Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lugar Ignores Residency Issue At Own Peril

Senator Richard G. Lugar
For the last 35 years, no one has questioned Richard Lugar's credentials as a Hoosier.  Well, times, they are a changin'.  Lugar is now having to answer questions about why he has no Indiana residence and whether or not he meets the qualifications to run for the office of U.S. Senate at all.

Bloggers Paul Ogden and Gary Welsh, both Republicans, have been on this case longer than I have, and I did pen a blog post last month on this issue.  I don't think I had a full grasp of this situation though.  I didn't know what we now know.

What we know is that Richard Lugar is registered to vote at a house he does not live in.  We also know that a nearly-30-year-old advisory opinion by then-Attorney General Linley Pearson (now Circuit Court Judge in Clinton County) supports Lugar's situation.  Pearson's opinion states, essentially, that a politician does not lose his residency by going to Washington to serve Hoosiers.  Richard Lugar hasn't owned a home in Indiana since 1977.  He does, however, own property here in Indiana, and he pays property taxes on a large Decatur Township tree farm that is about three minutes from my home.  I was once told by a friend familiar with the situation that Lugar is the largest property tax payer in Decatur Township.  

All of that aside, Lugar clearly does not live in the precinct where he has voted from for the last 35 years.  That is something that former Secretary of State Charlie White has picked up on.  White, of course, filed a sour grapes complaint with the Marion County Prosecutor against Evan Bayh a few months ago stating that the former Senator is guilty of voter fraud.  In a Fox News interview, White put his arm around Richard Lugar and also Governor Mitch Daniels (who is registered to vote at the Governor's Mansion but lives on Geist Reservoir) in an attempt to drag them down with him.  All three of those cases would seem to differ from White's case with some significance.  White won't take responsibility for his own actions, and he wants to project his issues on others.  HEY LOOK OVER HERE...HE'S DOING IT TOO.  Instead of saying, yep, I did it, and I'm sorry.

On Lugar's case, the U.S. Constitution is somewhat nebulous on the issue.  It states only three qualifications for a U.S. Senator.  First, a person must be 30 years old.  Second, a person must have been a citizen of the United States for nine years.  Finally, a person must be an "inhabitant of the state for which he shall be chosen" at the time of election.  It, however, makes no mention or gives no guidance on how to determine who or who is not an inhabitant.  Under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, it seems to me, that would be up to the individual states to decide.

Now, I'm not a constitutional expert nor am I an expert on qualifications to run for office, but, if the state considers Lugar an inhabitant, isn't he qualified to run for the office?

That gets us back to the political argument.  Richard Lugar keeps telling everyone that his residency will not effect his campaign, and I disagree.  If the perception among voters is that you live in Virginia and represent Indiana from there, then that is damaging.  It's also something Lugar cannot deny because he does, in fact, live in Virginia.  Expect Mourdock and Democrat Joe Donnelly to continue to bash the Senator on this issue.

It also doesn't clean up another issue.  What about Lugar's wife Char who continues to be registered to vote at the Indiana residence she doesn't live in?  Does that make her more culpable or subject to potential legal problems than the Senator?  I suppose that's a far different blog post, but it's something the Tea Party has brought up against the Lugars.

It's easy to say that it's time to clean up Indiana's election law.  The tricky thing is that if Indiana tries to make a law addressing the Lugar issue, it could go to court and be overturned as unconstitutional.  The Constitution, for example, never states that someone must live in the Congressional District that they represent.  Past attempts by states to clean up this situation have been overturned by the courts.

All-in-all, this is one big mess.  I would advise Senator Lugar, if he's lucky enough to win another term in office, to buy a nice small home here in Indiana and use it when he comes back to town.  He can afford it, and that way it will take this issue off the table.

11 comments:

HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAX said...

I believe Lugar or his campaign stated he cannot afford a home in Indiana plus his Fairfax County Virginia spread. (they lie so easily)

Greg Purvis said...

I don't think Lugar has much of a legal problem, due to Article 2, Section 4 of the Indiana Constitution, which provides:
"No person shall be deemed to have lost his residence in the State, by reason of his absence, either on business of this State or of the United States."

This is NOT like Charlie White, who changed his voter registration to his ex-wife's house to hide the fact that he moved out of his council district.

Having said all of that, Sen. Lugar DOES have a political problem. It makes him seem out of touch. But Richard Mourdock will not be the candidate to fully explore this, he is one of the most clueless candidates I have ever seen (Chrysler). Joe Donnelly however might make quite a bit out of this.

Paul K. Ogden said...

"Now, I'm not a constitutional expert nor am I an expert on qualifications to run for office, but, if the state considers Lugar an inhabitant, isn't he qualified to run for the office?"

I've written about the law on this before. The U.S. Supreme Court said in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton in 1995 that states cannot expand, change, alter or in any way amend the Qualifications provision of Article 1. That's why the IU Law Professor was quoted as saying by WIBC that the Pearson opinion, which completely relied on state law, is irrelevant to the constitutional requirement than one be an inhabitant of the state.

The Senate determines the qualifications of its members. The Senate can decide that Lugar wasn't an "inhabitant" of Indiana and refuse to seat him if he gets elected.

As far as voting at a house he moved from 35 years ago, which is a separate issue from the qualifications question, I am aware of no exception in the law that allows one to sign documents under oath that they live someplace they clearly do not. While you mock White for comparing his situation to other politicians, the Lugar and Bayh situation is actually much worse than White was accused of. Even Governor Daniels admits he's not a resident of Marion County yet he votes here. At the very least we need to straighten out our voter residency laws.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is Pearson's non-binding opinion applies to Lugar's VOTING rights. NOT to his qualifications for US Senate.

RhondaLeeBaby69 said...

FYI.
"that his residency will not effect his campaign"...You should be using the "affect" instead of "effect" in this case.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Greg,

U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (1995) the U.S. Supreme Court held that state law cannot add to, alter, amend or in any way change a qualification for federal office that is contained in the Constitution. The state law simply doesn't matter when it comes to deciding whether Lugar is an "inhabitant" under Article 1 of the Constitution. The 1982 Pearson opinion doesn't matter.

As far as voting, I've written about this before. I am not aware of anything in the voter fraud and perjury laws that allows someone to sign documents under oath that they live someplace they moved from 35 years ago when they go vote. As far as the law you cite, Lugar doesn't lose his residency because of his service in D.C. He lost his residency because he sold his home in Indiana and had no other residency established in the state. I agree though it's not comparable to Charlie White's situation. Lugar's situation is much worse.

Greg Wright said...

Senator Lugar has admitted that he sold his home in Indiana and moved to Virginia in 1977. Further, according to press accounts, it appears that he continues to use an Indiana address to vote, hold a driver’s license, register his vehicles, file as a Federal candidate, file his Federal & Indiana taxes, etc. However, what about:
1. Did Lugar violate Federal Election laws when he filed to run for President?
2. Lugar said that he runs the Indiana farm; however, many years ago he hired the Farmers National Company to manage the Lugar Stock Farm. The property tax bills are mailed by the Marion County Treasurer directly to this Nebraska firm.
3. By receiving Lugar Stock Farm and other correspondence at his Indianapolis Senate office, is he using that office for personal use in violation of Senate rules? Without an Indiana residence, what else does the Indiana Senate Staff do for him?
4. Does Lugar meet the US Constitutional requirement to be an "inhabitant" of Indiana?
5. Was Lugar's Indiana driver’s license issued in violation of the Patriot Act?
6. What about Virginia's income tax laws? It’s tax rate is higher than Indiana's.
7. What about Virginia's drivers licensing and vehicle registration regulations?
8. Does Mrs. Charlene Lugar get a free pass on everything?
What else will come to light?

Crossed said...

Would listing his old address on his state issued drivers license/smart ID be similiar to lying under oath since you sign off on this, and being a homeland security document?

patriot paul said...

Lugar admits he cannot claim the farmhouse as his residence:
"Lugar also owns a farmhouse where his son lives, but he said he will not take that as his official residence because it wouldn't be accurate.
Lugar said he isn't sure what address is on his Indiana driver's license but presumes it was from the house he no longer owns.
RTV6's Norman Cox asked Lugar if he gets mail about license renewals from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and responded by saying that he goes to the BMV branch directly to conduct renewals.
"When I've renewed my driver's licenses, I've come here to a proper office in Indianapolis and renewed it," he said.
http://www.theindychannel.com/politics/30500228/detail.html
“There’s no house at the farm that you would stay in, so far as a physical residence,” Willkie said"

patriot paul said...

What is nearly as sad is Lugar's admission he doesn't know for sure what address is on his own drivers license. I know he's pushing 80, but really...
If he doesn't know what his own address is on his license, how does he know what's written in the bills he votes on??????

HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAX said...

Patriot Paul makes a great point!