Friday, January 8, 2016

Resigned Hamilton County Chairman May Have Stacked the Deck for Hand-Picked Successor

Probably no place in Indiana is home to more political cronyism than Hamilton County.  In a December 31, 2015 story announcing the resignation of Hamilton County Republican Chairman Peter Emigh, the Indianapolis Star had this to say about politics in that county under Emigh's tenure:
Emigh and former Executive Director Andrew Greider were criticized by some party members after they helped form private political action committees to steer money to specific primary candidates they favored in races against other Republicans.
Emigh managed the Shamrock PAC, which mainly aided Westfield candidates, and
Pete Peterson
Greider managed the Royal-Tiger PAC, which mainly aided Fishers candidates.
Neither PAC is active today. Before the May primary, Emigh ceded control of the Shamrock PAC to the son of Westfield Mayor Andy Cook, who then donated more than $99,000 to his father. About $37,000 from the Shamrock PAC was transferred to a new PAC that remains active, HCL PAC.
Emigh also was criticized for managing 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 and Greider have said they are acting as private citizens, not as party officials using party resources, when backing candidates with the two PACs. Emigh has said his job has had no influence on whom he supports in races.
Sure...the fact that Emigh would continue to make a ton of money managing retirement accounts in Carmel, Noblesville, and Westfield if the right person won the Mayor's race had absolutely no influence over who he supported in those races.  Emigh expects people to actually buy that nonsense?   As luck would have it, Emigh supported all the incumbent mayors who also sent work his way.

Now that Emigh's crony-tarnished tenure is about to close, it appears he is taking one more step to ensure that the insider deals continue in Hamilton County.  Reportedly, during the last month of his being chairman, Emigh made 70 plus party appointments to the county's 216 precincts, appointees who will be eligible to vote for his favored candidate, Pete Peterson. treasurer of the party and president of the Fishers City Council.  Laura Campbell, who is currently vice chairman of the party and a newly elected member of the Carmel City Council, may also be running.

People may remember Peterson as Treasurer of the Royal Progress Committee and author of the infamous letter on behalf of that committee asking businesses in Fishers for $3,500 if they wished to have exclusive meetings about the future of the city.  This is from the letter:
I invite you to assist us by becoming a Member of the Royal Tiger Progress Committee for an annual membership fee of $3,500, where we can meet to discuss your suggestions and ideas about improving our community.  Members will be invited to exclusive meetings throughout the year in Fishers where we will plan to present a brief program to discuss current issues in the community followed by some open discussion.  We will be able to share information about what is happening in Fishers, in many cases before you hear about it in the news.
(An interesting side note I stumbled across during my research for this article:   Hamilton County election officials redact the names of all Treasurers of campaign committees, including PACs and those of individual candidates.  It is not clear what possible authority there is for redacting what is obviously public information.)

Some lengthy but necessary background on the change in rules that now allow county chairmen like Emigh to stack the deck. Until the mid-1980s, county chairmen were elected at a county party convention in June following the May primary at which precinct committeemen were elected. Both PCs and county chairman served two year terms. However, only elected PCs were eligible to vote at the June convention. That changed with statutory revisions in the middle 1980s, the so-called John Sweezy forever bills.  (Sweezy was the long-time Marion County GOP chairman at the time.)  The bills (which have since been replaced by party rules) set it up so that both the county chairman and PCs would be on four year terms but the county chairman would be elected in March, nearly 3 years after the election of the PCs.  As a result, PCs appointed to fill vacancies by the county chairman could vote for the first time. The change allowed the county chairmen to hand pick many of the very people who would be voting at the county convention.

Elected PCs must actually live in the precinct they represent. However when it comes to a county chairman appointing someone to represent a precinct, that person can come from anywhere in the county.  Appointed PCs serve at the will of the chairman and can be replaced if they don't agree to vote "the right way." I once was removed as an appointed PC because I wouldn't vote for the re-election of the county chairman.

Laura Campbell
Another twist is that while the person elected as PC is a public record, if the county chairman appoints someone to a PC slot the name of that individual is not treated as a public record.  Obtaining a list of party precinct workers is next to impossible.  County chairmen typically guard those lists as if they were embarrassing family secrets. swapping in and out names when needed to rig not only county convention votes but also caucuses held to fill vacancies in elected office.

As if being able to appoint a slew of PCs wasn't enough, the rules now also make a vice precinct committeeman eligible to vote for county chairman. Although technically PCs can pick their own VPCs, party rules require that the selection be "certified" in writing within a week after the election of the PC.  If an elected PC fails to meet this deadline, and few do, the appointment of a VPC also passes permanently to the county chairman. Elected PCs and their selected VPCs have to live in the precinct he or she represents. But a PC (and VPC) appointed by the county chairman can live anywhere in the county.

The result in Marion County is that generally about 85% of PC slots eligible to vote at a county convention are appointed by the county chairman.  Probably 95% of VPCs slots are via appointment.  A county like Hamilton County is not nearly as bad for those wanting to challenge the party establishment due to the large pool of Republican voters available to run and be elected as PC,   Still Hamilton County has enough precincts that the opportunities for someone like Emigh to put his finger on the scale and influence the vote are enormous.  Campbell can still win the race against Peterson, but Emigh is going to make sure Peterson has a big head start.

The time has long passed for Indiana Republican Party to change its rules so that we return to a system that encourages the election of PCs.  Those elected PCs should not have their power and authority undermined by county chairmen appointing folks to outvote those elected PCs who have earned the trust of their friends and neighbors at the ballot box.


Anonymous said...

We will protect our crooks if you will protect your crooks?

John Accetturo said...

Charlie White, Emigh & now Peterson, what does that say about the HC Republican Party? The majority of people here don't care. Business gets work if they put theses cronies in snd give them the campaign money to pass to their candidates.They wouldn't give me a dime because then they would have to compete for the big bucks up here. Integrity, respect, & honor has faded from people, politics & business.That's why these people are in charge.

Anonymous said...

The mayor's hand picked Council in Carmel did a Washington data dump late afternoon New Year's Eve posting the paperless packet for the following Monday Council meeting. At that meeting rules were suspended and most ordinances passed on first reading giving the mayor his 2nd class city status along with other powers he wanted. Anyone asking questions were soundly rebuffed and told they were wrong. Regarding the Quarter of a Billion dollars in new debt Sue Finkam was asked when the finance committee would meet and her answer was she wasn't sure. It met Thursday night and they were surprised no one from the public showed up. Ironically one of the ordinances passed Monday was Sue's changing the deadline for Council agenda items from 6 days to 10 days in the spirit of "transparency". Rules were suspended and it passed first reading.

The Hamilton County Republican party is out of control at all levels starting at the top with some officials needing jail time.

Jim DeCamp said...

When there is a super majority or one-party rule, over a period of time...

1. Office holders tend to wobble in their positions (lacking conviction, and any need for accountability to the people).
2. The people tend to feel disenfranchised or become disillusioned (lacking alternative candidates).
3. The relationship between money and influence is nourished (inviting awkward questions, or worse).
4. The integrity of the party in power is threatened (tempted to abandoned its principles or platform).

As in the marketplace, competition in politics (while unwelcome) is healthy.

Antidote for #1: Candidates who vote as they promise to vote (by conviction, or on pain of being replaced).

Antidote for #2: An electorate prepared to sacrifice to wrest control from the powers that be (having been informed, equipped and motivated).

Antidote for #3: Office holders determined to avoid even the appearance of impropriety (whether because of their integrity or fear of the consequences).

Antidote for #4: Office holders and party officials who aspire to be clean (being true to their word and avoiding personal gain from their position).

It would be ideal if all elected officials were upright and faithful to their oath; failing that, it is imperative that the people take responsibility for their officials.