Friday, March 5, 2010

My Letter Asking Secretary of State Todd Rokita to Address Decision by Marion County Election Board to Allow Wishard to Conceal Campaign Expenditures

Going out today.

March 5, 2010

The Honorable Todd Rokita
Secretary of State’s Office
Room 201, Indiana Statehouse
Indianapolis, In 46204

Re: Complaint Against Citizen for Wishard Political Action Committee

Dear Secretary Rokita:

Recently I filed a complaint with the Marion County Election Board asking that the Board investigate Citizens for Wishard’s (C4W) campaign finance reports which contain only two expenditures, both to Hirons & Company (hereinafter “Hirons”), a local public relations firm. Those expenditures are as follows:

9/27/2009 to 10/9/2009 $284,871.36 to Hirons & Company
10/9/2009 to 12/31/2009 $510.316.23 to Hirons & Company
Total .............................$845,187.59

My allegation was that C4W used Hirons to pay its campaign bills and thus conceal expenditures that should have been listed in the report. Interestingly the response to my complaint by Ms. Hebenstreit, an attorney and treasurer of C4W, does not deny that is what C4W in fact did.

The Marion County Election Board never considered my complaint at a meeting or voted on it. Rather I received a letter from a Laurel Judkins, Director of Elections, saying the Election Board had summarily dismissed my complaint without an investigation. In the letter, Ms. Judkins came to the astonishing conclusion that it is perfectly acceptable for campaigns to have an entity like a PR firm pay its bills and the campaign only show the payments to the entity on the finance report. According to Ms. Judkins the law only requires the “direct expenditure” to the entity paying the campaign’s bills be listed on a campaign report.

I’m sure you will agree that Ms. Judkins’ opinion, which apparently is shared by the entire Marion County Election Board, flies in the face of the obvious legislative intent (not to mention common sense) in enacting requirements that campaigns report their expenditures. Now armed with the Wishard precedent, campaigns can simply have a PR firm or a person pay the campaign bills and only report the “direct” expenditures to the PR firm or the person who paid the bills.

I would ask that you take a look at this matter and send a strong message to the Marion County Election Board that campaigns indeed have to report who is receiving campaign expenditures even if those expenditures are paid by a third party. Further, I would also ask that you let the Marion County Election Board know that dismissing complaints before the Board even considers them at a public meeting is not an appropriate way for an Election Board to function as an administrative body.

I have enclosed the original complaint letter, Ms. Judkins’ response and my reply to that letter. Please let me know if you need anything else. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.


Paul K. Ogden

cc. Marion County Election Board Chairman Mark Sullivan
Marion County Clerk Beth White


varangianguard said...

This may get some play from
Mr. Rokita since he would like as much free press as he can get.

Good Luck!

Paul K. Ogden said...


Yeah, but the Wishard folks how some powerful politicians in their pocket.

I can't say too much bad about Rokita. He's made tremendous improvements in how the SOS is run over the past 8 years. I admire him for taking the lead on gerrymandering also.

Marycatherine Barton said...

I so hope that our secretary of state sends to our county election board, the messages Ogden asks in his powerful letter.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I'm not sure the SOS has direct authority over the County Election Boards, but at the very least he should advise them that this practice of having a third party pay bills is not acceptable.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Understand, and agree.