As a result of the down-sizing of General Motors and the decline of the Buick division, Dickerson decided to sell his north-side Buick dealership to Ed Martin Automotive Group. As Dickerson neared the completion of the transaction with Ed Martin, he was blind-sided by a lawsuit by Fifth Third Bank in mid-July, alleging that he defaulted on loans to buy vehicle inventory, which included a $2 million personal guarantee from Dickerson. Dickerson says the lawsuit was completely unnecessary because Fifth Third’s loan was secured by a lien, and no funds from a sale to Ed Martin could be satisfied until the Fifth Third loan was paid off. Further, Dickerson insists that he had never missed a payment due under the terms of the Fifth Third loan and had not otherwise defaulted on it.
In fact, Fifth Third itself did not allege that Dickerson had not made all payments due under the loan when it filed suit against him. Instead, Fifth Third alleged that repayment of the notes was not made within “applicable time frames,” which it says triggered default according to an Indianapolis Business Journal report on the suit. That could mean that a payment that was due on the 1st of the month was paid on the 5th of the month. I suspect that anyone who has a monthly mortgage payment or car payment has on occasion made a payment late by innocent mistake, but your lender didn’t rush to the courthouse to file a lawsuit against you for what is at best a technical default, although the technical terms of the loan agreement may permit the lender to declare you in default. The bank also alleged that the loans were in default because neither the dealership nor Dickerson filed annual financial and tax statements for 2005. Again, as long as Dickerson had made all the payments, this should not have caused the bank to rush to the courthouse. It had a recorded lien to protect its interest in any sales proceeds.
By filing the lawsuit when it did, just weeks before Dickerson was scheduled to close on his sale with Ed Martin, Fifth Third's actions created the impression that Dickerson’s Buick dealership was failing. It also had the potential of blowing up the sale by unnecessarily creating misapprehensions on the part of Ed Martin as to the solvency of the business. Within days of the story of the lawsuit breaking in the Indianapolis Business Journal, Fifth Third had its money according to news reports, and the lawsuit was dropped just as Dickerson had insisted when he was first asked by news reporters about the lawsuit. Is it not fair to question whether Fifth Third had an ulterior motive given that Dickerson was in the midst of a political campaign for 7th District Congress?
Consider that Rep. Julia Carson is a member of the House Banking Committee which has jurisdiction over legislation affecting federally-regulated financial institutions. She supported key legislation supported by the banking lobby, including the Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act of 2004, which eased numerous banking regulations. According to federal campaign disclosure statements, her campaigns have been financially supported by senior officers of area financial institutions. Also, consider the fact that Rep. Carson has successfully pressured local financial institutions in Indianapolis to hire minority employees for key banking positions, and to provide more business loans to minority business owners. This alone is mere circumstantial evidence at best. Moreover, AI did not uncover any Carson contributors who work for Fifth Third Bank from a review of her recent campaign finance disclosure forms. And if that’s not enough, most observers gave Dickerson little chance of defeating Carson. What motive would she or anyone at Fifth Third have to damage his campaign?
In Carson's case, you need look no further than this year’s primary for the answer to that question. Consider the fact that during this year’s primary election when Carson faced opposition from an openly gay, self-financed Democratic candidate, Kris Kiser, GLBT activist Marla Stevens posted a scandalous story on Kiser at Bilerico.com, which accused Kiser of virtually every imaginable misdeed, including criminal activity. AI will not recount those charges because of their extreme, defamatory nature. Bilerico’s Bil Browning purged the offending Stevens’ post after she failed to produce evidence to document some of the more wild and salacious charges she leveled against Kiser.
This Kiser incident is worth mentioning because Stevens is one of Carson’s largest, individual campaign contributors during the current election cycle, having given the Carson campaign $4,100. AI has also learned that the Carson campaign, prior to the May primary, peddled Stevens’ unsubstantiated charges about Kiser to a Star reporter, who passed on it because he believed Kiser was going to lose badly anyway so why bother. At no time did Rep. Carson seek to distance or disassociate herself from Stevens’ smear of Kiser. Although Kiser had a very successful career as a legislative staffer and lobbyist in Washington, D.C. prior to his first bid for public office, he had only lived in the district about a year before jumping into the race against Carson. While he certainly hadn’t earned the right to represent the 7th District voters, he certainly didn’t deserve to be personally and professionally smeared in this manner by the Carson campaign, particularly when he posed no real threat to her re-nomination. Kiser tells AI that his professional career has been badly damaged as a result of the damaging, unsubstantiated charges Stevens’ published against him, making it difficult for him to find employment.
While AI emphasizes that there is absolutely no evidence linking Fifth Third in any way to the Carson campaign, it is extremely troubling that Fifth Third opted the lawsuit route against Dickerson in this instance based upon what the bank has publicly released to date. The bank had to know that Dickerson was in the midst of a campaign against an incumbent member of Congress who sits on a committee of the House which oversees federally-regulated financial institutions like itself. By filing the lawsuit against him, the bank raised the specter of Dickerson being perceived by the 7th District voters as just another failed businessman. While the bank may not have had a motive to harm Dickerson, Carson’s past practices give us every indication she has a motive and opportunity to smear her opponents in this fashion.
Shortly after Dickerson routed his GOP rivals, including the slated party candidate with 54% of the primary vote, the Star’s Matt Tully had these flattering words for Dickerson:
Dickerson has everything the GOP could want in a candidate. He’s a black businessman with a great resume. He knows how to reach voters, as proved by his trouncing of former City-County Councilman Ron Franklin in the GOP primary. And Dickerson has a name everybody knows—because of years of advertising for his self-titled Buick dealership, and because of that onetime Colt. “I call it the Eric Dickerson bump,” he said of the perception among many that he is the former NFL player. “I don’t mind.”
While Tully’s words may not mean a lot to the average voter in the 7th District, I assure you they made Rep. Carson’s blood boil. If there is one thing she dislikes more than anything, it’s an uppity black person ala Clarence Thomas who dares to think for himself. In Carson’s world, the only black people who are permitted to get ahead politically in Indianapolis are those who have her permission. Dickerson’s success had nothing to do with her, and in her mind he posed a threat to her hold on the black community, much the same way she erroneously perceived Kiser to be a threat to her lock on Indianapolis’ GLBT community.
I know there will be many skeptics who will consider all of this to be too conspiratorial in nature to absorb. And that’s understandable. But to those skeptics, I ask you to examine what happened to Rep. Carson’s ex-husband, Sammy Carson, after he spurned her for a younger woman he married after he was divorced from Rep. Carson. As the old saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned.” The following account is based on Indianapolis Star & News accounts at the time.
Carson’s ex-husband, Sammy, was a disabled veteran. He remarried Virginia Carson, a secretary with a local Knights of Columbus hall, after his divorce from then-State Sen. Julia Carson. A few years later, both Sammy and Virginia would find their world turned upside down when they found themselves in a federal criminal court in Indianapolis charged with petty income tax evasion from alleged gambling and lottery winnings the couple were alleged to have earned but not reported on their federal income tax returns. Among other things, the federal prosecutor would tell jurors the Carsons had too much money to spend for the money they reported because they had purchased a $6,770 diamond ring and $2,718 worth of furs. The Indianapolis Star’s David Rohn reported on the opening day of their trial on July 30, 1980: “One of the spectators in the courtroom when the trial began yesterday was Sen. Julia Carson, D-Indianapolis, who is the former wife of Sammy Carson.”
So what does Julia’s presence in the courtroom have to do with the prosecution of her ex-husband and his younger wife on income tax evasion charges? Well, there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence. Carson worked for Rep. Andy Jacobs before she was elected to the state legislature. At the time of the trial, Jacobs was a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the IRS. The K of C hall at which Sammy Carson’s wife worked was the subject of a rare audit by the IRS, and the case was turned over for criminal investigation in 1977, soon after Democrat Jimmy Carter won the presidency.
Long-time Carson friend and supporter, Virginia Dill McCarty, was appointed as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. McCarty would make the decision to indict the Carsons on income tax evasion charges after the case languished for several years. McCarty, who died recently, would later be hired by Carson to serve as Center Township’s attorney when she became Center Township Trustee, and McCarty regularly made large contributions to Carson’s political campaigns. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paula Lopossa would prosecute the case on behalf of McCarty’s office. She too is a long-time friend and political supporter of Julia’s. Carson helped Lopossa win a seat on the Marion Superior Court and, after she lost her seat on the bench, Carson helped her win the post as Center Township’s small claims court judge. Lopossa also has contributed to Carson’s campaigns, including $1,000 during a recent election cycle.
Fortunately for Sammy Carson, the jurors weren’t convinced by McCarty’s and Lopossa’s case against them. The jury failed to convict Sammy on any of the charges and found Virginia guilty on just one charge after only 4 ½ hours of deliberation. The Indianapolis Star reported on August 2, 1980:
Although the government was not required to prove specific allegations about the source of unreported income, evidence showed Carson was a gambler and that he and his wife ran a Knights of Columbus lottery where Mrs. Carson was an unusually frequent winner.What do you believe? Do you think it was just happenstance that a K of C hall where Carson’s ex-husband’s wife worked would get audited by the IRS; that illegal gambling winnings of the Carsons would be discovered; and that criminal income tax evasion charges would be brought against he and his wife by prosecutors who just happened to be good friends and supporters of Julia’s? Perhaps. Or is Julia just really good at exacting punishment on anyone who gets in her way? Again, it is all just circumstantial evidence, and there is absolutely no proof that Carson conspired with government prosecutors to get even with her ex-husband. AI also isn't condoning the gambling winnings the Carsons may have failed to report on their income tax returns. But how often do you see the federal government pursuing these types of income tax evasion cases? I suspect very few people report gambling winnings from poker games at the VFW hall or other gambling winnings garnered by those who frequent these establishments.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paula Lopossa told jurors it was not necessary to prove where the unreported income came from, only that the Carsons had access to the additional income that a record of their purchases reflect they received . . .
The Carson’s attorney, John J. Rochfordd, said a $17,000 inheritance Carson received from a sister and the non-taxable income he received as a disabled veteran contributed to income that permitted such purchases. Regarding any suggestion that she skimmed profits from the K of C lottery, Mrs. Carson said that her continued employment at the K of C until the lottery ended was evidence that her superiors did not suspect her of any wrongdoing.
It may well be the case that Fifth Third’s lawsuit against Dickerson was made with the purest of motives. The bank has had little to say about the matter. Alan Statman, an attorney for Fifth Third, told the IBJ at the time the suit was first reported on that he was hopeful both sides could resolve the issues without further litigation. Based on subsequent news reports, that is exactly what happened. Statman could have cleared up this matter at the time had he or someone else from the bank more fully explained why they decided to file suit against Dickerson. Instead, the bank sat by idly while the Carson campaign pounced on the news to discredit him as a failed businessman. Given the highly-charged atmosphere of political campaigns, replete with dirty tricks, people have a right to be skeptical. AI, for one, is very skeptical about everything that happens in a Carson campaign. Things never seem to be as they first appear.