Thursday, May 27, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Carson, Ellsworth, Hill, Bayh Support Repeal of DADT

Representatives Andre Carson, Brad Ellsworth, Pete Viscloskey, and Baron Hill, all voted in favor of repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy tonight, a measure which passed out of the House by a 234-194 margin. At the same time, reports a similar measure in the Senate passed out of the Armed Services Committee, 16-12, with the assistance of Senator Evan Bayh.

Carson stated, "Any patriotic American willing to give his or her life in defense of country should have that opportunity. And our troops should never be forced to lie about who they are in order to continue their service. Today’s vote will help ensure this kind of personal conflict is never an issue for the brave men and women in our military.”

The only Democrat who voted against the measure in the House delegation was Represenative Joe Donnelly. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Donnelly said earlier today that he would vote no to any effort to change the law before the Defense Department had finished its review.

Donnelly stated, "I value the expertise and experience of our military leaders and first want to know their thoughts on the matter."

The problem is that there will be some at the DoD who are against the repeal, and some, such as General Colin Powell, who favor it. Waiting for what may be an only mildly favorable report or an ambivalent one would be seized upon by opponents to short-circuit the entire effort. In other words, Donnelly's position was cowardice covered in military deference crap, in my opinion.

You may say, "Aha! iPOPA just admitted that some GENERALS may tell you this is a bad idea." In response, I would tell you, yeah, this wouldn't be the first time some generals opposed an idea of a commander-in-chief, and I would refer you to the dialogue from one of my favorite scenes of The West Wing, where John Amos, playing Percy Fitzwallace, the African-American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is talking to some lesser officers about their feelings on letting gays serve openly:

Major Tate: Sir, we're not prejudiced toward homosexuals.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: You just don't want to see them serving in the Armed Forces?

Major Tate: No sir, I don't.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: Because they pose a threat to unit discipline and cohesion?

Major Tate: Yes, sir.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: That's what I think, too. I also think the military wasn't designed to be an instrument of social change.

Major Tate: Yes, sir.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: The problem with that is that's what they were saying about me 50 years ago - blacks shouldn't serve with whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I'm an admiral in the U.S. Navy and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff...beat that with a stick.

I'm guessing Donnelly isn't a fan of Harry Truman, who desegregating the military when 87% of Americans, including a supermajority of its military personnel, opposed the decision.

Sorry, Joe, but we have a civilian-led military, and if Congress and the Commander-in-Chief say gays and lesbians can serve openly, the generals will use their expertise to implement the policy, not to decide it.


If Government Regulation is Bad, Who is the Good Guy In Wellpoint's Masectomy Policy Change?

You hate government regulation, don't you, Mr. Republican?

It stifles "the market," costs jobs, suppresses freedom, creates burdens through untold numbers of government forms and red tape, and leads to totalitarianism/socialism/ communism/vegetarianism and every other "ism" that is reprehensible to the talking points that undergird your political belief system.

I will let you in on a little secret. I'm not keen on regulations either. But here's the problem. Just the threat of government regulation consistently achieves more things the public wants than what the market (and your party) ever deliver.

Let me give you an example.

You've heard of Wellpoint, the insurance giant based in Indianapolis? Well, you might know that they're taking magma-hot PR heat lately for raising premiums up to 33% in California, for rejecting claims because of ultra-technical disclosure violations not in any way related to the claims the denied patients file, and most recently, for a policy of not covering 48-hour, post-op hospitalizations for masectomy patients even when the physicians say it's necessary for recovery.

So I read today in the Indianapolis Business Journal that Wellpoint has pledged to extend this coverage, which is the primary provision of the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act, authored by Representative Rosa De Lauro (D-Conn).

Michael Steele, Representative Mike Pence, Governor Daniels, Mayor Greg Ballard, or any other GOP mouthpiece intent on bashing "government," can you answer these questions for me:

1. Do you want women to be able to stay in hospitals for 48 hours after a masectomy if their physicians say it's necessary?

2. Which do you think is more accurate: (1) these women are at fault for not putting aside extra savings for that boob amputation they always wanted; OR, (2) they probably weren't expecting cancer so they got "insurance" from their employer to cover the hazards of the unknown, which is, as you may know, why people buy insurance?

3. Which do you think is more accurate: (1) these women are at fault for not putting their extensive medical knowledge into practice to realize the average stay time for a masectomy recovery is longer than what a Wellpoint policy provides and then going out to buy an extra-day-stay masectomy policy rider; OR (2) they probably took whatever policy their employer offered and lived under a now-exposed-as-delusional-belief that their insurance carrier might follow the lead of somebody who's actually been to medical school?

4. Assuming you answered "yes," "they didn't expect cancer," and "they thought their doctor would make the call," here's my last question: who can all the women who have Wellpoint policies thank in the future if they get breast cancer and are permitted to stay in a hospital for 48-hours, as their physician recommended?

Would that be the people who bring the threat of government regulation or the market?

Actually, sorry to Colombo you, but I do have just one more question.

If "the market" would have compelled Wellpoint to adopt a modicum of humanity with respect to breast cancer patients, do you think there would even be a Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act?

The Democrat rests.


UPDATED: Ballard Jr.'s Employer Cashing In On Both Ends?

We learned today that Mayor Greg Ballard hired American Structurepoint as project manager for "ReBuildIndy," the name Hizzoner has given the road, sidewalk, and curb improvement effort to be allegedly undertaken with the dollars from a 30-year, $170 million bond issued against expected increases in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), and the $262 million in proceeds (paid for by us all through foregoing a decrease in our rates) from the transfer of Citizens Gas. Do me a favor and read the release for what it says. Then I'll tell you what it doesn't.

First, as chronicled by both Ogden on Politics and Advance Indiana, at least one of the company's executives, Willis Conner, was indicted for bribery when the company operated as American Consulting Engineers years ago. (As a quick aside, don't you love how the corporate form allows you to hide from your misdeeds?) Paul Ogden reports that just two executives - Conner and Marlin Knowles, Jr. - donated a combined $55,000 personally to the Mayor. No, you did not misread that figure. And we don't even know how how many other dollars Ballard got from American Structurepoint personnel.

But that's not why I'm here. And, no, it's not because the Mayor is stealing Governor Daniel's playbook by mortgaging our future revenue at a discount for infrastructure improvements that he'll adorn with a catchy title for a political boost ("Major Moves," anyone?), or that it's pretty arrogant to hire a company to manage a project that hasn't even been approved by the City-County Council or the IURC.

And, no, I'm not here to comment on this paragraph from the Mayor's press release:

If the transfer of the water and wastewater utilities to Citizens Energy Group is approved, the city will invest more than $425 million into this program. This is in addition to $88 million already committed for transportation upgrades.

I'm not here to ask why the Mayor continues to act like this thing is one project when the $170 million bond issue is completely separate, or where this $88 million came from and why, if it's been committed, the money hasn't been spent. If the roads are crumbling and $88 million was just sitting there for upgrades, why wouldn't you, ya know, be building something already?

No, I'm here to talk about this seemingly innocuous part of the release:
After a competitive qualification submittal and review process, DPW selected American Structurepoint’s team of local firms with expertise in engineering, project management, and public outreach for its experience related to Indianapolis infrastructure.

So it's not just an individual bid? It's more like a "team" bid by American Structurepoint and other firms with whom it works?

A synonym for public outreach is "public relations." Wouldn't it be wild if the firm Structurepoint uses for "public outreach" is Hirons and Company, the very firm that employs Greg Ballard's son and is handling the PR for the Cit Gas sale?

Guess who has a reliable source that says it is? (I just texted Molly Deuberry, the Mayor's communications director for confirmation and her explanation of the bidding process. I'll update when I hear back from her).

If this is true, wouldn't that mean that the company for which the Mayor's son works is receiving your tax dollars to lobby for passage of a project that will result in them getting more of your tax dollars to describe that same project? Talk about getting dollars coming and going! Talk about your tax dollars going to promote Greg Ballard's re-election (just like I said, by the way).

As I aluded to above, one thing that is not clear from the press release is how the contract was bid, as it reads like the best "team" was selected. Specifically, I wonder whether American will pay the "team" members out of its overall contract? If so, can you imagine how in demand Hirons will be for similar "team" projects?

Having Hirons would be like having Paul Page as your lawyer on a criminal defense matter in Marion County. You know you'll get a special look.

UPDATED: A colleague who is pretty familiar with government procurement states that any "competitive" process would have treated project management as "professional services" which are never determined by bid price. In other words, the discretion to pick whoever responds to the Mayor's RFP (Request for Proposal) is as broad as his ability to weather the public criticism for whom he picks. Fifty-five thousand dollars ($55,000) would sure make me thick-skinned? Also at Structurepoint? Greg Henneke, Steve Goldsmith's Director of Public Works.

[I am still waiting to hear from Communications Director Deuberry. I was going to praise the fact she replied to my text messages at 10:00 p.m. last night. That's admirable accessibility and a strong work ethic. But then I never heard back today, so I have to yank the kudos. Sorry!].


The Arrogance of Power: Governor Daniels Hides Job Numbers, Huffs Out Of Meeting

Everytime you think investigative reporting has withered and died on the vine, you get the Indianapolis Business Journal with the Brizzi series, or this fine work from Bob Segall and WTHR-13 Investigates.

As many of you know, the Governor has claimed Indiana has created 100,000 jobs in the past five years, and much of this job growth was touted during his re-election campaign. But when Channel 13 went to find the jobs, they found some empty cornfields.

In short, there was a chasm between jobs promised and jobs actually created. When asked about the discrepancy, the Governor replied, "You seem to have a blindingly clear view of what is perfectly obvious. In a recession, a lot of businesses have to change their plans."

We get companies may have to cut back, so what's the real number?

The Governor wouldn't say. Instead, he suggested Channel 13 attend an Indiana Economic Development Committee meeting. They did. When the IEDC had nothing to offer, Channel 13 asked the Governor again. He walked out.

Mitch Roob, the director of the IEDC, said the numbers are confidential, so absent a change in the law, Hoosier taxpayers may never be able to quantify the Governor's degree of hyperbole in job creation. WTHR's story points out that many states have laws requiring disclosure of these very numbers.

This makes sense, of course, because all levels of executive government officialdom cut deals with companies that work like this - you bring jobs, we'll build stuff for you to prepare the site, and we'll ignore the taxes you'd otherwise pay. But how can a public ever ensure that "clawback provisions," by which a company would reimburse the government for foregone tax revenues if they fail to meet targets, are properly enforced without knowing the numbers?

It's almost as if the Daniels administration operates with the "HID Information Principle" - Hide It (job creation), Ignore It (IBM fiasco), Delay It (child fatality numbers).

Here's hoping somebody at the Indiana General Assembly will help us bring the truth to light.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ballard Jr.'s Employer Cashing In On Both Ends?

We learned today that Mayor Greg Ballard hired American Structurepoint as project manager for "ReBuildIndy," the name Hizzoner has given the road, sidewalk, and curb improvement effort to be allegedly undertaken with the dollars from a 30-year, $170 million bond issued against expected increases in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), and the $262 million in proceeds (paid for by us all through foregoing a decrease in our rates) from the transfer of Citizens Gas. Do me a favor and read the release for what it says. Then I'll tell you what it doesn't.

First, as chronicled by both Ogden on Politics and Advance Indiana, at least one of the company's executives, Willis Conner, was indicted for bribery when the company operated as American Consulting Engineers years ago. (As a quick aside, don't you love how the corporate form allows you to hide from your misdeeds?) Paul Ogden reports that just two executives - Conner and Marlin Knowles, Jr. - donated a combined $55,000 personally to the Mayor. No, you did not misread that figure. And we don't even know how how many other dollars Ballard got from American Structurepoint personnel.

But that's not why I'm here. And, no, it's not because the Mayor is stealing Governor Daniel's playbook by mortgaging our future revenue at a discount for infrastructure improvements that he'll adorn with a catchy title for a political boost ("Major Moves," anyone?), or that it's pretty arrogant to hire a company to manage a project that hasn't even been approved by the City-County Council or the IURC.

And, no, I'm not here to comment on this paragraph from the Mayor's press release:

If the transfer of the water and wastewater utilities to Citizens Energy Group is approved, the city will invest more than $425 million into this program. This is in addition to $88 million already already committed for transporation upgrades.

I'm not here to ask why the Mayor continues to act like this thing is one project when the $170 million bond issue is completely separate, or where this $88 million came from and why, if it's been committed, the money hasn't been spent. If the roads are crumbling and $88 million was just sitting there for upgrades, why wouldn't you, ya know, be building something already?

No, I'm here to talk about this seemingly innocuous part of the release:
After a competitive qualification submittal and review process, DPW selected American Structurepoint’s team of local firms with expertise in engineering, project management, and public outreach for its experience related to Indianapolis infrastructure.

So it's not just an individual bid? It's more like a "team" bid by American Structurepoint and other firms with whom it works?

A synonym for public outreach is "public relations." Wouldn't it be wild if the firm Structurepoint uses for "public outreach" is Hirons and Company, the very firm that employs Greg Ballard's son and is handling the PR for the Cit Gas sale?

Guess who has a reliable source that says it is? (I just texted Molly Deuberry, the Mayor's communications director for confirmation and her explanation of the bidding process. I'll update when I hear back from her).

If this is true, wouldn't that mean that the company for which the Mayor's son works is receiving your tax dollars to lobby for passage of a project that will result in them getting more of your tax dollars to describe that same project? Talk about getting dollars coming and going! Talk about your tax dollars going to promote Greg Ballard's re-election (just like I said, by the way).

As I aluded to above, one thing that is not clear from the press release is how the contract was bid, as it reads like the best "team" was selected. Specifically, I wonder whether American will pay the "team" members out of its overall contract? If so, can you imagine how in demand Hirons will be for similar "team" projects?

Having Hirons would be like having Paul Page as your lawyer on a criminal defense matter in Marion County. You know you'll get a special look.


Monday, May 24, 2010

iPOPA's Week in Review

Sorry to be a bit dormant this past week. Sometimes it’s "so many stories, so little time." Here’s your week in review with my quick “hits” plus a follow up on Vop Osili and "name combat."

Hawaii Special Election Victory Meaningless for GOP
Republican Charles Dijou won a three-way, Hawaiin special election for U.S. Congress against two Democrats. Dijou’s “victory” with forty percent of the vote was not surprising. The surprising part was RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s statement that the victory was significant because it was the “district where the President of the United States was born.” (Shhh! Don’t say that too loud, Mike. You might get ousted by the staggering percent of Republicans who still think the President wasn’t born in America!) Stelle undoubtedly wanted to add significance while he could since he knows they'll give this back in November, provided one of the D's clears the field.

Souder Said What?!?
Maybe I’m just burned out on politicians who lecture on morality while living below their own standards, but Mark Souder’s comments today don’t sit well with me at all. We all sin. But what galls is the idea he actually thought about sticking it out because “there was no evidence of an affair.” To know you're betraying the very ideals you claim to serve while clinging to the right to stay? That’s the greatest arrogance in this sordid affair.

GOP's Rivera Keeps Good Company
If anybody thinks the Democratic Party is not open to all comers, look at this photo of Republican, At-Large City-County Councillor (and generally amiable guy), Angel Rivera, at the Indiana Latino Democratic Pac’s Cinco De Maya membership drive. Inquiring minds want to know - did he cut a check?!?!

iPOPA Revisits "Name Combat" and Vop
Sometimes I revisit analysis after feedback from fellow politicos, friends, and fans. Today is one of those days. I’ve written about name combat, and I noted that candidates with “foreign” sounding names almost always fare poorly. But I also wrote that Vop Osili, whose name is nowhere near “Jim Smith,” would assist our party more than Tom McKenna as our Secretary of State candidate. Many have wondered about this seemingly contradictory conclusion. McKenna would clearly outperform Osili in name combat, right?

Absolutely, statewide. But here's the part that might depress you, Democrats, so I left it out. I'm not overly optimistic that either Tom or Vop can win in November. Indiana is still a Republican state, chocked full of what I call open-minded, Republican leaners (insert your joke here, Democrats). And the further you go down the ballot, the harder it is for a Democrat to win, absent staggering fundraising advantages or a very feeble Republican opponent.

To illustrate the point, consider this. Indiana hasn't seen a Democratic Secretary of State since Joe Hogsett left in 1994, an Auditor since Otis Cox in 1986, a Treasurer since Jack New left in February of 1979, and a Superintendent of Public Instruction since 1973! Democrats have done best electing Attorneys General with Pam Carter in 1992 and Jeff Modisett in 1996, but both of those campaigns lucked out to a degree in having opponents with some deficiencies Democrats exploited to draw stark contrasts.

Pam Carter had done securities enforcement, which we pitched as "white collar crime prosecution," and she was running against a criminal defense attorney, Tim Bookwalter, who had defended "rapists," "molesters," and "drug dealers." Jeff Modisett had been Marion County prosecutor while his opponent, Steve Carter, suffered from a charisma deficit and had never tried a case. "Not one." Does an AG try cases? Of course not. But this is politics, folks. Perception IS political reality.

Even Hogsett's 1990 Secretary of State win was unique because he was running against Bill Hudgnut, the Mayor of Indianapolis, the most despised city in the state for everybody who doesn't live here, and Hogsett branded Hudnut as a guy who "raised taxes 27 times." Plus, Hogsett harnessed the Evan Bayh mojo to raise over a million dollars. This year, we have my Wabash classmate, Charlie White, running as the Republican. (Could his name literally get any more vanilla for name combat purposes?) White's springboard to statewide office is his service on the Fishers Town Council. Unless there's some astonishing opposition research of which I'm not aware showing White has voted to raise some town tax over and over, this race will be very difficult.

If you start from the perspective that neither guy is likely to eke out a victory (and trust me when I tell you, I hope I'm wrong), all that's left is the question of who can do the most for the rest of the ticket. Because many African-Americans are dedicated, straight-ticket voters, that will be Vop. To do the most for the party, Vop doesn't even have to compete everywhere. He just has to drive up D turnout in high African-American areas. His core market will be people who might not vote but for their chance to elect Indiana's first African-American Secretary of State and maybe Governor.

One colleague said that any benefit from Vop on the ticket would be cumulative because in many places with high African-American populations, you already have other African-American candidates, for example, like in Indianapolis with Andre Carson. I disagree somewhat with respect to Carson. There's no doubt his a vote-getter, but his district only touches 445 of the 590 precincts that comprise Marion County. With respect to everywhere else, outside of Indianapolis, any African-American candidate would be down ticket, and they are not likely to have the money to afford the high media exposure that will motivate voters.

Is Vop a lost cause? Absolutely not. But to win, he would need to raise at least $1.5-$2 million to do a solid statewide TV buy, and he'd have to have an absolutely captivating bio ad. That's the counter to name combat deficiencies - favorable name ID (a/k/a "personal likeability"). If people know and like you, the name won't matter. The problem is that too many politicians with "funny" names never get to that level of recognition. Also, Vop would need to outspend White, and he'd need a scorched earth negative to blast a hole in White. While White's fundraising has been lackluster ($39,500 cash-on-hand as of March 31), Vop hasn't been on a million-dollar pace ($68,000 cash-on-hand on March 31 to McKenna's $96,000).

If Vop wins at the state convention, money will shake free as all the "smart money" people can quit hedging their bets and grow spines, but $1.5 million worth? That's a tall order. (Yes, it will take that much. Remember that Linda Pence raised a cool million and still lost to Greg Zoeller in 2008, which was clearly a favorable Democratic year). What is more likely is Vop having money in a range that makes media geared toward drumming up turnout more sensible than for persuasion.

On the subject of name combat, I knew Una Osili had finished 4th of 8 in her state convention delegate race, and every "African" name fared poorly (look here at state convention races), even in Marion County.

But I wondered how a "McKenna" might do in "name combat." The results from Hamilton County were encouraging...for Mary Ann McKenna. For Tom, not so much.

Take a look at this astonishing result for at-large Hamilton County state convention delegate, and see if you notice any of iPOPA's "name combat" rules in play.

3097 - 9.36% - Mary Ann Mckenna
2963 - 8.95% - Nancy Funk
2876 - 8.69% - Trish Whitcomb
2869 - 8.67% - Janet Rummel
2725 - 8.23% - Bonnie J. Kennelly
2681 - 8.10% - Rita D. Richard
2527 - 7.63% - Christopher A. Brown
2428 - 7.33% - Christian K. Renner
2344 - 7.08% - William A. "Bill" Latham
2289 - 6.91% - Alan D. Albright
2125 - 6.42% - Keith Clock
2092 - 6.32% - James Steven Bohner
2089 - 6.31% - David Snead

Did everyone pick up that the first six candidates are all women, and the last seven are all men?

Then I turned to Tom McKenna's race for state convention delegate, and, in a word, "Ouch."

1141 - 6.54% - Judy S. Goldblatt
1126 - 6.46% - Josephine E. "Jo" Latham
1118 - 6.41% - Mary Russell
1111 - 6.37% - Kathryn M. Raymore
1070 - 6.16% - Felicia D. Brown
1068 - 6.12% - Sonya P. Wendel
1062 - 6.09% - Caitlin C. Intermill
1047 - 6.00% - Monique D. Wise
1018 - 5.84% - Deborah Hejl
1015 - 5.82% - Tom Mckenna
907 - 5.20% - Patricia M. Toschlog
814 - 4.67% - Henry Winckler
803 - 4.60% - Cary A. Hudson
786 - 4.51% - Keith D. Boland
702 - 4.03% - Douglas M. Kinser
698 - 4.00% - Myron K. Richardson
674 - 3.87% - James W. Rosensteele
654 - 3.75% - Tom Decoster
620 - 3.56% - Edwin E. Russell

Tom McKenna, who has been telling Democrats he will beat Charlie White in the home county they share, finished tenth in a nineteen-person field of Democrats. You may say, "Yes, but isn't that just name combat being true to form, iPOPA? After all, unless Cary Hudson is a woman, you again have ladies in the top nine slots, then Tom, then another woman, followed by the rest of the fellas in the basement." But familiarity and likeability are supposed to trump name combat, which should tell us all something about McKenna's name ID in Hamilton County because there's no question about McKenna's likeability.

In short, I stand by my initial analysis: two likeable guys, two strenuous roads ahead.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Tim Crawford Out in the 5th?

Reliable sources say that Tim Crawford, the Democratic candidate who defeated Nasser Hanna under Republican sheeps clothing is stepping down. This will give the Democrats an opportunity to appoint a real Democrat to run against Dan Burton.

Hmmmm, who might that real Democrat be? Nasser Hanna, anybody?


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Souder Out Amid Affair!

Fox News reports that Indiana's 3rd District Congressman, Mark Souder, has resigned amidst allegation of an on-going affair with a district staffer.

From the story:

Multiple senior House sources indicated that the extent of the affair with the 45-year-old staffer would have landed Souder before the House Ethics Committee.

Souder has always campaigned as a social conservative and voted for a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage as a way to protect "the sanctity of marriage."

Now we know he was just compensating for something - the fact he didn't protect the sanctity of his own.


Monday, May 17, 2010

AMENDED: Ballard Hooks Up Son; Unveils New Logo for "Public Works"

Greg Ballard, Jr. is a copyeditor at Hirons and Company, a public relations firm, or so says his "Linked In" page.

Mayor Ballard gave Hirons and Company a non-bid contract worth $10,000 per month with to push the Mayor's transfer of our water and wastewater systems to Citizens Energy Group.

When was Ballard, Jr. hired? August of 2009. When did the City get its responses to the Request for Expression of Interest that started this process? August of 2009. In other word, young Ballard went on the Hirons payroll the same month the City's massive PR campaign started churning.

Is anybody bothered by this?

Or how about this? I've told everybody who will listen that the Mayor's $140 million backdoor tax increase bond issue and separate backdoor tax Citizens Gas transfer will both be used as the Mayor's springboard for re-election. In response, many have said, "Oh, they won't have time to get things built." They'll get $170 million at closing but the other $90 million won't be provided until October of 2010, a month before the election.

My learned critique is as follows: "Bovine feces."

The Mayor doesn't need to build everything (though a good many projects will be cranking the second the dollars are received). All the Mayor needs to do is let people know building is coming and he's responsible for it.

I've said repeatedly that all the Mayor would need is a nifty logo to advertise the repair work coming. Something like....oh, I don't about "Rebuild Indy?"

Take a look at how the Mayor is already spending your tax dollars to advertise his re-election campaign, folks. The Mayor will also claim that these two deals are going to create 10,000 jobs.

That number is ludicrous, but we know at least one job has been secured already by the Mayor's efforts - the one held by his son at Hirons and Company.

UPDATE: We know the $140 million bond issue is for roads and sidewalks, but hasn't the Mayor consistently said that's what the $262 million is for as well? Why does the city have a list of abandoned homes on its Cit Gas deal website now?

Here's why. Because even though the Mayor told us all he'd chop 10% off the City's budget, he hasn't been able to do it. And even though he said he would address abandoned homes, he hasn't been able to do it with general fund revenues.

In short, the Mayor needs to fulfill his campaign promises, but he doesn't have the money to do it. And understand this. We could transfer Cit Gas without forcing them to pay us anything. If we did that, we'd all save money on our rates. But because Cit Gas has no cash reserves, if they pay us, we'll pay, too.

So, here's the short of it. Do you want your sewer rates to go up so Greg Ballard can knock down abandoned homes? It's that simple. You could support the bond issue and get $140 million in sidewalk and road construction and pay for that, too, as a rate increase, but don't think you're ever going to see the entire $425 million going into just roads, sidewalks, and bridges, because it won't happen.


Bayh Courts The Edge of Humor?

I have a lady friend whose astrological sign is cancer. I was reading her daily horoscope, which said, “You feel like all hope is lost today, Cancer, but miracle comebacks can happen.”

A mutual friend, who was walking by at the tail end of the horoscope, put her hand over her mouth. “Oh my God! That’s terrible. I had no idea. Is it serious?”

My friend replied quizzically, “Uhhh, not as much as Chris’s. He’s a Pisces, and his said his big plans are thwarted. Time to regroup.”

“What?!? What are you looking… (seeing horoscope sheet). OH! You said you are A cancer?!? I thought you said you HAVE cancer.”

So we three laughed and laughed and laughed.

Except not really. You see, this story isn’t true, and it isn’t really funny.

Even while admitting our society has become extremely over-sensitive about jokes, I can’t fathom any context in which cancer is funny. This may come from losing my best friend when I was 12 to a brain tumor or the fact that a couple people I really respect in my profession are fighting it desperately right now.

Now what if this same kind of Three’s Companyesque misunderstanding leading to the humorous denouement was about AIDS? Would that be funny?

Judge for yourself. This is U.S. Senator Evan Bayh at the Indiana Jefferson-Jackson dinner last Friday.

The follow-up interview you hear is by Bil Browning from the Bilerico Project.

If I opine that the Senator’s joke wasn’t in particularly good taste, am I being overly sensitive? Before you answer, let me ask three questions. Do you have AIDS? Have you had someone close to you die from it? Are you gay or otherwise part of any at-risk community that has been demonized publicly because of its association with AIDS?

I ask because one thing I noticed is that people who claim others are too sensitive about a joke have almost never suffered from the condition the joke discusses. Can anyone envision any context in which lynching would be funny to a black person? Certainly not if it wasn't said by a professional comedian who was black (as we all know you get some comedic license if you talk about a group to which you belong). Do you think many people in sub-Saharan Africa laugh about starvation? How many Jews laugh at holocaust humor?

I get that AIDS wasn’t the focal point of Senator Bayh’s joke. It was about how different D.C. life is from Hoosier life. But somehow that changes nothing for me.

I’m painfully objective, so I will be the first to tell you that I’ve laughed at some pretty revolting stuff, as can probably be said about anybody who has ever watched South Park. Maybe that laughter comes because we don’t know how to respond to the uncontrollable and horrific. Maybe the laughter comes from disbelief because the creators of Southpark don’t slaughter sacred cows. They kill them, gut them, and turn them into hamburger and serve them to you as you watch.

But isn’t there a significant difference between when two guys nobody takes seriously laugh at AIDS in an expectedly offensive cartoon and when a United States Senator does it?

Or maybe I’m just being too sensitive. Anybody out there with AIDS want to tell me to lighten up?


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Carson Turns Out JJ; Indiana Stonewall Democrats Abstain on Ellsworth

Some quick weekend updates...

...first, for those who were not present, Congressman Andre Carson gave a lights out presentation last night at the Indiana Democratic Party's JJ dinner, a gala that seemed light on diversity in personage and particulars, save the Congressman's appearance. Absent, for example, were any statements of condemnation about Arizona's recent course of conduct. I do not say "curiously absent" because in any hotly-contested election season, I always expect the Democratic Party to drive to the political safe ground.

Therein lies a frequent difference between Democrats and Republicans in Indiana. When things are on the line electorally, Republicans rally their base. Democrats too frequently put theirs in the basement and tell them not to make too much noise.

In a related story, the Indiana Democratic Party selected former Vanderburgh County Sheriff and current 8th-District Congressman Brad Ellsworth as our party's nominee to run against North Carolina-lovin,' swollen pocket from lobbying, "Beltway" Dan Coats. However, the vote was not a unanimous. The Indiana Stonewall Democrats (ISD) abstained. [In the interest of full disclosure, I serve on the Stonewall board].

I will never forget the words of State Senator Earline Rogers (D-Gary) almost twenty years ago that "too many people get elected, to do nothing, to get re-elected, to do nothing, to get re-elected." The Senator's point was that people who have power waste it if they don't try to advance a principle periodically, regardless of the cost.

With that in mind, here is the Stonewall Democrats' statement:

Today, the Indiana Stonewall Democrats (ISD) spoke resolutely and loudly by saying nothing on our ballot to determine Evan Bayh’s successor for Democratic candidate for United States Senate.

To any who would question our commitment to the Democratic Party based on our abstention, we would respond with a simple question, “What does it mean to be a Democrat?”

We find our answer in the Indiana Democratic Party’s 2008 platform, which includes the following statements:

“As a party of the people, we strongly oppose restriction of opportunity to Hoosiers based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or economic background.”

“We also encourage legislation addressing hate crimes that would protect the freedom of all Hoosiers and create tougher penalties for those who infringe, criminally or otherwise, on those freedoms.”

“We must work to ensure that all people – without regard to race, religion gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or economic background – have the right to achieve the American dream. For the sake of current and future generations, it is our duty as Democrats to put an end to any injustices that threaten that goal.”

We find further guidance in the Democratic National Committee’s 2008 platform, which states:

“We support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the implementation of policies to allow qualified men and women to serve openly regardless of sexual orientation.”

“We support the full inclusion of all families, including same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections.”

We believe it is time for the Democratic Party at all levels to live up to our expressed ideals.

Our abstention is born, in large part, from the frustration of faint support from the Indiana Democratic Party, which has taken our support for granted too long and shown no interest in developing ISD further.

We do not intend our abstention, in any manner, to be taken as support for Republican nominee Dan Coats. His objection to permitting highly-qualified gays and lesbians to serve in the armed services is well-documented, as is his historical hostility to the gay and lesbian community. Further, we doubt a high-paid, Washington, D.C. lobbyist is what average Hoosiers needs in this time of economic insecurity.

Nor do we intend our abstention to be construed as an indictment of Congressman Ellsworth’s personal sentiments towards gays and lesbians. By all accounts, the Congressman interacts respectfully and meaningfully with our community, and to his credit, implemented a gay-friendly employment policy as Vanderburgh County Sheriff at great political risk to himself.

But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”

Regrettably, there has been, up to this point, a disconnect between not only the Democratic Party’s words and deeds, but in the Congressman’s personal conduct toward gay, lesbian, and transgender Hoosiers and his votes and public statements on their issues. Specifically, Congressman Ellsworth voted against the Hates Crimes bill and the version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that provides protection to transgender Hoosiers, and he has not expressed publicly his willingness to vote for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Moreover, and perhaps most tellingly, when asked during our meeting whether he supports adoption by gay couples, Congressman Ellsworth stated he “needs more information.”

Given the number of children suffering in the foster care system, the Congressman’s reservations about gay adoption are deeply troubling.

But, in fairness, we must say that our meeting with Congressman Ellsworth was constructive overall. Our hope is that he will continue to learn about our issues, moderate his positions on areas of disagreement, and follow through on our many areas of agreement.

Had the Congressman spoken publicly for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, voted for the Hate Crimes bill, or supported a transgender inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or had the Indiana Democratic Party shown interest in facilitating the growth of our caucus, perhaps our path today would have been different.

But we see a clear distinction between an elected official with a record forged under the crucible of political pressure like Senator Evan Bayh’s and a candidate who claims to be supportive but whose voting history and public rhetoric show an effort to too frequently side with those who demonize gay, lesbian, and transgender Hoosiers, and a political party that does the same.

In sum, we will no longer go along for the sake of “party unity” with a party that too frequently fails to unify with us under its own guiding principles.

We want to state emphatically on behalf of our members and our fellow progressives in the Democratic family that our support must be earned by living up to the Democratic Party’s principles through action. When that is done, we will respond accordingly. Approximately two weeks ago, we hosted a fundraising event for several Indiana House of Representatives candidates. We did so to support our friends who have lived up to our platform and to help preserve the Democratic House leadership that has done the same.

It is our hope that we will soon be able to likewise embrace Congressman Ellsworth without reservation and usher in a more fruitful relationship with the Indiana Democratic Party.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Governor Daniels Complicit in Shady Brizzi Real Estate Deal Or Just Hiding Egg on Face?


I don't care whether it's "technically" legal if it is, which is a huge if. But the Indianapolis Business Journal's Cory Schouten all but proves what I've believed all along.

Let's put together the pieces.

Paul Page says that Carl Brizzi brought an Elkhart property to his attention, so they bought it.

Really, Paul? I hadn't heard you dabbled in commercial. I thought you were a residential guy. But, hey, diversification is good. Just one question. What made you think this was a good deal?

Really, Carl? That's how you spend your free time? Trolling Elkhart, Indiana for hot commercial properties?

Did I mention that only a few months after Brizzi and Page bought the building, its value shot up $500,000 (from $700,000 to $1.2 million ) based on a 10-year lease with the Indiana Department of Child Services at a rate that, if all proceeds were applied to the mortgages, would have had the owners owning free and clear a building in about five years.

I bet if somebody knew that the Indiana Department of Child Services was looking for 13,000 square feet in Elkhart (in other words, a property exactly like the one Brizzi bought), that would be very valuable intelligence, wouldn't it?

But you'd have to know somebody with that kind of information, and I'm sure Brizzi didn't.....what's that? John Bales? You mean Brizzi's business partner? Wait. Isn't he the same guy who represents the state in about every county brokering deals for state agency office space?

But wait! We get confirmation from Page himself.

From Schouten:

[Page] said Brizzi earned his stake in the Elkhart building by bringing him an attractive investment opportunity. He said Brizzi and Bales, a Brizzi partner on previous deals, approached him about the Elkhart building.

It gets worse.

Schouten provides these details on the Elkhart deal. Read closely. You need to hear it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly about this property.

1. The property has two mortgages: A $1.2 million first mortgage with Huntington Bank and a second mortgage for an unspecified amount with a company called BAB Equity LLC, which lists a post office box real estate broker John Bales has used for his companies and political contributions.

2. A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Administration said the second mortgage does not appear to violate Bales’ state leasing contract, which bans him from any direct or indirect ownership interest in properties the state leases.

3. Bales said in an e-mail that he does not control BAB Equity but refused to say who does. He did not respond to follow-up questions including why the company uses his post office box.

4. Bales and his firm, Venture Cos., orchestrated the $2.5 million, 10-year deal that put the state’s Department of Child Services into the building a few months after L & BAB LLC acquired the one-story building at 1659 Mishawaka St. in February 2008.

Interesting. Does DCS know who runs BAB Equity? If not, how can its legal counsel offer any comment on whether Bales has an ownership interest? BAB. What could that possibly stand for? Brizzi AND....hmmm. I need a "B" name.

I wouldn't tell who owns it either if I were Bales because I'd know the follow-up question would be, "Who financed the 2nd mortgage?" As a perhaps related question, does anybody think it's weird the second mortgage wasn't recorded until the day before the FBI raided Tim Durham's office?

Some other choice tidbits:

- Venture (Bales' company) arranged to list the building for sale with an asking price of $1.8 million in late 2008, immediately after the DCS executed its lease deal. The property did not sell.

- The Elkhart building had a market value of about $700,000 before the state lease and $1.2 million after the lease, according to an April 2008 appraisal prepared for Huntington Bank. The appraisal says the building would be difficult to market to traditional office users because it is surrounded by industrial properties and has no street frontage.

- The 1986 building had been vacant for several months and badly in need of repairs when L & BAB put the property under contract. The appraisal noted the 15,200-square-foot building had interior mold, three broken AC units and deferred maintenance on windows, exterior bricks and parking-lot pavement.

- L & BAB had planned to spend $422,500 to renovate the building and prepare most of it, about 13,000 square feet, for the arrival of DCS. The company eventually paid $825,000 for the property, and got a $15,000 allowance from the seller to remedy an animal infestation.

- Financial documents included in the offering show the building owner, building seller, DCS and an insurance company split more than $577,000 of expenses to renovate and outfit the building. The owner’s portion was about $315,000, while DCS paid about $200,000 for upgrades including new restrooms.

The records show Page invested $321,835 in the building and financed $993,750. That includes a commission of $88,400, and a development fee of $45,600, both going to Venture (Bales' company).

- Records suggest Brizzi was added as a co-owner of the building late in the process. Financial documents provided to potential buyers in 2008 list Bruce Zeller of Carmel-based Zeller Construction Co. as co-investing with Page. Zeller did not return a phone message.

What does this all mean? Carl Brizzi got "inside" information from a guy who works for Governor Daniels. Because the Governor hates government owning things, we got fleeced. The State could have bought that building and saved a bundle. Instead, the guy Daneils entrusted to find it deals (and the one who advised and negotiates rates, right?), handed valuable intelligence to a business partner crony, and on top of that, the State even paid $200,000 to make the building better. Wow.

I asked a colleague of mine who is in commercial real estate how he thought this might have gone down, and here's his hypothesis:

(Bales) knows he has a 15,000 SF requirement in Elkhart. He identifies several possibilities, one of which is the building in question ("Building A"). He tips off Brizzi and Page. Brizzi and Page put the building under contract (or get an option with the owner) for 60 day "due diligence period" w/no penalty for not moving forward with deal - it's called a "free look" in the industry. This contract allows Brizzi/Page to purchase Building A at a fair market price (or a bit higher to sweeten the deal for the owner), but for a vacant property. So relatively cheap.

Bales decides w/state signoff that Building A is the best location for the state. Brizzi/Page exercise their option or otherwise move forward on their contract and close on the property. The contract might even have a clause that makes closing contingent on landing a deal. Regardless, state lease on Building A signed at closing or shortly thereafter. This has immediate impact on value of Building A, taking it from a vacant property to a fully leased (10-years), $17 per square foot (e.g., rich) property. Building A also becomes (theoretically) immediately marketable for its income stream to an investor, so it should be easy to flip.

Payoff for Brizzi/Page - at least $500k-$1million each, for almost no risk. Bales without doubt gets something something (like 50%) under the table from Brizzi/Page (without technically violating the self-dealing clause in his state contract).

Not bad for a days work. This scenario is comparable to Gordon Gekko, trading on inside information that the market does not possess. If Building A were a stock/security, there would be a good case for securities violations under federal law... Bales surely violated his ethical duties as a licensed broker, but I'm sure there is no paper trail! So good luck proving it.

All we know for certain is that Bales got $120,000 in commissions. What we don't know is if there were any other buildings in play. What if there weren't? At some point, isn't there a conflict when a broker helps a third party become an owner to consummate a deal that's already on the table? What we also know is that Bales has previously pitched crappy space to government decision makers. Remember when Bales tried to move the Metro Drug Task Force to a rat-den?

You know what I want to see now? Every contract with John Bales' name associated with it. How many friends has he enriched or gotten better deals than the market would have born, but for his intercession and trading on information only available to him? How much did he cost the taxpayers with Governor Daniels' blessing?

Were I the Governor or the Mayor of Indianapolis, I'd end any and all Bales' contracts right now pending a formal investigation.

Will you, Governor? Will you Mr. Mayor?

(Crickets chirp. Tumbleweeds roll through).


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

CIB Needs to Let NBA Commissioner David Stern Solve Pacers' Problem

It strikes me as supremely ironic that Mayor Ballard, a Republican, wants to bail out the Indiana Pacers by assuming the $15 million annual operational cost for Conseco Fieldhouse. (Doesn’t anybody remember that the Pacers demanded the right to run Conseco because they wanted to get all the non-game event revenues? But we’ll put aside the whole “living up the terms you negotiated” thing for just a second).

In December of 2009, Forbes released a report that taught us forty percent of the NBA’s franchises (12 of 30 teams), including the Pacers, lost money in the 2008-2009 season. Another league source predicted 25 teams would lose money in the 2009-2010 season.

Can I ask a silly question? If "companies" that lose money are unsustainable, and forty percent of the NBA’s “companies” are in the red, is there any way to contend the NBA business model is not completely broken?

Of course not.

This is why Commissioner David Stern has said two things need to happen:

(1) Players need to be paid less (look at these salaries); and

(2) The league needs to adopt a revenue-sharing scheme closer to what the NFL employs so that small market teams can stay competitive and profitable.

While the first proposal is obviously controversial with the players union, the second one isn’t.

From NBA Fanhouse:

At least the union and the owners agree revenue sharing is needed to help small-market teams. Hunter was receptive when speaking about revenue sharing Friday, and Stern said it will be part of the next CBA, although it won't be negotiated until after a document is in place.

(As a quick aside, is anybody else amazed some Republican somewhere hasn't tried to grandstand on pro sports' revenue sharing models by claiming they're socialist?)

But I digress. Think about this. Mayor Ballard’s wants his CIB to bail out the Pacers even though they haven’t appreciably cut back their payroll while allegedly losing money every year they've been here and while some type of revenue sharing proposal is almost a certainty in the next collective bargaining agreement?

When Mayor Ballard bails out the Pacers, will it be just for this year? No, because it legally can't be. So if a revenue-sharing agreement is subsequently passed in late 2010, will the Pacers pay us back (with interest) for covering them for this year and into the future, just like the banks who got money from the federal government or will it just be a giveaway?

While I’m on the CIB issue, the Mayor has repeatedly stated that no dollars from the Cit Gas transfer will be used to pay the Conseco operating costs and no dollars from his administration will go to the Pacers. His comment is completely disingenuous, but I can’t technically say it’s a lie because money is a fungible good.

Say I have mentally earmarked $15 million for abandoned homes because I said I would do something about them during my campaign, but I still haven’t. When Cit Gas money comes in, I mentally unmark the abandon homes dollars and move them into the CIB. Then I take $15 million from the Cit Gas deal and tell everybody, “Look at me! I’m using Cit Gas money for abandoned homes!” In other words, unless CIB comes up with $15 million more in cuts, Ballard HAS bailed out the Pacers the minute we agree to pay for Conseco. The Mayor can't spin out of that reality.

I say "bailed out" because the company has a legal obligation to make the payments, says it can't, and we let them off the hook. According to the Hunden Strategic Partners report prepared for the CIB to provide political cover for Ballard's upcoming bail out, we should go along because the Pacers generate $55 million for the local economy per year. But as GOP blogger Paul Ogden writes, this report does not address the $150 million penalty the Pacers would have to pay to move the team.

I do not want people to misunderstand me. The Simon family have done some great things for this city, and the Pacers have brought me some of my greatest personal memories. But, in fairness, the Simons have always used the Pacers as a loss leader. When I hear Jim Morris say how many years they've lost money, it doesn't make me sympathetic. It makes me say, "Then it was really stupid of them to assume responsbility for Conseco knowing they were already losing money, wasn't it?" They gambled, and they lost.

Can anybody envision a professional sports team telling its host city, "Hey, we see you're struggling, so we're going to go ahead and pay more taxes?" The Colts sure didn't. Remember when GOP State Senator Luke Kenley floated a plan that would have the Colts giving the CIB just $5 million. Jim Irsay crushed that idea in a heartbeat because it wasn't "part of the deal." We can't get $5 million from a team riding high when we're in trouble, and yet, when this city is struggling, we'll pick up a $15 million tab?

Yes, I love the Pacers, but when libraries are allegedly closing (more on that later), our murder rate is on record pace, and Indianapolis has suffered disproportionate job losses, you can't let nostalgia make you soft in negotiations.

iPOPA, you say, if the Pacers go, we'll lose jobs. None of those popcorn sellers will be making their $10/hour for two hours per game. But that's if the Pacers go. And no matter what Jim Morris says, they won't. They won't pay $150 million in penalties when they can wait until the new revenue model is put in place later this year.

Make no mistake about it, if Mayor Ballard doesn't bail out the Pacers, they'll be living at David Stern's door to ensure the business model gets fixed.

In short, the best approach is to make sure the Pacers management team is highly motivated to change, not how the City of Indianapolis treats them, but how the NBA does.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Part II: "Name Combat" Leads to Embarrassing Result: iPOPA's Apology to Nasser Hanna

Last Tuesday, Tim Crawford won the right to challenge Dan Burton in November for Indiana’s Sixth Congressional District seat by defeating Nasser Hanna in the Democratic primary. Crawford got 9,934 votes (61%) to Hanna’s 6,381 (39%).

I've met Hanna twice and was very impressed, but I hadn’t met or heard about Crawford. To win so handily, though, Crawford must have been formidable, right? I decided to investigate to see if I could pinpoint Crawford’s campaign strength.

1. Policy Positions. Perhaps, I thought, Crawford’s policy positions were more in line with the district, and he did a better job laying them out. I went to his website and clicked on the heading “issues” and got boxes reading, “Pro-Life,” “Pro-2nd Amendment,” “Pro-Free Trade,” “Pro-Right to Work,” “Pro-States Rights,” and “Anti-Cap and Trade,” and “Anti-Mandatory Health Insurance.”

That didn’t sound too Democratic to me, so I clicked on each box seeking his explanations. (Double Click). (Double Click). Nothing. You see, those headings weren’t hotlinks. Those headings were the policy statements in total.

2. PR Campaign. Was Crawford’s media operation better? When I clicked on his website for “news,” it read, “Coming soon.” I’m sorry, but he just won a primary, but he didn’t even have a victory statement?

3. Dollars. Hanna raised $111,000 in the cycle, which is not bad in a strong Republican district. In contrast, Crawford’s website says he won’t take money from donors but would self-finance his entire campaign. If he wants to Perot it, alrighty then. Under federal law, however, any candidate who spends more than $1,000 must register as a “campaign committee.” Crawford hasn’t registered. This means that, as of today, it is almost certain that Crawford has spent less on becoming a congressman this year than I've spent on Redbox.

4. Resume. Tim Crawford went to Vincennes and Ball State but didn’t graduate from either. Crawford wants you know that between 2002-2004, he worked as a server at Longhorn Steakhouse. Between 2005 and now, he’s worked with three different construction companies as an “estimator.” Crawford’s community service experience consists of “playing rugby with the Carmel Dad’s Club between 1996-1999.” Did I mention that, according to Jim Shella, Crawford’s business address is a P.O. Box at a Fishers UPS store?

However could Hanna compete with that?

How about a Bachelor’s in Biology from St. Louis University, an M.D. from the University of Missouri, a residency in internal medicine at the University of Iowa, and an oncology fellowship at IU? Or how about the fact Dr. Hanna is considered a world leader in the treatment and research of lung cancer, is the Chairman of the Hoosier Oncology Group, or runs a non-profit with his wife called “Cancer-Free Lungs” that aims to reduce teen smoking? Did I tell you that the Indianapolis Business Journal dubbed Nasser one of their 40 Under 40, or that he has a picturesque family (Crawford makes no reference to anybody but himself).

5. Party Service. Every once in a while, you get a guy who isn’t about high fallutin’ credentials, deep pockets, or media savvy. He’s just the guy everybody knows because he's laboring in the trenches for the party. Maybe that’s how Crawford won. Oh, wait. Crawford admitted to Shella that he has worked during past elections as a Republican party judge and just voted Democrat in 2008 as a ballot tactic.

Folks, what’s left except for the obvious and ugly truth? An awful lot of Democrats in the 6th District of Indiana are too xenophobic to vote for a guy named Nasser, even though he was born and raised in a small town in Missouri. I can envision some of their Ritz voices now. “Nasser? Rhymes with Yasir! Guy might be a terrorist!”

Understand that this is not a blanket indictment of the Democratic Party. In fact, the leadership of the party – the county chairs, ward chairs, and the precinct committeepersons of the 6th District – overwhelmingly supported Dr. Hanna. Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Keith Clock said of Crawford, “He’ll find no support from our party at all.”

But the party can’t absolve itself completely either. Nearly 10,000 people who self-identify enough with the Democratic Party to ask for a D ballot in an R-dominated district and, in so doing, forfeit their chance to vote in a Republican Congressional primary where their vote might matter, passed on a guy for no other reason than his name. (In the future, if you don't know the candidates, don't vote).

What I find most tragic about last Tuesday is that in 1998, Bobby Hidalgo Kern, a man who was convicted of forgery and who would periodically impersonate a female judge he admired, won the Democratic Party primary for what was then Indiana’s 6th Congressional District.


Kern’s opponent was R. “Nag” Nagarajan. Need I say more? Why do that when I can just quote the 6th District Chair at the time, Allan Raches:

Nag is a fine candidate, but his name conjures up some Middle East monster for voters, I guess.”

The then-6th, now 5th District of Indiana hasn’t progressed in the past decade, and it’s a shame that should hang over the entire party until we address it.

Lest Republicans take delight in this post, know that you’d do worse. You just haven’t found out because you can’t even recruit someone with a name like Nasser Hanna to run on your ticket.

But Democrats have to take the log out of their own eyes.

To Dr. Hanna, I want to apologize twice. First, I apologize for some in my party who haven't embraced inclusion. While I would certainly feel demoralized were I you, I hope you will realize that this result is precisely why you are so desperately needed as a Democrat – so that you can continue to do great things, stay active in the party, and root out some ingrained prejudices. But, second, I want to apologize for not telling you when I met you to spend your money now and not take somebody with better ballot placement for granted.

As I wrote yesterday, having a strange sounding name might not get you beat if you’re known, but it sure will if you aren’t.


Friday, May 7, 2010

"Name Combat" Shows Hoosier Nativism?

This might surprise some folks, but my lovely wife is not particularly political. This pays huge dividends because she's one of the world's best sounding boards. If she sees a campaign ad and hates it, I'll call a candidate and tell them to change it because I know it'll flop.

The other night I involved her in an experiment. Without giving specifics, I asked her to look at three lists of candidates and predict how they would fare by ranking them in order from most votes to least.

(Get a pencil and play along. Don't look down until you've ranked how these candidates will finish).



As many Democrats active in the party will know, this is an actual ballot for Democratic state convention delegate. Here is how these candidates finished (with my Wife's predictions in parentheses):

1. VANESSA SUMMERS (1) - 154 votes - 38.69%
2. KATE SWEENEY BELL (2) - 53 votes - 13.32%
3. GLORIA (GLO) YVONNE ELEY (4)- 50 votes - 12.56%
4. UNA OSILI (7) - 47 votes - 11.81%
5. SANFORD GARNER (5) - 35 votes - 8.79%
6. KRISTIA ALLEN GREEN (3) - 35 votes - 8.79%
7. VICTORIA MARA RUTT (7) - 15 votes - 3.77%
8. KISHAN RANASINGHE (8)- 9 votes - 2.26%



The results:

1. LAURA SCHENKEL (1) - 104 votes - 24.47%
2. KEITH JOHNSON (2) - 82 votes - 19.29%
3. ANNETTE S. BIESECKER (3)- 80 votes - 18.82%
4. JULIANA A. FASHANU (5) - 61 votes - 14.35%
5. FRED R. BIESECKER (4) - 52 votes - 12.24%
6. HARINI RAJAGOPALAN (6) - 46 votes - 10.82%



The results:

1. REX C. EARLY (3) - 2,663 votes - 16.74%
2. LAURA ALERDING (1) - 1,924 votes - 12.10%
3. SCOTT SCHNEIDER (5) - 1,809 votes - 11.37%
4. DIANA J. HUNTER (2) - 1,796 votes - 11.29%
5. PATRICIA A. SCHNEIDER (4) - 1,730 votes - 10.88%
6. CHRISTOPHER CONNER (6) - 1,613 votes - 10.14%
7. WILLIAM G. SCHNEIDER (7) - 1,515 votes - 9.52%
8. BRYDEN CORY (8) - 1,017 votes - 6.39%
9. J HOPKINS (9) - 930 votes - 5.85%
10. CARLOS F. LAM (10) - 910 votes - 5.72%

How does a mostly apolitical person who doesn't know Vanessa Summers is a state representative pick her first? How does that person pick 5 of 8 in that round dead on? How does that person miss getting the correct order in Round Two completely accurate by one slot? How does that person snag in perfect order the 5 low vote getters in Round Three?

It doesn't matter if my wife has ever understood her prediction method or articulated it, she's intuitively picked up what iPOPA calls his "Name Combat Theorems." For the rookies, they are:

(1) Many people will vote for an office, even if they know nothing about the candidates. People like to "finish" things, and moreover, to not vote is an admission we didn't do our homework as good citizens. Accordingly, many people (probably myself included) will rationalize and tell ourselves, "Well, of course, we have enough information to vote. I heard about that candidate from my best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend who heard it from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors."

(2) On a completely partisan (primary) or non-partisan (school board) ballot, the people identified in #1 will vote using the following principles:

(a) If a woman runs against a woman, the one with the name that is either more familiar or "cool" without being too "weird" will almost always prevail over any woman with a funny-sounded, overly exotic, or "foreign" sounding name.

(b) If a woman runs against a man, she will prevail over a man, provided they share equally-familiar names. This is because women constitute a higher percentage of the population already, plus they're more likely to follow gender identity as a voting prompt. However, if the woman's name is too "out there," even some women will break for the man.

(c) If a man runs against a man, apply Rule A.

I have a corollary about nicknames in parentheses, which is that candidates will either be rewarded or punished, depending on whether the nickname is deemed more folksy and charming or more embarrassing by the constituents.

The last part is critical because, just like with all these rules, whether something is "common," "American," or "foreign," is defined by the majority of the voters comprising the voting pool.

This makes the corollary difficult to apply unless you really know the area. For example, did Sarah "Doodle Bug" Chumbley get enough votes to tie for Democratic precinct committeeperson with Julanne Dubois in Warren Township Precinct 5 because of the nickname, or did she not win outright because of it?

But let's go back to my wife's results.

In Round One, my wife tabbed Vanessa Summers because she has the "best name" in this pool, following by Kate Bell. She also put Victoria Rutt in the bottom. Yes, Victoria is a common and even "pretty" name but "in a rutt" is the subconscious marker, which is why Vickie's in the cellar.

Now, people will rightly say, "Come on! Maybe Ms. Rutt and Kishan just didn't work and don't attend any party meetings. Maybe it has nothing to do with their names!" This is true. My wife had Una Osili finishing seventh, undoubtedly not knowing that Una is the wife of Secretary of State candidate Vop Osili, and an outstanding professor in her own right. I'm not saying a "strange" name will get you defeated if you are known, but it will if you aren't.

In Round Two, my wife predicted Laura Schenkel first over her fiancee Keith Johnson, and that's where 22 other folks took their ballot (sorry, dude!). Both names are pretty common, so the woman prevails (though maybe she talks to the neighbors more, too.) In the truest application of my theorem, my wife predicts Annette Biesecker will pull more votes than her husband with the exact same last name. (My wife doesn't know Annette might be better known from when she was a candidate for prosecutor).

In Round Three, my wife picked Laura Alerding first (she finished second) over another common name, Rex Early, because my wife didn't know Early had been the state Republican party chair and Ann Delaney's foil for years on Indiana Week in Review. And, yet, somehow she still gets Early in the top three. She also accurately predicts that missing full first name J. Hopkins will take a hit, but not as bad as a guy with two non-Waspy names, "Carlos" and "Lam."

This got me wondering whether "Carl May" would have won his Republican primary. Republicans will say Marvin Scott won because of "name recognition." Doesn't that prove my point? Even when party leaders slate a guy, the not-as-plugged-in Republican voters will take a four-time defeated candidate with a common name over a guy named "Carlos."

WAYNE E. HARMON. . . . . . . 4,727 18.74
CARLOS MAY . . . . . . . . 9,320 36.95
MARVIN B. SCOTT. . . . . . . 11,173 44.30

If you think I'm wrong on "name combat," please explain how Bob Kern, a guy who was sentenced to two years in prison for forgery, got 2,148 votes in the Democratic 7th District Congress primary (which Congressman Carson dominated) but Carl Kakasuleff only got 737. I know Carl's comedy is so bad as to be criminal, but still.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tuesday Results Show Democrat Strength, Serve as Bad Omen for Williams

You're probably thinking, "Come on! Tuesday's election results have been picked over by blogger buzzards like a three-day old zebra carcass on the Serengeti!" Sorry, but there's still meat on dem bones.

The main storyline locally is that the Democratic Party's slated candidates fared extremely well. Sheriff candidate Colonel John Layton received 61% of the vote in his race against Mark Brown, while prosecutor candidate Terry Curry received 64% against current Marion County Assessor Greg Bowes. Countywide, in fact, the only slated candidate who lost was Charles Gaddy, who was defeated by Maxine King, the incumbent Small Claims Judge in Wayne Township. King's victory further cements my hypothesis that African-American woman are natural slate busters, in particular when their names are at the top of the alphabet. For historical evidence, see Billie Breaux (Jean, too, I think), Kim Brown, Linda Brown, and Julia Carson. I'm sure I'm missing others, so throw them in my comment box.

Anyway, Tuesday was well-oiled Democratic party machinery on display.

If Democratic mayoral contender Brian Williams was contemplating going through slating in 2011, he can't be now. If the Democratic Party's heavyweights (or "insiders" if you prefer) can rope so many of their more detached kindred spirits to support Curry and Layton, imagine how persuasive they'll be among their Precinct Committeepersons (PCs).

Further, while I'm still calculating the numbers, quite a few of the PCs that came from the Williams camp's initial submission of close to 200 new PCs were defeated on Tuesday, making his slating prospects even more gloomy, though Williams did succeed in placing over 100 in empty precincts, and those folks with stay. Nonetheless, I believe we've entered the "primary planning phase" for the Williams campaign.

Across the aisle, the Republican Party's main guy, Dennis Fishburn only captured 55% in a race against Bart McAtee.

Some may rightfully contend that my comparison is unfair because neither Bowes nor Brown had the money McAtee did. Had McAtee been unable to afford his last week radio barrage, Fishburn might have weighed in around 62-64%, just like the Dems. Maybe, but McAtee was a guy rank and file GOP apparatchiks branded a patronage sopping turncoat, and the fact they couldn't convince their less ideologically committed brethren to believe it tells you that the operation ruptured along the communication chain.

This notion is reinforced by the fact the GOP's slated candidate for 7th District Congress, Carlos May, lost with 37% in a three-way race to perennial candidate for something, Marvin Scott. Scott didn't have a last (or any minute) media blitz. How do you explain his victory? Many will contend that "Marvin Scott" name ID trumped all. If so, the GOP foot soldiers failed to dissuade their own from selecting a guy who got bucked on all of his four prior ballot rodeos (U.S. House - 1994, U.S. House - 1996, U.S. Senate - 2000, U.S. House - 2004).

(As a quick aside, don't you love how the Republican Party's "new leadership" consists of Dan Burton, Dan Coats, and Marvin Scott, three guys who were on the ballot in 1996? It's like the GOP is using Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine for candidate recruitment.)

Did "nativism" or prejudice cost Carlos May? Stay tuned....

...up next...

...A Shameful Moment for the Democratic Party...and.....

...Let's Play Name Combat!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Primary Result Confirmation: "G.O.P." Does Not Mean "Go Out Peacefully"

The tea party has been cancelled. Well, at least in Indiana, where the only thing that kept the Republican Party from “shaking up Washington” last night was self-imploding ambition and arrogance.

In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate race, Dan Coats limped across the finish line with just under 40%, while Indiana state senator Marlin “I’m from a farm” Stutzman finished with 29%, former Congressman John "keep a nuke in your garage" Hostettler got 22%, and newbies Don Bates, Jr. and Richard "over my dead body" Behney picked up 4.5% and 4.2% respectively.

Hostettler was directly critical of Coats’ voting record on guns and "radical" Supreme Court Justices. Stutzman was as critical, though he used proxies to essentially say Coats was conservativism’s aged, Benedict Arnold. Had either Hostettler or Stutzman stepped aside, I am reasonably confident Dan Coats would not be the GOP candidate. (To the GOP voters, I say, “Thank you” for giving my party the opponent who ensures that the NRA will endorse Democrat Brad Ellsworth).

In the GOP’s 5th district free-for-all, Congressman Dan Burton rebuffed six opponents with an 29.7%, a jaw-droppingly anemic number for an incumbent. Luke Messer got 27.6%, repeat candidate John McGoff got 18.8%, Mike Murphy got 8.9%, and Brose “Who am I, and Why Am I Here” McVey got 8.5%.

In this one, I know that if any of Burton's opponents had stepped aside, Burton would not have to miss congressional votes to play golf any more.

Each Burton opponent publicly said he needed to step aside, but not one could bring himself to “take one for the team.” By hanging on to the bitter end, each said, “I’m more important than moving our party forward.” I assure you they all concluded that if Burton won, they'd have a chance to take his place in the future, but if one of the other guys won, they'd kiss the seat goodbye for another thirty years.

For Messer, ambition worked. By amassing 27.6%, he put himself at the front of the cue to fill the seat if Burton retires, or if he still shows weak public support in two years (he will). Messer's strong showing will allow him to chisel off money and support from the others by saying, “Which one of us is most likely to win this thing? Look at the history.” In other words, even though arrogance kept Messer in, it’s at least understandable. Same with McGoff, who actually put his arrogance on display by talking about “earning” the right to serve, as if a credible but losing campaign makes him best qualified to serve in Congress.

But what about Mike Murphy and Brose McVey, the dynamic duo of spoilerism? I know they have friends because they each got over 9,000 votes. Why didn't anybody tell them they would become the political equivalent of the insanely off-key guys from the first week of American Idol? Were I in the GOP (shudder) and in the 5th District, I’d serve them both potato salad that I had sitting in the sun for a day or two at the next GOP club meeting. Dan Burton needs to send them free subscriptions of American Rifleman because they were his biggest contributors.

In sum, the GOP said for months that its party needed a new direction, but not one of its ballot leaders made the sacrifice necessary to deliver it.

Coming shortly....

What Tuesday certainly says about party strength in Marion County....

What Tuesday arguably says about prejudice in Indiana


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Election Day Roundup for Marion County!

Ahhhh! Time to wake up and smell the democracy! In Marion County, both parties have intriguing matchups that will test their organizational strength.

On the Republican side, Bart McAtee is running for sheriff against the party's slated candidate, Dennis Fishburn, a guy who until the party stalwarts started chipping in, had raised only slightly above the square root of zero. On April 9, 2010, however, Fishburn reported raising $54,000 in the quarter with $24,000 cash on hand (c-o-h).

Fishburn's report makes for interesting reading. On the upside, every living Hoosier with the name Fishburn donated, so at least you know the family reunions are cordial. Unfortunately, Indiana law requires candidates to identify by name and address every donor who gives $100 or more, and Team Fishburn botched up that operation. There are several names who break the reporting threshold but no address is provided. (For example, Dave Young and Randall Elliott gave $700 and $500 respectively, and we have absolutely no information about them. But my personal favorite entry (and I am not making this up) reads simply:

"Ponytail" Paul

Nice to know a potential candidate for sheriff is getting cash from guys with hitman nicknames.

Also, on April 9, 2010, Fishburn actually reports a total of eleven donations of $200 each from “anonymouses” (if that’s the plural). Oh, Dennie! Your treasurer screwed the pooch, my friend. You were obviously trying to keep these donors below the radar, but unfortunately, they can only donate up to $99 to do that. Yes, you filed an amended report claiming that it was just $2,700 in "unitemized cash," but we already know you're lying because you broke them down into $200 increments on the initial report. (I'm guessing these are guys working for McAtee now who can't stand him?)

For his part, McAtee has been a money horse. He started the quarter with $89,000, and raised another $76,000, and he spent it all by 4-9-2010 securing radio time and paying his media consultants well in advance. Then in the eleven days after the 4-9 deadline, he filed 6 supplemental reports for large donations, pulling in a total of $26,500.

McAtee's radio ad, which has been in heavy rotation on WXNT shows like Glen Beck, is typical, tough guy hockum that revs up the law and order crowd. In the ad, McAtee states that he will never release a prisoner without a court order..."even if they have to sleep in my office." Great idea! Maybe if you can also teach them some computer skills, they can go into the workforce upon release.

This is a test for the Marion County GOP because last go round, McAtee (gasp) endorsed Democrat Frank Anderson and, according to a wickedly funny mailer sent out by the GOP, finagled almost $500,000 worth of McAtees onto Anderson's payroll. If McAtee prevails, it will tell you pretty conclusively that either Republicans think Frank Anderson is a pretty good sheriff or Marion County GOP party muscle is more atrophied than Abe Vigoda's biceps. I vote for A & B.

The Democrats face a similar showdown in their contests for sheriff and prosecutor. In the Sheriff's race, slated Democrat Colonel John Layton has been going like gangbusters on the money chase with $133,000 c-o-h after the April 9 deadline, and he has cut his own "I'm a general bad(expletive)" law enforcement ad:

While most people in party circles (myself included) are impressed with Mark Brown, Layton seems a more natural fit as a guy who had 35 years experience in the sheriff's office and a leadership role under Anderson's entire tenure. (Brown is a 24-year veteran of IPD).

The most bizarre aspect of this contest, though, has been the blowback some African-American leaders, including Congressman Andre Carson, have received for supporting Layton, a caucasian, over Brown, an African-American. This nicely cements my belief that black folk bear race burdens white people will never have. When I made my decision to support Carson over David Orentlicher, nobody white said anything, even in a whisper. Ironically, some African-American leaders in the party wanted David O.'s head on a plate because he ignored the slating decision and ran against Carson in the primary. The idea that now some of these same folks are upset because the Congressman is respecting the slate is the epitome of crazy. (You do you, Congressman. I, and a multitude of others, have your back!).

In the prosecutor's race, Marion County Assessor Greg Bowes has released a barrage of Youtube ads. Each starts with some catchy Muzak playing while Bowes' logo is displayed on top a background of a blurred, undulating flag (think being really drunk at a VFW hall). Then a title screen appears, which states, "Greg Bowes Talks About...(Justice)(Freedom)(The Constitution)(Leadership)(Hard Work)(Public Officials & White Collar Crime)(Apple Pie).

Okay, I made up the thing about Apple pie, but you get my point. When you use these kind of topics, you have to expect a degree of schmaltz and some platitudes, and Bowes does not disappoint.

Of course, the ad format of a candidate talking to an unseen person is genius, which is why this approach is commonly employed by service industries. First, you don't suffer the bad acting that you normally get in ads where a candidate is looking straight into the camera. Second, it's somehow easier psychologically to accept that Bowes isn't trying to con you because, even though we all know his ads are made for public consumption, we're more like tourists observing than part of the conversation.

The problem is that unless you have Michael Bloomberg money, there's no way you can get these ads anywhere except on Youtube or on your website. Each of Bowes' segments are between 90-120 seconds in length, and most local campaigns are lucky if they can do two or three 30-second ads during the entire campaign. Will people who see these like Bowes? Probably, but those hundred people will also roll their eyes because only half of the segments have dairy-free "scripts." You can see them all here.

Bowes' opponent, Terry Curry, held a dominant fundraising lead over Bowes on April 9, and more importantly, has been the beneficiary of a phone banking program, proving that slating has its benefits. If both Curry and Layton carry the day as expected, even with inferior ballot placement in both cases, it will show the Marion County Democratic Party is stretching its legs.

On the GOP national side, the GOP's day, I fear, will come to epitomize the phrase more equal less. Dan Coats is expected to win the five-way fight for the GOP nomination, but not because he's wowed anybody, rather because nobody else in the fiel can get a higher plurality. The same thing will likely be true in Dan Burton's Congressional seat. Sigh.

Stay tuned...