Monday, December 31, 2007

The Day Before a Holiday

Mitch on the Marriage Amendment

Why is it that the Governor (and his campaign and those around him) so frequently see fit to create this image of calculated ambiguity when it comes to the marriage amendment?

Two interesting quotes from a recent discussion over at Veritas Rex:

"Should the legislature vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in this session?"
"It's up to them. As a believer in traditional marriage and a supporter of the law we have on the books now, I agree with the idea of protecting it against some creative judicial ruling in the future," Daniels said.

"I do believe there are other things more important to our future,at least other things that a governor and the people around him can try to work on," he aid. "And, secondly, I'm always trying to bring this state together, and we don't have, I don't believe, the luxury of division."

I'm not sure the political environment among social conservatives will allow Mitch Daniels to continue to hold to both of his statements.

Sooner or later, the Governor will have to dance with those that brought him to the ball, or they'll find somebody else (and with gubernatorial bid rumblings from Eric Miller, there most definitely is somebody else).

Just Wait for This Mud to Fly

An interesting nonpartisan study from Notre Dame, looking at the 2002 race for the 2nd Congressional District, makes reference (PDF warning) notes some interesting mud about Jill Long Thompson that will doubtless soon be flying in the Democratic gubernatorial primary (and if not in it, then certainly later):

Alexa sent out a series of negative mailings attacking Long Thompson for allegedly voting against Medicare and bouncing twenty-one checks in the House bank scandal while in Congress.

And given that Bill Alexa was a Democratic primary challenger to Jill Long Thompson, I suspect that it won't be above Jim Schellinger (or his surrogates) to launch similar attacks.

Pot, Kettle, Black

I'm surely not the only one that notices the irony in some recent whinings and moanings from some folks over at the Indiana Democratic Party's mouthpiece blog and at a certain echo chamber.

Is the Guv right to suggest that the cost of a special election is worth trading away five months of representation in Congress?

While I understand the money argument, and am definitely sympathetic to those who are frustrated with how close the special election date will be to the May primary, I'm inclined to always default to the position that offers representation in the Congress over the one that doesn't. Of course, I don't live in the district so maybe my opinion doesn't count.

Oh, would that they have been so concerned about the 7th District being represented in Congress by someone when the late Madame Carson was missing scores of votes and hiding her ill condition from her constituents, all so that her family could cash in on a death benefit.

Daily Interesting Campaign Finance Item

From page 12 of the October 2007 campaign finance report of the Indiana Democratic State Central Committee:

Name: Pete Duncan
Address: 343 Dutch Ln., Carlinville, IL 62626-9124
Contribution: $200.00
Occupation: Student
Date: 4/26/2007

A cynical part of me thinks that a $200.00 contribution from a student in Illinois is a pretty good argument against expanding student aid.

But that’s just the cynical part of me.

~

If you know of something interesting from a campaign finance report in your area, take a minute and shoot me an email.

"Bush's Very Good Year"

From Larry Kudlow, writing in the Washington Times:

Against all odds, and despite the usual drumbeat of criticism, President Bush had a very good year.

The troop surge in Iraq is succeeding. America remains safe from terrorist attacks. And the Goldilocks economy is outperforming all expectations.

At his year-end news conference, Mr. Bush said with optimism that the economy is fundamentally sound, despite the housing downturn and the subprime credit crunch. The very next day, that optimism was reinforced with news of the best consumer spending in two years. The prophets of recessionary doom, such as former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Republican adviser Martin Feldstein, ex-Democratic Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, and bond-maven Bill Gross have been proven wrong once again.

Calendar year 2007 looks set to produce 3 percent growth in real gross domestic product, nearly 3 percent growth in consumer spending, and more than 3 percent growth in after-tax inflation-adjusted incomes.

Meanwhile, headline inflation (including food and energy) will have run at 2½ percent, with only 2 percent core inflation.

Jobs are rising more than 100,000 monthly and the stock market is set to turn in a respectable year despite enormous headwinds. Low tax rates, modest inflation, and declining interest rates continue to boost Goldilocks, which is still the greatest story never told.

Mr. Bush's optimism is well-earned, in Congress too. He has stopped a lot of bad legislation on higher taxing and spending. He won on S-CHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) and the alternative minimum tax. He mostly prevailed on domestic spending. And he got much of what he wanted on war funding without any pullout dates.

The President may well have had a good year; given what happened in 2006 it certainly was a decided uptick.

But the perception (and perception dominates politics) is that he--and for that matter the entire country--had a bad one.

The American people have tuned out George W. Bush, and they have tuned out Iraq.

It doesn't matter to them that he is doing well or had a good year.

It doesn't matter to them that the surge is working and that we are winning in Iraq.

They aren't listening anymore, and it will take something substantial, shocking, or dramatic to shake them out of their stuporous cloud of indifference and willful ignorance.

I somehow doubt that the news media will help to wake them up.

A Record of Accomplishment?

Experience of the Holiday Inn Express Variety

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Plan Has Seniors Work to Pay Property Taxes

No, not in Indiana.

New York.

But it sure seems that the Hoosier state isn't the only one with a property tax problem.

From the Associated Press:

Audrey Davison lives alone, gets a $620 Social Security check each month and worries about the sharply rising taxes on her four-bedroom house. Davison, 76, raised her family there and after 43 years, she really doesn't want to leave Greenburgh.

Greenburgh doesn't want her to leave, either.

The town is pushing a program that would let seniors work part-time, for $7 an hour, to help pay off some of their property taxes.

"People shouldn't have to sell their house, move away to a place with less taxes, leave behind their family and friends," said Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.

He envisions retired doctors mentoring schoolchildren, retired accountants helping with the town's finances, retired lawyers offering their services for a discount. But there are plenty of less-skilled jobs that need doing, he said.

"It's not like we're going to see grandma running the snowplow," he said. "There are lots of things people can do for the town and it wouldn't cost us that much to pay them."

The proposal has caused a stir in Greenburgh, a town of 90,000 in Westchester County, which has the nation's third-highest homeowner property taxes. The plan would be unusual if not unique in New York, but similar programs are considered successes in Colorado, Massachusetts, South Carolina and elsewhere.

Let me get this straight.

This town is going to take tax dollars to pay people who can't afford to pay high taxes?

Wouldn't lower taxes be a better solution?

I don't think that grandma should have to be a greeter at Wal-Mart just so that she can pay the property taxes for a house she and grandpa built forty years ago.

And grandma shouldn't have to engage in indentured servitude to the government just to pay off property tax debts either.

Fun with News Aggregators, Part XIII

Just how serious is Gretchen Clearwater?

Is she a plant?

From Bile & Blather, a lefty blog:

We finally have a challenger in Indiana, Gretchen Clearwater, but as I'm sure I've said all too often, I don't think she's very serious about it. I suspect her of being a straw candidate intended to take progressive pressure off Hill, who has been a brilliantly effective backstabber in the Congress, in my opinion.

http://www.clearwaterforcongress.com/

May she prove me wrong.

That's an angle on the Clearwater candidacy that's quite interesting, and I suppose also entirely possible.

It sure would serve to relieve pressure on Baron without really hurting him if true, and it would also reduce the chances of a Green third party challenge out of Bloomington.

Hew Hampsire Newspaper Gives Mitt Romney "Anti-Endorsement"

From the Associated Press:

The Concord Monitor broke with political tradition Sunday, telling readers in the state with the first presidential primary why they should not vote for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney instead of whom they should support.

In a scathing anti-endorsement that called Romney a "disquieting figure," the New Hampshire newspaper's editorial board said he looks and acts like a presidential contender but "surely must be stopped" because he lacks the core philosophical beliefs to be a trustworthy president.

In particular, the newspaper noted the former Massachusetts governor's change of heart on such issues as abortion rights, stem-cell research and access to emergency contraception, as well as on signing an anti-tax pledge.

"When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we'll know it," the newspaper said. "Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no."

It seems that the folks in New Hampshire, who know Mitt Romney best thanks to being next door to a state where he was governor for four years (and couldn't get reelected if he had tried), think that the one person Republicans shouldn't vote for is Mitt Romney.

Harry Reid Changes His Mind on the Surge

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, April 19, 2007:

"I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and — you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows — that this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything."


Harry Reid, December 21, 2007:

"We sent other troops over there, and there are a lot of reasons the surge certainly hasn't hurt. It's helped. I recognize that."

My, how things change.

Daily Interesting Campaign Finance Item

From page 10 of the October 2007 campaign finance report of the Indiana Democratic State Central Committee:

Name: N/A Anonymous Individual Contributions
Address: 1 North Capitol Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46204-2223
Contribution: $300.00
Occupation: Not listed
Date: 5/30/2007 & 6/21/2007

N/A Anonymous Individual Contributions?

Isn’t that a little shady, particularly when (as here) you are itemizing contributions as small as $5.00?

~

If you know of something interesting from a campaign finance report in your area, take a minute and shoot me an email.

All Little Mahmoud Wanted for Christmas

Vladimir Putin, Man of the Year


Looked into his eyes and saw his soul, my rear end.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Craig Fry is Clueless

The Hair - Still making offers they can't refuse.Back during the 2007 legislative session, State Representative Craig Fry (D, Mishawaka) held the budget hostage when it first went to the floor of the House.

By threatening to deviate from a party-line vote, he called effectively blackmailed Speaker Pat Bauer into giving him more money for schools in his district.

But what The Hair giveth with one hand, he taketh away with the other when no one is looking.

The budget that came back from the conference committee with the Senate, and which was approved by the House at the last minute, was interestingly devoid of any mention of extra money for Mishawaka schools (the Penn Harris Madison school corporation, or P-H-M, among others).

Craig Fry voted for it anyway.

At that time, I noted that The Hair had screwed him over.

I had thought that Fry, who was angry over something on that last night, was upset that Bauer had double-crossed him.

It turns out, however, that Craig Fry didn't have a clue (and still doesn't) that The Hair had rolled him.

He recently wrote a letter to the P-H-M school board, whining that they were not giving him credit for getting them the extra money that he had held up the budget to get for them:



Click to view full size versions.

He does not appear to realize that the money was taken out again later when he wasn't looking.

Having reportedly started out his adventures in politics as a union "enforcer" (he now double-dips by working in a cushy non-job for Ivy Tech), I would have thought that Fry would have had plenty of experience in playing hard ball.

Obviously, to his own embarrassment and shame (to say nothing of that of his constituents), and the misfortune of those schools in his district, he didn't have a clue and still doesn't.

New Poll Gives Election Edge to Daniels

Back around Thanksgiving, the Indianapolis Star published a poll that showed Mitch Daniels' campaign for reelection in serious trouble.

As pointed out at the time, the Star poll gave a two percent advantage to self-declared Democrats, which is not something you tend to see in Indiana.

In 2000, the gubernatorial primary had Republican participation +20% relative to that of Democrats.

In 2004, that number was +30%.

Party affiliation is not likely to have flipped in favor of the Democrats in so short a period of time, so the Star's poll results were probably more than a little unbalanced.

The Republican Governor's Association, which is only a little less biased on politics than the Indianapolis Star (but in a different direction) has a poll out this week with a better picture for Daniels.

Here's a look at the numbers.

Mitch Daniels
Favorable: 48%
Unfavorable: 38%
No Opinion: 10%
Who?: 3%

Jill Long Thompson
Favorable: 17%
Unfavorable: 8%
No Opinion: 24%
Who?: 51%

Jim Schellinger
Favorable: 6%
Unfavorable: 3%
No Opinion: 16%
Who?: 76%

There's a lot of introducing and defining yet to do in this campaign.

And what rock are the 3% of people that haven't heard of Mitch Daniels hiding under?

Daniels Job Approval
Approve: 51% (19% strong, 32% somewhat)
Disapprove: 41% (23% strong, 18% somewhat)

Self-Considered Party ID
Republican: 43%
Democrat: 31%
Independent: 24%

The balance between party ID is about where it was in 2000, with Republicans at +20%.

Daniels vs Long Thompson
Daniels: 46%
Long Thompson: 33%
Unsure: 19%

Daniels vs Schellinger
Daniels: 46%
Schellinger: 31%
Unsure: 21%

Notice that, even with the more realistic party ID balance, Daniels plateaus at around 46%, only 3-6% higher than he had in the Indy Star poll, which would seem to suggest that the governor has more than a little trouble with folks within his own party.

The balance shifted to be more realistic (and more Republican), which hurt the Democrats (they plateaued at 44% in the Star's poll, instead of in the low 30s here), but it didn't give a whole lot of help to Mitch Daniels.

It is a classic polling consideration that an incumbent should want to be above 50% going into the reelection campaign; Daniels isn't there and I am frankly surprised that he is as high as he is given the noxious anti-incumbent political environment that currently exists in the state.

Once the session is over, and something is done (or isn't done) about property taxes, it will be interesting to see how this changes.

Democrat Congressman: American Soldiers Are "Ethnic Cleansing" War Criminals

From Vets for Freedom, a group of pro-war Iraq War veterans:

“Sure there’s less violence, but that’s because we’ve ethnically cleansed most of Baghdad”
- Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA)

(Washington, DC) Vets for Freedom condemns the recent comments by Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) on the floor of the House of Representatives in which he stated that American troops “ethnically cleansed Baghdad.” The United Nations, along with the rest of the civilized world, commonly refers to ethnic cleansing as genocide.

“Once again, Congressman Moran demonstrates how far from reality he has fallen,” said Executive Director of Vets for Freedom and Iraq Army veteran, Pete Hegseth. “Jim Moran has a long history of putting his foot in his mouth, but this time he has gone too far. The men and women who make up our nation’s military are decent and honorable citizens who bravely serve to fight our enemies who threaten our national security. Insinuating that they are war criminals is outright despicable.”

He continued, “I call on all Members of Congress to follow Vets for Freedom in our condemnation of these irresponsible accusations, as well as on the constituents of the 8th District of Virginia to stand up to such nonsense and support the men and women whose very sacrifice allows Moran to run his mouth.”

I am reminded of a quote from Mark Twain:

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

Over a century later, he's still right.

Say Thanks

Take a break from giving (and receiving) Christmas cards to send a thank you card to an American soldier overseas:

The mission of Let's Say Thanks is to provide a way for individuals across the country to recognize U.S. troops stationed overseas. By submitting a message through this site you have the opportunity to send a free personalized postcard greeting to deployed servicemen and women.

The postcards, depicting patriotic scenes and hometown images, were selected from a pool of entries from children across the country.

All you have to do is click on your favorite design and either select the message that best expresses your sentiment or draft a personal note. The postcards are then printed on the Xerox iGen3® Digital Production Press and mailed in care packages by military support organization Give2TheTroops®.

Go there.

It takes about thirty seconds.

You're not too busy that you can't take a minute to do it.

And, if you're a blogger, you're not too busy that you can't link to the site.

Daily Interesting Campaign Finance Item

From page 7 of the October 2007 campaign finance report of the Indiana Democratic State Central Committee:

Name: Margery Brinkerhoff
Address: 3020 Dellwood Dr., Kokomo, IN 46902-3770
Contribution: $5.00
Occupation: Information requested
Date: 6/12/2007

Nothing unusual about this, just thought it was worth giving some acknowledgement to such a relatively small donation (probably more acknowledgement than the Democrats ever gave the nice lady, and she gave them money).

~

If you know of something interesting from a campaign finance report in your area, take a minute and shoot me an email.

Dukakabee

The Garden of Tyranny

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Baron Hill & Joe Kernan, Together Again (Almost)

Hat tip to a Hoosierpundit reader for sending me these emails from Baron Hill's campaign.

You're Invited...
You are cordially invited to celebrate the holidays with Betty and myself and our honored guests, Governor Joe and Maggie Kernan. We hope you'll be able to join us!

Saturday, December 15th 2007
5:00 Cocktail Reception
6:00 Dinner

Holiday Inn Conference Center Hotel
2480 Jonathan Moore Pike
Columbus, IN

Cocktail Reception and Dinner | $250 per couple
Dinner | $75 per couple

And, as you might recall, last weekend saw some pretty nasty weather, so it was canceled:

Unfortunately tonight's event at the Holiday Inn, Columbus has been cancelled due to the weather. On behalf of Congressman Baron Hill and Governor Kernan, we appreciate your continued support and look forward to seeing you at a future event. As always, please contact us if there is anything that we can do for you.

Happy holidays! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all, and we are sorry that we cannot celebrate together this evening. We hope to see you around the district soon.

The cancellation is a real shame, and it's also a shame that there probably wouldn't have been any media at the party anyway (at least media willing to ask questions whose answers they would then report).

Since he's willing to have a fundraiser with former Governor Kernan, I'd be very interested to know what Baron thinks about Kernan's recent report.

You know, the one that said that we should do away with all sorts of county elected officials and get rid of township government entirely.

Down here in southern Indiana, most of those officials are Democrats.

They can't be happy about Joe Kernan wanting to take their jobs away from them.

There's something I'd like very much to see Baron give his opinion about.

And, by having an event with Governor Kernan (or nearly having one), he did open the door to those sorts of questions.

So what does Baron Hill think about the report by the Kernan-Shepard Commission?

Shella: Bart Bows Out of 7th Speculation

All these people that have been Googling "Bart Peterson for Congress" are going to be disappointed.

From Jim Shella:

Congressman Peterson? Not.

The long list of politicians considering a run to fill the vacancy in the 7th Congressional District created by Julia Carson’s death are all silent during this period of mourning.

Bart Peterson is not.

Peterson ruled out a 7th District candidacy in an interview with News 8’s Eric Halvorson today. “That’s not something I wanna do,” said the outgoing Mayor, “That’s not a job I’ve had a real strong passion to do.”

Peterson added that no one could ever twist his arm to get him to run for the office. You can catch his comments tonight on 24 Hour News 8 at 11.

What exactly is 24 Hour News 8 at 11? Who came up with that marketing numerical nightmare? But I digress...

It is not a Sherman statement; far from it, actually.

Not wanting to do it and lacking passion aren't exactly definitive refusals.

Shakespeare's Richard III said the same things, all while seeking to become King of England.

Maybe I just needed to see the numerical nightmare news interview.

Photo Shows Mitt Romney at Planned Parenthood Fundraising Event

He's the one with the picture-perfect hair.

From the Boston Herald:

A photograph of GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney at a 1994 Planned Parenthood fund-raiser has surfaced, once again raising questions about the former Bay State’s governor’s abortion flip-flopping.

The picture, a copy of which was obtained by the Herald, shows Romney and his wife Ann at a house party fund-raiser in Scituate with Nicki Nichols Gamble, who was the president of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts at the time. Romney has already downplayed ties to Planned Parenthood after revelations that Ann Romney donated $150 to the group.

Gamble said the pic was snapped at an event at GOP activist Eleanor Bleakie’s house and that she “clearly” remembered speaking with Romney at the event. At the time, Romney was running as a pro-choice Republican against U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

The only real issue I have with Mitt Romney is one of trust.

His conversions are to be welcomed, but (as one of his opponents memorably put it) I would prefer that they came on the road to Damascus and not the road to Des Moines.

And it's true that Ronald Reagan--and a great many others like him--were converts to the Republican Party and to conservatism.

But, in the Gipper's case, that conversion was accompanied and followed by literally decades of hard fighting in the trenches of the American socio-political landscape.

All of Mitt Romney's conversions have come since the last time he stood for election.

Since then, he has managed to adopt pitch-perfect positions on every issue important to Republican primary voters.

I just find that coincidence to be hard to swallow.

If the party were to nominate someone that does not agree with the base on everything, I would rather have someone that will tell us as much to our faces (like Rudy Giuliani or John McCain) rather than someone that would change positions overnight and pander shamelessly (like Mitt Romney).

There is no perfect candidate.

Mitt Romney is a coincidental convert.

Rudy Giuliani is moderate to liberal on social issues. He also has personal baggage.

Mike Huckabee is moderate to liberal on fiscal and economic issues. He likewise has historical baggage.

John McCain is moderate to liberal on immigration (and on minor issues, like campaign finance reform). He has also been wishy-washy on things like judicial appointments.

Fred Thompson simply seems to have no fire for the campaign, and I want a fighter. He also has historical baggage sometimes contradictory to what he says now.

Of the "big five" that "have a chance," there is no perfect match.

But then, Ronald Reagan wasn't perfect either.

And, no matter how hard Republican primary voters look, they will never find another Ronald Reagan.

The Power of Positive Campaigning

Enriching What?

Indiana Special Election Rules

Quoted from Brian Howey, as much for my own future reference as anything, since his site is abysmal at archiving past material.

Procedures for 7th CD special election

1) How long will the seat remain vacant? Under Indiana Code 3-10-8-1(3), the seat will remain vacant until a special election is held. The winner of the election must then take the oath of office and be seated by the U.S. House of Representatives. Unlike the U.S. Senate where vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment, there is no appointment to fill a vacancy in the U.S. House. Under Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, vacancies in the U.S. House must be filled by special election.

2) When will the special election be held? Under Indiana Code 3-13-3-2, the circuit court clerk of the county where the U.S. Representative resided (in this case, Marion County) must certify that the vacancy has occurred, and file the certification with the Governor. The Governor will then issue a writ of election that must specify the date of the special election (IC 3-10-8-3). There is no deadline specified by law for either the clerk's certification to be filed or for the Governor's writ to be issued. However, the combination of deadlines set by state law for nominating candidates and absentee ballot voting makes it mathematically impossible for a special election to occur earlier than 60 days after a vacancy occurs in the office of U.S. Representative (See, for example, IC 3-13-1-7; 3-13-1-9; 3-13-1-20; 3-8-6-13; 3-8-7-15).

3) How will the major party candidates select candidates? Major political parties, i.e. Republicans and Democrats, will select candidates to be on the special election ballot by caucus. Within 30 days of the vacancy, the state party chairmen must call their caucuses, composed of precinct committeemen within the congressional district, who will nominate and elect their party's candidate (IC 3-13-1-7(a)(2)).

4) What about candidates who are not affiliated with a major political party? These candidates could include a Libertarian Party candidate, who would be entitled to be placed on the ballot without petitioning. The Libertarian Party must give 10 days' notice of its intent to nominate a candidate (IC 3-13-1-20), and file the certification of its nominee no later than noon, 50 days before the election (IC 3-8-7-15). These candidates could also include independent candidates or candidates of other minor party candidates, who gain access to the special election ballot by gathering petition signatures. The total number of signatures needed by petition candidates would be equal to two percent of the total votes cast for all four secretary of state candidates in the most recent general election (in November 2006). A petition of nomination must be filed with the Indiana Election Division no later than noon 50 days before the date of the election (IC 3-8-6-13).

5) Who is responsible for holding the special election? Once candidates are nominated and certified to the Indiana Election Division, each county within the district is responsible for holding the special election. The Marion County Election Board, headed by Elizabeth White, will be responsible for holding this election. Ballots have to be printed, absentee voting must be available, and poll workers have to be recruited and appointed. Voter registration closes 29 days before the special election is held (IC 3-10-8-9).

6) Who pays for the costs associated with holding a special election? Any costs involved with the special election are paid for by the county in accordance with normal election procedures (IC 3-5-3-1).

7) How long will the individual who is elected during the special election serve? The individual elected in the special election would serve the remainder of the term which will end noon, January 3, 2009 (20th Amendment to the US Constitution).

8) What about the May 2008 primary election and November 2008 general election? This special election for the remainder of the current term (2007-2009) will not affect the two elections next year for the 2009-2011 term. The primary and general elections in 2008 (held simultaneously with the presidential primary and presidential election) will be to seat the congressional representative for the term of office beginning January 3, 2009. Therefore, there will be three elections for this Congressional seat in 2008: a special election, the May primary, and November general election.

9) When was the last time a special election was held in Indiana? The last time a special election for Congress was held in Indiana was on March 28, 1989, when former Valparaiso city council member Jill Long was elected to serve in the former 4th Congressional District for the seat vacated by Dan Coats, who had resigned to accept an appointment to the U.S. Senate from Governor Robert Orr.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Daily Interesting Campaign Finance Item

From page 6 of the October 2007 campaign finance report of the Indiana Democratic State Central Committee:

Name: David A. Bohmer
Address: 1001 Crescent Dr., Greencastle, IN 46135-1126
Contribution: $400.00
Occupation: College Administrator
Date: 4/26/2007

And what college, you might ask?

DePauw University, interestingly (neither here nor there politically; just interesting).

~

If you know of something interesting from a campaign finance report in your area, take a minute and shoot me an email.

Citizen to Baron Hill: Put Up or Shut Up

From the Indy Star:

If Rep. Hill has solution, then let's hear it

Congressman Baron Hill, a member of the exceedingly unpopular House of Representatives led by San Francisco's own Nancy Pelosi, recently said that Gov. Mitch Daniels' property tax reform plan is "unfair." While the plan is not perfect, it would save taxpayer dollars and provide permanent tax relief. Hill avoided providing something positive and simply complained.

Tax reform is a huge issue, and contributed to the defeat of Hill's fellow Democrat, Bart Peterson, in the Indianapolis mayor's race this year. Peterson was thought to be unbeatable. Hill is out of touch with Hoosier concerns on taxes, another reason for 9th District voters to replace him in 2008.

The governor's fair and far-reaching plan provides a blueprint to lessen the burden that skyrocketing tax bills have caused, as well as a permanent fix for a system that has plagued taxpayers for years. The positive bipartisan response to the plan stands in contrast to Hill's opposition.

Doesn't Hill have enough to do representing 9th District voters in Congress? Or is this professional politician laying the groundwork to run for state office?

It is abundantly clear to everyone but Hill that Hoosiers need the tax relief that Daniels' plan seeks to provide.

Scott Tibbs
Bloomington

Eat at Huck's

A Bad Precedent to Set

Let's not have casinos moving willy-nilly from county to county all over the state, okay?

From the Courier-Journal:

Bill would allow move of Indiana casino
Steuben County could get 800 jobs


An Indiana lawmaker from LaGrange has filed a bill that would allow a casino to move from Lake Michigan to a lake in northeastern Indiana's Steuben County.

"Somebody told me I'm nuts, but I saw an opportunity to bring 800 jobs to Steuben County," said Sen. Robert Meeks, R-LaGrange.

Meeks said he was approached some time ago by Don Barden, who owns two side-by-side Majestic Star casinos in Gary, about the possibility of shifting one of his licenses to Clark County in Southern Indiana. But he was opposed to that move in part because of the increased competition for the five casinos already on the Ohio River, including the Caesars Indiana casino in Harrison County.

Barden could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meeks said he had already been approached by Steuben County residents interested in a casino, perhaps at Buck Lake Ranch in Angola, but no licenses were available. He said he encouraged Barden to discuss the possibility of a move with county officials.

Is Anyone Really "Innocent"?

Intelligence Estimate Crap Shoot


Snake eyes.

Of course, we know they've never been wrong before.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Baron Hoping to Fix the Mess He Made

Got to love the folks that write Baron Hill's press releases.

I had almost missed this doozy, but better late than never:

Congressman Baron Hill has been working diligently on legislation to strengthen protections against dangerous toys for American children. And, as the holiday season begins, Hill wants to ensure that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is well-equipped to ensure all of the toys that enter this country are entirely safe. Just a few weeks ago, the CTCP Subcommittee passed H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act.

“I am very proud of the work my colleagues and I have done in this Subcommittee to improve the safety and quality of life for American families,” Hill said. “I have heard from many parents who are understandably very concerned about what toys are safe to buy their children as holiday gifts. And, it is imperative that we calm their fears.”

“This bill, along with others we have already passed out of the Subcommittee, will protect our children’s health and keep faulty imports from making it into their hands,” Hill said.

The irony of this is probably lost on all but the most observant of voters and citizens.

You see, those unsafe Chinese toys are entering the United States in the first place in large part because of how Baron voted a few years ago.

He is now trying to paper over and stop a problem that he helped create and open the door to when he voted in favor of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China.

Alas, most people (if they even see this press release) will think of how nice it is that Baron Hill is working to make toys safe; it will also make for a feel-good campaign talking point.

The people reading or hearing about it probably won't even think of the vote he cast much earlier that opened the door to a flood of those unsafe toys and other harmful goods coming into the United States in the first place.

Evan Bayh's Latest Scandal

It's nothing new to the Hoosier blogosphere, but a big story in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has brought public attention to and focused new light on the shady dealings of Evan Bayh and his wife.

Susan Bayh, as you may or may not know, has as her primary occupation sitting on the boards of directors of companies that her husband frequently votes in the Senate to impact.

Unsurprisingly, it's very lucrative to sit on the board of directors of some big company, and more lucrative still when your husband is voting in ways that can favorably benefit the juicy stock options that you are about to exercise.

Given that there have already been ethics complaints about this brought before a United States District Court, it actually rather surprising (and conspicuously unsettling) that this hasn't gotten any press at all in Indiana much sooner.

This being said, since it has already been swept under the rug once before when it came before an actual court, I am highly skeptical that this story will manage to grow legs this time around.

It is, however, from a highly reputable journalist, whose opinion pieces--let alone factual reporting and straight-up journalism such as this--notable Democratic blogs have very recently quoted and cited with favor; it's hard to discredit the source.

Unfortunately for those interested in having honest and open elected public servants, the Senate Ethics Committee isn't exactly known for its dogged pursuit of justice when it comes to the blatant ethical violations and lapses of judgment of the members of the upper house of Congress.

Given that some of Bayh's proteges, like Baron Hill (for example), campaigned in 2006 on a platform of cleaning up Washington and establishing new institutions and mechanisms for doing so, perhaps they will put their money where their mouth is and call for an independent inquiry into the activities of Evan and Susan Bayh.

Until they do, all of their talk about cleaning up Washington and establishing the most honest and open Congress *evah* is yet again shown for the empty slogan that it was, and the sham covering for a continuation of politics as usual simply under the banner of a different political party.

At the very least, this needs to be seriously and publicly investigated further. If there is evidence of wrongdoing, then the Senator will have to answer for it.

I wouldn't hold my breath on either one happening any time soon.

Shout-Outs

Color a couple of these in the "should have added them a long time ago, since I read them regularly anyway" category.

The Facts Were These... - The blog of Chris Spangle, of Abdul in the Morning fame (or infamy, depending on how you look at it). Most recently having opined on the whole "Abdul was Indy Undercover" conspiracy theory.

Blue County in a Red State - You've got to be pretty brave and be blogging as a Republican from the Region.

Fort Wayne Observed - Yeah, I'm drawing a blank on how come I haven't added it to my blog roll before now. But it will be there now.

We Declare - The official blog of tax activist Andy Horning.

Good reads all.

Happy Birthday to Mike Sodrel

From the Indy Star:

New Albany Republican Mike Sodrel, who wants to win back the 9th District congressional seat from Baron Hill, will turn 62 on Monday.

Daily Interesting Campaign Finance Item

From page 2 of the October 2007 campaign finance report of the Indiana Democratic State Central Committee:

Name: Wilson Allen
Address: 1146 Tecumseh St., Indianapolis, IN 46201-1117
Contribution: $100.00
Occupation: Bureacrest [sic]
Date: 5/16/2007

A familiar presence in the Indiana (and particularly Indianapolis) blogosphere.

But what exactly, pray tell, is a “bureacrest”?

~

If you know of something interesting from a campaign finance report in your area, take a minute and shoot me an email.

The Incensed

Why, We Would Never...


The thing is that a democracy like the United States, and other nations of the West, find themselves in a situation where they must do things in the shadows to secure their populations that would never be condoned by those populations before (though perhaps after) the situation requiring them.

Is waterboarding torture? Congress has never said that it is.

Should we be torturing people? Of course not.

But in that nightmare "24" Jack Bauer hypothetical, when the nuke is about to go off and we have to figure out where it is, you can't expect that someone wouldn't be waterboarded or worse to stop it.

But then, the people doing the waterboarding or worse should probably be held accountable after the fact for what they are doing (and the President does have the power to issue pardons and commutations).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

She's Not Even Buried Yet

It's amazing what the little Site Meter thing can tell you.


Looks like somebody's getting ready.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

R.I.P. Julia Carson, 1938-2007

From the Indy Star:

Congresswoman Julia Carson died this morning at the age of 69.

U.S. Rep. Julia Carson greets fellow Democrats after winning re-election on Nov. 3, 1998. - Mike Fender / The Star FILE

Carson’s death comes just weeks after she announced she was dying of lung cancer and would not seek re-election to a seventh term in 2008.
Two days later, she said she would not seek re-election, saying her time away from Congress would be “a time to weep and a time to laugh,” and she added, “a time to heal.”

But Carson never healed and never returned to Congress.

“Who knows the future, who knows god’s will,” she said in the statement announcing her decision not to run again. “I want very much to return to Washington and continue representing the good people of Indianapolis with my vote. I can only request your prayers that I might gain the strength to continue my service.”

Carson was first elected to Congress in 1996.
Previously, she served in the Indiana House of Representatives for two terms before being elected to the Indiana Senate, where she served until 1990. Carson then filled the post of Center Township trustee until she was elected in 1996.

A steadfast Democrat, Carson opposed President Bush’s request for authority to wage war in 2002. In 1999, she won enactment of a measure that awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights figure Rosa Parks.

In 1991 and 1974, she was named by The Star as Woman of the Year.

Carson’s death comes after she took a medical leave from Congress in September after complaining of leg pain and fatigue.

In her last public interview broadcast on Nov. 5 on the WTCL-AM program, “Afternoons with Amos,” Carson expressed frustration over her health problems. “I’m breathing and I feel fine,” she said. Her voice did sound shaky, though, and she had coughing spells during the interview.

“I’ve got bronchitis real bad now and I hope to get over it,” she said, “but you don’t ever know.”

Her health had been an issue almost from the day she was first elected to Congress.

In January of 1997, she took her oath of office at Methodist Hospital where she was recovering from a double-bypass surgery.

The surgery kept her at home during the early days of the 105th Congress and she missed 41 of the 640 floor votes that year.

After winning her sixth term last year, she proclaimed, “People thought I was too sick to run. I’m not too sick for anything.”

Nature abhors a vacuum, and Carson certainly leaves a big one.

It will be interesting to see who the Democrats get to fill it, and who the Republicans put up for the special election challenge.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Daily Interesting Campaign Finance Item

I’m going to try a new sometime-feature on interesting things in campaign finance reports (assuming I find enough things to comment on).

~

From page 2 of the October 2007 campaign finance report of the Indiana Democratic State Central Committee:

Name: Nels Ackerson
Address: 9915 S. Glen Rd., Potomac, Maryland 20854-4129
Contribution: $200.00
Occupation: None listed (nor requested)
Date: 5/8/2007

Isn’t that interesting?

Of course, there’s nothing unique about a placeholder Democrat candidate for Congress in Indiana making a contribution to the Indiana Democratic Party.

What is interesting is that this same candidate lists his address as being a residence (and if you look here on Google Maps, it is a residential address) in a cushy suburb in Maryland just north of Washington, DC.

Many of the houses in the surrounding neighborhood have swimming pools and even tennis courts.

Can you say Washington insider?

Sure, I knew you could.

Can you say carpetbagger?

Sure, I knew you could.

And let me pose one last additional thought:

What do Federal and state campaign finance law say about the addresses you provide on campaign finance documents?

Does it have to be your legal place of residence?

Because if it does, there are either potential problems with Ackerson’s residency in the 4th District or problems with the residence he declared when he donated to the Indiana Democratic Party.

At the very least, he sure looks like a Washington insider and a carpetbagger.

~

If you know of something interesting from a campaign finance report in your area, take a minute and shoot me an email.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Strike While the Iron is Hot"


What if a commission made a report, and nobody listened?

From the Indy Star:

State government reform panel: downsize, consolidate

Sweeping new recommendations to slash the number of elected officials and government units in Indiana counties spurred both hope and fear Tuesday.

The Daniels administration and others said there was hope that the changes proposed by a state Commission on Local Government Reform would lead to long-lasting cost savings for property taxpayers and provide accountability when things go wrong.

But numerous county officials expressed fear that too much power was being centralized in one person under a key recommendation calling for a single chief executive in each county.

“They would be king,” said Hamilton County Council President Brad Beaver.

That even concerned the man who would be king in Marion County — incoming Mayor Greg Ballard.

“Having too much power vested in one office may be a bit much,” he said.

The recommendation for a single chief executive, replacing the current three-member boards of commissioners that govern most of Indiana’s 92 counties, was among 27 proposals made by the bipartisan commission.

Among others: eliminating township government and shifting those duties to the county; replacing most county elected officials, including sheriffs, with appointees; consolidating school districts so none has fewer than 2,000 students; merging libraries into one countywide district; and forcing more cooperation and communication among public safety units.

The political odds against all 27 steps becoming law are steep, however, and the co-chairmen — former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan, a Democrat, and Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard — said there would be no shortage of special interests lining up to declare the plan dead on arrival.

But they and others noted that Indiana has more government than most states in the nation, and that counties in other states have found cost savings through consolidation, though they couldn’t put a number on what Indiana might save.

Tuesday, Kernan and Shepard said the recommendations, adopted unanimously by the seven members, would cut the number of elected officials by more than half, to 5,171 from the current 11,012.

And the number of local governmental units would be cut more than a third, to 1,931 from the current 3,086.

“If you want to get property taxes down and keep ’em down, this commission has given us a terrific road map for doing that,” Daniels said.

The legislative leaders who would have to follow that road map, though, were cautious in their reaction, praising the commission but acknowledging that there are plenty of political potholes that could knock the proposals off course.

House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said some proposals, such as eliminating township government, may be “politically impossible.”

Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said that he was taken aback by the proposals to appoint, rather than elect, county officeholders, including the sheriff.

“It’s going to ruffle some feathers,” he said. “It’s obviously intended to.”

Both he and Bauer said the issue is too big, and the proposals too complex, for the legislature to tackle in the upcoming session, where the focus is already on major property tax reform. Lawmakers have only from Jan. 8 to March 14 to come up with a plan that cuts property taxes.

Lawmakers, Long said, should take time to weigh these ideas and can address them in the 2009 session.

Kernan and Shepard noted that the state has been debating many of these ideas since 1935, when another commission looked at government reform.

But with the current focus on property tax reform, Shepard said, “there is a window of opportunity here.”

Whether that window will stay open if the legislature comes up with major property tax reform in 2008 is, Shepard said, “the $64 question. We should strike while the iron is hot.”

I am willing to bet that virtually none of what has been suggested will ever be approved by the General Assembly, that great Hoosier graveyard of good ideas.

And most of what the Kernan-Shepard Commission has suggested are good ideas, at least from what I have seen (I'm going to actually sit down and read the whole report sometime this week).

I have concerns about some, like the unitary executive who seems to be in charge of virtually everything, but by and large the reforms seem sensible and relatively intuitive.

Doesn't mean that they'll get approved though.

This is Indiana, after all.

Told Ya So

From Jim Shella:

Judy for Jim
December 11, 2007 – 11:51 am

Former First Lady Judy O’Bannon will do a fly around tomorrow to announce her endorsement of Jim Schellinger for governor.

O’Bannon earlier endorsed Richard Young before his campaign evaporated.

The Schellinger endorsement will, no doubt, be read as a snub to Jill Long Thompson but its worth pointing out that Schellinger’s closest advisers got their start under Frank O’Bannon.

Judy’s Young endorsement was all about loyalty and this one likely is, too.

Political Literature, Then and Now

Still Fighting It

Monday, December 10, 2007

Floyds Knobs Businessman to Challenge Paul Robertson in State House District 70

At a Christmas dinner held by the Harrison County Republicans on Sunday evening, Tim Hunt announced his candidacy to run against Paul Robertson for the District 70 house seat.

Hunt is the Director of Business Development for the Koetter Group, a construction and development firm in Floyds Knobs.

Robertson has faced a series of close challenges in recent years, particularly in the Republican wave years of 2002 and 2004.

His toughest challenger so far, however, was probably Harrison County lawyer and business owner Chris Byrd, whose candidacy drowned in the national anti-Republican wave in 2006 (the state pulling out to save incumbents up north didn't help him one bit either).

Had Chris Byrd run in either 2002 or 2004, he probably would have won.

Tim Hunt, who has reportedly already won the support of the House Republican Campaign Committee, hopes to put forward a vigorous challenge in what is likely to be an anti-incumbent year.

Having been in office since 1978, Robertson is pretty much the personification of a longstanding incumbent.

I know of several other Republicans that have of late expressed interest in challenging Robertson.

At least one has already stepped aside in favor of Hunt.

Rumor Has It...

Item One: Endorsement for the Shell?

Judy O'Bannon, wife of the late Governor Frank O'Bannon and formerly the campaign chair for Richard Young's ill-fated gubernatorial bid, will endorse Jim Schellinger "soon" (probably later this week).

I wonder what they promised to give her in exchange, but I digress.

Word has it that the Democrats down south are lining up behind the establishment's man.

Whether it's because the screws are being put to them by the state party or because they distrust a liberal former congresswoman from northern Indiana depends on who you talk to.

Schellinger is coming to Clark County to speak at an event for the Democratic Party there soon, and they are reportedly solidly behind him.

Monroe County (surprise, surprise) appears to favor Jill Long Thompson; they may be alone in the entire 9th District in that respect.

35% of all Democratic primary votes in the entire state will be cast in the 8th and 9th Congressional districts; the candidate that locks up that support in southern Indiana will accordingly have a substantial advantage on primary day.

Item Two: Mitch's Plan Better by Comparison?

"Strong medicine" will be recommended by the Kernan-Shepard commission in their report next week.

From what I have heard, they are going to call for the abolition of township government, the dramatic reduction of the number of elected county-wide offices, and the establishment of a centralized single-person county executive (similar to a system currently used in Kentucky, for example).

How much of a chance does such a bold program of action have of getting past the legislature?

Probably about zero, given the entrenched local interests that will oppose it.

But it adds to the pressure on the General Assembly and--in what I am sure is just a coincidence--the sweeping eliminations proposed are sure to make the local reforms contained in the Daniels' property tax package look so much better and politically expedient by comparison.

The report would substantially move the political goalposts on the issue, and perhaps reframe the debate entirely.

Greenpeace Pressures Baron, Again

Sooner or later, they are going to realize that all of this pressuring is not working.

From the Bloomington Herald-Times (via a Hoosierpundit reader):

Bloomington Greenpeace volunteers worked Saturday to highlight issues related to global warming.

A small rally was held at the Sample Gates, and pamphlets were handed out that morning asking people to call U.S. Rep. Baron Hill to encourage him to support the Safe Climate Act. The proposed legislation would mandate freezing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 at the 2009 levels.

At the rally, a representative from the Local Growers Guild spoke. The Greenpeace volunteers also put up displays bearing testimonials from area farmers about the effects of global warming on their work.

“Indiana farmers are feeling some of the worst effects of global warming now, especially with heat waves and droughts,” said Edyta Sitko, Greenpeace volunteer and global warming field organizer. “Indiana can no longer afford not to do something about global warming.”

The volunteers also wanted to draw attention to this country’s noncompliance with the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

“We’re really counting on congress, including Rep. Hill to show leadership on this issue,” said Sitko.

A statement from Hill’s office pertaining to H.R. 6 has the representative saying: “It is time to move our country forward in achieving real energy independence,” Hill said. “But, we must do it in a way that is best for our economic, environmental and national security.”

I want to know what they are willing to do when they finally figure out that he is giving them the runaround, because they sure don't have the political action committee big bucks to pay to get Baron to listen to them.

Howey Follows Up on Eric Miller Rumor

Via Advance Indiana, because Howey's site is worthless and does not archive past items well:

Howey: Are you willing to give the Gen. Sherman treatment that "I will not run; I will not serve"?

Miller: What I've tried to share with people is that I will do everything I can to help them protect their home, their family, their farm, their business, their future and work to repeal property taxes. With regards to the governor's race, that is not my intention to run at this time.

And, of course, you heard it here first.

Pity Howey didn't ask about the independent bid aspect that I've been hearing floated around.

Miller, you see, wouldn't have to file as an independent until much later than he might have to file for the primary, and that would maximize his leverage within the upcoming legislative session.

Hostettler Being Proven Right, Again

This is starting to become a trend.

From the Courier & Press:

Hostettler had it right about relief fund fraud

To the editor:

I just read an article that FEMA has admitted more than $500 million in fraud in Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Rita claims. Will taxpayers ever know the real amount of the fraud?

As I recall, when the funds were being authorized by Congress, then-8th District U.S. Rep. John Hostettler voiced much concern that there weren't safeguards to prevent this, and he voted accordingly.

The newspaper and various pastors in the black community cried aloud that it proved Hostettler didn't care about the poor. Those outcries helped secure his re-election defeat.

As so often is the case, after the fact, it is shown the conservative congressman was right on the mark, and that had all of Congress had the same concerns, the United States wouldn't have been defrauded to the tune of $500 million.

Jeffrey A. Day

Head in the Sand

Oppo Research

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sixty-Six Years Ago Today

Struck by a Japanese bomb, the forward magazines of the USS Arizona explode.
Struck by a Japanese bomb, the forward magazines of the USS Arizona explode.

The ruined hulk of the USS Arizona burns after the attack.
The ruined hulk of the USS Arizona burns after the attack.


Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, December 8, 1941, to a Joint Session of Congress

'Avenge Pearl Harbor!' Propaganda Poster
"Avenge Pearl Harbor!" propaganda poster.

Sailors honor the Pearl Harbor dead in Hawaiian tradition.
Sailors honor the Pearl Harbor dead in Hawaiian tradition.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cam-A-Lot Ends in a Whimper, Politics of Personal Destruction Come to Indiana

After days of huffing and puffing, and then huffing and puffing some more, and some more huffing still after that, the Indiana Democratic Party managed at last to get someone to bite on their allegations of a contracting scandal involving Cam Savage, the communications director for Mitch Daniels' reelection campaign.

Unfortunately for them, the Indianapolis Star saw fit to bury the story on page B3, sensing--rightly--that it was much ado about nothing.

Another of Dan Parker's teapot tempests.

At Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh termed it hitting "a dry hole" and noted the silence of Democrats about the Peterson administration's much larger questionable contracts (to say nothing of those in the Bayh, O'Bannon, and Kernan administrations).

Frugal Hoosiers, which sometimes seems to be a blog about the people working in the campaign instead of the guy whose campaign they are trying to advance, had a typical response.

As confirmed by documents produced by the state in response to the public relations stunt request by the Democrats, Savage ended the contract before he went to work for the governor.

Indeed, the immediacy of the termination of the contract--they did not even wait the normal thirty days--indicates a clear awareness of the need to not be in a state contract and also be involved with the governor's campaign, and shows that they ended the relationship to prevent that potential conflict of interest.

That overlap, so clearly demonstrated now to not be the case, was at the heart of the Democratic complaint about Savage and all of the political hopes they had vested in it.

Without any overlap, this is just another state contract.

Heck, it could be said that the Governor's people liked Savage's work so much in that brief time that they hired him away from the state to work on the Daniels campaign.

Stretching, I know, but still.

Despite continued bleatings at Taking Down Words, the whole thing ended with a whimper and not a bang, a story devoid of the legs Democrats had been hoping for.

This wasn't enough for Jen Wagner, the Democrats' communications director and author of the Democratic Party's mouthpiece blog.

Frequently during the whole thing, she proclaimed Savage to be a "nice guy" that once gave her a t-shirt at a Daniels campaign event.

I somehow doubt the communications director for the Democratic Party fully appreciated the gift of one of those green "My Man Mitch" shirts.

Maybe the shirt wasn't available in a maternity size, or maybe Wagner just has a visceral hatred of the color green.

It could be, perhaps, that her shoes are too tight, or maybe her head isn't screwed on just right, or her heart is two sizes too small.

Anyhow, she certainly expressed her gratitude interestingly.

When the state provided her with unredacted and unmodified documents--per the request of Dan Parker and the Indiana Democratic Party (imagine the furor if the documents had contained sections that were blacked out)--on the termination of Savage's contract, she scanned them and put them online on the Internet for all to see.

She did not black out Savage's social security number or his bank account routing number, which were present on the paperwork.

When confronted an hour later, she professed it to be an innocent mistake.

Sort of like it was an innocent mistake when she blared the social security number and personal information of Republican congressional candidate Eric Dickerson over the Internet when he ran against Julia Carson in 2006 (among other personal information and assorted smears she has trafficked in on her blog for years).

Once could be explained as an accident or a mistake. Twice cannot, particularly when her pattern of behavior with regard to other political adversaries is so clearly demonstrated.

Taking Down Words singularly leads the way in engaging in this sort of despicable behavior, dragging political discourse in Indiana to ever lower depths.

Debating Axing Assessors

From the Courier-Journal:

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mitch Daniels’ plan to eliminate township assessors and elected county assessors could face trouble in the Senate, where skeptical members of the Local Government and Elections Committee today questioned whether the change is necessary.

But the committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Connie Lawson, R-Indianapolis, said she remains hopeful lawmakers can reach some consensus about consolidating assessment duties statewide to make tax bills more consistent.

“I’ve got some concerns about whether we can make significant progress” on the proposal, Lawson said. “Some really good information came out about the value of the township assessors and what they do.

“But I think what we need to keep in mind is that we heard consistently from taxpayers that the assessment process was not transparent, it was not consistent. They didn’t think it was fair.”

Daniels proposed eliminating township assessors completely as part of his larger tax-restructuring package, and he wants to convert what is now an elected county assessing position to an appointed one. All assessing duties would be consolidated in that county office.

Today, Cheryl Musgrave, commissioner of the Department of Local Government Finance, called the governor’s proposal a “fundamental step for improving assessing at the county level.”

“This change to a single assessing official would clear up the lines of authority for the whole county,” she said.

There's a lot to be said for consolidating local and county government.

But there's also a lot to be said for government being that devolved, where the elected officials are that close to the people (and thus that much more subject--and sensitive--to their wrath).

Eliminating government and getting government to be less centralized (and closer to the people) are both important conservative tenets.

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

Pain at the Pump

From the Seymour Tribune:

For the life of me I can’t understand why gasoline prices are rising such high prices when the oil prices are dropping.

Gas went up about 20 cents per gallon because the rumor was that oil was going to reach $100 a barrel. Now oil has dropped almost $3 a barrel and gas is still rising.

What about the gas in the tanks that was already there before the oil went up? It just seems to me that this country is run by oilmen, doctors, lawyers and politicians and they don’t give a darn how much they hurt the people who they are supposed to be representing and the country they claim to love.

Ted Foster
Seymour, Ind.

That's strange.

I thought that the price of gasoline has a lot to do with who we send to Congress.

After all, that's what Baron Hill said during the last election.

Heck, gas prices do tend to go up a lot whenever Baron's in office.

Maybe he's right after all...

To Err is Hugo, to Vote Divine

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thoughts on the Daniels Tax Plan, Part V: Referendums on Big Local Spending

One interesting aspect of the Governor’s property tax reform package is its proposal to require referendums on large capital expenditures by local governments—large capital expenditures such as new school construction.

It is a well-meaning (and probably high-polling) proposal, and one that has been done with somewhat mixed results in other states.

On its face, it certainly sounds like a good idea.

It is, however, a proposal that is fraught with the potential for unintended consequences if done improperly, particularly given recent history in Indiana in terms of lavish spending on school construction.

Joe Homeowner does not want to pay more in property taxes, even if those taxes will give his son or daughter an indoor swimming pool at their school (with the school itself, of course, done in a designer art deco motif, no doubt).

But therein is the problem with referendums. Indiana has, through the splurging of school corporations and the lack of accountability on local spending authorities (and the divorce of those authorities from those who actually have to levy the taxes), created a dangerous situation.

Improvements to schools, and building new schools, should not in and of themselves automatically require referendums.

At the same time, school corporations and local spending authorities should be somehow restricted from going nuts and spending lavish and unnecessary sums on these designer schools.

There should also be mechanisms in place to prevent the most perverse unintended consequence of the current system, which is when local spending authorities (like school corporations) dream up something new to spend money on simply to prevent the property tax levy from ever going down (which would make it difficult for them to incrementally raise it again later when they actually might need it).

For example, there are school corporations that will always be building something new, simply because to stop construction would be to admit that they don't need the money. That would cause the levy to decline.

And since the levy can only be raised so much over time, it is easier for them to dream up new things to spend money on, rather than have to control their spending when the levy has to be incremented back up again later.

That's madness, and it has contributed to the situation we are now in.

If these local spending authorities had not abusing their spending power so much in the past, people would not now be so highly inclined to support measures that will not only halt that behavior but also potentially result in long-term problems.

It's like the boy that cried wolf. He abused the cry so much that, when the wolf actually appeared, nobody came.

The local spending authorities, having stretched their spending on lavish items in the past, will probably have trouble getting people to support a referendum when money is genuinely needed for something like a new school.

A little more responsible stewardship of the public’s money in previous years and even decades by construction-happy school boards would have gone a long way to preventing the situation we are in now.

News Flash: Cutting Skyrocketing Taxes Requires Cutting Skyrocketing Spending

(Unless you're George W. Bush, of course.)

From the Indy Star:

Most metro-area counties would have to cut spending to avoid raising local income taxes under Gov. Mitch Daniels' property tax reform plan, according to an independent legislative analysis released Friday.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency's review showed Daniels' plan to cap property taxes would force 66 of the state's 92 counties to cut spending or increase taxes.

The statewide study also found that the reforms would reduce 2009 property tax bills by an average of nearly 39 percent from what they'd be if no changes were made in the tax system.

The savings would range from almost 31 percent in Johnson County to nearly 44 percent in Marion.

"The more data we're getting, the better the plan looks," said Ryan Kitchell, director of the state Office of Management and Budget.

Indiana's local government leaders don't agree.

David Bottorff, executive director of the Association of Indiana Counties, called the findings of the analysis "devastating" for local officials.

"They're making an assumption that all local units of government are out of control and that nobody's out there holding down their budgets," Bottorff said. "It's a shotgun approach, and everyone is getting caught up in the line of fire."

The analysis projected statewide local spending at more than $14 billion by 2010, with Daniels' caps creating the need to cut about $747 million of that, or roughly 5 percent.

"We think 5 percent is a very reasonable spending cut," Kitchell said.

Chris Ruhl, Daniels' budget director, said such a reduction in local spending is feasible because it's roughly the same amount the governor cut from the state budget when he took office.

I wonder how much of that 5% average cut could be accomplished just by placing a moratorium on new school construction...

Big Surprise: Architect Firm Recommends Construction of More Buildings

An interesting bit of news from Harrison County.

The results of the consulting contract given to architectural firm RQAW are in.

In a result that surely shocked everyone, they recommended that the Harrison County government needs more buildings.

How much you want to bet that the county hires RQAW (which has given big bucks to the election campaigns of certain county officials) to be the contractor on any new construction or renovation?

I don't doubt that the county government might need more space.

In my experience, you can never have too much office space (nor can you have too much money, a car too fast, or a girl too pretty).

But let's be serious.

Money does not grow on trees, even for a county with a riverboat, and county officials should at the very least be recusing themselves from any contract decision where they have such a blatant conflict of interest.

From the Corydon Democrat:

Harrison County's government employees need more space to work, according to a study recently completed by RQAW Inc. In a measurement of quality, adequate space for staff, the county scored 4.5 on a 10-point scale.

Joe Mrak, RQAW president, made a presentation to the Harrison County Commissioners and council members during a joint meeting Monday night. Harrison County does not have a set size standard, according to Mrak.

"People kind of exist in the space they have," said Mrak. "It's not necessarily the most efficient way."

The firm has completed two of three steps in a 20- to 25-year needs assessment plan. The study consisted of space needs projections for 2017 and 2032 for the county buildings.

"We didn't project by what you have, but by what you should have," said Mrak.

The study also gauged the number of employees Harrison County should have, and found that it is right on target with about 220.

"You're near ideal, as far as employees are concerned," said Mrak.

Mrak compared Harrison County to other counties in the same population range including Floyd, 147 employees; Grant, 194; and Morgan, 207. Mrak said a few factors contribute to Harrison County having a high number of employees, including a large parks department that needs part-time seasonal staff. Mrak predicted the county would need 271 employees in 10 years and 345 in 25 years. Mrak admitted the 345 seems high because it was projected on a county population of 58,000. The county's population is currently about 37,500.

"We're trying to think ahead, so you don't paint yourself in a corner," said Mrak, who also said that the usable square footage is nowhere near what the county needs. The county buildings need 85,000 total usable square footage, but only have 48,500.

I should give some campaign contributions to some of these Democrats; it seems to be a sound investment and business strategy.

Democratic Congressional Majority Decides Against Five Day Work Week

The most ethical and hardest-working Congress *evah*.

From Politico:

House Democrats are planning an easier schedule for next year.

A 2008 calendar distributed to congressional offices Monday shows the House holding five-day weeks only three times next year, exposing Democrats to charges that they are backing away from a pledge to work harder than Republicans did when they ruled the House.

“You have to hand it to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats for … rewarding themselves with another broken promise,” said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “With a record low approval rating, … you would think they would start getting to work instead of planning extra vacation days.”

They've already voted themselves one pay increase already.

I wonder what that breaks down to now, in terms of an hourly wage.

A Bipartisan Tea Party

And no, not a tax protest tea party.

A real tea party.

From the Courier-Journal:

Hospice & Palliative Care of Southern Indiana helps take care of hundreds of people suffering from terminal illnesses every year.

Yesterday, more than 200 people turned out to return the favor.

The Season of Giving Holiday Tea fundraiser for hospice was held at Kye's II in Jeffersonville, and organizers said they hoped to raise about $13,000.

Attendees were served by a dozen celebrity waiters, including New Albany Mayor-elect Doug England, Jeffersonville Mayor-elect Tom Galligan, former U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel and WAVE-3 TV meteorologist John Belski.

Kristen Allen, one of the event's volunteer co-chairs along with her mother, Beverly Allen, said the agency had sold more than 200 tickets at $25 each before the event and still had some for sale at the door during the tea.

In addition to money from ticket sales, the event raised money through "tips" to the celebrity waiters and with a silent auction of some 70 items, from a football autographed by members of the Indianapolis Colts team to an overnight stay in French Lick.

The Allens love to throw teas and have even taught a class at Indiana University Southeast on the subject, so they were happy to head up the event, Kristen Allen said.

"Hospice is such a great organization," Allen said. "They help so many people, and it's just a mission that is really close to my heart."