Some fiscally conservative Republicans in Hamilton County have a message for county party officials — back off.
Hamilton County Republican Party
Chairman Pete Emigh
They say top party leaders are acting as behind-the-scenes "kingmakers," directing money and expertise to favored Republicans who are strong proponents of growth in primary races against other party members.
In a virtually one-party Hamilton County, where a Republican primary victory all but ensures a win in the general election, such support can be vital.
Many other GOP officials in one-party-dominated counties say they stay out of primary races to avoid the appearance of bias. "If they want to succeed in winning the nomination, they are the ones as candidates that need to get out and talk to voters," said Johnson County GOP chairwoman Sandi Huddleston.
But Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Pete Emigh and Executive Director Andrew Greider have helped form private political action committees to steer money to specific primary candidates, inviting harsh criticism from others within the party.
That PAC money is often collected from the same people, businesses and organizations that contribute directly to the party and it usually goes to Republicans who support tax incentives to attract growth and development.
Greider also manages certain primary campaigns, directly opposing other Republicans, a practice opposed by those GOP candidates not favored by party officials.
Even more troubling to those outside the party's inner circle is the fact that Emigh personally profits from doing business with the three major cities in the county, whose
mayors he supports with that same PAC money.
Hamilton County Republican Party
Executive Director Andrew Greider
As an independent broker for OneAmerica, the largest provider of 457 public retirement plans in the state, Emigh manages employee retirement accounts in Carmel, Noblesville and Westfield valued at nearly $70 million — all cities whose mayors he has backed financially through a PAC.
Emigh works as a certified financial planner with Financial Partners Group. He offers a 457 plan — similar to a 401(k) — to Carmel, Noblesville and Westfield, through OneAmerica.
Emigh inked Westfield and Noblesville to deals while he was a party official, but before he rose to chairman. But he was chairman when he won a public bid for Carmel's plan in 2012In the lengthy article, Sikich documents Emigh and Greider have personally profited while using their positions in the Republican Party to steer money to favored politicians such as Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, Westfield Mayor Andy Cook, Mayor Scott Fadness, all major proponents of corporate welfare. Sikich notes that Greider has acted as Fadness' campaign manager while also being Executive Director of the Hamilton County Republican Party. Greider was also Carmel Mayor Brainard's campaign manager during the 2011 election.
In defending the GOP crony capitalism system whereby party leaders are financially rewarded by certain candidates they favor in the primary, Carmel Brainard offers a defense dripping in chutzpah "[t]he party has an interest in making sure the primary nominees can win in the fall." Of course, Hamilton County is the most Republican county in the State of Indiana. Democrats hold very few offices in the county and generally don't bother to field candidates for most offices. In this approaching municipal election primary, 98 Republicans have filed to run versus only 5 Democrats.