|Senator Richard G. Lugar|
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.