Sunday, January 31, 2010

City-County Councilors Score Super Bowl Tickets

As has been reported, 26 of the 29 members of the Indianapolis City-County Council took the Colts up on their offer to buy two Super Bowl tickets at face value, $800 apiece. It has been confirmed that two of the three councilors who did not accept the Colts' ticket offer were Libertarian Ed Coleman and Republican Christine Scales.

What immediately came to mind was how these councilors, most of whom are ordinary folks with ordinary incomes, were able to quickly come up with $1600 to buy the tickets, as well as a couple more grand for hotel rooms and an airline flight to and from the game. Most middle class families can't afford to spend $3,000 to $4,000 on a sporting event, even if given the opportunity to do so.

I'd be surprised if many of these tickets didn't find their way to a ticket broker for a nice profit.

I hope Councilors know they can't use campaign funds to buy the tickets and that any profit they make on selling the tickets is income that has to be reported as income to the IRS.

How Mayor Ballard Can Win Re-Election - The Constanza "Opposite" Principle

On Friday, I posted an article about what issues the Democrats will use against Mayor Ballard in 2011 should the Mayor in fact seek re-election. As I noted, the issues are extremely easy to develop and are virtually indefensible from a strategic standpoint. I think the odds of Mayor Ballard to be re-elected are very long, maybe as much as 10-1. Currently the course he is on is disastrous not only for his re-election chances, but also for the Republican majority on the Council.

How then can Mayor Ballard change his election fortunes? He can learn a lesson from George Constanza the Seinfeld character played by Jason Alexander. During one of the episodes of the show, George concludes that every instinct and every decision he had in life had been wrong. Therefore, he starts doing the opposite of what he would otherwise do and he suddenly becomes very successful.

Certainly not every decision in Mayor Ballard's life has been wrong. He had a successful career in the Marines and by all appearances he seems to have a happy family life. But when it comes to politics, from the night of November 6, 2007 until now, virtually every political decision Mayor Ballard has been horribly wrong and has assured a resounding re-election defeat. Therefore, doing the opposite might give Ballard a shot at political success. Frankly, I'm not sure there is time to fix Ballard's political problems, but if any strategy holds a possibility of success, it's the Constanza "opposite" strategy.

Here are some things that Ballard could do.

1) Totally overhaul his administration and kick out the Goldsmith Establishment Republicans who are responsible for the disastrous and unpopular policy decisions Mayor Ballard has been pursuing
---Harry Truman once said if an elected official wants a friend, he should get a dog. The statement meant that, in politics it is hard to have real friends, because many people act like friends because of the power and influence the elected official has. That's one thing Ballard has never learned. He really thinks these Establishment Republicans like Joe Loftus and Bob Grand are his friends and are looking out for his welfare. No, they are using their positions in the Ballard administration to make themselves, their friends and their clients more money. They couldn't care less if Ballard is defeated in 2011.

2) Bring into the administration, to replace the Establishment Republicans who were let go pursuant to No. #1, the Republican populists who worked tirelessly for Ballard's election but were immediately shoved aside during the transition.
---These men and women are the new face of the Marion County GOP. The clock is running on the role of Establishment-types like Tom John, David Brooks, etc. being involved in the Republican Party.

3) Re-embrace the populist agenda Ballard campaigned on which agenda promised real ethics reform, an end to corporate welfare, and no new taxes.
---While it was Peterson's COIT tax increase coming on the heels of property tax increases that was responsible for his election defeat, the fact is Ballard's populist election agenda would have given him a chance to get him re-elected. Instead he threw away that agenda and adopted an Establishment Republican agenda of more taxes and more corporate welfare that has no chance of holding the Republican base or getting the Democratic-leaning votes necessary to win re-election.

Virtually every election involving an incumbent, is a referendum on that incumbent. Right now the referendum on Ballard's re-election would be an overwhelming "No." He needs to spend these next two years doing the opposite of what he did the first two years and building an agenda upon which a successful re-election effort can be built. Unless he does that, he has no hope of re-election.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Indianapolis: A Cesspool of Political Corruption

The Fox 59 story below details a very close nexus between a murderer's release and campaign contributions made to Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and his chief trial deputy, David Wyser. It's hard to say there is no connection between the tens of thousands in campaign contributions by the murderer's family and the support of the murderer's release by Brizzi and Wyser.

Before people think this sort of conduct is confined to the Prosecutor's Office, one only has to look at the campaign finance report of Mayor Ballard to see that Pay to Play politics is not limited to the Prosecutor's Office. If you are a developer or a law firm seeking no bid contracts from the city, you will be expected to make campaign contributions to the Ballard campaign. This isn't something new. It's been going on for quite some time in both Republican and Democratic administrations. It is quite telling, that when reviewing the Ballard report showing about 95% of his money coming from companies and law firms doing business with the city, the response of the local official Democratic blog was to criticize Ballard's fundraising as "lackluster." Not a single word was uttered criticizing Ballard from soliciting money from city contractors. Why not? Because a Democratic Mayor would have shaken down city contractors for contributions.

Indianapolis is like one of those towns in the West before the townsfolk got together and hired a Marshall. Here in Indianapolis, we have a Prosecutor, Carl Brizzi, who has for seven years looked the other way when it came to white collar crime and political corruption by both parties. Tim Morrison, the acting U.S. Attorney for now more than two years, inexplicably dropped a forfeiture case against millionaire and accused Ponzi-scam artist Timothy Durham, a close friend of Prosecutor Brizzi. Morrison's told reporters that Durham provided some undefined "assurances" the assets would be preserved.

Meanwhile, free from a possible federal court order freezing his assets thanks to Morrison, the internet details Durham selling off assets, including an antique car and his yacht. Morrison continues to do nothing whle thousands of Ohio investors fume that his inexplicable dismissal of the forfeiture action is costing them any chance to recover their investment in securities they bought from Fair Finance, one of the companies owned by Durham. The unsubstantiated rumor behind the story is that the weekend that news of the forfeiture action broke, a Barnes & Thornburg attorney and close Brizzi friend, who is also a former FBI agent, pulled strings to get Morrison to dismiss the case. Albeit it is only a rumor, it provides an explanation for Morrison's perplexing actions dismissing a forfeiture case involving hundreds of millions of dollars in assets based solely on "assurances" he was provided.

These events are only unfortunately a tip of the iceberg. When there are no consequences for running a red light, the problem of red light running becomes rampant. It is the same thing with political corruption. For years political corruption and insider dealing in Indianapolis has gone unpunished by both the criminal and political systems. Facing no consequences, those in the public sector have been given the green light to abuse their power. Indianapolis politics has become a cesspool of political corruption. The time is long past to clean it up.

Fox 59 Reports FBI Investigation Into Influence Peddling in Marion County Prosecutor's Office

I wish I could say I'm surprised. I'm not. To watch the video, click here.
FBI asking questions about Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and influence peddling

An exclusive Fox 59 News investigation has revealed that FBI agents are asking whether Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has ever used his office's influence to benefit political and personal associates in criminal investigations and public issues.

The FBI inquiries come in the wake of a high profile raid by federal agents in November at the offices of financier Tim Durham on Monument Circle. Durham is a close friend and campaign supporter of Brizzi, donating nearly $200,000 to the prosecutor's re-election campaign in 2006.

An attorney for Brizzi, Tom Collignon, told Fox 59 News that it would be, "a leap of faith," to construe an FBI inquiry as an investigation.

Word of the FBI inquiry comes as Fox 59 News has uncovered a pattern of campaign donations to both Brizzi and his Chief Trial Deputy David Wyser at the time when the prosecutor's office was signing off on a motion to reduce the prison time of a woman originally sentenced to 110 years for the murder of her husband.

Paula Epperly Willoughby was convicted in the killing of her husband Darrell in 1991. After just 18 years in prison, Epperly Willoughby's sentenced was modified to time served.

"I was outraged," said former judge Gary Miller who presided over the trial. "I thought it was absolutely ridiculous for anybody to think that was an appropriate way to modify a sentence in this case."

Wyser said he agreed to the modification due to rehabilitation and family concerns.

"It was the right thing to do. It was based upon the merits. I would do it again."

Paula Epperly Willoughby's father is Harrison Epperly, a millionaire real estate magnet with property in downtown Indianapolis. From 2006 through 2008, Epperly donated $29,000 to the Brizzi campaign. $20,000 was donated the weekend before Brizzi's budget busting re-election in 2006. Those were the years his daughter's attorney was negotiating with Brizzi's office for a sentence modification.

"In April of 2009 Miss Lukemeyer and I drafted an order for the court modifying her sentence," said Wyser.

On May 29, 2009, less than a month before Epperly Willoughby's motion for reducing her sentence would be filed with the court, Harrison Epperly donated $2500 to Wyser's campaign for Hamilton County prosecutor.

"I understand the timing may not look good to some people," said Wyser. "It depends on how you want to put a spin on it."

Epperly Willoughby was released from the Indiana Women's Prison in early July. On August 25th her attorney Jennifer Lukemeyer sponsored a fundraiser for Wyser at her downtown Indianapolis condominium. Wyser raised $2250 that night. In a statement to Fox 59 News Lukemeyer said the Wyser fundraiser, "is not a story as far as it relates to Paula."

Wyser and Brizzi told Fox 59 News that in the last week they have returned the donations to Epperly and his company EMPS LLC. The decision to return the money coincided when word of the Fox 59 investigation leaked through the city's legal community.

At this time there is no investigation by any legal authorities into the circumstances surrounding Paula Epperly Willoughby's early release from prison.

How the Democrats Defeat Mayor Ballard for Re-Election in 2011

In the Spring of 1990, I was teaching a political strategy class at IUPUI. The big campaign that year was a matchup between highly popular Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut and Joe Hogsett, who had been appointed to fill out the term of Evan Bayh when Bayh was elected Governor in 1988.

I gave my class an assignment. Design a strategy in which Hogsett could win the election against Hudnut who then had about a 30 point lead in the polls. What issues would move the electorate?

The students were puzzled by the assignment. Every last one insisted that Hogsett had no chance against Mayor Hudnut. They insisted that Indianapolis was looked up to as a model of success throughout the State and that other cities/towns were envious of Indianapolis and would want its Mayor in a state-wide position. Having lived outside of Indianapolis for years, I knew the students' perception about how Indianapolis is viewed outside of the capital city was dead wrong.

Then I brought up the issue of taxes. During Hudnut's term in office, the county option income tax (COIT) had tripled going from .2% to .6%. (Ah, for the good old days when it was below 1%.) The students said while that was true, Hudnut had no choice but to support the tax increases and that there was a very good explanation behind them. I pulled out a stop watch and asked one of my students to explain the reason for tripling the COIT. The student started to get into lengthy, detailed explanation of how the federal government had turned over several issues back to the cities and eliminated revenue sharing. After 10 seconds - the length of time of a sound bite (the time which the media shows a candidate appearing talking in his or her own words) - I told the student to stop. His time to explain the tax increase was over.

What happened? In the campaign, Hogsett began playing up the anti-Indianapolis sentiment and slammed Hudnut on his tax increases. Hudnut sank like a rock in the polls. Hogsett won re-election 52% to 48% and the right to serve a full-term.

What issues will Democrats use when and if Republican Mayor Greg Ballard runs for re-election? That is a no brainer. Here are the three I see coming down the road:

1) Tax and fee increases
---Imagine footage of Candidate Ballard pledging no new taxes and a roll-back on the Peterson COIT tax increase. The footage freezes and a list of Ballard's proposed tax and fee increases begin scrolling over a frozen, unflattering shot of the Mayor. Republicans think they're going to be able to explain away these tax and fee increase proposals as being necessary or that they won't actually be paid by Indianapolis residents. Great. Let me put the stop watch on that and see how well they do explaining that in 10 seconds. It should be noted that this is an issue that will undercut Ballard with his vitally-important conservative Republican base. Ballard can't afford to lose those voters if he's going to win re-election.

2) Mayor Ballard's Junkets
---I see the Democrats using video from the numerous exotic locales Mayor Ballard's has visited. They will portray him as someone seduced by the perks of the office. Imagine a video with quick shots from Brazil, London, China, Miami, etc. Republicans think they can explain these trips away as being good for economic development or not being paid for with tax dollars. Again, let me get out my stopwatch and see how far they get with that explanation. This is an issue that undercuts Ballard with the populists who worked and voted for him in 2007.

3) Weak or Lack of Leadership
---For two years we have heard how the Mayor has provided weak or non-existent leadership. Several articles have been written on the subject. The Republicans think they can respond by saying that Mayor Ballard is really good with the less glamorous duties of the office - fixing sidewalks, plowing snow, road improvements, holding down crime, etc. While I'm not at all sure the public will believe that - especially that Ballard has excelled at clearing the streets of snow - the fact is the behind-the-scenes work of a Mayor is not what wins elections. True, if you fail to do them, people will vote against you, but people aren't going to vote for you because you do the day-to-day things that are part of the Mayor's job.
To summarize, the issues the Democrats could use against a Mayor Ballard re-election effort are easy and virtually impossible to defend against. Next, I'll talk about a long-shot strategy by which Mayor Ballard could get re-elected.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Big Law Firms Give Big Money to Mayor Ballard

During a conversation I had with candidate Greg Ballard right before the Election of 2007, we talked about how big law firms get rewarded with no bid city legal contracts that those law firms receive in exchange for large political contributions. Those law firms then turn around and fleece the taxpayers through inflated billings and engaging in unnecessary legal work. (For example, a law firm with a contract for legal services might send three attorneys to a hearing when one would do.) The law firms then turn the money they make into yet more political contributions.

No one ever questions the legal bills of those law firms, i.e. big political contributors. It's a vicious cycle, a situation in which taxpayer money for campaigns is extracted through legal billing.

I walked away pleased with our conversation. Candidate Ballard seemed very aware of the problem and pledged to put a stop to it. It was consistent with how Ballard had campaigned - someone who would be a different type of Mayor, someone who would stand up for taxpayers and put an end to the soaking they were taking at the hands of big Indianapolis law firms which dominated the political process through large donations.

As people are finding out, Candidate Ballard could not be more different than his evil twin Mayor Ballard. I looked at the Mayor's 2009 finance report. As many law firms give individually through partners rather than in the name of the law firm, I went through the names of every attorney listed and ascertained from the Roll of Attorneys where they worked. My research showed that the media missed the large contributions by a couple law firms (Krieg Devault and Bingham McHale) which gave almost entirely through partners at their firm.

Here are the totals for contributions by law firms (and their attorneys) to Ballard during 2009:

Baker & Daniels $36,350
Krieg Devault $32,250
Bingham McHale $30,700
Barnes & Thornburg $20,750
Bose McKinney $14,500
Other $9,175

Total: $143,725

A new kind of Mayor? That's definitely not what we elected in November of 2007.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Marchal Conspiracy Theory I Am Not Buying

A certain blogger whose name rhymes with "Raoul" suggests on his blog this morning that Republican Helen Marchal dropped out of the race for Marion County Prosecutor because Democrats had said they would go after her husband, Jeff Marchal, a Democrat,who serves as an appointed commissioner in the Marion County Superior Court system and had previously sought the Democratic nomination for judge.

In the same post, "Raoul" takes a shot at Republican "conspiracy theorists." Any Republican who takes a series of facts and connects the dots, reaching logical conclusions about the Republican establishment, will be called a "conspiracy theorist" by Raoul. This is a common political tactic - when you can't win on the issues, start calling the other side names. The irony is that "Raoul" himself offers a conspiracy theory of his own this morning, indeed a whopper.

Unlike "Raoul" I'm not going to engage in name-calling. Instead, I'll take his theory and analyze it.

What would be the Democrats' motive for engaging in this behind-the-scenes threat? Helen Marchal had major negatives that would have hampered her campaign. They are:

1) No name ID
2) No money
3) No political experience
3) Close Ties to Brizzi

What would have otherwise been a strength, her experience in the Brizzi-led prosecutor's office, has been turned into a major negative by the events of the past few months. She likely would have been easy for the Democrats to defeat in the Fall. So the Democrats went out and, behind the scenes, forced Helen Marchal to drop out by threatening to go after her husband, leaving the Republicans in a position in which they could possibly recruit a stronger candidate?

The only way this conspiracy could be true is if the local Democrats are the biggest idiots out there. I don't agree with my Democratic friends on most issues, but I'm pretty sure they aren't so so stupid as to run Helen Marchal out of the race by threatening her husband.

I can see how it would be an attractive theory. That after all is the way the Marion County Republican establishment has for years operated. If you challenge their power, they''ll threaten your employment and go after you personally, suggesting they have personal stuff on you they will leak if you persist in challenging their power. Then if that doesn't work, they'll go after the employment of family members.

The only way to stop these despicable tactics is to expose what they're trying to do behind the scenes. That's why I have always preached that change in the Marion County GOP is never going to happen until reform-minded Republicans are willing to speak out publicly and expose the corruption and insider dealing in our party. You'll never defeat the GOP Establishment which has a stranglehold on our party by negotiating behind closed doors. That is their strength. It's when you turn on the lights that the cockroaches scatter.

IPS Board Votes to Give Raise to Superintendent Eugene White

The Indianapolis Public School Board yesterday voted to give Superintendent Eugene White a 3% raise, bringing his salary up to around $200,000 a year. (That's not even counting his incredibly generous benefits in his contract.) Four other administrators received pay increases as well. Yep, you heard it right. While laying off teachers and having to cut back on other expenditures, the IPS Board found the money to give already highly paid administrators raises.

We hear all the time about the State not putting resources into education. However,the State of Indiana and local government spends about half their budgets on K-12 education. Contrary to claims otherwise, there is no "shortchanging" of education. In fact, over the last several decades, K-12 education spending has risen far above the level of inflation.

The fact is administrator and non-teaching staff has consumed more and more of those education budgets. Their desire to get their hands on even more of our public tax dollars hasn't decreased because of the recession or discussions about cutting back on education spending. It's too bad we don't have enough brave souls on the IPS Board who know how to say "No."

As we have entered the candidate filing season, I would encourage people to look into running for School Board, We need good people on those boards, people who will ask questions and demand answers. The elected school boards are not supposed to be rubber-stamp for the school administration. They are supposed to be legislative bodies, representing the community, which exercise independent judgment as to how schools are to be run. We need independent-minded individuals to serve on those boards. I would strongly encourage people to look into running for these non-partisan positions. IPS School Board is actually where Richard Lugar was first elected.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Indianapolis Republicans Begin New Search for Prosecutor Candidate

Today while sitting waiting for Senate Bill 399, a well-known Democratic operative leaned over to me and said, "So are you running for Prosecutor?" That was when I first learned the news that the Helen Marchal, the sole Republican candidate for Marion County Prosecutor, a person whose candidacy was blessed by incumbent Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John, had announced she was dropping out of the race before she even put on her track shoes.

As I have already discussed on these pages, there is little doubt from looking at the finance report of Prosecutor Brizzi that he never seriously entertained running for a third term. The question then becomes why the announcement didn't come earlier so that interested Republican lawyers could have thrown their hat in the ring. Instead Brizzi waited until the last minute, leaving the Republicans without a candidate. or at least one whose heart was in the race.

As a former candidate for a county-wide office, I can confirm the toll it places on a candidate is extraordinary. As a candidate for Marion County Clerk in 2002, I went to about 12 Republican meetings every month all over the county. It was incredibly exhausting experience. I take Marchal at her word that the political toll as well as her family responsibilities were just too much for her. People don't appreciate the amount of work involved to run for office, especially for a competitive seat.

Today, the response came in from Tom John that former prosecutor Scott Newman would be leading an effort to find a replacement candidate. Ugh. Translation: the insiders in the party still want to pick the next prosecutor candidate. The last thing they want is a no-nonsense, independent-minded candidate who might go after white collar crime and political corruption in this county. Never mind that, at this point especially, that's the only Republican prosecutorial candidate who could appeal to Democrats and independents necessary to have a chance of winning in the Fall. That's the trouble with Establishment, Country-Club Republicans. They are more interested in controlling who gets nominated than they are in winning general elections. That's why they need to be tossed out on their heads come November 2011. We will not forget.

Traffic Fines Bill Clears Another Hurdle

Senate Bill 399, which would limit a judge's discretion to increase traffic court fines to punish defendants for challenging their ticket, cleared another committee hurdle today passing the Senate Appropriations Committee by a 11-0 margin.

The bill, authored by R. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis), is aimed squarely at the practices of the Marion County Traffic court. The bill has picked up numerous co-authors from both sides of the aisle, including several Indianapolis-area Senators who have heard from angry constituents.

To recap the procedural history of the bill, it passed the State Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee last week ago by a margin of 10-1. It was recommitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee because the bill might have a fiscal impact. The members of the Senate Appropriations Committee today didn't seem to care if the bill might cost have some lost revenue - they were clearly in the mood to stop the practice of maxing out fines as punishment for individuals seeking their day in court.

Next step is the floor of the Senate where the bill can be amended, and then the final vote on the bill. If SB 399 passes the Senate, it then moves to the House where it is assigned to a committee and the process begins anew.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Colts Playoffs Run Gives Local Economy A Lift? Well Maybe Not

The Indianapolis Business Journal today reports on the "kick" the Colts playoff success is giving the local economy:
The economic impact from the Indianapolis Colts hosting two playoff games is still being tabulated. But it's a moving target, because merchandise sales are just heating up.

The Colts’ shop at Lucas Oil Stadium sold out of thousands of AFC championship T-shirts and caps within hours of the end of the AFC Championship game against the New York Jets. Those shirts sold for $24 and caps for $30. Sales were so strong, the stadium shop stayed open until 11 p.m., about five hours after the game ended.

Indianapolis-based MainGate Inc., which manages the Colts’ retail stores and online sales initiative, said sales are even stronger than expected.

MainGate had personnel stay at the stadium pro shop overnight, and a new shipment of championship hats and shirts were received at 3 a.m., company officials said.

“People were just so excited, they were buying anything Colts,” MainGate CEO Dave Moroknek said. MainGate opened up the stadium shop at 6 a.m. this morning, and Moroknek said sales are strong again today. He expects by tomorrow to have a supply of 25 AFC championship items shipped to the Colts stores at the stadium, Circle Centre mall and Castleton and Greenwood malls.

Officials for MainGate, who took over retail operations for the Colts three years ago, after the team's appearance in the 2007 Super Bowl, expect sales of team items leading up to this year's Super Bowl to be more than 10 percent higher than they were in 2007.

“We have more retail outlets than the team did last time, and we feel we bring a certain know-how to the sales process,” Moroknek said. “And I think this shows that there’s an optimism that the economy is coming back. We expect a very, very strong two weeks of sales leading up to the Super Bowl.”

Downtown hotel operators have already seen the benefit of the team's run in the playoffs. According to the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, every hotel room downtown was booked the last two Saturday nights. Most downtown hotels were also over 85 percent occupancy each of the last two Friday nights.

While the ICVA hasn’t done an economic impact study on Colts playoff games, several sports business experts pegged direct spending from the last two weekends combined at $50 million. That includes restaurants, retail and travel expenses in addition to hotel charges.

Those "business experts" are certainly not economists who would know better. The $50 million spending figure undoubtedly fails to subtract out local spending which most economists generally do not include in an analysis of the economic impact of professional sports. The reason why is that most people attending professional sports games are local. These are people who are just moving their discretionary spending from one venue to another. There is no net gain of discretionary spending for the metro area. In the case of Indianapolis, the Colts' success means money moved from the suburbs, where many Colts fans live, to downtown Indianapolis.

Sports economist Brad Humphreys, a professor the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, scoffs at the ridiculous figures thrown out by supposed "business experts":
“The wonder is that anyone finds such figures credible,” Humphreys said. “Yet decade after decade, cities throughout the country have struggled to attract or keep professional sports teams, and the idea that a team brings with it large economic gains invariably arises. As it turns out, claims of large tangible economic benefits do not withstand scrutiny.”

That’s because such impact studies often are based on skewed data. For instance, when citing multipliers – the ripple effect that each dollar spent on professional supports is projected to have on the community’s wider economy – impact studies often overstate such contributions and fail to differentiate between net and gross spending. And, Humphreys added, such studies typically don’t consider what economists call the “substitution effect.”

“As sport- and stadium-related activities increase, other spending declines because people substitute spending on sports for other spending,” Humphreys said. “If the stadium simply displaces dollar-for-dollar spending that would have occurred otherwise, there are no net benefits generated.”
Then you have the "crowding out" effect - that many people avoid the downtown area on days of game, costing many some companies business. You also have the issue of "leakages," that many of the people who own the downtown businesses are not local and the profits they make leave the city.

While the "business experts" continue to throw out big numbers suggesting a wonderful return on the millions extracted from taxpayers in taxes, please keep in mind that that an Economics 101 student could easily shred the legitimacy of the claim.

"Burn Rates" and the Campaign Finance Reports of Indianapolis Mayor Ballard and Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi

Over at the IPOPA, Chris Worden discusses something referred to as the "burn rate" on the finance report filed by Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. Basically the term relates to how fast a candidate "burns" through the money he or she is raising.

Elections cycles have distinct patterns. A candidate raises a ton of money leading up to the election, and spends almost all of it. The year after the election, the candidate scales his campaign organization way back (if not dissolving it completely). While the candidate raises some money in the two years or so after the election, very little of it gets spent. Then final two years, the candidate begins stockpiling money again for the upcoming re-election bid. (I'm assuming a four year term here.)

Someone who is seriously a candidate for office does not burn through all the money he or she raises the year leading up to the Election Year.

Worden proceeds to examine the "burn rate" of the various candidates:
After review of Carlito's year-end campaign campaign finance report, I'm convinced he must have really thought he was going somewhere else. Otherwise, I can’t account for what has got to be an unprecedented non-election year burn rate. In 2009, Brizzi raised $138,573, but he spent $124,291 (actually it was $129,942.27 - Worden missed the unitemized expenditures on the report) without making a single media-related or strategic (polling/message consultants) purchase, meaning his income to expense ratio was 1.1. For comparison, Democratic Prosecutor candidates Terry Curry and David Orentlicher had rate of 3.0, and 410 respectively. No, that’s not a typo. David O. raised $184,000 by spending $484, from which I can only conclude that he writes some very persuasive postcards.

Democratic mayoral hopefuls Melina Kennedy’s and Brian Williams have rates of 7.8 and 3.3 respectively. Mayor Greg Ballard posted a solid fundraising year of $830,000 earned, but he spent $377,000 to do it, for only a 2.2 rate.

Burn rates tend to be consistent even when the scale of a campaign changes. For example, Marion County Clerk Beth White spent $3,000 to raise $12,000, for a 4.0 rate.
Admittedly, burn rate is more art than science. For example, Williams spent a considerable amount on production costs early which means he jumped ahead of a conventional campaign. His rate would be a lot more efficient without that cost, so you have to scrutinize the expenses.

Yet even with such limitations, ratios serve as a useful gauge of campaign efficiency. For example, Brizzi’s staff cost him $33,000 to raise that $138,000, for a 4.1 staff to dollars ratio. In comparison, Kennedy raised her $252,000 on about $11,000 in staff costs for a 25.1 staff to dollar ratio, making Kennedy finance director Katie Lineweaver the best buy in Marion County politics.
What struck me as the most unusual in Mayor Ballard's 2008 report was not the money he raised, but the amount of money his campaign spent during an off-year. Ballard's 2009 report continues to show the same pattern - high off-year expenditures, thanks in no small part to having full-time campaign staff and paying Hallowell Consulting political consulting fees of at least $10,000 a month. Frankly, given that Mayor Ballard has done almost everything wrong from a political standpoint for two years straight, I have to wonder about 1) the quality of the advice Jennifer Hallowell is providing; or 2) if the quality is good, why Ballard isn't following it.

While Mayor Ballard's off-year spending appears foolish, Prosecutor Brizzi's report demonstrates beyond a doubt that he never intended to run for office in 2010. Brizzi spent 94% of the money he raised in 2009, without running a single commercial. The spending is constant through 2009, indicating that the decision not to run in 2010 was made fairly early.

Yet, Brizzi's fundraising during 2009 continued unabated. Some Republican donors should be more than a little upset that the Prosecutor misled them into giving donations, donations that were used by Brizzi to live the high life - limousines, dining out at nice restaurants, etc.

Watching the Colts With Mixed Emotions

After the big win last night, I called up a friend of mine who like me is a big football fan, and a fan of the Colts. While he was happy about the win, he wasn't as excited as I expected.. He expressed his contempt for Jim Irsay and Bill Polian and commented about their disdain the have showed toward the fans and the City of Indianapolis who made Irsay a billionaire.

My friend also went back to the Jets regular season when the Colts yanked their starters, giving up having not only a Super Bowl winner, but a team that would forever be remembered in history as a Super Bowl winner with an undefeated record. The claim by team officials that they didn't want key players hurt before the playoffs, was exposed as a lie the next week when Peyton Manning played in a Buffalo blizzard, dumping short passes to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark solely for the purpose of each getting 100 catches on the season. The short passes exposed Wayne and Clark to one dangerous shot after another by Buffalo linebackers. Fortunately they made it to their 100 catch goal without injury.

In about two weeks, I will be cheering for the Colts to win the Super Bowl. Part of me though knows that winning is the only thing between Irsay and the well-deserved wrath of the Indianapolis community. While a Super Bowl win will be enjoyed, so too will be the day that Irsay gets his much deserved comeuppance from the Indianapolis community. Being a winner is important, but so too is being a good corporation citizen. Irsay gets an A for the former and an F for the latter.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mayor Ballard Once Again Makes Mockery of City Diversity Awards; Again Awards Diversity Award to Barnes & Thornburg

As he did in 2009, the Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard makes a mockery of the "Annual Celebration of Diversity Awards" honoring, as he did last year, the law firm that all but runs the Mayor's Office and now runs the Council, Barnes & Thornburg.

According to the Mayor's press release, this year’s diversity award recipients also included Citizens Energy Group, Eli Lilly & Company, the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, and Finch Constructors Inc. as well as a special lifetime achievement award for the late Melvin Simon.

I haven't examined these additional recipients, but last year's award winners were a who's who of Barnes & Thornburg clients.

The giving of a "diversity" award to Barnes & Thornburg should be particularly outrageous to the Indianapolis African-American community. B&T often represents big corporations defending them against discrimination lawsuits by African-American discrimination lawsuits. Nothing wrong with that - our duties as attorneys require us to not only represent clients, but to do so zealously. B&T's legal representation though goes far beyond that.

Anyone who has ever represented an African-American employee with B&T on the other side knows how aggressively they go after those black employees with insults and insinuations that go far beyond the scope of our professional responsibilities as an attorneys. Further, in the litigation, there is nary an unprofessional stunt the firm's lawyers will not pull to try to win their case against the minority plaintiffs.

While one might believe these lawyer tactics are just typical of a big law firm representing its wealthy corporate clients, this 22 year attorney can confirm that they are not. I have never seen the stunts from attorneys at the other big law firms (or small law firms for that matter) in the city such as Baker & Daniels, Bose McKinney or even Ice Miller, that I regularly see from Barnes & Thornburg. While those firms and others can be accused of B&T type overbilling of clients and an unfair domination of city contracts acquired by large political contributions, as far as legal work goes there is a level of professionalism in those firms you don't see from many B&T attorneys. Virtually every attorney I've talked to who has litigated cases against B&T report the same experience.

On the very same day last year that the Mayor handed out a diversity award to Barnes & Thornburg, I was in a deposition across town in which a white B&T attorney suggested that a black nurse was being unreasonable in being offended by a drawing depicting black nurses as monkeys. Unbelieveable. The African-American community, indeed everyone, should be outraged over this Mayor's continued politicization of the City's diversity awards.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Review of Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's Campaign Report

Thanks to Chris Worden of IPOPA for his review of the campaign finance report of Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. After seeing his commentary, I knew I needed to take a closer look at Brizzi's report.

First, from reviewing the report - including the timing of the donations v. expenditures - it is clear that Carl Brizzi made his decision to not run for prosecutor fairly early last year. In 2009, he raised $138,573.06. He spent $129,942.27. Heading into a hotly-contested campaign, you do not spend 90% of the money you take in. You instead build up your campaign war chest for the battle. Brizzi pretty clearly was never doing that. Fairly early in 2009, Brizzi decided not to run and kept it a secret, probably so the contributions would continue to come in, money he was spending to live the good life, riding around in limos and dining at fancy restaurants.

How Brizzi spent the campaign money raises some eyebrows. At the outset, I should point out that the IC 3-9-3-4, makes it illegal to use campaign money for personal expenses. Here is a rundown of some of the 2009 non-Indianapolis area expenses that appear on the Brizzi report. The listed reason for the expense is in parenthesis:

1/6 NWA Air (Travel) $115
1/6 Scomas Restaurant, San Francisco (Conf. Expenses) $115
1/6 Image Limo, Chicago (Travel) $540
1/6 Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco (Pros. Conf.) $200
1/6 Enterprise Rent-a-Car, San Francisco (Travel-Pros. Conf.) $497.08
1/24 National Bank of Indianapolis (Travel Expenses) $500
2/16 NWA Air (Travel) $1,145
2/16 Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf (Pros. Conf.) $308.64
2/16 Daruma Japanese Restaurant, Naples, FL (Finance/FR Event) $551.38
2/16 Party-Time Limousine (Travel) $342
2/25 Omni Hotel, Chicago (Travel) $545.25
2/25 Hawk N Dove Restaurant, Washington, DC (Travel-DC) $119.12
2/25 NWA Air (Travel) $110
6/8 Comair Airlines (Travel) $162
6/8 Cavanaugh's, Evansville (Networking) $250.36
8/5 French Lick Springs Resort (Travel) $315.46
8/5 Park-N-Shop, Culver, IN (Travel) $121.80
9/9 Hyatt Hotels, Miami (Travel) $203.95
9/9 Luciano's, Ludington, MI (Donor Mtg.) $300.09
9/9 National Car Rental - Miami (Pros. Conf.) $323.97
10/6 French Lick Springs Resort (Travel) $396.04
11/2 NWA Air (Travel) $30

The law does allow an elected official to use campaign expenses for expenses that "related to service" in office. Many of the above could be classified as job-related expenses and evade the prohibition on non-political expenses. They are clearly not, however, the expenditures of a candidate planning to run for re-election the next year.

Some more interesting expenditures, this time looking at annual totals.

Mario Massillamany (Cell Phone) $1,907.90
Brian Cusimano (Executive Assistant) $3,020.56
Verizon Wireless $3,495.69
National Bank of Indianapolis (Numerous Bank Charges) $3,537.06
Brinks Security $663.88
Dell Computer Co. $4,808.61

Here is a partial list of the Indianapolis restaurants paid for out of the campaign fund. (Again these are totals):

Ambrosia Restaurant $1,371.85
Bella Vitas $196.16
Capri Restaurant $909.18
Deanno's Restaurant $222.30
Harry & Izzy's $3,894.87
Oceanairre $356.06
Ruth Chris' Steakhouse $717.11
Sullivan Steakhouse $426.03

A closer examination of these expenses would be needed to see if they were not in fact personal expenses in violation of Indiana law. However, they strongly suggest an elected official who, using the the appearance of someone interested in running for re-election, was raising a considerable amount of money, all the while using the campaign funds raised to live the good life. Someone should be asking questions of Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John as to when he knew that Brizzi was not serious about re-election and that the Republicans needed another candidate for Prosecutor. The fact that the Republicans did not know of Brizzi's decision until the final day to file for slating in January of 2010, has left the Republicans in an almost impossible position to win the Prosecutor's Office.

By the way, Tim Durham contributed $580 to Brizzi's campaign.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

State Agency Slams Carmel for Mispending Taxpayer Money

I've long complained about Carmel, led by Mayor James Brainard, overspending, and misspending, taxpayer money. I guess the State Board of Accounts agrees. From the Indianapolis Star:
A state board has admonished the Carmel Redevelopment Commission for spending more than $700,000 on staff salaries and a grant to a nonprofit group, but the board's opinion carries no penalty.

In a letter to the state, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard refutes the allegations in the Indiana State Board of Accounts audit filed this month. In the letter, he said the city consulted with law firms Barnes & Thornburg and Wallack Somers & Haas and believes the commission acted correctly.

But the state board says the commission did not have the power under state law to pay eight staff members a total of $153,794 with funds from tax increment finance districts. The commission manages those districts to draw commercial property tax funds to pay for projects such as roadwork and erecting buildings.

The board also ruled the commission didn't have the power to give $550,000 to the Carmel Performing Arts Center Foundation, a nonprofit formed to raise money for and eventually operate the city's unfinished $150 million Regional Performing Arts Center. The first phase of that center, a $118 million concert hall, will open in January 2011.

The Performing Arts Foundation drew scrutiny last year because its first three members were Carmel employees, including the mayor, Community Relations Director Nancy Heck and City Attorney Doug Haney.

Brainard resigned from the nonprofit in August, saying he did not have time for that role.

The foundation board has since added Rosemary Waters, a local arts leader; Rollin M. Dick, former chief financial officer of Conseco; Frank Basile, a retired executive of the Gene B. Glick Co.; Ersal Ozdemir, president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Keystone Construction; Eric Stovall, a principle of the Midwest forensic services practice for Switzerland-based KPMG; and John Thompson, president of Thompson Distribution Co.

Steven Libman, the foundation's executive director, last year said he'd like to start a nationwide search to expand the board to 25 to 30 members.

City Councilman John Accetturo, a former redevelopment commission member, filed an ethics complaint in August over the dual roles of Brainard, Heck and Haney as city employees and foundation board members. In September, the Carmel Ethics Board found the three did not face a conflict of interest as members of the foundation board because they didn't have a personal financial stake in decisions being made.

Brainard appoints the majority of members of the redevelopment commission
Apparently the legal advice Mayor Brainard received from Barnes & Thornburg was not very good and overlooked several legal violations. When are these smaller communities going to learn that just paying inflated legal fees to a politically-connected law firm doesn't mean you're getting good legal advice?

This is actually a much bigger story than what it at first appears to be. It could have major repercussions across the state as far as these redevelopment commissions go.

Both Parties Pay to Play in Indianapolis Politics; Where is the Star Editorial?

If you want to know what is wrong with Indianapolis politics, just take a look at Mayor Ballard's 2009 campaign finance report and see the reaction to it in the Indianapolis Times, a blog which pretty much provides the official position of the Marion County Democratic Party.

Ballard's report showed he raised over $831,000, almost all of which came from contractors and lawyers doing business with the City of Indianapolis or who are seeking to do business with the City.

What was the local Democratic Party's response as highlighted by the Indianapolis Times? Mayor Ballard's fundraising was "lackluster." Translation: Mayor Ballard didn't work hard enough to shake down city contractors for money.

There was absolutely no criticism of Ballard receiving thousands of dollars from companies and law firms doing business with the state. Unbelievable. Yep, both parties here play the "Pay to Play" game. If not, they have a whole lot of contractors fooled into thinking they have to make political contributions to get contracts..

When my Libertarian friends talk about people in both major parties being on the take, this is what they're talking about. My only dispute with them is how the system can be changed, working inside or outside the Republican and Democratic Parties.

On a related point, how long do we have to wait until the Indianapolis Star publishes an editorial about Mayor Ballard receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions from contractors and law firms getting no-bid contracts with the City? Once again, the Star spends all its time and resources addressing ethical issues at the State legislature, while ignoring much bigger ethical issues here at home.

Abdul Digs Up "Gossip" On Yours Truly

Just saw the twitter from Abdul of indicating that he's dug up "gossip" on Gary Welsh and me.
AttyAbdul: Got some more good gossip on bloggers Gary Welsh and Paul Ogden. My world just keeps getting more interesting.
about 11 hours ago from web
Wow, how low can this guy go?

Sorry, Abdul, but I don't care what "gossip" you've gotten on me or that you're willing to make up. (I've certainly seen evidence of creative writing on your blog.) It is not going to intimidate me into stopping my criticism of things that I see that are wrong or arguing for reform. The fact you are stooping to "gossip" (your term, not mine) demonstrates that you are out of ammunition when it comes to debating the real issues. You don't see me trying to dig up gossip on you to publish. I wasn't raised that way. But, hey, feel free to go there on me. Good luck.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pay to Play the Indy Way; Ballard Campaign Loans Marion County GOP $15,000

Sorry for stealing the theme of Advance Indiana's column on the finance report filed by Mayor Greg Ballard, but the report is a virtual Who's Who of those who are either doing business with the city or want to do business with the city.

Advance Indiana does a good job taking a look at the various companies who contributed to the Mayor. It should be noted that many of the companies and law firms doing business with the city donate through individual contributions of the executives and law partners rather than in the business name. That makes it harder to track the contributions. It will take a while to sort through those contributions to find out which businesses those individuals are associated with. This report lists their occupations though. It is noteworthy that the report lists the occupation of many if not most, of those individuals as "executives" or "attorneys." A quick look at several attorneys indicate that they were all from large downtown law firms. More on that later.

An interesting quick note. The Marion County Republican Committee is listed as owing the Ballard campaign $15,000. Yep, At some point in 2010, apparently the Ballard folks bailed out Tom John and the Republican organization. Anyone who thinks Tom John will put on a fair slating for Mayor in 2011 - well, I have some Florida swamp land I would like to sell you.

More on the report later.

Blue Indiana: I Won't Say I Told You So; Coming 2010 Republican Victory in Mid-Term Elections

Several months ago, Blue Indiana published a story about how the Democrats were going to fare well in the mid-term elections in 2010 and should pick up seats in Congress. I criticized the story - at the time were were about 1 1/2 years away from the mid-term election in November of 2010. It was way too early to make those kind of predictions. In fact, history strongly suggests otherwise - that the midterm election is generally a disaster for the newly-elected President's party. Take the 1980 landslide Reagan win. 1982 was a disaster for Republicans. in 1992, Clinton and the Democrats scored a big win. In 1994, Democrats got clobbered in the mid-term elections.

If you look at history, time and time, that is the trend - the newly-elected President gets socked in his first mid-term election.

When you study politics you find quickly that for every action, there is a reaction in the body politic. Obama wins big and proposes sweeping health care reform. Now comes the reaction against Obama and health care reform.

In response, Blue Indiana publicly sharply ridiculed me and my suggestion about what would happen during the 2010 elections. Well, yesterday the first election of 2010 happened - a special election to replace the lion of the Senate, Democrat Ted Kennedy was won by a Republican, Scott Brown over Massachusetts Attorney General Marth a Coakley. President Obama pulled out all stops to hold on to the Democratic seat. The election came down to a referendum on Obama and the health care bill, and the Democrats lost.

Massachusetts is no ordinary state. It is the most Democratic state in the country. All U.S. House and Senate members were Democrats. Not a single state-wide elected official was a Democrat. Democrats dominate the Massachusetts state legislature. That changed last night.

For every action there is a reaction. That is a fundamental rule of American politics.

What does it mean for Indiana. Well typically the effect of the mid-term election dissipates the further you go down on the ballot. Senator Evan Bayh, I think is a lot more vulnerable than most Republicans and Democrats realize. A big pot of money can only do so much against a national tide against the President's party. Bayh also made a lot of liberals in his own party's always risky to alienate your base right before a close election.

Down the ballot, I think there will be enough effect that the Republicans take control of the Indiana House right before redistricting. Locally, it's too big of a hill for Republicans to climb in Marion County even with a national Republican tide. Don't expect Republicans to win any of the Marion County races.

Oh, and Blue Indiana, I won't say I told you so. I promise.

Indiana State Senate Shines When Compared to Indianapolis City-County Council; Fate of Traffic Fines Bill

Yesterday I testified before the State Senate Corrections, Civil Committee on Senate Bill 399, a proposal by Senator Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) to address excessive fines being imposed by traffic court judges, such as is occurring in the Marion County Traffic Court on the east side of the City.

All the people who testified on the bill spoke in favor of it. This included Larry Landis, head of the State Public Defenders Council. Several were ordinary citizens who came to the podium to tell horror stories of what they experienced in Marion County Traffic Court, including a young mother who was made to nurse her baby standing up standing in the hallway while she waited 5 hours to be called for her hearing. She had 3 $150 tickets, including for expired registration, improper placement of license plate and unsafe lane change. She actually won the expired registration issue, and then said the judge refused to take evidence on the other two issues, finding her guilty and increasing her fines to almost $1000.

Members were stunned and outraged by the stories of how the Marion County Traffic Court is being run. Several Indianapolis-area senators signed on to be co-authors of the bill. It passed committee without changes. Only one Senator voted against it.

Although I used to work in the State Senate and have for years followed the state legislature much more closely than our local city-county council, that renewed experience with our legislature opened my eyes. Although the Indiana General Assembly is routinely derided as being incompetent and bought for with lobbyist dollars, it is still light years ahead of our Indianapolis City-County Council.

The experience yesterday really opened my eyes on how completely dysfunctional Indianapolis city politics has become. Those Indianapolis-area legislators were greatly concerned about how their constituents were being treated in Traffic Court and were very interested in taking action. On the other hand, I know several members of the Indianapolis City-County Council were notified of the problems of treatment of people in Traffic Court. Even after the horrid treatment of these mostly Indianapolis residents hit the media, not a single member of the Indianapolis City-County Council has publicly expressed concern about how their constituents were being treated.

The difference between the State Senate and the Council can be summed up in one word: leadership. Most state senators see themselves as leaders in the community and consider taking action when they perceive a wrong. They don't believe that they've been elected to rubber-stamp the agenda of the Governor and they exercise independent judgment. The Council, on the other hand, acts mostly as a rubber-stamp for the Mayor's agenda and is direly lacking in leaders, people who are willing to speak out on behalf of their constituents when speaking out is contrary to the official position of the Mayor's Office or might ruffle the feathers of other elected officials or the elites who run this city.

It was an eye-opening, pleasant experience. Mock our General Assembly all you want, it is still light years ahead of the Indianapolis City-County Council in terms of competence and leadership.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Indianapolis Star: What About City-County Ethics Issues?

Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana today asks a question I've been asking myself these past several weeks. With all the attention the Indianapolis Star pays to ethics reform at the State level, for unknown reasons the Star zealously avoids addressing any ethics issues with regard to Indianapolis city government.

Just last week, the Indianapolis City-County Council elected a Barnes & Thornburg lobbyist as President. The Star did not criticize the selection.

Tomorrow, Mayor Ballard's campaign finance report is due. Previous reports have shown the Mayor raising extensive sums of money from contractors doing business with the City. While the Star is all over lobbyists giving gifts totalling a $800 to $2000 to legislators, it says not one word about Keystone Construction giving the mayor $25,000 in contributions and then getting a city contract.

And speaking of Keystone Construction, the Star relentlessly (and rightfully) criticizes the legislative revolving door, but did not bother to criticize the Mayor's Chief of Staff, Paul Okeson, leaving city government to take a job with Keystone, a city contractor. How is the city revolving door not as bad as what is going on at the State level?

Then we have the Wishard referendum election. The Star offered at best very faint criticism of the language of the referendum which failed to disclose to the voters how much Health & Hospital was borrowing, that they were building a new hospital, or that the borrowing was backed by property taxes. Supporters of the referendum, showed in the final pre-election finance report that they had received only three donations from individuals (worth $125) and two contributions from non-profits corporations of over $1 million dollars. Meanwhile the same report showed only one expenditure - to a PR firm. It was obvious that on both the contribution and expenditure side, Wishard supporters were working a loophole in the campaign finance laws to hide the names of contributors and what money was spent on. The Star? It said nothing of this practice, which, by the way, political candidates are increasingly adopting.

The list of local ethics issues the Star has ignored is endless. I'm not sure I see the point in zealously pursuing ethics issues in the government building on West Market Street while completely ignoring even worse ethical issues in the government building on East Market Street. Yet that is what the Indianapolis Star does.

Monday, January 18, 2010

History and Future of the Marion County GOP; A Primer on Marion County GOP Politics

This past weekend, I had a conversation with a couple long-time Republican activists here in Marion County They were upset with the local GOP and couldn't understand why the Republicans in power in Marion County seemed so oblivious to the very issues that motivate the rank and file Republicans to be politically active.

I have been active in the Marion County GOP since 1986, a year before getting my law degree and entering the practice of law. About that time, I also began teaching political science at the college level, first at IUPUI and now at the University of Indianapolis. I feel those experiences have given me some level of insight into what is going on. The answers can be found by dusting off some of those old poli sci textbooks and reviewing the history of the Marion County GOP.

In 1967, candidate Richard Lugar won an upset victory for Mayor in the traditionally Democratic city of Indianapolis. At that time the boundaries of the city were the old city limits, excluding the then heavily-Republican leaning Marion County suburbs. In 1970, the Indiana General Assembly passed Unigov, essentially folding those suburbs into the city.

Unigov triggered three decades of Republican domination of Indianapolis politics. The local Marion County GOP organization became a classical political party machine. Here is a definition of a political party machine used in my course:
A tightly disciplined party organizations held together and motivated by a desire for tangible benefits rather than by principle or ideology. Machines bestow benefits, e.g. patronage, government handouts, government contracts, in exchange for votes and political support.
Historically, almost every big city political machine has been run by Democrats. Indianapolis, with the city's politics dominated by a large Republican majority, was an exception.

The 30 plus year Republican domination of Indianapolis government began to end in 1999 with the election of Bart Peterson as Mayor, breaking a 32 year control of that office by Republicans. In 2003, the takeover of Indianapolis city government was nearly complete with Democrats winning control of the Indianapolis City-Council. Democrats soon went on to win every county-wide office, except for Prosecutor.

The transition of the Marion County Republican Party from a political party machine dominating city/county politics to being a minority party happened in a few short years. As the GOP began its first tentative steps to adjusting to the new reality, a solid Democratic majority in the county, lightening struck. Mayor Peterson shot himself in the foot with an ill-timed local income tax increase coming on the heels of a property tax revolt. Indianapolis voters threw out the Democrats and put Republicans back in control of the Mayor's Office and the Council.

Even though Mayor Greg Ballard ran as new kind of Republican and indeed called for the end to "country club politics" in Indianapolis on Election Night - a shot at the faction of Republicans who had long dominated local Republican politics - the problem was that the Old Guard, Establishment Republicans, were still running the Marion County GOP. While on the outside for most of the 2007 Election, Establishment Republicans quickly worked to seize control of the Ballard administration from the Reform Republicans, quite literally shutting them out of the transition process. Aided by the inexperience of Ballard, a newcomer to politics, they quickly succeeded, putting the current administration on the same course as those Republican administrations that dominated the City during the first 30 years of Unigov. The new Republicans, the Reform Republicans who had worked with Ballard from the beginning of his campaign, were shut out and still are shut out.

Most of the media see the disagreements between Reform Republicans and Establishment Republicans as a dispute between conservatives and moderates in the party. Such a characterization misstates the fundamental nature of the dispute between the two camps. After all, while most Reform Republicans are conservative, there are quite a few who are more liberal in their political outlook. For Reform Republicans though, political philosophy and the issues are the motivating force for their political activity. For Establishment Republicans though, political philosophy and issues are merely the avenue to political power, not a list of what needs to be accomplished once power is achieved. This is why Establishment Republicans don't bat an eye at Ballard reneging on campaign promise after campaign promise- to Establishment Republicans who run the Ballard administration, those promises were just the way to achieve power, not guiding principles for the new administration.

To further clarify the differences between Establishment Republicans and Reform Republicans one needs to turn back to the classic political science terms "elitism" and "populism." Establishment Republicans believe in "elitism," defined as:
The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.
Establishment Republicans, i.e. elitists, see nothing with taking public tax dollars and handing it to professional sports teams, big corporations, politically powerful developers, etc. The positive spin is that the corporate welfare is a "good investment," and the recipients of the public largess have over the years made Indianapolis a wonderful place to live The negative spin by detractors of the philosophy is that not all the investment of those public tax dollars has been wise and that those Establishment Republicans are using their positions to make their friends in the private sector wealthier at public expense.

Reform Republicans, on the other hand closely believe in a philosophy called "populism," defined as:
A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite.
Reform Republicans place a premium on protecting taxpayers and working men and women. They decry government handouts, including the corporate welfare that the Establishment Republicans claim is an "investment." They argue forcefully for changes in ethics and conflicts of interest laws so elites cannot use their positions in government to enrich themselves and their friends.

While the Establishment Republicans and their elitist philosophy can succeed in a heavily Republican County (check out Hamilton County's GOP as an example), it is a prescription for failure in a county where Republicans are in a minority. The populism of Reform Republicans, with its emphasis on issues as the motivating force for political activity, has a chance to reach enough independents and moderate Democrats to stitch together a winning coalition. That is what Reagan did in 1980 when he used a consistent philosophy and issues to convince independents and Democrats to vote Republican.

Given the electoral math of Marion County, it is inevitable that the days are numbered for the Establishment Republicans whose approach to governing simply can't attract enough Democrat and independent voters to win. The election of Ballard in 2007 and the takeover of his administration by elitists who have long dominated the GOP, merely provided a last gasp for those Establishment Republicans. Although the Reform Republicans lost control of a hard-earned victory on Election Night 2007, it is inevitable that they will come to dominate Republican politics in Marion County.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Senate Bill Addresses Excessive Traffic Court Fines

Senate Bill 399 filed by State Senator R. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis) addresses the situation of excessive traffic court fines being imposed by Indiana courts, such as the Indianapolis Traffic Court.

To recap, Judge William Young of the Marion County Traffic Court adds an additional $300 or $400 on the fine of every traffic court defendant who challenges their ticket and loses. (I have yet to talk to a traffic court defendant who took a case before Judge Young and won.) My law firm, Roberts & Bishop, filed a lawsuit challenging the practice...that you can't impose a fine on a defendant for the exercise of a constitutional right to a trial. This position is supported by a decision of the Indiana Supreme Court which held that an Indiana judge committed judicial misconduct by imposing additional punishment on defendants who ask for a jury trial in his courtroom. Our lawsuit also challenges the Traffic Court's violation of Indiana's constitutional requirement that courtrooms be open to the public.

Senator Young's bill, which was filed before my firm's lawsuit, is aimed at capping moving violation fines, which bill would curtail Judge Young's practice of imposing substantial fines on defendants as punishment for asking for a trial.

The bill is set for a hearing in front of the Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Committee on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 8:30 am, Room 130 in the Indiana Statehouse. The public is welcome to come and testify.

Friday, January 15, 2010

State of Indiana Contracts With Planned Parenthood

Earlier this week a reporter from the Criterion (the newspaper for the Indianapolis archdiocese) called me to ask how to research contracts the State of Indiana has with Planned Parenthood. I told her she had to be mistaken - there was no chance that pro-life Governor Mitch Daniel's administration would enter into contracts with Planned Parenthoood, the largest supplier of abortion services in the country and an organization that is universally hated by those who believe in the pro-life cause.

I was wrong. The State of Indiana has entered into 11 such contracts (not counting amendments) since 2005, the beginning of the Daniels administration. There are four existing contracts with Planned Parenthood:

Department of Child Services for $3,141,216 10/1/2008 - 9/31/2010

Purpose of Contract: "To provide family planning services for unwanted pregnancies for single women." Confusingly it then goes on to state that the grant funding the contract is for the purpose of serving "married women."

Department of Health for $100,000 1/1/2010 - 12/31/2010

Purpose of Contract: "To implement disease intervention." Contract appears to be for the purpose of combatting sexually transmitted diseases.

Department of Health for $50,000 1/1/2010 - 12/31/2010

Purpose of Contract: Same as above.

FSSA, Contract Management for $4,800 1/1/2008 - 6/30/2011

Purpose of Contract: Provide instructions to patients at Madison State Hospital on various health issues, such as self-esteem, stress, depression, birth control, general personal hygiene, infection control related to venereal diseases and AIDS."

Senate Bill 198 authored by Senator Walker seeks to put an end to these Planned Parenthood state contracts. No hearing has been scheduled yet. As soon as I find the Criterion article, I will provide a link.

Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John: Time to Resign

A few weeks ago, Republican precinct committeeman and blogger Gary Welsh became the first noteworthy Republican to demand that Marion County GOP Prosecutor Carl Brizzi resign. I have long criticized the poor operation of Brizzi's office, and the way Brizzi has continued to look the other way when it came to political corruption and white collar crime in our community. The fact that Brizzi's office did NOTHING when confronted with the Penn mortgage scandal and it took the feds intervening to get any prosecution, speaks volumes about how poor Brizzi's office is when it comes to recognizing white collar crime as "real" crime with "real" victims.

I like Gary, believe the Durham scandal, and Brizzi's connection to it, has so tarnished the prosecutor's image that the party would certainly be better off if Brizzi resigned and another person was allowed time to establish a foothold in the office. Brizzi will be fortunate if he can escape legal troubles due to his questionable stock ownership and other matters. Indeed Brizzi's travails demonstrate a motive for why he looked the other way when it came to white collar matters - he was engaged in highly questionable matters himself that could conceivably some day be viewed as white collar crime. The feds take insider trading and tax fraud very, very seriously. While 99% of the insider trades evade the purview of the feds, there is little question that Brizzi is on their radar screen now. They know about his stock ownership and the fact he had, from somewhere, acquired money to make investments that he couldn't have otherwise purchased on his prosecutor's salary. Brizzi may well have some 'splaining to do to the SEC and IRS.

Nonetheless, I think there is someone else in the GOP upon whom the major blame should rest and who needs to resign for the good of the Marion County Republican Party - Chairman Tom John. Tom John and Carl Brizzi are very close. We Republicans need to be demanding what and when Tom John knew about Brizzi's decision regarding not to seek a third term. John could have interceded and demanded that Brizzi make a decision. More than likely though, John knew about the decision and sat on it, letting Brizzi effectively pick his successor, his chief of staff, Helen Marchal, by waiting until the final day to file for slating to make his announcement.

I don't know Ms. Marchal, but I know the last thing the Republican Party needs is a prosecutor candidate with close ties to Brizzi to run for the office. More importantly, the Republican rank-and-file should be furious with Brizzi and John. They made a mockery of the supposed democratic slating system by ensuring that only one candidate would be in a position to succeed Brizzi. As I told a Democratic elected official a few months ago with regard to the Prosecutor's Office, the GOP leadership would rather give away the office than to have a Republican nominated who might display independence in office. That is a mentality the Marion County GOP leadership has which dates back to the 1970s-1990s when Republicans dominated the county and leadership's only concern was intra-party competition. We Republicans have yet to transition away from that model to one that recognizes the competitive nature of the county.

If the Brizzi matter were Tom John's only failure that would be one thing. But the fact is Tom John's failures and lost opportunities as Marion County GOP Chairman could fill several pages. Let me though just summarize.
  • John has the Marion County GOP well-positioned to lose the Mayor's Office in 2011, all at-large seats, and the council majority.
  • John has the Marion County GOP on track to lose all county-wide races in 2010, including the important positions of sheriff, prosecutor and clerk.
  • John lost all county-wide races in 2008 by historic 20% margins.
  • John has stood by while the administration of Mayor Ballard commits one political misstep after another. (The Chairman of the GOP ought to be providing political guidance behind the scenes. It appears though Mayor Ballard is getting no political advice as to the political impact of decisions being made now on elections in 2011).
  • John has done nothing while GOP Council members have been put in a position of voting for tax and fee increases (and other unpopular measures) that will doom many of their campaigns in 2011.
  • John has done nothing while the Ballard administration (and now the Council) has been taken over by a law firm and insider interests who are using their positions for political profit at the expense of any hope of rebuilding the Republican Party in Marion County by pursuing governmental and ethics reform.
  • John did nothing to take advantage of the success of 2007 to rebuild the Republican base so it can compete in the 21st Century.
  • John has done nothing while the Ballard administration has repeatedly alienated the existing Republican base with proposal after proposal that breaks campaign promises and contradict basic GOP philosophy.
  • John has appointed a resident from Hamilton County, David Brooks to a high level, supervisor position in the Marion County GOP organization.
  • John has been involved in the strong-arming and firing of good Republican workers who dare exercise their right to support in slating candidates other than those preferred by party leadership.
  • John failed to support candidate Greg Ballard's campaign in 2007 and told contributors not to give money to Ballard. Only supported one of the four at-large Republican candidates.

Yes, it is about time for some Republicans to consider resigning. The first on my list though is Tom John. We Republicans cannot afford more of his tenure.