A monthslong investigation into former Indiana schools Superintendent Tony Bennett’s
use of state staff and resources during his 2012 re-election campaign found ample evidence to support federal wire fraud charges, according to a copy of the 95-page report viewed by The Associated Press.
Former State Superintendent Tony Bennett
Despite a recommendation that charges be pursued, Bennett has never faced prosecution for such charges — which could have carried up to 20 years in prison.
The investigation, which was completed by the inspector general’s office in February, found more than 100 instances in which Bennett or his employees violated federal wire fraud law. That contrasts sharply with an eight-page formal report issued in July that said the office found minimal violations, resulting in a $5,000 fine and an admonishment that Bennett could have avoided fines by rewriting rules to allow some campaign work on state time.
Bennett’s use of state resources during his failed 2012 re-election campaign came under scrutiny after the AP reported in September 2013 that Bennett had kept multiple campaign databases on Department of Education servers and that his calendar listed more than 100 instances of “campaign calls” during regular work hours. The AP also reported that Bennett had ordered his staff to dissect a speech by his Democratic opponent for inaccuracies — in apparent violation of Indiana election and ethics laws.
The full Bennett investigation document shows more instances of campaigning with public resources than previously reported.
From Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2012, the investigation found more than 100 violations of wire fraud laws. They included 56 violations by 14 Bennett employees and 21 days in which Bennett misused his state-issued SUV. Then-Chief of Staff Heather Neal had the most violations, 17.
In a section labeled “Scheme to Defraud,” the inspector general laid out its case, saying Bennett “while serving as the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Indiana, devised a scheme or artifice to defraud the State of Indiana of money and property by using State of Indiana paid employees and property, for his own personal gain, as well as for his own political benefit to be re-elected to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.”
The violations fell into five categories: political campaign fundraising, responding to political opponent’s assertions, calendar political activity meetings, political campaign call appointments and general political campaign activity.
Through reviews of emails and calendar entries and more than 50 interviews with top Republicans and former staffers, investigator Charles Coffin determined that Bennett falsified mileage logs to cover fundraising trips and the use of two state workers as campaign drivers. The report also details 20 days on which Bennett used the SUV to go to local Republican fundraisers coded as “business” in his handwritten vehicle logs, as well as instances when trips to events billed as education-related also had calendar notes about political donors being present.
Bennett also used tax dollars to send a staffer to attend the 2012 Republican Party convention on his behalf.I'm not sure if I'm more bothered by the alleged conduct of Bennett and his staff or David Thomas for apparently covering up the seriousness of the allegations and the prosecutors for failing to prosecute. It is stunning the zeal with which they went after Charlie White on dubious charges, but failed to prosecute Bennett or anyone in his administration with respect to these findings.