Monday, August 31, 2015

Star Finally Makes An Issue Of Privately-Funded Junkets Because Its Pence

Governor Mitch Daniels relied on private donors to pay for all of its his overseas trade missions. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has used private donors to pay for all of his overseas junkets billed as trade missions. Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from private donors to pay for dozens of overseas trips. It's a highly unethical practice which should be illegal, but the Indianapolis Star hasn't made an issue of the unseemly practice until now--when Gov. Mike Pence followed the same practice as his predecessor of relying on private donations to fund his economic development missions.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation raises money from businesses seeking to curry favor with the state's governor to pay for trips overseas and across the country. The Star's Tony Cook and Chelsea Schneider obtained a list of those donors and reveal them in a news story titled, "Who's Paying Pence's Travel Tab," after they say they made repeated public records requests of the administration for that information before obtaining it. More than 50 donors contributed $2.19 million to the IEDC's foundation to finance the trips during the most recent 18-month period and the vast majority of that money came from public utility companies. Advance Indiana previously observed that only utility company executives were recently included on a 2-day junket Pence took to New York City where the governor entertained dozens at a suite rented for a New York Yankees game.
Donors have paid for Gov. Mike Pence to travel overseas, rent luxury sports suites, lobby lawmakers and fly to Iowa ahead of its first-in-the-nation presidential nominating contest.
But those donors and the amounts they’ve given have been a closely guarded secret — until now.
For the first time, the Pence administration has released a list of donors and the amounts they’ve contributed to the Indiana Economic Development Foundation, a nonprofit subsidiary of the state’s economic development agency. The disclosure comes in response to repeated public record requests from The Indianapolis Star.
The list reveals that more than 50 companies, trade groups and governmental entities contributed $2.19 million to the foundation from January 2014 to June 2015.
The majority of that money — about $1.7 million — came from utility companies. Duke Energy and its foundation gave the most — more than $456,000. Other contributors included lobbying firms, industry groups, regional economic development agencies, universities and large Indianapolis companies such as Eli Lilly and Co. and Dow Agro Sciences.
Pence has tapped the money for six international trade missions to China, Israel, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and Canada, where, for example, he hosted about 30 business executives and government officials at a hospitality suite during the Toronto Maple Leafs’ season opener . . . 
The Pence administration defends the use of private donors to pay for the trips as a way of saving taxpayers money while bringing new jobs and investments to Indiana. Critics note the obvious--the businesses paying for the trips gain an unfair advantage in obtaining access and the ability to influence the official actions of Gov. Pence and the IEDC, which doles out tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer-paid subsidies and incentives to lure businesses to invest in Indiana.

While Advance Indiana welcomes The Star's scrutiny of this practice, we wonder why they weren't bothered when Gov. Daniels or Mayor Ballard did the same thing. Ballard, in particular, has little to show for his nearly ten overseas junkets. Advance Indiana believes Ballard brokered that horribly one-sided and illegal deal with French billionaire Vincent Bollore's company for Blue Indy during one of those trips that took him to Paris. Who paid for that trip? Does The Star have any plans to get answers to those questions for us? It might explain why Ballard has broken so many laws that have cost Indianapolis taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars during his two terms in office to reward his political cronies.

Here's a full list of the donors during the period analyzed:

Indiana Michigan Power $424,000
Duke Energy $381,654
Vectren $267,150
Northern Indiana Public Service Company $260,000 
Indianapolis Power & Light $157,500
Duke Energy Foundation $75,000
ISDA $50,000
NIPSCO $50,000
Purdue Research Foundation $50,000
Hoosier Energy $37,500
Indiana Municipal Power Agency $28,883
Ginovus $24,000
Primesport Inc. $19,950
Indy Partnership $19,250
Circle City Tickets $18,900
IMPA $18,000
Indy Chamber $16,230
Dow AgroSciences $15,000
Eli Lilly $15,000
Indiana Corn Marketing Council $15,000
Indiana Soybean Alliance $15,000
Michiana Partnership, Inc. $12,500
Bose McKinney & Evans LLP $12,150
Krieg Devault LLP. $12,000
Accelerate West Central Indiana $11,000
American Electric Power $10,000
CountryMark Refining and Logistics LLC $10,000
EDC of South West Indiana $10,000
EDC of Wayne County $10,000
Farm Bureau Foundation $10,000
Farm Credit Mid-America $10,000 
University of Notre Dame $10,000
Northeast Indiana regional Partnership. $10,000 
South Central IN USA Econ. Dev. Group $8,000
Town of Fishers $8,000
J. Albert Smith, Jr. (Chase Bank) $7,500
South Central IN Economic Development Reg $7,500
Ivy Tech Community College $6,713
Old National Bank $5,843.73
Indiana Beef International LLC $5,650 Radius Indiana, Inc. $5,500
Aerodyn Engineering Inc. $5,250
CGB Enterprises, Inc. $5,000
Cole Hardwood $5,000
DuPont $5,000
Farbest Foods, Inc. $5,000
Gutwein Popcorn Company, LLC $5,000
Ice Miller $5,000
Indiana Pork Producers $5,000
Pokagon Band of Potawatami Indians $5,000
S&C Resale Company $5,000
Total donations: $2.19 million

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Presidential Historian Compares Trump And Fiorina To Wendell Willkie

Wendell Willkie
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss pens a column for the New York Times in which he likens the unlikely candidacies of business executives Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina to Indiana native Wendell Willkie's unlikely Republican presidential candidacy in 1940. Willkie, a native of Elwood, Indiana, was an accomplished corporate lawyer who later ran the the New York-based public utility company, Commonwealth & Southern Corporation.

Willkie had been a Wilsonian Democrat and early supporter of Franklin Roosevelt. Willkie turned on Roosevelt after his administration created the Tennessee Valley Authority, which he believed provided unfair competition for the public utility company he ran. Commonwealth & Southern Corporation eventually was forced to sell its assets in the region to the TVA in 1939, the same year Willkie officially switched parties from the Democratic to the Republican Party.

Willkie defeated other well-known Republican politicians, including Thomas Dewey and Robert Taft, on the sixth ballot for the nomination in 1940. Beschloss notes that Indiana's former senator, James Watson, warned Willkie at the time that Republicans would not take well to his late decision to switch political parties. "It's all right if the town whore joins the church, but they don't let her lead the church choir the first night," Watson reportedly told Willkie.

Beschloss notes the role the media played in Willkie's unlikely ascension to the Republican nomination. Publisher Henry Luce, whose publishing empire became a major disinformation agent of the CIA regarding the John F. Kennedy assassination, used his magazines, Time, Life and Fortune to help turn the little-known Willkie into a national celebrity at the time. When Willkie arrived in Philadelphia where the Republican convention was being hosted, he boasted that he had self-financed his own campaign. "I will be under obligation to nobody except the people," Willkie said.

Willkie's views on World War II really weren't that much different from Roosevelt's policies of providing aid to the allies, although he pretended to be somewhat of an isolationist in order to win the Republican nomination. He also had no plans to dismantle Roosevelt's New Deal programs; rather, he argued that he could better manage them based on his business experience. After Roosevelt easily defeated him in the November election, he "shed his isolationism as quickly as he had donned it," Beschloss notes. Willkie became much closer to Roosevelt, serving in diplomatic roles for him. He also became a major advocate for a one world government. Willkie was persona non grata in the Republican Party when he briefly entertained a second candidacy in 1944.

Willkie had personal foibles with which to deal as well. He and his wife, Edith, had been estranged for many years. She joined him on the campaign trail in 1940 to quell rumors about their estrangement. Willkie lived primarily in a 5th Avenue apartment in New York City where he carried on an extra-marital relationship with a writer, Irita Van Doren. Decades later, tape recordings emerged of President Roosevelt calling for surrogates to mount a whispering campaign regarding Willkie's marital problems during the 1940 campaign. Roosevelt, of course, was willing to do this knowing he had carried on an extra-marital affair with his personal secretary, Lucy Mercer, for many years. Eleanor Roosevelt apparently had a preference for women and wasn't particularly bothered by her husband's infidelity. Sounds a lot like Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Special Interest Group Running Ads Attacking Joe Donnelly Over Support Of Iran Deal

We are increasingly seeing outside interest groups airing TV ads seeking to influence our perception of our elected representatives in Congress. A group called the Republican Jewish Coalition is running this hard-hitting ad in the Hoosier State against Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) after he recently announced his support for a deal President Barack Obama reached with Iran over nuclear weapons. The RJC's primary benefactor is billionaire Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Anderson. Does anyone recognize any of the people used in this ad? Interestingly, former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) opposes the deal, while former Sen. Richard Lugar (R) supports it. The views of Bayh and Lugar on foreign policy matters while they served together were barely distinguishable. Outside special interest groups are expected to spend tens of millions of dollars next year attempting to influence the outcome of Indiana's open Senate seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Dan Coats (R).

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pseudo Celebrity Austin Armacost Extends His Fifteen Minutes Of Fame Thanks To CBS

Franklin, Indiana's most flamboyant and outspoken gay native, Austin Armacost, has managed to extend his fifteen minutes of fame after landing a role as one of the twelve housemates selected for CBS' latest Celebrity Big Brother UK series with a UK v USA theme. The series' introductory show this week fittingly introduced the group of fame-seekers as they emerged through the Illuminati's favorite symbol, the all-seeing eye. Armacost got booed during the opening show when he slammed the UK for having "shit customer service" and said he hopes he'll be able to "wank in the house" since masturbating is his favorite thing to do.

Armacost first gained fame for being one of a long line of rent boys kept from time to time by New York fashion designer Marc Jacobs before getting kicked to the curb. He had a brief run on the reality show A-List New York and has been spending most of his time jumping back and forth across the pond with his British husband, posting almost as many selfies and nudes of himself on the Internet as Justin Bieber or Kim Kartrashian. Armacost didn't miss a heartbeat in promoting gay marriage equality in frequent Twitter rants when his mother, Karen, got sent to prison for nine years a couple of years back for stealing over $680,000 from her employer, in part, to support her son's high-flying lifestyle.

The six housemates representing America, in addition to Armacost, includes a solid line-up of Kartrashian wannabes, including ex-porn star Jenna Jameson, reality TV star best known for her sex tape, Farrah Abraham, the least known Baldwin brother, David, hip hop promoter Fatman Scoop and bisexual reality TV star Tila Tequila. The line-up is as bad as when the Surreal Life celebrity reality show paired up ex-porn star Ron Jeremy, disgraced televangelist Tammy Faye Baker and has-been rapper Vanilla Ice. So how much more time do we have before God decides the clock runs out on us?

Joe Hogsett Won't Do A Damn Thing About Blue Indy

Radio talk show host Amos Brown interviewed Democratic mayoral candidate Joe Hogsett yesterday afternoon, and he did an excellent job setting up a question for Hogsett at the top of the interview concerning the corrupt manner in which the Ballard administration went about establishing the Blue Indy electric car sharing monopoly business for the French company Bollore. Remember, Hogsett is the candidate running TV ads saying he's going to put an end to the downtown insiders cheating the system and stealing our tax dollars. What Brown's listeners heard from Hogsett was nothing short of a complete let down.

Hogsett completely side-stepped the question of what he would do about Blue Indy, saying that was something the council had "already engaged in" without success I would add. What followed showed in no uncertain terms Hogsett has no intention of doing a damn thing about the illegal Blue Indy deal. "I really want to be the kind of mayor for our city who looks to the future and looks forward," Hogsett said. "When we focus on the past and mistakes that have been made or omissions that have been incurred . . . we're really holding ourselves out from reaching out to those in the most critical needs in neighborhoods that have been overlooked over time," he added. That was after Hogsett prefaced his comments with praise for Ballard's focus on green energy initiatives.

What this tells me is that the words Hogsett speaks in his TV ads about putting an end to the downtown insiders cheating the system and stealing our tax dollars is just talk. Of course he's not going to cut off the hand that feeds him. You only have to look at who is bankrolling his campaign to know that he's not about to stop the gravy train a few downtown insiders enjoy at the expense of the rest of the city. I also highly suspect that the law firm where Hogsett is a partner now has a connection to representing parties involved in Blue Indy. Their officers are just separated by a few floors in the Chase Tower. Like so many issues, Hogsett cannot speak his mind without running afoul of his law firm's representation of its clients. Blue Indy has no real incentive to work with the council at this point given Hogsett's hands-off position.

So when Hogsett becomes mayor in January, which I believe is a foregone conclusion, he's going to tell the members of what will likely be a Democratic-controlled council to lay off this issue. Will there be some tinkering? Perhaps. City-County Councilor Kip Tew (D) plans to introduce an ordinance that will require Blue Indy parking spaces exclusively reserved for the private company's electric cars to be accessible to the public so long as there is more than one open parking space at any of the hundreds of power charging sites that are being installed around the city. Blue Indy plans to have a fleet of 500 cars so it's highly-unlikely there will be very many open parking spaces at those charging stations, particularly in the high traffic areas like downtown and Broad Ripple where the cars, if they are utilized, are most likely to see their busiest trade. Additionally, it is Blue Indy's intention to allow non-Blue Indy electric car owners to purchase memberships to use their exclusive stations for charging stations. If non-electric cars are using up the spaces, then its profit-making scheme just got overturned. What's not clear is if Tew's plan would require the re-installation of electronic parking meters that have already been yanked out since the Blue Indy cars aren't required to feed those meters.

Tew's proposal is hardly a solution to a far greater problem created when our mayor broke numerous laws to steal the most valuable public parking spaces in the city and give them to a foreign-owned business for its exclusive for-profit use. The council has done very little other than provide lip service to the public to date. They insisted the mayor couldn't spend $6 million out of the parking meter fund and whatever other funds he chooses to tap to give to Blue Indy. The administration delivered the council the middle finger again this week when it had the Board of Public Works approve that expenditure and inform the council it required no further authorization from it to go forward with its plans. Since our federal and state prosecutors refuse to prosecute the public corruption occasioned by this deal, the public will just have to pucker up and move on like we're always told to do in what has become a Nazi-styled government.

UPDATE: The Indianapolis Star, which is a cheerleader of every crony capitalism deal our corrupt politicians can think up, has a story that reads more like a press release regarding the Blue Indy service that will be available at the airport.

The BlueIndy electric car-sharing service will have space for 20 electric vehicles at Indianapolis International Airport, four times as much as its standard stations.
The electric plug-ins will be on the fifth floor of the parking garage, across from the terminal. Traditional rental cars are parked on the first floor of the garage.
Airport officials said BlueIndy also will pay airport fees, just as Enterprise, Hertz and other rental companies do . . . 
Airport executive director Mario Rodriguez hailed the addition of BlueIndy as a convenient transportation choice for airport travelers.
“This exciting partnership with BlueIndy will allow us to provide a new transportation option to our customers, while doing so in a sustainable and economical way,” Rodriguez said in a prepared statement.
The reporter, John Tuohy can barely hide his excitement for Blue Indy and his contempt for those who criticize the illegal manner in which the deal was accomplished. The reporter wants you to know that you the cost of taking a Blue Indy car to the airport is only about $12 if you have an annual $120 membership compared to the $30 to $35 you will spend if you take a taxi. Of course, he's assuming a drive to downtown since The Star's primary focus is on the convenience of these cars for our out-of-town visitors, not the inconvenience and business harm they are causing Indianapolis business owners and residents.
The BlueIndy proposal has not moved forward without controversy. Earlier this month, the City-County Council backed off on an unusual threat to tow five BlueIndy demo vehicles from a Downtown site. The council also says the BlueIndy funding proposal was never properly vetted and allege it has been rolled out in violation of city procedures, a charge the mayor’s office denies.
You would think it's at least up for debate that Mayor Ballard broke multiple state and local laws, but Tuohy isn't about to give you that impression. Is there a reason this reporter refuses to talk to attorneys knowledgeable in the law to determine the facts? Does he think a long-time attorney like Fred Biesecker just makes up lies about what the law requires when he offers opinions on these matters? Apparently so.

I wonder if Visit Indy and the CIB have started fretting yet over a reduction in car rental taxes. Tuohy makes it sound like Blue Indy is playing on a level playing field with companies like Hertz. What he neglects to mention is that Blue Indy is exempt from paying the onerous 17% car rental tax. Perhaps the car rental companies should be filing a lawsuit against the City on the basis that the exemption for Blue Indy is unconstitutional. Why should Blue Indy rentals be exempt from the car rental tax and not other rental vehicles? Under the one-sided agreement Ballard signed with Blue Indy, city taxpayers will be required to reimburse the company if taxes its agreement with the city exempted it from paying are ever levied against it during the 15-year term of its contract with the city. How do you like that?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hit-And-Run Suspect Hung Himself With Shoe Laces While In Police Custody

Michael Morris is the man police arrested earlier this week after he allegedly stabbed his wife before stealing a car, driving it erratically through downtown Indianapolis and striking numerous pedestrians deliberately and then abandoning the car on Lafayette Road where police apprehended him. The Indianapolis Star reports Morris died last night while in custody at the Marion County Jail.

The story told at WRTV is somewhat different. A spokesman for the Marion Co. Sheriff's Department tells WRTV that Morris was found dead in the basement of the City-County Building, not the jail, at 9:34 p.m. last night. A source told WRTV that Morris used a shoelace to hang himself. Fox 59 news more particularly describes a lock-up cell in the basement of the City-County Building as the location where the unresponsive body of Morris was found and records the time of death at 9:40 p.m. WISH-TV says the Coroner's Office placed the time of Morris' death at 10:00 p.m.

WTHR puts his time of death at 10:10 p.m. and his time of discovery at 9:34 p.m. So many variances, eh? WTHR's report notes other discrepancies. Police initially described Morris as a suspect in a home invasion and stabbing involving his girlfriend. The stabbed woman was actually his wife police later clarified. Police also later clarified that no home invasion had taken place. I guess none of it matters at this point since there's not going to be any trial.

Harper Hits Out At Henry's Pay To Play Culture

It's a discussion that should be taking place here in Indianapolis and many other communities across the state where municipal elections are taking place this year. I'm talking about pay to play, the practice of elected officials trading government contracts for campaign contributions. Fort Wayne mayoral Republican hopeful Mitch Harper is raising that very issue against incumbent Democratic Mayor Tom Henry, who trade contributions for city contracts as generously as they do here in Indianapolis and elsewhere. Fort Wayne's 21 Alive sums up Harper's arguments:
The mailing, paid for by Friends of Mitch Harper, reads on the front, "Who is running Fort Wayne?” sporting a shadowy figure holding a cigar that towers over downtown.
The ad charges that Democrat Mayor Tom Henry has a habit of receiving big donations from businesses that make money from the city of Fort Wayne.
It takes issue with $92,000 in contributions from out of town engineering firms, claiming that from 2013 through 2015, those firms secured $20-million in city contracts.
It also cites $91,000 in gifts from out of town law firms, with the ad claiming those firms took in $5-million in city funds.
"That's got to end. The taxpayer doesn't get their value if you don't have a large number of vendors, large number of engineering firms who are willing to submit their bids," Harper said.
So yes, the same thing occurs here in Indianapolis, except on a much grander scale. Predictably, Henry sends out a paid surrogate to accuse Harper of negative campaigning:
"It's sad that Mitch Harper has chosen baseless attacks over participating in a substantive discussion of the issues, but we're going to continue talking to voters about Mayor Henry's record and our city's positive momentum," said Rob Dible, Henry’s campaign manager.
Unfortunately, 21 Alive seems to play into the Henry campaign's argument by raising TV ads Harper has used in his past council race speaking out against negative campaigning. Harper notes there's nothing hypocritical about his factually-based advertising.  "It makes the policy point that if we're a community that ends the pay to play culture, we end up with a community that's more attractive," Harper told us.

Star Editorial Formally Announces LGBT Rights Law Campaign

A day after a paid adviser to Gov. Mike Pence leaked an e-mail from Indianapolis Star Publisher Karen Ferguson Fuson on Breitbart in which she sent to community members the newspaper's plan to launch a campaign to convince state lawmakers and Gov. Pence to enact an LGBT rights law to repair the damage the newspaper itself inflicted on the state by lying about the impact of the state's RFRA law enacted this past session, an editorial today formally launched that campaign.

Laying aside the merits of the proposed change to the state's civil rights law as advocated by the newspaper, The Star's editorial board continues to ignore the fact that the most important law, the federal Civil Rights Act, does not include protection for persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, leaving one to believe Indiana is an island of intolerance among the 50 states. That's the law most people rely upon for protection against discrimination since state and local discrimination laws have no real teeth. Ask the newspaper to tell you how many people have filed complaints with the City of Indianapolis alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity under the City's human rights ordinance since its enactment a decade ago compared to other forms of discrimination. Those numbers don't lie.

Ferguson Fuson also seeks to assure The Star's readers the newspaper's editorial positions don't impact the reporting of its news staff:
One important point we want to make clear: Our newsgathering remains independent from any editorial positions we take. Our newsroom is structured to ensure that reporters and key editors have no involvement in decisions made by our Editorial Board. Those journalists are expected to pursue coverage that is unbiased, accurate and highlights the range of views that surround important issues affecting our city and state. Their credibility rests on that independence; they would not have it any other way.
In our Editorial Board mission, we will continue to be transparent with you. That includes saying editorial campaigns are not new. Newspapers have championed important causes for as long as newspapers have existed, fighting for their communities, fighting for what they believe is right.
That assertion is laughable. The news pages of the newspaper are totally shaded to reflect the view of the newspaper's editorial views. How else can you explain their news reporters' reluctance to report on all of the corruption surrounding crony capitalism deals our elected officials are using to steal our tax dollars and public assets to line the pockets of their political cronies?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fogle Had A "Little Men's Club"

WRTV's Rafael Sanchez has a story tonight sharing more lurid details about the down-low life former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle led. According to Sanchez, Fogle had a close cadre of friends known as the "Little Men's Club" which met regularly at a Broad Ripple bar to discuss their exploits with sex workers, including travels abroad to Thailand where sick Americans travel on sex tours that often includes sex with minors. Russell Taylor, the accused pedophile Fogle tapped to run his Jared Foundation, was a part of this group. Fogle typically traveled with one of the members of this group to "watch his back and keep him out of the media." Members of his club typically attended Fogle's annual Labor Day barbecue at his Zionsville home according to Sanchez. The report doesn't name other members of the club, but Sanchez teases viewers with the possibility of more reports to come on this down-low club. Didn't another recent pseudo-celebrity creation of the media spend a lot of time in Thailand as well?