Monday, March 31, 2008

Dan Parker's Democrats, Post-Jen Wagner

From Jim Shella:

Democrats accused Evan Strange last week of being a Republican primary voter and a member of the Young Republicans. They were in error.

Strange is the fellow who asked the Monica Lewinsky question of Chelsea Clinton at Butler University. I e-mailed him today for a response to the accusations and this is his answer:

“This upcoming election will be the first time I have ever voted in any election. I am in no way, nor have I ever been, associated with Young Republicans, or any political group or club.”

When confronted with that response state Democratic Chairman Dan Parker admitted that his research found two people named Evan Strange in Indiana (from the same age group) and apparently confused the two.

The difference?

When she was still around, they would have put Evan Strange's bank account routing numbers and Social Security number on the internet, too, as a part of their misguided and erroneous smear attempt.

How Are You Enjoying the Change?

From Texas Rainmaker:

A little over a year ago:

1. Consumer confidence stood at a 5-year high;
2. Regular gasoline averaged under $2.30 a gallon;
3. The unemployment rate was down to 4.4%;
4. Americans were enjoying historically-high home equity

Since voting in a Democrat Congress in 2006 we have seen:

1. Consumer confidence plummet;
2. The cost of regular gasoline soar to over $3.25 a gallon;
3. Unemployment rise to 4.8% (a 9% increase);
4. American home equity hit the lowest point in six decades.

America voted for change in 2006... and change is what we got!

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
- Leo Tolstoy

Howey Screws Up, Again

Misspelling AG hopeful Greg Zoeller's name in his daily wire:

ZOLLER PREPARES CAMPAIGN: Deput Attorney General Greg Zoeller was preparing to enter the GOP race this weekend, meeting with 8th CD Republicans. Another name circulating is former DNR Commissioner Kyle Hupfer (Howey Politics Indiana).

Hat tip: Hoosierpundit reader.

Bubba Headed to Bedford Next

From the Bedford Times-Mail:

According to a press release from Hoosiers for Hillary, former President Bill Clinton will be at Bedford Middle School at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, continuing his Hoosiers for Hillary Heartland Tour. As of right now, the event is open to the public.

President Clinton will attend “Solutions for America” events in Columbus, Seymour, Bedford and Bloomington, "to share with voters Hillary’s ability to deliver real change on the issues that matter most to the people of Indiana."

Clinton will then head to Assembly Hall at Indiana University in Bloomington at 2 p.m.

There aren't a lot of potential votes for Hillary Clinton (or any Democrat, for that matter) in Bedford, Indiana, so one would wonder why Bill Clinton would ever want to go there.

It's not a stretch to think it have something to do with Bedford's mayor, Shawna Girgis.

Hillbo: Fake Blood

The Evolution of Morality in Politics

The AG Race: For Whom the Bell Tolls...

It has been a busy weekend in the tumultuous realm of behind-the-scenes politicking in the Indiana Republican Party as various candidates jockey for position to fill the vacuum left by Steve Carter's unexpected decision to not seek a third term as Indiana's Attorney General.

Late last week and early this weekend, columns by Indy Star columnists Matt Tully and Russ Pulliam confirmed many of the things about which I was blogging much earlier in the week. On the downside, I have read one comment elsewhere that Greg Zoeller and Kyle Hupfer were present at the Bartholomew County Lincoln Day dinner, though two of my sources there reported not seeing them.

Pulliam has rattled off the four names that have surfaced in the attorney general's race (Rokita, Zoeller, Wheeler, and Hupfer; two of which first surfaced here). He has also spoken of the 2012 gubernatorial dynamic at play in the AG race, and the social conservative movement against a candidacy by Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita (more on the origins of that has been posted this weekend at Advance Indiana).

Tully has spoken to the reasoning, or more particularly the lack thereof, for Carter's departure. Both private sector job opportunities and political maneuvering seem to be likely possible reasons for Carter's unexpected departure. He, too, notes the same four names as potential candidates (handicapping Zoeller and Hupfer as favorites).

Much of the writing on this subject--from both Pulliam and Tully--has focused on the opinion of Mitch Daniels. As the incumbent Republican governor seeking reelection (and unchallenged in his party's primary for that post), Mitch seems likely to have considerable say in who will be on the statewide ticket with him. Just as important--and it is easy to say moreso--is the consideration touched upon by Russ Pulliam in his first paragraph: the 2012 gubernatorial race.

Unseen in this dynamic (and her hand is never seen, and constantly underestimated for that reason) is the view of Becky Skillman on all of this. Should she have gubernatorial aspirations of her own (something about which she has never given a definitive answer), she would be keenly interested in the fortunes of a Rokita bid for attorney general.

The Secretary of State, alone of those listed, has potential gubernatorial ambitions for 2012. He alone would utilize the position as a further stepping stone to the big office on the main floor of the State House. Hupfer, Wheeler, and Zoeller will probably not be running for governor in 2012, but will instead be seeking second terms in the AG spot.

So where is Becky Skillman in all of this? The quiet lady from the Senate will probably be heard in all of this, even if only by the ears of Mitch Daniels himself. The Governor needs her; she is one of his few bridges to the social conservatives. He will not give a nod to someone (or give a nod at all) without knowing where she stands and taking that into account.

With such considerations outlined, we go now to the rumor mill, and to the handicapping list.

From what sources indicate, Todd Rokita's fortunes are in decline. Last week, your humble correspondent noted that the Secretary of State was making the rounds at the State House to gauge support for a bid to gain the Republican AG nomination. I also reported that a Rokita candidacy would almost certainly garner social conservative opposition at the convention.

Indeed, Hoosierpundit sources indicate that Mr. Rokita will soon be withdrawing from the race entirely, as much as the SOS was ever in it. He will likely shortly indicate that he has decided that he has no interest in running.

Rokita's potential candidacy was probably seen as a bridge too far for the party's restive social conservative base. This is an interesting development, particularly in the respect that Rokita is not only not receiving support to run, but is also under significant pressure not to do so.

Draw from that what conclusions you will. Rokita's departure, which several sources have characterized as imminent, would leave a vacuum among the remaining three candidates whose names are presently out there.

Greg Zoeller seems to be falling off of the radar. Geography remains an ever-present handicap; the state GOP will almost certainly not nominate two candidates from the 9th District, let alone two from Clark County. The opposition to Carter, and from that extending (unfairly or fairly) to Zoeller, among the Indy lawyer set is burning and even fierce (my email box is filled with criticisms of Carter and vows that Zoeller is unacceptable by mere association).

It is from such lawyers that the big bucks necessary to run a viable campaign will have to come, and--thanks to the suddenness of the Carter departure--come quickly. In this, Zoeller seems to have unfortunately inherited all of Steve Carter's baggage. Several sources indicate that his prospects are lessening, yet he seems to be rated favorably by Tully and Pulliam.

The star of former DNR director Kyle Hupfer is supposedly on the rise, at least if Mike McDaniel's assertions on Indiana Week in Review are to be believed. I have heard Hupfer denounced as being too close with the Indy law firm set. Mr. Hupfer is also young, has some baggage from his time at DNR (he has the dubious honor of having his own entire category at Taking Down Words), and has limited experience. At the same time, he is a movement conservative and a former Daniels appointee.

Floating around in all of this mix is still Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the election commission. He had previously sounded out Steve Carter about running, but was warned off when Carter indicated an earlier intention to seek a third term. This past week, I am told, he expressed no interest in running (primarily due to the AG post's lackluster pay), yet his name continues to appear and to be mentioned. Hailing from Locke Reynolds, Wheeler would likely be in the favor of the Indy law firm set. He is a movement conservative and a Daniels appointee (or at least what amounts to one on the election commission).

Mr. Wheeler also has comparatively few enemies. Rokita takes fire from social conservatives, Zoeller from people upset at the performance of Carter's office, and Hupfer from people angry at the Indy law firm set. Wheeler seems to garner no such opposition. Maybe this is because he is a affable potential compromise candidate, or maybe it is because he is not seen as a potential candidate at all.

Time will tell for all of them.

And in closing, let me just say (in response to queries by supporters of certain candidates), I have nothing against any of these gentlemen and think that they would all make fine candidates for attorney general.

I merely report what I hear, and welcome hearing from you. I am not difficult to reach if you want your view or positions heard, or if you wish to advocate for your preferred candidate.

The email address is over at the top right.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Clearwater Campaigning

Gretchen Clearwater has updated her campaign website, and now even has an ad up on YouTube.

She also seems to be getting some letters written in her favor in the Bloomington Herald Times (hat tip to an HP reader):

Vote for Clearwater

Please join me in voting for Gretchen Clearwater in the May 6, District 9 House of Representatives primary. I support her candidacy after watching her work hard over the years to serve the community and advocate for social justice. I have been disappointed by many of her opponent’s decisions in Congress.

Baron Hill voted to authorize force against Iraqin 2002 and continues to fund this war, most recently by voting to send another $100 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars to the Bush administration’s occupation of the country. Congressman Hill has, to date, failed to co-sponsor the Safe Climate Act, the only legislation that will bring about effective (and economically sound) action to make a meaningful dent in greenhouse gas emissions.

Clearwater is an ordinary middleclass person doing an extraordinary thing. She understands the need for a representative in Congress who will act on behalf of the everyday people of the 9th District, and is enthusiastically giving her time and energy to meet this need (using a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands Baron Hill is spending). Vote for her on May 6 if you are interested in the health and security of yourself and your community.

- CHRISTY CAMPOLL, Bloomington

The environmental focus of her campaign is surprising to me; I would normally think that the war would be the defining issue among folks in Bloomington.

Perhaps its salience really is being reduced as a campaign issue, if this is any indication (too soon to say with any certainty).

And if Clearwater intends a green focus to her campaign, does that mean that she would be willing to take up the Green Party banner in November in the event that she does not unseat Baron Hill and gain the Democratic nomination for the 9th District?

It may well be the only way for issues of the environment, the war, and other progressive causes to be heard and have an impact.

Bubba to Campaign for HRC in Seymour

Hide your daughters, Jackson County.

From the Seymour Tribune:

Jackson County Democratic Party Chairman Jeanette Hackman said Sunday evening that former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to meet Wednesday with the public in the Seymour High School auxiliary gymnasium.

Doors to the gym will open at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Hackman said. She was uncertain when Clinton, campaigning for his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, will speak. The rally will be open to the public, and no tickets will be required, Hackman said.

"I'm excited," she added. "I think this is going to be good for Seymour and Jackson County. This is the first time in 40 years that Indiana's primary will mean something."

Jackson County Republican Chairman Dennis Carmichael agreed.

"I think it adds a certain enthusiasm that Indiana hasn't been fortunate enough to experience for quite some time," he said Sunday evening.

Hackman said she has been in contact with a representative of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's campaign, but she knows of no plans for the Democratic frontrunner to visit Jackson County.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the area, but whether he'll come to Jackson County, I don't know," Hackman added.

I'm waiting for a GOP county chairman at one of these Clinton campaign stops to top Steve Shine up in Allen County:

Oh, and I'd wager good money to any taker that Baron Hill will be nowhere to be seen when Bill Clinton, a former president of the United States, comes to his hometown.

How interesting that he's been with George W. Bush twice (and Barack Obama once), but can't seem to bring himself to be seen in public with either Bill or Hillary Clinton...

And He Went There for Twenty Years...

The Instant Breakfast of Champions

Friday, March 28, 2008

The AG Race: Rokita Rising

Here are the latest rumors and innuendo (and out the other) that I have heard about the attorney general's race over the past day or so.

I am surprised to the extent to which Attorney General Steve Carter is disliked, and his office viewed as full of problems and shortcomings by those that had to deal with it or depended upon it. While such comments are typical on partisan blogs of other stripes, I am now hearing these things from more reliable Republican sources and others on the right.

Normally, politicians become more popular after they leave office or bow out of the political arena. This does not seem to be the case with Steve Carter. He seems less popular now--at least publicly--than he was before he declined to seek reelection for a third term.

None of the things I am hearing about Carter's time in office and the efficacy of his staff (assuming they are true) bode well for Carter's chosen replacement, Greg Zoeller.

Bartholomew County (the home of Columbus) and Washington County (the less-populated home of Salem) held their Lincoln Day Dinners on Thursday night. *The* annual event for local Republican Party organizations, these events are always packed with candidates or their surrogates in election years, and the tables are always covered with campaign literature.

Not so this time, at least when it comes to the attorney general race. Columbus is a sizeable city, so Bartholomew County's Lincoln Day Dinner--close to Indianapolis and relatively centrally-located--normally swarms with candidates and their surrogates. Washington County, being so close the the home base of Greg Zoeller, probably should have seen him campaigning there. 9th District congressional candidate Mike Sodrel, for example, made it to both events in one evening.

I have been told, however, that none of the potential candidates were present at either event, nor were any visible surrogates. Moreover, the sudden announcement of Carter's departure apparently left potential campaigns unable to prepare literature; there were also no flyers or brochures out at either location.

The absence of candidates or campaigning sits in stark contrast to the campaigning going on in the State House. Rumor has it that both Todd Rokita and Greg Zoeller are in the process of making the rounds at the State House to sound out support among the various Republican powers-that-be; I am told that both will get mixed reactions.

And yes, Rokita is making the rounds at the State House. He seems intent upon running.

The fact that the earliest known candidates, Zoeller and Rokita, find it more important to campaign in the State House rather than at county party events, indicates that they expect to gain more out of currying favor with Republican officials than they might gain in actually meeting the likely delegates that will choose from among them at the convention. That's an interesting calculation on their part.

The day has also seen developments on a number of other potential candidacies.

The same day that Brian Howey proclaimed him to be the frontrunner and "the man to beat" in the Attorney General race, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi announced that he was not interested in running (the photos of him with scantily-clad women at drunken parties would hurt him in much of the rest of Indiana, to be sure). The quantity of egg on Howey's face is nothing new.

Little more has been heard about potential candidates Tom Wheeler or Brent Steele, but the presence of Todd Rokita at Wednesday's Elkhart County Lincoln Day would seem to indicate no challenge will be forthcoming from Curtis Hill (Elkhart being his home county). This is generally confirmed by what I am hearing from other sources; Hill is not interested.

The new candidate appearing on the radar is Kyle Hupfer, the general counsel for Proliance Energy and the former director of the Department of Natural Resources during the first two years of the Daniels cabinet. The name of the thirty-something attorney was previously counted among those considering a run for mayor of Indianapolis (and later was among those that decided not to go up against what was then seen as the invincible Peterson machine).

Todd Rokita seems to remain the prohibitive favorite, and there seems as yet to be no one alternative around which avowed social conservative opponents of the Secretary of State can rally.

But, as one source pointedly told me, "It's a long time until the convention."

Again, if you've got a rumor you want to share, my email address is over on the right.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The McCain Blogette

From the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- "McCain Blogette" seems an oxymoron: a senior citizen and his presidential campaign chronicled by the Facebook generation.

This is the goal of John McCain's daughter Meghan and her Internet diary, Meghan, 23, offers an insider's view, offbeat and sometimes surprisingly intimate.

While the Web site is about a campaign, it is not about issues and rarely mentions other candidates. Rather, it is intended to make her parents, and politics, seem more real.

There is a message for anyone worried her 71-year-old father is too old: "I have yet to see Dad take a nap on the trail," Meghan writes under a picture of herself napping.

A different photo shows Meghan demanding, arm outstretched, that her father hand over the candy bar he wants to eat for dinner.

Meghan uses backstage images to spotlight her father's sense of humor: cracking up with former President Bush just before Bush endorses him and snapping tongs at the camera as he grills for journalists at home in Sedona, Ariz.

There is a photograph of her mother, Cindy, barefoot in pink polka-dotted pajamas, having her hair taken down the night McCain clinched the nomination in Dallas. Meghan also reveals that her mother, chairwoman of a family beer company, knows if a beer is fresh "depending on the taste."

Meghan decided to blog about the campaign, with help from a couple of friends, after graduating last year from Columbia University.

Her Web site mixes behind-the-scenes photos and videos from the campaign trail with iPod music playlists, designer fashion, even makeup tips.

The site shows her father through a younger lens, making him seem, if not more hip, then definitely less crotchety, said Germany, whose husband works for McCain's campaign.

Occasionally, there's something revealing.

On the night The New York Times published a story suggesting McCain had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist, John and Cindy McCain were silent. They waited until morning to hold a carefully coordinated news conference in which McCain emphatically denied the story, which offered no direct evidence of an affair.

But just after the story broke, Meghan posted a few thoughts that provided a glimpse into how her family must have been feeling. She did not mention the story but made an emotional defense of her father.

"Having grown up in politics, I know it's an industry that, for all intents and purposes, is known for being dirty and cruel," she wrote.

"Why do I choose to be involved in politics right now? Because my father is different," she wrote. "He's compassionate, full of life, hilarious and is a beacon of integrity to myself and to so many others. Politics is rough, but I absolutely adore my Dad and this campaign and have never, ever stopped believing in him."

And the (utterly unrelated to the blog) amusing YouTube video, "Raining McCain":

Best Friends Forever

McCain Romney 2008?

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

The dead fish, that is. The ones wrapped in newspaper and left on the doorstep.

From Taking Down Words:

I have decided, after overcoming the general resistance to change that they beat into you in law school, to join Jim Schellinger's gubernatorial campaign as Communications Director. This means that TDW as you know -- and either love or hate -- it will exist no more.

My guess is that she'll be back in about forty days and forty nights, when Schellinger has lost the primary to Jill Long Thompson.

The Attorney General Horserace

It's Wednesday night / Thursday morning, and there still is nothing out there explaining Steve Carter's mysterious decision to stand aside and not seek a third term as Indiana's attorney general.

More and more, I tend to favor my suspicion voiced on Monday night, namely that the timing of the departure was designed to give advantage to Carter's favored replacement, his deputy Greg Zoeller.

Regardless of the absence of information on the reasons behind Carter's decision, however, there is plenty out there about the race among Republicans to replace him as the GOP nominee in November.

First, of course, comes Secretary of State Todd Rokita, who is apparently definitely interested or at least putting out serious feelers on a possible candidacy. Term-limited in his current job, Rokita (and/or his people) are apparently seriously eyeing a convention bid for the position, probably to an extent that has thus far been underestimated or at least misread downward.

Weighing in against Rokita, however, are movement social conservatives (something about a gay pride parade). Many apparently view the Secretary of State as unpalatable, if not completely unacceptable, and there is already a movement afoot to find someone else. Already, some social conservative leaders are reportedly promising to try to block any candidacy by Rokita or defeat him in a convention floor fight.

The Governor, who likes Rokita generally, may be privately favorable to his candidacy; sufficiently favorable, perhaps, to endorse him. Others tell me that the Governor may not endorse anyone. Some speculate that this is not least because in a contested convention process his endorsement might not carry sufficient weight and might embarrassingly be overridden. Whether the Governor, who is not exactly in the good graces of social conservatives, would seek to go against them with regard to Rokita is an open question.

With his many overseas trips, racial gaffes, and questionable hiring practices Todd Rokita is far from an ideal candidate. Such negatives, however, are offset by his proven campaign skill, considerable name ID, existing organization, and on-hand campaign war chest. A strong movement by social conservatives, if they can find an alternative to rally behind, could well scupper Rokita's convention chances.

The man who hopes to be the conservative alternative to Todd Rokita is Greg Zoeller, Steve Carter's deputy and apparent chosen successor. Zoeller is pushing hard, though he has a number of hurdles to overcome about which I blogged earlier. These are not insignificant, but if Zoeller becomes the "conservative alternative" to Rokita (and social conservatives see him as more acceptable than the Secretary of State), his road would become considerably easier.

Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the Election Commission, is apparently likewise interested in the position (though rumors of his interest vary depending on who you talk to). Two sources, however, indicate that his interest is considerably dampened by the mediocre pay of the Attorney General position. This is evidently becoming a common negative consideration among many of the potential candidates whose names have been mentioned.

Odds and rumors do not seem to favor Carl Brizzi, whose interest is in question. The very idea of Brizzi, a moderate whose ambitions seem to lay within Indianapolis and Marion County, running for this statewide office may well only be a sparkle in the eye of Indy GOP gray eminence Bob Grand.

The name of Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill has been variously bantered about on the Internets in recent days. Hill has made no statement with regard to this; his interest in running is questionable. Speculation involving him running could be a trial balloon to gauge interest in a future candidacy for something else.

Another interesting rumor I have heard, confirmed by some and said by others to merely be a similar trial balloon by others, is that of State Senator Brent Steele (R, Bedford). An amiable conservative from the 4th District, Steele hails from Becky Skillman's old Senate seat. He is from the southern areas of the state, but not from the 8th and the 9th (which already have a statewide officer and candidate, respectively). The Senator thus does not suffer from the same geographical handicaps of others such Zoeller (excluding, obviously, being from the same area as Becky Skillman). He, like several others, could be seen as a conservative alternative to Rokita, or even a compromise candidate between various party factions.

At the moment, the winds seem to favor an effort by Todd Rokita. There are storm clouds of a social conservative challenge on Rokita's horizon, however, and the social conservatives could find themselves aligned behind any number of potential alternative candidates in an effort to block--or at least send a message to--a candidate that they seem to find to be unacceptable. Whether that candidate is Greg Zoeller, Curtis Hill, Tom Wheeler, Brent Steele, or someone yet unknown remains to be seen.

If you've heard something about the attorney general's race and want to share it (I will always respect anonymity), feel free to drop me an email. My address is over at the top on the right.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

He'll Be Making Tracks All Over the Place

From Inside Indiana Business:

Indianapolis, Ind. -- Butler Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice Marvin Scott has been nominated by President George W. Bush to be a member of the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Scott will fill the remainder of a six-year term that expires Jan. 26, 2010.

"It is very exciting," said Scott, a member of the Butler faculty since 1991. "I will have the opportunity to make recommendations on important grant applications for cultural and academic projects that will be carried out in our society. Hopefully, I will represent the President of the United States and our university well."

The council meets four times a year to review grant applications and advise the NEH chairman about which projects deserve funding. The NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.

NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities and public television and radio stations, as well as individual scholars.

Since 1965, NEH grants have gone to noteworthy projects such as:
-- "Treasures of Tutankhamen," the blockbuster exhibition seen by more than 1.5 million people.
-- The Civil War, the landmark documentary by Ken Burns viewed by 38 million Americans.
-- Library of America, editions of novels, essays, and poems celebrating America's literary heritage.
-- United States Newspaper Project, an effort to catalog and microfilm 63.3 million pages of newspapers dating from the early Republic.
-- Fifteen Pulitzer prize-winning books, including those by James M. McPherson, Louis Menand, Joan D. Hedrick, and Bernard Bailyn.

Before coming to Butler, Dr. Scott was program director, higher education for the Lilly Endowment Inc. He also was president of St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Va., and served in several administrative and academic positions at Boston University, including as assistant to the provost and assistant to the chancellor at the Board of Regents of Higher Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He won three primary elections in his quest for a seat in Congress.

He serves on the Indianapolis Water Board, the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission, the Regional Council of the Boy Scouts, and has been elected as a Deacon at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. He is married to Dr. Dulce Maria Scott, a professor at Anderson University, and he is the father of four children.

Not Yet Begun to Fight

Homicidal Maniacs

Hillary Clinton Coming to New Albany

It is a sign of the end times.

From the Courier-Journal:

INDIANAPOLIS – New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will visit New Albany for an event on Saturday afternoon, her campaign said today.

No details are available yet about that event.

Clinton, who is battling Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to be the Democratic nominee for president, plans to be in South Bend, Hammond, Fort Wayne and Muncie on Friday.

On Saturday, she’ll have a rally at 10 a.m. at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis and then plans a stop in New Albany on Saturday afternoon, the campaign said.

Let's see who comes out to protest her.

Advice to Floyd County GOP Chairman Dave Matthews...

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery:

Baron a Barrier on Border Security

From the National Republican Congressional Committee:

Hill Part of Political Barrier to Immediate Immigration Reform Vote
Blocks Bi-Partisan Immigration Enforcement Bill He Claims to Support

Washington- Rep. Baron Hill (IN-09) is showing his true partisan colors, as he is standing loyally by his liberal Democrat leadership to block a bipartisan bill aimed at addressing America’s border security and illegal immigration crisis.

Baron Hill has assumed an obstructionist role in Congress. Despite the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States today, and an ever increasing security threat resulting from porous borders, Hill is doing the bidding of his liberal leaders in Washington by blocking a vote on the Secure America with Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act of 2007.

“Against the wishes of Democratic leaders,” a bipartisan group of 181 members of Congress are working to bring this important legislation to a vote:

“The…bill would authorize an additional 8,000 guards to the Border Patrol over five years. It also seeks to streamline deportations of illegal immigrants and expand a database that employers can use to verify the eligibility of workers.” (Newport News Daily Press, 03/18/08)

Baron Hill is instead choosing to side with the handful of Democrats who are holding up the legislation from receiving an up-or-down vote to improve border security, boost immigration law enforcement and mandate an employee verification program.

“Baron Hill has alienated himself from a rapidly growing bipartisan effort to bring about an immigration enforcement bill that he claims to represent,” said NRCC spokesman Ken Spain. “The only thing Baron Hill is accomplishing in Congress is proving that he favors obstructionist tactics over real solutions for major problems facing America.”

On the campaign trail, Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats promised that they would “promote bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that …fixes our broken system.” When will Baron Hill live up to his campaign promises and put the interests of his constituents in Indiana over the politics of his leadership in Washington?

Good old Baron; he's always there when Nancy Pelosi really needs him.

Suellen Reed Still Undecided, Leaning Against

From the Courier-Journal:

INDIANAPOLIS – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed said today she is leaning against seeking a fifth term, which could make it easier for a Clark County educator to get the Republican nomination for the post.

Reed said she expects to announce within the next few weeks whether she’ll again seek the GOP nomination for the job she first won in November 1992.

“We’re still deciding,” she said. “Right now we’re kind of leaning toward not, but that isn’t official yet.”

Greater Clark Superintendent Tony Bennett has already announced he is seeking the nomination and has been campaigning at Republican events throughout the state. It would be easier if he knew whether Reed planned to be in the race or not, he said.

But he said her decision won’t change how he’s campaigning.

“I am proceeding in a manner that will continue to be very respectful of the outstanding service that Dr. Reed has provided Indiana for 16 years,” Bennett said. “In no way, shape or form do I want to say anything disparaging about her because she’s been a faithful servant to Indiana.”

Republicans and Democrats will choose their nominees for superintendent at their state conventions this summer. The candidates will not be on the May 6 primary ballots.

So far, Bennett appears to be the only Republican who is definitely in his party’s race and he’s getting some attention at GOP events throughout Indiana.

Last week at the Clark County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner in Jeffersonville, Gov. Mitch Daniels had encouraging words for Bennett and called him a “great new partner.” He had similarly kind words for Bennett at an earlier event in Fort Wayne.

But the governor’s press secretary, Jane Jankowski, said that does not mean Daniels has endorsed Bennett or favors him over Reed or any other potential candidate.

“He was in Mr. Bennett’s home county and said that he would make a great partner,” Jankowski said of the governor’s comments in Jeffersonville. “That’s all he did.”

Interesting to see the Governor's peeps backing away from Bennett.

And when another candidate introduces you, gushes about you, and talks for five minutes about how great it's going to be to work with you, and then you get up and say that this candidate is going to be "a great partner," there's a bit more to things than Daniels' press people want to let on or revise away after the fact.

Another 'Rat Flees Sinking Ship

And here I thought that Diamond Jim Schellinger was done with campaign shake-ups.

From the Indy Star:

Fewer than six weeks before the May 6 primary, Democratic candidate for governor Jim Schellinger is facing yet another staff change.

Communications director Robert Kellar is leaving the campaign just three months after joining it.

Schellinger's campaign underwent a staff shake-up late last year, with several top aides leaving and many Democratic insiders questioning the strength of the campaign.

With a new team in place, Schellinger has said in recent weeks he is set for the May primary face-off against former U.S. Rep. Jill Long Thompson.

Now, along with being seen by some as the underdog in the race against Thompson, Schellinger is facing the loss of another top aide. The campaign did not announce Kellar's departure, confirming it only after word of the move was leaked to reporters.

Kellar said he is leaving for a "fantastic opportunity" in his native California. He declined to provide the name of the company he was going to work for.

Yessir, a "fantastic opportunity."

Read: he's going to get a job that will still be around in six weeks' time.

Trending Higher

From Abdul:

Indiana; Making the Grade

Believe it or not, things are improving in Indiana. The Pew Center on the States grades states on their performance in the areas of money, people, infrastructure and information. Overall, Indiana got a “B”, up from a “C+” in 2005. The Pew Center gave the state a “B+” in handling its money and its infrastructure, up from a “C” and “B-”, respectively in 2005. The Pew Center commented the state is taking long-term steps to solve its financial and infrastructure problems. The state went from a “C” to a “B” in managing people. And a “C” to a “B-” in its use of technology to evaluate the performance of its agencies and programs.

Perilous Balance

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The GOP AG Field, Post-Steve Carter

Rumors continue to fly about the decision of popular Republican incumbent Attorney General Steve Carter to not seek a third term.

Monday came and went, and saw no bombshell scandal headlines in local newspapers explaining Carter's sudden decision, perhaps undermining speculation on the Internets that Carter was leaving to avoid some sort of imminent news of some juicy scandal or impropriety; none has been forthcoming.

In fact, the entire story has all but been buried by a combination of the holiday news cycle, the Democratic presidential campaign presence at Dyngus Day, and some story in Indianapolis involving a departing Pacers player that I have never even heard of.

To say that Carter's departure came as a surprise is an understatement. From what sources indicate, many of Carter's own staff apparently did not know until Sunday afternoon (heck of an Easter present). Murray Clark, the State GOP chairman, was not aware of it during the week and apparently also learned of it on very short notice. The Governor appears to have learned of it in a meeting (or a phone call) with Carter on Saturday.

Greg Zoeller, whose name has been floated as Carter's replacement (and who, rumor has it, may well be Carter's picked successor), was in Clark County campaigning actively for Steve Carter at their Lincoln Day on Wednesday night (I even conversed with him about vote fraud in Clark County and lawyers from Harrison County).

Some folks in the 9th District bristle at the idea of Zoeller running; they attribute largely to him (rightly or wrongly) Steve Carter's vigorous pursuit of pro-Sodrel automated phone calls in the 2006 election, while simultaneously ignoring pro-Baron Hill automated phone calls to the probable overall detriment of Sodrel's campaign. If the Republican powers-that-be in the 9th District decide to hold a grudge over the phone call litigation in 2006, Zoeller's bid would be in trouble early on and maybe even dead on arrival.

The timing of Carter's departure and the swift emergence of Zoeller's name reminds me of the situation across the Ohio River in Kentucky, where longtime Republican Congressman Ron Lewis withdrew his reelection bid at the last minute to make way for a prepared filing by his chief of staff to become his chosen successor (Mitch McConnell, the godfather of the Kentucky GOP, subsequently beat this notion out of them and the GOP is running a popular state senator for the seat instead).

Even if backed by Steve Carter and pushed hard by the Clark County clique (and if the objections of some in the 9th are overcome), it may not be Zoeller's year. It is difficult to conceive of the Republican convention in Indianapolis nominating two candidates for statewide races from southern Indiana, let alone two people from the 9th Congressional District, even before you consider those two people are both from Clark County (Tony Bennett, the Governor's pick for Superintendent of Public Instruction, is also from Clark).

For similar reasons of geographic balance, any other candidacy out of southern Indiana is probably out. This effectively precludes other potential candidates from the 9th (such as Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson) and the 8th (such as Gibson County Prosecutor Rob Krieg; the 8th already has State Treasurer Richard Mourdock).

Right now, the situation is exceedingly fluid in terms of names being floated.

Every Republican County Chairman that has a Republican prosecutor with decent campaign skills and decent prospects is going to float their guy (or gal) as a potential candidate for attorney general if asked. Brian Howey, for example, called Allen County GOP Chairman Steve Shine for comment about Carter's decision; it is thus unsurprising that Shine floated to Howey the name of Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards as a potential candidate.

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's name has also been floated, but this seems to be in the same line as the "name every decent or better Republican prosecutor" name-dropping game. I can't see someone as moderate as Carl Brizzi being selected as an AG candidate by a Hoosier GOP convention. And, as Indiana's attorney general is relatively weak in terms of authority (much of it actually being in the hands, interestingly, of the Marion County Prosecutor), one would wonder why Brizzi would want the job. It certainly wouldn't help really him in his apparent ambitions of becoming a congressman or mayor of Indianapolis someday.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill, whose name has been dropped by some on the Internets, is probably also in the "name a prosecutor" parlor game at this point. An African American Republican that can win in an area that is 95% white, he would be an attractive and powerful candidate if there is something beyond the rumors and hypothetical name-dropping.

Todd Rokita's name has been mentioned, and he is term-limited as Secretary of State and retains a decent-sized campaign war chest (in the $200,000 range). But it is unclear whether he would genuinely be interested in taking on a position that might be seen as a step down. Rokita's people did not return the Star's calls asking about the issue (in contrast to a number of other names that have been floated and are actively being pushed), which would seem to indicate at least some measure of indecision.

And lastly, there is Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the State Election Commission and attorney at Locke Reynolds. Wheeler has previously expressed intention to run in 2008, but was dissuaded by Carter's intention of seeking a third term. He may no longer be so disinclined. With the Indianapolis big money likely in his corner, he would potentially be a very strong candidate (and, having been basically appointed by Mitch Daniels once before, could become the favored candidate of Mitchies if the Governor deigns to even take a position).

In Wheeler's prior interest, Carter's rebuff of him with a supposed intention to seek reelection, then Carter's sudden announcement to the contrary, and Zoeller's rapid move into candidate mode (despite not seeming the candidate at Clark County on Wednesday night), there is almost an easy picture to be drawn of Steve Carter trying to pick his successor with this manuever, rather than any other potential scandal or rumor.

If that is indeed the case, the question would be whether or not he can succeed at doing so.

What a Guy: Baron's Latest Bad Decisions

From the opinion page of the News & Tribune:

Reader: Hill’s making poor decisions

Baron Hill supported a sham bill on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that was forced through the House by liberal leaders to provide political cover to vulnerable Democrats who are home for a two-week spring break. Hill is under fire from voters who are tired of his bobbing and weaving on the issue of national security. The Democrat-led Congress has assured the American people they want to protect America, all the while voting against legislation critical to ensuring our national security.

Hill skipped town after passing flawed FISA legislation which he knew was considered DOA according to Senate leaders. As a result of Hill’s vote, and absent the terrorist surveillance program, intelligence officials will be hamstrung to thwart potential terrorist threats. When will Hill quit playing political games with our national security and acknowledge that his actions have real life consequences for the security of the American people?

Good ol’ Baron, he’s pro-life and pro-Planned Parenthood; he is for “Paygo” — where you are supposed to offset spending with other revenue — but that up and went with the $150 billion economic stimulus package. Je introduced a bill to “help” with property taxes, but no spending cuts or offsetting tax increases to “pay” for it. And he isn’t for tax increases but won’t vote to keep tax cuts, thereby increasing taxes for 9th District taxpayers. The “Ethics” act he sponsored is yet more of an “incumbent protection act” in that it allows any two members on the committee to anonymously accuse anyone they don’t like with “ethics” violations. What a guy!

— Rick Reuss, Madison

Democrats Violate Rules in Ethics Vote

The most ethical Congress *evah*.

Irony, thy name is Pelosi:

Only the Democrat House Leadership could find an unethical way to pass an “ethics” bill.

House Democrats had crafted legislation, an ethics bill in name only, that will do nothing to clean-up Washington. In fact, many non-partisan experts believe that it will only further empower the special interests.

Tonight, on the House floor, House Democrats were headed towards defeat. They were opposed by a bipartisan coalition of Members, who wanted to work towards meaningful ethics reform, rather than accept the empty rhetoric offered by the House Democrat Leadership. At the end of the vote, the bipartisan coalition had prevailed; yet, Speaker Pelosi held the vote open and strong-armed less senior Representatives into voting her way. This action violated House rules that were enacted in January of last year.

One thing is clear – House Democrats have failed the American People. They can’t even pass an “ethics” bill without violating the rules.

Interesting McCain Ad

Brilliant ad.

That's the argument for John McCain in a nutshell, I suppose, and it's a very compelling one.

Schansberg on Baron and Gas Prices


John Yarmuth shines while Baron Hill panders on the price of gas

Hill won't be able to use his simplistic line this time-- that gas prices rose so much during Sodrel's term, since they've risen much more during his most recent term.

So, now, he's taking a poke at President Bush's decision to purchase oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Hill, Yarmuth, and Co. may have the correct policy position. But it's difficult to imagine their empirical claim-- that this could lower the price of gas by a quarter per gallon. I don't know much about this particular market, but I'd be surprised if the impact was that large.

The Department of Energy is scheduled to take in 12.3 million barrels of oil for the reserve over the next six months -- an amount that's less than two-thirds the daily U.S. consumption.

Less than 2/3rds of one day's consumption: less than .2% of our annual consumption...

Hill doesn't seem to get it-- at least the policy angle. He does seem to have a clearer understanding about the usefulness of this issue for his political ambitions.

I think that Baron understands that his old saw about blaming high gas prices on someone else isn't going to work this time, so he's going to try to shift the blame yet again.

Got to love this last zing from Schansberg, though:

I wish Congress were this aggressive about ending the War in Iraq-- or dealing with issues that impact us much more (e.g., payroll taxes and Social Security).

Sodrel, Schansberg, and Clearwater say what they mean, and mean what they say.

Baron Hill will say anything, and then do the opposite.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Didn't See This One Coming: Steve Carter Declines to Seek Reelection

From the Indy Star:

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter today said he will not seek a third term in office and will likely bring his career in public service to a close.

"I want to look at a number of things in both the private sector and the not-for-profit sector," Carter, 54, said at a news conference in his office.

"I've enjoyed my term as attorney general. There have been great opportunities. We have achieved a lot, but I think we can achieve things outside government."

Carter, a former top aide to then-Lt. Gov. John Mutz and former corporation counsel to Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, vigorously championed the state�s Do-Not-Call law and enforced it from his office. The AG's office also pursued claims of gasoline price gouging after the 9/11 terror attacks.

Carter is married with two teenagers and a 12-year-old. He said today he has not interviewed for other jobs and has not decided what he would like to do next.

The Lafayette native, who grew up on his family's farm in south Lake County, was re-elected in 2004 with 1.4 million votes - the most ever for a candidate in state government. He previously served as president of the National Association of Attorneys General and now chairs a group of prosecutors and state attorneys general advising the United States attorney general on criminal justice.

Mutz, who was Carter's campaign chairman, praised his former staffer's integrity and commitment to service.

"There's no one in my past business or political experience who has been more loyal and more steadfast, and who has brought so much talent to the work he does," Mutz said.

Carter was a class act (at least as far as anyone knows); Indiana will be lesser for his loss.

But, of course, one does not bow out of seeking reelection at a press conference on Easter Sunday for no reason.

There's either a scandal about to break, or Carter has some personal or health issue to compel his rapid withdrawal.

Very strange.

In poking around, I have heard the name of Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the Election Commission and an attorney at Locke Reynolds, floated by several people as a possible Republican candidate for Attorney General.

UPDATE: Also heard floated are Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill and Carter deputy AG Greg Zoeller.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Baron's Latest Big Spins on Spending & Values

From the Seymour Tribune comes this prime example of how the media in the 9th District merely repeats what Baron Hill says without ever investigating the facts.

The article goes on at length about how Baron Hill is a centrist.

It even quotes him talking about examples of how he is so moderate.

The problem, of course, is that the things that Baron is citing as examples of his centrism are anything but, and (in the case of his abortion example) they are manifestly untrue.

"I'm a centrist," Hill said over the weekend, returning home to the district. "I'm not an ideologue. Centrists are problem solvers, and you don't solve problems by working at one extreme or the other. The only way you can do that is by reaching out."

To this, I merely give two topical and pithy quotations:

"Those who stand for nothing, fall for anything."
- Alexander Hamilton

"Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out."
- George Carlin

Baron is a picture-perfect example of someone that will say anything and do anything.

And what he does almost always has no relationship whatsoever to what he does.

It doesn't matter if you are a liberal, or a conservative.

Baron Hill will tell you whatever you want to hear at any given moment, and then he will go to Washington and vote some other way that is completely the opposite of what he told you.

Southern Indiana doesn't need an ideologue in Congress, but it also doesn't need someone who engages in typical political double-speak.

We need someone who says what he means, and means what he says, even if what he says is something that we might not always agree with.

When Mike Sodrel, Eric Schansberg, and Gretchen Clearwater tell you something, you can take their words to the bank.

They mean what they say, they believe what they say, and they will tell the exact same thing to someone else tomorrow.

Baron Hill is none of that; he never says what he means, he never believes what he says, and he'll tell someone else tomorrow the exact opposite of what he told you today.

Everybody knows this about Baron Hill, even the most ardent of 9th District Democrats.

Baron's never said a word of straight talk in his entire life.

In fact, he has said as much:

Hill said he's proud of the moderate votes he's cast, including those on fuel standards that he said were far less than what liberals called for and than conservatives wanted.

As I pointed out last year, Baron found religion on fuel standards too late.

He had a chance in 2001 to vote for increased fuel economy standards for cars, and he voted against them.

Fuel economy standards take many, many years to have an impact.

A vote by Baron on fuel economy standards now won't help Hoosier drivers for years.

A vote by Baron on fuel economy standards in 2001 would have been helping Hoosier drivers right now.

And, as I pointed out yesterday, there seems to be a pretty strong match between Baron Hill being in office and the price of gasoline going through the roof.

He also pointed to a vote last week in which he broke with the Democratic leadership on the budget bill.

"I voted just Thursday against the budget bill because it was spending too much and relying on Social Security to fund it," Hill said. "That's not a liberal vote. That's a centrist vote."

The budget vote happens to be an utterly meaningless vote.

Budgets, as I noted at the time Baron made the vote, are like blueprints.

Appropriations bills--spending bills--are where the structure is actually built.

Baron always votes against the blueprints.

But then he always turns around and votes to build the very structure laid out by those blueprints.

His votes on the budget are made meaningless by his votes for the spending bills.

"Mike Sodrel's record doesn't fit the district at all," Hill said. "They want someone who's a moderate. They don't want someone on either extreme, even on social issues.

"On abortion, I think parents should have the right to know their children are going to have an abortion, and I don't think federal money should be used to fund abortions. That's a moderate view.

"I don't agree with the liberal extreme view that says parents don't have the right to know and that would spend federal money on abortions," Hill said. "And I don't believe in the conservative extreme view that there shouldn't be abortion, period."

First of all, I thought Baron Hill wanted to avoid making this a negative campaign.

Yet here he goes, making negative attacks on Mike Sodrel and Mike Sodrel's record.

Another perfect example of Baron saying one thing, and then doing something else.

Second of all, what Baron is saying here about abortion is a lie.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the facts about his voting record on abortion since he returned to Congress.

Baron Hill has voted twice to continue Federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides about a quarter of a million abortions each year.

This Federal funding has gone on for a long time under both Republicans and Democrats, and pro-life groups have started lobbying to eliminate it.

But when Congressman Mike Pence offered legislation to eliminate that funding, Baron Hill voted to keep giving tax dollars to Planned Parenthood.

Baron does not genuinely believe that Federal dollars should not be spent to fund abortions.

If he did, he would not have voted to continue Federal funding of the largest abortion provider in America.

This was a vote, by the way, that earned Baron Hill a thank-you note from Planned Parenthood.

Baron Hill has also voted twice to gut the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits Federal aid money from going to fund abortions.

That vote earned him a condemnation from Indiana Right to Life.


So there you have it, folks.

The same old negative attacks, double-talk, and untruths from Baron Hill as usual.

It doesn't matter if it's fuel economy standards, the budget, or even a life-and-death issue such as abortion, Baron can only be relied upon to tell us one thing and then go and do another.

Throw Granny Under the Bus

Yeah, I know this is a blog about Hoosier politics, but the Indiana primary is coming up and the Obamassiah is just digging himself deeper and deeper.

Here is Barack Obama, describing his grandmother as a typical (ie racist) white person, when asked about how he referred to her negatively in his recent speech.

You know the speech; the one on his hateful racist pastor that induced a new round of absurd media obasms.

"The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn't. But she is a typical white person who, uh, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, there's a reaction that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way and that's just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it."

Hat tip to Blue County, Red State.

The Candidacy of Change


"I'm for Change!" - Gonz O. Bama Enters POTUS '08 Race

Excerpts from the announcement speech of Gonz O. Bama

My fellow Americans:

"I am for Change. I like Change. We should not fear Change. Change is Good. The time has come for Change. This should not be confused with the time to change the time, we did that already. No, it is time for the kind of Change that changes those things that should be changed.

"I want to make sure that Americans are not short-changed. That we are not forced to accept the Change that changes the things that do not need Change, but only that the change we get is actually the Change that we want and not the change that someone left in the vending machine because they were in a hurry or something. I want America to get the exact Change. No more of this loose Change that the establishment candidates keep talking about.

"A vote for me is a vote for Change, and for frozen blender cocktails. Thank you. Good night, and good luck."

I'm not sure, but I think he wants to change things.

Democratic Congress Busy Spending Your Money, Even During Holiday Recess

The good news is that, despite the holiday, Congress is still working.

The bad news is that they are working hard at stuffing bills full of earmarks and spending your money.

From Green Eyeshade Blog:

Normally, during a recess period things are kind of quiet around Capitol Hill and you would think your pocketbook is safe. However, the Appropriations Committee is as busy as ever. Yesterday an email was circulated highlighting the backlog of earmark requests before the deadline (see below).


Dear Member Offices:

As a result of the massive influx of requests being submitted today, the Appropriations Committee website is experiencing unavoidable access and processing delays.

In order to accommodate Member offices attempting to input data, any request submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 24th will be considered as having been submitted “on time” for purposes of consideration by the Committee.

As Ronald Reagan put it so long ago (and he's still right):

"The big spenders in Congress are at it again... They've been inventing their miracle cures for which there are no known diseases."

Spitzer's Wife Is Now Qualified to Be Prez

Hat tip to Fort Wayne News.

McCain's Strategery

Obamassiah Talks, BS Walks

Friday, March 21, 2008

House Democrat Wants 50-Cent per Gallon Gas Tax Hike; Baron Hill is Good for Big Oil Companies, Bad for Gas Prices


The party of working Americans strikes again:

A Michigan congressman wants to put a 50-cent tax on every gallon of gasoline to try to cut back on Americans' consumption.

Polls show that a majority of Americans support policies that would reduce greenhouse gases. But when it comes to paying for it, it's a different story.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., wants to help cut consumption with a gas tax but some don't agree with the idea, according to a new poll by the National Center for Public Policy Research.

The poll, scheduled to be released on Thursday, shows 48 percent don't support paying even a penny more, 28 percent would pay up to 50 cents more, 10 percent would pay more than 50 cents and 8 percent would pay more than a dollar.

"I don't want to pay more, I don't think anyone wants to," said Karen Deacon, a motorist.

"I think that wouldn't make any sense," said Frankie Hoe, a motorist. "Ugh ... who's making the money from all this and where is that money going? Is it going to go green? I don't see any green things anywhere."

The Democrats in Congress have never found a government program that doesn't need more funding, or a tax that doesn't need increasing.

Even taxes on gasoline.

Now, of course, is a good time to remind everyone the truth about Baron Hill and gasoline prices.

Mr. Hill made much in the last campaign about his opponent being responsible for high gas prices.

Such allegations were never supported by any actual examination of fuel price histories (though nobody in the media in the 9th District ever bothered to actually check).

According to the Department of Energy (Excel file warning), the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the Midwest was $0.88 when Baron Hill entered office in January of 1999.

When he was voted out, in early November of 2004, gasoline cost $1.97 a gallon, a net increase of 124%.

When he returned to office, in January of 2007, gasoline cost $2.26 a gallon.

That means that, for the time Mike Sodrel was in office, from November of 2004 to January of 2007, gasoline prices went up all of 14% or so.

Today, gasoline is averaging $3.25 around New Albany, an increase of 44% since Baron Hill returned to office.

In all, gasoline prices went up $0.29 while Sodrel was in office, about 14%.

While Baron Hill was in office overall, however, gasoline prices have seen a net increase of $2.08.

That is a net increase of 336%.

It is also over seven times, 717% to be exact, of the increase seen while Sodrel was in office, despite Hill attacking Sodrel for being in the pocket of the big oil companies.

In the fifteen months since Baron took office again, gas prices have seen an increase three and a half times the size that seen while Sodrel was in Congress.

If you use Baron's own 2006 reasoning, you can draw no other conclusion but that Baron Hill is good for the oil companies.

And Democrats in Congress want to add a fifty-cent per gallon tax on top of that?

I bet Baron'll say it makes him fiscally conservative and environmentally-friendly.

Not so friendly to your wallet, though, that's for sure.

Job Interview

Governor of Kentucky to Encourage Productivity Decline Among Bureaucrats

Hat tip to the Indiana Law Blog for this delightful bit of news:

FRANKFORT -- Reversing a policy set by former Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration, state-owned computers used by executive branch employees can now access blogs. The state had banned access to most blogs, excluding those operated by newspaper and television companies, since June 2006.

"We don't believe it is state government's role to distinguish between which news source is legitimate and which is illegitimate," said Jonathan Miller, secretary of the cabinet. "For the most part, we are leaving an open Internet."

Although state workers can access the sites, they are not allowed to comment on blogs during working hours and should only access blogs for work-related reasons while on the clock, said Jill Midkiff, spokeswoman for the Finance and Administration Cabinet.

Workers are free to look at any blog they like, provided it doesn't contain pornographic material or other banned content, during breaks and lunch hours, she said.

Knowing how lazy government bureaucrats can be in states as enlightened as Indiana, let alone as backwards and uncivilized as Kentucky, I suspect that access to blogs won't be limited to breaks and lunch hours.

I further suspect that the reading of conservative and other right-of-center blogs will be frowned upon most severely.

This, of course, is a shame because Blue Grass, Red State is a good enough read that it disappoints on a daily basis my efforts to stereotype and mock people from the shady side of the Ohio River.

It's a good enough read, in fact, that I'll make it an honorary Hoosier Blog (also because I am biased and don't want to give Kentucky blogs a category of their own).

At any rate, it seems that Mitch Daniels needs to hire out some of his increasingly notorious and infamous (at least in the eyes of lazy bureaucrats) "efficiency police" to help Kentucky out.

With Kentucky bureaucrats so busy surfing the Internets, no wonder that state has budget and fiscal solvency problems.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mitch Daniels in Jeffersonville: The First MMM Stump Speech of the 2008 Campaign

Your humble correspondent attended the Clark County Lincoln Day banquet on Wednesday night.

The Courier-Journal has a story about it here.

They had a turnout of upward of 170 people; not bad for a county GOP that didn't fair so well in the 2006 or 2007 elections, and also had to weather the Glenn Murphy affair in late summer (and yes, I know the Clark people will be mad at me for mentioning it, but better to get it out of the way early).

Congressman Mike Sodrel and Governor Mitch Daniels were the speakers, and a wide variety of notables were present including, interestingly, new Howey columnist Kevin Kellems (and no, he was not spit-licking anyone's hair).

Mike Sodrel spoke first, with an interesting speech focusing on liberty, history, and the Fair Tax.

In particular, southern Indiana's former (and future?) Congressman emphasized he believed that the coming race is about God, country, and liberty, nothing else.

The nothing else is a reference to some saying that the race being personal between him and Hill; this is a useful point to make, but one that Sodrel seems to be making a lot lately in his speeches, and one that has the potential to gain a dangerous and uncontrolled life of its own once the reporters get sick of it as a talking point.

He spoke of the repetitive use of the word change, and emphasized things like less government, a more free citizenry, and initiatives such as the Fair Tax as "real change."

Firing the IRS, Sodrel said to considerable applause, "would be real change."

Governor Daniels, interestingly, did not join in the Fair Tax applause.

Sodrel spoke passionately (and having seen him speak many times, I will say that he was more passionate than I have seen him in the past campaigns), particularly about leaving to our children the same sort of country that gave him, and us, so many benefits.

Liberty, Sodrel said, was important to America and--with "your help, we will keep it."

Tony Bennett, a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, introduced Mitch Daniels, noting a laundry list of the Governor's accomplishments ranging from a balanced budget and reduced government waste to tax reform (a line that got a lot of applause; the tax bill was signed in Indianapolis earlier that day).

The Governor, who flew in to Clark County for the event (he mentioned thinking about his last visit during his flight down on the plane; RV One was nowhere to be seen), then went up to the podium to speak.

First, he urged Sodrel to "keep on giving that speech" because people needed to hear it. Daniels noted that Mike Sodrel had qualities rare to individuals willing to be in public life, had nothing to prove to anyone, and that Washington needed more people like Mike Sodrel.

The Governor then went on to speak about the number of times he has been to Clark County (twenty-one) and the surrounding counties (scores of times in all), and retold some of the old campaign standby jokes familiar to anyone that has heard his stump speeches at Lincoln Days before (the "you look like that Mitch guy!" and the "you're Lance Armstrong!" stories, among others).

He got a mention in of the epic rivalry between New Albany and Jeffersonville, noting how his wife (who is from New Albany) was crushed when New Albany lost to Jeff recently in a basketball tournament.

Moving on to more serious topics, Daniels said that Hoosiers live on an island (and not just, he noted, because of the bad flooding in southern Indiana this week).

He cited a New York Times map on the state of fiscal solvency of the various states, and noted that Indiana was alone--an island--in this part of the country in being fiscally solvent.

The Governor was also careful to note in pointing out these statistics and the map that he did not subscribe to the NYT; someone apparently pointed it out to him.

Daniels noted the sorry fiscal situation in Kentucky.

I must hasten to add here that Kentucky is not as bad off as its leadership claims; the state was fiscally sound until the day after Steve Beshear was sworn into office and had to find an excuse to create a crisis to motivate a generally unwilling legislature to approve casino gambling (gaming advocates having given him more than half of all of his contributions). He created a fiscal crisis, or at least made the situation seem much worse than it actually is, in order to build support for his casino measures. Thus far, it hasn't worked.

At any rate, I digress.

The Governor noted that Indiana had obtained and retains this position of fiscal solvency without a tax increase; this was despite someone nearby pointing out to me earlier in the evening that Daniels was four-for-four in proposing tax hikes in his State of the State addresses.

Daniels emphasized budget savings, government contracts with Hoosiers in the private sector, and picking the "low-hanging fruit" of making government more efficient and effective.

He also spoke at length about the importance of measuring accomplishments (state bureaucrats, I am told, call this the "efficiency police").

Mitch touted progress at the BMV; echoing his State of the State address, he noted that if "we can fix the BMV, we can fix anything."

He went on to rattle off a variety of unemployment and job statistics (lowest unemployment in years, lowest in Midwest, Indiana recently ranked best place for business outside of the Sun Belt, et cetera).

It would be easy, Daniels said, to be Illinois, Ohio, or Michigan, but Hoosiers have wanted better.

Indiana is not, he noted, where it needs to be, but the state has come far in the past four years.

In the theme of coming far, he then spoke briefly about some of the bills he has recently signed.

Some of them were humorous:

The drunken veterinarian bill that prohibits intoxicated veterinarians from operating on animals (he joked about musing on whether cats could be an exception).

The dead body discovery bill that requires people to report a dead body within three hours of discovering one (the radio disc jockey that interviewed him the other day said that meant he could no longer collect his dead aunt's Social Security check).

There was, it is worth noting, utterly no mention whatsoever of the awful gambling expansion bill that he signed into law and decided not to veto (but then, that wouldn't be funny, and it probably wouldn't be politically popular to mention either).

More seriously, Daniels then began to speak about creating "a government of purpose," touting past accomplishments.

First he spoke of an innovative bipartisan plan to provide unfortunate Hoosiers with health care that is affordable (no mention of the cigarette tax hike).

Then he spoke of Major Moves and work on infrastructure (Major Moves), including the Ohio River bridges, US 31, I-69, and various other projects. He also repeated the oft-cited statistic that the toll road made the state of Indiana more in interest in the first year of Major Moves than it had made the state in its entire existence up to that point.

At last, the Governor came to the issue of property tax reform.

A number of people in the audience were Eric Miller property tax abolitionist sorts, so they were not as enthusiastic about this at the start as most of the others.

Daniels touted the bill he had signed earlier in the day, and noted that government could now has to live on what citizens can afford (plus better tax protections than any state save Alabama, and the usual talking points).

Moreover, returning to the island theme, he said that the property tax reform will make Indiana an island for yet more investment.

And, Mitch went on, he is just getting started.

This was where the speech went from the usual old stories and prior talking points to the sort of campaign stump speech that I expect will be the core of his campaign going forward.

He wants to ensure that every Hoosier can get at least two years of post-secondary education (college or technical school).

He wants measurable results for education (similar to measurable results elsewhere), and noted that Tony Bennett would be an important partner in getting that done.

He wants to spend more on education, but he also wants to spend that money more wisely; even a 1% savings in an $11 billion budget, he noted, is a big deal.

The state should, Mitch said, stand behind teachers in their efforts to keep order in classrooms, and quality teachers are especially important (he noted in this regard his recent veto of legislation that lowered the education requirements for teachers).

Pivoting on the veto theme, Daniels noted that he was one of the least veto-prone governors in recent Indiana history, and that he values reaching across the aisle to work with the other party.

Daniels declared that he wanted a positive campaign, because he said he felt that he has a very positive story to tell.

He has, he said, had enough of arguments that divide, and he preferred to focus on the things that unite Hoosiers.

Indiana, Mitch Daniels declared, is not sitting still and he is does not feel entitled to anything; he intends to tell what he has done to improve the state, and campaign on those accomplishments and on doing more still.

He then told a (closing) story about a little girl that had written him a letter about the environment, asking if he was ashamed of how America is treating the environment.

Daniels noted in his response to her that much has been done to improve the environment since he was her age, and acknowledged that much more remains to be done.

But then he said that he also wrote in his letter back to the girl that she should never be ashamed of America or of being American.

We have, he said, a long way to go on some things, but that is nothing to be ashamed of.

We should be, Daniels declared, proud to be American even with our country's flaws.

How, he questioned, could someone reach the pinnacle of power and not be proud of this country?

This was an obvious jab at Barack and Michelle Obama.

America, the Governor concluded, is a nation of change (no wonder change is such a buzz word in this campaign, after all); America is a nation whose golden age is always in the future.

And as for Indiana, he said, dogs do not bark at parked cars (advice given to him by an elderly supporter "up north"); Indiana's car was parked and left a few blocks back by most of the rest of the country, but now it is moving again.

And Mitch Daniels says that he intends to keep it moving forward.

All in all, an excellent speech, even if a tad bit long, and a powerful and motivating case for the fall campaign.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I'll let the reader decide which one of the following is which (and I deliberately gave three options and only two potential choices).

Property-tax reform (and Howey):

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mitch Daniels today signed into law a property tax reduction bill that will boost the state sales tax to 7 percent on April 1 and cut homeowners’ bills by about 30 percent later this year.

Flanked by legislative leaders, Daniels signed the bill during a ceremony in the Statehouse rotunda that included several dozen citizen-supporters and a group of children who had been touring the building.

The governor called the legislation “extraordinary” and said it would not have been possible without bipartisan cooperation from the House and Senate.

House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, also signed the bill today.

Long called the legislation – which also puts limits on tax bills – “truly historic.”

“It really is something special,” he said.

Bauer said the bill will mean significant cuts for homeowners but will be tough for schools and local governments, many of which will lose revenue as bills for homeowners, landlords, farmers and business owners are capped.

He said lawmakers will likely be back to fix some aspects of the legislation next year.

“I call this a work in progress,” Bauer said.

The pull-tab bill:

Hoosier taverns will be allowed to offer pull-tabs and other small stakes games under legislation Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law this afternoon.

House Enrolled Act 1153 allows taverns to offer pull tabs, tip boards and punchboards starting July 1. The highest price for a game under the law would be $1 with a maximum payout of about $500.

The games only would be allowed at taverns, which the law defines as establishments that primarily serve alcohol. Rep. Dennis Tyler, D-Muncie, estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 businesses would be allowed to offer the games.

In a statement released this afternoon, Daniels said he reluctantly signed the bill and would "defer to the clear will of the people's representatives."

"Hoosiers believe in freedom, but also in personal responsibility in the exercise of our liberties," Daniels said. "I sign this bill with misgivings and caution, and the hope that any Hoosiers who choose to risk their money in these games will do so responsibly and with extreme care."

I don't know how the property tax reform bill will shake out, politically or substantively.

I can say definitively, however, that the pull-tab bill is bad politically and bad substantively.

It was an awful piece of legislation, as I have mentioned in the past (and at length), and it should never have come out of the General Assembly, let alone gotten a signature from the Governor.

Tully: The Luck of Greg Ballard

Call it skill.

Call it luck.

Matt Tully agrees that Greg Ballard is doing something right:

If you're ever at a gas station and you see Mayor Greg Ballard buying a lottery ticket, shove him out of the way and do whatever it takes to purchase that ticket.

It's sure to be a winner.

We've known Ballard for less than a year, and while it's far too early in his term to determine how effective he's going to be as mayor, one thing is clear: The man has impeccable timing.

Like Forrest Gump, only brighter, of course, he always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

Remember, this is a guy who got a spot on the ballot last year only because no other Republican of decent standing had the courage to take on then-Mayor Bart Peterson. To paraphrase Woody Allen, the most important thing Ballard did was show up.

He showed up just as the property tax issue was preparing to explode, and just before the political world began crashing around Peterson.

Now Ballard has been given another gift. The state legislature, as part of a sweeping property tax plan, has agreed to pay off outstanding police and fire pension debts for local governments. Peterson and other mayors spent years dreaming of the day the state would take control of this debt, perhaps the most crushing financial headache facing Indiana cities. That goal -- which saves Indianapolis roughly $1 billion over several decades -- eluded Peterson. But it arrived before the new mayor had finished decorating his office at the City-County Building.

Timing is key, and Ballard's timing is unmatched.

The mayor was clearly pleased with the pension development when he called reporters to his office Monday afternoon.

"The city has tried for years to convince the state to provide this relief," he said. "I'm happy to say we got it done in three months."

He urged me not to write that he was gloating. But, come on.

To be clear, lawmakers decided to take over pensions independent of Ballard. Nonetheless, the mayor does deserve credit, as it was he who sat before a hostile House Ways and Means Committee last month and first suggested the state take over the pension payments.

At the time, Statehouse types mocked Ballard for making the request and predicted it would be as hard to sell as tuition to an Indiana Pacers Charm School. Few are mocking Ballard now.

The mayor surprised many of us by taking a lower profile in the Statehouse than Peterson did during his tenure. That, Ballard said, was strategic.

"I'm a pretty quick study," he said. "There is a way to work with the Statehouse and a way not to."

That led to a dig at the former mayor.

"We didn't go over there with 40 people and a fancy Power Point presentation," Ballard said, adding, "I learned enough to know they didn't want to see the mayor of Indianapolis every day."

Next up for the city is its bid to host the 2012 Super Bowl. Peterson spent years working to lure the game to Indianapolis.

But if the city wins the bid, guess who will be celebrating in the mayor's office? Here's a hint: He has impeccable timing.

It's a long way from a campaign being a joke, as Tully thought back last August.

What a thought that a Marine might make for a competent administrator, eh?