Friday, April 30, 2010

Stakes High in Indiana House Races

Many political Hoosiers are waking up for a new campaign season and looking for what the hot races will be in November. For us politicos that pay attention to things 24/7 it's hard to believe, but it is true that many folks haven't been plugged in or paying attention until now. After the Primary is settled on May 4, you can bet that there will be a heavy local emphasis on the battle for the Indiana House which is held 52-48 by the Democrats. With such a slim margin for error for Democrats, this year is tremendously important for a number of reasons, and people are talking about it.

The Indiana Stonewall Democrats published this blog post on their website, April 26. It's by Indianapolis attorney Christopher Daley. I think that it clearly underlines what is at stake in November for LGBT Hoosiers.

Here is the post. You can read it on the website by following this link.

Do enough LGBT Hoosiers know our rights are at stake this November?

Note: This guest editorial was written by Christopher Daley, an attorney in Indianapolis and a supporter of Indiana Stonewall Democrats.

As you know, the Republican controlled Indiana Senate overwhelming passed a resolution to write discrimination against our community into our Constitution (SJR-13) once again this year. The only thing that stopped the bill's advance was Democratic control of the House. For the 4th year in a row, Democrats killed the bill by preventing it from moving out of committee.

This fall, House seats are up for election. The Democratic majority, and our community's ability to protect ourselves from harmful legislation, is precarious. Currently Democrats hold a 52-48 majority in the House. The loss of even two seats compromises our ability to stop a constitutional amendment from advancing. The loss of three or more seats will guarantee that the Indiana Legislature will pass a resolution to write our families out of our own Constitution.

We can prevent this from happening by spreading the word to our community that we must get involved in local House races to ensure a Democratic House majority for the next two years. Over the coming weeks, ISD will provide recommendations for getting our voices, bodies, and money into this fight. Right now, though, is it important that our members throughout the state are talking to LGBT community members and allies about how important November's election will be to our safety and wellbeing.

Some community members simply won't understand why these local elections are so important. After all, Indiana already denies our families legal recognition, right? Why would a constitutional amendment be any worse? And, I don't want to get married so why do I care?

All of these are common questions we've gotten over the years. What we've found is that folks who are asking these questions just haven't been informed about what a popular vote for a constitutional marriage amendment does to the LGBT people in that state. It is clear that the legislators who are proposing such an amendment, and the hate groups backing them, aren't concerned about Indiana recognizing marriage equality anytime soon. Instead, they are using the proposed amendment as red meat to socially conservative voters and to increase social condemnation of us and our families.

Along the way, they will put our dignity as equal citizens up for popular vote and support their position with the most hateful, dangerous rhetoric imaginable. The recent campaigns in California and Maine offer more than enough evidence of how low the other side will stoop to convince voters that LGBT people and our families are unfit to fully participate in our own communities. After months of anti-gay campaign ads blanketing television and radio, straight voters in California and Maine weren't left to decide the narrow question of marriage equality. Instead, the other side escalated the vote to one of the basic humanity of LGBT people. As we all know, unfortunately, voters in both states were persuaded (by narrow margins) that LGBT people weren't worthy of full recognition as equal citizens.

Beyond the harm of the vote itself, some people have speculated about a rise in hate crimes in states where marriage equality is on the ballot. Whether there is a definable correlation, we do know that these campaigns allow a very large stage for every wacko, some of whom are very message savvy, to sound off on how horrible LGBT people are. Negative stereotypes about our community that had seemed on their way out of popular culture (that we are pedophiles, anti-religious, and recruiters of young people) are given new and vigorous leases on life by these campaigns and may, as a result, be with us for the next generation.

Finally, given the perception of Indiana voters, it is unlikely that we'll be able to count on the national resources that were deployed in California and Maine. If a marriage equality ballot initiative is able to pass the legislature, most people will take it as a foregone conclusion that it will secure enough votes to pass. Therefore, few people outside of the state will see the point in helping us to wage a counter-campaign.

ISD strongly believes that these negative outcomes can be prevented by keeping our allies in leadership roles in the House. To be clear, it is not enough to keep the individual House members who helped to kill this resolution in their seats. These individual legislators were only able to kill it because, as the majority party, they hold power in the House. This is why it is so important to get the word out now about November's elections. Check back for more information on how to get involved. In the meantime, submit your strategies, success stories, and challenges in getting the word out below so that all of our members can benefit from your experiences and ideas.

In addition to LGBT issues, can you imagine an Indiana General Assembly where an immigration bill such as the one just passed in Arizona might become law. A General Assembly emerges where because of no opposition in the House, Senator Mike Delph becomes the head man in charge on statewide immigration reform?

If Democrats don't keep the House, that reality is staring us in the face. What about a lame duck Mitch Daniels with a totally Republican legislature. That's a scary thought, and it's clear that he wants the House back. If you don't believe me, read this from the Indianapolis Star.

Star writer Mary Beth Schneider writes:

Gov. Mitch Daniels isn't on the ballot this year, but he's raising a boatload of cash for fellow Republicans.

His goal: Putting the Indiana House of Representatives back in GOP control.

Daniels' political action committee, Aiming Higher, held a fundraising event Tuesday night in Carmel with about 700 people paying $250 to $10,000 to attend.

Money raised will be added to the more than $728,000 that Aiming Higher had in its war chest as of April 9, the end of the last campaign finance reporting period.

All the money, said Brian McGrath, executive director of Daniels' PAC, will be used to help Republican candidates for the House.

Daniels helped recruit House candidates for the GOP -- including two former members of his administration, Department of Natural Resources Director Kyle Hupfer, Pendleton, and Department of Local Government Finance Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave, Evansville. While Daniels has campaigned for Republicans in the past, this is the first time he'll put hundreds of thousands of dollars from his PAC behind them.

Republicans held the majority in the Indiana House in 2005 and 2006, the first two years of Daniels' administration. That, combined with the solid Republican control of the Senate, gave Daniels the votes he needed for such initiatives as leasing out the Indiana Toll Road and switching the state to daylight saving time.

Since then, though, Democrats have held a narrow majority in the House, giving them the ability to block some of Daniels' agenda or at least force compromises.

The article also mentions re-districting which will become an issue very soon after the results of the 2010 U.S. Census are tabulated. While some ships have already sailed, the House currently draws its own districts. A Democratic map will certainly look different than a Republican one will, and it's good for 10 years!

So, Democrats, it's time to open up those checkbooks or pledge to help a campaign and keep that Indiana House blue!

A Lost Generation

This is incredibly touching. Watch it all the way through even though it may be difficult at first. It's just under two minutes.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is Ballard Running For Re-Election?

Despite the fact that I have seen Mayor Ballard campaign material out there, I have now had more than one REPUBLICAN leader tell me that believe he MAY NOT run for re-election. In addition, one well-known Republican who will remain anonymous told me that he doesn't believe Ballard can win.

It certainly seems that, daily, Mayor Ballard is giving the four Democrats running for Mayor more campaign fodder to use against him in 2011. In fact, it seems like the to-hell-with-your-experience and keep-your-damn-hands-off-my-money Republican that asked, "Had Enough" four years ago has turned into someone he would have campaigned against then.

While some conservative bloggers rumor that unidentified polls have Ballard enjoying a high approval rating, I hear from staunch conservatives that they will have a hard time backing Ballard in 2011. They tell me that they feel he has deserted them on the side of the road and instead has gotten sucked up the elevator shaft to the 25th Floor at the City-County Building.

There are tales out there of Ballard snubbings of GOP elected officials who disagree with him. There are tales of a man who just doesn't seem to understand the job he was elected to and the weight it carries. For example, Greg Ballard could do a tremendous service to this city by coming out and making his position known on the Carl Brizzi matter. Instead, Ballard has danced around the issue and Brizzi continues to enjoy at least the cover of knowing his Mayor has not yet turned away. This as Republicans line up against the man the elected to the Prosecutor's Office in 2002. Ballard, as the biggest fish in the county, has let things go. The vacuum of leadership is becoming audible.

It's not just on this matter. Ballard's seeming lack of political savvy has really become sorely noticeable in public meetings. When he's challenged, Ballard almost always gets defensive. At Mayor's Night Out functions, Ballard has demonstrated a lack of knowledge of local issues to communities and neighborhoods that has never been portrayed by the five previous administrations.

He has not lived up to his campaign promises, and, in some cases, it seems like he hasn't tried. Ballard ran on a public safety and lower taxes platform. He was going to get control of the police department and put himself in charge. He was going to bring down crime, and he wasn't going to ask for any more of our money. Now, on pace to break a record for homicides, Indianapolis bleeds nightly. It's good for the news business, but it's not good for a city. While fees, taxes, and now utility rates continue to go up, Ballard continues to use voodoo magic to claim he honestly balanced the budget as revenues go down and unemployment goes up.

Let's face it. Even the Republicans have to see that Ballard does not have much of a record to run on, but he does have money. Ballard already had a million dollars cash on hand at the end of last year. He can do a lot of poop shining with that kind of dough. We've already seen what a slick video production budget can do. It produced this video below which clearly puts lipstick on the pig for Ballard's first three years in office. Look carefully. It makes Ballard look really good by highlighting a number of the accomplishments of previous administrations.

Let's write this down. Mayor Greg Ballard will, in my opinion, seek a second term. Ballard will be a very tough opponent because he will start from the advantageous position of being in the lead by raising campaign cash. With over a million for a re-election campaign in the bank, I just can't imagine the Lt. Colonel hanging it up and calling it quits.

I think a really good question is, "Will Ballard have a primary opponent?" He certainly has ticked off enough people in his own party that someone might take a run at him. I doubt it, though. Usually incumbent Mayors are spared the tough primary fights. We shall see what happens soon enough because 2011 will be here before you know it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ballard Backs Trojan Horse Tax Increase?

Yesterday in the Indianapolis Star, writer Francesa Jarosz published the results of a StarWatch investigation looking into the MOA for the Indianapolis-to-Citizens Energy water company swap. In the details, she has found some very interesting things.

Jarosz writes:
Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to sell the city's water and sewer system contains an inconvenient truth that raises questions about how good a deal it is.

Ratepayers will be asked to put up $400 million, plus some interest -- all to pay for a system that, in effect, they already paid for.

Ratepayers also will be asked to let the city keep an additional $50 million they already have paid into the system. In all, that's $450 million that could be used to offset the projected skyrocketing rate increases in the years to come.

Instead, Ballard says the city will use that money to pay for much-needed city improvements, including roads and sidewalks. Those are things, however, that normally would be paid for with tax dollars, not utility payments.

And therein also lies the political reality. What Ballard is proposing is a way to raise $450 million without technically raising taxes -- while still dipping into taxpayers' checkbooks. That, some say, sounds like a tax increase in disguise.

Read the full article here.

Still, Mayor Ballard and the Indy GOP leaves these old ads up online so that whenever things come up, we crazy Democratic bloggers in town can use them as fodder.

Democratic candidate for Mayor, Brian Williams, who has made this a central issue in his campaign to unseat Ballard, released this video questioning the specific numbers within the water deal.

Oh yeah, and how's that crime thing going for you, Mr. Mayor. So, I guess we can ask that question again, "Had Enough?"

Jon Stewart Tees Off on Arizona

Sometimes Jon Stewart says it better than anyone. On those days, the blog post is an easy one. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

R. Michael Young Wants to Serve District 4 from District 7

Unbelievably, there's no residency requirement to serve as a Congressperson in one of Indiana's nine Congressional Districts. Thus, I guess it should not be a shock that someone like Indiana State Senator R. Michael Young (R-District 35) has decided to run for Congress in the 4th Congressional District, but he doesn't live there.

That's right. Young told the Indianapolis Star that he had lived in the 4th District for 58 years in their Voter Guide. Apparently, he's trying to pull the wool over the voters' eyes. He's not being completely truthful. He apparently doesn't live in the 4th District now. The very address he gives the Star in the Voter's Guide is in the 7th Congressional District and not the 4th.

Here it is from the Star information:
Biographical Information
address: 3102 Columbine Circle, Indianapolis, IN 46224
Length of residency in this district: 58 years.

If you don't believe me, go to the Election Board website, type the address into the Voter Information Portal, and this pops up.

Voting District Information

Precinct: 29-008
Ward: 29
Township: WAYNE
Congressional District: 7th Congressional District
County: Marion County
State: State of Indiana
Country: United States

Wonder why he's trying out the 4th and not the 7th? Young had a shot to win the 7th District nod for the Republicans, but he would have been defeated easily in the General Election by Andre Carson. Thus, he's going for Steve Buyer's old seat in the 4th. He is one of 13 Republicans (15 if you count the two former Republicans running now as Democrats) trying to replace Buyer. Being at the bottom of the ballot, Young likely won't prevail in the 4th District, either.

I, frankly, wonder why Young has decided to give this one a go in the 4th. It doesn't make much sense to me. Then again, of all the wacky ideas in the Indiana Senate, Mike Young is the one legislator that introduced legislation to DO AWAY WITH OVERTIME! What a guy!

Mike Pence Leaves Them Laughing At Press Club Dinner

Congressman Mike Pence and I agree on almost nothing, but I do have to give credit to a guy that can laugh at himself. Last Wednesday, the 6th District Congressman addressed the 66th Annual Washington Press Club Congressional Dinner in Washington, D.C. He's actually a fairly funny guy. Follow this link to the video. Hat tip to Jim Shella from WISH-TV who posted this first on his blog.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Greg Bowes: Good Man, Big Mistake

Greg Bowes is a good man. He's done an admirable job as Assessor, and he was a solid City-County Councillor. Somehow, I had him pegged as a guy that had some political sense, but I guess everyone is wrong at one point or another. Sorry Greg, but I can't think of any defense here for you unless you were misquoted by the Star.

As you may remember, Bowes' campaign finance report listed a $2,000 donation from the owner of a westside strip club. Today, the Indianapolis Times amplified what Bowes told the Indianapolis Star about the donation. I'm frankly amazed by this.

Indianapolis Times blogger Terry Burns writes:
Greg Bowes apparently doesn't get it.

As we reported a week or so ago, Bowes' single largest campaign contribution in his race for Marion County prosecutor came courtesy of a 16th Street strip joint.

Given former CCC member Lincoln Plowman's problems with strip joints, you'd think an elected official like Bowes would know better. Apparently not.

As Bowes told the Indy Star, he sees nothing wrong with taking money from a strip joint.

Here's what The Star had to say:
In the race to succeed Brizzi as Marion County prosecutor, Greg Bowes has taken some not-so-friendly fire from fellow Democrats about campaign donations.

Bowes, finishing his term this year as Marion County assessor, is running without the party's endorsement and with a fraction of the money of standard-bearer Terry Curry, an Indianapolis attorney. They will face off in the May 4 primary.

Of $7,874 Bowes recently reported raising since the start of the year, $2,000 came from Eckert & Martin Entertainment -- operator of Venus Showclub near Speedway.

Marion County Democratic Party Executive Director Adam Kirsch and Terry Burns, a Democrat-leaning political blogger and candidate for Lawrence Township constable, focused quickly on the donation, saying Bowes shouldn't have accepted it.

"Haven't elected officials in Marion County learned anything about staying away from strip joints?" Burns wrote on his blog, Indianapolis Times.

Bowes shrugged off the criticism, noting the check came after he met the company's owner while campaigning.

"He ought to have a chance to participate in our process, just like anybody else does," Bowes said. "All he asked for is that I do my job well."

Listen, nobody is perfect. I am not passing judgement on people that frequent these establishments or even the performers that make livings there. But is it wise for Greg Bowes, candidate for Marion County Prosecutor, to accept a donation from a strip club? I don't think so. Then, to just simply shrug it off as he seemed to have done.

I'm speechless.

An Open Letter to Carl Brizzi

(It may help if you think of handwriting sound effects as you read this)

Dear Carl:
Boy, you do have yourself in a pickle here, don't you. Is it Vlasic? Hah...sorry...couldn't resist on that one.

Uh, yeah, so your party wants you to resign. Your County Chair wishes you'd go away. Your predecessor and mentor spoke out against you. The only person that seems to back you is that guy on the 25th Floor of the City-County Building...and I'm wondering if he even knows what's going on half the time. Things are looking pretty bad. I just want you to know, that I'm here for you. If you ever want to respond, get things off your chest, or otherwise vent. Just send me an e-mail or drop me a line. You sound like you need a friend right now. Just don't get too close.

Anyway,'s it going? Life treating you well otherwise. How about those Colts? They had a great year. Looks like they've really switched things up out there at 16th and Georgetown, huh? Weather's been amazing this spring...WOW. Haven't played any golf yet, but I'm hoping to soon. Ok, enough chit chat.

Let's get to why I really am writing this letter.

While a poll I put up on my blog overwhelmingly favored you falling on your sword and calling it quits, I don't want you to resign. The fact is that you are good for this blog. You may be...what was it Scott Newman said...something about harming the public's trust in the office, but the fact is you're pretty good for business here.

While I refuse to make this blog an ad billboard, I do kinda like it when my hits go up. The mere mention of your name shakes loose, on average, 100 or so more hits whenever I write about you. So, I'd say you're pretty good for the readership here. Take that for what it's worth. Honestly, I'm pretty stoked about the thought of you staying in office for the remainder of your term. The possibilities are endless!

On one hand, I truly do feel for you. I mean, you apparently did somethings here and there and thought no one would dig too deeply to catch you. Darn IBJ! The fact is, Carl, buddy, I do feel a tinge of sorrow for you. You were at one point the star of your party, but your career in politics is likely at least on hiatus after this mess is over. That's unfortunate, and I do mean that.

Then, on the other hand, there is this seemingly pollyanna disconnect where you believe if you just say that you've done everything by the book and that this is a PR problem this all will go away. You do realize though that your wounds have been pretty much self-inflicted. Contrary to what you indicated on Saturday's Crime Beat, this is not a media-generated controversy. You did this. It was your actions that have put you in this situation, and you can't blame anyone else.

Anyway, so, yeah...maybe we can hit the links or something this summer. I assume you do play golf.'s about it. Thanks for being great blog fodder. Keep up the good work!

For the sake of the office, you should resign, but, for the sake of my blog and the handful of others out here like it, as NYC news anchor, Ernie Anastos so eloquently said in September, "Keep (expletive deleted)ing that chicken!"

Best Regards,
Jon E. Easter

PS-If anyone didn't get the Ernie Anastos reference, here you go:
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Republican Congressional/Senate Ads for Dummies

Guess what? I have come up with a formula for a television ad any Republican running for Congress or Senate in Indiana could use.

Meet (name of candidate). (Name of candidate) was raised (insert details of family upbringing here) where he learned good Christian values and a respect for the sanctity of life. (Name of candidate) manages (either small business or family farm) and employs daily common sense management approaches he will take with him to Washington. (Name of candidate) will fight the liberal policies of President Obama and Nancy Pelosi who want to (insert hot button wedge issue here).

Candidate: I'm (name of candidate) and I approve this message because (insert some justification).

What do you think? Should I charge them for this?

OK...let's try one.

Meet John Doe. John Doe was raised by a pack of wild boars where he learned good Christian values and a respect for the sanctity of life. John Doe manages the family pig farm and employs daily common sense management approaches he will take with him to Washington. John Doe will fight the liberal policies of President Obama and Nancy Pelosi who want to destroy us all with their socialist agenda.

John Doe: I'm John Doe, and I approve this message because (oink) I love my country and our freedom.

Would you vote for John Doe? It's embellished a bit, but it just kind of sounds like the kinds of ads Republicans are running.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ellsworth Documents Indiana Tour

The Brad Ellsworth for Senate campaign has been on the road (while the Republicans battle internally) talking to Hoosiers and hearing from potential future constituents. Here is a video from his website documenting the tour.

Saturday Humor: Chickens for Checkups

Here's a somewhat humorous take on Nevada GOP Senatorial candidate's plan to reduce health care costs. It's quite fowl if you ask me. Ok...sorry for that one.

You can also send Lowden a message through this website set up by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

From the website:
Sue Lowden has an old-timey solution for a modern problem: Americans should barter with their doctors for health care with things like chickens and house painting. Do you need medical care? Write a letter to Sue Lowden with your ailment and what you're willing to trade, and we'll make sure she gets it. It’s just like the good old days!

You can then send Lowden a letter asking for her assistance to find a doctor who will provide treatment for any number of old time ailments from quinsy to lumbago to swamp fever in exchange for services or products like 10 chickens or pairs of overalls or three cow-calf pairs. It's good stuff.

Oh yeah...did I mention she's up 10 points over Harry Reid in the polls?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hello Newman! Ballard Silent

Former Marion County Prosecutor and Public Safety Director, Scott Newman, added his name to the growing list of GOP power brokers asking for the resignation of Carl Brizzi.

Here's what he said from an article by Jon Murray in the Indianapolis Star:

"I do feel that Carl Brizzi has been an effective prosecutor for much of the last seven years," Newman, a Republican who left office in 2002 after two terms, told The Indianapolis Star. "However, the thicket of ethical issues that have emerged in the last two years or so is so dense that it threatens everything he's achieved, first of all, and has shaken public confidence in the office.

"His desire to vindicate himself . . . is much less important than the public's confidence in the office," Newman said. "And public confidence is a very fragile thing. I think the balance has tipped, and I do think Carl Brizzi should resign."

Still absent and without comment is Mayor Greg Ballard. As the Prosecutor's Office continues to unravel with new revelations seemingly daily about more shadiness, Ballard is off on a trade mission to India. He continues to be silent on the matter.

This is the same strategy that Mayor Bart Peterson employed, more or less, when former City-County Council President Monroe Gray was under ethics scrutiny towards the end of Peterson's second term as Mayor. It was also something that the GOP ripped him for. Now, the Mayor is getting a free pass from his own party as they continue to allow others to do the dirty work.

I still think it's going to take a bigger fish than Scott Newman to convince Brizzi that he needs to go. If Ballard or if even Governor Daniels were to join the chorus, then Brizzi might be forced out. Unless Brizzi is convicted of something, there appears to be no legal remedy for voters to remove him in Indiana.

I bet there would be some folks that would sign a recall petition for Brizzi. Newman and Republican candidate for Prosecutor Mark Massa might, but who knows about Greg Ballard? You can only guess that his silence means that he supports the beleaguered Prosecutor.

Educator Opens Up on Bennett/Daniels

I am as big of an advocate of education reform as I can be, but, when district after district and school after school are cutting teachers, closing schools, and feeling severe budget can it just be the fault of the teachers, the districts, and the schools.

Looks like this educator decided that she had enough and decided to point out the obvious to Governor Daniels and his shadow, Tony Bennett. This letter is making the rounds in the school districts.

Dear Superintendent Tony Bennett,

I am a special education teacher at Eastern High School in Greentown, Indiana. I am taking time out of my busy schedule to write to you today in response to your e-mail asking for input from educators across the state. It is my understanding my pay and my teaching license may very well depend on how much gain my students make on standardized tests and you, along with Governor Daniels wholeheartedly support this reform. I think it’s only fair I have the opportunity to commend you and Governor Daniels for your gains as well.

Since we all agree that circumstances and factors beyond our control have little to no impact on overall effectiveness, I think you too will be proud of the gains you have made. In fact, in many categories, you have helped Indiana lead the nation.

Indiana’s unemployment rate has increased from 5.3 % in 2004 to 10.1 % in 2009.

The amount of children in Indiana under the age of 18 living in poverty has grown from 15.7% in 2004 to 17.9 % in 2008.

Since 2004, 16,330 students have been added to the free/reduced lunch program.

In 2004, Indiana schools only had 31,956 limited English speaking students, now we have 45,885.

From 2004 to 2006, Indiana gained 54,267 more individuals receiving food stamp assistance.

Since 2004, the percent of 12th graders NOT taking the SAT has grown by 4%
Indiana has expanded their student enrollment in public school by 46,263 since 2004.

In just one short year, 2007 to 2008, Indiana dramatically increased bankruptcy filings by 20.8 %.

The gains you and Governor Daniels have made in the state of Indiana are nothing short of remarkable. You have set the standard on how one can be effective regardless of circumstance. Initially I was skeptical of the impact of tying student performance to teacher pay and retention but now I realize that not only am I an effective teacher, I am also a prime candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction and Governor.

Crystal Bramel

Crystal Bramel
Special Education Teacher
Eastern High School

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Diversity Theme at Layton Meet/Greet & Fundraiser

The slated Democratic Party candidate for Marion County Sheriff, Col. John Layton, was the guest of honor at a meet and greet/fundraiser at Forty Five Degrees Restaurant, downtown. About 50 people showed up to hear from Layton with some contributing to his campaign. A contribution was not required, however, to attend. (Full disclosure: I contributed $25.)

Layton talked at length about current Marion County Sheriff, Frank Anderson, and his efforts to recruit a diverse group of deputies within the various ethnic and racial communities in this diverse community. Layton also announced, to loud applause from the largely LGBT audience, that the department would be at Indy Pride in June to recruit deputies.

Of course, Layton is the Executive Officer of the Department and has served with Anderson every step of the way. As Layton has put it before, he has spent the last seven years at Anderson's "right hand."

He said that at times, when Anderson was out of town, he was given the responsibilities of Sheriff. "That's why I'm ready to lead," said Layton.

It appears that Anderson's support and Layton's hard work have paid dividends on the campaign contribution front. On Friday, Layton reported more than $133,000 on hand going into the Primary. He definitely is wielding the biggest checkbook of any candidate. Primary opponent Mark Brown's bottom line is thin with a little over $2,300 on hand.

Neither Republican candidate can match Layton. Bart McAtee has a little over $9,300 on hand, and Dennis Fishburn has $24,000. You can view the reports here.

Also, Layton's TV advertisement is now up on YouTube. If you haven't seen it, here it is. Layton is the only member of the MCSD running for Sheriff. Brown and Fishburn are Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Sergeants, and McAtee is an IMPD Lieutenant.

If It Can Happen in Newark...

Mayor Cory Booker (D-Newark, NJ) and the city police department are doing phenomenal things in what used to be the "Most Dangerous City in America."

allowscriptaccess="always" allownetworking="all" allowfullscreen="true"

Maybe Greg Ballard will get on the phone and ask Booker what's working.

This One Can't Wait Until Saturday: Jon Stewart vs. Bernard Goldberg and Fox

This is an instant classic from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ellsworth Pulling in Dough; Trails in Poll

While still not yet OFFICIALLY a candidate for the seat to soon be vacated by Evan Bayh in the U.S. Senate, Brad Ellsworth is showing big muscle in raising money.

Ellsworth has raised over $1 million in his fight to keep Indiana's Junior Senate seat blue. The closest Republican is well behind in fundraising, and that's former Senator Dan Coats. Coats raised just shy of $340,000. He continues to fight a nasty primary against four other Republicans and has not been able to put much space between himself and the other R's.

You would figure that the party will collapse in line and the money will start flowing Coats way after the Primary should he win, but there's always the potential of a nasty spat between candidate egos and supporters. It will be a close race that Coats is likely to win.

Despite what some pollsters say, I still like Ellsworth's chances in November. Ellsworth is trailing in a recent Rasmussen Poll by over 20 points. I think that situation will change once he's actually the candidate. Outside of the 8th Congressional District, Ellsworth is not a household name. His money advantage will come in handy because conceivably he can get on television again sooner than Coats (or whomever wins the Primary) will be able to.

Brad Ellsworth is a very conservative Democrat...much to the chagrin of the progressives and liberals in the party, but I believe he will be a very formidable foe for Coats. He has built a wonderful reputation as a public servant in Vanderburgh County and has been a very popular Congressman in the 8th. I look for Ellsworth to move more to the middle on a handful of social issues though it's likely that he will remain more conservative than Bayh was in some areas.

I think that Ellsworth will appeal heavily to independents by virtue of his independent voting record. He and Bayh have similar voting records in Congress, and I think that bodes well for him. Coats will also have to answer for a lot as his record as a lobbyist comes more to light.

It's a great sign for Ellsworth that he's raising significant campaign cash, and, while I don't agree with him on every issue...especially many LGBT issues, I think that Ellsworth is persuadable with good arguments and knowing that he will need all the support he can get to become Senator Ellsworth.

Abdul May Be Making Stuff Up Again

Thursday, conservative blogger/radio host Abdul Hakim-Shabazz was touting an award bestowed upon his blog by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Since then, he's used his blog to attack fellow conservative blogger Paul Ogden. Then, today, he's back to perhaps reporting rumors and innuendo as something resembling fact.

In a "Political Potpourri" posting yesterday, Abdul claimed that "word" was that Mayor Greg Ballard's approval ratings were up in the neighborhood of the high positive approval ratings somehow enjoyed by Governor Daniels. When I challenged him on this to name what polls rated Ballard so high and what was the methodology of those polls, Abdul responded with a snarky "no one makes you read this blog" kind of response. See the comments for the full exchange.

Having had experience of buying an Abdul whopper hook, line, and sinker in the past, I can tell you that I am now more cautious. It could be true that Ballard has good approval ratings, but I just am not getting that feeling from folks I talk to. That includes some Republicans who feel that their man is in over his head.

No one disputes that Ballard is a very nice guy, and I wouldn't mind sitting down and having a beer with him. Perhaps that's what the polls were ranking.

Let's get real for a moment. Ballard has broken several campaign promises. He's presided over a murder rate that's now on pace to break records again. He's disappeared on many major issues where his leadership would have been needed. He's also about to hand over the water company to Citizens Energy without much public input prior to the announcement of the deal. I can't imagine that with all this plus tax and fee increases, libraries closing, and a high unemployment rate that Ballard gets high marks.

So, I say to Abdul. I respect you, and I like you as a person. We have had many great conversations, and I consider you a good acquaintance. But...excuse me if I don't buy this one unless I see it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Layton and McAtee on the Air

Well, it looks like the two pre-Primary election favorites are both up and on the airwaves.

On his Facebook Page, Colonel John Layton's campaign posted their first ad. It's a rather serious ad touting the Colonel's experience in the Marion County Sheriff's Department and how he's worked closely with current (and still wildly popular) Sheriff Frank Anderson.

Republican and IMPD Lieutenant Bart McAtee has a somewhat laughable ad posted on his website and on YouTube. Early in the ad, the tough-talking announcer implies that the Marion County Sheriff actually has something to do with stopping home invasions that are "are on the rise."

The truth is that the Marion County Sheriff has no patrol duties at all now. The Sheriff's main duties now are running the jail, maintaining the sex offenders' registry, delivering paperwork, transporting prisoners, City-County Building security, and many more important duties. The Marion County Sheriff's Department maintains and staffs the 911 call center. The sad truth is that IMPD is the main crime fighting force here in Marion County now.

Of course, Joe or Jane Voter probably doesn't know that. Layton's ad talks a bit about crime fighting, but it's really in laying out Layton's 36-year resume in the MCSD. No one can touch his background, and no one has served at the levels he has in the last eight years within the MCSD.

Besides Layton, the very very nice Mark Brown is running as a Democrat. He has been in IMPD or IPD for 20-plus years and is now a Sergeant. Dennis Fishburn, who is also an IMPD Sergeant, is the slated Republican candidate, but he has done very little in raising cash or interest thus far. He could carry the Republican choice to victory on May 4, but it's going to take a monumental effort for him to win over McAtee who has tremendous name recognition (his father is a former Sheriff).

So, why wasn't McAtee slated? In 2002, the McAtee family backed Frank Anderson over the Republican candidate Tom Schneider. I am sure that had something to do with the whole situation. In this short YouTube clip, he explains why he gave money to Anderson's campaign.

While the brown cars are no longer patrolling the streets, the brown uniforms have plenty to do, and it's still a crucial and critical office. The two most well-financed candidates are both running strong campaigns. I believe the Republican race will be closer than the Democratic Primary race, but it will likely be Layton vs. McAtee in November in what should be a very interesting one!

Yosemite Sam's Floundering Candidacy Ends With Withdrawl

For the second time, Yosemite Sam has apparently withdrawn from the Marion County Sheriff's race. The withdrawl is somewhat surprising since an exclusive Indy Democrat poll had Sam five points ahead of slated Republican candidate Dennis Fishburn but well behind Bart McAtee. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 100.

Contacted at his home, Sam told me he had no comment. When I pressed, he said, "YOU! YOU! YOU'RE MAKIN' ME SOOOO MAAAAAD!" Then, he shot the phone five times.

I did talk to his more calm campaign manager, Foghorn Leghorn, and he said, "I say...I say...Son...we had no chance. We thought we knew could beat Fishburn, but there was no chance at beating McAtee. He's on TV, Son."

None of the other Republican candidates could be reached for comment. A source from Marion County Clerk Beth White's Office which spoke only on the condition of anonymity said, "We are using a new form of white out on the ballots. You won't be able to tell that Sam's name was ever there."

Leghorn said that Sam wished he had joined the race for the 4th District Congressional race, "I say...I say...I think we coulda taken that Rokita."

When I asked what was next for the former Wild West cartoon gunslinger, Leghorn was a bit coy. "I say...I say...He likes that 25th Floor of the City-County Building. I mean, if Ballard can run this city...son...who knows?"

Of course, if Sam does run, he might have to explain this one to voters...

Monday, April 19, 2010

In Memoriam: 15th Anniversary of OKC Bombing

Fifteen years ago today, Timothy McVeigh parked a rental truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Building, and a bomb detonated destroying lives and killing 168 people including 19 children.

It would take a few years before McVeigh would be put to death in Terre Haute, Indiana for his crime. His co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, remains imprisoned today.

The effects were instant. Our day-to-day lives changed quite a bit. Blast buffers went up around many buildings, and security was tightened tremendously. Parking was restricted around federal and other government centers. Pennsylvania Avenue was closed in front of the White House.

Beyond these impacts are the over 200 children that lost parents on that day. Many of them killed as they worked. It's something that we can all relate to...just like the 9/11 attacks. You can put yourself in the shoes of the victims easily. One minute, you're sipping on coffee and cramming for that 9:30 a.m. meeting. The next, you're gone. It's frightening if you think about it too much.

In the place of the Murrah Building, a memorial was constructed that included chairs representing the victims of that awful day. It includes 19 small chairs. I have never visited the memorial, but I'm told it's quite stunning.

Today, we remember those brave Americans that lost their lives at work or in day care on that horrible day, April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City. We also think about all the families effected by this terrible event that left a stain of innocent blood on American history. Take a moment today and just remember them all.

Clerk White, Election Board Launch Voter Information Portal

The Marion County Clerk's Office and the Election Board has launched an awesome new Voter Information Portal to help voters gain the education and the information needed to vote.

To access the "VIP" simply click this link or type into your browser and follow the links from that page. There you can find a variety of different types of information. You can verify your voter registration, find your polling site, preview and print your ballot, and much much more.

The completeness of this site almost helps to make up for the loss of satellite voting centers (which were blocked by the lone GOP representative on the Election Board, Patrick Dietrick). I still can't figure out any logical reason for Dietrick's vote other than political game playing. We move on.

Kudos to the leadership of Beth White for her contributions to Marion County voter education. This site is tremendous.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Delegate, PC Races Making It Tough to Find Poll Workers

Want to make some money and be a part of the democratic process?

Since Democrats are electing precinct committeepersons and state convention delegates in the May 4 Primary, many of the folks that normally serve as inspectors, clerks, or judges are going to be appearing on the ballot in contested races. Therefore, they cannot serve inside the polls in any of those normal spots. It's great for democracy, but it makes it difficult for Marion County Clerk Beth White and the Election Board to run the Primary.

This week, I've received no fewer than three pleas from various sources for help running the May 4 election. As one person familiar with the situation told me the other day, "I think panic is setting in; they don't want a replay of 2007."

You might remember that day back in 2007 for the municipal Primary when there were widespread problems with inspectors not showing and other poll workers confused. Some polling places didn't even get open. That would be a disaster. There should be several hotly contested races. Certainly, Marion County Clerk Beth White and the Election Board, who have done such a great job since that dark day in May '07, want to make sure everything runs smoothly

The reasons why so many people are running where they normally would not is simple.

An ambitious mayoral candidate, Brian Williams, filed many loyalists to run for PC against many longtime PCs in the hopes of presumably turning out supporters for the slating convention in 2011. While his filings were sloppy and a few were even thrown out, the wide majority of them stood, and some PCs that had not had a race in years are now finding themselves in a battle.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly for 2010, a contested Secretary of State race has made being elected a State Delegate mean something more than in the recent past. The state-level candidates for offices such as Secretary of State are elected by the delegates to the State Convention. Both Tom McKenna and Vop Osili have done a tremendous job recruiting supporters to run for delegate.

Besides this, there are contested races in many of the townships and in some of the county races on both sides of the ballot. It's going to be a busy primary. Ward Chairs and Township Coordinators on both sides of the ledger have been working hard to shuffle folks around so that those inspectors who are also on the ballot can work where they are not on the ballot. In the larger townships, it has left gaps.

If you are interested in working as a poll worker, contact the Election Board at 327-VOTE. I'm sure they can use your help. To work in Marion County, you must be a registered voter in Marion County. Inspectors make $110 for the day. Clerks and judges pocket $70 for the day. They do have half shifts, but the pay is also halved. It's a long 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. shift, but the satisfaction you receive from working adds to that pay.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Brizzi Has NOT Resigned; Indy Democrat Wipes Off Egg

Apparently, the Carl Brizzi resignation story's originator, Chris Worden, got caught by the intricacies of the blogosphere. He writes:

No, your dreams did not come true, Marion County. A post I wrote last week when I got wind that he was going to make a public announcement just got put in an auto-post stack.

Brizzi is more strident than ever that he has done nothing wrong but played PR badly.

iPOPA apologizes to all who thought we had returned integrity to the office. The wait goes on....

...though I hope to put this exact same post up before December.

I will go further. I apologize to Carl Brizzi. I take no joy in your current situation.

I also apologize to the readers of this blog that may have been misled by the posting. I take accuracy very seriously at this blog, and I'd rather be late to a story but be accurate than to break it and be wrong.

Again, my sincere apologies.

Saturday Humor: Jon Stewart vs. Fox News...Again

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
A Farewell to Arms
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Friday, April 16, 2010

Massa Waits Week to Say He Doesn't Want Prosecutor's Job Unless Elected

On WIBC Wednesday, Republican candidate for Prosecutor Mark Massa was quoted as saying that he did not want to be named Marion County Prosecutor in the event that Carl Brizzi resigned.

While it seems unlikely Brizzi will resign, if something happens and a vacancy occurs, Massa told WIBC that he believes former Prosecutor Scott Newman or retired Judge Patricia Gifford would be good interim replacements for Brizzi until a new Prosecutor takes over in 2011.

My question for Mr. Massa would be why did it take him a week to come out and explain that he didn’t want the job now? Why did it take him a week to come up with a plan to nominate an interim Prosecutor? Wouldn’t you think he would have mentioned that in his original news conference?

Massa is backpedaling after people, including Brizzi himself, criticized his move and called it out for being political. He got caught...plain and simple, but it is head scratching that it took him this long to pivot and maneuver away from that original mistake.

Of course, it's pretty clear what the readers of this blog think. By an overwhelming majority, they believe Brizzi should resign. Pending any more embarrassments, I appears right now that he won't. Then again, who knows what tomorrow may bring! If a vacancy occurs, would anyone want to try to clean up this mess?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Greg Bowes May Have Some Explaining to Do on This Donor

Yeah, I'll just let Terry Burns over at the Indianapolis Times take it from here. Click here to link to his blog for the full report. Burns writes:

On March 30, Bowes reported receiving a $2,000 contribution from a corporation called Eckert & Martin Enterprises, Inc., which is listed on the report as being located at 3535 W. 16th Street. A check of that address shows that 3535 W. 16th St. is the home of a business called Club Venus (formerly Stripper's Showclub). According to Metromix, Club Venus is a place where "you may not find any Roman goddesses here, but you may think you're visiting Mount Olympus when these girls drop it like its hot on the first floor stage and then take it upstairs for private dances." Haven't elected officials in Marion County learned anything about staying away from strip joints?

Maybe a clerical error Greg? I can't imagine that Bowes is silly enough to accept a donation from a strip club. Regardless, he better have a good explanation or the Titanic has sunk here for him.

Pacers Play Hardball...Without a Ball

The Indiana Pacers have been a part of this community for over 40 years now, and I have been a huge fan since I was a pre-teen. When I was 11 years old, I went to a Pacers game at Market Square Arena with my brother. It seemed like we were the only two people in the entire place.

The Pacers that year were battling injuries, but they somehow found a way to beat the "Run TMC" Golden State Warriors in a game that had little or no defense. The Pacers won like 20 games that year. I cheered, and I loved my time there. The Pacers sucked, but within three or four years, new GM Donnie Walsh would make some shrewd moves under the hands off leadership of Mel and Herb Simon. The Pacers would begin to soar.

For a time in the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s, the team was pretty much the envy of small market professional sports. The Madhouse on Market Street rocked to the tune of over 16,500 fans per night, and the Pacers, led by Mr. Clutch, Reggie Miller, and barnstormed their way across the NBA with flash, flourish, and class.

Market Square wasn't big enough, so the Pacers said they needed something bigger and better because they just weren't profitable without corporate suites. They signed a 20-year lease that basically left them as the operators of a brand-spanking new basketball and entertainment venue, Conseco Fieldhouse. The Fieldhouse is consistently rated as one of the top arenas in the league...even today some 11 years after its construction.

The Pacers, however, have more in common now with that 1986 team that I watched with my brother than the 2000 team that played the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Predictably, attendance has fallen from over 18,700 fans per game to just about 14,500 fans per game. The Pacers are 27th in NBA attendance. The bills are mounting, and the Pacers are using a renegotiation clause to ask for the city's cash-strapped CIB to pick up the $15 million operating tag on Conseco Fieldhouse.

Yesterday, Jim Morris, President of Pacers Sports and Entertainment, did something that no other sports team in Indianapolis has done. He fired a loud shot across the bow of Mayor Greg Ballard’s ocean liner. In an Indianapolis Star article, he hinted that the Pacers might move if the city and the CIB do not pick up the team's price tag for operating Conseco Fieldhouse. Well, guess what? I say goodbye, good riddance, and don’t forget to take Boomer with you.

As much as I have enjoyed watching the Pacers these many years, this is not the same team or the same franchise that once represented this city with class. Team turmoil including the well-documented brawl in Detroit chased away fans. A somewhat nasty front office shuffle resulted in Donnie Walsh leaving and Larry Bird taking over. Bird seems to have dedicated the Pacers to mediocrity or worse.

With all of this, the Pacers have lost tremendous bargaining power. In this economy, what city is going to make them competitive in the NBA market? For that matter, where will you find a market that supports winning basketball as much as Indianapolis does? Didn't the Pacers learn anything from Butler's run. If you win, the fans will come back.

Yes, I realize that the Pacers would probably like a little more money on the bottom line to try to win, but this organization reports that it has never turned a profit. The Simon Family has lost money for years with this organization. While the Pacers were winning, the Simons were losing $15 million of the city's cash going to help that?

I treat this situation completely differently than when the deal for Lucas Oil Stadium was struck. With Lucas Oil Stadium, the deal was about more than just the Indianapolis Colts. Since that deal, the Final Four has been awarded to this city every five years, and the Super Bowl is coming here. The expanded Convention Center allows for bigger and more numerous convention business. With the new JW Marriott, Indianapolis can now compete with other cities for the biggest events including political conventions.

The Pacers used to be the only show in town, and, now, they are looking pretty pitiful. So, if the Pacers want to try to play hardball (which the Colts never really did in public, by the way), I say let them. They are throwing tomatoes. If I were Mayor Greg Ballard, I wouldn't just let the Pacers walk out of town, but I wouldn't give them the store either. It's my hope that NBA basketball continues to be played in Conseco or whatever it will be called when Conseco changes its name for years. It's important, but the Pacers just aren't as important to the city's bottom line as the team that plays in the bigger stadium across town.

I hope the deal gets done and that 11 year olds can continue to have positive experiences at Pacers games...just like I did way back when. The Pacers certainly seem to be in no position right now to play hardball, however. Somebody downtown has to realize this on one side or the other. The Simons should be reminded also how much this city has given their company over the years. From half a park to build their corporate headquarters to all sorts of tax breaks to develop Circle Centre Mall, Indianapolis has helped the Simons as much as the Simons have helped Indianapolis.

Go ahead in your fastball. It's coming in like a poorly thrown knuckleball though.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Coats Vote on Ginsburg Should Be Slam Dunk for Coats

Supreme Court nomination confirmations in the U.S. Senate used to be fairly smooth. Oh yes…there were the occasional Robert Borks (skewed judicial philosophy, defeated), Clarence Thomases (alleged sexual harassment, confirmed, 52-48), Douglas Ginsburgs (admitted marijuana use, withdrawn), or Harriet Mierses (bahahahahha, withdrawn) out there, but, for the most part, the United States Senate has deferred to the President's judgement on nominations unless some extenuating circumstance has come up.

As South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham so deftly put it when he was explaining his vote for Sonia Sotomayor,

"I do believe elections have consequences, and it's not like we hid from the American people during the campaign that the Supreme Court selections were at stake," said Graham, who was a strong supporter of 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

"When you look at the history of this country," Graham said, "great deference has been given to that selection by the United States Senate. While I'm not bound to vote for Judge Sotomayor, it would be the path of least political resistance for me.

"I choose to vote for Judge Sotomayor because I believe she is well qualified."

(Read the rest of this McClatchy article here.)

After a contentious political show, Sotomayor was confirmed, 68-31, in a 59-40 Democratic Senate.

Need more proof? Ronald Reagan's nomination of ultra-conservative Antonin Scalia was approved unanimously, 98-0, in a 53-47 Republican Senate. Well, as the immortal Eric Carmen said in his song All By Myself, "Those days are gone."

President Bill Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993, and she was confirmed easily, 96-3. One of the Senators voting for her confirmation was Indiana Republican Dan Coats.

Fast forward 17 years...

We now live in 2010, and, in this hyper-charged political year that happens to co-incide with a midterm election, Justice John Paul Stevens is retiring. Now, the battle lines are being drawn. Even before Stevens officially announced his retirement, the GOP was already threatening filibuster. On the campaign trail, it's getting nasty, and it's happening right here in the state.

As widely reported, the firing squad is turning inward as Republicans John Hostettler, Richard Behney, Don Bates, and Marlin Stutzman all being to take potshots at R frontjogger...Dan Coats, yes that Dan Coats, in the battle for Evan Bayh's U.S. Senate seat for his 1993 vote to confirm Ginsburg.

Let's think about that for a second...these four candidates are actually holding up Coats' vote to confirm Justice Ginsburg in 1993 as an election issue in 2010. Is it fair? Maybe not, but it is politics, and it's mirroring what's about to happen as President Obama selects a new nominee to replace Justice Stevens.

Things are cyclical, and we may someday get back to a more collegial Senate. Unfortunately, I just don't see it today, and given that this has become such a hot button issue where the Republican challengers are bringing up a former Senator's vote in a confirmation that was approved 96-3 really underscores how nasty things are and how much they have changed over the years.

Dan Coats, while wrong on almost everything, at least knows how the Senate works, and he now has every opportunity to educate. He should take the young whipper snappers aside and explain to them exactly why the Senate is called the "upper house." If he does this, he might pick up a couple of independent votes. Unfortunately, it seems like Coats is going into the mud, too. He now is speaking all the 2010 GOP/Tea Party talking points. Clearly, the Coats that voted for Ginsburg in 1993 probably wouldn't vote for her in 2010.

Coats is also giving the wrong answer on the issue. He's trying to explain the issue in some political terms that by approving Ginsburg that it would hurt Clinton in 1996 or something else that doesn't make much sense. Well, how'd that work for you? Clinton got re-elected. Coats was gone by 1999 from the Senate, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues to serve on the court. It's a silly explanation to something that's easily explainable.

By not explaining that the Senate sometimes works in a way that Antonin Scalia can get confirmed 98-0, Coats is now saying that his vote for Ginsburg was political. He's put himself in a lose-lose position when this could really be a win-win for him, and he's opened himself up to criticism on this issue...somehow...when, once again, the nomination went through 96-3.

I guess that's what 2010 will do to you.

Osili Opens Indy Campaign Office, Open House TODAY

Vop Osili, candidate for Indiana Secretary of State, dropped me an e-mail to say that his campaign is opening a downtown office at 1048 Virginia Ave. There will be an open house today from 5-8 p.m.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Buyer Bailed Out? Time Will Tell

On March 30, several media outlets reported that the Office of Congressional Ethics had refused to pursue claims by a watchdog group that there was something fishy about Steve Buyer's Frontier Foundation. Read the original blog posts from this blog here and here as well as a CBS Evening News report linked here.

You may remember the story. The charity was started and run out of Buyer's Monticello Congressional Office to award scholarships to needy high school students. Initially, Buyer denied any involvement with the group, but it became clear that he did, in fact, have some involvement.

See, the thing is, when you start a foundation to award scholarships, you might think it would award scholarships. Unfortunately, well...the foundation had yet to award a scholarship after over seven years in existence and over $800,000 in donations. Many of those donations came from special interests that Buyer would possibly see legislation know...the pharmaceutical lobby, big tobacco, and the like. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) hired Buyer's son, Ryan, as a federal affairs manager. And the Foundation paid out money to send the Congressman on golf outings and the like. In short, it just didn't look good.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to look into Buyer's practices, but they also have asked the IRS to look into it as well. The Frontier Foundation enjoys tax exempt status, and CREW wants the IRS to see if the Frontier Foundation is “failing to operate for its stated public purpose of helping needy students and by doing little more than paying for the congressman to play golf with donors with interests before his committee.”

So, it appears that there's still a game in town here. Buyer, in his defense, maintains that once the group hits $1 million in donations that it will be self-sustaining. Magically, I guess. Anyway, that's his story, and he's sticking to it.

One way or another, something still seems to smell to me on this story, and I don't think Buyer should be issuing proclamations of complete innocence, yet. Just because the ethics folks decided that they wouldn't look at the case doesn't mean that the actions look good or that things are in perfect order here. I guess we'll wait to see what, if anything, the IRS has to say about this.

In short, if you've heard the hype that the Buyer story is over, then don't believe it. Although, I must admit, with the Congressman retiring when his successor (one of 16 currently running for the seat from both parties) is sworn in next year, that the case has probably lost a little steam.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stevens Leaves Big Robe to Fill on Supreme Court

With the retirement of John Paul Stevens from the Supreme Court at the end of the current session, President Barack Obama has another major decision to make in selecting another nominee for the nation's highest court. Who will he pick to shore up certainly and arguably the anchor of the liberal wing of the court?

His last nominee was brilliant. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has been a wonderful addition to the court. She represented someone who was supremely qualified for the job, and she also brought a whole set of life experiences that were different from those of any other justice.

Stevens' retirement brings up different problems for Obama this time. Stevens served a minority population on the court in a couple of ways. First of all, he was the only Protestant on the court. The other justices are either Catholic or Jewish. Secondly, while Stevens was appointed by a Republican and is, by party, a Republican, he tended to ignore his party affiliation and rule somewhat more liberally.

In this day and age of politicizing the most ridiculous issues, and, yes, I'm guilty too, Stevens' record of ruling without regard to party really makes things more and more difficult for Obama. That's not the political climate right now. Progressives will want a rabid liberal, and conservatives will want a Scalia clone.

With a current conservative balance on this court, Stevens' retirement will not change that balance as he was not on the conservative side of the ledger. I hope that Obama finds a progressive nominee that will add a wealth of different experiences to the court. I could care less what religion that person is or where they went to law school, but I would love to see someone that doesn't fit the profile of anyone else on that current line up.

Perhaps it's time for another African-American justice that is more progressive than Clarence Thomas (of course that's not that hard). Perhaps it's time for a gay justice. Perhaps it's time for someone outside the box. Certainly, it's not time to play around. The nominee should be supremely qualified for the job, and that's the first requirement. Sonia Sotomayor brought those different experiences into the court, but her resume was impeccable.

So, as Justice Stevens rides off into the sunset at 90 years old (on April 20), he leaves at a great moment. Appointed by President Gerald Ford, he has served admirably and extremely well on the court. His 38 years of experience on the bench and independence he has shown will be sorely missed and simply cannot be replaced. Upon the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2005, Stevens served as Acting Chief Justice.

When he came on the Court in 1975, it consisted of Chief Justice Warren Burger, Harry Blackmun, William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, Lewis Powell, William Rehnquist, Potter Stewart, and Byron White. As he leaves, the Court now consists of Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas.

Just reading the names should show how different the Court is today.