Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Never-Ending Fundraising Operation? C’est La Vie. Now Let's Move On!

It’s not surprising most candidates hate raising money. After all, who wants to be the equivalent of the friend you have to avoid because they sell Amway, Avon, or dietary supplements and you fear any interaction opens the door for “the ask?”

But is there a time when it’s not only unpleasant, but also actually gauche to raise money?

I ask because some 2010 Democratic candidates for countywide office and their campaign staffs grumbled that mayoral and city-county council candidates raised money this year.

I remembered this when, a few weeks ago, I received an invite for a high-priced fundraiser for prosecutor-elect Terry Curry hosted by Marion County Democratic Party Chair Ed Treacy and Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan. Yesterday, I got an email touting a second low-dollar event for Curry at Sun King Brewery. The dates? December 2nd and 8th, 2010, respectively.

Democratic candidates and activists focusing on 2011 now have their chance to bristle about a guy who hasn’t even taken office raising money for 2014.

They shouldn’t. The 2010 candidates and their staffs were wrong, and anybody who gripes about the Curry fundraisers now is equally wrong.

Excluding the ban on Indiana legislative candidates raising donations while the Indiana General Assembly is in session, there is no “off season” for fundraising. Ever.

When people complain about somebody raising money in their year, they’re really complaining about their own lack of fundraising traction. Anybody who is going to give to Candidate A will do it. When a prospective donor tells Candidate A, “I don’t have the money because I gave to candidates B, C, and D already,” it’s the same as when your dating interest tell you he is she is not ready for commitment. To paraphrase Chris Rock, they’re just not ready to commit to you.

But more critically, money is a transferrable good, and it behooves any party to have as much of it in the hands of as many of its candidates as it can get with the hopes it will travel.

Some people can raise money from certain donors when others can’t. I can easily envision people who would not traditionally give to Democrats (including Curry) who might fall over themselves now to throw money at the newly-elected prosecutor.

If Emily Post on Political Fundraising dictated that you sideline your money horses, you never get to see what they can pull in for the good of other candidates.

And that’s the real issue – will a candidate raising money in an off-year share the spoils of war?

With Curry, I’d say it’s a given. I haven’t tabulated the total, but I noticed at least one donation to Curry for $12,500 from the Marion County Democratic Party. For Curry to set the Dems up for 2011 would be a fitting token of appreciation.

As long as that’s Curry’s plan, there’s no naughty here, and Santa should reward him with two huge holiday fundraisers.

UPDATE: Several people have suggested that these events are to retire campaign debts, and there's no doubt that's true. But if you fall in the "it's unfair, waaa waaa!" crowd, that would actually be worse because political dollars are being taken out of circulation that could be used for 2011 and there won't even be anything left to share. iPOPA makes no distinctions on contributions regardless of their form, time, or purpose and says simply: If you are a candidate, quit worrying about what others do, run YOUR race, and raise YOUR money.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Lugar Shows Richard Mourdock and Mike Delph the Uphill Climb

According to the blog of Wish-TV political guru, Jim Shella, Indiana's senior senator, Richard Lugar, has a poll that shows he has the highest favorable rating (66%) among Hoosier Republican politicians, including Governor Mitch Daniels (59%).

Shella writes, "Curiously, Lugar included potential primary challengers Richard Mourdock and Mike Delph in the poll. Mourdock is at 14% and Delph is at 7%."

There's nothing curious about including Mourdock and Delph. It's ingenious politics. You know who responds to polls? The "smart money crowd" (a/k/a lobbyists, interest groups, and party officials who don't want to get frozen out if they support a Lugar opponent and lose).

A well-known political maxim is that if you shoot at the king, you better kill him. Lugar is trying to show he's bullet-proof. And given that Lugar has an underwhelming $2.3 million in the bank with only two years to go, scaring the smart money into his column before one of his prospective opponents can get traction is critical.

I'm probably in the minority on this, but I think Lugar could be in jeopardy unless the GOP plays nice in 2012. In a general election? Without question, Lugar could still dominate.

But what if we see a GOP primary fight between Congressman Mike Pence and Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman? Pence would fuel a high-octane cultural conservative/Tea Party turnout, and Lugar's statesmanship, outspoken role in nuclear anti-proliferation (and castigation of his own party for not getting on board), and occasional kind word toward the President make him too internationalist and soft for the Pence constituency.

If such a showdown in the Guv's race were to materialize, and Lugar were to square off with only one primary opponent, he could be doomed. The "only one opponent" piece is crucial though. The Indiana GOP has already showed it was in the market for something new when it only gave Dan "Sugar" Coats thirty-nine percent of the vote. Had Marlin Stutzman not been in a four-way field, he'd be a senator, not a representative. Any more than one opponent, and Lugar is a shoe-in.

The key to Lugar's survivability will be his next two years of voting. If he doesn't placate the neocons and deficit hawks in his own party, they'll be eager to trade in for a newer, more idealogically-pure model. Lugar would be eighty in 2012.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

City-County Councillor Paul Bateman Pays the Price: Nice Knowing You!

"What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" - Matthew 16:26

Minister Paul Bateman, the Democratic City-County Councillor who broke party rank to give approval to Mayor Greg Ballard's short-sighted and short-monied fifty-year parking lease to ACS, might as well vote with Ballard and the Republican caucus for the remainder of his short time in office in exchange for a job with the City or with a city contractor because this is almost certainly his last term.

Steve Talley, the former council president who resigned the District 11 seat, which Bateman assumed, to take a job in the Department of Public Safety in the Peterson Administration in 2005, has decided he'd like his seat back. Needless to say, party faithful and elected officials in Lawrence Township are strongly supportive. Talley already did an impressive amount of door-to-door for other Democratic candidates in 2010, so he's undoubtedly reconnected with many of his constituents.

In his short time on the council, Bateman had already stained the Democratic Party's brand when, in late 2009, a bankruptcy trustee sought a nearly $1.3 million judgment against Bateman and others for allegedly using money, or authorizing the use of such monies, from the Russell Foundation for personal expenses, such as clothing, dental work, and purchase of a fleet of vehicles. Bateman was never charged criminally, and he made the right decision to step down from the Council's Ethics Committee when the investigation was ongoing. But I never understood how someone could be so integral to an organization while knowing so little about expenses of over half of its total donations toward non-charity related activities.

Moreover, that cloud was hardly one the party needed hanging over it while it was trying to contend that the GOP had bred a "culture of corruption" via Tim Durham, Lincoln Plowman, and Carl Brizzi.

In the interest of full disclosure, when I served as campaign manager for Pam Carter's attorney general race in 1992, Paul Bateman was one of the first people on board. Bateman was working with the UAW then out of Anderson, he was very helpful to our effort, and I've liked him personally since then. In fact, even today, if I saw Councillor Bateman on the street, I'd shake his hand and wish him well.

But not as a councillor.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mayor Ballard Gives Pacers Eleven Million Per Year, They'll Save Twenty-Five?!?

I've written before on how my objection to the City bailing out the Indiana Pacers to the tune of eleven million per year for the next three years is informed by the fact the team's financial woes are caused by the NBA's terrible business model. I've also said NBA Commissioner David Stern is coming to the rescue.

Stern has said the NBA will pursue more aggressive revenue sharing to bring it in line with the NFL's extremely successful model. Any change to the existing revenue sharing model will put more money in the Pacers' hands as a "small market team."

But more importantly, Stern has consistently said the owners will try to lower the salary cap. He just hadn't floated a number until now.

According to Stern, the owners will ask for a thirty-three percent reduction in NBA players' salaries.

NBA owners pay their players roughly $2 billion, and the Pacers, with a payroll of $64,368,000 (19th highest of the 30 teams), account for 3.21 percent of that total.

So what would a thirty-three percent reduction ($800 million total) mean for the Pacers on a pro rata basis? An annual savings of $25,680,000 per year.

Many may rightfully contend that the players won't agree to a thirty-three percent reduction. Fair enough. But if the league gets only half of its requested savings ($400 million for a twenty-percent reduction), the Pacers still save $12,840,000 per year, or more than what the City is giving them.

Even if your goal was to keep the team at all costs, would you agree to give the Pacers taxpayer's money while knowing that a year from now they will be sitting on tens of millions more?

Here's your answer.

Not unless you were a mayor who (a) either has lousy business sense; or (b)made a pledge to GOP bigwig and Pacers CEO, Jim Morris, and/or to Bob Grand, a/k/a "the most influential man in the Ballard administration," a/k/a "the former President of the Capital Improvement Board, a/k/a "partner at Barnes and Thornburg, the Pacers' law firm."

One wonders exactly how many more times the Mayor can take an idea that is not bad in principle (see Citizens Gas sale, parking renovation) and craft lousy deals that benefit the politically influential to the detriment of average taxpayers.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Race Card Fever Is Catching!

Apparently, Democratic City-County Councillor Paul Bateman isn't the only one willing to join in the Mayor's race card game.

None other than T. Garrett Benjamin, the senior pastor of Light of the World Christian Church, is now personally lobbying members of the City-County Council to vote yes for a "once in a life time" opportunity "to put a minority firm on top and make them one of the largest in the country."

It boggles the mind that folks as astute as Reverend Benjamin cannot see that the City can do this on its own, keep tens (if not hundreds) of millions more than we will with this contract, AND STILL make Global the principal contractor, thereby giving it the experience and scope to compete nationally.

Minority business enterprises should absolutely be given "the opportunity to compete and prosper," as Reverend Benjamin contends. But our city doesn't need to sell its soul to ACS to give them that opportunity. Why do so many think it does?


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mayor Ballard Plays Race Card, Democrat Paul Bateman Picks It Up

This past Saturday I finally met Mayor Greg Ballard. I had just finished a segment on 1310 AM - The Light, during which I criticized the Mayor’s parking deal. He was waiting outside the studio, so I introduced myself and shook his hand. He glared at me like I’d walked on his lunch.

Never would I have imagined how badly he’d walk all over himself politically during the sixty minutes that followed, or that it would be a Democrat who would be coming to his rescue tonight.

The Mayor's radio appearance was calamitous. He used condescending phrases like, “Let me tell you something” while alternating between lecturing and being dismissive. When one man, obviously picking up on what the rest of the world was sensing, actually said that the Mayor sounded arrogant, the Mayor’s response was, “I have no idea what that is about.”

Oh, we know, Mr. Mayor.

But that’s no excuse for the racial demagoguery he is employing to sell the ACS fifty-year parking meter lease.

Being painfully objective, I am duty-bound to say that race in Marion County is ever-present in politics, especially in my party. Race gets harnessed frequently, and on occasion, abused. (See Al Sharpton, appearance on November 17).

But usually when people stoke a racial fire, they are trying to mold others’ perceptions or interpretations of events, and you can’t objectively say they’re right or wrong. Is Mayor Ballard indifferent to the bruises of Brandon Johnson or does he care deeply while being saddled with a tough Merit Board decision? A race-based appeal (pointing out that a white dude might not care all that much) might move people to the former view.

But what the Mayor is doing now isn't race-based persuasion; it's deceit in the form of omitting an unshakeable fact.

The Mayor asserted that his parking lease would make minority-business enterprise (MBE) Global Parking System, Inc., a national player and help it grow it’s 60% plus minority workforce. Repeating what he had said previously on Amos in the Afternoons, the Mayor quizzed with incredulity, “I don’t know how somebody could be against that!”

You get it, black folks? The Mayor is really looking out for you by specifically looking out for one company. If you are against this deal, you must be against Hal Darring, Global's CEO, which means you must be against black people.

But here’s the Mayor's obvious deceit through an even more obvious omission. If the City of Indianapolis was as psyched about Hal as the Mayor claims, it could pay for new meters itself (using bonds if necessary, as suggested by Bill Hudnut), make additional millions by cutting out ACS as the middle man, and still make Global its primary contractor.

Nobody could think the only way Hal gets more city work is by ACS fleecing the taxpayers on this deal, right?


Democratic (and African-American) City-County Councillor Paul Bateman, whose district cuts through most of Lawrence Township, is going to vote for the Mayor's deal for one reason: to help Global Parking and Hal Darring. Given that an awful lot of this administration's marquee deals were designed to reward particular businesses and/or individual's, who can criticize Bateman's motive?

But in supporting this deal, Bateman has bought into the disingenuous, racial crockery the Mayor is selling.

But wait! Say you're ACS and you want this deal badly. Maybe you sell it to Paul Bateman by letting him know that if ACS scores, it'll let Global come along when it rolls its pro-privatizatized monopoly, parking meter cabal into the next city. Maybe the real value for Global isn't gaining the experience or increased scale, but rather, the distinction of being ACS' go-to MBE subcontractor.

Fair enough. But if ACS is really interested in Global as a subcontractor, that interest shouldn't fall off just because ACS doesn't get an Indy deal, should it, Councillor Bateman? So who is really getting played?

In addition to tossing out the race card, the Mayor also implicitly admitted his administration's incompetence and political cowardice during his radio interview.

Ask the Mayor why the City can’t handle its own parking, and he’ll tell you parking “isn’t a core competency,” and he’ll tell you how meters stayed bagged too long, and the city loses revenue. First of all, as the Mayor admitted on air, we already have a private company doing the collections and ticket writing. That means there are two possible parties who are screwing up the bagging of meters: (1) the city; or (2) the contractor. If it’s “the city” that means YOU are admitting, Mr. Mayor, that you don’t know how to manage people. Make me manager for a day, and I'll tell every employee that any meter I find bagged for more than two hours more than necessary will result in the firing of the employee who was responsible for the meter. Problem solved.

Now, if the bagging problem is the the contractor’s fault, you are admitting, Mr. Mayor, that you don’t know how to manage a contract, so the idea we’d hand you a long-term one is pretty bananas, wouldn’t you say?

Friends, this is real simple. Over the next fifty years, meter users in Indianapolis will pay an estimated $1.0-$1.5 billion. If we take the Mayor's proposal, ACS will get between $400-$800 million of that money. If we don't take the Mayor's proposal, we'll get an additional $400-$800 million minus the costs of the equipment, upgrades, and management expenses.

Now, you'll all say, "Yeah, but it's ACS' management savvy that's getting that $1.5 billion. Not at all. This isn't ACS capturing greater market share with innovative product lines. The new money will come from increases from adding new meters, raising the rates, and technology that reduces "spillover," those situations where patron B uses the remaining time left on a meter from Patron A's change. Under this new contract, you won't be able to do that.

And therein lies the Mayor's political cowardice. One thing he also said on 1310 AM was that parking rates haven't gone up in twenty years. Notice the inactive verb? He doesn’t say “we” haven’t raised the meter rates while speaking about all the former mayors and himself. In Mayor Ballard's world, the meters are all Johnny Five's that can spring to life and adjust their own rates.

(Pssst! Mr. Mayor, raising the meter rate is your job).

At the end of the day, this is the REAL reason the Mayor wants to hand operations over to ACS. So that when rates go up, the Mayor can act like he had nothing to do with it, which is exactly what he'll be saying when our water and wastewater rates explode two years from now.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mike Pence is "Running" for President

Many of my Republican colleagues have opined with near certainty that Mike Pence only has his sights on the Indiana Statehouse.

I doubt they're so sure now.

WRTV-6's political vet, Norm Cox, is on to something when he noticed that Pence is scheduled to speak at the Detroit Economic Club (DEC).

Why is a DEC speech significant?

Let's talk first about some political realities.

There is a perception that Americans don't trust folk too desperate to be president. This is why politicians say things like "I'm flattered by the groundswell of grassroots support" or in Pence's case, "We've been very humbled by the encouragement we've received back in Indiana and around the country."

But more importantly, no politician wants to announce a presidential exploratory committee to have it disastrously collapse for want of traction. A respectable showing and early exit in the presidential jockeying is survivable, but in a vocation where perception is reality, getting embarrassed can be a body blow, even if the goal is to elevate your profile immediately for another position (say Governor of a Midwestern state) with an eye toward a later Whitehouse run.

So what is a presidential aspirant to do?

Easy. Try to build a coalition of support while not letting anyone claim you're trying to build a coalition of support. It helps to think of politicians who run for president as your uncle who brings the guitar to the Christmas party and then guffaws, "Oh, I guess if you all want me to play a song or two, I can!" Somehow it seems less self-indulgent if they can claim they're only doing it because they're fulfilling the wishes of others.

So, let's say you're Mike Pence, the darling of social conservatives, and one knock on you is that you'll get crushed in a general election because you'll put waging a cultural war above curing America's current economic strife. What would you do?

Easy again. You'd find a prized podium like the Detroit Economic Club's (every president since Nixon has stood behind it) that captures the fancy of the CEO class, and you deliver a major address setting forth your "vision" for "economic growth, prosperity, and job creation with a plan focused on a renewal of the free market, smaller government, tax relief and reform, spending restraint, increased trade and more."

Sure, these are just the poll-tested, Tea Party/GOP talking points, but why spend time talking national economic policy if all you want is a little old governor's office?

The beauty of the DEC location is that, by staying in the industrial Midwest, Pence can say he's just talking common issues with Indiana's neighbor to the North. It's not like he's making a trip to New Hampshire. Yet.

Make no mistake, folks, Mike Pence has the train chugging along now, and if the DEC address fuels his speed by virtue of national buzz, he can always throw the track switch at the last minute toward Whitehouseville and away from Governortown.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Join iPOPA for the DEMOCRATIC TAKEOVER of "Abdul in the Morning"

The Democratic Takeover!

Please join me tomorrow morning for the DEMOCRATIC TAKEOVER version of "Abdul in the Morning" on WXNT 1430 AM from 6 - 9 a.m.

I'll be dissecting Tuesday's election results and figuring out precisely how hosed Democrats are, in addition to addressing redistricting and the criminal investigation against Secretary of State-Elect Charlie White with my in-studio guest, Jon Elrod.

We'll also discuss Mike Pence's anticipated gubernatorial run, the pickle in which that run puts Mitch Daniels, and whether Democrats have a right to be angry at Senator Evan Bayh.

I'll either make your blood boil or you'll find me "refreshingly candid." You won't go away ambivalent. Think I'm wrong?!? Tune in, and I'll prove it to you.

Township Update

After looking at a new version of the "uncertified" election results from the Marion County Clerk's Office, I can now report that while Wayne Township Small Claims Judge Maxine King did lose (though by only six votes), Wayne Township constable Bill Newman retained his office by 18 votes.

If township government survives sixty Republican members of the Indiana General Assembly, Democrats will take back both of the offices.


I Didn't Say What?!? Marvin Scott Justified in Fearing Muslim

In my election night post-mortem, I failed to mention that Congressman Andre Carson, hopefully, turned the lights out on Marvin Scott's political career (and led all Democrats in performance) with 59% of the vote.

Scott ran one of the most divisive campaigns in memory, which in this climate, is really saying something. Dr. Scott was, however, justified in fearing ONE Muslim - the one who electorally donkey-kicked his hindquarters. Let's hope the professor now realizes he needs to do more publishing and less rubbishing.

For my Democrat friends who are apoplectic on how I could forget the Congressman, or who see this as a slight, calm down. You need to understand that it's actually the highest form of praise. Andre Carson winning on election night is like the sun coming up. When you know something is going to happen without question, sometimes you just take it for granted.

But rest assured, I always know bold leadership is in the building and if AC had not been on the ticket, things could have been a lot worse.


I Said What?!?

A colleague just pointed out that in my blog post about yesterday's results, I referred to our Democratic party trustee in Warren Township, Marion County as Russ Bennett. While I'm sure that's flattering for my buddy Russ Bennett, who is a great Democrat, my party's man in Warren Township is actually JEFF Bennett, who none of us can forget.

Blogs are like gremlims - you should never feed them after midnight or bad things happen. Also, this should serve as a warning to us all - friends don't let friends post under the influence of really crappy election returns.

My apologies to Jeff - we know you, partner!


Marion County Democrats Weather Republican Onslaught; GOP Claims 60 Reps at the Statehouse?

Whether many Democrats will say it publicly, the clip below likely typifies many of their sentiments this morning. (Profanity warning!)

To quote Lawrence Township Trustee Russ Brown, Marion County was an island of blue in a red wave yesterday.

Democrats got trounced nationally, giving up control of the U.S. House of Representatives, in part, courtesy of Indiana’s 8th and 9th Congressional District losses, which served as sandwich bread for the main entrĂ©e of the Dems’ cough-up of their U.S. Senate seat to uber-lobbyist Dan Coats.

Dems got trounced in Indiana. The best performing D statewide candidate, treasurer candidate, Pete Buttigieg, garnered only 38%. Despite running against a guy being investigated by two special prosecutors, Vop Osili still got only 37%. I had speculated that Vop might poll less well than expected because of his unusual name, but apparently the only name that bothered voters yesterday was the Democrative Party’s.

Dems got trounced in local races. Depending on the outcome of the Bob Deig/Wendy McNamara race in Southwestern Indiana, the GOP will go from 48 members in the Indiana House of Representatives to 59 or 60.

Deig’s situation is a fascinating illustration on the perils of electoral musical chairs. When Senator Bayh (playing the little kid who accidentally knocks down the first domino) vacated his seat, Ellsworth went up from the 8th, a seat he would have likely kept. Then Trent Van Haaften went from state rep into Ellsworth's slot, and Deig jumped over to run in Van Haaften’s house seat, presumably thinking it would be fun to be in the house majority.

If Deig wins, which is iffy given that he holds only a 30-vote lead with 2 precincts still to be accounted for, he would have certainly become the political version of Randy Moss, but for the fact Indiana Senate Democrats somehow managed to lose four of their seventeen seats.

Deig’s vacated senate seat (which Deig might have maintained had he stayed put) was lost to Republican Jim Tones. Senate Republicans also took Connie Sipes’ open seat and knocked off Democratic senate icon, Jim Lewis, and social justice champion, Sue Errington.

The remaining Senate Democrats (a/k/a "The Unlucky Thirteen") will be able to hold their caucus meetings in the coat closet, and they may need to ask the GOP to loan them some ringers just to fill the minority chair slots on senate committees.

But amidst the smoldering wreckage, shattered glass, and charred remains arose the Democrats of Marion County, who elected Terry Curry as prosecutor with 52% and kept the sheriff, auditor, clerk, recorder, and assessor positions (Colonel John Layton, Billie Breaux, Beth White, Julie Voorhies, and Joe O’Connor, respectively).

This is huge because someone can finally look under the hood of the Daniels administration to see if they've been shadily hocking parts we need to keep the governmental engine running smoothly.

Though Democrats suffered a heart-crushing loss of State Representative John Barnes, the other Marion County newbie Dems – Representatives Mary Ann Sullivan and Ed Delaney – pulled through strongly.

Democrats also fared relatively well in township elections. Jeff Bennett and Russ Brown retained their trusteeships in Warren and Lawrence respectively, along with incumbent trustees Frank Short in Washington, Lula Patton in Pike, and Wally Akers in Center.

Other than John Barnes’ loss, the only dimming of Marion County's Democratic wattage was the body blow delivered to the entire Wayne Township government. Wayne Township Trustee David King Baird was defeated, as was constable Bill Newman and Small Claims Judge Maxine King, though the latter two races may be subject to recounts, given these losses were by 37 and 68 votes respectively. Some Democratic insiders are not broken up by Baird’s loss, as he has created some PR problems for the party, and it is an almost certain D pick-up in four years (assuming the office still exists then).

Out in Lawrence Township, party stalwart and Indianapolis Times blogger, Terry Burns, can almost certainly expect a recount, given his 118-vote victory, but for the moment, he is our Lawrence Township Constable. Also in Lawrence, Democrat Judy Conley nearly knocked off incumbent Lawrence Small Claims Judge Jim Joven, who may be facing a recount of his own.

In short, the Democratic state of affairs may be a mess nationally and statewide, but they run a tidy ship in Indianapolis.

Bring on 2011.


Monday, November 1, 2010

iPOPA on WRTV-6, leading Democratic Takeover of "Abdul In the Morning!"

iPOPA will appear on WRTV-6's election night coverage with political vet, Norm Cox, and talk show host and Indiana Barrister blogger, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz. Our first segment should run from 7-8 p.m., and another segment during the 11:00 news.

Also, iPOPA will lead a "Democrat takeover" of the "Abdul in the Morning" show on WNXT-1430 when I serve as guest host this Thursday from 6-9 a.m.

How awesome will that be for my Democrat and progressive friends? It will be the one time this week you can tune me in without having to tune Abdul out!