Sunday, October 29, 2006

Prosecutor's Office For Sale?

The Indianapolis Business Journal's Peter Schnitzler analyzes the campaign finance reports for incumbent prosecutor Carl Brizzi (R) and Melina Kennedy (D). He concludes that Brizzi has a huge financial advantage over Kennedy, outraising her $2.5 million to $1.2 million. He compares the amount raised by candidates for the office in 2002, where the combined amount raised by Brizzi and Democrat Jim Osbourne was about $1 million.

Not surprisingly, Schnitlzer's story finds government watchdogs, like Common Cause, complaining that the candidate who raises the most money is the one most likely to win. He also suggests that the rising crime rate has sparked interest among weary business leaders, causing them to kick in more for the race than usual. I'm less concerned about how much money they're raising than from whom they're raising their money.

Brizzi's single largest contributor by far is local businessman Timothy Durham, who has contributed almost $160,000 to Brizzi's campaign. Durham is chairman of Obsidian Enterprises, Inc., a private holding company that invests in small and medium-sized companies primarily in the manufacturing and transportation sectors. He's also a former partner at Ice Miller. He tells Schnitlzer he's known Brizzi for a long time and pledged to support him before Kennedy entered the race.

Evansville businessman Steven Chancellor has contributed $40,000 to Brizzi's campaign. Why does an Evansville businessman care who is Marion County prosecutor? He tells Schnitler he "gave $40,000 in recognition of Brizzi's attempts to press the General Assembly to strengthen Indiana's child-predator laws." Huh? That answer sounds a bit contrived; however, Chancellor has a long history of contributing big bucks to Republicans all over the country. Local businessman P.E. MacAllister gave Brizzi $25,000, and he too has a long history of contributing a lot to Republicans across the board.

The Marion Co. Republican Party has given Brizzi $79,250. One has to wonder whether that money would have been better spent on its other candidates for county office, such as sheriff and court clerk, both of whom have raised very little for their respective races. The law firm of Baker & Daniels has contributed $35,000 to Brizzi's campaign, topping all other law firms in town. Speedway Advertising has contributed $75,000 to Brizzi. Someone is going to have to help explain why this business would give so much to Brizzi.

Melina Kennedy's largest contribution is also her most troubling contribution. Mayor Peterson's campaign committee has contributed $125,000 to her campaign, while Peterson's mother, Dolores, kicked in another $10,000 for Kennedy's campaign. Mayor Peterson has also campaigned throughout the city with her and has been promoting her in television ads. The prosecutor's office is who the public must rely upon to keep our local government leaders honest, particularly since the local FBI and U.S. Attorney's offices seem to care little about local government corruption here. Because Kennedy owes so much to Peterson professionally and politically, can we honestly expect her to weed out any corruption that is uncovered in his administration?

Mel Simon's wife, Bren Simon, kicked in $25,000 to Kennedy's campaign. The Simon family has proven themselves to be quite adept at leveraging political clout to win hundreds of millions in public subsidies for their private business ventures in Indianapolis, including the Pacers, Circle Centre Mall and their new corporate headquarters, which shadows our State House. Because Kennedy was a part of the administration which has had something to do with at least part of those public subsidies, Simon's contribution is to be expected, although it's a mere drop in the bucket when you value the windfall they've won from the Peterson administration.

Kennedy's second largest contribution comes from the United Auto Workers in the amount of $75,000. Local autoworkers might want to fire their union bosses for this decision, particularly after the recent announcement that the Ford Motor Company will likely put as many as 2,000 local autoworkers out of a job. Kennedy's claim to fame in the Peterson administration was the great job she did at wooing new jobs to Indianapolis as part of her economic development efforts. These workers will now have to go looking for new jobs down at the new Honda plant in Batesville if they want to continue working in the automobile industry.

Emmis Communications' CEO Jeff Smulyan gave Kennedy over $15,000. Smulyan, a Democrat, has a long history of making generous contributions to Democrats locally and across the country. His contribution should come as no surprise. He is very close to Mayor Peterson. A surprising contribution comes from Christine Merchent, a member of the Rooney family who founded Golden Rule Insurance. She contributed $15,000 to Kennedy. Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Patrick Rooney has been one of the largest contributors in the country to the GOP.

Local real estate developer Michael Browning contributed $11,000 to Kennedy. Again, this contribution is not surprising. He is quite tight with Mayor Peterson. Keep a close eye on the city's decision among the three hoteliers competing to build a new hotel in downtown Indianapolis. Browning is behind the bid for the Intercontinental Hotel at the site of the PanAm Plaza. Interestingly, Browning's bid seemed to have a leg up because it built into its proposal a plan to have a very large ballroom in its hotel. It seems the new convention center expansion will result in the loss of a large ballroom. Who knew? At least Browning did. My money is on Browning winning this competition. And then you can say goodbye to the skating rink at PanAm Plaza.

Another odd contribution Kennedy received was a $10,000 contribution from the Hammond Democratic Party. Why would Democrats in Hammond care about who gets elected Marion Co. prosecutor? Hoosiers for Indiana contributed $10,500. This makes a lot of sense. There's nothing more that state Democrats would like than a Democratic prosecutor in Marion County to scrutinize the Daniels' administration.


Anonymous said...

The Hammond contribution to Kennedy probably came when she and the Mayor went up there for a fund-raiser. Just guessing.

Durham is the son-in-law of Beurt SerVaas. FYI.

Nice analysis.

Anonymous said...

Another odd contribution Kennedy received was a $10,000 contribution from the Hammond Democratic Party. Why would Democrats in Hammond care about who gets elected Marion Co. prosecutor?

I've said it dozen times before - the Lake County Dems want someone in the Marion County Prosecutors office when the GOP controlled State Government comes to Marion County to prosecute a state offense involving the Lake County Democratic Mob. With a Dem in there that is beholden to the Region, she'll look the other way when it comes to Lake County shenanigans.

It's better than Al Capone buying the Chicago Mayor off any day!

Anonymous said...

Connect the dots. With a large number of experienced trial and criminal attorneys practicing in Marion County, why would the Democrats select an inexperience attorney who did not practice law but performed the duties of an experienced paralegal for the State Supreme Court?

Democrats always support inexperienced wannabees so they can control the office. She desires the prestige, is a female who will be controlled and a puppet for the Party just like Julia Carson. A select few will have access to her after the election. Experienced attorneys in the prosecutor’s office will find it difficult to work under her if elected.
Deputy Mayor of neighborhoods in the Peterson administration does not qualify her to be prosecutor. An expired law license with no trial experience prior to running for the office. I wonder who her chief of staff will be. A veteran criminal trial attorney that the voters didn’t elect. Melina will only be a figurehead bought and paid for.

Anonymous said...

Why is an individual giving the prosecutor 160,000?

Be interesting to see if anyone close to him has a case pending...