Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Bayh" Becomes a Verb

in this "little ditty 'bout Birch and Ev-aaaan," the former gets props and the latter gets popped.

I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm conflicted on this. I was peeved because I felt like Bayh left Democrats hanging for selfish reasons. But I was talking to a high-ranking Republican in the executive branch the other day, and our conversation turned to the possibility of him going to a legislative body. Clearly, without realizing it, he said almost word-for-word what Senator Bayh said - the executive branch is about policy and forging solutions through compromise; the legislative branch is not that.

What are we owed? What makes us believe we are entitled to dictate when an elected official leaves who thinks a system is broken and knows it won't be fixed anytime soon? Let the comments begin!


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Class iPOPA: Carson-Elrod-Shepherd Debate for the 7th District

I'm a day late with my "Classic iPOPA Monday," which is where I pull one for the archieves for the new readers on the first Monday of the month. Another post understandably took precedence yesterday. Newbies, enjoy! If you've been an iPOPA reader from day one, you needn't linger here because you've probably already seen.....


I've just returned from the great 7th District debate at IUPUI featuring Andre Carson (D), Jon Elrod (R), and Sean Shepherd (L), and I've reached the following conclusion.....

Libertarians are entertaining.

In P.J. O'Rourke's book Parliament of Whores, he states that "in the American political system, you're only allowed to have real ideas if it's absolutely guaranteed that you can't win an election."

Maybe this is why Sean Shepherd was the most engaging personality on the stage tonight. When asked about legalizing marijuana, Mr. Shepherd did not directly support the same, but he pointed out that a family of seven never gets run over by someone who has smoked too many joints. The only thing they do, Shepherd said, is clog up the fast food drive-thru. The crowd burst out laughing.

Mr. Carson took umbrage and pointed out that drug use is not something at which one laughs and that he knows "ten crackheads" who began on marijuana. Mr. Carson's point was undoubtedly not to emphasize that he knows more crackheads than most voters in the 7th District, but rather, to emphasize marijuana's standing as a "gateway drug." This was expected law enforcement dogma from a man who worked in law enforcement, and it was echoed by Elrod in standard Republican "law and order" dogma. And that's the problem. Only a libertarian could entertain the idea of serious debate on this issue because it's too dangerous for the other two, seeing they have better than a snowflake's chance of winning.

But I won't bore you with the details of how many people we have incarcerated for life for possessing marijuana on a "third strike," or how many hundreds of thousands fewer die each year from marijuana than alcohol and cigarettes, which are also "gateway" drugs, or how much money the government could make taxing marijuana, or how legalizing marijuana would reduce violent crime associated with its distribution, just like it did when we re-legalized alcohol. You aren't allowed to think about that.

Shepherd also had the best line of the night. On gay marriage: "We need to get government out of the marriage business. The Bible says, 'Give to Caesar things that are Caesars.' I say we take from Caesar things that are God's."

Libertarians might be thought of as a fringe party, but they know a good sound bite. Libertarian wit, along with knowing the formula for a space-age, super-adhesive, are the keys to the vitality of the Libertarian Party in Indianapolis. This is no joke. Some aluminum lamp posts downtown still have bumper stickers for Libertarian Kurt St. Angelo from the 10th district race he ran in 1996 against Julia Carson.

Shepherd also seemed to have superior knowledge on most issues. He had a lot of statistics at his fingertips that he used to illustrate his points. Admittedly, 72% of statistics are made up on the spot, so he could have been lying to us all. But if you know somebody who cares enough to fact-check whether it's true that it cost $1.29 in conventional fuel to create $1.00 worth of corn-based ethanol, I hope you'll let me know. Either Shepherd possesses a broad intellect, or he reads a lot of books like "Medicare Part B for Dummies."

I know. People want to know, "What about Andre Carson? What about Jon Elrod?" I'm reluctant to criticize any of these three political gladiators. They stood on that stage for ninety minutes on live TV under intense media scrutiny that would have left mere mortals huddled in the fetal position.

Oh, what the hell.

Elrod came off slightly mechanical, and he said that he wanted to be my "neighborhood congressman" so many times, I was waiting for him to put on a sweater and take us by train to see King Friday in the Land of Make Believe.

Paying homage to irony, Elrod repeated a soundbite about the typical Washington, D.C. politics and soundbites that epitomize campaigns. But he came off as sensible and likeable. To his credit, Elrod refused to make religion an issue, pointing out there is no religious test to hold office. In a line that would make Eric Miller cringe (which makes me like Elrod), he noted that an office holder can be of any religion or NO religion. He also said that if Andre Carson were elected, he could be sworn in upon whatever holy text he wanted to use. One wonders what the crowd’s reaction would have been had Elrod “let loose” of his programming.

Carson, while very charismatic, also hit a “message rut” by referring to “senior citizens” as “precious” so many times, I had to leave the auditorium to call my grandmother and tell her I love her.

I’ve seen Mr. Carson in social settings just talking one-on-one about issues, and he can be incredibly sharp when he’s his own man. But tonight, it was as if he was so focused on staying “on message” for the campaign that he came “off message” for some questions. Only once (on a question about federal earmarks during which Mr. Carson waxed appreciatively about dinosaurs at the Children’s Museum) did his compassion and well-measured sentimentality show through.

I don’t blame Mr. Carson though. I believe the DCCC stole his personality by chocking him full of “talking points,” and I'd like for the DCCC to give him his soul back. Just like with Elrod, when a candidate strains to hit certain pre-programmed responses, they lose their individuality, spontaneity, and humanity. Of course, they also win that way, which is why Senator Bayh keeps getting elected while boring the hell out of us all.

Don't get it twisted, people. I hold the Senator in high regard. He is why I’m a Democrat. His campaign for Governor was the first on which I ever worked. I still have an autographed photo of him in my house somewhere.

But when was the last time you heard him give a speech that really moved you like he did back in 1988 or 1992 when he spoke with more urgency? (I miss the wordsmithing of Will Fay).

I think that’s what happens when you become too cautious. You become boring. Sean Shepherd had us in his palm tonight because he had nothing to fear. Including the fear of being elected.


It's "Morning in America" Indianapolis?!?

In my post about infiltrating the Lawrence Township GOP, I described the Mayor's first campaign ad. Here it is...though this version seems to talk about more things the Mayor had no hand in or didn't really do than I recall. This is probably because my eyes got watery when I started choking after seeing the part about ethics. Sorry.

To paraphrase comedian Lewis Black, I would like to believe this campaign ad...but I have thoughts.

Kudos to Jon Easter at Indydemocrat and Terry Burns at Indianapolis Times for finding this on Youtube.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Daniels Auction Gets National Pub; Jim Arnold's Profile in Courage

After the Colts lost the Superbowl, Governor Daniels had to hoist a New Orleans Saints flag outside his office for a week after losing a bet to quickly-fading presidential aspirant and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Now Daniels is going to use the flag to profit charity by signing it and auctioning it off.

Currently, the high bid is $1,025. What a great idea.

But no good Daniels deed goes unnoticed in the "no-I'm-not running, but, wait, I'm keeping the door open, but not really, but somehow I keep mysteriously appearing over and over in national media outlets and showing up at major conferences with influential Republicans" administration. This is no exception. How'd this get to Dallas? I bet the Daniels staff had nothing to do with it.

But the bigger part of this story is State Senator Jim Arnold (D-LaPorte), who introduced a resolution congratulating the Saints. Political figures duck when asked about who they favor in a sporting event for fear of alienating the hometown crowd. Not Arnold, who has been a lifetime Saints fan. And what's most impressive is that New Orleans isn't anywhere near LaPorte. (Sorry, but the folks from Lake County who supported the Bears in Superbowl 2006 weren't doing anything noble. They were maintaining political cover in their neighborhoods.)

Having said this, we pray that no Democrats in the General Assembly ever honor the New England Patriots in any way. That is a recipe for certain electoral defeat.


Time to Reform Ethics Reform

There’s a saying in politics that the more votes a measure gets is inversely proportional to what it accomplishes. I won’t say that’s true with respect to the Senate’s Ethics Reform bill that passed 50-0, but if I hear one more person say this bill “closes the revolving door” from legislator to lobbyist, I’m going to lose my lunch. All it does is smudge the glass of the revolving door, making it an itsy bit harder to push open.

(Also, Speaker Bauer is right that the most critical provision is prohibiting state contractors from making campaign donations, and that's not in the bill at present).

But the portion of that bill prohibiting legislators from turning into lobbyists until they’ve been out of office for one year is sham reform for a rampant problem. According to a study conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, 1300 former legislators became lobbyists in America’s statehouses from 2002-2005.

Former Democratic State Senator and current lobbyist Louis Mahern (also my favorite orator from when I worked for the Senate Dems) was quoted in the study:

“I can stay in the state Senate, which I’ve been in for 16 years, attend meetings at night and weekends, and stand for re-election at $25,000 per year with per diem, or I can go out in the hall, and not have to go to meetings at night, only follow legislation my clients care about, and make $200,000 per year. You can only resist for so long. I have to start thinking of my financial future or my children’s education.”

In other words, some legislators want the payday.

But what do the employers want?

The companies, trade groups, and law firms say legislators have “expertise,” but anybody with a copy of Roberts' plus the House and Senate Rules can learn procedure, and any lawyer can master the law. What companies really want is insider information and rapport with other legislators. The most valuable tool in any negotiation is knowing what motivates. Accordingly, who better to achieve your legislative ends than somebody who’s repeatedly been inside a caucus room populated only by legislators disclosing the inner workings of their minds?

Seriously (and be honest with yourself about this), who is more valuable as a lobbyist: a guy who was in the legislature last year or a guy who hasn’t been there for twelve years in a legislature with 12-year term limits?

And ask yourself this question. Why just one year? Why not two? Or four? Is it any coincidence that a House member with a one-year prohibition can still potentially work with every single person with whom he started his last term?

Also, lest somebody forget, we have a citizen legislature, which means almost everybody in the IGA can step away for a year, do their day job, and then get the big payday.

Why should you care? Because not only are the interest groups outfoxing regular citizens by buying information you can't afford, you'll get people seeking public office for the wrong reason.

I had to vote once in a slating contest between two state representatives, and I went to the one I was leaning toward and said, “Give me your word right now that you will never become a lobbyist, and I’ll give you my vote.” To his credit, he was truthful as he replied, “I can’t say that. You never know what’s going to happen.” I cast my vote for the other candidate. The fact he wouldn’t disavow the notion let me know that, like an awful lot of others, he had already plotted a tentative career trajectory, and it included a visit to lobby land. Maybe if he knew he'd have to wait four years before he could cash in, he wouldn't have been trying to get slated in the first place.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

IPSE Making Gains

People might say I'm trying to churn my own stock value, but that prospect can't stop me from praising an extremely entertaining political blog called Indy's Political Stock Exchange (IPSE).

It's fun to read, it's a great "aggregator" of local political blogs and conventional media coverage, it stays on top of breaking stories, and it's about to start doing real time "stock trading" for political figures.

IPSE's initial public offering a few weeks ago has been followed by consistent price spikes. If you look at my "Indispensable Blogs," you'll see I've moved it into the "strong buy" column. Buy now before it goes all Berkshire Hathaway on you.


Addendum to B Dubya Piece

I forgot to discuss this in my previous Brian Williams piece...

One of the things that irritates me in politics is when people cross a line to achieve a result that would have happened anyway.

Two different sources reported to Brian Williams that an effort to challenge his PCs was being orchestrated out of Marion County Democratic Party HQ and that calls were made regarding the same from MCDP phones.

If true (and I'm trying to confirm now), this bothers me.

Even if party leadership had the belief a particular candidate is favored for an office, you don't visibly play favorites until after slating. To do so certainly reinforces Williams' belief that the party was never going to give him a fair shake at slating, so why not try to oust some folks?

In fairnes to the MCDP, it has every right to ensure the integrity of its PCs by reviewing all candidates for compliance with statutory requirements. But you can't stop with Williams' people.

If county party uses a single resource to review any of Williams' folks, it needs to review all filings. Otherwise, it needs to leave the task of challenging candidacies to another campaign (which the Kennedy folks certainly would have done on their own).

I'm hoping my party folks are playing this one straight up. Stay tuned...

UPDATED: Adam Kirsch, the executive director for the MCDP, states that they are reviewing all candidate filings.

That, my friends, is how you handle business.


Brian Williams: Political Entrepreneur Extraordinaire or Party Saboteur?

Not since Karl Rove's heyday have so many high-ranking Marion County Democrats given "the stank eye" so intently to one man. That steely gaze is now firmly affixed on Democratic mayoral prospect Brian Williams.

Let's play 10 questions.

1. Why are people so mad?

Williams enlisted an estimated 200 people to file candidacies for Democratic precinct committeeperson (PC). In many precincts, long-time Democratic precinct committeepersons, ward chairs, and even elected officials must run against a Williams-backed PC candidate in the May 2010 primary.

2. Why would Williams do this?

PC votes decide who the Democratic Party slates for mayor. Melina Kennedy, Williams' opponent, told some folks she would not run in the primary if she lost at slating. In other words, while Williams can go to slating, lose, and still run in the primary against Kennedy, she can't do the opposite without eating her own words.

The more PCs you have who favor you, the more likely you are to win. Because Williams knew Kennedy had the upper hand, he tried something high risk, high reward and completely legal. Just like John F. Kennedy in 1960, Williams decided that if "the party" was not for him, he'd try to create a whole new party.

3. What would make Williams think this could work?

There are tons of Democratic PC vacancies in Marion County. Currently, only 210 of the 590 precincts have elected PCs. Each elected PC gets to pick his or her own vice-committeeperson, so every Williams supporter who carries is theoretically two Williams votes. If Williams could get 295 favorable PCs elected (either by putting them in vacant precincts or having them defeat all comers in the primary), he could wrap this up. As it stands, if all the PCs Williams filed survive through the May 2010 primary, he'd only need to persuade one of every four remaining PCs, which would be tolerable fighting odds.

4. Where did the wheels fall off?

A good share of the names submitted by Camp Williams won't survive. Some are being challenged by the Kennedy campaign and the Marion County Democratic Party for: (a) voting Republican in the most recent primary; (b) being unregistered voters; or (c) being registered but residing in a precinct different than the one for which they filed. Further, many Williams supporters are running against each other, dramatically increasing the likelihood of a plurality victory for incumbent PCs.

I haven't studied Camp Williams's submissions, but it seems he managed to get close to 100 new people to fill previously vacant slots, and all 100 of those PC positions are uncontested. In other words, if they're not disqualified for the reasons listed above, Williams has 200 votes in the bank.

Unfortunately for Williams, even with the onslaught of new filings, only 367 precincts have PC candidates filed. All PC vacancies are filled by the county chair under state law. That means Ed Treacy, who is crappy at Williams for screwing with his long-time personnel, will hand-pick 223 of those PCs and their vice-PCs. (It is critical to note that an elected PC gets to pick his own vice, but an appointed PC doesn't.) Which mayoral candidate do you think Ed Treacy's selected PCs will favor? Probably Kennedy, the former candidate, spokesperson for Obama, and treasurer for Andre Carson.

5. What did Williams do right?

You have to give Williams credit for mobilizing 200 new people (minus the disqualified). His effort to get PCs on the ballot was more successful than any other candidate or the party itself. In the interest of intellectual honesty, though, how hard would you try to recruit elected PCs as chair if you knew that you could fill vacancies with whomever you wanted? (You might end up with unknown commodities who would hose you later).

6. What did Williams do wrong?

The Williams campaign waited until the last day to file the mother lode of its declarations of candidacy, and they were in one big stack and signed by one notary. Had the filings been spread out, it would have been a lot harder to put the usurper tag on Williams.

But instead of stealth, Williams wanted to tout his recruitment effort and did so through a press release and follow-up letter to current PCs that served as gas on dynamite on a fire. More troubling, the Williams campaign didn't seem to make tactical considerations before jamming somebody into the slot of a potentially favorable PC. There were people honestly on the fence who came off against Williams because he dropped an opponent on them. They say if you shoot at the king, you better kill him. Williams took a shot and blew off the king's left hand.

Now not only will he lose support from some PCs, he's going to have ward chairs actively working against him. Sometimes in politics, the smartest play is to not beat the beehive with a stick. Not only do you not get the honey, you get the stingers. Every incumbent PC with an opponent will assume Williams was coming after him or her. Williams could try to say he didn't intend, for example, to front an opponent in Pike Township Trustee Lula Patton's precinct. But if he says that, doesn't he prove a strategically-inept PC recruitment campaign?

One of the party's best historians talked about how Marion County Democrats orchestrated a political revolution under John Livengood by substituting one type of Democrat philosophically for another. But most party insiders see this as substituting strong Democrats for marginal ones (or Republicans!) who will disappear if Williams doesn't win the May 2011 primary. It's unfair to say that across the board, though, as nobody has spoken to all of these folks to see who is for real.

In fairness to Williams, a lot of organizations were recruiting PCs, so Williams is probably being blamed for a few PC contests that aren't even his fault. Sometimes you get victimized by your own success.

7. Will people say this will destroy the party?

Yes. In fact, some are.

8. Will it?

Not necessarily. This will strengthen current PCs. Human nature says if you don't have to ramp up, don't. I love my party people, but I've heard way too many say how hard they've worked (past tense), as if they're now entitled to coast. Sorry, but the PC's job is to know his or her people, and in a transient society, those people change frequently. If a long-serving PC or elected official can't get more votes from Democrats in his or her home precinct than somebody who has never worked a poll or been to a township club or party function, they aren't trying hard enough to connect with folks. This competition will push PCs (and elected officials) into their neighborhoods, connecting with their neighbors.

I also don't believe this will hamper our ability to carry our slated candidates. If you can't say, "I'm so-and-so, your Democratic PC, and I hope you'll support me and Terry Curry, who....." then you need help multi-tasking.

The real harm comes in the vacant precincts Team Williams now controls. Only time will tell if Williams' supporters are committed to the party or just to Williams. If it's the latter, these folks will fill their boards and work their precincts in November 2011 for Melina Kennedy, should she prevail, and the party will be stronger. If it's the former, not only will these folks not work, but the Chair won't be able to put somebody who will into their slots. That could be catastrophic to the party's mayoral effort. The hope would be that if Williams doesn't win, and his people aren't serious, they'll resign. But only time will tell who's who.

9. Would Williams have had a realistic chance to win slating?

He had better odds than he thought, but probably not better than 40/60, so I understand the recruitment effort as a tactic.

10. Has he demolished any chance he had to win at slating?

Indisputably. Williams took a high-risk roll, and because his strategy was poorly-executed, he crapped out. He needs to start thinking primary strategy because the slating game is over.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Truth Gets Plowed by Plowman

Say you are suspended from your job, and say a few weeks later, the media asks you why.

What is the percentage chance that you'd say you don't know? Probably zero.'re Lincoln Plowman.

In a staggering interview with WTHR-13's Mary Milz, Plowman says he doesn't know why he's being investigated. When asked about whether the inquiry against him is personal or professional (counsel-related), Plowman pleads the 5th, literally.

Counsel President Ryan Vaughn also says he doesn't know any details. How do you keep your own caucus in the dark? Is Plowman working as a confidential information now to fry a bigger fish?

What is it with Republicans clinging to office long beyond the point of losing the public trust, which was further eroded today. (Everybody doing the Elephant Walk knows he's as problematic as Brizzi. One GOP councillor even referred to Plowman as "a selfish idiot.")

I don't know either. But on behalf of Democrats who are going to campaign in 2010 on the GOP's culture of shady financial dealings and influence-peddling, I thank you.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Donkey in Elephant's Clothing

"Know thyself, know they enemy" - Sun-Tzu, Chinese general and military strategist

The Friday before last, I had the (free) opportunity to attend the Lawrence Township Republican Club's Lincoln Day Dinner with my friends from the Hoosier Muslim PAC. Like a Nat Geo documentarian chronicling the activities of a foreign species in a strange land, I waded in, and it was more entertaining than Meerkat Manor. This is my dispatch.

The event was held at the Marriott at Keystone at the Crossing. When I entered the "check-in" chute, I was offered petitions to get Dan Coats and John Hosteller on the ballot. To be on the ballot for U.S. Senate, every candidate has to obtain the signature of 500 registered voters per congressional district. This is a preposterous exercise for sitting office holders like Evan Bayh, who got nearly 1.5 million votes in 2004, but who said laws are logical?

I enthusiastically signed both petitions, thinking at the time that if either became the candidate, Bayh would crush them. Polling showed Bayh leading Coats by 20 points in a head-to-head. I know already! I inadvertently helped a Republican! But how in the (expletive) was I supposed to know Bayh was going to drop out the following weekend? Also, I was trying not to get "made" so I could eavesdrop, which is why I signed while muttering, "Big business. Reaaaally big business."

Shortly thereafter, John Hostettler actually strolled by, and I reflexively yelled, "Congressman Hostettler!" He shook my hand and, because I really couldn't think of anything complimentary to say, I said nothing. Nonetheless, he continued to smile warmly well past the point of awkward silence. Were his beliefs not to the right of the Freeman Militia, he could really be somebody in the Republican Party, though he was shorter than he seems on TV. I'm confident that Bayh could have not only defeated him electorally, he could have also scored on him at will in the low post.

I noted immediately that, except for some delightfully polite greeters, the "default face" for Republicans is dour. Not a single person with whom I made eye contact smiled except for the ones who recognized me. Of course, those smiles had a Chesire cat-like, "what the (expletive) are you doing here" look, kind of like how you greet your in-laws when you weren't expecting them. This is not an exaggeration. It was strange because during the dinner speeches, there were hearty laughs; there were just no smiles for strangers.

The attendance for a township club dinner was insane. When I entered the ballroom, I counted 38 tables with ten seats each, and almost all of them were full. This might be attributable to the genius of having a huge dinner the night before slating (an idea I hope my party will employ). It's safe to say that with the platinum, gold, and silver sponsors paying $1,500, $1,000, and $400 respectively per table, Lawrence Township raked in a tidy sum.

Each table had a centerpiece bearing the name of a purported "titan of GOPism." For example, my group sat at the "Ronald Reagan" table. There was even an Arnold Schwarzenegger table, which was ironic because Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman later zinged California when she joked it had "changed its name to South Oregon to avoid its creditors."

Being a party of generally wealthier people has advantages. Though you still have to pay $4.25 for a domestic beer (most Republicans opted for imports), you get better campaign "swag." Each attendee received an "Establishing Liberty" mini-book at their seat, along with a pile of literature from candidates seemingly as high as a Marion County phonebook.

I wondered how well the Republican Party's effort to "become diverse" under African-American RNC Chair Michael Steele was progressing at the grass-roots level. While I'm told it was better at slating, at this deal, the answer was not too well. I counted eight African-Americans and five Latinos. But here is the fascinating part. Three of the black folk were candidates for at-large city-county council, one was a candidate for seventh district Congress, and another was L.G. Skillman's executive assistant. Two of the Latinos were running against Andre Carson for 7th District congress.

That's a staggeringly disproportionate ratio of minority office seekers and higher ups to general members, which shows you that the GOP is not stupid about identity politics. It is so interested in proving its diversity, it might not be hyperbole to suggest that if you're in a minority group, you might be asked to run for office at your first township club meeting.

The initial speaker, whose name and title I don't recall, was mostly ignored as he battled a bad accoustic system. Grace was to be delivered by the gentleman who invited the Hoosier Muslim Pac. Unfortunately, he was out of the room, and the speaker "freestyled" a dinner prayer that ended with "In Jesus's name we pray," a strange thing to say in a room with a table populated by Muslims. (In fairness to the GOP, my colleague's friend gave a moving, unifying benediction at the end of the dinner sans the Jesus reference). But this disconnect is the GOP struggle - how to come to grips with the fact America isn't one thing without alienating a large contingent of its supporters who only want it to be one thing.

I don't remember the second speaker, but a lot of the crowd ignored him as well while chatting up ways to destroy President Obama and dining on delicious breaded chicken, asparagus, mashed potatoes, and killer cheesecake. Throughout dinner, two large screens showed quotes from Abraham Lincoln, my favorite one being: "What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself." Who knew Lincoln was such a PR genius?

Somebody introduced Marion County GOP Chair Tom John, and he got a surprisingly lukewarm round of applause, as if he was the guy who told Carl Brizzi to cozy up with Tim Durham and sell justice to donors. I left firmly convinced that county chair is second only to whale proctologist as the world's most distasteful and thankless job.

House Minority Leader Brian Bosma then spoke and pulled back the wizard's curtain on Todd Rokita's drive for redistricting reform when he noted that in some year I forgot (because it was Brian Bosma talking) that Hoosiers had cast 343,000 more votes for GOP house candidates than they had for D candidates. Bosma went on to say that it was only Democrat maps that let D's keep control of the Indiana House of Representatives. Translated into human speak, Bosma was saying that if House R's, a bi-partisan Commission, a computer logarithm, or monkeys with laser pointers were given control of the maps, the GOP would fare better. The painfully objective part of me knows this is true, but it also makes me decry claims that the GOP wants competition. If Rokita gets his way, we will have fewer competitive districts than we have now.

But I digress. Channeling his inner jedi, Bosma stated that we are engaged in a battle, not between the dark force and the light, but in a battle "for the future." Given that a good percentage of the GOP wants to take us back Doc Brown-style to the "good old days" of 1954, I couldn't tell if he misspoke.

Senator Merritt then delivered some remarks, none of which I remember except when he called Becky Skillman "Governor." While I know Emily Post on Elected Officials says you can afford this designation to an L.G., it is not required, so I'm sure this was done to get the GOP accustomed to hearing it before 2012.

L.G. Skillman gave the keynote address, and this was my first time really seeing her in action. She has notable poise and impeccable fashion sense. I quickly picked up on a speech "tic" where she elongates the first syllable of certain words, such as "fuuuuuuuture" and "huuuuuuuuundreds," but that just made her sound like your sweet New England auntie after a sherry too many.

While Skillman fastidiously adhered to her scripted remarks, she came across so much more intelligent than Sarah Palin. Of course, this might have been because Skillman's speech was on cue cards, not her hand.

Skillman's remarks were chocked with typical Washington liberal bashing. She got her strongest applause of the evening when she said, "Spending what you have is called cash. Spending what you don't have is called credit. Spending other people's money that they don't have is called Congress." (I thought that was called "working on Wall Street"). Apparently, nobody told L.G. Skillman that her boss spent a good deal of time in D.C., or I don't think she would have been so harsh on the capitol.

I couldn't deny that Skillman had the Lawrence Township GOP eating out of her hand. She lost her audience only once, when she said the Supreme Court had proven its independence that week, no doubt referring to Citizens United, an opinion that, ironically, would allow corporations to pump untold sums into things like state judicial elections, thereby ensuring that ONLY the federal judiciary would stay independent.

Skillman also had some constructive things to say about the Daniels administration, including that it has reduced government employment by 20 percent, that companies folding up in other states want to stop by Indiana for a brief stay before moving on to Singapore (okay, she didn't say that last part about moving on), and that we have $100 million in highway construction going on. Curiously, she admitted that a good portion of those funds came from federal stimulus money. I can only assume someone jammed an index card into her speech as a practial joke since the Governor would never take federal dollars while spending so much time griping about them.

While I would only give L.G. Skillman a two for originality, she earned a nine for lip-syncing. She will be formidable in 2012, though I do not believe she'll defeat Governor Bayh.

Then the moment I had waited for all night came finally arrived....the speech by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. The only problem was he wasn't there. I didn't hear why, but in lieu of a speech, we got to view what must be Greg Ballard's first mayoral TV ad.

For evoking emotion, it was a thing of beauty. I didn't get it word for word, but I got some of it....

"It began as a grass roots movement...

"Fed up with government (yada yada) people who had had enough..."

"....found their voice with Greg Ballard...."

"It was the biggest political upset in Indiana history...."

"Since that night...what has it meant for our city?"

The following phrases (not in order) then popped on the screen....

"Better Ethics," "Mayor Takes Control of IMPD," "Crimes Rates Down," "Charter School Expansion," "Innovative Ideas," "Honestly Balanced Budgets," and "New Wishard Hospital."

As these phrases jumped across the screen, the ad offered pristine depictions of every feel-good, nostalgia-inducing visual Indianapolis has to offer - Victory Field, the canal, Lucas Oil, Conseco, Circle Center Mall, and Monument Circle among many others. What does Greg Ballard have to do with any of these? Absolutely nothing. But rule number one in advertising is create good feelings, then throw your picture into the mix so viewers have a Pavlovian response the next time they see the feel-good images.

The phrase that shocked me the most was "crime rates down." Anybody who reads the Star or watches TV knows that murders might be down, but shootings sure aren't. And I'm just not sure how much credit you can take for reducing homicides when it's easier to attribute the reduction to poor marksmanship and the incredible work of Wishard trauma in keeping gunshot victims alive. (Of course, this would explain the Mayor's strong support of Wishard - it helped him keep the city's death toll down).

After the ad concluded, Bosma introduced every elected official and candidate for anything at any level. During this time, I read War & Peace on my cell phone. Twice. Bosma even joked, "Anybody who is NOT running for something stand up. Maybe that will be easier."

Let this be said about the GOP. What it fails to offer in constructive solutions, it makes up for by sheer number of candidates vying for the right to not offer them. And it knows how to fill a party hall.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Under the Things We Already Knew...Daniels Interested in Presidency!

Jim Shella reports today that Governor Mitch Daniels is "keeping the door open" with respect to a 2012 presidential bid.

The Shella headline reads, "Daniels Changes Position on 2012." As much as I'd like to criticize the Governor for flip-flopping, I really can't. It would be too disingenuous because nobody believed him when he said he wasn't running.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dizzy on Brizzi Improprieties Yet?

Fox 59 reports that "there was dicussion" about relocating the Metro Drug Task Force two years ago, and the location pushed was owned by John Bales, Carl Brizzi's business partner and campaign donor. The story notes that Bales has a contract that provides him 3% of any lease he negotiates for the City, so he would apparently have double-dipped as owner and negotiator. The other tenant already at that location? Tim Durham.

The move did not happen because law enforcement and a female prosecutor who would have worked there thought it was an unsafe dump. (Fox reports that the prosecutor who opposed the move was demoted and reassigned by Brizzi).

Hamilton County Sheriff Doug Carter stated, "There was discussion early on about the possibility of a move northeast and there was discussion about a specific piece of property on the westside," said Hamilton Co. Sheriff Doug Carter.

Lawrence Police Chief Paul Whitehead: "Well, unfortunately, the particular facility we looked at..." started Lawrence Police Chief Paul Whitehead.

Kudos to Russ McQuaid for breaking this story, but it doesn't go deep enough for my tastes.

Who set up the viewing of the property? Who pushed it? To whom? Are there letters or e-mails? Is it a coincidence that Lawrence Police Chief Paul Whitehead was involved? He works for Lawrence Mayor Paul Ricketts, to whom GOP bagman Tim Durham donated a staggering sum in excess of $80,000 over the past few years and to whom Brizzi donated $1,000 in 2008.

As a quick aside, Ricketts donated $250 of that money back to Brizzi in 2008. To all the newbies out there, passing the same money back and forth between political friends is a great way to inflate the value of your political stock because it looks like you've raised more money than you really have. (You can also do this with actual stock, but you might go to prison).

Here's another sidebar Fox missed. Why would a GOP Hamilton County Sheriff air Brizzi's dirty laundry? Does it have anything to do with the fact Brizzi's campaign committee donated $200 to Scott Baldwin, who is opposing Sheriff Carter's hand-picked successor in the May primary?

Of course, despite the GOP's efforts to run from Brizzi/Durham money, it permeates all levels of GOPdom. In the past two years, Brizzi has given $1,650 to the Hamilton County GOP, $1,250 to the Wayne Township GOP, $800 to Washington Township, $500 to Perry, $400 to Warren, and $250 to Lawrence.

Brizzi has given to GIRFCO ($2,500), the Marion County GOP ($2,250), City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn ($2,000), Hamilton County Prosecutor candidate David Wyser ($2,500), City-County Councilor Mike McQuillen ($250), Friends of Todd Young ($500), Mitch Daniels ($1,000), Tony Bennett ($1,000), Hupfer for State Rep ($1,000), Friends of Jim Banks ($1,000), the House Republican Campaign Committee ($5,000), Mike Murphy ($500), and the Committee To Elect Lisa Bentley (Township Board)($250). Brizzi even in-kinded a campaign worker to Attorney General Greg Zoeller. (Who knew indentured servitude still existed in the 21st century?)

GOP Secretary of State candidate Charlie White donated to Brizzi (who also donated to White), and Vaughn gave to Brizzi, who, as mentioned above, gave to Vaughn. (Though we are fellow Wabash men, I don't mind telling Vaughn and White that they both need to pick better company).

Every time I look at Brizzi's campaign finance reports, I get more discomfited. I previously reported that Brizzi was using his campaign committee as his personal bank account. Today I noticed that attorney Mario Massilamany received $1,900 from the Brizzi Committee for reimbursements, mostly for a call phone. Why is the Brizzi campaign reimbursing an attorney for his cell phone to the tune of several hundred dollars per month?

I'm THIS close (holding fingers millimeters apart) to filing a complaint with the Indiana Election Commission. Not only has Brizzi sullied his office, he's making a mockery of Indiana election law. Indiana Code 3-9-3-4 states:

Money received by a candidate or committee as a contribution may be used only:

(1) to defray any expense reasonably related to the person's or committee's:

(A) campaign for federal, state, legislative, or local office;

(B) continuing political activity; or

(C) activity related to service in an elected office;

(2) to make an expenditure to any national, state, or local committee of any political party or another candidate's committee; or

(3) upon dissolution of a committee, in a manner permitted under IC 3-9-1-12.

(b) Money received by a candidate or committee as a contribution may not be used for primarily personal purposes by the candidate or by any other person except as described in subsection (a).

Kudos to Terry Burns at Indianapolis Times for bringing this story to my attention.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Ellsworth Goes Official; Williams Onslaught Locally?

Brad Ellsworth is officially a candidate for United States Senate, reports Mary Beth Schneider of the Indianapolis Star.

The other news of the day is that the filing deadline ended at noon, and word circulating around the election board is that the Brian Williams for Mayor campaign has delivered close to 200 declarations of candidacy for precinct committee person. (I am still trying to confirm the numbers).

This matters because every person elected in May as a PC will cast a vote in next year's mayoral slating. While having a Williams supporter on the ballot does not guarantee a May victory, every Williams supporter elected as a PC gets to pick his or her vice-PC, who also gets a vote, so it's a two-for-one effect.

Before today, the Marion County Clerk's Office listed 813 candidacies for county offices, precinct committee person, and state convention delegate.

The level of activity this year has been pretty amazing, it's been driven by not only the mayoral campaigns, but by Democratic affinity groups, such as Organizing for America, to get as many of PCs who are proponents of their views elected as possible.

While we should expect some ruffled feathers among elected officials or long-time party folks who are upset about being challenged for PC roles, we'll be stronger for it because people who want this will have to start connecting in their neighborhoods earlier than they might without the competition. Anything that makes you sharper sooner is for the good of the party, so we should not complain.

(Excuse me, but I need to go finish my first campaign letter for PC since I have an opponent now. Grrr!)

Stay tuned....


Will Democrats Forget to Carry the One on Ellsworth Political Calculus?

Jon Easter has a terrific post on the discussion of Brad Ellsworth among Marion County Ward Chairs and Vice Chairs, and it's not pretty.

But here's the agonizing aspect of not being able to get everything you want in politics.

For independent voters (gobs of whom Democrats will need to win to keep Evan Bayh's seat in a GOP-leaning state), Ellsworth is the closest thing to a rock star the party has. His pedigree is perfectly suited to deflect the traditional Republican attacks: soft on crime, gun swiping, fiscally irresponsible, anti-family (whatever that means), socialist, and ultra-liberal.

Ellsworth comes from law enforcement, all of his votes has been "pro" anti-terrorism, pro war funding, against raising the debt ceiling, for "pay-as-you go," and on the "gag" issues for most politicians - guns, abortion, and gays - he's followed the GOP (and his district's) lead, not his party's.

Ellsworth is labor-friendly though. He voted for 14 of 17 AFL-CIO items in 2009, which was the same as Baron Hill and Joe Donnelly. (Only the legally-beleaguered Peter Visclosky and the labor stalwart Andre Carson did better).

Look at statewide Democrat losses, such as Joe Kernan's, and you'll see that few can muster the votes Frank O'Bannon and Evan Bayh put up down there. The key to victory among independents is to ensure that they stay focused on household economics, not the "gag" issues. In my mind, that really leaves only two candidates: Ellsworth and Baron Hill.

Hill is better on choice. He voted with Planned Parenthood 71% to Ellsworth's 0% in 2008. Hill is better on immigration. He only got 54% from the Federation for American Immigration Reform to Ellsworth's 100%. Hill is marginally better on GLBTG issues, and he's more willing to meet with state GLBTG leaders. Hill got a 50% rating in 2007-2008 from the Human Rights Campaign; Ellsworth got a 30%. But Ellsworth is marginally better on labor with a lifetime AFL-CIO record of 87% to Hill's 78%. (Of course, this is a tricky metric itself because Hill is stronger for some unions than Ellsworth and vice versa).

But Ellsworth hasn't done but anything politically ill-advised like get caught in Youtube video that became a sensation in an age of silly gotcha politics. Also, when the GOP runs their inevitable "Democrat morphs into Obama" ad, it'll be easier to make it stick with Hill, who used his superdelegate vote to courageously endorse Obama early on.

In short, independent battle? Leans Strongly Ellsworth.

But it's not enough to win the independents if you can't get your own people energized enought to get out the vote. Base battle? Unanimous decision for Hill.

But what if the choice isn't really having Ellsworth or Hill, but rather, Ellsworth as the only electable candidate versus...gulp...Dan Coats or John Hostettler? That's a terrifying prospect that could make anybody double-check the math.

Indiana Democratic Party, please tell me you're polling Hoosiers as I write this.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wellpoint....Well Beyond Point of Honesty

The Star reports that legislators grilled Wellpoint personnel today over average rate hikes of 21% for over 100,000 Hoosiers who own individual policies.

Herein lies the problem with the Republican counter to the Obama plan. There isn't one. Without action, expect premiums to explode as well for employers even though many insurance companies continue to post record profits.

I've never understood Republican blind faith in "the market." When Wellpoint decided to hold off on rate increases, it wasn't because "the market" dictated that result; it was because of political pressure. Respectfully, if my options are A Republican-endorsed unrestrained insurance industry kicking pregnant moms out of hospitals and jacking up rates 39 percent in California, I'll take a Democratic-led effort to create a Patients' Bill of Rights and the threat of further intervention.


Ellsworth has Hell's Worth of Nightmare Votes to Explain to Democratic Party

Bil Browning with The Bilerico Project has an excellent Huffington Post entry on 8th District Congressman Brad Ellsworth's less than stellar record on human rights.

But the GLBTG community probably isn't alone in experiencing that sinking feeling in their gut.

Ellsworth received 0 ratings from Planned Parenthood in 2008 and 0 from the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) in 2007. On his healthcare vote, Ellsworth issued the following statement:

"As I considered the proposal, I weighed it against my 6 key principles of reform: First, the bill must prevent federal tax dollars from funding abortions. Together with pro-life Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI), Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and other pro-life members and organizations, I fought to ensure federal funds are not used to provide abortions. Our amendment has the support of the National Right to Life Committee, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and other pro-life organizations, and its passage ensures federal tax dollars will not be used to pay for abortions."

In 2007-2008, Ellsworth got "A" grades from English First and the Federation for American Immigration Reform. I doubt Indiana's newly-formed Latino Democratic Caucus can be too thrilled.

Brad Ellsworth seems tailor-made to placate ultra-conservative independents and soft Republicans in Southern Indiana. But he's got to get selected by his own party first.


Vi Simpson Says No.... (Expletive) It!

Vi Simpson has issued the following statement:

While it has been an honor to see my name mentioned in connection with the U.S. Senate vacancy, I want to make it clear that I have chosen not to be considered at this time.

I am happy living and working right here in Indiana and serving the people on the important issues facing our state today. As Senate Democrat Leader, I made a commitment to my colleagues in the State Senate and to our 2010 candidates that I would be here to support them and to work for their elections, and I intend to keep that promise.

I am truly grateful to all of those who have encouraged me to enter this race and to those who have offered their support and resources. But now it's time for me to put an end to the speculation and to continue my fight for educational opportunities for all and good jobs for Hoosiers. I can best serve those priorities in state government.


Fineman Considers Bayh A Fine Man

When Evan Bayh stepped down, many Democrats were reflexively angry and many (myself included) instinctively thought there must be something wrong underneath the surface. Who would give up such a prized Senate seat without being forced to do so?

Apparently, Evan Bayh.

Howard Fineman of Newsweek has a great article that fans and detractors alike should review, and it's got me feeling a bit guilty for my cynicism. Fineman puts a very human face on a man many considered too robotic for the Presidency.

Though I've only been in the Senator's presence socially a few times, I concur with Fineman's assessment.

First, back when he was Governor, E.B. could ball. He could take people off the dribble both directions, and he had a decent mid-range jumper, though I always wondered whether his state police detail gave him some "executive privilege" because he seemed wide open at the top of the key a lot. Defensively, he was average, but he was good enough to block my shot once, after which he yelled "VETO!" in my face. (Not really. I made up that second part).

Second, he has a great sense of humor, but for Senator Bayh, politics always seemed a serious business. In front of mics, cameras, or groups in public, almost nobody saw the humor. I think if the Senator had subscribed more to the view that politics is important, but not all important, he would have let his guard down more and appealed to more voters.

It sounds like Senator Bayh is a believer now.

UPDATE: Senator Bayh is scheduled to appear on The View on February 22.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The List Grows...AND Shortens

State Senator Vi Simpson and former Congressman Tim Roemer are two new names being discussed in political circles with Simpson being the one getting the most attention. At the same time, Joe Donnelly is out, and Joe Kernan says he's a definite no as well.

As politics is the fine art of reading tea leaves, Representative Brad Ellsworth is definitely in the hunt just by virtue of missing an opportunity to exclude himself. Ellsworth makes the most sense for party pragmatists looking to hold the seat at all costs. He can orchestrate a "don't break the Bayh mold" strategy. The difference is that Senator Bayh quietly protected a woman's right to choose and marshalled a respectable record on human rights.

Ellsworth, in contrast, has crossed some socially progressive Democrats and voted against an important prevailing wage amendment that hurt the building trades. If Ellsworth starts to look like "the guy," expect a progressive revolt unless he privately disavows some prior votes, which he could certainly do without being deemed inconsistent. A congressman's job is to represent his district, and the Indiana 8th has different interests than the entire State of Indiana.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Weinzapfel Says No

In a statement issued moments ago, Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel states he has no intent to replace Evan Bayh.

Weinzapfel states:

I am honored that my name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate. However, I am not interested in pursuing this opportunity. With two years left in my second term as Mayor of the City of Evansville, I am committed to leading my community through these challenging times. Just in the past year, we have successfully lured millions of dollars in new investment and hundreds of new jobs to our city, we have started construction on a new arena that will transform our downtown and create a better future for all, and, through all this, we are managing better and smarter by doing more with less as we continue to provide the city services people come to expect. I am very optimistic about our community and want to continue to lead it into the future.”


Let the Bayh Intrigue Begin

The Democratic Party family have displayed all of the five phases of grief today following Evan Bayh's official announcement of resignation, but I'm going to focus on two:


A recurring theme is that the Senator left the party hanging because there is no time to get the necessary signatures to qualify a candidate for the primary ballot. But this doesn't mean the Democrats won't have a candidate. It just means that the state central committee picks that candidate. In that respect, the timing is absolutely beneficial because it ensures there won't be a costly, divisive primary like the one that demolished the party in the 2008 gubernatorial election.

In addition, by waiting until the last minute, Bayh bluffed his strongest opponent, Mike Pence, out of the field. Now Pence won't be able to able to run unless the other GOP contenders step aside for him. Does anybody see that happening?

In short, if Senator Bayh was going to go, he did it in the best way to do it.

People are also angry about the money hole Bayh seemingly put us in. Whoever steps up won't have Bayh's 13 million or six years to raise it, and Bayh can't just hand it over. All Bayh can give his successor is $4,000 ($2,000 for the primary and $2,000 for the general). Bayh can transfer an unlimited amount to the DNC and DSCC, but all they could give back to his successor is $42,600 per election.

This leaves the option of transfers to "other party committees," which can give $5,000 per election. In short, if Evan Bayh is committed to saving his party, expect the most massive cash flush in Indiana history. Senator Bayh can send money to tons of federal candidates and party committees with the hope that all these dollars will find their way back to his successor in a money swap, hopefully, without too much of a "processing fee." In other words, Bayh's successor will be in the millions in short order if Bayh likes him/her.

The second dominant emotion of the day? Disbelief.

Nobody is buying the "excessively partisan" rationale for Bayh's retirement, but this may be because it came out of the blue for most of us, and nobody can figure out what happened in the past twenty-four hours that made D.C. suddenly intolerably partisan. Senator Bayh was in D.C. in 1994 during the "contract on America" and during Clinton's impeachment, and he knew last year how committed the GOP is to demolishing everything Obama. Moreover, if Republicans refused to support a bi-partisan deficit reduction commission they once championed because Obama said yes, this is how you pay them back? By taking away bi-partisanship's best voice in the senate?

But these are all secondary considerations now for a party in search of a candidate. There are a slew of names circulating: Woody Myers, Baron Hill, Jonathan Weinzapfel, Joe Hogsett, Jim Schellinger, Bart Peterson, and Brad Ellsworth, Joe Kernan, and Kathy Davis. For my money, Ellsworth makes the most sense. He has a strong law enforcement background and southern support, which would make him formidable, a la Frank O'Bannon. The problem is that we'd hand over a sure thing in the 8th, so this is a dicey prospect given the House of Representatives might be in jeopardy.

But perhaps the most intriguing question of the day is this: when Evan Bayh said he's "an executive at heart" and gave an extended defense of his life's work, did anyone wonder if he was looking at coming home to be governor in 2012? Why would a man riding off into the sunset feel the need to recount his accomplishments?

It's getting interesting.


Who Fills Bayh's Shoes...and How?

Given that there is no chance any Democrat can get 500 signatures in each congressional district before tomorrow to get on the primary ballot, now what?

Under my reading of Indiana Code 3-13-1-3, Senator Bayh's departure creates an "early candidate vacancy," which "shall be filled by the state committee of the political party."

Word is that right now names are coming from everywhere and include Woody Myers, Bart Peterson, Jim Schellinger, Brad Ellsworth, and Joe Hogsett (among probably tons of others). However, I cannot confirm this with multiple sources yet, so take these names with a grain of salt, though they all seem logical given the party's predicament.

Under Indiana Code 3-13-1-7, IDP Chair Dan Parker has until June 30 to convene a meeting, but don't expect him to wait that long. He'll do it as quickly as possible, though he does have to provide ten-day advance notice to state committee. Any individual interested in being considered a candidate has to file a notice with the chairman at least 72 hours before that caucus occurs.

I can find no other requirements for being a candidate, which means this should be free-wheeling and very interesting.


Evan Bayh Will NOT Seek Re-Election

Details coming at 2 p.m. This is a titanic shift of the electoral plates in Indiana, and it will reverberate from the top of the ticket to the bottom.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Slating Convention Post-Script, Adamson Candidacy, & Mark Brown

Some people who didn't attend slating today who read my blog asked me this evening at a campaign kickoff for Zach Adamson (at-Large City-County Council) why Congressman Andre Carson didn't attend slating and/or speak.

He did. I knew after talking with many after my post went up that his remarks were a "lights out" performance with a strong appeal to party unity. The problem was...I wasn't in the hall when he delivered those remarks. I had stepped out for a minute. As I'm reluctant to characterize remarks I don't hear, I started my post by carefully noting that Bob Voorhies "started the voting process."

I wanted to correct any misimpression because GOP operatives are trying to feed a rumor that the Congressman has morphed into a Washingtonian and "doesn't even live in the district," and the idea he missed his own slating could feed into that rumor. On the residency score, I confirmed with Mrs. Carson that the Congressman did another home in Center Township. I also confirmed that his wife still works at the same school as a principal, and that the Congressman only has an apartment in D.C. In other words, the "too D.C." narrative will fly as well as a duck with weighted feet.

Tonight, Adamson paid homage to the Congressman and reminded an audience of approximately 100 attendees of the Congressman's call for officeholders who resemble Marion County. Attendees included many dignitaries, among them Melina Kennedy and State Representative Mary Ann Sullivan.

But it's not all flowers and candy for the Democrats this Valentine's Day. Because Greg Bowes has vowed to fight on, Terry Curry may have to expend funds to ensure a primary victory. Though Bowes has no funds in his campaign account, to the public at large, Bowes probably has higher name identification right now. In addition, Bowes has the upper hand on the alphabetical ballot placement. If the party machinery does its job, Curry should be fine. But a robust primary turnout will complicate things immensely, and Curry cannot afford to spend money deflecting his own party.

Also, I spoke to Democratic Sheriff candidate Mark Brown tonight at the Adamson function. Brown, too, has vowed to stay on the primary ballot. Brown did not go through the slating process, he said, because he believed it was a foregone conclusion who would win. Brown contended that certain party officials put Colonel Layton in front of a lot of precinct committee people and gave him an unfair advantage. While it's refreshing to have multiple candidates with strong law enforcement credentials, a divisive primary in either race will make it harder for Democrats to take over the city-county building.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Slating Convention Notes

Today, I tag-teamed with Abdul of "Abdul in the Morning" (which I'll appear on Monday at 7:30 a.m.) and Indiana Barrister to cover the parties' slating conventions. Here we go:


Democrats packed the Indiana State Fairground today for their slating convention. Every seat was full and the walls were lined, which was surprising since the only contested races were for two township offices and a state rep slot. In short, if the Democratic Party is supposed to be on its heels, somebody forgot to tell Marion County.

The voting portion got off to a rousing start when beloved labor leader, Bob Voorhies (the husband of Marion County Recorder Julie Voorhies and the father of state representative candidate Brett Voorhies), rose to make a motion to accept by acclimation a slate of uncontested candidates - Terry Curry for Prosecutor, John Layton for Sheriff, Beth White for Clerk, Julie Voorhies for Recorder, and Billie Breaux for Auditor.

Voorhies punched the air prize-fighter style, which prompted a roar from the crowd, as he told all he was in a battle with stage-four cancer. Voorhies said he would ignore doctors advice and go door-to-door to defeat the GOP.

Former state rep and prosecutor candidate David Orentlicher then delivered a brief "seconding speech," that contained a strong plug for Curry. David O. stepped aside last week and endorsed Curry, which lets you know there are certain privileges to be had if you make nice with the party).

Voting was completed with impressive efficiency and results were known quickly.

By a 39-1 vote, Voorhies won the right to challenge incumbent Republican Phil Hinkle in House District 92, wich covers Wayne and Pike Townships and the town of Speedway, where Brett has been a lifetime resident. Hinkle will have his hands full in November.

In Warren Township, Garland Graves, the former assistant corporation counsel for Mayor Bart Peterson and current Warren Township court administrator, defeated attorney Todd Woodmansee, 48-16.

Graves got a big push from the endorsement of Marion County Clerk Beth White, and his long-term relationships with party folk paid dividends.

Graves said he was extremely humbled by the support he received today, and added that he would employ a grass-roots, door-to-door strategy. Woodmansee promptly congratulated Graves and vowed to support his effort.

The Warren Township race became a two-man fight when incumbent Ricardo Rivera did not file for re-election. Rivera's mother's illness and her subsequent passing last month made it impossible for him to campaign in the way he needed to retain the seat. Our sympathies go out to Judge Rivera.

In Lawrence Township, Judie Conley, the wife of former city-county councilor "King Ro" Conley (who I'm told wants his seat back), defeated political newcomer Jackie Butler, 33-16.

Without impugning the credentials of Graves or Conley, some party folk I spoke with were concerned about lack of enthusiasm and ballot fatigue among African-American voters with all-white township tickets in areas that are increasingly diverse. The fact that Warren Township Trustee Jeff Bennett's victory in 2006 didn't come until a recount challenge would certainly have impressed on folks the need to get voters excited about the township ticket. The same could be said for Lawrence, where my former county party executive director and blogger extraordinaire, Terry Burns, is running for constable.

Consensus among precinct committeepersons todaym though, was that the biggest "problem" was too many good candidates.

Other notes of interest...

Marion County Prosecutor candidate Greg Bowes was on-hand, though he opted not to particate in the slating process. Bowes has stated emphatically that he will stay in the race until the party's primary voters tell him to exit. (Look for a May checkout).

Also on hand was newly-announced Mayoral candidate Ron Gibson. I observed Gibson for a long while, and while he was greeted warmly by a few folks, he also spent a lot of time looking like a man lost in a crowded airport. On one occasion, a lady who was seated waved to a man several rows back. Gibson waved back enthusiastically before realizing the wave was not intended for him. The reception didn't seem to bode well for Gibson's mayoral prospects.


Whenever I want to gauge the mindset of a political operation, I look for little signs that act as canaries in the coal mine. For the Marion County GOP, it was the slating contest for Indiana House District 99, the seat currently held by Vanessa Summers. There was actually a contest between two candidates to take on an incumbent who won by 88 percent the last time around, and there was only a Libertarian on the ballot against her.

That tells me the local GOP is caught up in the national fever that will make this a tough year for Democrats nationwide. I also spoke to individuals who want to challenge long-time Democratic politicos like Bill Crawford and Greg Porter.

Can they win? Maybe, maybe not, but what it does tell me is that if the GOP is willing to run into such hostile territory, and spend real time, energy and effort it forces the opposition to defend turf it isn't used to defending and it puts a strain on resources that could be used somewhere else. If this strategy sounds familiar it's the same one that was done by the Obama campaign in 2008.

At the top of the ticket, the good news for Republicans is that their precinct committeemen were very excited about the candidacies of Mark Massa for prosecutor and Dennis Fishburn for Sheriff (he beat Bart McAtee and Steve Davis) [Ed. - with 5%) and Carlos May for the 7th District.

In the race for prosecutor, I argue the controversies surrounding Carl Brizzi's exit and Helen Marchal's entrance and sudden exit were actually good for the party. It had held the prosecutor's office for 16 years and was starting to get somewhat complacent. There's nothing like a smack in the back of the head by the winds of political fortune to make you get off your rear and get your act together.

I doubt the Democrats plan to attack Massa as a "puppet of the Governor" will get much traction, as the Governor's approval ratings are at about 70 percent in Indianapolis. Also, unlike Marchal, Massa doesn't have the baggage that comes along with being part of the Brizzi administration. He also gave a speech that was well-received by delegates.

Dennis Fishburn should prove to be an interesting candidate against John Layton. While Layton has the backing of the Sheriff and County party, there are some potential landmines out there which could put his candidacy in a tailspin. Fishburn will mainly have to worry for now if McAtee will use his resources to run against the slate.

For May, running in the 7th is always an uphill battle for Republicans;however, in this climate no one should take anything for granted, nor for a lost cause. It will be interesting to see how May taps into the Latino vote in Marion County and whether that is enough to change any dynamics in an off-year election.

Speaking of minorities, I have covered the last five slating conventions and have never seen one with so many people of color and under 40. It is definitely not your father's Republican party.

Overall, my assessment for the local GOP is that they are energized and ready for battle, which they


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ron Gibson & A Thing I Hate About Political Parties

Earlier in the week, I noted that former City-County Councillor Ron Gibson (D-At Large, 1999-2007) had more cash-on-hand in his campaign account (a bit over $11,000) than any sitting or any trying-to-be city-county councillor, except Toby McClamroch, Joanne Sanders, and Ike Randolph. In short, I hypothesized that Gibson was in decent shape to try to reclaim his seat.

But the day before yesterday, my man Jim Shella at WISH-TV reported that Gibson will announce on Friday that he is running for Mayor.

My colleague Jon Easter at IndyDemocrat gave a solid overview of Gibson's dreamquest, but I want to amplify it a bit.

Gibson's announced opponents in the Democratic field are Melina Kennedy and Brian Williams. Kennedy had $220,485 cash-on-hand at the end of 2009. Williams had $101,000. They both have been campaigning for a long time now, and they both have campaign apparatuses up and running. Gibson wants some of that?!? (I've e-mailed Ron on Facebook to get his motivation, but I haven't heard back yet).

I doubt any political observers will think he legitimately believes he can win the Democratic nomination. So what is his endgame?

I submit that this is a simple Braveheart maneuver. In that movie, the king's commmanders always offered land to the opposing force before waging battle, even when the odds overwhelmingly favored the king's army. This approach helped the king avoid looking like his kingdom was divided and losing resources he'd need for a bigger battle.

If Gibson runs, he'll elevate his county-wide name ID just by being consistently referred to as a mayoral candidate. City-County Councillor Jose Evans hasn't even announced for mayor, but in most stories about the race or about his activities, he's referenced in that fashion. Assuming no adverse political effects, Gibson's play is smart.

By getting in, Gibson recognizes the possibility that either county party or one of the mayoral candidates will pledge support for him in 2011 in exchange for him stepping aside and delivering the support of whoever he musters to his cause. At least six names are currently floating for at-large on the D side; I anticipate that number will grow. Locking up some slating support certainly wouldn't hurt Gibson's chances.

Now, maybe this is "just politics," but political parties (mostly mine) buy off people too often who try to dance on our stage with promises of future support, jobs, or who knows what else. I hate this because it encourages everybody else to play it the same way. If you have even a handful of influential fans or the ability to scorch some earth, by all means, jump into the field and create distraction! Even if you have no chance at winning, we'll cash in your bargaining chip.

I have no problem with candidates competing for an office at the onset when it's not clear who is going to prevail. What bothers me is when a candidate comes in late in the game who must know he can't win. (Of course, there are people on American Idol who you would assume know they can't sing, but they'll still jump on stage, either because they're delusional or they want some fame, so who knows). In short, at this juncture, Gibson's candidacy feels like prelude to a bartering session.

My advice on this to the party and the other mayoral candidates is this: don't give in. As a guide post, look at how the party has handled Greg Bowes, the Democrat opponent to party favorite for prosecutor, Terry Curry. As of this posting, I can say with almost certainty that Bowes has been offered nothing but the political equivalent of a horse's head in the bed (though I'm not sure what anybody could offer that he would find satisfactory).

My point is that my party and its front-runner candidates need to send a message by not only refusing to barter with the other long-shot, johnny-come-latelies, they need to demolish them politically for diverting party resources when we'll need every dollar to defeat Greg Ballard.

My first thought was that Gibson realized the value of beating City-County Councillor Jose Evans to the punch with his announcement. I confess to being uncertain on this fact, but I believe when Gibson announces on Friday, he'll become the first African-American male to run for Mayor of Indianapolis (African-American woman Z. Mae Jimison - God rest her soul - ran against, and lost to, Steve Goldsmith in 1995). Having an African-American man running would be an event long-delayed for Indiana's most populated city (thank you Unigov!).

Unfortunately, even with racial history up for the making, I doubt this gambit will pay dividends for Gibson. But I'll know more with a level of confidence when I see who is standing with him at his announcement. I'll know for sure if I hear political chatter about a deal that made Gibson go home. Then I'll know another player cashed in on nuisance value.

If that happens, we'll have only one question to ask:

Who's next in line?


Logic Gets Impal-in-ed!

I'm sorry, but if this doesn't make you realize Sarah Palin is logic-impaired and unfit for the presidency, nothing will.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

DCS: If The Public Were a Library, You'd Owe Some Hefty Fines

Back on December 29, 2009, I wrote how the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) has not produced a child fatality task force report for fiscal years 2008 or 2009, though we’re now in 2010.

If lawmakers cannot assess our progress and challenges in child protection, they cannot suggest changes to those priorities or funding, which might very well be why this doesn't seem to be a DCS priority. DCS ostensibly knows more about how we're doing than anybody, but for some reason, it can't (or won't) get a report to the public.

Accordingly, in the (dashed) hopes that these reports come out before the session ends (they won’t), I am introducing a new iPOPA feature called: “Days Past Due.”

Whenever you see that phrase in a blog post, it refers to the number of days past the end of fiscal year 2008 before completion of these reports.



Saturday, February 6, 2010

Randolph Accounts for Account

In response to my post, I received an e-mail message from Ike Randolph stating that all his money is safe and sound, and that there have been no transactions for the 2009 year. He states an amended report is on its way.

That being the case, Randolph's $11,546 represents one of the biggest cash-on-hand money stashes of any sitting City-County Councilor or Councilor contender. Former at-large city-county councillor Ron Gibson has a similarly tidy sum of $11,134.

The only people with more than Randolph and Gibson are both current council members. Democrat Joanne Sanders leads her caucus with $13,993 cash-on-hand, and Toby McClamrock, who has nearly three times the money of anybody else, stands at $36,168. What makes McClamrock's figure all the more astounding is that he hasn't raised money since the Clinton administration. McClamrock raised approximately $90,000 in 1999, and he's been politically trust funding it ever since.

Council President Ryan Vaughn demonstrated fundraising acumen with $16,933 raised in 2009, but all but 3 grand was spent, with four thousand going to Vaughn's senate campaign. What is most interesting is the $1750 and $500 donations Vaughn gave to the GOP of Hamilton and Hendricks counties, respectively, from his City-County Council campaign committee. (Hey, if that helps sell GOP state reps and senators on the a "regional" solution for the CIB, I say send them more of your money, Mr. President).

iPOPA gives respect to Vaughn for donating $250 to Indiana Equality. While many Republicans are obsessed with generating "wedge issue" votes on symbolic issues like a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage, Vaughn has the moxy to give to a group fighting that very amendment. If only Vaughn could talk some sense into House Minority Leader, Brian Bosma, and Senate Majority Leader, David Long, maybe we could accomplish something meaningful at the General Assembly.


DSCC Coats Coats in His Own Idiocy

A few days ago, I had a strong message for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC): don't help.

Mary Beth Schneider of the Indianapolis Star reported that the DSCC issued a statement saying, "Indianans won’t ignore Dan Coats’ decade as a lobbyist working the system to gain special favors for the banking industry at the time of financial collapse and at the expense of working Americans.”

Indianans?!? This is why you're in Washington, and we're here. How embarrassing!

But the DSCC redeemed itself by producing the ad below, which, frankly, is devastating for Coats, who stated last week he is collecting signatures to get on the ballot to run against Evan Bayh for U.S. Senate.

Coats' idiocy here is the stuff of legend. You never diss a place you're not at to curry favor with a hometown crowd. In a Youtube era, candidates must assume everything they say will be heard worldwide. Also, any time you have to preface a remark with, "Don't tell anybody I said this, but...." you don't say it.

Thanks are due to Terry Burns at Indianapolis Times for flagging this for us.

The whole video is on Youtube (16:51-21:33). The terrifying part is when Coats says he felt like "shouting out loud" when Sarah Palin was selected as John McCain's running mate because she was a "superb choice." Coats called her "smart, bright, articulate, and not from Washington." Palin is none of the first three, and if Coats values people who aren't from Washington, he might want to not sign his own ballot petition.


Ike's Money Goes Poof?

On March 16, 2009, Ike Randolph, the former City-County Councillor (and alleged aspirant to that same post for 2011) filed his 2008 year-end campaign finance report showing a robust $11,546 cash-on-hand as of 12-31-2008. That report was signed by Randolph's treasurer.

The next report Randolph filed was two weeks ago. Except for the name and address of his committee, it's ten pages of blank. Literally. Not even zeroes and no accounting for the $11 grand. Also, though there is no record of an amended statement of organization, which is required when you change your treasurer, I'm pretty sure Mr. Randolph signed his own report as treasurer. Judge for yourself.

Campaign finance reporting deadlines can creep up on you, and anybody who has prepared a report knows they are a tremendous hassle. But they are also critically necessary. Every interested person should be entitled to know from whom money was received and, as Carl Brizzi's recent report impressed upon us all, how that money was spent.

A blank report fails to comply with Indiana law and lets the public down.

Maybe Randolph's money has been sitting untouched. If so, that should be the easiest amended report a candidate could file. What is Mr. Randolph waiting on? In contrast, if the money is not sitting there, the public deserves to know where it all went.

Not completing a CF form is not only bad policy, it's bad politics. Failing to fully disclose what is required on the report leads a cynical public to ask, "What do you have to hide?" I hope my party's candidates and elected officials will continue to take to heart that their actions can respond emphatically, "Absolutely nothing."

You just have to be willing to take them.


Friday, February 5, 2010

The Mourdock Riddle is Solved

Today I received the following message from Co-Director, Brad King, of the Indiana Election Division:

Thank you for your message, and the attached letter concerning the 2009 annual campaign finance report filed by Hoosiers for Richard Mourdock.

Pam [Potesta, the Democratic Co-Director] and I researched the matter you referred to, and identified a software error in the program that the Election Division uses to publish electronic filings from received from certain campaign finance committees.

Specifically, the campaign committees (including Hoosiers for Richard Mourdock) who use SalesForce (a campaign finance software program marketed by a private vendor) submit their reports to the Election Division by electronic filing. The financial information on the report's Summary Sheet sets forth the information as submitted by the committee.

However, due to what can best be described as a "translation error", the Election Division's database is not correctly publishing the information on the Summary Sheet as submitted by the SalesForce program.

This error is the responsibility of the Election Division, not that of the committee or SalesForce. Since the electronic file submitted by the committee was accurate, there was no need for an amendment to be filed by the committee.

Instead, the campaign finance staff person who identified the publication error proceeded to correct it. [Ed note - No doubt that this publication error was "identified" after someone called them after reading my blog.] We try to make certain that the information presented on the Campaign Finance website is accurate, but when errors on our part are identified, we act as promptly as possible to correct them.

We have begun a significant upgrade to the Campaign Finance website, which we plan to implement later this year, that will address this "translation error" problem, as well as making the site more user-friendly.

I apologize for this error, and for any problems you experienced from relying on the erroneous information.

Thank you again for bringing this matter to our attention.

In other words, Richard Mourdock's report was accurate, and I was right that the on-line report was inaccurate and had been changed.

The Mourdock Committee has my apology. To its credit, the Division corrected the error the next day. But sources with some other statewide candidates have said this is nothing new, which prompts me to ask, "If you knew bad intel was going out, wouldn't you double-check it as a matter of course?" Silly me expecting government information to be reliable. Come on, T-Ro (Todd Rokita)...why are you making your people wait to upgrade later in the year on something that's obviously broken now?


Plowman Pulling a Durham?

On January 14, 2010, Lincoln Plowman put his Craftsman tool bench up for sale on Craig's List for $1,500. On January 15, 2010, he listed an extensive comic book collection for $1,000.

Why would a guy sell a work bench? After all, he's a guy. And why sell a comic collection that you've obviously taken quite a while to compile? I get Durham's sell-off. He knew he was in trouble. So can we conclude Plowman knew he'd need money shortly, given he started selling stuff two weeks before he handed over his badge? After all, Jim Voyles' brilliance doesn't come cheaply.

Here's something else that's intriguing, if maybe just to me. What's with Plowman saying he's a "private investigator" when he applied for four scanner frequency licenses? Why would a guy need that stuff if he works for IMPD? If it's because he's doing side jobs, what jobs? When does a city-county councilor and major with IMPD have time to do side jobs? Makes you wonder who might be having equipment they shouldn't have.

The onion is unraveling around the GOP, and each layer seems to smell worse.

UPDATE: The FCC license request is from 2004. But what's interesting is that under "contact information," Plowman lists Skylines Unlimited out of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Huh?


Sorry, T.J., But How's That Crow Taste?

When Democratic city-county councillor Doris Minton-McNeil was arrested for battery (she was ultimately found not guilty), Marion County GOP Chair Tom John issued the following statement calling for her resignation:

"We are deeply saddened that once again a Democrat member of the City-County Council has shown such public contempt for law enforcement and disregard for the laws of our great city and the State of Indiana. The citizens of Indianapolis demand leaders who are servants of the law, not people who think they are above it."

I'm sorry, but how can you not read this statement and laugh? Durham? Brizzi? Plowman?

I don't mind saying that I've had some extremely harsh words for Democrats (including Minton-McNeil) who embarrass the party with their imbecilic conduct. But in my mind, there's a far difference between somebody who has too much to drink and acts foolish and somebody who auctions off his office to the highest bidder.

When Tom John publicly calls for Plowman's resignation, as requested by Democratic Party Chair Ed Treacy, that's when you'll know he's serious about getting rid of people "who think they are above" the law.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

iPOPA Rebuttal: Rokita's Folks Change Report?

The day before yesterday, I wrote what I thought would be a funny little post about how Richard Mourdock, our state treasurer, had a campaign finance report that didn't add up. While it's not like that error would doom Mourdock's re-election campaign, you'd hope a treasurer can get the finances right, or that his campaign treasurer could, as Mourdock ostensibly oversees those efforts.

The day after my post, an "anonymous" railed on me, stating my numbers were wrong. I found that hard to believe, as I'd studied them carefully and even cut and paste the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet. I went back to the Secretary of State's website, and sure enough, the numbers were right but certainly unfamiliar. When I went home, I double-checked, and what I recorded was not what was now reflected on-line.

Which one of these things is not like the other one?


Even though there is no record of any Mourdock amendment, the on-line numbers somehow changed. I am writing to the co-directors of the Election Division to obtain an explanation, which I will provide later. But the short of it is that I was right, Anonymous.


DSCC Coats Coats With Own Idiocy

A few days ago, I had a strong message for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC): don't help.

Mary Beth Schneider of the Indianapolis Star, reported that the DSCC issued a statement saying, "Indianans won’t ignore Dan Coats’ decade as a lobbyist working the system to gain special favors for the banking industry at the time of financial collapse and at the expense of working Americans.”

Indianans?!? This is why you're in Washington, and we're here. How embarrassing!

But the DSCC redeemed itself by producing the ad below, which, frankly, is devastating for Coats, who stated last week he is collecting signatures to get on the ballot ro run against Evan Bayh for U.S. Senate.

Coats' idiocy here is the stuff of legend. You never diss a place you're not to curry favor with a hometown crowd. In a Youtube era, candidates must assume everything they say will be heard worldwide. Also, any time you have to preface a remark with, "Don't tell I said this, but...." you don't say it.

Thanks are due to Terry Burns at Indianapolis Times for flagging this for us.

The whole video is on Youtube (16:51-21:33). The terrifying part is when Coats says he felt like "shouting out loud" when Sarah Palin was selected as John McCain's running mate because she was a "superb choice." Coats called her "smart, bright, articulate, and not from Washington." Palin is none of the first three, and if Coats values people who aren't from Washington, he might want to not sign his own ballot petition.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Taking Shots at the Mots Over Bogus Durham Campaign Loan

Back on November 25, 2009, Ogden on Politics reported that GOP sheriff contender Tim Motsinger withdrew from the race due to his association with Tim Durham and decision to return the Durham money. The story concludes:

"I have never heard of a candidate dropping out because he or she lost a political contributor. One wonders whether there might be more to this story."

Oh, there is.

According to Motsinger's 2007 campaign finance report, on October 7 of that year, Durham reportedly loaned Motsinger $200,000. This we all know. BUT in Motsinger's final report, filed on December 4, 2009, he hand-wrote the following intriguing note:

"*-Campaign received a promise of a loan for the disclosed amount that was segregated into a separate business account not under the campaign’s control. The 2009 campaign finance report reflects the dissolution of that agreement and the releasing of the loan agreement."

Let that marinate for a second.

See the problem? A candidate is claiming that he has cash-on-hand of $250,000 back in 2007 and through 2009, when he never took possession of the funds from the $200,000 loan. Moreover, given Durham's shaky financial situation, one wonders if the money ever existed and if Motsinger withdrew to avoid explaining this scandalous episode.

Folks, if this is not an outright violation of campaign disclosure law, it certainly is a destruction of its spirit.

Think about the strategems one could construct. I have ten friends who I ask to loan me $50,000 each, and I tell them, "You don't actually have to give me the money, you just have to give me a loan agreement." Then I report I have a half-million dollars in my campaign, and based on this, I scare away all my opponents and in so doing, I actually do raise a real half-million. When it comes time to pay back the loans, I just "dissolve" the agreements.

In short, the entire Motsinger campaign was the political equivalent of a leveraged buyout, except the public found out the capital was non-existent, which is why Motsinger's takeover failed. Honestly, though I'm not surprised, I'm somehow stunned. If anybody finds the Marion County GOP's soul, can you return it to Tom John?

On the subject of campaign finance report manipulation, I got slammed about my Richard Mourdock story, in which I reported our state treasurer got his numbers wrong. An "Anonymous" tore into me today saying my numbers were wrong. Stay tuned, Anonymous...we'll see who has the last laugh on that one.