Republican Organization.  Even that claim is doubtful.  About 90% of the people voting at political party slating (endorsement) are not elected representatives of the party, but rather appointees of the county chairman.   And what's more, the people who vote for county chairman are almost all appointees of the county chairman.  

The notion that party endorsement process in Marion County represents the will of Republicans who live in Marion County.  

For the record, Brian, the Marion County Republican Party consists of those voters who show up at today's primary and select a GOP ballot. 

Indiana Senate Race Leaves True Conservatives with No GOP Option

Congressman Todd Rokita
Silly me.  As a Republican, I want to vote for candidates who believe in limited government, lower deficits, and is against wasteful spending measures.  I want to vote for people who will respect the rule of law and who run for office believing their job is not to act as a rubber stamp of other GOP officeholders, but to act with independence and integrity.   This morning, when I go in to vote in my Republican Primary, I want to vote for real Republicans, not Democrats who switch to the GOP to pursue a political opportunity.

Needless to say, I'm left with no choices in the Indiana Republican Senate Primary.

Todd Rokita.  Earlier in his political career, I liked Todd.  Although he was a conservative, he had a reform edge.  I had no problem with him using the bully pulpit of the Secretary of State's Office to push for gerrymandering reform.  But Rokita has proven this election cycle more than willing to give up his political soul and integrity to try to win an election.   He should get an award for working his way the furthest up President Trump's butt in an soul-less attempt to win the election.  It is not like he did not have stiff competition on that front.  In that endeavor, Rokita did not let hypocrisy get in his way.  He chided businessman Mike Braun for being a Democrat until 2012, while enthusiastically supporting another Democrat until 2012, President Donald Trump.

(Former) State Representative Mike Braun
Mike Braun:  I certainly don't have a problem with people making legitimate transitions from the Democrat to the Republican Party.  Indeed one of my favorite presidents, Ronald Reagan, had a well-documented, more than a decade long transition from being a Democrat to a conservative Republican.  But Braun's excuse for his Democratic-party voting history is nonsensical.  He says he voted Democrat
because that gave the most opportunity to influence local races in then Democratic-leaning Dubois County, is nonsense.  (Please don't for a second I assume that would be a legitimate excuse even if true.  Bottom line, if you are a dedicated Republican or Democrat, you pull that party's ballot in the primary. Period.)  There were plenty of competitive general election races on the ballot before 2012 and Jasper residence Braun always chose a Democratic ballot.   Braun had zero history of Republican activity until one day when he woke up and decided to run, successfully, for state representative.  And, Mike, knock it off about you not being a politician.   You served four years in our state legislature as a pretend Republican.

Congressman Luke Messer
Luke Messer:  Messer came across as the most thoughtful and reasonable of the candidates.  Note the past tense - that was before the election.  During the campaign, Messer has decided to jump in the fray, shredding any pretense of independence by fully embracing Trumpism.  Messer, who actually backed Florida Senator Mario Rubio for President, actually had the temerity to criticize Rokita for during the 2016 campaign for describing Trump as "vulgar, if not profane."  To which Rokita responded saying that was before he got to know Trump.  How intellectually dishonest of both of them.  Even Trump supporters admit the President is "vulgar, if not profane" and to get to know Trump simply confirms that fact.  As to Messer, he like Rokita, has little real life experience, working as a lobbyist before being elected to the state legislature.  And, I know you're not supposed to condemn someone for the activities of their spouse, but I can't get past the $240,000 attorney contract Messer's wife, Jennifer has with Fishers, a 26.5 hour a week job she supposedly does remotely while living in suburban Washington, D.C.  As an attorney who have watched many of my attorney friends struggle to make ends meet while working 60 hours a week, I find the claim that Jennifer Messer's part-time work is worth $240,000 is absurd.   Fishers could easily get a local and equally qualified local attorney to work part-time for a fraction of $240,000.  Jennifer Messer has her contract because of who she is married to, and anyone who says otherwise is not being honest.

Rokita, Braun and Messer have all indicated in their commercials that they support this administration's massive increase in debt and plans to waste more taxpayer money on such ridiculous expenditures such as "The Wall."  Neither Rokita, Braun or Messer have earned my vote in this morning's primary.  I can't see myself voting for any of the three in the Fall either.

Predictions?  I think Braun has a solid, albeit less than 50% win, with Rokita second and Messer a distant third.  I do not think any of the three beat Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly in the fall, however.  None of the GOP candidates ran with any plan of how to get back to sanity after the primary.  The key for GOP statewide success is doing well in the Indianapolis suburbs.  In the era of Trumpism, that's not good electoral footing for Republican candidates.  Trump's numbers in Hamilton County, the most populous Indianapolis-area county by far, were bad and they are unlikely any better now a year and a half later.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani Opens Mouth, Sticks Foot in During Interview With Fox's Hannity

Donald Trump has always insisted that he's his best attorney.  With the dim-witted attorneys he hires, that might actually be true.  Michael Cohen, Ty Cobb, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow...have all managed to do incredibly dumb things as Trump's attorney.  Now add to that ignominious list of barristers the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  

In fairness, Giuliani, who in the 1980s was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, might
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
have been off his legal game.  It has been decades since he has been in a courtroom, after all.  Perhaps his legal reasoning skills have grown dull.

During an "interview" with Sean Hannity, Fox News' fiercest Trump sycophant, Giuliani appeared to veer off script, breaking the news that Donald Trump knew all about the $130,000 payment by his "attorney" Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels, and that Trump, in fact, reimbursed Cohen for the payment.  (Trump had previously denied having sex with Stormy or knowing anything about the payoff.)   A giddy Giuliani, excited to break the news to the Fox audience, then declared to Hannity since campaign funds were not used for the payment, there was no campaign finance violation!

You could tell during the interview that even Hannity knew Giuliani had screwed up.  The Fox News host attempted to throw Giuliani a life line in the form of softball follow-up questions.  Giuliani, nonetheless, managed to swing and miss.  

Contrary to Giuliani's suggestion, nobody had ever suggested campaign funds were used for the Stormy Daniels' payment.  Ironically if campaign funds were used for such a purpose, assuming that was  properly reported, it would have likely been legal.  The problem is not that campaign funds were used for the Stormy payment, it is that campaign funds were not used.  

One would think Giuliani, who ran successfully for two terms as Mayor and ran, briefly, for President would know what an in kind political contribution is.  It was legal for Cohen to make the in-kind contribution as it far exceeded personal contribution limits in federal campaigns.   While it is legal for Trump to make a $130,000 contribution to his own campaign, that contribution still has to be reported.  And the fact Cohen fronted the money to be reimbursed later by Trump, also meant it was a loan that had to be reported.

During the Hannity interview, Giuliani brushed off any concerns about broken laws by saying they were just "FEC violations."  Yes, FEC violations which also happen to be crimes. 

Of course, one could argue that the Stormy Daniels' hush payment had nothing to do with the election.  The problem is that the Trump-Stormy hookup took place in 2006 and it wasn't until 2016, days before the election and just before the porn actress was set to go public with the story, that the hush payment was made.  As far as whether it was a campaign contribution, it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.  

But the election violations may turn out to be the least of Cohen and Trump's legal problems, assuming, of course, Giuliani's assertion of what happened is accurate.  To move $130,000 through our post-9/11 banking system there have to be a number of representations made to banking officials regarding the source and purpose of such a large expenditure. Undoubtedly false representations would have been made along the way.  When the news broke of the payoff, Cohen said he took out a second mortgage to pay off Stormy Daniels.  In doing so, he likely would have had to make a representation to the bank regarding what the money will be used for, and if he lied on those bank forms that is likely a felony.  

But maybe Cohen didn't take out that second mortgage after all.  (It should be recorded and publicly available at the courthouse...not sure why no reporter has bothered to check.)  After all Cohen and his, undoubtedly now "former," client have a tendency to lie, a lot.

A new attorney, Emmett T. Flood, Clinton's impeachment attorney, has been added to the Trump legal team.  While he should raise the average IQ in the room when the Trump legal team gets together, it seems associating with the President causes people, both lawyers and non-lawyers, to do stupid things.  

Thursday, April 19, 2018

New Polling Increase Democrats' Optimism of Winning the U.S. Senate

Make no mistake about it, for the Democrats to win control of the Senate, which now stands at 51-49 in favor of the Republicans, is as likely as drawing to an inside straight.  Possible, but highly unlikely.  There are 35 Senate seats up for grabs, 33 regular Senate elections and two special elections.  Democrats are defending 24 of those 35 seats.  If those numbers were not problematic enough, it is where those seats are that is the biggest concern for Democrats.  Montana, West Virginia, North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana, all states Donald Trump handily won, have Democratic Senators running for re-election.  Recent polling though suggests Democrats' odds of winning the Senate are increasing, albeit still long.

Senator Joe Donnelly (R-IN)
Yesterday, Gravis released a poll showing Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly trouncing the potential Republican nominees by double figures, i.e. Congressman Todd Rokita by 18 points, and Congressman Luke Messer by 10.  It does not appear that Gravis bothered to poll a general matchup with the third candidate in the GOP race, State Representative and businessman Mike Braun, which was a mistake as Braun polled as being in the lead for the GOP nomination with 26%.  Rokita was second at 16% and Messer trailed the filed at 13% in the primary matchup.

I believe, in the end, the nominee will be Braun or Rokita, but I believe Donnelly will win the general election by a small, but comfortable margin.  Braun and Rokita, and to a lesser degree Messer, are competing to appear the Trumpiest, but I think that designation will be an albatross around the winner's neckl in the general election.  Trump is not popular in the Indianapolis suburbs, particularly in Hamilton County, and those suburbs, which allow the Democratic strongholds of Marion and Lake County to be more than offset, are critical to the fortune of GOP statewide candidates.

Then you have West Virginia.  While the Democrats have a strong candidate in Joe Manchin running for re-election, Trump did win the state by over 42 points and remains popular there.  It was bad enough that Manchin was shown leading a potential GOP rival, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey last November by over 20 points, it appears the Republicans may instead nominate Don Blankenship, a mining executive who was convicted of a felony for skirting regulations that could have prevented a mine explosion that killed 29 of Blankenship's workers.

Meanwhile, as to seats the Republicans are defending, it looks like my prediction that the Democrats have a real shot at winning Texas are being reflected in the polls.  A Quinnipiac poll issued yesterday showed incumbent Senator Ted Cruz clinging to only a 3 point, 47-44, lead over Democratic nominee Congressman Beto O'Rourke.   O'Rourke is also badly swamping Cruz in fundraising.

Then you have Tennessee, a state Trump won by 26 points.  In the Volunteer State, Republicans are defending a seat currently held by Bob Corker, a Trump critic, who has decided to not seek re-election. Trump enthusiast Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn has stepped into the void, but the Republican trails by 10 points former Democratic Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen.

Democrats also have a better than 50-50 chance of winning Republican seats in Nevada and Arizona, but will struggle to defend against Republican challengers in Missouri and Florida.

Yes, it is still a longshot for Democrats to gain control of the U.S. Senate, but it is now more plausible.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Seeing Blue Wave Coming, Speaker Ryan Announces He Will Not Seek Re-Election

Yesterday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan resigned.  No doubt Trumpers, who have long hated the Wisconsin Republican, are celebrating.  They should not.

While I take him at his word that Ryan is resigning for family reasons, no doubt that is only part of the reason for his decision.  The major factor, which should give Trumpers pause, is that Ryan knows perfectly well he would not be in the Speaker's chair next year.  All signs point to the Democrats retaking the House next year in the mid-term elections.  The only question appears to be how many seats the Democrats win.  Forty seats or more appear attainable by the Democrats.  (24 are needed to flip control).  Given the trend of congressional special elections, it would appear that GOP seats never before seen as competitive are within reach of well-funded Democratic opponents.

Ryan was very popular in his district, winning his race 2016 by 35 points, President Trump only won Ryan's district by 10.3.  The Ryan retirement overshadowed another significant congressional retirement.  Republican Dennis Ross announced he was retiring after eight years.  He won his Tampa-area congressional district by 15 points in 2016, but Trump only won the district by 10.  As a side note, Ryan and Ross' 2016 election results were not an anomaly.   The rarely-mentioned fact is that Republican congressional candidates in most districts ran ahead of the President.

Ryan did not want to be part of the powerless minority in the House.  Even more so, he did not want to lead the fight as minority leader against the inevitable and, quite possibly successful, move by Democrats to impeach Trump in 2019.  Ryan's legacy would have been further tarnished by being put in a position in which he had to vigorously defend the President's conduct outlined in the upcoming Mueller report to Congress.  Ryan is only 48 and has plenty of time to re-enter the political scene.

I am deeply disappointed that Ryan turned out not to be the fiscal hawk he professed to be.  Ryan, after all, played a role in adding over 1.5 trillion dollars to our deficit...in a time of full employment and 3% growth.  It was not all Ryan's fault though.  He needed a Republican President to succeed in his fiscal goals, but the GOP instead chose to nominate a candidate who brags about his nickname, "The King of Debt," the one Republican presidential candidate who refused to consider taking on the problem of entitlements.  Ryan has long known that entitlement reform is the key to fixing the problem with debts.  Trump not only failed to provide Ryan the executive leadership he needed to succeed as Speaker, in one of the few areas in which Trump held a consistent position - entitlements, the President actively undercut Ryan's mission to get control of this country's debt.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Tea Party Abandons Principles, Values to Follow "The King of Debt"

Tonight, there will be another meeting of the Indianapolis Northside Tea Party.  I began going to these monthly meetings a few years ago.  I have always thought the Tea Party had gotten a bad rap in the media.  While there is no comprehensive set of beliefs that people who join local tea parties hold, there is some commonality.  Tea Party people shared (note the use of the past tense) a revulsion to big government, deficits, wasteful spending and corruption in government.  Members of the Indianapolis Northside Tea Party I attended also had a decided (albeit secondary) bent toward criminal justice reform, i.e. an opposition to things like civil forfeiture and the War on Drugs.

I liked that.  My fervent support of those issues (barely) allowed me to sit through cringe-inducing, xenophobic comments from Tea Party members about immigration (both legal and illegal), a lack of tolerance for America’s tradition of religious freedom (how dare Muslims think they have the same right of religious freedom as Christians?), and members’ opposition to free trade agreements and support for protectionist measures like tariffs, protectionist positions that undeniably have proven to greatly hurt the American economy and consumers in particular.  Those secondary political positions were certainly NEVER a part of the conservative agenda I had supported and fought for since I came of political age as a sophomore at Ball State University in 1980.

Returning to the core mission of the Tea Party – an opposition to deficits and wasteful spending – I always greatly appreciated the Tea Party members’ dedication to the cause, even while I believed they often had unrealistic views of how to accomplish those objectives given the limits of our democratic institutions.  But, unfortunately my view that Tea Party members were committed, overly principled fighters for core conservative fiscal positions and good government has proven to be dead wrong.

In 2015, New Yorker Donald J. Trump, a lifelong, liberal Democrat entered the political scene as a newly-minted Republican.  Trump had led his businesses into six bankruptcies and had credit so bad American banks would not lend him money.   But, it was not just banks.  Trump was well well-known as a deadbeat who would not pay his bills, trying at every turn to stiff employees and the small Mom and Pop businesses with whom he contracted.   (So much for the Trumpian claim he is for the little guy.)  Trump embraced the reputation he earned, calling himself "The King of Debt.”

One would think someone sporting the moniker “The King of Debt” would be the last candidate a fiscally-conservative group like the Tea Party would be embrace.  But embrace him they did.  Perhaps Tea Party members simply did not know Trump’s checkered history as a businessman or simply hoped  he would exhibit better fiscal habits as a politician.

But in 15 months, Donald J. Trump as President has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will govern the same way he conducted himself as a businessman, spending taxpayer money recklessly and running up huge, unprecedented deficits.  (This includes a tax cut funded by deficit spending and the President signing a $1.3 trillion budget that increased spending on virtually every budgetary item.   Deficit spending to stimulate the economy while in a recession is arguable strategy, doing so when the economy is at full employment and growing at a 3% rate is insane.

On a personal level, the Trump cabinet and top officials are no more restrained fiscally.  Several have been exposed grossly wasting taxpayer money on lavish and unnecessary expenditures.  Of course, no one is more guilty of that than President Trump, who virtually every weekend has the American taxpayer fly him to Florida and then he sticks those same taxpayers with the bill for the Secret Service to rent carts to follow him around the golf course.  Then, you have the issue of the President, who has refused to put his assets in a blind trust, continually (ab)using his position to enrich himself, including via the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which caters to foreign dignitaries who are more than willing to combine their need for accommodations with a desire to curry favor with the President by stuffing money in his pocket.

Corruption within the Trump administration is easily the worst of any President in my lifetime.  And we have 32 months to go.  So much for the nonsense about Trump “draining the swamp.”

Given the principles on which it was founded, one would think Tea Party members would rebel against a President who has proven to be the biggest deficit spender of any President in history.  One would think they would object strongly to the personal waste of tax dollars by the President and top officials in his administration, new revelations of which are exposed every day.  Nope.  Tea Partiers continue to drink the Trump Kool-Aid, enthusiastically supporting the President despite his running an administration that is completely counter to Tea Party fiscal conservativism.

If those issues were not bad enough, we have a President who has made a mockery of other conservative values.  A key element of the success of the conservative movement has been social issues, primarily “family values.”    It is hard to hold true to those views, critical to evangelicals, when your chief proponent of the concept is a man who is a serial adulterer who brags about sexually assaulting women.   Of course, on this point, the evangelicals have proven to be the Tea Party equivalent when it comes to abandoning principles for political power.

Tea Party members like to call themselves “patriots.”  Yet they, in the next breath, express support for Trump’s attacks on American values like the rule of law, freedom of speech and his support for thuggish dictators over democratically-elected leaders.  The President and the Tea Party members who worship him as some sort of deity have given aid and comfort to the United States No. 1 enemy, Russia, by attacking the legitimacy of an investigation into that country’s meddling into the 2016 election, seeking to blame the American intelligence community and law enforcement instead, despite overwhelming evidence that that that meddling happened.  When I hear the “patriots” reference, I think back to my childhood when Jane Fonda was photographed on a North Vietnamese tank.  Although Vietnam was a huge mistake, Fonda was hardly a “patriot.”  Given their attacks on American values and traditions. neither President Trump or Tea Party members deserve to be call “patriots.”

Imagine for a second if a President named “Obama” or “Hillary Clinton” had done any of the aforementioned things Trump has done since he has taken office. The Tea Party members would be screaming for his/her impeachment.   Perhaps at tonight’s meeting it would be worthwhile to discuss the meaning of “hypocrisy” and how it relates to the Tea Party’s blind and unquestioning support for Present Trump.

Of course, I overgeneralize in this piece.  No doubt that there are several Tea Party members who have refused to abandon their principles to drink the Trump Kool-Aid.  To them I applaud and apologize…profusely. 

Needless to say, I will not be at the Tea Party meeting tonight.   

Thursday, April 5, 2018

State of Indiana Settles Lawsuit Over Treasurer Official's Termination

Earlier this year, the State of Indiana completed the settlement of lawsuit which claimed that former Chief Deputy and General Counsel for the Indiana State Treasurer’s Office Jim Holden had been wrongfully terminated from employment.  On June 2, 2014, Holden had been given a three-year contract by then Treasurer Richard Mourdock to provide legal services for the Indiana Board for Depositories, a body that is overseen by the State Treasurer.  

Jim Holden
Holden had served as manager of Mourdock’s Senate campaign in 2012, which campaign shocked the political world by knocking off incumbent Richard Lugar in the GOP primary only to lose to Democrat Joe Donnelly later that Fall.  Almost two years later, Mourdock resigned before the end of his four-year term.  Kelly Mitchell was subsequently elected Treasurer that Fall and took office early, replacing the 
interim Treasurer, on November 18, 2014.

One of Kelly’s first moves as Treasurer was to terminate Holden from his job at the Treasurer’s Office and cancel his three year contract, even though Holden had been called up to active duty and had not yet transferred from his position in the Treasurer’s Office to working for the Board.  Mitchell claimed that the termination was necessary because there was a conflict of interest in the Holden appointment because the Treasurer of the State directed the day-to-day activities of the Indiana Board for Depositories.  

Although Holden was accused of not having received a clearance from the State Ethics Commission or making any of the required ethics disclosure, Holden had, in fact, consulted the Executive Director of the Indiana Ethics Commission and filed a Uniform Conflict of Interest Ethics Disclosure about the employment.  An unemployment insurance state administrative law judge found Holden had “exercised all due diligence to ensure the employment was not a conflict of interest.” 
In her termination decision, Mitchell also accused Holden of committing a felony by violating IC 35-44-1-3, a statute which criminalizes certain conflicts of interest by public officials.  That statute, however, had been repealed.  As part of the settlement, Mitchell issued a statement in which she admitted that the statute her office relied on had been earlier repealed and that Holden had done what was legally required to address any potential conflict of interest.  

Holden filed his lawsuit in Marion County Superior Court in March of 2015.  After spending 2 ½ years mired in pre-trial motions and discovery disputes, the case was preliminarily resolved in the Fall of 2017 via mandatory mediation.  The additional delay, which pushed the matter inti 2018, was a result of the settlement having to be approved by the Governor. 

As part of the resolution of the case, the State agreed to pay Holden $92,500 and to remove him from the “do not rehire” list maintained by the State of Indiana.  Interestingly, in a press release issued in conjunction with the settlement, Holden noted that the “do not rehire” list maintained by the State of Indiana is in violation of state blacklisting laws.

Holden spoke of his experience fighting, successfully, the State on a wrongful termination matter: “Even though I was a 15-year state employee who had served under three State Treasurers, because I worked for Richard Mourdock and supported his Senate candidacy, the Republican establishment and donor-lobbyist class wanted to retaliate against me.  Mitchell was just doing their bidding.”
Holden continued: “Ironically, I had arranged to transfer to the Indiana Board for Depositories so that Kelly Mitchell would be able to appoint her own Chief Deputy Treasurer and not be required to keep the position open for me while I was on active duty as mandated by federal law.  I asked for a contract, because after so many years of working for politicians, I don’t trust politicians to do the right thing.  Kelly Mitchell proved my instincts right.”

Holden’s first quote above relates to his work helping his boss Treasurer Richard Mourdock defeat long-time Indiana Senator Richard Lugar in the Republican primary.   While many Establishment Republicans still sing Lugar’s praises, the fact is Richard Lugar years earlier had left Indiana far behind, both physically and mentally.  Republicans in the Hoosier political trenches had complained that Lugar would not support GOP candidates with endorsements or fundraising and would not even bother to return to Indiana for Republican Lincoln Day Dinners in the Hoosier.  Lugar even went so far as sending threating letters to Indiana GOP candidates warning that they are not allowed to use pictures of the candidate with Lugar in their campaign ads.

On the rare occasions when Lugar did venture back to Indiana, he would have to stay in hotel rooms because he had no residence in the state.  When I investigated the matter, I found Lugar for decades had been using the address of a home he had sold some 30 years earlier as his declared “residence” to cast votes in Indiana.  The legality of that practice is questionable at best.  This is especially so when, near the same time frame, prosecutors were aggressively pursuing former Secretary of State Charlie White for a violation of the voting fraud statute based on what he declared his residence to be for one election.

I have known Jim Holden from my earliest involvement in Marion County politics in the late 1980s.  Jim is a true believer, someone who not only supports the traditional conservative ideology communicated so eloquently by Ronald Reagan, but someone willing to fight for those beliefs even if it means stepping on some GOP establishment toes.  It is good to see Jim succeed in his lawsuit and to set the record straight regarding his termination.