Friday, October 31, 2008

The Problem With Polls: Pollsters Struggle to Adapt to the New Technologies & Voting Habits

Never before have I seen polls vary so much in their results than this election. There is a reason. Pollsters are struggling to adopt to changes in technology changing technology and a changing electorate. Here are some random thoughts on polling.

First, because of caller ID and voice mail it is increasingly tough for pollsters to actually reach homeowners. As a result, the people conducting the polls have to make more calls. There could be a political difference in what people have caller ID or are more likely to pick up the phone. For example, if wealthier people are less likely to take an "unidentified" call or one that appears to be from a phone solicitor, there may be an anti-Republican bias as wealthier pollsters are voting more Republican.

Second, on a related topic, there is a big problem now that many younger voters not having land lines. Pollsters do not generally call cell phones, so they have to try to make additional calls to younger people who have land lines to make up for the difference. There well may be a difference in political philosophy between the younger person who has a land line and a younger person who has only a cell phone. One may be a college student and the other a high school graduate with a family, for example.

Third, it is clear that media outlets do not understand "margin of error." Margin of error is the way pollsters measure random sampling error. The bigger the sample, the smaller the margin of error. If a margin of error is +/- 4 points, for example, that means that each candidate's figures can be off 4 points in either direction due to random sampling error. For example, let's say that McCain leads Obama 45-40 in a poll with a 4 point margin of error. That means that accounting for random sampling error. McCain could be anywhere between 49 to 41 in the polls. Obama's number, also accounting for random sampling error, could be anywhere between 44 and 36. The media though will report that the 5 point lead is "outside the margin of error." Actually it is not.

Fourth, many polls are screening for "likely voters" when they put together their samples. That's usually the best way to poll although identifying those likely voters isn't always easy. You never know know who is going to show up at polls. Screening for likely voters though tends to favor Republicans as Republicans typically vote more consistently than do Democrats. In this election though, I'd be more trusting of a poll that doesn't screen for "likely voters" and is of "registered voters" due to the enormous turnout. That tends to show Obama with higher numbers.

Fifth, some of the polls are showing African-Americans voting 80% for Obama. Try 95%. For whatever, reason, perhaps because of difficulty identifying one's race, those numbers are not right.

Sixth, in Indiana, I'd be wary of polling that shows substantially more Republicans being polled than Democrats. The trends appear to be that the Democrats are going to match the Republicans in turnout in the state this year. The people polled should reflect that. If the polls shows 10% more Republicans polled than Democrats, for example, I'd be skeptical of the poll results and believe it has a Republican bias.

Seventh, on a related point, I'd be wary of whether the polls are taking into consideration the hundreds of thousands of new voters in the State. If it has a "likely voter" screen the pollster is looking at voting history to form the population from which the sample is taken. New voters by definition do not have voting history.

Eight, I've seen a lot of crowing about polls on some of the lower profile race. Public opinion has not yet crystallized on races like Attorney General and Superintendent of Public Instruction. They're likely to be base line partisan identification races, with candidates running a few points above or below the base line depending on how successful they are with their limited resources to get their message out. Those lower profile race polls show an enormous number of undecided voters too. In making predictions on races like that you're better off looking at the general trend of the state, and then working off of that.

Ninth, people lie to pollsters. The focus right now is on whether people are lying about supporting Obama. Some yes, my guess, and it is purely a guess, is that so-called "Bradley effect is 2 1/2 or 3%. But people lie to pollsters on a number of topics, including their race (see above where some polls show Obama with only 80% of African-American support.) As far as the Bradley effect, its influence on causing polls to be off is not as great as many of the other factors including the one below.

Finally, polls are not good at measuring enthusiasm and intensity of support. Those factors drive turnout. That's why on Election Day some close races turn into blowouts and some blowouts in the polls turn into close races. I always use the example of the 1980 presidential election. Reagan had only a slight lead in the polls, but won by a landslide. Why? Because his supporters were enthusiastically for him while President Carter's were not. Republicans went to the polls that year while Democrats stayed home. The result was not only a Reagan landslide, but the sweeping into office of scores of Republicans nationwide, Republicans who were far behind in the polls going into the election.

Jill Long Thompson's Missed Opportunity; Governor Daniels Seals the Deal

Today's Indianapolis Star reports that its poll shows that Governor Mitch Daniels now has an 18 point lead, 54-36, over Democrat Jill Long Thompson in his bid for re-election. The poll, conducted for WRTV and the Indianapolis Star by Selzer & Co., last month had shown Daniels with only a 4 point lead.

Polling on this race has been all over the place. In the past six weeks I've seen polls with Daniels' lead pegged anywhere from 1 point to 31 points. Different methodologies explain a lot of the difference. As I noted though, polls are at the best when the same poll, with the same methodology, is run at a later date and a substantial difference is shown. This poll shows solidification of Daniels' support and a movement of undecideds into his camp. In short it points to a missed opportunity by the Democrats and Jill Long Thompson. They had a 4-6 week period where they could have made the case against Daniels and for JLT. That opportunity appears to have gotten away.

I think that the Democrats see the numbers roll in next Tuesday will look back with regret that they did not capitalize on their opportunity to win back the Governor's Office. I expect an Obama tidal wave to wash across Indiana on November 4th and the only state-wide Republican to be above the water's edge will be Governor Daniels.

I still think the margin will be under 10. I'll stick with my prediction of an 8 point win by Governor Daniels and that the other Republicans running statewide will lose.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Electoral Vote Predictions; Ogden v. His University of Indianapolis' American National Government Students

Tonight I gave my class the assignment of picking the states the presidential candidates would win in the Electoral College. To encourage them I told them I would give them bonus points on their next exam based on the number of states they get right. An additional 5 points will be awarded if they can beat my prediction,

I'm looking over their predictions. They are much, much better than what I expected. I really want to scale down the bonus points. Here is the McCain-Obama electoral vote breakdown for my students:

198-340, 177-361, 260-278, 280-258, 182-356, 185-353, 170-368, 158-380, 185-353, and 162-376

So only one student thinks McCain will win.

My guess? 163-375

I'll just list the states I think McCain will win: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska (all of it), North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

States I struggled with the most in making my decision: Georgia (which my gut tells me may go for Obama), Florida (which I think McCain may actually win taking it out of the bellweather category) and North Dakota (I just couldn't bring myself to give that state to Obama despite the polls showing him leading).

An excellent website for making predictions can be found at: http://theelectoralvote.com/

Update on Early Voting: Start of Marion County Fight Over Integrity of the Vote

The Star reports that Marion County Clerk Beth White has upped her projection on early votes in the county to 110,000. When the election started she was anticipating 60,000, which would have itself been a record. I went to vote today and the line ran all the way from the Clerk's Office past the security screening area.

As I have said before, Republicans are going to be stunned by the Democrat numbers coming out of Marion County. I have predicted that Lake and Marion Counties are going to leave Daniels will have a 110,000 hole to climb out of. I think he'll fairly easily be able to do it with support from other parts of the state. The problem is the rest of the GOP ticket may never get out of that hole.

I also expect there to be a lot of accusations regarding the integrity of the vote in Lake and Marion County. Today, the Star reports that Republican Marion County Chairman Tom John asked the Circuit Court (Republican) Ted Sosin for an order requiring election workers next Tuesday to more closely scrutinize absentee ballots before counting. Indiana Law Blog has a link to the complaint filed by John.

As I've said before, there is a problem with simply scrutinizing signatures, the standard method. My signature in the poll book is from when I was 15 years ago. My signature some 30 years later is much, much different.

Breakdown of Indiana County Registrations - Bloated Registration Rolls

I ran across this interesting posting yesterday where a guy had actually put together a spreadsheet of population and registration statistics for all the counties in Indiana. Follow the links on his post to find the excel spreadsheet. I'm not sure his motivation. It appears he just enjoys working with statistical information.

It shows by my count 15 counties with over 100% registration, including Marion at 107% and Union the winner at 111%. The other counties I see over 100% are Brown, Clark, Crawford, Floyd, Harrison, Howard, Jennings, Pike, Ripley, Scott, Spencer, Tipton and Vanderburg. Most of the others, even if they aren't at 100%, are extremely high, far beyond what is a realistic registration rate.

I'm not sure these counties over 100% did the purges Secretary of State Todd Rokita urged them to do as required by law. I know Marion County did not. In their defense, the feds have made it extremely difficult and expensive to purge non-voters from the voter registration lists. I'm sure a strengthened Democrat majority Congress will jump to fix the Motor Voter Law and Help America Vote Act to make it easier for states to purge non-voters from their voter registration lists so they don't have to deal with 100% registration rates. Okay, that last comment was sarcasm.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Indiana Republicans' Turnout Problem; Why Governor Daniels' Unorthodox Political Strategy Could Hurt Other Republicans

Previously I've written about how the Hoosier Republicans were foolish to laugh at the Democrats last May for having a highly contested presidential primary in the state. The reward for the Democrats was the registration of hundreds of thousands of new voters and an energized Democrat electorate. So much for the theory that contested primaries are always bad.

This post though is about the Republicans' turnout problem. Turnout is always critical to the success or failure of candidates. Some years, like 1980 and 1994, Republicans come to the polls while Democrats stay home. In other years, like 1974, Democrats vote heavily while Republicans, turned off by Watergate, stayed home.

As a candidate for state legislature in 2000, one thing I learned was that no matter how hard I worked or how much people liked me as a candidate, people weren't going to come to the polls for the purpose of voting for me. If they were going anyway, I could convince them to vote for me. But as a down ballot candidate, I didn't drive the voters to the polls. Turnout is driven by the top races on the ballot. Period. The rest of the candidates are at their mercy of the candidates in those top races to get out the party's voters.

This year there are two major races in Indiana that have the potential to drive turnout: President and Governor. On the President side, Obama has a huge advantage over McCain in terms of energy and enthusiasm. Obama's get out the vote and vote early strategy has been the most impressive I have ever seen.

That leaves the Governor's race as a turnout vehicle. A lot of Republicans like Mitch Daniels and would turn out to make sure he stays in office another four years. But the Daniels' campaign has taken a great effort to promote the fact that the Governor has a big lead and is in no danger of losing. The Governor's people emphasize the polls showing Daniels with a large lead while ridiculing those that show a close race.

Politics 101 is that you always emphasize how close the race is and that you could lose. That encourages people to come to the polls to vote for you and your people to work harder. While Daniels will almost certainly survive the unorthodox strategy given the strength of his opponent, the question becomes whether he is doing a disservice to the other Republicans on the ticket. If Republicans aren't worried about coming to the polls to vote for the Governor's re-election, what happens to the Republican state representative in a close district? (There are plenty of those.) What about the other state-wide races, Attorney General and Superintendent of Public Instruction? If Republicans who like Mitch Daniels stay home because they think he has it in the bag, that could spell doom for Republicans Greg Zoeller and Tony Bennett. That's not to mention the effect Republicans staying home could have on numerous other races.

The anectdotal reports from the early voting sites suggest that the Republicans' turnout problem is a reality. They have about 5 days to solve it. If not, Republicans are going to be shocked by the races they end up losing on November 4th.

Jen Wagner on the Mayor and Glass Houses

Part of what I'm trying to do in this blog is to give honest, straight-talk, even if it requires admitting that a liberal or a Democrat is right. Well, here it goes. Jen Wagner is right.

Of course further down the page of her blog she completely undercuts her credibility by insinuating that Secretary of State Todd Rokita is bringing to the public's attention the very legitimate issue of voter registration fraud in NW Indiana because he is a racist.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Election Predictions: President & Congress

Barack Obama becomes the first Democrat to win Indiana since LBJ in 1964. The margin? 4 points. Nationwide Obama wins more than 350 electoral college votes in a sweeping victory.

In the U.S. Senate, the Democrats just miss their filibuster majority with 59 seats (counting Lieberman). The Democrats pick up 30 seats in the U.S. House. The new spread is 263 Democrats, 172 Republicans.

Election Predictions: Indiana Statewide Races

Governor: When the overwhelming Democrat numbers come rolling in the evening of November 4th, the Indiana Democrats will realize they let a golden opportunity to win back the Governor's office get away. Many Daniels' supporters assume the Governor will win by double digits, maybe even by 20 points. The Democrat tidal wave passing through Indiana will hold those numbers sharply down. I see the victory as about an 8 point margin, a solid win, but well within the Democrats' reach in a year that strongly favors the Democrats. Daniels had weaknesses as a candidate, but he was faced with a Democrat who failed to exploit those weaknesses.

Attorney General: Expect Democrat Linda Pence to win, I think by as much as 6 percentage points. Republican Greg Zoeller is a good guy, but Pence is a stronger candidate. It's not a good year for Zoeller's message of continuing the status quo in the Attorney General's Office. Pence is not only right that the AG can exercise more power than is currently the case, she's also on the popular side of that issue. While in a good Republican year, Zoeller wins, this isn't a good Republican year. I expect Pence will run about 2-3 points ahead of the Democrat base.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Don't bet the farm, but I'm predicting Democrat Richard Wood beats Republican Tony Bennett. I expect that Wood will run a little worse than the majority Democratic base vote in the state, but will still eek out a close victory in a good Democrat year. Hopefully Wood did not plan any long vacations next year when I expect he will be serving in office.

Note: By "base vote" I'm referring to what the partisan vote is in a low profile race where the voter doesn't know the candidate. It is in low profile races that people tend to default to their party preference. (Newspapers always measure the base vote wrong by looking at the presidential vote in the district or state which is the wrong way of doing it.) Indiana statewide is usually about a 53-47 Republican base vote (Libertarians excluded) state in a presidential election year. This year, I expect the base vote to be a Democrat majority...which would be very unusual for Indiana.

Election Predictions: Indiana's Congressional Delegation

Indiana's Congressional Delegation

Before the Election: 5 Democrats, 4 Republicans
After the Election: 6 Democrats, 3 Republicans

The southern Indiana and District 2 Republican challenges fall far short. Democrat Michael Montagano scores a solid victory over Republican incumbent Mark Souder. Republican incumbent Steve Buyer survives a close challenge from attorney Nels Ackerson. The good news for Republicans? In 2010, Indiana, with four narrowly-Democrat or Republican-leaning seats held by Democrats, Indiana will be the center of the universe in the Republicans' effort to pick up seats in the U.S. House.

Election Predictions: Indiana General Assembly

Indiana House of Representatives

Before the election: 51 Democrats, 49 Republicans
After the election: 59 Democrats, 41 Republicans

As is usual, the Indiana House is where most of the election excitement can be found. Republicans won 3 races by 27 votes or less in 2006. In nine races, the Republican had less than 53.5% of the vote, which translated into less than a 1200 vote margin in those 9 races. In a year that heavily favors the Democrats, Republicans with even bigger margins of victory in 2006 are vulnerable. I think it is possible the Democrats will hit 60 seats in the House.

I believe two of the Republicans seats lost will be in Marion County, and possibly a third. I definitely see the Republicans losing Buell's old district (89) and Elrod's (97). My upset of the night is the Democrats picking up Phil Hinkle's seat (92) on the westside of Indianapolis. Phil had almost 59% of the vote in 2006, a margin small enough to get caught in a tidal wave base vote for the other party. I hope I'm wrong as I've always admired Phil's outspokenness and willingness to take a stand. We need more of that in Indianapolis. I think though his fate is going to be sealed with an enormous Democrat pro-Obama vote in Marion County.

In the "Republicans who never had a chance to win in 2008" category: Elrod, Tim Harris (31), Don Lehe (15) and Chris Swatts running in Buell's old district.

I don't see the Republicans picking up any House seats held by the Democrats this year.

Indiana Senate

Before the election: 33 Republicans, 17 Democrats
After the election: 32 Republicans, 18 Democrats

Of the 25 seats up, few are competitive. I predict Republican Ed Charbonneau, who replaced state senator Victor Heinold only a year ago, will lose to Democrat Larry Balmer in this northwest district which saw huge numbers in the Democratic primary. No other races look close enough to tip the other way, though I think the results will show that the Democrats will wish they put more effort into winning Republican Mike Young's district (35) on the westside of Indianapolis.

The Colts' Coming PR Troubles

Last night, the Colts dropped their Monday night game to the Tennessee Titans 31-21, leaving them 3-4 and 4 games behind the Titans in the division. The odds of winning the division at this point are very remote. If the Colts are going to make the playoffs it will almost certainly have to be as a wild card.

The positive image the Colts have in the Indianapolis' community is based on only one thing: winning. Beyond winning, the Colts have foolishly not seen the need to cultivate good will in the community. First, the Colts got elected officials to push through a tax increase in Marion County and surrounding counties to pay for the construction of a new stadium that they insisted they must have or they would move. Then the Colts insisted that they be paid for breaking the lease on the RCA Dome. The Capital Improvement Board also gave to the Colts half the non-football income and advertising revenue from Lucas Oil Stadium. As a result, the CIB is left with a $20 million operating deficit for the facility. When the Colts organization was recently asked about the deficit, they replied they were only a "tenant" in the building and they shouldn't be asked to plug the gap.

This year the east side of Indianapolis was hit with a tornado and several parts of the states experienced devastating losses due to flooding. How did the Colts organization give back to the community? They pledged a whole $50,000... that is if people matched the Colts' contribution. $50,000 isn't enough to rebuild a single house. For the Indianapolis Colts and Jim Irsay, who are both now worth billions due to the new Lucas Oil Stadium deal, to only contribute $50,000 is like me putting a penny into the Salvation Army kettle.

The Colts are going down a foolish road. While winning makes them popular in the community, the minute that winning ends, the Colts have nothing to fall back on. If the Colts were smart, they would be trying to build good will in the community rather than basing everything on their continuing to win. Those days of winning may be over sooner than we Colts' fans want to think.

Rewarding Failure - Fred Glass Named as New IU Athletic Director

The Indianapolis Star reports this morning that Fred Glass has been named the new athletic director at Indiana University.

I don't get it. That's like a CEO failing at one company, then being hired enthusiastically by another. Of course, that's what happens in the corporate world all the time, so we shouldn't be surprised.

Fred Glass as President of the Capital Improvement Board was chiefly responsible for one of the most lopsided sports lease agreements in history when he negotiated the current deal for Lucas Oil Stadium with the Colts. The City of Indianapolis gave away half the profits from non-sporting events and revenue from advertising in the facility. We had caved into the Colts demands for a new stadium, and then had to pay the Colts tens of millions of dollars to break the lease on the old stadium. As a result of the deal, the CIB is left with a $20 million dollar operating deficit on the stadium. (Apparently no one thought to consider that it would cost money to operate it.) When Glass was asked about the operating deficit recently, he suggested that the operating costs should have been financed, an extremely irresponsible proposal akin to a homeowner paying his utilities with a credit card.

For those lawyers who read my blog, I would encourage you to read the lease linked above. It is disturbing how one-sided it is. I'm not sure there are many lawyers out there who would let their clients sign such a document. But the Capital Improvement Board did and we taxpayers will be paying for that decision for many years to come.

Addendum: Be sure to also view Advance Indiana's take on the Fred Glass appointment.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Indiana Secretary of State Links ACORN to Possible Lake County Voter Registration Violations

Tim Evans of the Indianapolis Star has this afternoon published a story on-line about indicating Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita's office has done a preliminary investigation of voter registration fraud in Lake County and found several legal violations. By letter Rokita has turned over those findings to the Lake County Prosecutor's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office for possible action.

Congratulations to Todd Rokita for picking up the ball when the Attorney General dropped it claiming, wrongly as I pointed out on my blog, that he didn't have the authority to investigate voter registration fraud. Here is a video of Rokita discussing voter registration fraud on FoxNews.

Many of my fellow conservative Republican friends opposed Todd when he was originally nominated at the state Republican Convention. Their opposition was based on the notion he was too liberal on some issues, issues the Secretary of State's Office didn't even deal with. I don't know about that, nor do I particularly care. What I care about is having a person in office who exercises the power of his office aggressively but also responsibly. Rokita has done that and for that he deserves our support.

The Star Shoots Locke Reynolds, Missing Barnes & Thornburg; Inexperience at City Legal

This morning's Indianapolis Star contains an expose by Brendan O'Shaughnessy on the contracts Sheriff Frank Anderson has with Locke Reynolds that has resulted in that firm being paid over $3 million dollars. Every Indianapolis lawyer waking up this morning seeing that story has to be wondering the same thing. Why did the Star decide to focus on Locke Reynolds rather than the more obvious beneficiary of city legal business since January 1 - Barnes & Thornburg? After all, $3 million paid to Locke since 2003, translates into about $500,000 a year. That is chump change compared to what Barnes & Thornburg is now billing the city on cases that could be handled by the City's attorneys.

As a litigator, I have had a chance to deal with both downtown law firms extensively, including cases where those firms represented government officials. My experience has been that Locke's attorneys conduct themselves professionally, do quality work, and do not needlessly run up bills on their clients, even on government clients. Those are not attributes I would apply to Locke Reynold's cross-town rival, Barnes & Thornburg, which appears to base its success almost entirely on political contacts.

O'Shaughnessy suggests that City Legal could handle many of the Sheriff's cases currently being handled by Locke Reynolds. What is missing in the story is that while in every other area Mayor Ballard has sought out experience, sometimes to the detriment of getting fresh ideas, he has oddly staffed City Legal with inexperienced attorneys. The head of city legal, Chris Cotterill, not coincidentally a former Barnes & Thornburg attorney, has less than 6 years experience. The head of the litigation department at City Legal, Jonathan Mayes, has 3 years experience. Virtually every attorney at City Legal received their law license only in the past few years.

Anyone who has worked in the law, especially litigation, knows there is no substitute for the knowledge that comes from years of experience. One has to wonder why the decision was made to staff City Legal, especially its leadership, with attorneys who lack significant experience. Given the poor job market for attorneys, there are plenty of highly experienced attorneys out there who would have jumped at the chance to take those jobs. An obvious explanation is that inexperience of City Legal allows it to be dominated by two of the Mayor's top advisers, Bob Grand and Joe Loftus, who are Barnes & Thornburg partners. It's no secret around town that a substantial amount of legal work has been directed by City Legal to Barnes & Thornburg since Mayor Ballard took office. Having a forceful, experienced head of City Legal might have resulted in those cases being sent to other law firms which do better legal work and bill much more conservatively.

While I certainly appreciate the quality investigative work O'Shaunnessy put into exposing taxpayer money going to a private law firm, I think singling out Locke Reynolds on this issue is like a big game hunter shooting a squirrel while missing the fact it was sitting next to an elephant.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Drinking on College Campuses? This is Indeed Shocking News

The Indianapolis Star this morning published a whole host of articles dealing with the problem of drinking on college campuses.. The lead article by Robert King focuses on the practice of "tailgating" before state college football games.

Many of those people in the article pointed to more strict laws as the answer. Yeah, sure, how exactly have those prohibition laws for 18-20 year old been working thus far? The answer would be not at all. They are counterproductive and lead to more individuals driving while intoxicated, as 18-20 year olds end up consuming alcohol in secret which often involves driving. Also, because 18-20 year olds are not taught to consume alcohol responsibly, when they get a chance to drink they often binge or get involved in drinking games.

As I indicated previously in this blog, teaching people about alcohol tolerance and what it takes to be too intoxicated to drive would be helpful education. Those who push the tougher laws do not want to do that though, probably because of the mindest that quietly converted anti-drunk driving slogan from "Don't Drive Drunk" to "Don't Drink and Drive." The obvious logic of the latter slogan is that a person having one beer after work, which doesn't even register in his blood alcohol level, and driving home has committed the same wrong as someone who drank 10 beers and drove home plowed. But contrary to the slogan, the former is consuming alcohol responsibly while the latter is not.

In every other arena, government bestows adulthood on 18 year olds. The sole exception is our drinking laws. It's time to ditch the prohibitionist attitude toward 18-20 year olds drinking, a policy that is clearly not working, in favor of one that allows young adults to learn responsible consumption of alocohol and which holds those them accoutable when they fail to live up to that responsibility. The prohibitionist policy doesn't make sense, especially in light of the fact that this country is asking 18-20 year olds to risk their lives in a foreign land, but makes them a criminal if they have a sip of beer.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Privatize the Hoosier Lottery? RIP a very bad idea

Saturday's Indianapolis Star notes that Governor Mitch Daniels has withdrawn his proposal to privatize the Hoosier Lottery as an option of funding a college scholarship program after the U.S. Department of Justice said doing so would not comply with federal law.

This was never one of Mitch's good ideas. As I've said previously, Republicans have forgotten the fundamental principle of privatization. That principle is to inject market competition into the provision of a government service. As the article notes there were only a couple vendors ready to compete for the service and the winner was to be awarded with a long term term lease. It was exposing Hoosiers to a state-sanctioned monopoly. In addition, because so many decisions regarding a privatized lottery would be made behind closed doors, the odds of corruption seeping into the running of the lottery would have been great. The argument might be that the lease will prohibit misconduct and contract compliance will be tight, but government officials have a poor history of closely monitoring privatization contracts, especially long-term ones, and enforcing compliance. One only has to look at the sordid history of correctional privatization to see that.

As a conservative, I opposed a privatized lottery for another reason. Make no mistate, it would have been an expansion of gambling in this state, maybe the biggest expansion ever. Kiosks selling lottery tickets, misleading television commercials promoting the lottery, new games, etc. would have been the result. One of the saddest things I see is when I go into the store near my office and seeing people, who obviously have little money, buying $30, $40, $50 in lottery tickets. A private company would have promoted this behavior to a much greater degree than is presently the case.

Back to privatization. Earlier I posted my rules on privatization. Basically they are a set of questions that should be asked as to every privatization proposal. Lottery privatization would fail the test.

OGDEN'S RULES ON PRIVATIZATION

1) Are there several vendors who are capable of and interested in providing the service?
--If there is only one or two vendors that can provide the service, then you're not instilling market competition into the delivery of the service. You're exposing taxpayers to a monopoly mandated by government.

2) Is the contract for a service that will be bid out?
---A contract that will be subject to bidding rules is less likely to be one where the vendor gets the service because of political contacts or campaign contributions.

3) Is the vendor going to be given a long term contract?
---When you give a vendor a long term contract, then the vendor doesn't have to worry about market competition if they don't provide the service well. The whole idea of privatization is defeated.

4) Is this a service that is going to be provided out in the open, so the public can judge the quality of the service provided by the vendor?
---Garbage collection everyone sees. The running of a maximum security prison is done behind closed doors. The public knows if the company picking up the garbage is doing a good job. The public knows little about how well the prison is being run.

5) Are the individuals who are receiving the service which might be privatized, people who are politically powerless or unpopular?
---Classic example is correctional privatization. A sizable portion of the population doesn't care if private correctional companies cut corners on medicine or medical treatment of inmates. So even though the company may not be living up to their obligations under the privatization contract, that contract often is not enforced by public officials who do not have to worry about the powerless constituency receiving the service. By the way, I would say another example of people without much political power are welfare recipients. Witness the recent FSSA privatization effort here in Indiana.

6) Is the company providing the service going to be properly supervised and held accountable if the vendor doesn't live up to the contract?
---Too often services get privatized and government does not do adequate monitoring of compliance with terms of the contract. The tendency for government is to just pass blame along to the private company. It doesn't work like that though...government is still legally responsible for the provision of the service, even if it's contracted out to a private vendor.

7) Is the company bidding on the privatization contract willing to subject itself itself to the open records law and disclosure requirements public agencies providing that service would have to follow?
---Although providing a public service paid for with taxpayer dollars, many companies insist on operating in secrecy. They claim the secrecy is to protect itself from having the company's secrets stolen. Don't buy that nonsense. The real reason for the scrutiny is that the companies do not want to provide information that could be used to show they are not doing a good job.

8) Did the company or its top employees make large campaign contributions to elected officials and candidates who were in a position to influence the privatization decision?
---Privatization has unfortunately become a vehicle by which elected officials and candidates can generate large campaign contributions from companies interested in currying favor. Even after the decision is made, the money train continues because the companies want to keep the elected officials happy and avoid the scrutiny and criticism of their performance.

9) Is the company hiring local politicians in an attempt influence the privatization decision or reduce the criticism of their performance under an existing privatization contract?
---It's the oldest game in privatization. A private company which offers a service hires the elected official who was responsible for the government providing that service to the public. The person isn't being hired for his or her expertise. The person is being hired for political influence.

The Irony of this Election Season

I find delicious irony in the Democrats fighting so hard against the voter photo ID requirement, now touting it as an important precaution against voter fraud in this era of bloated voter registration books filled with people who have died or moved. Democrats were wrong to fight the requirement. The previous signature requirement was a joke. My signature in the poll book is from when I was 15 years old and signed my social security card. My signature has changed substantially the 30 plus years since then. I would say I thought the particular photo ID requirement Indiana adopted was a bit too restrictive. But the argument that people should be able to vote without any identification at all is, as we say in the law, utterly without merit.

Upcoming irony? In response to Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita's request that the Republican Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter investigate voter registration fraud in Lake County, the Attorney General's Office issued a statement that the AG had no authority to conduct such an investigation. As I have previously noted in this blog, that legal interpretation is not supported by Indiana law. It is the product of the mindset at the AG's office (which is shared by Republican Attorney General candidate Greg Zoeller, Carter's top lieutenant) of an extremely limited role for the state's top attorney, and a refusal to exercise even power specifically given to that office.

The irony? Well that would be Zoeller losing the election because of questionable votes coming out of Lake County.

Indiana Republicans: Beware Marion And Lake Counties

I've said it before on these pages, Marion and Lake Counties are going to put Republicans in a hole that they are not expecting. I previously predicted the Republican deficit in the Governor's race will be 110,000 votes in those two counties. I think Daniels will be able to climb out of the Democrat Marion and Lake County hole with the help of cross-over from voters who are voting Democrat in other races. The other state-wide Republican candidates? Well, let's just say I'd keep those resumes up to date.

Over at Advance Indiana, blogger Gary Welsh notes the early voting advantage Democrats have in Marion and Lake counties. The Indianapolis Star has a story this morning detailing the breakdown of the early votes in the Indianapolis metro area and Lake County.

As Advance Indiana notes, the early vote in Democrat Marion and Lake Counties is substantially higher than in the Republican counties surrounding Marion County. To give you some perspective, the population in Marion County is about 3 1/2 times that of Hamilton County. Hamilton County has 6,345 early voters. Proportionally that should mean Marion County would have 22,208 early voters. Instead Marion County has 42,230 early votes, an extra 20,000. That is significant and something that will have an effect all the way down the ballot, not just in the presidential race.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Obama's 14 Point Swing in Indiana

Although political polling is a science, it is certainly an inexact science. I've never seen an election where polling results have been all over the map. That's probably due not only to the different polling methods used, but the fact that because of things like caller ID and cell phones, which aren't polled, it is increasingly tough for pollsters to get accurate samples and to account for disparities in who picks up the phone to participate in the poll.

But where polling remains at its absolute best is when the same poll, utilizing the same methodologies, is taken at a later date and a different result is noted. That shows an electorate trend that is hard to dispute.

The Big 10 Battleground Poll conducted in mid-September noted that John McCain had a 4 point lead in Indiana. They ran the same poll, mid October. The result released yesterday showed Barack Obama with a 10 point lead in Indiana.

I've been saying for awhile that I think Obama is going to carry Indiana. The contested Hillary Clinton-Obama primary, which Republicans mocked at the time, has been an enormous catalyst for the Democratic Party in terms of bringing new voters and energy into the party. (You think maybe party insiders, especially Republicans, would finally get the hint and rethink their unquestioned creed that contested primaries are bad for a political party? It's only bad for party bosses who like to pick the candidates rather than the party's voters.) The question is what other races is an Obama tidal wave going to help them win in Indiana?

On the "Morning Joe" show this morning, I saw them comparing this year to 1996. That's wrong...this year is the 1980 election all over again, but in reverse. With respect to Obama, there has been a persistent question out there whether he is qualified for the job and people would be comfortable with him. Same with Reagan in 1980. With respect to Obama, there is an enormous enthusiasm gap between his support and that of McCain's, an enthusiasm gap that polls have trouble capturing. The same was true with regard to the Reagan-Carter race of 1980.

What happened in 1980? Ronald Reagan had a small but significant lead going into the election and won by a huge landslide carrying into office Republicans who were thought to have no chance of winning. That's what Obama may end up doing in 2008.

Stay tuned. I'll make my predictions next week.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Linda Pence is Right; My Experience With The Failure of the Attorney General's Office to Fight Mortgage Fraud

This morning's Indianapolis Star features an article written by Jon Murray in which he discusses the battle between Republican Greg Zoeller and Democrat Linda Pence over the scope of the Attorney General's job. Pence says she wants to raise the profile of the office. Zoeller says his focus will be on the criminal appeals function of the office and suggests Pence is claiming the AG should take over criminal prosecutions, a suggestion Pence denies.

Pence is right. The Indiana Code provides plenty of power to the Attorney General short of conducting an actual prosecution. It is a power that has not been exercised by the Attorney General's Office. But that fact that the AG has chosen not to act is not the same thing as the AG not having the authority to act. As an example, I previously commented on the Attorney General's claim he had no power to investigate Lake County voter registration fraud.

One thing that is not captured in any article I've seen thus far is a sense of frustration that many elected and appointed officials, including some prominent Republicans, have had with the Attorney General's Office. It's not just Pence urging that the office take a more aggressive role. Many Republicans also wanted a much more aggressive, active Attorney General...they just wanted that person to be a Republican who shared their values.

A good example of where the Attorney General's Office can do a much better job is in the area of real estate regulation and mortgage fraud. Up until a little more than a year ago, I headed up the Title Insurance Division at the Department of Insurance. In that role, our office worked with regulators from the Secretary of State's Office, the Department of Financial Institutions, the Attorney General's Office and others. Because all of these entities regulate different real estate players in even the same transaction, it is imperative to cooperate and share information. DFI and the Secretary of State's Office were great to work with. The weak link in the real estate regulatory chain was always the Attorney General's Office.

The Attorney General's Office's responsibility was regulating real estate agents and appraisers. Our office would provide the Secretary of State's Office with mortgage brokers who were involved in mortgage fraud. The Secretary of State's people would investigate and take action if they thought it appropriate. But when we would provide the AG's Office with the names of appraisers involved in mortgage fraud, the AG's office would not even bother to investigate.

Without question the AG's office has the authority to fine and even yank the licenses of appraisers who are involved in mortgage fraud. In addition to licensing enforcement, the AG can take the lead and work with prosecutors in providing the investigatory information and expertise needed to prosecute mortgage fraud. It is always going to be the county prosecutor's choice as to whether to prosecute. That doesn't mean though the AG can't investigate and turn over the information to the prosecutor to prosecute if he or she so chooses.

Our office often found county prosecutors simply did not have the knowledge of how complex real estate transactions work. You can't prosecute something you don't understand. That again is where the Attorney General's Office can provide expertise to a county prosecutor. There is nothing stopping the Attorney General's Office from offering to county prosecutors a Deputy Attorney General, who specializes in mortgage fraud and can also be deputized by the county prosecutor to prosecute that crime in their counties.

I can't leave this topic without discussing another real estate matter - the issue of unfair competition. We regulated title insurance agents at the Title Insurance Division. In the real estate industry, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, builders and others often tell title insurance agents that they will not steer business to their agency unless they get something in return, a kickback. The trouble is paying for and accepting anything of value for a title insurance referral is illegal under both Indiana law and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) It is illegal for both the giver and the recipient of the kickback.

We had no problem enforcing the law against title insurance agents receiving kickbacks. Enforcement of the unfair competition laws was in fact the very reason the Title Insurance Division was created. The problem was the recipient of the kickback, the real estate agents, were continuing to solicit the title insurance agents, without any fear of getting in trouble for doing so.

We brought it to the attention of the Attorney General's Office, in particular the Homeowner's Protection Unit, that solicitation of things of value by the real estate agents was a violation of RESPA. We explained the numerous schemes involved to avoid a straight handing over of cash in return for business. We asked them to enforce the law. We were met with disinterest and told that they weren't sure the Attorney General had the authority to enforce RESPA. But as I pointed out, it says right in RESPA that the Attorneys General of the states (along with the state Insurance Commissioners) have the authority to enforce RESPA. The Indiana General Assembly thought so to and in 2007 passed a law requiring the AG's office to report on its enforcement of RESPA. Still the AG's office took the position that it was not clear the office had the authority to enforce RESPA.

We need an Attorney General who will be more active and aggressive than it has been in the past. The status quo is not good enough.

See also:

Consolidating Real Estate Regulation in Indiana - Where do the Governor and Attorney General Candidates Stand on the Issue? (10/5/2008)

Real Estate Reform - Why Indiana Needs It (9/16/2008)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Deal or No Deal? Are People Really That Stupid?

Tonight I caught the end of a Deal or No Deal segment. The contestant had a $1 suitcase and two $1 million suitcases left. (This was one of those shows where they had multiple $1 million suitcases...in this game there were 7 of them.)

The offer was something like $625,000. I would have taken the offer. Why? Because there was a 2/3 chance one of the $1 million suitcases would get knocked out on my next selection. If that happened, the banker's offer would drop substantially and I'd be pretty much stuck with taking it because my safety net was gone.

The contestant picked a $1 million case which left the $1 and $1,000,000 cases. At this point he still manages to get something like a $415,000 offer, which I'm thinking is much higher than it needed to be. Still it is a no brainer...any rational, sane person would take the $415,000 rather than risk going home with only $1. If $415,000 is wisely invested it would be a million dollars in only a few years anyway, thanks to compound interest.

The contestant, at the urging of his friends of family (with the exception of his wise mother who counseled otherwise), turned down the deal. After that decision, the contestant lost my support and I began cheering against him. Nobody that clueless about odds and the value of money should be entrusted with $1 million. Indeed after deciding to keep his original case, the contestant walked away from the show only $1 richer.

Now I know why so many people play the lottery.

Republicans and Alcoholics

Mental health experts say that the first step in the recovery for an alcoholic is for that person to admit he has a problem.

The same goes for Republicans. While its hard not to get caught up in the very positive spin some of my well-meaning fellow Republican bloggers are putting on this election, it is almost certain that Republicans are going to hit with an enormous Democrat inferno come November 4th. The Republican brand has been damaged, and we're going to pay dearly for it.

The key date is not November 4th, however. The key date is November 5th. The question is whether Republicans are going to use this election disaster to build a new and better party or whether they'll spin themselves into believing it really wasn't so bad after all. It takes the alcoholic waking up face down in the gutter to realize he has a problem and needs to make changes in his life. I f it takes a November 4th for Republicans to realize they have a problem and need to make drastic changes, so be it.

Returning to the Democrat inferno, anyone who has walked through a forest after it has been consumed by a fire, sees a gruesome, ugly scene. Return in two years though, and that same forest is alive with lush green new growth. 2008 won't be a good year for Republicans. 2010 though is a year that has limitless possibilities if, and only if, the Republican Party take a hard look in the mirror and admits it has a problem.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Can You Scratch That Itch? New Poll Shows Mixed Results

A new poll released today by Public Policy Polling, gives Republicans and Democrats things to cheer...and cry about.

Obama is shown as leading his Republican rival, John McCain, 48-46. I believe this is the first poll in quite some time to show Obama ahead of McCain in the state.

The big scratch event appears to be the Governor's race. Republican Governor Daniels leads by a whopping 21 points in the poll, 57-36. This is in contradiction to several recent media polls showing Democrat Jill Long Thompson only down 1 to 4 points. It should be noted that it is extremely rare for a Democrat presidential candidate to run ahead of the Democrat candidate for Governor. It hasn't happened since 1976. It looks like it will happen this time.

Polling in a more baseline race, Attorney General, shows Democrat Linda Pence leading Republican Greg Zoeller 42-39. The other poll I saw in this race had Zoeller up 10 points. My guess is that Pence will run 2-3 points above the Democratic baseline in the state. Guessing what that baseline will be is the challenge.

For Superintendent of Public Instruction, Republican Tony Bennett has a 38-36 lead over Richard Wood. That is even more of a baseline race than the AG's race. Probably less than 10% of the voters know the names of the candidates. Whenever I hear the names of the two parties' candidates for this position, I chuckle.

The methodology used for this poll is not quite clear, though they did use a "likely voter" screen. While that's a good thing to do when polling in most elections, in a high turnout election like this, it's likely to narrow the voters too much, to the benefit of Republicans. 1,411 likely voters were surveyed on October 18th and 19th. The poll has a margin of error +/- 2.6%.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Indianapolis Star Beats A Dead(beat) Horse - My Ten Ideas on Reforming Our Divorce & Child Support Laws

Tuesday's Indianapolis Star contains an AP article entitled "Deadbeat parents face license suspension." In the article, it is announced that there is a "new program" by Governor Mitch Daniels to suspend the drivers' licenses, hunting and fishing licenses of those non-custodial parents who are at least $25, 000 behind in child support.

My first observation is that it is already the law that the prosecutor's office can order driver's licenses suspended for far less than being $25,000 behind in child support. I had a client, who was only a few thousand behind in support, who had his license suspended by an order the prosecutor's office sent to the BMV. When he lost his license, he also lost the job he had lined up. I have a real problem with the prosecutor's office, which is essentially the attorney for the custodial parent, being able to unilaterally order driver's licenses suspended. Further, I doubt the legality of Indiana's law allowing the prosecutor to suspend licenses. The United States Supreme Court has held that driving is a right and that prior to deprivation of that right the driver must be provided due process. There is no due process in the prosecutor's office sending an order to the BMV to have a person's license suspended. It would seem only right and fair that this be one of the things a judge can order after reviewing the circumstances.

This story though does provide the opportunity for me to spout off on my ideas regarding family law legal reform. These ideas come from 20 years of practicing law, fortunately not personal experience as a custodial or noncustodial parent or a party to divorce. Without further ado, here are my reform ideas:

1. Emancipation should be at 18 in Indiana.

Note: Indiana is only one of three states that has emancipation at 21 years of age. Almost every state in the union is 18.

2. Emancipation should be automatic.

Note: Right now many counties, even though they have information on the child's birth, will not stop child support at 21. Instead, the non-custodial parent has to hire an attorney to go to court and point out that the child is 21 to stop support.

3. Divorced parents should not be required to pay their children's college expenses.

Note: Indiana again is only one of 3 states that a parent can be required to pay a "child's" college expense past the age of 18. In fact, in Indiana, the divorced parent can be required to pay child support up until, I believe, the age of 25. (Of course, if you remain married, the court has no authority to order the parents to pay college expenses for their child.) My research shows we are the only state in the union that has that rule.

4. Visitation and child support should be linked.

Note: I often see custodial parents who have no problem withholding visitation, scream the second the child support check is late. Custodial parents would be less likely to withhold visitation if they knew it could affect their child support check. Likewise, noncustodial parents would be encouraged to pay child support knowing that was a requirement to get visitation.

5. The Prosecutor's Office should decline to represent custodial parents in the collection of child support if the custodial parent is not complying with visitation orders.

Note: Ideally, if the Prosecutor's Office is going to enforce child support orders, it should also enforce visitation orders. I do realize though that the Title IV-D federal money received by the prosecutor can only be used for child support collection. As a result, I did not make the suggestion that the Prosecutor enforce both, but rather that if a custodial parent comes to the Prosecutor's Office, he or she should not expect help collecting child support if that person is not following the order on visitation.

6. The Prosecutor's Office should not be using IV-D money to enforce orders relating to "children" over 18 getting college expenses paid.

Note: I had a case in one of the donut counties where I was up against a Deputy Prosecutor over a dispute involving divorced parents paying for the college expenses of a 21 year old. The law though says Title IV-D money received by prosecutors can only be used for collection of child support and college expenses are not child support under the law. Because Indiana is only one of 3 states where divorced parents can be ordered to pay college expenses, this abuse of Title IV-D money hasn't come up much. I'm certain though using that money to collect college expenses is illegal.

7. Require that child support be paid into a particular account that is maintained by the custodial parent for the benefit of the child or children.

Note: Compliance with child support orders would be much better if noncustodial parents actually thought the money was being held and spent for the benefit of the children.

8. Require annual accounting of expenditures from the child support account.

Note: Same as above. Noncustodial parents would feel a lot better about paying child support if they actually had some sort of assurance the support was being spent on the children. With modern technology, you could even set it up where noncustodial parents could monitor the account on-line.

9. Driver's licenses and other types of licenses should not be suspended without a court order.

Note: I've discussed this above. Giving the Prosecutor's Office, which is essentially a advocate for one side, the authority to make the decision, unilaterally and without review, to suspend a noncustodial parent's license, is a prescription for abuse and unfairness.

10. There should be a "cooling off" period before marriage similar to the 60 day cooling off period prior to a divorce.

Note: I've always said that conservatives are wrong that it's too easy to get divorced. The problem is that it's too easy to get married. Many people would reconsider their decision if they spent an adequate time to reflect on it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Yes, the Indiana Attorney General certainly does have the legal authority to investigate voter registration fraud

In today's Indianapolis Star's article on voter fraud, Tim Evans notes that Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita had asked Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter to investigate voter registration fraud in Lake County. To Rokita's request, the Star reported:

"In a written reply Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Richard Bramer said the authority for such investigations lies not with the attorney general but instead falls to county and federal prosecutors."
Hogwash. IC 4-6-1-6 clearly gives the Indiana Attorney General the authority to investigate matters involving criminal law and work with county prosecutors in any prosecution they decide to pursue.

Further, IC 4-6-2-1 gives the Indiana Attorney General the authority bring civil actions on behalf of the State. The Indiana Attorney General could easily file an injunction lawsuit against Acorn's voter registration activities that violate Indiana election law.

Bramer's reply highlights my frustration with the lack of aggressiveness in the Indiana Attorney General's Office on a wide assortment of issues. It is as if the Attorney General's Office is always looking for a reason why the AG can't take action rather than a reason why the AG can take action.

I am reminded of the letter President Lincoln wrote to Union General McClellan when he was frustrated by the General not taking on the enemy despite the fact the Union Army had overwhelming numbers:

"My Dear General McClellan:

If you are not using the army, I should like to borrow it for a short while.

Yours respectfully,
Abraham Lincoln"

You can substitute accordingly to paraphrase Lincoln's comments.

Acorn Followed the Law; It's Just That Acorn's Workers Did Not

In today's Indianapolis Star there is a story on voter fraud very misleading headline "Acorn followed the law on suspect registrations."

It's one of those cases where the headline doesn't match the story. The piece written by Tim Evans notes that Acorn followed the law when it turned in registrations the organization had collected that appeared to be phony. I'm not sure when anyone, knowledgeable about Indiana election law, has ever suggested otherwise. The problem, which Evans notes, is in the creation of phony registrations, which is in itself a crime. If Acorn knows that they have people out there creating fraudulent registrations, yet does nothing to stop those workers, the organization could certainly be held responsible.

Evans quotes Nathaniel Persily, a Columbia Law School professor, as saying registration fraud is very different from actual voter fraud, which occurs at the polls. "The effect is not going to change the outcome of the election or allow imaginary people to vote," he said.

I am not sure why the quote from Persily is helpful to the article. There is no indication he has any knowledge of Indiana election law or how elections are conducted in Indiana. Contrary to Persily's claim, if fake names are on the voter registration lists, there is nothing to prevent people from voting on their behalf via absentee or at the many polling places where the voter ID requirement is not enforced.

Contrary to Democratic sentiment, as I wrote previously, having accurate voter lists with only real, eligible voters is essential to the integrity of the electoral process. Indianapolis has 105% registration now. Even if you were to purge all voters who haven't voted in the last 4 years, the voter registration rate for Indianapolis would still be approximately 92%. Does anyone really believe the voter registration rate for Marion County is that high? Obviously the lists are filled with duplicates and, in many cases, fake registrations. It simply is not true, as is suggested in the article, that every voter registration application is subject to a substantial verification process before the name of the voter is added to the voter rolls. Even if a county clerk wanted to, it would be impossible to complete that process in the short time period before the close of registration and the printing of the poll books.

Republicans are going to be shocked on Election Day to see the Democratic numbers coming out of Marion and Lake Counties. I'm predicting those two counties will leave Gov. Daniels in a 110,000 vote hole. McCain's hole will be even deeper. After 2008, Indiana may be the new Florida when it comes to questions regarding the integrity of the voting process in the state.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Speculating About The New Jill Long Thompson TV Ads

As a long time political activist, I find political strategy fascinating. To this day it amazes me the number of politicians and their advisers who do not understand basic political strategy and couldn't pass the campaign strategy class I used to teach. In this blog I hope to illuminate the various political strategies and point out which are smart and not so smart.

That brings me to Jim Shella's blog. Yesterday Jim speculates about the long awaited Jill Long Thompson ads, and wonders whether they'll be about the bad investment of the money from privatized toll road.

I wouldn't be surprised. It's not a horrible political strategy, but somewhat disingenuous because the Governor has no say over the investment of state funds - that's the State Treasurer's call. I think though you could put the Governor on the spot for not demanding the funds be invested differently. It's a reach, but certainly no worse of a reach than the Governor's commercial which suggested that the original intent behind the lottery was for the funds to go to education. That simply is not accurate.

Here is a two-part, last-minute TV commercial strategy JLT would be wise to employ, and one the Daniels' people should be prepared to fight against.

1) Run TV commercials reminding voters that Governor Daniels served as head of the Office of Management of Budget and the deficit that developed on his watch.

Note: I can only suppose JLT has not done this because she is concerned that Bush is too popular in this state. If I were her, I'd take that chance in a heartbeat in what is likely to be a very big Democrat year. She ought to tie Daniels to Bush, hitching her wagon to the anti-Bush sentiment.

2) Run a second set of TV commercials to address economic issues, job losses...show real people talking about losing their jobs or having them shipped overseas.

Note: This plays into the No. 1 issue which is driving people to vote Democrat this year. It's also an issue that the Daniels' advisers seem to have a deaf ear about. As I noted previously, Governor Daniels is still running commercials touting how well the state is doing. That was a good strategy maybe six weeks ago. It's a very bad strategy today. People want their elected officials to understand and sympathize with their plight. The Daniels' commercials now come across as seeming out of touch, unsympathetic to people during this downturn in the economy.

Now that I think about it, no campaign has every paid me for my political advice, so maybe I'm way off base.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Keeping the Lid on the Oil Can; So We Have A Retractable Roof But We're Rarely Going to Use It?

The questionable wisdom of city leaders is once again in display in this morning's Indianapolis Star. It turns out that that retractable roof stadium that cost $720 million dollars is actually not an open air facility that can be closed in bad weather, but an enclosed stadium with a sunroof that will rarely be opened. Unlike in other cities, when Indianapolis built the Lucas Oil Stadium, they didn't shell out the additional $500,000 for a drainage system.

The Star reports that the $15.7 million roof won't be open but rarely. The figure is misleading. While the roof itself might have cost $15.7, as I recall designing a stadium with a retractable roof cost about $200 million more.

So in short, because our city leaders didn't shell out the extra $500,000 for drainage, the extra $200 million dollars we spent in order to have a retractable roof goes down the drain.

Mike Lloyd, is an engineer for CMX Sports Engineers in Phoenix, who designed the removable grass field and drainage system for Phoenix Stadium, describes Indianapolis city leaders attitude toward Lucas Oil Stadium as a "bit curious" and suggests it would have been wise to make the stadium more flexible. Well, Mr. Lloyd some of us here in Indianapolis have a different word to describe city leaders who have bungled this project from the beginning but to be polite I won't use it.

So they designed a retractable roof stadium without drainage so the roof can't be used 90% of the time. That bonehead decision is a little like estimating the cost of the new stadium and failing to include the $20 million dollars needed every year to operate the stadium.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Election Results in Marion And Lake County; Can Governor Daniels Climb Out of a 110,000 Vote Hole?

When the polls close on the evening of November 4th, one would be wise to look closely at the vote totals of two counties, Marion and Lake, which counties may decide the fortunes of the state-wide Republican candidates. Okay, for the Lake County results we may be waiting until November 5th.

In 2004, Democrat Kernan beat Republican Mitch Daniels by 18,272 votes in Marion County. Kernan beat Daniels by 57,427 in Lake County. Registration has exploded in Marion and Lake Counties. Given the increased registration which appears to be heavily Democrat in and what is likely to be a heavy minority turnout, expect the Democrats' margins to soar in those two counties.

I'm predicting that Jill Long Thompson will win Marion County by more than 30,000 votes and Lake by 80,000, for a total margin in those two counties of 110,000 votes.

The fate of Daniels and other state-wide Republican candidates hinges on the support of a handful of strong Republican counties in the State. Three donut counties, which are vital to Republicans' success in offsetting Democrat Marion and Lake counties are Hamilton, Johnson and Hendricks counties. Hamilton County delivered a 49,117 margin for Daniels in 2004, while Johnson and Hendricks County gave an 18,016 and 20,070 edge to Daniels respectively. While I'm guessing Obama runs ahead of the Republican base in that county, I also expect a sizable number of voters to cast Obama-Daniels votes in those counties.

Outside of the donut counties, Allen County is important for Republicans. Mitch Daniels won it by 19,790 last time. Since this is Jill Long Thompson's home turf, will she be able to significantly reduce Daniels' advantage in that county? What about Elkhart County's 16,024 margin for Daniels in 2004? Will Daniels' margin in that district be narrowed by the toll road privatization lease?

In the not too distant future, I'll be doing an analysis of where I think the margins will be in each county on Election Day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Celebrating Christopher Columbus

Have to love this holiday. Today we celebrate a guy who got lost, didn't realize where he had been, and whose claim to fame is having "discovered" a land where people already lived.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lease More Private Jail Space? Thanks, But No Thanks

In today's Indianapolis Star, Jon Murray of the Indianapolis Star reports that Scott Newman, Marion County's Public Safety Director has proposed leasing 200 more beds at a private jail to accommodate the need to combat crime. The idea is that by making bonds higher, more people will remain locked up and thus less likely to commit other crimes.

The running of private jails is something I've become all too familiar with this year. As a conservative Republican, I lean toward locking up the bad guys. But what I've seen regarding how these private jails are run is shocking to the conscience. Nurses escorting dangerous inmates. Numerous cameras and radios in the facility that do not work. Razor blades left out in the open where they can be fashioned into weapons. Inmates not given medical treatment and medication delayed or not given out at all because it's too expensive. People are getting hurt at these private jails; some are dying.

Last Thursday, I met with a woman who lost her husband of almost 20 years. He had a heart condition. The woman desperately told officials at Jail #2 that he needed his heart medicine or he would die. They did not order the medicine for him. Several days later he had a heart attack and died. In another case I have, the inmate died when he was not given his hypertension medicine for nearly a week. A case another attorney has involves an inmate whose pneumonia was not treated at the private jail and he died. At least five people, young men, have died at the one facility in the last two years. In the course of preparing for my cases I have gathered the names of close to 100 inmates who did not get their prescribed medication or medical treatment at Marion County private jails. It should be emphasized that most of these people in jail have not yet been convicted, and are in jail because they can't afford the bond.

While the legal violations at the private jails are numerous, I would point to one in particular that is repeatedly ignored. 210 IAC 3-1-11(k) says that when an inmate comes into an Indiana jail and is receiving medication prescribed by a physician, the jail is to provide that inmate with that medication in the dosage and at the frequency prescribed. The law goes on to say that the jail is not to provide substitutions of medication without the prescribing physician's approval.

Private correctional companies regularly violate this law. They take the position that when you walk into their jail, the private jail's doctor (Jail #2's is not even an M.D.) is the inmate's doctor and it does not matter what was prescribed by another physician. It is because of this reason that these companies often ignore the repeated orders from Marion County criminal court judges to provide an inmate with medication or medical treatment prescribed by outside doctors.

It is extremely common for inmates to go weeks if not months before they start receiving their medication. Often the private jail doctor won't order the inmate's medication at all because it is too expensive, or they will provide a much cheaper substitute that doesn't work as well or at all. At Jail #2, the doctor at the facility ordered a round of medication for the inmates (going from 3 rounds to 2) eliminated because they were "understaffed." Translation: Hiring more people to pass out medication cuts into their profits. The Sheriff's contract though says the private company will fully staff the facility. It's just one of many provisions in the contract that is not enforced.

One should not be surprised that a private company would want to cut corners to make more money. That is why it is up to government officials, in this case primarily Sheriff Frank Anderson, to make certain the private companies are following the law and the contract they signed. To say Sheriff Anderson has completely failed in his job of supervising the private jails is an understatement. No matter what the allegations have been or how well those allegations have been supported, Sheriff Anderson refuses to acknowledge them much less conduct an investigation of the claims. In the past three years he has not even audited Jail #2 despite the fact that there have been numerous deaths and injuries at the facility and the contract gives him sweeping authority to review the procedures of the facility and approve personnel.

During a recent council meeting, I heard Scott Newman make the astounding remark that the private jail vendors follow their contracts. I can't imagine that Newman is oblivious to the plethora of lawsuits filed against the Marion County private jails because of legal and contractual violations. Our small firm by itself has five private jail lawsuits, including a wrongful death case, a inmate class action, and an employee whistleblowing action based primarily on retaliation and intimidation of nurses who attempted to report problems at the facility. It looks like we will soon have another wrongful death case. It should be noted that when the private jails get sued, the Sheriff almost also gets sued for failing to supervise the jails. The taxpayers could well be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees and damages on many of these lawsuits. While the privatization contracts give the Sheriff the authority to recoup attorney's fees and judgments against the Sheriff because of the actions or negligence of the private jail companies, it is highly doubtful these indemnification provisions have ever been enforced.

It's time for the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee of the Indianapolis City-County Council to start asking Sheriff Anderson and others like Scott Newman why they are not looking into the allegations regarding the private jails. Until the safety and medical problems at the Marion County private jails are addressed and county officials properly supervise the facilities, the Council's response to Scott Newman's request for 200 more private jail beds should be a resounding "No."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Is Governor Daniels Taking Re-Election For Granted?

Ruth Holladay was always one of my favorite writers in the Indianapolis Star. So I jumped over her blog to check it out. As always her opinions are refreshing.

Her 10/10/08 blog asks the question "Is McCain Taking Indiana for Granted?" With all due respect to Ruth, it's been pretty clear for at least three weeks that McCain's plan for Indiana is to just let the chips fall where they may.

The question of the moment rather is whether Governor Mitch Daniels is taking his re-election for granted. There have now been 3 media polls showing his lead 4 points or less. Strangely though Governor Daniels and his staff have spent considerable effort disputing the validity of those polls and assuring supporters he has a big lead. Politics 101 says that to fire up the troops, candidates are supposed to emphasize how close the race is and the critical need to get out the vote. Instead, it appears the Daniels' people are encouraging Republicans not to worry...that the Governor has the race in the bag. Strange. Given the enthusiasm gap between Obama and McCain supporters and the incredible registration effort the Democrats have had, it would seem the worst possible time to test that unorthodox strategy.

Further, Daniels' political strategy has not adjusted to the new economic realities of the past few weeks. Tonight I saw the green text commercial - no pictures - which brags about how well Indiana has done under Daniels in a number of areas. That was a good ad four weeks ago. It's a very bad ad today. The worst thing you can do in an economic downturn is to tell people they shouldn't believe what they are experiencing, things are in fact really going well. People want their elected officials to understand what they're going through and sympathize with their plight. While I don't believe there is a lot that the Governor can do about something that is a national if not an international problem, it is still critical that the Governor comes across as someone who is listening to people's problems and sympathizing with Hoosiers.

If Daniels' political strategy does not change, Hoosiers may very well wake up on November 5th with a new Governor.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Voting Centers - A Time That Has Come for Marion County/Indianapolis

In 2002, when I embarked on my unsuccessful run for Marion County Clerk, I proposed the idea of moving to the use of voting centers rather than the precinct polling place system. The voters I explained the concept to loved it. When I tried to explain it to party workers though the reception was less than enthusiastic. They could not get their heads around how the concept would work. Within a few years though Indiana began experimenting with the idea, which have been a success trial runs in Lafayette and Richmond. Secretary of State Todd Rokita is a strong advocate of voting centers.

The precinct voting system used in Indiana dates from the day of the horse and buggy. The idea behind the system was to establish a polling place in virtually every neighborhood so voters wouldn't travel very far to vote. It made sense when travel was difficult and volunteerism was high. It was not difficult to staff polling places with full boards of Republicans and Democrats.

Times have changed, but our old precinct based voting system has not. If you think about it, it's a crazy system. Very early on the morning of November 4th, thousands of people across the county will head out in the pitch dark night to schools, churches, apartment buildings, firehouses, etc. Hundreds of inspectors will be lugging boxes, keys in hand to open the machines and set up. The whole system is based on tons of cooperation of Democrats and Republicans and a high degree of volunteerism which does not exist today, not to mention more than a few alarm clocks. Years ago I was told by one of the former clerks that to put on an election the parties and the Marion County Clerk has to essentially recruit 10,000 volunteers.

The problem is we retain a labor intensive system in an era where volunteerism is low. In a county with a population the size of Indianapolis, it is a convoluted system that will inevitably break down. The only question is how much and how often. Former Clerk Republican Doris Anne Sadler and present Clerk Democrat Beth White have seen spectacular failures on Election Day. Many times though, the problem isn't the Clerk, but an antiquated voting system that is not well suited to today's realities.

The idea behind voting centers (Rokita prefers the term "vote centers" which is probably more grammatically correct though doesn't roll off the tongue as well as "voting centers") is to drastically reduce the labor required to put on an election. Basically there will be several voting locations set up throughout the county. While the locations will be substantially fewer, they will be larger and capable of accommodating more voters. Voters can choose to go to any location. They can vote on their lunch hour, at the mall, or when they just picked up the kids at the babysitter. The voter gives the registration officials his or her name or voter registration card and is given a ballot for the races where that voter lives. Computers at the voting centers linked together by a private network would keep an updated voter registration list of who has voted countywide so you couldn't go from one location and then vote in another. The voting center concept is basically the system the system they are using for absentee voting downtown in the Indianapolis City-County building, just with more locations It is a system that has performed well in the places where it has been tested. Voters love it.

To combat poll worker labor shortage, Marion County recently decided to consolidate the precincts. That, of course, made them larger with more voters. The idea behind the change was that the larger the precincts, the fewer people needed to put on the election. I thought it was a good recognition of the problem, but a bad solution to that problem. High turnout elections, like the one coming up on November 4th, are going to be a nightmare for poll workers in the newly consolidated precincts and at their voting locations. The problem is that it still clings to an out-dated precinct voting system when a much better alternative, with voting centers, could have been adopted.

It is long past time for Marion County to put away the past and adopt a voting center system. If you're interested in the issue see the explanation for voting centers provided by Tippecanoe (Lafayette) County.