Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lugar v. White, a Shameful Demonstration of How the Law is Not Applied Equally in Indiana

Yesterday, the Star had an editorial criticizing the focus on Sen. Richard Lugar's plight.  Today the Star has an editorial talking about the new Secretary of State and how former Charlie White had disgraced the office.  The contrasting media treatment, as reflected by the Star editorials, reflect an unfortunate fact of Indiana law...the popular and powerful often get a pass on the laws that others of us have to live under.  That is something all of us in the legal profession should be worried about.
Charlie White

You would think from the media reaction to the White and Lugar stories, that White committed the crime of the century while Lugar is being unfairly persecuted.  In fact, it's just the opposite.  What was White's offense. White was accused of ONE time voting using his ex-wife's house as his voting address.  The Election Commission found that that was indeed where he was living, but let's assume for the sake of argument, he did that.  It was one offense.  People assume terribly evil motives to White for his act, while ignoring reality.  White was getting about a $1,000 a month on the Fishers Town Council.  He was almost certain to be the next Secretary of State.  Does it really make sense that this was all part of a devious plan so he could. continue serving on the Council to continue getting that $1,000 a month?  That makes no sense.  Being a statewide candidate is extremely time-consuming. Being on the town council would have been more of a pain than it was worth.  Yet White continued going to the meetings.

Well maybe he registered at the ex-wife's house for the May 2010 primary to be able cast a vote in a hotly contested race.  In fact, the ballot for his condo's precinct and his ex-wife's precinct were virtually identical, with the exception being one township board race.

It makes no sense that this was some sort of devious White plot to flout Indiana's election law  But White had did one thing in Indiana that's unforgivable.  He pissed off powerful people on both sides of the aisle.  The Democrats wanted their guy in there.  The Republicans were tired of the allegations and wanted Gov. Daniels to appoint a replacement.  White was not popular and in Indiana, when you're not popular, the powers-to-be will go after you with a gusto if you don't do what they want  The special prosecution team spared no expense in going after White, scouring records to find additional things to charge White with. White is probably the only person in the state who has ever been convicted of perjury for allegedly writing down wrong address down on his application for a marriage license.   His prosecution was nothing short of a public lynching.
Sen. Richard Lugar
Then we have Sen. Richard Lugar.  The former Mayor of Indianapolis has served 35 years in the United States Senate.  He's popular and well-respected.  But when it comes to election law violations, Lugar is Charlie White on steroids.  Lugar sold his home at 3200 Highwoods court in Indianapolis in 1977 and continues to voting using that address, signing documents under oath that the home he sold and is now owned by Elizabeth Hughes is his residence.  He was fearful of getting in trouble for the practice so he got his Republican lawyer and two Republican Attorney General to write opinion letters with the far-fetched legal conclusion that Lugar could continue voting from someone else's home. 

The Election Board took up the issue this week and in an extremely detailed look at the law, determined that Lugar's work in D.C. did not entitle him to abandon his Indiana residence and continuing voting from that address. The Board said he had to have another residence in the district and he needed to stop using someone else's house.  It was a very fair and detailed interpretation of the law.  Still Sen. Lugar and the Indianapolois Star had a meltdown. They were outraged that Lugar was being called upon to follow Indiana law, like everyone else in the state has to.    Lugar now vows to go to court to be allowed to continue voting using Elizabeth Hughes' home.

The Election Board did Lugar a favor in finding that he broke the law but didn't have the criminal intent.  One wonders though how Lugar signs BMV documents and state and federal tax returns under oath claiming he lives at 3200 Highwood Court.   Again, White was prosecuted for ONE time putting down the wrong address on his marriage application.  At least with White, his residence at that time was debatable.  Lugar's though isn't a close question.  He knows he doesn't live at 3200 Highwoods Court yet he uses that address on those BMV and tax forms.  There is nothing in the law that allows him to do that.  And even if there was a special exception for him as U.S. Senator, where is the exception that applies to Char Lugar, Sen. Lugar's wife. Not one person has come forward with any legal explanation as to why Char Lugar gets a pass on following the law.

The answer is the Lugars are popular.  While unpopular Charlie White gets prosecuted, the Lugars get a pass.  The Indianapolis Star seems to have no problem with the unequal treatment.  Apparently the Star's editors think the law should only be applied to the little guy or people who are unpopular and don't do what the politically powerful people want done, such as resign from office.

I won't even get into Evan Bayh living in D.C. and voting using a condo in Indianapolis where he clearly doesn't live or Gov. Daniels living in Hamilton County and voting using the Marion County Governor's Mansion where he doesn't live.  I would note they are popular politicians so of course the law doesn't apply to them.

The law should apply equally to everyone regardless of who they are.  The White v. Lugar situations demonstrate what is wrong with our legal system in Indiana.   The rich and powerful, in Indiana, too often get a pass when it comes to following laws that we all have to live under.  That is a shameful fact of our Hoosier state.


Maple Syrup Maven said...

Lugar is a US Senator. The US Senate meets in Washington, DC.

White was elected Indiana Secretary of State. His office is in Indianapolis.

Explain to me, again, the "similarities".

Blog Admin said...

MSM, many members of Congress who have far less wealth than Lugar are able to maintain two residences in both DC and the state of Indiana. And unlike Lugar, whose family lives in Virgina full time, I know my Congressman (Andre Carson) has his family here in Indianapolis. Todd Rokita doesn't even rent an apartment in DC and crashes on his office's couch.

If I was getting paid what a US Senator gets + the homestead deduction, I could easily manage to maintain two residencies.