Friday, April 27, 2012

Pro-Lugar Super PAC Waves White Flag on Senate Race

More evidence that the Lugar ship is sinking...The Hill's political blog reports that a pro-Lugar Super Pac has pulled a planned TV buy in support of the Senior Senator:

State Treasurer Richard Mourdock
The American Action Network, a super-PAC that backs establishment Republicans, has pulled out of Indiana's Senate race, the latest bad omen for Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).
"We've decided we're going to let this race play out," AAN spokesman Dan Conston told The Hill Friday evening.
The group had committed to spending nearly $600,000 on television attacking Lugar's Tea Party opponent, Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), and has been on the air in Indianapolis for two weeks. But they have pulled their online advertising and will end their TV buy on Tuesday, a week ahead of the May 8 primary.
Lugar still has a big warchest to draw from, so the loss of ads against Mourdock won't hurt him that badly in the air war. But this is the latest sign that the race is slipping away from the six-term senator, who has been badly damaged after it was revealed he's lived in Washington, D.C. for decades and is a top target of many conservative groups. 
The race seems to be slipping away from Lugar and the American Action Network may want to avoid inflicting any more damage on Mourdock, the likely nominee, ahead of what could be a competitive general election race against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.). 

Why Marion County Republican And Democratic Party Slating No Longer Has Any Credibility

My Marion County political life began in 1986 when I was appointed as a precinct committeeman in the Marion County GOP, Pike Township in particular.  I was in charge of Pike 5 for the Republicans, a precinct made up of Oakbrook Apartments off of Georgetown Road as well as some nearby townhomes.  With my efforts registering people in the apartments and townhomes, I tipped the balance to the Republican side in the upcoming election.  That effort - going door to door to register people in apartments, transient voters who vote at very poor rates - is pretty much unheard of today.  But I did that because I thought that was my job as a PC.

In return, I was told I would be rewarded through a process known as "slating."  Slating is an endorsement process where candidates are supposed to solicit support from the PCs and other party workers. Then the party workers vote at a slating convention as to what candidate they want to support in the primary.  Unendorsed candidates were supposed to drop out.  The Marion County Republican and Democratic Parties are about the only county party organizations in Indiana that utilize slating.

In those early years, I saw spirited slating contests where candidates worked hard to earn the votes of party workers.  I watched in the early 1990s as the northwest Marion County Republicans endorsed Murray Clark over Sen. Bill Soards, the latter an example of how someone paid the price for losing touch with the organization.  In those days there was hardly ever an open seat where there wouldn't be multiple candidates seeking an endorsement.

What I didn't know then was that in 1986 and 1987, there were some changes going on at the legislature that would strip the power of the party workers and place increased power in the hands of the party chairmen.   Let me summarize.  The election of PCs and county chairmen used to be controlled by Indiana law.  PCs were elected every two years and the month following the election, those elected PCs would meet to vote for the county chairman.   Thus, if you wanted to dump a county chairman, you ran PCs all over the county that were committed to change. The process led to several rejuvenations of the county GOP organizations that had grown stale and ineffective.

Changes in the law in 1986 and 1987 gave the PCs and county chairmen four year terms.  They also changed the timing of the county convention that elected the chairman to almost three years after the PCs were elected.  The result was the number of appointed PCs (to fill vacancies) increased substantially.  Appointed PCs, unlike their elected cousins, do not have to actually live in the precinct they deem to represent.  (They can also be removed at will by the county chairman)  In fact, there have been instances of appointed PCs living outside the county, even outside the state. This whole process is now governed by party rules, but it's pretty much the same system as was established earlier by changes to the statutes.

As a result, the system increasingly became one dominated by party workers elected by their neighbors to one being dominated by appointees of the county chairmen.

This did not happen overnight.  To the credit of then long-time Republican county chairman John Sweezy, he pledged and did stay out of most slating contests.  He insisted that the PCs (and their immediate supervisors, ward chairmen) decide the endorsement contests.  Township chairmen and ward chairmen would try to stack the deck in their favor, but there still continued to be an emphasis on PC appointments being actual working PCs who lived in the neighborhood.

But things were changing.  Marion County slating conventions I attended in the 90s and the 00s featured an increasing number of "mummy dummies," a term I first heard from legendary Republican state chairman Rex Early, which describes non-working PCs appointed for the sole purpose of going to a slating convention and voting a certain way.  That person does no actual work in the precinct.

Things have deteriorated to today.  It's been estimated that about 20% of the people who attend slating conventions are actual elected PCs.  The other 80% are appointees of the county chairmen.  While they sell the working PCs on the notion that they are rewarded by voting at slating conventions, what they don't tell those working PCs is that their vote doesn't matter because the county chairman has a pool of appointees who will outvote the working PCs if they decide to go a different direction than what the county chairman wants.

What is the effect of the dominance of the county convention by appointees of the county chairmen?  The effect is we don't have contested slatings anymore.  We had 17 positions up for slating earlier this year and 16 were unopposed.  In the one race where there was a contest, Judge Carol Orbison was told in advance that she didn't have a chance, that they would rig slating against her. They did exactly that. 

The Democrats slating system isn't faring any better.  Attorney Zach Mulholland decided to go through slating for state representative in District 100 believing, or perhaps hoping, it would be fair.  He paid his fee which only then entitled him to the list of PCs and ward chairmen eligible to vote at the slating convention.  To his surprise he found out that about half the list consisted of relatives of his opponent, Dan Forestal.  Now the Democratic party bosses are screaming bloody murder that Mulholland signed a document saying he wouldn't run in the primary if not slated and he has now reneged on that agreement. Of course, implicit in that agreement was that Democratic officials would run a fair slating, where actual party workers would be voting on the endorsement, not Forestal's relatives.

The use of mummy dummies has not only stripped party workers of power, it has undermined any legitimacy toward a claim that the party organization has "endorsed" a candidate.  The slated Republican judicial candidates are making the false claim that they were endorsed by the party.  No, the party endorses candidates on May 8th.  It used to be that slated candidates could legitimately argue that the party workers endorsed them.  Now that is not even true.  Rather the truth is a slating endorsement is nothing more than an endorsement by party bosses, nothing more nothing less.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Poll Show Lugar Falling Behind Mourdock

State Treasurer Richard Mourdock
Politico is reporting on a new poll that shows Sen. Richard Lugar falling behind State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
The survey, taken Tuesday and Wednesday by Wenzel Strategies on behalf of Citizens United, places Mourdock at 44 percent and Lugar at 39 percent. Nearly 17 percent remain undecided with just 12 days to go until the Indiana Senate primary. 
Citizens United is backing Mourdock in the May 8 contest.
Wenzel found that Mourdock’s lead is powered by self-described tea party conservatives, who comprise 36 percent of the GOP electorate.
Among that group of voters, Mourdock holds a commanding 63 percent to 24 percent lead. Lugar’s ability to keep the race close is due to moderates and traditional conservatives, which both favor the incumbent, according to Wenzel.
Lugar’s favorability rating has slid nine points since the last Wenzel survey six weeks ago. It now stands at 44 percent, compared to Mourdock’s 38 percent. 
Both candidates’ unfavorable ratings have climbed — a by-product of the nasty air and mail campaign. 
In mid-March, a Wenzel survey showed Lugar clinging to just a 6-point advantage [44-38].
To see the rest of the article, click here.

Over on Facebook, some writers have chosen to attack the methodology in the Wenzel poll commissioned by Mourdock supporter Citizens' United.    That misses the point.  They key is the movement from the March to April polls.  Even if the methodology is flawed, as long as the methodology is the same from poll to poll (which it assuredly is), then the poll accurately reflects an 11 point swing in Mourdock's favor.

Remember that undecideds tend to break 2-1 in favor of the least.  (Often it's as much as 4-1.)  If the Wenzel poll is accurate, Lugar is facing the possibility of a double figure loss on May 8th.

Ogden for Judge Releases First Commercial of 2012 Campaign

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What is Going to Happen in Indiana's Fifth Congressional District?

In a week and a half, I will be making my traditional pre-election picks on the show Civil Discourse Now.  I must say right now I have no idea who I will pick to win the Congressional Fifth District.  There are four candidates who seem to have the best shot...former Congressman David McIntosh, former Marion County Coroner Dr. John McGoff, former U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks, and Wayne Seybold, current Mayor of Marion.  Other candidates include Jack Lugar, Bill Salin, Jason Anderson and Matthew Mount.
Dr. John McGoff

I probably would have picked McIntosh as the favorite, and am doing that today.  However, the residency issue is a killer.  I get the sense voters are tired of people living in another state then coming back to Indiana to vote and run.   Dan Coats was fortunate to have ducked the issue.  Still McIntosh will beneift from having the backlash for his residency problems split among several candidates and from having the northern Indianapolis area split between McGoff and Brooks.

McGoff has to be considered a solid contender.  Having run in the district two previous times (although the district has been altered going into his election), he should have a solid foundation upon which to eek out a plurality victory.  The fact he is not a lawyer probably helps him considerably given the legal background of Brooks, McIntosh and Lugar.

Brooks also has a shot.  She is helped by being the only woman in the race.  She is also helped by her husband, David Brooks, longtime Marion County GOP operative, who has contacts throughout the county.  But Susan Brooks' husband is also a major liability.  To say David Brooks is not well-liked by many Marion County Republicans is to say the least.  He is despised as the local GOP hatchetman who has for years carried out directives from party bosses that have stripped party workers of power and placed it firmly in the hands of those party bosses.  Along the way, David Brooks has alienated many a Marion County Republican.  I know several Republicans who have told me they would not consider voting for Susan because of her husband David.

I can't count out Wayne Seybold, current Mayor and former Olympian ice skater.  Seybold, who has a close resemblance to McGoff, appears to be in a position to dominate the northern part of the district which includes Kokomo, Marion, and Anderson.  Seybold has the endorsement of outgoing Congressman Dan Burton who has held the district for years, local state senator Mike Delph and numerous other elected officials from the northern part of the district.  Plus Seybold has enlisted the efforts of the most crafty local political media gurus around - Blair Englehart.

If I had to guess right now, I would predict the top four finish as:

1.  McIntosh
2.  McGoff
3.  Seybold
4.  Brooks

I can see any of the top three as winning. While Brooks could finish in the top three, I don't see her winning right now.

I reserve the right to change this prediction before May 8th.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Monroe County (Bloomington) Prosecutor's Office Uses Little 500 to Fund Office

The Indianapolis Star is reporting that 271 people were arrested at Little 500 this weekend. As the Star reports, most of those individuals can avoid prosecution by paying $425 and doing some community service and taking an alcohol classes.

Who do you think is going to get most of the the $425 per person diversion fee, an amount which totals $127,461?  If your guess is the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office, you'd be correct.  From what I learned, at least 1/3 of the budget of prosecutors' offices in the large state university towns - think Monroe  County (IU), Delaware County (Ball State), Tippecanoe County (Purdue) and Vigo County (Indiana State) - is funded by college students paying diversion fees to avoid being prosecuted for alcohol offenses.

Moving to a more reasonable law on alchol consumption, e.g. changing the drinking age from 21 to 18, would result in prosecutors' office no longer being able to fleece the parents of college students to fund their budget.  Like with civil forfeiture, these diversionary programs too often become all about the money that law enforcement can net from the program, not what is in the best interests of society.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Taxpayers Foot Bill for Marion County Party Chairmen's Denial of Voter Information to Nonslated Candidates

Two big hearings took place today, one at the Marion County Election Board and the other in Marion County Circuit Court.  Before delving into what happened at those meetings, a review of things is in order. 
Attorney and Judicial Candidate Greg Bowes
argued the case for the unslated candidates

The Marion County Board of Voter Registration has two members, Susan Mowery appointed by the Republican County Chairmen and Ladonna Freeman, appointed by the Democratic County Chairman.  The Board of Voter Registration processes registrations and keeps certain information as to voters.  Information they keep include:

Name of Voter
Primary Voting History (this is the only way you tell party identification in Indiana)
Date of Birth
Voter Identification Number
Last Four Digits of social security number (except for very old registrations which might have the entire social security number)
Phone Numbers

Mark Sullivan, Democratic
Chairman Marion County
Election Board
The Board of Voter Registration packs up this information and ships the data off to the State Election Commission in the Secretary of State's Office.  The information gets maintained as part of a state voting list.  The state parties buy that information and processes it into their system, putting it in much more useful form for campaigning.  (Think walk lists, phones for phone banks, emails for mass mailings, etc.)  The state party then sells it to the county party organizations. Instead of giving the information to all candidates, the party organization in Marion County only give the information to slated candidates.  In most counties this isn't the case as as Marion County is virtually the only county in the state that has a formal slating, i.e. party endorsement, process. 

Contrary to the impression left at the Election Board meeting, the slated candidates do get all the above information form the Board of Voter Registration.  They just don't get it DIRECTLY from the Board of Voter Registration.  Meanwhile unslated candidates are left to begging the BVR for the voter information which is critical to creating walk lists and doing mailings to the party's voters.

Indiana law has an open records law.  The legislature carved out an exception that allows counties, upon the vote of the county election board, to adopt a non-discriminatory policy regarding the release  of information from the Board of Voter Registration.  In previous years, the Board of Voter Registration gave out information to unslated candidates. This year though, undoubtedly because of the numerous challenges to the slate and undoubtedly at the behest of the county chairmen who appointed the two member BVR, the decision was made to not give out any information.  The ruse finally selected for that approach was that the county election board had not adopted a policy regarding the release of the data.
Patrick J. Dietrick,
Republican Member of
Election Board
The initial interpretation by the Public Access Counselor and the City was plain silly.  You have a general open records law.  The county has the right to limit the data by adopting a nondiscriminatory policy.  If the county doesn't adopt a policy restricting access, that means the general open records law applies. Statutory Interpretation 101.

On the verge of the BVR getting ordered to release the information, the Election Board announced it would go ahead and adopt a policy at today's meeting.  It did.  Here is what the Marion County Election Board agreed to give to nonslated candidates per its new policy.

Names of registered voters

That's it.  Oh, and the Board put in the policy that it would only be delivered in pdf form, making it extremely difficult to process the data without extensive data entry.  The fact the Board did that speaks volumes about exactly what the intent was prevent the use of any data the Board would have to provide.

If that wasn't enough, the Election Board pulled another stunt.  The Board put into the policy the provision that if their policy was found to violate the law by a court, then the Board's policy would become that no information gets released.  Not sure how the Election Board thinks it can override a judge's decision, but that's another issue.

During the Election Board hearing, Chairman Mark Sullivan, an appointee of Marion County Democratic Chairman, made the silly argument that the information needed to be restricted to protect voters' privacy.  Of course, this completely ignored the fact that the slated candidates already receive the full panoply of data including voter history, emails, phone numbers, etc.  The only people who aren't getting the information is the handful of unslated candidates who request the information.

Later in the day, Marion County Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg decided against the emergency injunction but indicated that the lawsuit would be better brought as a constitutional challenge (under equal protection) against the state officials who created a law that could be applied to create two classes of candidates.  While the case is still pending, the Election Board successfully obtained a change of venue, without question for the sole purpose of running out the clock so the unslated candidates can't get the information before the election.

Attorney Greg Bowes, one of the unslated judicial candidates denied information and the attorney for the five slated litigants, including yours truly, made a terrific point when talking to the media.  Taxpayers pay the salaries and buy the equipment of county employees who gather voter information which only gets disclosed to slated candidates.

Adam Kirsch, Executive Director,
Marion County Democratic Party

I would add another point. Today, there was an attorney for the Election Board at both hearings, namely Andrew Mallon.  Paid for with our tax dollars.  There were also two attorneys from Corporation Counsel there also, Justin Roebels and Alex Will.  Their salaries are of course are paid our tax dollars.  Who were those three attorneys working for?  I can tell you it sure wasn't the taxpayers. They were there to protect the interests of the county chairmen, namely Republican Kyle Tracy and Democrat Ed Treacy, in preventing critical voter information from falling into the hands of unslated candidates.  It should also be pointed out that Treacy's wife, Judge Becky Pierson-Treacy is on the ballot this May and unslated candidates Bowes and Mark King are serious threats to push her out of the top 10 candidates who win the nomination.  If Bowes and King can't get vote information, their chances of beating the county chairmen's wife is seriously damaged.

If you don't think the attorneys and county chairmen appointees to the BVR and the Election Board were not at the hearings to do the bidding of the county chairmen, you only need to look at the audience of those two hearings.  Sitting there was none other than Adam Kirsch, executive director of the Democratic Party.  Why would Kirsch be there if this was just some technical legal issue that didn't impact the political process?  The fact is this issue was always about county chairmen using the system, and our tax dollars, to put critical voter information in the hands of slated candidates, while denying unslated candidates that same information.  It's nothing more than political corruption played out under the guise of a legal issue.  Disgraceful.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Lugar-Mourdock Battleground: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Area is the Key

The 2010 Republican primaries featured a number of state maps that showed Mitt Romney winning the major urban areas while Rick Santorum dominated the more rural counties.  My guess is you'll see the same pattern play out in the the contest between Senator Richard Lugar and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

I would expect Mourdock to win almost all the rural counties, many decisively so.  While Lugar might be able to win the counties of Allen (Fort Wayne), St. Joseph (South Bend) and Lake County, I think the real battleground will be the Indianapolis Metropolitan Area (IMA), in particular the heavily populated counties of Marion, Hamilton, Hendricks and Johnson County.

To win the state, Lugar will need a large victory margin in the IMA.  For Mourdock to win the state, he needs to hold down his losing margin in the IMA.

One of the things I've noticed is what appears to be an incredibly large number of absentee ballot requests in Marion County.  It would appear that about 80% of those are for a Republican ballot, which suggests to me that either the Lugar or Mourdock campaign (or both) is actively targeting absentee voters.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Enforcing Indianapolis' Smoking Ban

All the press has been on whether Indy should adopt a tougher smoking ban, with bars and taverns included.  That looks likely to happen now that the council is apparently near a compromise version that the Mayor is likely to sign.
The issue that has been almost completely overlooked, but will soon take center stage, is how the smoking ban for taverns gets enforced.   Are we going to send out city inspectors to surreptitiously see if the bars are enforcing the ordinance?   How many bars do we have in Indianapolis?   I would say a 1000 is a conservative estimate.  How often are those inspectors going to get around to the bars?  Are we going to have to hire more city workers to enforce the law?  Do we contract out enforcement of the smoking ban?  Do we divert IMPD officers from fighting crime to enforcing the smoking ban?   I'm not even sure law enforcement can be used for that function.   Could it make more sense for the bar to pay the fine if caught instead of running off customers who are smoking?

The smoking ban reminds me a bit of prohibition...a law passed to correct an unhealthy life choice.  That law - prohibition - proved utterly unenforceable.  I am not sure how the smoking ban for bars will avoid a similar fate.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mourdock Appears to Have Gained Control of U.S. Senate Race; What to Expect in the Three Weeks Ahead

In the campaign to unseat six term incumbent Senator Richard Lugar, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock appears to have climbed into the driver's seat.  Were the election to be held today, I think Mourdock would win. 
State Treasurer
Richard Mourdock

People might wonder why I'd say that when Lugar held a 41-34 lead in a recent independent poll.  The fact though is that undecideds almost always break sharply for the challenger.  When an incumbent, especially a six year incumbent is under 50% he or she is considered to be in deep trouble.  Lugar barely broke 40%.

Another consideration is that Mourdock outraised Lugar during the last reporting period.  Big contributors like to give to a winner.  The fact that the money is now going to Mourdock suggests those contributors think he is going to win. 

How can Lugar win?  His only option left is to go sharply negative on Mourdock, to trash him so badly that even though Lugar is no longer liked many in the Republican base, they would fear Mourdock's nomination more.  That won't be easy for the six term Senator who has always tried to portray himself as above politics.

How will Mourdock respond?  In addition to answering the charges and calling Lugar "desperate" (the favorite word of the campaign season), Mourdock is likely to soon go warm and fuzzy, to try to reassure Republican primary voters that they have nothing to fear from him should he capture the nomination.  These strategies would strongly suggest that the Lugar camp knows he is behind and the Mourdock campaign is trying to put the former champion away by lasting out the final few rounds and winning on points.

What else to look for?  Expect that Governor Daniels and Attorney General Zoeller to make formal endorsements of Richard Lugar in a week or so, a fact Lugar will promote extensively  To the GOP establishment crowd who often struggle to think outside the political box, those endorsements are powerful.  The problem though is that to the voters with whom Lugar is having the most trouble, those endorsements are not at all persuasive and can, in fact, be counterproductive. They suggest Lugar is an insider and Mourdock, who can't get those type of big name endorsements, is an outsider.

Some final random thoughts on Lugar.  I met with a former Republican political operative yesterday, someone who had run state legislative campaigns.  He told me the story of how then Governor Evan Bayh had teamed up with state legislative campaigns to assist them, something Governor Daniels also did in 2010.   He said that GOP leaders to get Lugar to help out Republican candidates in the state, including the candidate for whom he was working, and Lugar refused.    That is similar to a story I heard from a state Republican leader who years ago expressed frustration that Lugar would not come back to Indiana for Lincoln Day dinners, either as a speaker or even as a guest. 

One final story.   A Republican party activist in Hancock County had his picture taken with Lugar a few years ago.   A week or so later the person got a letter from the Lugar people saying that the picture was only for private use and that the activist was expressly prohibited from using it in a political campaign.  Even if it were somehow illegal to use the picture contrary to the wishes of Lugar (doubtful), such a proclamation could never be enforced.  So why send the letter?  All it did was have the effect of forever turning off someone who might otherwise support Lugar today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Will Dennis Ryerson's Legacy Be?

For the last nine years, the Indianapolis Star has been presided over by Editor-in-Chief Dennis Ryerson who recently announced his retirement.
Indianapolis Star Editor Dennis Ryerson

Is there anyone who thinks the Star is a better paper today than it was in 2003 when he took the helm?

The quality of the Indianapolis Star has declined dramatically in the last several years.  News staffs have been cut and the remaining reporters are underpaid and overworked.  Reporters have been told to not cover newsworthy stories because doing so would step on the toes of politically-powerful individuals.  There have been a few exceptions, but for the most part of you want quality investigative journalism today, you don't go to the Star, but rather to the Indianapolis Business Journal or even television reporters.  If you want stories where the writers do not shy away from controversy you go to the blogs.  There are few reasons to read the Star today.  The paper has become a collection of AP articles with a few noncontroversial local stories thrown in the mix.

To succeed the Star has to learn to adapt to modern technology, a world in which people are as likely to read their newspaper on their computers than a paper one delivered to one's home.  Ryerson's answer to the challenge was to cut the Star's quality and avoid controversy.  That was obviously not the right choice. Hopefully his successor will exercise better judgment.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Price of Gasoline and Indiana's Attorney General

The idea of suspending Indiana's sales tax on gasoline has reared its head again.  Democratic candidate for governor John Gregg has floated the idea.  It's not clear whether Gregg would submit the proposal to the legislature or go the Gov. Frank O"Bannon route of doing it by executive order.  Gov. O"Bannon was roundly criticized for taking the action in the midst of the 2000 campaign.  Since that move, Attorney Generals Steve Carter and Greg Zoeller have opined that the Governor lacks the authority to suspend the state sales tax on gasoline by executive fiat.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller

I think that's probably correct.  However, my issue with Carter and now Zoeller is their hypocrisy in interpreting the law.  Whenever gasoline prices would suddenly soar, Carter and Zoeller would be in front of a camera vowing to "investigate price gouging" in gasoline sales.  Neither of them had the legal authority to conduct such an investigation.  Under IC 4-6-9.1-3 the Attorney General is entitled:

1) to investigate complaints received claiming price gouging.
2) to seek injunctive relief as appropriate.
3) to seek restitution for victims of price gouging.
4) to institute an action to levy and collect a penalty.
But that authority is only triggered when there is an "emergency" declared by the governor. See IC 4-6-9.1-1.   Both Carter and Zoeller conducted gasoline "price gouging" investigations, not because they had the legal authority to do so, but because they wanted to get headlines.

So when Attorney General Greg Zoeller gives his opinion of the law, one has to understand that it is not coming from an objective perspective, but rather one colored by political calculations. That is a shame. There was a day when Attorney General's took their role of providing advisory opinions on Indiana law seriously and approached it in an unbiased manner.  No longer.

Marion County Political Corruption Continues as Appointees of County Chairman Vote Against Releasing Voter Information to Unslated Candidates

This year there are a number of strong candidates running against the slate put forward by Marion County Republican Chairman Kyle Walker and his Democratic counterpart Ed Treacy.  Apparently this year county chairmen decided that a good way to ensuring victory of the slate is to deny nonslated candidates voter lists that they can themselves use for slated candidates.
Mark Sullivan, Chairman
of the Election Board

In the past, the Marion County Board of Voter Registration provided voter registration files upon request. In 2010, I was able to get an electronic voter file for Pike Township emailed to me within a couple days.

The opportunities for political shenanigans are apparent though when you look at the make up of the Board.  The Board of Voter Registration consists of two members, Susan Mowery appointed by the Republican county chairman and Ladonna Freeman appointed by the Democratic chairman. They serve at the pleasure of their respective county chairmen and do their bidding.

Patrick J. Dietrick,
Election Board Member
This year unslated candidates have been asking for the voter registration file in order to reach out their respective primary voters.  The slated candidates have ready access to the information, access that is not provided to the unslated candidates.  Unslated Democratic judicial candidate Greg Bowes made several requests for voter registration information.  In previous years he's received the information.  Not this year.  I have made three requests for information.  (Today at the hearing Mowery inaccurately told the board I had asked for paper records and they had to wade through some 60 or so file boxes to find the information.  In fact, I specifically had asked for electronic records in all three of my requests.)  Other candidates have made requests for information and been given the run around by the Board of Voter Registration, with varying reasons given for not turning over the information.

Eventually though they decided on a strategy.  Indiana law carves out an exception to the open records law that allows the county election board to decide which electronic voter registration information to release pursuant to a non-discrimination policy.  The purpose behind the law is to ensure that some candidates are not getting information that is denied to other candidates.  That is, of course, exactly what's going on today in Marion County 

Today's hearing of the Election Board was to adopt a non-discrimination policy so the data can be released.  The hearing came following a second opinion of the State Public Access Counselor which said that a county can't get around the law by simply not adopting a policy.
Marion County Clerk Beth White

Even that opinion has it wrong.  Bowes today argued that if an Election Board doesn't adopt a policy to carve out an exception from the general open records law, then the general open records law applies and a county can't prohibit the release of any voter registration data that is public record.  His legal analysis is right on the money.  Still the opinions of the PACs make clear that a county cannot choose to not adopt a policy in order to avoid the release of the data to candidates.

Yet that is exactly what the Election Board did today by a 2-1 vote.  Marion County Clerk Beth White argued passionately that the voter registration file needs to be made available to candidates in a non-discriminatory fashion and said the Board cannot refuse to exercise its responsibility to adopt a policy.  However, Republican board member P.J. Dietrick and Democratic board chairman Mark Sullivan disagreed.  Dietrick inaccurately suggested that fulfilling the requests for electronic voter information could lead to the disclosure of confidential information.  (It never has before.), Sullivan meanwhile feigned not having time to read and study the PAC opinion which he claimed to only have received at the meeting.  (In fact, Clerk White said she had previously emailed Sullivan a copy of the opinion as did Bowes.)  Sullivan wants time to review the law.  I'm sure that his review of the law will last until at least early May, which will make the information useless to the candidates challenging the slate in the primary.   It's just a big game to Dietrick and Sullivan. They do not care one bit that they're violating Indiana law.  They know if they at least delay release of the data until it's too late to do anything with it, the slated candidates will have a huge edge over the unslated candidates. 

Just when you think Marion County politics is as corrupt as it comes, it gets worse.  The county chairman, with their power on the wane and slating being challenged on all fronts, are pulling ever dirty trick in the book to remain in control of picking the candidates.  Stay tuned.  If the Board of Voter Registration and Election Board does not comply with the law very soon, a lawsuit is almost a certainty.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Update On My JEPAC Rating; Indianapolis Bar Association Allows Its Image to be Tarnished by Participating in Political Games

I wrote yesterday about how C. Joseph Russell was playing politics with the IBA's Judicial Excellence Political Action Committee's judicial surveys.   This is a followup to that story.
C. Joseph Russell
Partner at Krieg DeVault

If there was any question that Russell was up to political shenanigans, that was erased by the result of the surveys posted today. I received an 18.1%, with only 116 people returning surveys. 18.1% is undoubtedly the lowest rating a judicial candidate has ever far. There is no doubt that, from the very beginning, the plan was to reopen the survey to get a negative review for the purpose of using it as part of a political campaign.  That's why information was obtained from me under false pretenses and why Russell refused to honor my request that I not be surveyed, a request that has been honored for judicial candidates in the past. 

The problem though is the stunt Russell and the other members of the GOP establishment tried to pull backfired.  By so stacking the deck, they got a score that is not remotely credible and inadvertently reveals exactly what they were up to. The next lowest Republican, Clayton Graham, a person who has never served a day as judge, received a score over three times what I received - 60.0% to 18.1%.    No one is going to believe the 18.1% score is legitimate, especially since I've been an attorney for going on 25 years, clerked for a judge at the Indiana Court of Appeals for 3 1/2 years, worked in every branch of government, was a Deputy Attorney General and litigated hundreds of civil and criminal cases in our courts.  Obviously that doesn't happen unless there is a concerted effort to target an individual as they did with me.  So much for Russell's dishonest claim that the surveys are an accurate reflection of attorneys' views of the candidates.

A couple weeks ago, Governor Daniels called the Marion County judicial slating system a "travesty" and that paying a $12,000 slating amounted to nothing more than "purchasing" judgeships. The Indiana Judicial Commission said 20 years ago that paying a slating fee to receive a party endorsement is a violation of the Judicial Code of Conduct.  At a seminar on judicial selection I was at yesterday, several judges trashed the Marion County slating system, including former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Ted Boehm who said the slating system only produces two winners - the Republican and Democratic party chairmen, and over 800,000 losers, i.e. Marion County voters.

I am the only Republican candidate for judge who refused to participate in slating and refused to pay county chairman $12,000 to be endorsed by the party.  I believe that judges should follow the Code of Judicial Conduct and not pay the slating fee for a party endorsement.  I believe judges need to be independent and that Republican voters and not party bosses should decide who our judicial nominees are.

The party bosses do not like it one bit when you refuse to play the game by their rules.  That's fine.  I expect them to attack and try to discredit me.  That's the political game and I accept that by stepping in the arena.  What I object to though is that the Indianapolis Bar Association, an organization that claims to be nonpolitical and about improving the local bar, would allow itself to so blatantly be used to try to get political ammunition against a judicial candidate.   The IBA's image was badly tarnished today.

Number of Replies
Number of Replies
Greg Bowes
Robert R. Altice, Jr.
Linda E. Brown
Lisa A. Borges
Thomas J. Carroll
Sheila A. Carlisle
John M.T. Chavis, II
Clayton Graham
Steven Eichholtz
Amy M. Jones
John F. Hanley
James A. Joven
Grant W. Hawkins
Michael D. Keele
Mark King
Helen Marchal
Becky Pierson-Treacy
William J. Nelson
Jose D. Salinas
Paul K. Ogden
Mark D. Stoner
Carol J. Orbison
Heather A. Welch
Clark H. Rogers