Tuesday, January 31, 2006
It's bad that he doesn't own up to the fact that he created the largest single entitlement enacted by the federal government since the 1960s--the Medicare prescription drug benefit--without providing any feasible means of paying for it--or for that matter any of the other growing federal entitlement programs.
It is good that he calls for an immigration system that "upholds our laws, reflects our values, and serves the interests of our economy." And yes, we need an "orderly and secure border." The guest worker program he offers is a good start to providing "legal status" to the 12 million undocumented aliens in our country.
It is bad that he wants to offer guest worker status as only a temporary jobs program, rejecting any notion of an amnesty program. Illegals will have no incentive to register for a jobs program which they know will end with their deportation after a short period of time; they will continue to work illegally.
It is good that he raises concerns about the ethical conduct of our public officials and the need to enact reforms to restore confidence. But it is very bad that he would say that in the same sentence he says that people are "discouraged by activist courts that redefine marriage." The two issues are in no way synonomous. It is insulting for him to suggest otherwise. It is also bad that he still employs the unethical Karl Rove, his chief deputy who participated in the outing of a covered CIA agent--more than two years after he did the misdeed. Ethics begins at home Mr. President.
It is good that he ackowledges our "addiction to oil" and accepts that we need to do something about it. But it is very bad that he relies heavily on alternatives that necessarily rely on our traditional energy sources, including oil and coal. Reducing oil imports from the Middle East by 75 percent by the year 2025 is no challenge at all. We don't need more research on hydrogen-fueled cars. The technology works, and it can replace oil. Let's do it. By not, you are confirming what we already knew--you put the interests and profits of the energy companies ahead of the American people.
It is good that he says he believes our courts should offer "equal justice under the law." But it is bad that he believes nominating the likes of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court will serve that end. Yes, Mr. President, they legislate from the bench too. And supporting discrimination against persons because of their sexual orientation is not supporting "equal justice under the law."
For the Democrats part, it is insulting that they would choose as their party's spokesperson to deliver the Democratic Response to the President's address Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA), a man who trumpeted the signing of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages as one of his first official acts in office. And that's all we have to say about what he said.
Rogers alludes to evidence he has that the married senator has engaged in oral sex with other men in the men's restroom at Washington's Union Station. In an unaddressed letter to the unnamed senator posted on his blogsite, Rogers writes:
Tomorrow you will be faced with a vote that may have the longest aftereffects of any other you have cast in your Senate career.
Tomorrow you will decide if your political position is worth more than doing what is right for others like you. For others like you, Mr. Senator, who engage in oral sex with other men. (Although, Mr. Senator, most of us don't do it in the bathrooms of Union Station!) Your fake marriage, by the way, will NOT protect you from the truth being told on this blog.
How does this blog decide who to report on? It's simple. We report on hypocrites. In this case, hypocrites who vote against the gay and lesbian community while engaging in gay sex themselves. When you cast that vote, Mr. Senator, represent your own...it's the least you could do.
Rogers did not give a specific time for outing the senator; only that it would be as soon as tomorrow or at a time when it will most impact his re-election effort. Rogers has previously outed other closeted politicians he felt hypocritically voted against the interests of the gay community including Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) among others.
Remember folks, Uni-Gov is the creation of former Mayor Richard Lugar and other forward-looking Republicans in Marion County. It was their original plan to consolidate both the police and fire departments as part of Uni-Gov, but then-Mayor Lugar settled for what he could get, with the idea that full consolidation would eventually take place. Well, it's been 36 years, and it's about time to finish the job.
Former Mayor Goldsmith actually wanted to merge both the police and fire departments, but he abandoned those efforts out of fear it would detract from his gubernatorial race, which he lost to former Gov. Frank O'Bannon. Mayor Peterson succeeded in merging the sheriff and police departments, but he only had support from two Republican councilors who were excoriated by their Republican colleagues for "selling out."
Republicans are opposing further consolidation in Marion County for the same blatant political reasons Democrats are opposing Gov. Daniels' Major Moves initiative. Surprise the public for a change and govern in a bipartisan fashion.
Democrats instantly announced their opposition to Gov. Daniels' plan to finance major unmet transportation needs with a $3.8 billion privatization plan for the Indiana Toll Road, offering in its place a credit card approach with all the negatives such an approach implies and none of the benefits the Governor's plan promises. Faced with the obvious disparity between their program and the Governor's, they demand a delay until some point in the future.
Gov. Daniels' appropriately responded to former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill's unfounded accusation that Daniels was blackmailing legislators into supporting his Major Moves program. "(Hill) comes from the empty promises crowd," Daniels said in response according to the Star. "Delay is so often a disguise for defeating something."
Further showing their constructive approach to the issue, House Republicans today announced several positive changes they would make to Major Moves to address the valid concerns of lawmakers from northern Indiana. Those include the following:
- Placing a 10-year freeze on tolls paid by local commuters.
- Creating a regional economic development authority for northeastern Indiana.
- Providing stronger legislative and public oversight over future highway leasing deals.
So how will the House Democrats respond to the Republicans' proposal? If the past is any indication, they will pick up their balls and go home--using the House's extraordinary majority requirement for a quorum to defeat legislative action by walking out.
The Democrats had their chance to make a difference at improving our poor transportation system. Instead, they delivered nothing but empty promises. It's time for them to give the Republicans a chance. If they care anything about the state's future, they will get out of its way.
Brokeback Mountain garnered six major category nominations for an Oscar Award, including the coveted Best Picture award. Heath Ledger picked up the nomination for Best Actor, while Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams picked up nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.
Ang Lee received a nomination for Best Director. The movie also picked up the nomination for Best Screenplay Adaptation.
In other categories, the movie received nominations for Cinematography and Original Score. Brokeback Mountain gathered 8 nominations in total.
Other GLBT films were recognized as well. Felicity Huffman picked up a Best Actress nomination for her portrayal of a transgender person in Transamerica. Phillip Seymour Hoffman received a nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of Truman Capote in Capote.
Monday, January 30, 2006
“There is too much ambiguity and vagueness in his record in the important areas of presidential authority, individual and civil rights and whether he will serve as an all-important check to ensure the balance our Founders intended,” Bayh said today according to the Star.
What ambiguity? Alito's writings during his service in the Reagan-Bush administrations make very clear that he believes in an all powerful presidency, that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, and that civil rights laws should be narrowly interpreted.
Many tried to argue that John Roberts' similarly conservative writings during the Reagan administration did not reflect his judicial beliefs. But in the first hot button social issue before the Court this term, Gonzales v. Oregon, Roberts sided with the most conservative justices on the bench in supporting federal efforts to overturn Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law. There is absolutely no reason to believe Alito won't vote just like Scalia, Thomas and Roberts in turning back advancements in the law on important civil rights matters.
Bayh is voting against Alito just like he voted against Roberts because he cannot become a viable candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination unless he stands with the party's more liberal members. His vote, however, will not make a difference. Alito appears to be headed for confirmation with the support of about 60 senators, including several Democrats. At least one Republican, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, will vote against Alito.
“These organizations are attempting to influence legislation by going through the public, and we don’t even know who they are,” said Lutz “We don’t know where their money is coming from or why they are interested in the success or failure of certain legislation. For the public to make an informed decision on what they are hearing, they should be required to disclose everything.”
The Senate Democrat statement specifically references television and radio ads on telecommunications reform and Major Moves, the Governor's plan to privatize the Indiana Toll Road as part of a massive transportation construction program. “We have groups like the governor’s Aiming Higher Inc., which is currently running radio advertisements asking the public to support Major Moves,” said Lutz. “However they don’t have to disclose anything. I wonder if somewhere in their list of donations they have something from one of those companies that are bidding for the operation of the Toll Road.”
As we previously reported, SB 371 would require these groups to report all expenditures designed to inform or urge the general public to take action for the purpose of influencing legislation. This includes any advertising, mass mailings, publications or other marketing efforts. The proposal would have also required these groups to release where they received their funding. Senator Garton assigned the bill to the Rules Committee, where it died for lack of a hearing.
“This bill simply sought to create greater transparency in the process, and for the Senate Republicans to block it is shameful. What are they trying to hide and who are they trying to protect?”Lutz said. “Hoosiers have a right to know who is trying to influence them, legislation and their government officials and why,” added Lutz. “This is a debate that needs to happen.”
A group Lutz' press release doesn't mention which takes advantage of this loophole is Eric Miller's Advance America. The Christian right organization's leader gloated last week about the defeat of the bill. He falsely portrayed it to his followers as "an attempt to stop public involvement in the legislative process" and an effort "to intimidate and stop individuals from communicating with the friends, neighbors, relatives, etc. about a specific issue and urging them to get involved in the legislative process."
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Advance Indiana has been criticized by some for comparing Eric Miller and his Advance America organization to D.C. Stephenson and the Ku Klux Klan. But the striking similarity between the legislative agendas sought by the two groups and their leaders in two different eras separated by more than 80 years is unmistakable. Advance America’s and Eric Miller’s push for anti-immigrant legislation in the current session is just the latest example.
In a recent communication to his supporters, Miller commented on two separate anti- immigrant-related bills pending before the legislature which we told you about last week. Letting his views be made clear, Miller articulated the position of the organization on two bills dealing with immigrants:
Advance America believes that individuals who are in Indiana illegally should not be given the same privileges and rights and assistance as citizens of Indiana as well as those who are here lawfully . . . House Bill 1310 which would have given illegal immigrants driver’s licenses died in the committee on a 6-6 vote. I spoke against the bill and pointed out that we should not be rewarding illegal activity. Nobody forced these individuals to come here illegally. Driving is a privilege, not a right . . . I spoke in favor of Representative Eric Turner’s bill, House Bill 1383. This bill is designed to prohibit government assistance (government assistance is of course paid for by the tax payers of Indiana!) from going to illegal immigrants. Advance America believes that individuals who are not here legally should not receive taxpayer money in the form of public assistance.
Reading between the lines, it isn’t much of a reach to conclude that Miller’s support of anti-immigrant legislation is targeted at Indiana’s rapidly growing Hispanic population, many of whom have entered the country through Mexico without inspection in search of jobs and a better way of life, no different than any other immigrant group throughout the course of our nation’s history. Essentially, the legislation supported by Miller puts the State of Indiana in the business of immigrant enforcement, a power secured solely to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution.
One of the bill’s most controversial provisions, which would have barred public schools from enrolling the children of illegal aliens, was removed from the bill to assuage its critics. In opposing HB 1310, Miller takes the position that even legal non-immigrants, who the new federal Real ID law says must be offered driver’s license, cannot be issued a driver’s license in Indiana without a social security number.
While Miller’s bill seeks to penalize the tens of thousands of undocumented persons living and working in Indiana, it offers no penalties to the businesses in Indiana which employ them illegally. Perhaps that is because some of his supporters, including several prominent business owners, employ non-documented workers from time to time.
To many of the people he seeks to punish with his legislation, our federal government has at least tacitly approved of their presence here. U.S. Border Patrol does little to prevent their undocumented entry into the country, and immigration enforcement officials rarely punish employers who provide them jobs. Even the IRS issues them tax identification numbers so they can open bank accounts up at federally regulated banks, which welcome their business, and pay taxes on their earnings.
So how can Miller’s position be likened to the KKK? Well, in the 1920s the KKK under the leadership of D.C. Stephenson had its own legislative agenda, which it called the “Americanization” agenda. At the time Indiana was experiencing a large influx of European immigrants, many of whom were Catholic. To make Indiana inhospitable to Catholics, the KKK pursued legislation centered on the American flag, the Bible and the federal and state constitutions. Sound a little familiar? As the issues were put before the legislature by the Klan one by one, one of the chief spokesmen said: “The politicians are either for it or against it; there is no middle ground.”
Displaying the flag in public schools, mandatory instruction in the Bible, and anti-Catholicism were to become part of our public schools’ curriculum. Teachers were to be barred from wearing religious garb in the public classroom, a move intended to prevent nuns from teaching in public schools. Because the Catholic immigrants were setting up their own private parochial schools, they too became a target. Legislation was sought to mandate that private schools use the same textbooks as the public schools. Also, any graduate of a private school would be barred from teaching in a public school. Conveniently, the bill exempted the all white protestant Culver Military Academy. One pro-Klan legislator even sought to outlaw parochial schools altogether.
Last year, Miller and his organization successfully enacted into law a measure we dubbed the “Eric Miller Patriot Act.” As a way of promoting patriotism in our schools, that law requires all public classrooms to display the American flag and to provide a daily opportunity for students to participate in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Public schools are also required to provide a daily moment of silence in each classroom to allow the students to pray, meditate or engage in any other silent activity while all the students are either standing or sitting.
Don’t forget the controversy over House Speaker Brian Bosma’s allowing overtly Christian prayers to be offered at the start of each day’s legislative business to the exclusion of other religions. Although that practice has been ruled as an unconstitutional establishment of religion by U.S. federal district Judge David Hamilton, Miller’s group has been at the forefront in pushing efforts to challenge the legal ruling. In his most recent communication to supporters, Miller spoke in support of two separate resolutions in the House and Senate which support Bosma’s appeal of the ruling. Miller falsely asserts that Hamilton’s opinion “banned prayers at the Indiana House of Representatives.” He promises, “We will let you know which Representatives refuse to support prayer in the House of Representatives.”
Lest we also forget the leading role Miller and his organization took in efforts to block passage of Indianapolis' Human Rights Ordinance, which bar discrimination of gays, lesbians and transgender persons in housing and employment. He warned his supporters, if the HRO becomes law, businesses will no longer be able to deny employment to a person because of their sexual orientation. He said, "It will force these businesses to treat homosexual couples the same as a married couple involving a man and a woman . . . [and] would be granting legal recognition to the homosexual lifestyle . . . another step in moving toward homosexual marriages."
And last but not least, don't forget that the leaders of both organizations both set their sights on the Governor's office. Stephenson's political aspirations died with the death of a State House secretary, who Stephenson was convicted of murdering because she was carrying his child conceived out of wedlock. Miller ran unsuccessfully against Gov. Daniels in the 2004 Republican primary, but he probably hasn't given up on his quest. He frequently takes issue with the administration over such issues as gay rights and, most recently, the Department of Health's exemption of abortion clinics from more stringent state regulation. He also still maintains his campaign committee.
Now, after reading all of the foregoing evidence, Advance Indiana would challenge anyone to explain how Advance America’s agenda differs from that of the KKK's in the 1920s. You simply can’t deny it.
Repeating a line he used recently, Pence said he believes "Bush is conservative, but he is not a conservative." Translated, Pence says that he thinks Bush's heart is in the right place, but his record speaks otherwise. He cited two new federal programs started on Bush's watch, including No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, both of which Pence and about two dozen other GOP members in the House opposed.
With tongue in cheek, Pence said he was pleased to learn that Bush would emphasize "fiscal restraint" in his upcoming State of the Union address. But if he's really serious, Pence wants Bush to join him in rewriting the Budget Act of 1974, which he argues made it easier for Congress to tax and spend more, and to fight for passage of a line item veto authority for the President.
On the Abramoff affair, Pence had some pointed advice to Bush concerning the White House photos of Bush and Abramoff and details about Abramoff's visits to the White House: Release them all. Quoting President Lincoln, Pence said "Give the people the facts and republican governance will be secured."
Pence ended his appearance on FOX New Sunday with a plug for his colleague Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), who Pence is supporting as the only outsider in the race to replace Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader.
What Pence has to say may not be music to the ears of many of his Republican colleagues, but you have to give the guy credit for speaking his mind.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
In the last election differing Republican interests gathered to topple the long-time chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Larry Borst (R-Indianapolis) in the Republican primary with a little-known candidate Brent Waltz. With the announcement at week's end that the longest serving Senate President Pro Tem in Indiana's history, Robert Garton (R-Columbus) will have a primary opponent, it appears those same forces may be coalescing to bring about a similar fate to Garton.
The Howey Political Report tells us that Greg Walker, an accountant from Columbus, filed the necessary papers with the Secretary of State on Friday to challenge Garton in District 41. Garton has never had a serious primary challenge since joining the Senate 36 years ago in 1970, and he has rarely had a serious general election opponent. If Garton isn't running scared yet, he should be.
Garton has never endeared himself to the Christian right. He struck out a moderate position early in his Senate career when he fought for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, parting company with many of his more conservative Republican colleagues. Throughout the 80s and 90s, his more moderate views seemed welcome by his Republican colleagues, but in recent elections the complexion of the Senate Republican caucus has turned decidedly more conservative. He has been able to successfully vanquish opponents within the caucus. Most recently, he backbenched former Senator Murray Clark after he unsuccessfully sought to oust him as Senate President Pro Tem. Some speculate that was the impetus for Clark's surprising departure from the Senate before the end of his term.
During the current session Garton has appeared to show a willingness to open the floodgates to more controversial legislation sought by the Christian right, which he traditionally bottled up in committee in an effort to placate their growing influence within his caucus. He's taken their line on gay marriages and Christian prayers in the General Assembly as just two examples. But it is unlikely to be enough to erase the image he has created in the minds of these folks for more than three decades now.
Looking at his opponent's press release announcing his candidacy, it is hard not to see the handwriting of folks like Eric Miller and Micah Clark. He touches on family values, home schooling (his children are), his faith in God and his support of religious freedom and the right to own guns. Here's a flavor of what he had to say:
I respect the commitment Senator Garton has made to serving in the capitol building for these past 36 years. However, the senator has not been opposed in a primary election bid in twelve years. I offer myself as an alternative in the Republican primary. What makes me a viable candidate? Firstly, my cherished wife of 17 years, Allison, and our four children Michaela, Andrew, Hannah, and Rebecca form a strong and loving family unit, which is the foundation of any strong nation. My wife and myself home educate our four children, teaching them character, virtue, and faith are more important than personal fame, wealth, or power. The manner in which one manages his household reflects leadership abilities more than do public accolades and awards. My faith in God governs my convictions. I am pro-life, because our Creator has given humans their worth as living souls. I believe in taking personal responsibility for one’s actions, and personal liberties should prevail as long as one behaves responsibly. This truism dictates that I support the second amendment, and I support the right to choose education options for one’s family without oppressive regulation. Revisionist judges should not secularize religious expression in Indiana.
It is likely that Walker will not only have plenty of grassroots support from the Christian right in getting out the vote for him in the May primary, but he will also likely have money from disparate Republicans. That would probably include the likes of former Indiana State GOP Chairman Rex Early, who was instrumental in helping Brent Waltz raise big bucks to challenge Larry Borst two years ago. Since semi-retiring from politics, the curmudgeonly Early has been settling scores with old political foes. Senator Garton is said to be among those foes just as Borst was.
Garton's enemies will have plenty of political fodder with which to chip away at him. The worst albatross he faces is the ridiculously self-serving health insurance for life benefit he and his fellow lawmakers created for themselves several years ago. In the face of the staggering liability and public outrage over the program, Garton has remained steadfast in his opposition to modifying the program. While his Republican counterparts in the House are putting forth a well-received plan to take the politics out of the drawing of legislative districts, Garton will hear nothing of it. A bill to implement much-needed lobbyist reform was deep-sixed by Garton in the Rules Committee without a public hearing.
Garton is also vulnerable to charges that he has used his political office to line his own pockets. For many years Garton earned a living giving motivational speeches to businesses. It just so happened that most of those businesses had business before the legislature, and there was at least an appearance that businesses were buying favor with him. He only gave up this gig after the Indianapolis Star put a spotlight on the unseemly practice. While he gave up that work, he accepted another high-paid position with a state-funded institution, Ivy Tech, whose budget he and other lawmakers control through the budgetary process. Three other lawmakers, including former House Speaker Pat Bauer (D-South Bend), Rep. Craig Frey (D-Mishawaka) and Rep. Bill Crawford (D-Indianapolis) are also on Ivy Tech's payroll.
If Garton is indeed toppled in the primary, his district could become competitive for the Democrats in the fall. As usual, they don't seem to have their act together in having any decent candidate at the ready in such an event. But that may change as well.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Miller could have had a case of the blues this week because Thompson’s anti-gay amendment to the eminent domain bill his organization is pushing was withdrawn under a black cloud earlier this week, but he’s mostly just relieved that Indiana will have no lobbying reform for at least another year. In his weekly legislative update to his members, Miller blatantly mischaracterizes the legislation, describing SB 371 as “an attempt to stop public involvement in the legislative process”, and which sought “to intimidate and stop individuals from communicating with their friends, neighbors, relatives, etc about a specific issue and urging them to get involved in the legislative process.” In actuality, its purpose is to end the blatant abuse of the law by people and groups like him and his organization.
Organizations like Eric Miller’s Advance America often spend in excess of $100,000 annually on grassroots efforts to influence legislative actions through the use of automated action alert e-mails and telephonic messages, radio and television advertisements, mass mailings and other forms of public communications. None of these expenditures must be reported currently under Indiana law.
As an example of how Advance America abuses this loophole we need look for evidence no further than a recent legislative alert Miller sent to his members urging them to contact their legislators. In the communication, Miller sought contributions “to help us pay our legislative expenses which will exceed $160,000.” But as we reported previously in an analysis we made of Advance America’s lobbyist expenditure reports, the organization reports only a small percentage of its legislative expenditures as “lobbying expenditures.” During the period of 2000 to 2005, for example, Advance America reported to the Lobby Registration Commission annual lobbying expenditures of as little as $3,855.67 to no greater than $38,397.82.
Compounding the problem is the fact that Advance America is a not-for-profit organization, which means the contributions made to the organization are tax-deductible and the revenue it generates are not subject to taxation. Under the Internal Revenue Code, a not-for-profit which engages in partisan politics or excess lobbying activities can have its status revoked and its officers monetarily penalized or criminally prosecuted for violating the law.
As we’ve also previously reported, Advance America is blatantly abusing its non-profit status. Our analysis shows that Advance America reports very little of its expenditures as lobbying expenditures, even under the much broader Internal Revenue Code definition of lobbying. According to our analysis of the organization’s tax returns, it attributes as little as 3% and no more than 7% of its annual expenditures as lobbying expenditures. During the period of 1998 to 2003, for example, the group reported annual lobbying expenditures of as little as $25,037, and no more than $52,175. We believe that any fair and balanced examination of Advance America’s activities would show that the organization is under-reporting its actual lobbying expenditures to the IRS, and that the degree of lobbying undertaken each year by the group would make it an “action group” not entitled to tax-exempt status.
Eric Miller may be gloating about the defeat of lobbyist reform for now, but will he much longer? Advance Indiana can report that Indianapolis Star reporter Brendan O’Shaughnessy is sitting on bombshell evidence that Miller and his law firm may have illegally conspired to evade Indiana’s Lobby Law. Strangely, the reporter who helped uncover the mass corruption at the Gary Urban Enterprise Association while working as a reporter in Northern Indiana before coming to the Star has been sitting on this bombshell story for months.
Advance Indiana’s patience is running out on the Star and O’Shaughnessy. We’ll give them a few more days, but otherwise, we intend to let the public know what they know about the nefarious activities of Miller to evade our lobbying laws but are not disclosing to the public and government prosecutors. Stay tuned.
Democrats are trying to convince Indianapolis city-county councilor Mary Moriarty Adams she should enter the House District 89 race against incumbent Rep. Larry Buell (R) according to the Indiana Legislative Insight. Adams, you may recall, was one of just two Democratic members of the city-county council to vote against the HRO last year--both times.
Marion Co. Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy leaned heavily on Democratic city-county council members last year to support the HRO, even threatening to withhold the support of the party in the 2007 city elections if they did not support the anti-discrimination ordinance. Why then is Adams being offered a promotion of sorts?
Apparently Treacy gives Adams a pass on the HRO because of her "special circumstances." Translated, that means she has had to deal with homosexuality issues within her own family; therefore, it is perfectly understandable that she wouldn't like gay people, and that she would support discrimination against them. It's just everyone else that's supposed to be tolerant.
Shame on the Marion Co. Democrats if they make her Buell's opponent. It's bad enough that the Marion Co. GOP finds so many gay bashers to run for office. When the Democrats do the same, they offer little choice for voters who care about non-discrimination. They could run former House Democratic staffer Andy Stoner again, but apparently they aren't excited about his candidacy.
Buell is already facing a Republican primary race from Arsenal Tech teacher Michael Batz (R) who unsuccessfully challenged Buell in the 2004 primary. If Batz is smart, he will clobber Buell with his unabashed support for the health insurance for life perk he and other lawmakers voted for themselves. That is one issue that will resonate with many voters in his district. We don't know much about Batz, but we would like to hear more about him.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
To ensure that she gives her informed consent to the physican performing the procedure, she will be told that the fetus may feel pain, that an anasthetic or other pain medication may be provided during an abortion involving a fetus with a probable gestation age of at least 20 weeks, and that insurance may or may not cover the service.
But the House Public Policy and Veterans Affairs Committee decided that wasn't enough so it further amended HB 1172. A pregnant woman seeking an abortion will also have to be told in writing at least 18 hours before the procedure that adoption alternatives are available, and that the adoptive parents may legally pay the costs of prenatal care, childbirth and neonatal care. She must also be told that there are physical risks to the woman in having an abortion, both during the abortion procedure and after.
Oh, and once last thing--human life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm--so says the Indiana General Assembly.
The bill passed out of committee on an 8-3 vote, with 2 Democrats joining 6 Republicans in supporting the bill.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Foley's proposal would have canned the current six members of the judicial nominating commission and replaced them with 6 partisan members, three appointed by the Governor and three chosen from a list of 6 attorneys recommended by the Speaker of the House and Senate President Pro Tem.
HB 1419 was never anything more than a thinly veiled plot hatched by Advance America's Eric Miller to get judges booted from the bench that he and his anti-gay Christian friends are upset with for making decisions with which they disagree, including allowing gay parents to adopt children. Last year, he tried a different tact at amending the State's Constitution to give the Senate a role in the retention of judges it did not like; that proposal, SJR 1 sailed through the Senate but was help up in the House.
In putting down the bill that angered the state's judiciary, Bosma offered the following comments:
After reviewing the testimony given in the committee room and discussing it with members that were present, I felt that this was an issue that we did not need to spend a lot of time on during the rest of the session. It's very clear that while many believe changes to the judicial nominating commission do need to occur, they need to be well thought out and perhaps be examined in an atmosphere that's a little more thoughtful and not quite so quick.
If HB 1419 had been enacted, Indiana would have become the only state in the country to place on the ballot an advisory statement instructing voters whether to vote to retain or not retain a sitting judge. Rep. Foley should be holding his head in shame as a practicing attorney for participating in this unprecedented power grab of the legislative branch over the judicial branch, upsetting our constitutional balance of powers and further politicizing our judiciary in the process.
Rep. Tim Brown (R), the chairman of the House Public Health Committee, pushed the proposed tax increase on behalf of the Governor but could not muster enough support for it in committee to vote it out. Brown tells the Star that any last-ditch effort to revive the proposal later in the session would be a "long shot."
The Star reported that "many legislators were concerned that Daniels' didn't spell out where that additional money would be spent."
Under the Democrat's plan, the state would sell an additional $1.6 billion in bonds to accomplish two goals:
- Using the revenue generated from the toll increases already announced by the Daniels Administration to float $800 million in bonds over the next 20 years. The governor has proposed doubling toll rates, which would generate $160 million a year.
- Using Garvee Bonds, a process by which the state can borrow against future federal gasoline revenue, Indiana can generate another $800 million over the next 20 years.
“All of this can be done without the risky business that is so much a part of the governor’s plan,” Bauer said. “Under the House Democrat proposal, there would be no worries about foreign control of public assets, non-compete clauses, private taxation, unfair toll increases or increased liability for Hoosiers if the foreign investor defaults.”
A major complaint of the Democrats is that under Gov. Daniels' plan to privatize the toll road the profits earned by the foreign-controlled entity will leave Indiana rather than being re-invested here. By Bauer's calculation, the private contractor will have recouped its initial $3.8 billion purchase price for the lease after the first 17 years of the 75-year lease. Bauer said, "Under the terms of a 75-year lease proposed by the administration, every nickel generated by those toll increases over nearly 58 years would go into the pockets of foreign investors. That means about $21 billion in profit will be leaving Indiana.”
Bauer omits the fact that the private contractor, in addition to the $3.8 billion purchase price, will be required to invest an additional $4.4 billion in toll road improvements over the life of the lease, which would have otherwise been paid by the taxpayers, in addition to bearing the costs of maintaining and operating the toll roads, a cost otherwise borne by the taxpayers. Bauer also complains that toll road increases will wind up in the pocket of foreign investors, but he fails to mention that two-thirds of the toll revenues are generated from out-of-state auto and truck tolls.
While Gov. Daniels' provided detailed information about the road programs which his plan would fund, the Democrats offered no concrete information. That's because their program would not fund all of the projects the Governor's plan will allow us to undertake over the next 10 years, including the much-needed I-69 project, the I-31 upgrade and the Ohio River bridges.
As we recall, Democrat politicos enjoyed quite a bit of graft and skimming from operating the Indiana Toll Road during the 16 years the Democrats controlled the Governor's office. If we're not mistaken, a few of them went to jail for their misdeeds. So when Bauer talks about the "risky business" of operating the toll road, he should explain that there are plenty of risks associated with entrusting the toll road's operation to the politicians as well.
It is refreshing to see the Democrats offer an alternative to the Governor's proposal rather than just taking the old slash and burn approach. But when you compare the $3.8 billion in hand the Governor's plan promises versus the $1.6 billion in new credit card charges the Democrats' plan promises, it's hard to walk away from the Governor's plan.
The controversial amendment #12 to HB 1010, a bill pertaining to eminent domain, was first filed in the House by Rep. Jeff Thompson (R-Danville) on Monday at 11:25 a.m., well in advance of the deadline for filing floor amendments to bills to be heard on second reading on Tuesday afternoon’s calendar for the House of Representatives. Speaker Bosma has a team of attorneys who review and draft all proposed amendments being offered by members of his GOP caucus. As part of that process, the Speaker is made aware well in advance of any amendments his members intend to offer, affording him the opportunity to dissuade a member from interfering with the Speaker and his party’s legislative agenda each day.
The eminent domain bill has been a top priority of the GOP members in the wake of last year’s controversial Supreme Court ruling allowing units of government to take private property from one property owner and giving it to another private property owner using its eminent domain powers. HB 1010, offered by Rep. Dave Wolkins, represents the bi-partisan work of a legislative study committee. The anti-gay Christian right organization, Advance America, and its leader Eric Miller have made passage of HB 1010 one of their biggest priorities this session as well. Rep. Jeff Thompson is a close ally of Advance America and would never have offered his amendment without the full blessing of Eric Miller.
After House Speaker Bosma abruptly ended debate on Thompson’s amendment and adjourned the House without further action, he sought to distance himself from the controversial amendment, suggesting that it should never have been eligible for consideration as an amendment to the eminent domain bill without first being considered in committee. Yet, the video archive of the January 24th session clearly indicates at least Bosma’s tacit approval to hearing Thompson’s amendment.
The House video from yesterday’s session shows Speaker Bosma presiding over the chamber and recognizing Rep. Thompson at 52:58 minutes into the session for purposes of offering his controversial amendment to HB 1010. Speaker Bosma remained in the chair as Rep. Thompson presented his amendment. As Thompson concluded his remarks, Bosma can be seen passing off the gavel to House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner at 53:44 minutes into the session.
Before departing, Speaker Bosma hears Rep. Thompson explain that his amendment was being offered as a “protection of private property” with respect to “protections or granting access to a person renting, leasing or buying private property or in the case of private employment it limits those protections to those strictly found [in federal or state law] . . . only those protections are granted and does not allow local government to make any other types of protections.”
As soon as Bosma hands off the gavel to Turner, an objection is immediately raised by Rep. Scott Pelath (D) to Thompson’s amendment on the basis that it does not pertain to the same subject matter as the underlying bill. For the next twenty minutes, Turner, Pelath and other members and the House Parliamentarian can be seen off to the side of the podium debating the germaneness of the amendment. Finally, at 1:16:24 hours into the session, Turner takes to the chair and rules that both the underlying bill and the amendment pertain to “personal property rights” and, therefore, Pelath’s motion is not in order. The House remains at ease for another 10 minutes while House Republicans discuss Thompson’s amendment off camera before proceeding with the debate.
When the debate resumes, Rep. Thompson is allowed to explain anew what his amendment does. Democratic members then began questioning Thompson about the motive behind his bill and the impact it would have. Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) asked Thompson if the denial of these protections would apply to everyone and specifically, women. Thompson answered in the affirmative to both questions. Asked by Pierce whether his amendment was directed at a specific ordinance, Thompson responded that there had been, “as you well know” certain local ordinances enacted which extend protections beyond what is offered under federal or state laws. Thompson conceded to Rep. Pelath that it would apply to laws protecting veterans and celibates.
As was reported by the Star, at no time during the debate did anyone use the word “gay”, although it was quite obvious to everyone that the passage of Indianapolis’ HRO, providing protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, was the impetus behind Thompson’s amendment. Even Thompson admitted that to reporters at the conclusion of the debate. As other members of the chamber began one-by-one attacking the breadth of Thompson’s amendment, including one Republican, Rep. John Ulmer (R-Goshen), Thompson’s general ignorance of the subject matter and his bad motive for offering the amendment became ever more apparent.
Unable to take any further embarrassment, Speaker Bosma took the chair back from Turner and quickly adjourned the House without further consideration of the amendment. As we indicated earlier, Bosma sought to distance himself from the amendment in discussions later with reporters, but that simply does not hold water. He clearly knew about the amendment in advance, which was prepared, reviewed and otherwise vetted by his own staff attorneys and he himself allowed the amendment to be offered while he presided over the House.
The Speaker made a bad calculation that Democrats would fold under the pressure of having to cast a vote against an amendment which quite apparently was anti-gay. Caught up in the enthusiasm of enacting another anti-discriminatory measure towards gays like his anti-gay marriage amendment from last year, the Speaker recklessly failed to grasp the vast breadth of the Thompson amendment in a way that his rank and file members clearly did. That error in judgment has seriously eroded his credibility and raises serious questions about his ability to lead his own caucus. In so doing, he stepped on the otherwise good intentions of reforming Indiana's eminent domain law, allowing the gay-bashing amendment to overshadow it.
In the end, the voters will probably tend to the matter themselves. The increasingly extremist actions of an extremist majority will no doubt lead to the GOP’s own undoing when voters fail to return a majority of Republicans to the House next year and instead elect a majority of Democrats to lead the body.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Just hours after a House committee approved an anti-immigrant bill, HB 1383, in committee aimed at discriminating against Indiana's growing Hispanic population, Rep. Jeff Thompson (R-Danville) attempted to amend a bill, HB 1010, on second reading in the Republican-controlled House to prohibit local communities in Indiana from adopting local ordinances that offered more protections than federal or state laws. If adopted, it would nullify the HRO adopted by Indianapolis and similar ordinances around the state intended to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The move led to a chaotic atmospere according to the Star, and it prompted House Speaker Brian Bosma to adjourn the session prematurely. Thompson's amendment, by his own admission , was aimed directly at the Human Rights Ordinance adopted just last year by Indianapolis, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, neither of which are specifically protected by federal and state civil rights laws. Thompson offered the amendment to a bill pertaining to eminent domain, causing House Democrats to procedurally object to an amendment not pertaining to the same subject matter as the underlying bill. Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, who sponsored the anti-immigrant bill approved in committee earlier in the day, ruled the amendment in order.
Surprisingly, even some Republicans were miffed over the proposed amendment. The ensuing chaos brought the House's business to a halt. Thompson feigned the true intentions of his bill under questioning by House members:
While being quizzed about the bill at the podium, Thompson said he knew that some local ordinances in Indiana went further than the anti-discrimination protections provided by federal law or the federal or state constitutions. But he would not specify cities or the classes of people that could not be covered under his measure . . . Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said the only ordinances in Indiana he knew of that would be prevented by Thompson's bill were ones that also included protections based on sexual orientation or preference. Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Michigan City and West Lafayette have ordinances similar to the one recently passed in Indianapolis. "I can't speak to his motivation, but I thought it was odd that he couldn't point to a specific ordinance that he was trying to get overturned, so it made you wonder what he was trying to get at," Pierce said.
Thompson was more forthcoming to reporters. He told them he opposed Indianapolis' HRO because it was close to his suburban Danville community. "It's a philosophy of do we allow local governments to go in and intrude on private property and put restrictions on them," he said. "To me a restriction is just as bad as taking (under eminent domain), in some cases worse."
Thompson's refusal to withdraw his amendment angered many members according to the Star:
But some Republicans seemed miffed over the proposal, too, and business remained stalled for about 30 minutes as GOP lawmakers huddled privately trying to decide how to proceed. Debate eventually resumed, but after a few lawmakers railed against the measure, House Speaker Brian Bosma adjourned the session for the evening.
The House will resume business tomorrow where it left off. Let's hope House Speaker Bosma figures out that the anti-gay agenda of his caucus has gone too far. Clearly, Thompson's amendment would be struck down as unconstitutional by the standard adopted by the Supreme Court in the Romer decision. In that case, the Court struck down a Colorado statute which prevented local governments from adopting anti-discrimination laws for Coloradoans based on sexual orientation as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
So who's behind Thompson's amendment? It appears it was offered at the urging of the Grand Dragon of Moral Righteousness Eric Miller and his gay bashing organization, Advance America. Passage of the the eminent domain reforms containd in HB 1010 are listed as one of the organization's top priorities for this session. Thompson, who is closely allied with Miller and Advance America, would not have offered the amendment without the blessings of the Grand Dragon.
Miller and his gay bashing group fought tooth and nail, along with other Christian hate groups, to defeat Indianapolis' Human Rights Ordinance. These same people now seek to undo by state fiat what they could not accomplish through the local political process. So much for the local control these folks are always advocating. But then again it is hard to find a bigger hypocrite than the Grand Dragon himself so we shouldn't be surprised.
By way of explanation, let’s be clear that privatization is nothing new. Most of the transportation systems in major cities like Indianapolis and elsewhere around the country were operated by private businesses through the early part of the last century long before we had major, publicly funded transportation systems. While both the state and local governments in Indiana had relied on privatization agreements to provide beneficial public services, attention was not paid to the statutory basis for such agreements until Mayor Goldsmith began undertaking major privatization initiatives for the city’s golf courses, the airport and wastewater treatment facility.
Mayor Goldsmith, like the state and other units of local government in Indiana, had relied on government procurement laws respecting contracts for awarding services. The purchase of services, unlike the purchases of goods, did not require a competitive bid process. Under privatization agreements, the private contractor often assumed responsibility for construction and repair of public facilities which would have ordinarily been undertaken by the governmental entity. Many complained that the privatization deals could be made in private without appropriate public scrutiny. The question was also raised as to whether these projects, when performed by the private contractor, had to still be publicly bid in accordance with public works laws and had to pay prevailing wage rates for the construction work performed thereon. The Public-Private Agreements Act found at I.C. §5-23-1 et al. answered all of those questions.
HB 1008, unfortunately, is written in isolation of the current Public-Private Agreements Act as if it were never written. Why? Perhaps because the administration chose to use an out-of-state law firm, Mayer Brown & Platt, which knows nothing about Indiana law? Maybe. It is more likely that the administration wanted to avoid the restrictions imposed by the existing Public-Private Agreements Act, which clearly applies to the privatization of the Indiana Toll Road. The existing Act provides for two types of public-private agreements: operating agreements and build, operate and transfer (“BOT”) agreements concerning a “public facility.” A “public facility” is defined as “a facility located on, or to be located on, real property owned or leased by a governmental body and upon which a public service is or may be provided.” The privatization of the toll road, because it proposes substantial construction work, in addition to the operation and management of the toll road, would fall within the definition of a BOT agreement.
The Act does not allow a public-private agreement to be made in the dark of the night. State and local governments are required to undertake an RFP process with public notice requirements, and which offers standard protections to competing bidders. The Indiana Press Association, with a full court pressure by the Indianapolis Star, lobbied hard for the public RFP process in the current law.
The Act requires BOT agreements to set out how the costs are to be funded by the private operator or the government, the requirement that the government property be leased for a predetermined period, or alternatively, that it be owned by the operator during the term of the agreement but revert back to the ownership of the government at the expiration of the agreement, which costs are paid by the private operator as opposed to the government, and the terms of compensation for the private operate (e.g., a percent of revenues or fixed amount). It also provides that if a BOT agreement allows for the use of public funds for construction work, then the prevailing wage must be paid for all labor performed in connection with the construction and the project must be publicly bid as any other public works project is bid.
HB 1008, like the existing law, does provide for an RFP process like what has been followed by the Indiana Department of Transportation, and which attracted several competing bids. HB 1008 proposes the creation of a new Public-Private Agreements For Toll Road Projects Act. Where it parts with the existing law is with respect to the requirement the construction paid for out of public funds must be publicly bid in accordance with the public works law and the common construction wage must be paid for labor performed on the work. HB 1108 specifically provides the following for toll road construction projects:
Unless otherwise provided by federal law, the operator or any contractor or subcontractor of the operator engaged in the construction of a toll road project
is not required to comply with IC 4-13.6 or IC 5-16 concerning state public works, IC 5-17 concerning purchases of materials and supplies, or other statutes concerning procedures for procurement of public works or personal property as a condition of being awarded and performing work on the project.
As opponents of the toll road privatization start looking for ways to tear down the Governor’s proposal, we suspect that they will eventually get around to focusing on this aspect. It certainly was a big bone of contention when the original act was enacted. The provisions the Governor seeks to avoid under this new law were not particularly favored by Mayor Goldsmith either, but in the end he accepted the bitter pill, as a tradeoff for having a clear statutory framework under which he could pursue his privatization initiatives. Let’s see if Gov. Daniels can pull of what Mayor Goldsmith could not.
Some legislative changes were necessary for the financial aspects of the toll road deal, but we wonder if the administration may not have been wiser to stick with the current statute for these type of agreements rather than creating an entirely new one.
Monday, January 23, 2006
For those of you who don't want to take the time to analyze each of the roll call votes to figure out which lawmakers should be held accountable, we've taken the time do it for you. It really wasn't that hard to do since the vast majority of lawmakers serving from 2001 through 2003 voted in favor of the benefit.
Starting with the Senate, every single senator supported the original benefit, as well as the changes in the benefit which prohibited the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tem from revoking the benefit post-retirement once it is offered, and which allowed the legislature to tap a special state fund to pay the retirees health care benefits. Only one senator, Joe Zakas, voted against another change creating a special fund out of which to pay the retiree benefits without stating its true purpose.
Aside from Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton and Senate Democratic Leader Richard Young, we would single out the Senate sponsors of the various bills for extra culpability. That list of currently serving senators includes Allen Paul (R), Mike Young (R), Marvin Riegsecker (R), Bob Jackman (R), Tom Wyss (R), Joe Harrison (R), Allie Craycraft (D), Vi Simpson (D), Luke Kenley (R), and David Ford (R).
Senator Vaneeta Becker (R) deserves special recognition among her colleagues in the Senate as a true friend of the taxpayers. While serving as a member of the House at the time these bills were voted on, she consistently joined a very small group in opposing the legislative perk.
On the House side, House Speaker Brian Bosma and House Minority Leader Pat Bauer are equally culpable for their consistent support for the various pieces of legislation from start to finish which created the perk. We would add to that list of currently serving House members who added their names as sponsors of the various bills for extra culpability. That list includes Craig Fry (D), Tom Kromkowski (D), Larry Buell (R), Vern Tincher (D), Mike Murphy (R), Dave Crooks (D), and Dale Grubb (D).
There are a few House members who we would be remiss if we did not single out for special recognition as true friends of the taxpayers. Representatives Jeb Bardon (D), Bob Bischoff (D) and Tom Saunders (R) cast numerous votes against the perk. Other House members had more mixed votes. Eric Turner (R) voted once against the creation of the original plan, but otherwise consistently cast votes in support of the perk once it was created. On final passage of the original legislation creating it, ten House members voted against the plan. Current members who voted against final passage included Bardon, Becker, Bischoff, Terry Goodin (D), Jack Lutz (R), Rich McClain (R), and Peggy Welch (D).
Except those noted above, all other incumbent House members serving between 2001-2003 are culpable for their unwavering support of the health care for life legislative perk. The list is too long to include here, but you can view the individual roll calls listed above.
Many lawmakers will not be happy to see this information disseminated to the public. If their opponents use their votes in support of this unnecessary legislative perk, you can bet that it will work to their advantage. Rest assured that some members of the General Assembly will not be returning next year because of their vote for the perk.
The winning bid came from Statewide Mobility Partners (a.k.a. Macquarie-Cintra), a Spanish-Australian business consortium with plenty of experience operating public tranportation systems. Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the private entity would enter into a contract to operate and maintain the Indiana Toll Road for the next 75 years; the private entity will retain all toll road revenues (currently $90 million per year) during the life the contract which would have otherwise gone to the state.
The $3.85 billion lump sum payment the private contractor will pay the State at the commencement of the contract will provide the critical funding for major construction projects included in the Governor's Major Moves initiative including:
- Hoosier Heartland Highway
- Fort To Port (connecting Indiana to Toledo, Ohio ports)
- Two new bridges over the Ohio River near Louisville
- Upgrading U.S. 31 from Indianapolis to South Bend to an interstate highway
- I-69 extension from Indianapolis to Evansville
- Modernization of the Toll Road
In addition to the lump sum payment, the private contractor will also be paying out some substantial funds in the early years of the contract. The contractor promises to make $200 million in toll road improvements during the first 3 years of the contract, and nearly $4.4 billion over the life of the contract. In addition to maintaining the toll road at or above the existing standards, it promises to install electronic tolling and spend $5 million for a new state police post.
There's no question that the deal the Governor has presented to Indiana lawmakers is hard to turn down, particularly given the fact that so many of these road project have been promised to Hoosiers for so many years without any concrete results. House Minority Leader Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) calls the Major Moves initiative "Risky Business." But with the toll road improvements, new transportation funds for St. Joseph County and a new interstate highway from South Bend to Indianapolis, few communities would benefit from the plan as much as his.
A question that cannot be overlooked is whether this deal is just too good to be true. There's no question the payoff in the first 10 years is going to be aplenty. But what happens from years 11 through 75 of the contract? Will the deal look as attractive then as when it was entered into? That's an important question lawmakers should seek answers to as it ponders approval of HB 1008, which is sponsored by Rep. Randy Borror (R-Ft. Wayne) and which is pending in the House Ways and Means Committee.
There may also be some legitimate concerns about turning control of the highway over to a foreign-controlled entity. There's no question Macquarie-Centra has more experience than anyone else with these deals. It has recently taken over the Chicago Skyway for $1.8 billion and has so far gotten good reviews for its performance. It also operates the Dulles Greenway in D.C. and a 465-mile highway in Chile. Altogether, it operates 30 toll roads on five continents. The current foreign ownership looks acceptable, but what if the company is later acquired by a Chinese controlled entity? Will we feel the same way then? Indianapolis residents have been less than happy with the performance of the French-owned company which operates its water utility, particularly its indifference towards water quality issues.
How much will drivers have to pay in new tolls under the plan? We know that the initial plan is to double existing tolls, but the Agreement also gives leeway to the private contractor to raise tolls additionally during the life of the contract. The resulting tolls may prove to be much higher than they otherwise would have been had the government continued operating the toll road and had the politicians had to answer to voters as tolls were increased.
The real issue may turn on what the Governor hit on in his press conference today: "It is time to stop dreaming and start digging." If the legislature turns him down, it had better plan on offering a better alternative than what he has proposed.
Advance Indiana first reported on the firm's employment of lobbyists linked to Jack Abramoff on January 3. Last week, we reported that the firm had accepted the resignation of Volz, who served as Rep. Bob Ney's former Chief of Staff and who has been told by investigators that he may be indicted on bribery-related charges along with Rep. Ney and others. Indiana Daily Insight and the Indiana Law Blog also reported on Volz's resignation.
The Star and Journal-Gazette stories back up our January 3 report that B&T's D.C. lobbying arm "got greedy and wanted to get a piece of the Indian gaming business" and "brought [Ring and Volz] on board because of their extensive portfolios in this area." The Journal-Gazette reports:
Before hiring Volz, Ring and Ayoob, Barnes & Thornburg’s lobbying practice was a small operation – one or two lobbyists with modest revenues. But when the three lobbyists joined Barnes & Thornburg, the Hoosier firm’s lobbying revenues tripled. According to reports the firm filed with the Senate, it received $1.2 million in lobbying fees for the first half of 2005, the most recent reports filed. During the same time in 2004, Barnes & Thornburg’s lobbying arm took in $400,000. A major jump in the firm’s lobbying income was because of the clients that Volz and Ring brought with them, particularly a wealthy Indian tribe. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, for instance, paid Barnes & Thornburg $200,000 for three months of work last year.
As the stories note, the firm still employs Ring and Ayoob. In the case of Ring, he refused to testify before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that he had accepted fees in violation of his law firm's policies. The Journal-Gazette writes:
At a hearing before the Indian Affairs Committee last June, Ring refused to answer any questions about money he accepted from Michael Scanlon, a former Abramoff associate who has pleaded guilty to bribery. Each time Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked him questions about the money, Ring invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
According to the reports, none of the parties involved are doing much talking these days. Ring told the Journal-Gazette that he could not discuss the situation. “Given all that’s gone on, I’m not in a position where I can go on the record,” he said Friday evening. Volz did not return a phone message the paper reports.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Gregg would be the same former legislator who as Speaker of the House helped engineer the creation of the health insurance for life perk for former lawmakers which is now drawing heavy public criticism because of the huge financial liability the self-serving perk poses for taxpayers. He was also a long-time opponent to Daylight Savings Time as a lawmaker. If Gregg checks with his firm's lobbying clients, we think he would find that pretty much all of them supported Daylight Savings Time. And didn't the owner of WIBC, Emmis Broadcasting, also lobby for Daylight Savings Time? Now, who's calling who an idiot?
Gregg tells the Star he didn't mean to use that word:
I intended to say what an idiotic idea it was (to switch to daylight-saving time) . . . You owe respect to the office,” he said . . . You don’t have to agree with the person or the programs, but you have to show respect to the office. I should never have used the term ‘idiot’ when referring to the governor or anybody. That’s not the way I was raised. You can refer to ‘idiotic’ ideas, but name-calling is a no-no.
Perhaps Gregg should be apologizing to his firm, his firm's clients and his employer at Emmis Broadcasting as well.
God has delivered them into our hands . . . boom boom boom . . . there's 20! Caching! Glory, glory to God.
Action Wisconsin, a gay civil rights organization, reacted appropriately to Storms remarks. It issued a press release in which it asserted that Storms advocated murdering gays in his hour-long speech at the conference Action Wisconsin dubbed “International Conference on Homofacism.”
Storms hired an attorney and sued Action Wisconsin, alleging that the group defamed him by asserting that he had advocated the murder of gays. Slapping down the minister of hate, a Wisconsin judge ruled that it was reasonable to conclude that Storms had advocated the murder of gays and threw out his frivolous lawsuit, ordering him and his attorney to pay Action Wisconsin $87,000 for the attorneys’ fees and costs it incurred in defending the suit. Judge Patricia McMahon, in reaching her ruling that the press release accurately quoted Storms said:
[The press release offered] "a rational interpretation of Storms' speech . . . At no time did he tell his listeners that his words should not be taken literally. On the undisputed facts in this case, no reasonable jury could find actual malice by clear and convincing evidence . . . The law of defamation in Wisconsin is not complicated.
Those of us who label these anti-gay bigots on the Christian right for what they truly are can be comforted by Judge McMahon’s ruling.
Franklin would be the same person who pleaded guilty to charges of firing a handgun at a truck carrying several passengers back in August, 2001. Franklin beat the rap for possession of the cocaine police also found in his car when he was pulled over for the crime of firing the handgun.
Franklin defeated two other candidates, including conservative wing-nut Richard Scott Reynolds. Reynolds is the guy who testified at a city council hearing against the proposed HRO, arguing that gays and lesbians were financially better off than straight people and should not be entitled to "special rights" they don't need. He was supported by Advance America's Eric Miller.
Eric Dickerson, a local car dealer, has already filed the necessary papers to run against Carson in the May primary, even without the GOP's blessing. According to Jim Shella's Blog, Chairman Murphy had never spoken to Dickerson and only knew him from his TV commercials for his car dealership before hearing that he had filed with the Secretary of State.
Suffice it to say that Rep. Carson won't have any problem with re-election this year.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
To understand the origin of this investigation you have to know about the man at the center of the investigation. Henry Cisneros, a former popular Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, had become a leading star in the Democratic Party. As an attractive, Hispanic politician, his aspirations and the party’s expectations were very high. Walter Mondale almost chose him as his running mate in 1984, and many thought he would become the first Hispanic elected Governor of Texas or maybe even President of the United States.
Cisneros had just one big problem, not unlike President Clinton; he couldn’t keep his pants zipped. Cisneros’ political aspirations began spiraling downward in Texas after it became publicly known in the late 1980s that he had carried on a long-term romantic relationship with a campaign associate, Linda Medlar, outside his marriage. It also became publicly known that Cisneros had made “support” payments to Medlar out of a “moral obligation.” Although Cisneros and his wife separated, they later reconciled much to Medlar’s disappointment.
But Cisneros’ payments to Medlar continued, with plenty of pressure from Medlar, who taped all of telephone conversations with Cisneros ala Linda Tripp. As the transcripts of the phone calls made clear, Medlar fully exploited her knowledge of damaging dirt on Cisneros to extort money from him year after year, and that Cisneros willingly participated in the arrangement by any means available to him, legal and illegal.
According to Medlar, Cisneros had entered into an oral contract with her to pay her $4,000 per month until her young daughter became an adult. Cisneros endeavored through a variety of means to adhere to the contract, by hook or crook, allowing him to divert at least $300,000 to her from himself and others over a several year period from 1990 through 1994. Some payments came through members of Cisneros staff. Others were diverted from fees he earned for speaking engagements. And still others were made by a close friend and business associate of Cisneros.
Before a decision was made to nominate Cisneros as HUD secretary, President-elect Clinton’s transition team vetted Cisneros. Not surprisingly, the Medlar affair was a major concern of the vetters. Surprisingly, Cisneros was very candid with the transition team, admitting that he had regularly made $2,500 monthly payments, including some larger payments, to her over a several year period, and that he was attempting to negotiate a final lump sum payment to her prior to assuming his role as HUD secretary. He even admitted that he had at least 10 extramarital affairs during his marriage.
The Medlar affair troubled Clinton’s transition team, including Webster Hubbell, who would later become the number three person at the Department of Justice under Janet Reno, until he was forced to resign under an ethical cloud and later pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion in 1994. Hubbell, in one meeting with Cisneros, explained that Cisneros may have federal tax problems if he had paid Medlar more than $10,000 during any single year and failed to disclose and pay gift taxes on the amounts to the IRS. The transition team was also concerned that the payments might be viewed as “hush money”, and that Medlar might make trouble since Cisneros described her a “unstable.” Cisneros assured Hubble that the payments were only made out of a sense of a moral obligation even though he clearly knew otherwise.
The transition team informed Clinton and Vice-President-elect Al Gore about the Medlar affair. Clinton, himself a serial womanizer, agreed to move forward with the appointment as long as Cisneros got a “good lawyer”, dealt with the final lump sum payment to Medlar and cleared up any tax problems before taking office. The Clinton charitable view of Cisneros was not shared by Texas' then-Democratic Governor Ann Richards. She declined an opportunity at the same time to appoint Cisneros to the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. Richards told Cisneros that Texas' voters wouldn't stand for his affair with Medlar and the cash payments he had been making to her.
When the FBI conducted its background investigation of Cisneros, he made numerous false statements concerning the Medlar affair in sharp contrast with the statements he had given to the transition team. Specifically, he told the FBI he had never made a single payment to Medlar of more than $2,500, and that he had never given her more than $10,000 in a year. In fact, he had made 28 payments in excess of $2,500 to her. He also mentioned only one other extra-marital affair to FBI investigators. He also described Medlar as a "stable" woman. The transition team reviewed the FBI report and immediately became aware of the inconsistent statements Cisneros had given, but did not share that information with the FBI.
Instead, the nomination was allowed to move forward and Cisneros assumed his duties in late January, 2003 after Senate confirmation. The Senate Banking Committee, which reviewed the file as part of his confirmation process, was not told of the discrepancies. The Department of Justice granted Cisneros an FBI clearance, even though officials there also knew of the discrepancies of Cisneros’ account. Had the FBI known of the discrepancies, it would have immediately moved to suspend his clearance.
Despite the promises Cisneros had made to end the payments to Medlar, they continued even after he became HUD secretary. He made payments totaling $79,000 to Medlar in 1993 alone. He also arranged for a Texas businessman, Morris Jaffe, who Medlar claimed had made cash payments to Cisneros while he was mayor, to make payments directly to Medlar through one of his businesses. Top HUD officials also attempted to steer a HUD consulting contract to a business associated with Medlar.
When all payments to Medlar ceased in 1994, she sued Cisneros for breaching his contract with her, thereby opening the entire arrangement up to public scrutiny. An independent counsel was appointed with a very narrow focus of investigating whether Cisneros had lied to FBI investigators about the Medlar payments during his confirmation process. Although the Clinton Justice Department was well aware of the possible tax violations as noted in its own files on Cisneros, it did not include that in the initial charge of the independent counsel. When Barrett later tried to expand the scope to investigate all the tax years in question, Reno denied his request except for the 2002 tax year--presumably he had cleaned up his tax return that year to ensure his appointment in 2003.
Independent from Barrett’s work, the local IRS office in San Antonio opened up its own investigation of Cisneros concerning the payments. It sent a recommendation to the Austin IRS office to prosecute Cisneros for tax evasion and other tax-related charges. In a strange twist, the Assistant Chief Counsel’s office in the D.C. office, demanded that Cisneros’ case be transferred to its office, where the investigation ended. Despite a whistleblower notification to the Justice Department about the IRS interference with the Austin prosecution of the case and the D.C. offices inactivity on the case after assuming it, the Justice Department took no action and continued to deny Barrett’s office jurisdiction to hear the case.
In declining to investigate Cisneros’ tax problems, the Justice Department had been made well aware that an analysis of his tax returns had shown that he had made payments to Medlar far in excess of the disposable income he had to spend on him and his entire family during the period being scrutinized. So where was all the money coming from? Was Cisneros skimming? One of Medlar’s claims was that Cisneros had illegally accepted cash payments from Jaffe earlier several years earlier.
Barrett did, however, use the authority granted to him under his initial charge to investigate possible obstruction of justice charges against high-ranking officials in the Justice Department and the IRS. Barrett asserted in his final report that Justice had “resisted our efforts to investigate [the Cisneros matter]. He said, “Although we were are not able to say with certainty whether any criminal laws were broken, it is clear, I think, that there was questionable activity—as well as inactivity—by a number of government officials.”
Barrett has been heavily criticized by some in the media for dragging out his investigation, but as he makes clear, that was not of his doing. Medlar, after pleading guilty to numerous criminal charges, refused to cooperate with Barrett’s investigation, and when she did, she provided false and misleading information which hampered and delayed the investigation. She altered some of the tape recorded phone calls after her attorneys told her that they tended to show she was an extorter. Cisneros’ legal team also delayed attempts to prosecute him through numerous procedural maneuvers as laid out in Barrett’s report. The Justice Department and the IRS saw to it that Barrett was unable to investigate and prosecute serious tax law violations of the matter, and the Independent Counsel Act conveniently expired during Barrett’s investigation, allowing the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section to assume jurisdiction of all other matters.
After several years, Medlar did provide enough cooperation for the independent counsel to allow her to end her time in federal prison, and to obtain an admission of guilt from Cisneros that he had lied to the FBI about the payments he made to Medlar. But the most serious charges of wrongdoing, the tax charges and the obstruction of justice, have gone unprosecuted.
The Cisneros-Medlar matter was just one small part of the widespread corruption within the Clinton administration. There was the Whitewater scandal, the travel office scandal, the FBI file scandal, the White House sleep-overs for campaign cash, illegal foreign contributions, the Ron Brown shenanigans at Commerce before and immediately after his untimely death and more, aside from the impeachment proceedings for Clinton’s admitted perjury in the Paula Jones lawsuit and his attempts to obstruct justice through witness tampering. The Clinton White House committed every wrong-doing Richard Nixon ever contemplated doing as president and then many more. The only difference is they were smart enough to play the system to their advantage.
But Clinton made sure he got the last word on these matters through his abuse of the President’s power to pardon people who have committed crimes in the past. Clinton granted hundreds before leaving office, including many involved in the various scandals of his administration. Included in those were full pardons for Cisneros and Medlar, thereby defeating any further attempts to bring the two to justice for the numerous other crimes they likely committed but for which they will never be prosecuted.
The next time you hear one of your Democrat or liberal friends complain about so-called corruption in the Bush Administration, just remind them of all the Clinton scandals. Privileged justice (not equal justice) under the law has always been the rule for the Clintons and their friends. Let’s hope the American people don’t make the mistake of electing the other Clinton to our highest office in the land.
Friday, January 20, 2006
HB 1383, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, would prohibit public schools from admitting children of illegal immigrants, prohibit state education institutions from enrolling illegal aliens, deny any public assistance benefits to illegal aliens (other than emergency medical care), or permit a government from issuing or renewing a license, permit or other official authorization to an illegal alien. The bill also makes it a Class C felony to "make, utter or possess" forged documents. And it requires Indiana law enforcement officials to get into the business of rounding up illegal aliens and turning them over to federal authorities.
As we pointed out last week, HB 1383 runs afoul of a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe. The Supreme Court in that case struck down a Texas statute which withheld from local school districts any state funds for the education of children who were not "legally admitted" into the United States, and which authorized local school districts to deny enrollment to such children as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Similarly, a federal court struck down California’s Proposition 187 approved by voters there which barred illegal aliens from receiving any taxpayer-paid benefits and services.
Not unlike the KKK’s Americanization agenda of the 1920s, Advance America is promoting a decisively anti-immigrant legislative agenda. Explaining its support of HB 1383, Advance America says it “believes that individuals who are in the state of Indiana illegally should not be treated the same as a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant.” In the 1920s, the KKK supported a legislative agenda which aroused anti-immigrant sentiments towards Eastern Europeans, Catholics and Jews. Today, Advance America targets the growing Hispanic immigrant population with anti-immigrant sentiment.
In sharp contrast to its support of HB 1383, Advance America attacks a bill offered by Rep. Mike Murphy (R-Indianapolis), HB 1310. The organization contends that Murphy’s bill “would pave the way for illegal immigrants to obtain a drivers license in the state of Indiana.” In fact, there is an equally strong anti-immigrant flavor to Murphy’s bill as well.
HB 1310 would create a special driver’s certificate in lieu of a driver’s license which the Bureau of Motor Vehicles would be required to issue to an individual who is otherwise qualified to drive a motor vehicle but cannot provide proof of residency in the United States. It also requires law enforcement agencies to report any person who is arrested and holds a “driver’s certificate” to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, presumably to put the federal immigration agency on notice of the presence of the illegal alien.
One of the purported reasons for HB 1310 is to allow illegal aliens to obtain legal driving privileges in the state so more of them will obtain insurance and protect Indiana residents from the risks of being involved in an accident with an uninsured, unlicensed illegal alien. But why would anyone of reasonable intelligence register with the state of Indiana as an “illegal alien” so that their status could immediately become available to federal immigration authorities? The bill will not do anything to dissuade illegal aliens from obtaining false documents, such as birth certificates and social security numbers, so they can obtain a driver’s license just like other residents hold and otherwise obtain employment.
Murphy’s bill also does nothing to address the problem that legal non-immigrants have in obtaining a driver’s license in Indiana legally because of the requirement that they provide proof of a social security number when applying for a driver’s license. Many otherwise legal, non-immigrant residents, such as students and the spouses of non-immigrant worker visa holders, are not eligible to work in the U.S. so they cannot obtain a social security number. Indiana used to allow such non-immigrant visa holders to obtain driver’s licenses as long as they could prove their current legal status in the country.
The BMV under Gov. Daniels began interpreting Indiana’s statute literally to require all applicants to provide proof of a social security number, a requirement that is in clear violation of the federal Real ID Act, which specifically provides that a driver’s license applicant be allowed to provide verification of their ineligibility for a social security number if their non-immigrant status does not include working privileges. All legal non-immigrants should be allowed to obtain a driver's license just as any other drivers are allowed to do, and not a driver' certificate as Murphy's bill would afford them.
Advance America’s suggestion that even an anti-immigrant bill like Murphy’s HB 1310 paves the way for conferring a benefit on illegal immigrants could not be further from the truth. The organization is so blinded by its prejudice towards the state’s growing Hispanic population that is unable to see HB 1310 as the anti-immigrant bill it is.
Both bills are scheduled for a hearing in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee next Tuesday, January 24th at 8:30 a.m. The committee should see fit to defeat both bills, leaving immigration policy to the federal government, which it alone has the constitutional authority to determine.