Sunday, April 30, 2006

National Democrats Under Fire For Lack Of Support On GLBT Issues

Some Democrats are now beginning to question their own party's commitment to the GLBT community, and they are taking aim in particular at the leadership of national chairman Howard Dean. In particular, there is concern that the national Democratic Party is simply rolling over as conservative Republicans in state after state use the gay marriage issue as a wedge issue. In an open letter, a former Clinton official, Paul Yandura, writes:

For many months, a number of us have made appeals to Howard Dean and party officials to care about and defend the dignity of gay and lesbian families and friends, in the same way they defend the dignity of other key constituencies," Yandura said in his letter.

"All progressives need to be asking how much has the DNC budgeted to counter the anti-gay ballot initiatives in the states," he said. "We also need to know why the DNC and our Democratic leaders continue to allow the Republicans to use our families and friends as pawns to win elections.

The Washington Blade reports on an eyebrow raising comment in Yandura's open letter. "Yandura added that until the party provides answers to these questions, 'my advice is don’t give any more money to the Dems.'" Apparently concerned about the criticism, Dean met this past week with GLBT leaders from organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign and the National Stonewall Democrats, to discuss strategies for countering the anti-gay marriage efforts.

Another issue that is causing dissension within the party is a proposed rules change to extend the affirmative action policy of selecting national convention delegates to gays. The rule currently allocates certain numbers of delegate slots for African Americans, Latinos, Asian-Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and women. The DNC's Black Caucus has already raised some objection to the proposed change, including DNC member Donna Brazile. The Blade also said Brazile refused to answer the rumored claims that she is a lesbian. The Blade writes:

Brazile has refused to answer questions about her own sexual orientation, even though she has a history of gay rights activism, including a seat on the board of the gay Millennium March on Washington for LGBT Rights in 2000. She again declined to discuss the matter in a telephone interview this week, though she cited her past gay rights advocacy over many years within the DNC and within the DNC’s Black Caucus.

I personally oppose the affirmative action policy the Democrats have for the selection of their delegates. As a person who once was elected as a delegate to the national GOP convention, I think a person should earn their right to attend a convention, not simply have it handed to them as a means of fulfilling a quota for a particular group. If the DNC is going to have the rule though, then there is no reason it shouldn't be extended to gays as well simply as a matter of principle. Sixteen state parties already impose the rule to include gays according to the Blade report.

As an aside, the opposition to the rules change by the Black Caucus reminds me of a recent episode of my favorite TV show, "The Office" dealing with diversity issues. During a training session, Dwight asks a diversity training presenter if he could avoid discussing gays because black people don't like gays and think it's okay to discriminate against gays and since they are also a minority group, it must be okay, which struck Dwight as being somewhat of a paradox. The presenter, who was African-American, said he wouldn't have a problem accommodating Dwight's request since there was only so much he could cover in the presentation, and he had a lot of other issues to discuss. Of course, the reason they were having the diversity training was because of complaints about racially insensitive jokes made by their boss, Michael, who just couldn't get why he couldn't repeat the same jokes Chris Rock tells.

Recent reports that at least one national Democratic group did not have an employment policy of non-discrimination towards gays and lesbians also raised the ire of the Democratic GLBT community. The Blade writes:

In yet another gay-related development, news surfaced last week that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, an arm of the DNC, removed from its website a personnel-related statement saying the committee doesn’t discriminate in hiring based on sexual orientation. DSCC officials said the removal was a mistake associated with a change in the website and the committee’s non-discrimination policy had not changed.

In support of Yandura's contention that the national Democrats are abandoning the GLBT community, he notes that the party has been very outspoken in articulating the party's opposition to Republican-led attempts in Congress to go after illegal immigrants with mean-spirited legislation. "It’s the right thing to do, and I applaud their action," he said. "Why then is it so difficult for them to do the same for us? "Why are gays and lesbians continually left to fight these battles alone?" he asked. "Where are our allies?"

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Kiser Digs Into His Own Pockets To Finance Campaign

Kris Kiser(D) has found little luck in raising funds locally for his uphill campaign to unseat 7th District Congressperson Julia Carson in this Tuesday's Indiana primary. According to the most recent campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission by the Kiser campaign committee, the candidate has raised a mere $16,340 in contributions for his campaign, but he spent $133,295.71 and had cash on hand of $25,644.29.

Despite the paultry sum of campaign contributions Kiser reported, the candidate loaned his campaign committee $182,700, including a $40,000 loan just days ago, at a 7% interest rate. Kiser is securing the loans with residential property he owns in the District of Columbia worth in excess of $1 million.

Of the campaign contributions he has received to date, they have come largely from individuals living in the D.C. area. Kiser received just one local contribution from Ted Fleischaker, editor and publisher of The Word, Indiana's largest GLBT newspaper. Fleischaker made a $200 contribution to Kiser's campaign shortly after his newpaper caused quite a bit of a stir in the Indianapolis GLBT community after The Word endorsed the openly gay Kiser over Carson, even though she's been an outspoken supporter of gay rights during her decade in Congress. Kiser's campaign also purchased $3,137 worth of advertising in The Word according to Kiser's campaign finance report.

Although Kiser implied in an interview with The Word that he was supported in his bid by Congress' only two openly gay Democratic members, Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Tammy Baldwin. AI later confirmed that neither candidate supported Kiser. Rep. Frank felt so strongly about Rep. Carson's re-election that he appeared at a fundraiser for Carson in Indianapolis earlier this month.

The report offered yet more griss for the gossip mill. Kiser's campaign paid former legislator Michael Marshall $15,000 for his services before ousting him as the campaign's manager. Marshall was also reimbursed by the campaign $2,715.60 for meals during his brief stint with the campaign. Marshall managed Joe Donnelly's unsuccessful race against Rep. Chris Chocola in 2004 and left that campaign under quite a cloud. Marshall left the campaign on something less than the best of terms and is not doing any favors for Kiser as his former campaign manager.

Kiser's campaign has also shelled out over $10,000 to Darryl Johnson, who is Kiser's life partner, for services performed on behalf of the campaign. Kiser and Johnson live in a home at 835 N. Butler in Indianapolis. As we previously reported on March 20, according to D.C. tax records, Kiser was claiming a homestead exemption on the residence he owns in D.C., even though he is registered to vote in Indianapolis and now claims his home in Indianapolis as his place of residence. Since our first report, the D.C. tax records for Kiser's property have been updated and now show that he is no longer claiming a homestead exemption.

A post on on Thursday by gay rights activist Marla Stevens has caused quite a stir in Kiser's campaign. Steven's post was replete with scandalous and damning accusations against Kiser and Johnson. Bil Browning, editor of, removed the post under the threat of a lawsuit from the Kiser campaign.

Despite being under fire within the GLBT community, Kiser is not giving up. This weekend the Kiser campaign is sending out robo-telephone messages to voters in the 10th District. The call has a recorded message from Kiser identifying himself as a former staffer to Rep. Lee Hamilton. The candidate says he believes "the country is headed in the wrong direction", and that he's challenging Rep. Carson. He says he believes the district needs "a strong, effective voice in Congress." He encourages votes to check out his website at

Previously an unknown, Kiser's campaign still remains a mystery to many local political observers. There is speculation that Kiser thought Carson would end her re-election bid due to ongoing health problems, providing him an opening to win the race. While that hasn't happened, there continues to be speculation that Carson will drop out after winning the May primary so that Democratic leaders can select her replacement, allowing the party to avoid a costly and bloody primary campaign. There are a number of local Democrats who are reportedly anxious to take Carson's place. Kiser is not on the top of any local party leader's list to replace Carson.

GOP Meltdown In Vanderburgh County

The fallout from the flap in Vanderburgh County over tampering with a candidate's entry on the GOP's Voter Vault database has now cost GOP Chairman Brent Grafton his job. The Evansville Courier & Press reports:

Embroiled in controversy over the unauthorized alteration of a state legislator's profile in a national Republican database, Vanderburgh County GOP Chairman Brent Grafton has resigned, effective immediately.

Grafton, who did not return telephone messages seeking comment, was blasted by his interim successor as party chairman.

"He hasn't done (anything)," GOP Vice Chairman Connie Carrier said. "All he's done is create a humongous mess."

Carrier called Grafton a "huge disappointment" who left party workers in the lurch by disappearing for days at a time this week while they were struggling to meet a state law's requirement that they produce nearly 400 Republican poll workers for Tuesday's primary. "We're doing fine without him," Carrier said.
Grafton has been under fire since it was learned that he gave the password to the national GOP Voter Vault database to several party members, including Rep. Suzanne Crouch's primary opponent Jonathan Fulton. Someone altered Crouch's entry to indicate that she was pro-choice rather than the pro-life position she claims.

It is interesting that Vanderburgh Co. Republicans, like Marion Co. Republicans, are struggling to find poll workers on election day while Democrats seem to have accomplished this task. You would think the Republicans, having won back the Governor's office after 16 years out of power, would have a little less trouble finding volunteers. People must not be interested in getting a state job like they once were.

Marion Co. GOP Abandons A Quarter of Precincts For Primary Election

As if the sorry state of affairs for the Marion Co. GOP couldn't get worse, it just did. The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy reports that County Clerk Doris Ann Sadler (R) has asked Democratic county chairman Ed Treacy to cover for Republicans in 250 of the county's 914 precincts because Republican county chairman Mike Murphy couldn't find the necessary poll workers--that's 27% of the precincts. O'Shaughnessy explains:

Each precinct needs five poll workers, some from each party. At least one person, an inspector, must be present to open each polling site.

Republicans were to provide the inspectors because Todd Rokita, the GOP candidate for secretary of state, won the most votes in the county in the last election. (He won the election.)

For Tuesday, Democrats will be trained as inspectors for 30 precincts in Pike Township, 37 in Washington Township and a still-undetermined number in Center Township.

Murphy apathetically blames it on the fact that it is a primary and not a general election, and that it is common for the party to have to scramble to find poll workers. Sadler blames it on changing demographics with more Republicans moving to the suburbs. "It's a disappointment to the Republican Party and to me as an election official," she said. "The system works best when you have one of each party watching over each other's shoulder to make sure all the votes are counted."

Ed Treacy summed it up best. "They have now called me to bail them out or there won't be an election," Treacy said. "They should just surrender the clerk's office now so we can run the election properly."

So much for voter ID. What's the point in having it if you don't have poll watchers from both parties to keep an eye on the other?

Murphy's valiant efforts at dismantling the Marion Co. GOP should be completed by this year's November election.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Out-Of-State Money Flows Into Walker's Campaign

Senator Bob Garton's Republican challenger in Senate District 41, Greg Walker, is getting some more late help in his uphill battle to unseat the 36-year veteran from out-of-state conservative sources. A supplemental filing by the Walker campaign today shows a $2,000 donation from the National Right to Work Committee in Springfield, Virginia and a $2,000 donation from National Pro-Life Alliance in Annandale, Virginia.

Walker's largest contribution is a $15,000 donation from Associated Builders and Contractors of Indiana, which "is a professional construction trade association dedicated to the Merit Shop philosophy and to the free enterprise system." Another PAC related to ABC, Indiana Merit PAC, contributed another $15,000 to Walker.

Signs of more help for Walker coming from Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood) and Rep. Jeff Drozda (R-Westfield) is observed by Brian Howey. He reports that Walker is "relying on Mark Collins for his media, the same consultant that helped State Sens. Jeff Drozda and Brent Waltz engineer their primary upsets in 2002 and 2004 of Sens. Steve Johnson and Larry Borst."

Taxpayer-Funded Campaign Literature

Democrats have been critical of Secretary of State Todd Rokita running television ads to explain the state's new voter ID law. Because it is an election year, they believe it amounts to taxpayer-funded campaign advertising. Why didn't he run the ads last year they ask?

With less than a week before the May 2 primary, voters in Democrat John Day's House District 100 received a "2006 Session Report." It's a slick, 4-page, full color brochure, which includes 3 photos of Rep. Day. It has a cover letter from Rep. Day, which begins:

In this spring session of new life, my spirits are up as I review for you the 2006 legislative session and district news. While the Republicans tell us it was a terrific session and many Democrats rate the session very poorly, I believe the answer is somewhere in the middle perhaps a C or C+ on a rating scale . . . My own efforts this year produced mixed results. On the plus side, I was able to amend our 1993 School Breakfast Law to expand the program to an additional 135 schools. However, my ongoing effort to raise the state's minimum wage was blocked in the House.

Day then goes on to explain that the taxpayer-funded newsletter reviews a "very promising consumer protection law regarding home improvement fraud plus a new approach to dealing with abandoned buildings that harm our neighborhoods . . . Also, in the Good News Department let me report on a recent visit to a reborn Howe High School renamed Howe Academy."

On the back page of this taxpayer-funded newsletter, Day asks, "Will you be able to vote?" He then explains the new voter ID law, throwing in a pitch for the Democrats' partisan lawsuit to overturn the new law. He says, "Many of us believe this law, now being challenged in federal court, is unconstitutional but until a court rules otherwise--it is the law and we must all show a photo ID in order to vote."

Rep. Day is not facing an opponent in next Tuesday's primary, but many other incumbent legislators are? Are their legislative reports arriving in voters' mailbox this close to the election as well? Clearly a bright line rule is needed to prevent incumbent lawmakers from abusing their franking privilege by sending out self-promotional puff pieces so near an election. This provides an extremely unfair advantage to incumbents at taxpayers' expense. According to Rep. Day's campaign finance reports, he has not raised or spent any campaign funds during this election cycle. Why should he when he can use taxpayers' money to get the job done?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Howey Rates Garton-Walker and Burton-West Races As Tossups

The Howey Political Report is now rating the hotly contested Republican primary matchups between Senate President Pro Tem Bob Garton and challenger Greg Walker and Rep. Woody Burton and challenger Ron West as "tossups." He writes today:

State Rep Woody Burton (center) and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert D. Garton (right) are finding themselves in Republican primary dogfights. HPR is now rating both races as "tossups." Burton began running attack adds against his opponent, Johnson County Council President Ron West after polling showed the race tightening. Garton, who is being challenged by Columbus accountant Greg Walker, was endorsed by 6th CD Republican chairman Ted Ogle Thursday morning. Both Burton and Garton are finding voters with significant anti-incumbent attitudes as property taxes in Johnson County spike, along with $3 a gallon gas.

Indiana Right to Life, along with the American Family Association of Indiana, is active in both of these races, weighing in on Walker's side in the Senate race and on Burton's side in the House race. Many observers believe that grassroots work by anti-abortionists in a Republican primary with a low turnout could aid Walker's uphill battle to unseat Garton. Because Burton's house district overlaps with Garton's senate district, get-out-the-vote efforts for Burton by anti-abortionists will aid Walker and hurt Garton.

As we reported earlier this week, AI has been hearing that Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood), who represents parts of Rep. Burton's district, has been helping out Walker behind-the-scenes. AI observed that insurance magnate Patrick Rooney kicked in $5,000 to Walker's campaign as he similarly did for Waltz when he was facing his uphill battle to unseat Senate Finance Chairman Larry Borst in 2004 primary.

Incidentally, Patrick Rooney is also the founder of North Park Academy in Indianapolis, which just happens to employ Sen. Jeff Drozda (R-Westfield) as its COO. Drozda previously served as Executive Vice President of Indiana Right to Life, which also played a major role in aiding Waltz in his successful race against Borst.

The evidence just keeps growing that there is an organized effort by extremist conservatives in the Indiana Senate to oust Garton as Senate President Pro Tem. And we hear that Sen. Garton is well aware of who's a part of this effort within his own caucus.

UPDATE: A press release from Ted Ogle, 6th District GOP Chair, accuses Greg Walker of misleading voters over his endorsements and suggests that a national right to work group is behind those efforts. Ogle writes:

“I am concerned about statements being made in our local State Senate campaign. Senator Garton has been endorsed by well-known groups, such as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. and the Indiana manufacturers Association. Greg Walker has claimed the endorsement of the Indiana Republican Assembly on his mail and website. There is no such organization registered with the Indiana Secretary of State. Additionally, The Indiana Republican Party passed a Resolution on April 21, 2004 stating, “The Indiana Republican Assembly is not an auxiliary of or affiliated with or recognized by the Indiana Republican State Committee or Party,” and, “the group does not have authority to speak on behalf of the Indiana Republican State Committee nor should it be perceived that an endorsement by the Indiana Republican Assembly is an endorsement of the Indiana Republican State Committee or Party.” Ogle continued, “Voters should be aware that this organization is being used to confuse and mislead them.”

Ogle also cited the endorsement of Garton and the alleged endorsement of Walker by the “National Gun Owners Alliance.” Of that he stated, “It is interesting that Dennis Fusaro sent a letter on behalf of the “National Gun Owners Alliance” and is also the spokesperson for the National Right to Work Organization in Virginia. This further demonstrates that the National Right to Work organization is the group behind all of the negative campaigning that has taken place on behalf of Greg Walker. A lot of outsiders are involved in trying to unseat Senator Garton in this race and most of them are from out of State. What do they know about Hoosier values?”

More On GOP Voter Vault Flap In Vanderburgh County

The Evansville Courier & Press adds more to its report from yesterday that someone with access to the national GOP's Voter Vault voter database system gained unauthorized access to Rep. Suzanne Crouch's entry and altered her position on abortion fron anti-abortion to pro-choice.

Betty Lou Jerrel, a party veteran, accused GOP county chairman Brent Grafton of lying to her when she first confronted him about whether he had given the password code to Voter Vault to Crouch's opponent, Jonathan Fulton. "He wanted me to stop asking him questions," Jerrel said. "There were about 40 seconds when he and his wife were just looking at each other."

Grafton, who is supporting Crouch, claims he told Jerrel that he wasn't sure whether he had given the password to Fulton because it has been such a long time. He now says he gave the password to Fulton last year when they were preparing for a Lincoln Day Dinner. Fulton, however, says he didn't receive it until February. When told of the apparent contradiction between his and Grafton's accounts, Fulton told the newspaper that it was possible Grafton is right. "My memory and my notes aren't all that good," Fulton said.

Fulton has agreed to pull a campaign flier which touts Crouch as being pro-choice, even though he does not believe that she is anti-abortion.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Inspector General Investigation of ICJI's Heather Bolejack

The Daniel's administration announced today that it had placed Heather Bolejack, executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI), on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the state's Inspector General David Thomas. Thomas would not comment on the nature of the investigation. Both Thomas and Bolejack were appointed by Gov. Daniels. His office says Bolejack is the first administration appointee to be placed on paid leave according to an AP report.

So what should we make of today's announcement? Let's begin with what we know. The inspector general's office was created to investigate allegations of criminal or unethical activity or inefficiency in state government. As executive director of ICJI, Bolejack oversees $60 million in federal funding. During Daniels' tenure, the focus of the agency has been to fight the scourge of methamphetamine use.

While it is unclear whether the investigation involves something of a criminal or ethical nature. WTHR-TV reports that its sources say that Bolejack's travel and expense records are under review. Roger Harvey said, "She often travels to Washington, DC, and other cities like New York to discuss federal grants and how to bring those dollars to Indiana." Also under investigation is a several hundred thousand dollar federal grant which was given to a friend of Bolejack's husband according to WTHR-TV's sources.

What should be observed is the highly unusual nature of the head of a state agency being placed on paid leave. Because a gubernatorial appointee serves at the discretion of the Governor, a resignation, voluntary or involuntary, is the typical way an administration deals with a high-level appointee suspected of wrong-doing. Paid administrative leaves are typically reserved for lower-level bureaucrats until it can be determined whether any alleged wrong-doing actually took place. Thomas told WTHR-TV he expected to have his investigation concluded within the next two weeks. So what's different about this case? Did Bolejack resist administration efforts to resign, leaving the Governor no other choice than to place her on paid administrative leave?

Another interesting aspect of this story is what was the impetus behind the investigation. It appears that Thomas' investigation may have been prompted after the Indiana Democratic Party made a public records request from the agency last month. The AP says, "The Indiana Democratic Party later said in a statement that it submitted a records request on March 17 asking the institute for Bolejack's expense reimbursement vouchers and travel and petty cash records. The party said it received a general letter acknowledging its receipt, but the agency had not produced any of the records."

Adding to the intrigue is WTHR-TV's claim that it also requested travel records of Bolejack and other top agency staffers this past week. This might suggest that the administration was trying to stay ahead of this story by publicly announcing the investigation and moving quickly to place Bolejack on administrative paid leave in anticipation of potentially embarrassing disclosures. It is worth noting that Thomas, unlike Bolejack, was not placed on paid leave while Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi investigated allegations that Thomas offered a state job to a Democratic sheriff's candidate in Clay County if he would end his campaign.

UPDATE: The Indianapolis Star reports that "Bolejack received $3,369 in reimbursements for travel expenses to regional and national conferences in Washington, Boston, Minneapolis and Hawaii, on topics such as methamphetamine and grants management, according to records from the state auditor's office." If her job required her to do a lot of travelling, that amount does not appear to be out of line. The newspaper also reports that she received a $100 reimbursement for ethics training. The Star article also indicates that agency logs show a complaint about the contract process was made back on Febrary 3, but does not say who made the complaint. This makes you wonder where the Star got this information? Neither the Democratic Party nor WTHR's public information requests had been responded to when this story broke yesterday. Is the administration playing favorites with the release of public records?

This is not the first time this agency has been investigated. In 2004, the state terminated a $565,000 advertising contract it had with WFMS radio station when it was discovered that an agency employee, Nikki Edgar, initiated the contract with WFMS after she had returned from a vacation in Cancun, Mexico with an account executive for the radio station. The agency also fired Edgar.

TDW's Jennifer Wagner, who also serves as communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party tells AI tonight that "the party received a number of anonymous tips that there are travel and petty cash issues as well as some potential working-from-home issues at CJI -- with Heather and at least one other employee." Wagner continued, "We put in the records request, and we got a general letter back in response." Wagner is quite familiar with the ICJI as she worked there under the previous Democratic administration.

With the inspector general's broad investigative powers, the administration is able to contain investigations of high-level administration appointees within the inspector general's office as opposed to an independent investigation by the Marion Co. Prosecutor's office. The prosecutor's office gets the case only if it is referred to it for prosecution by the inspector general. Let's hope that the inspector general is using his powers in this case to find the truth, not whitewash it for public consumption.

Who Has The Code To The GOP Voter Vault? Bring On An Investigation

It seems that Vanderburgh County GOP Chairman Brent Grafton got a little careless with the password code to the national GOP campaign voter database. As a consequence, someone managed to access Voter Vault and alter Rep. Susan Crouch's stance on abortion from anti-abortion to pro-choice. Although her primary opponent Jonathan Fulton was one of those person's who Grafton gave the password code to, he insists he had nothing to do with altering Crouch's stance on abortion. Jennifer Whitson of the Evansville Courier & Press writes:

The local chairman of the Republican Party allowed state Rep. Suzanne Crouch's primary opponent and a handful of others to access a secure area of the Republican National Committee's campaign database, which was later altered to incorrectly reflect Crouch's stance on abortion.

Jennifer Hallowell, executive director of the Indiana Republican Party, said Vanderburgh GOP Chairman Brent Grafton allowed "unauthorized use" of the party's "Voter Vault" database, which has records on all registered voters.

Grafton's log-in credentials would allow him to edit information on the site. Candidates get read-only access to the database for producing campaign mailings.

"This was an unauthorized use of Voter Vault, and we will take extra steps to make sure that all users are aware of that," Hallowell said. "This is the first breach of the system that we're aware of."

Hallowell said Crouch's record in the system has been corrected to reflect her anti-abortion stance and voting record.

Grafton said he gave the log-in credentials to a few party volunteers, including Jonathan Fulton, Crouch's opponent in Tuesday's primary election for the District 78 House seat.

Fulton's campaign has been circulating fliers recently that say the national GOP's database lists Crouch as "pro-choice." The flier includes a picture of a Web page from the database. Fulton, however, said he did not alter the information about Crouch's stance, even though he had the ability to do that with Grafton's credentials. "I wouldn't do that," Fulton said. "I did not, and I would not and I will not."

The House Republican Campaign Committee isn't buying Fulton's claim. And now all Vanderburgh GOP officials will be locked out of the Voter Vault until an investigation can determine who made the unauthorized changes to Crouch's entry.

It never ceases to amaze us what folks advocating the "Christian right" views within the party are willing to do in the name of their cause, even if it means lying and cheating.

Snow Job For President Bush

Fox News' Tony Snow has been picked by President Bush to replace outgoing Press Secretary Scott McLelland. He must have done a real snow job on the President because here's a few not-so-nice things he's had to say about the President in the past:

  • Bush has lost control of the federal budget
  • Bush has become something of an embarrassment
  • No president has looked this impotent this long
  • When it comes to federal spending, George W. Bush is the boy who can't say no
  • Little in the character of demeanor of Al Gore or George Bush makes us say to ourselves: Now, this man is truly special!
  • On the policy side, he has become a classical dime-store Democrat.

Press Secretary Tony Snow should have no trouble defending the embattled President Bush as his chief spokesman. If he can convince the President to hire him after saying all those bad things about him, he should have no trouble selling his message to the White House press corp. Maybe?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Walker Gaining Support In Effort To Unseat Garton

Things are falling into place for Republican Senate candidate Greg Walker in his bid to unseat Senate President Pro Tem Bob Garton. First, Walker picks up the endorsement of the Indiana Right to Life Committee. Then he picks up the support of the American Family Association of Indiana. And yesterday J. Patrick Rooney, former chairman of Golden Rule Insurance Company and founder of Medical Savings Insurance Company kicked in $5,000 to Walker's campaign according to a supplemental report filed by the Walker campaign today.

It was about this same time in the last campaign season that Rooney kicked in a large contribution to another young upstart, Brent Waltz (R), who went on to defeat one of Indiana's most powerful legislators, long-time Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lawrence Borst (R). Are similar late contributions from like-minded conservatives enroute to Walker's campaign as we write? Is Gov. Daniels' choice to be Indiana's new GOP national committeeman, Jim Bopp, behind these efforts? Or are those efforts to oust Garton coming from within his own caucus?

We drew a comparison to the Borst-Waltz race as soon as Walker announced he was going to take on Garton. It turns out there may be more in common with the two races than we first expected. Rumors are abuzz today that Waltz is doing some behind-the-scenes work to help out Walker's campaign to make sure Garton doesn't return to the Senate so that the ultra-right can select one of its own as President Pro Tem.

Indiana Civil Rights Commission Sues Neighborhood Association For Racial Discrimination

In an extremely rare move, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission has filed suit in Allen Superior Court against a New Haven neighborhood association on behalf of a black family which claims it was racially discriminated against by its neighbors. The Journal-Gazette's Rebecca Green writes:

The Indiana Civil Rights Commission has filed a complaint against a New Haven subdivision’s community association alleging racial discrimination. According to the complaint filed in Allen County Superior Court, the Shordon Estates Community Association discriminated against a resident, Philip Johnson, and his family, who are renting a home in the neighborhood in the 2900 block of Rolling Meadows.

The subdivision is northwest of downtown New Haven and just east of Fort Wayne city limits. Johnson, 51, a Chicago native, said he had been renting a house in the neighborhood with a verbal agreement to buy the home from its owner, Rick Widmann.

According to court documents, Johnson and his family continue to rent the single-family home and have been doing so since October 2003. “Throughout their tenancy, the Johnsons experienced what they perceived to be hostile statements and actions from neighbors due to the Johnsons’ race,” the complaint read. “The police were called to respond to several incidents of alleged racial hostility.”

On April 17, 2005, the Shordon Estates Community Association modified its bylaws and neighborhood covenants by a 62-9 vote to include a restriction prohibiting the rental of homes without approval from the community association. Citing 2000 U.S. census data, the complaint alleges that the residents of Shordon Estates were predominantly white.

According to Civil Rights Commission officials, the restriction prohibited homeowners from renting property to anyone who was not related by blood to the homeowner.

In the complaint, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, acting on Johnson’s behalf, states the community association’s covenant violates Indiana housing code and limits and segregates the availability of housing for minority populations.

Johnson, who is black, and other minority families are, in effect, excluded from Shordon Estates in greater proportion than white families because of the community association’s restrictive covenant, which serves no business necessity, according to the complaint.

This case is going to attract a lot of interest. First, when is the last time you can remember hearing about anything the Indiana Civil Rights Commission did? It's easy to forget it even exists because it has so seldom done anything in recent memory of any significance. The case also raises an interesting property issue concerning restrictive covenants against renting property. It is not at all unusual for upscale neighborhoods to have restrictive convenants against renting. If the Civil Rights Commission prevails on behalf of this homeowner, can challenges be expected against other communities with similar restrictions? This is one case worth watching.

More Corruption In Lake County Politics?

The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating how Dozier Allen, Jr., the former Calumet Township Trustee and most-recently, Gary's interim mayor, spent $170,000 in workforce grants. Calument Township Trustee Mary Elgin tells the AP she thinks she knows what happened to the money. "I think they wanted to know what did we do with the money versus what did the (Dozier) Allen (Jr.) administration do," said Elgin, who defeated Allen in 2002. "We put the money into training; they paid the money to themselves."

Allen admits he and three other employees were paid out of the grant money over and above their regular pay. "It was done with the permission of the governing body," Allen said. "It was not an exceptional procedure." Allen pocketed $28,000 of the grant money in 2002 according to the AP. Apparently Allen's $80,000 a year salary wasn't enough to live on. Maybe it was a good thing that Democrats chose Rudy Clay to replace Mayor Scott King, who hand-picked Allen as his replacement when he resigned his office last month.

Illinois Democrats Take Cue From Daniels On Toll Road Privatization

While Indiana Democrats can't stop criticizing Gov. Mitch Daniels and Republicans for making the decision to privatize the Indiana Toll Road, Illinois Democrats are looking favorably on the plan. The Daily Herald's Eric Kroll fills us in:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Monday he’s waiting to see how Indiana’s experiment of leasing its toll road fares before deciding whether to act on a suggestion to do the same for the suburban tollway.

“Stay tuned,” said Blagojevich Monday. “This is an idea that we’ve talked about for years, actually. You’ve got to explore all kinds of creative ways to utilize the assets of the state. It sure is better than putting more burdens on the hard-working people and asking them for their tax dollars.”

Indiana is getting $3.8 billion for leasing its toll road to a foreign business group, and Blagojevich said he’s “looking with great interest” at how it plays out. Critics blast provisions in the Indiana contract that will allow the new operator to raise tolls by 2 percent a year after 2009.

State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat, has suggested the idea of leasing or selling Illinois’ tollway system, but Blagojevich said he won’t consider it until next year at the earliest. Schoenberg said he’s working independently on the idea, asking a state agency to look at how much a tollway lease could bring into state coffers.

Rich Miller of Capitol Fax Blog, threw the issue out for debate today and got quite a few comments with mixed reaction. You can read them by clicking here. Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D) posted his own comment, demonstrating just how serious he is about the issue. He writes:

Some additional thoughts before this thread hits the fast lane: One of the key lessons that can be learned from the Indiana agreement is that in order to build support for this type of proposal, it is essential right from the start that a portion of whatever proceeds the state realizes be set aside in a form of endowment that will guarantee there will be no toll increases. Under pressure from his own allies in the IN legislature, IN Gov. Daniels belatedly ponied up $150m from the $3.85b to freeze tolls for 10 years. Because the Illinois tollway system is bigger and in far better condition — both in concrete and on the balance sheet — and because the majority of people who use the system are Illinois commuters, a much larger portion of the proceeds must be set aside and for a longer time period in any Illinois proposal.

Secondly, we need to ensure that any plan to bring private capital into public infrastructure maintains a high standard of accountability and transparency for the tollway’s spending practices and policies. The hard-fought gains that we’ve realized from tollway reform legislation not only protected taxpayers from one Administration to the next, but institutionalized greater accountability for the private sector, too.

Finally, as this proposal begins to percolate, there will be a host of questions on whether or how put together this type of public-private partnership, as well as how to spend the billions that are available to the state as a result of it. I strongly believe that once the bonds are paid off and the reconstruction and toll freeze costs are factored in, the money should go exclusively into capturing $3b available in matching federal transportation funds and tackling the state retirement systems’ unfunded pension liabilities.

It's good to see that the Democrats' near-universal negative reaction here in Indiana is more of an anomoly than the norm. Of course, Mayor Richard M. Daley (D-Chicago) already beat Daniels to the punch when he privatized the Chicago Skyway Toll Road, where communters are already realizing drastic improvements in the highway since it was leased to Macquarie, the same company involved in the consortium which is leasing the Indiana Toll Road.

Star (Not) On Top of 7th District Congresssional Race

The Star's Mary Beth Schneider gives us a rundown of the 7th District Congressional race. It tells us something about the personalities of the many candidate running in both parties' primaries. But if you're looking for any substantive discussion of the issues to help you decide who you support, forget it.

Schneider begins the story by telling us "[n]oone has come close to beating U.S. Rep. Julia Carson. Ever." Some of her previous opponents might quarrel with that a little bit, beginning with her first opponent Virginia Blankenbaker (R) who held her to just 53% in her first race in 1996. Nonetheless, her winning record hasn't detoured four other Democrats from challenging her in the primary and four Republicans from vying to run against her.

Carson faces the "first openly gay person" to seek a congressional seat, Kris Kiser, Schneider informs us. But Kiser assures us he is not running against Carson. "[T]he issues of the day, the needs of Indianapolis, warrant a new voice and a new energy" is why he's running. Schneider makes no mention of our earlier discovery that Kiser, who only moved to Indianapolis a little more than a year ago to run for the seat, still claims a homestead exemption on his D.C. residence. That would have required a little research on Schneider's part, something she obviously spent little time doing for this story.

Republican Eric Dickerson, who is running for office the first time, "is driving a 45-foot RV up and down Indianapolis streets trolling for votes." "I used to land airplanes on aircraft carriers at night in the Marines. For me, it's no problem," Dickerson said. What he lacks, though, Schneider says is the backing of the Marion Co. Republican Party.

Marion Co. Chairman Mike Murphy reserved the honor of the party's blessing to none other than former city-county councilor Ron Franklin. "I don't use drugs. That's never been an issue with me," he said. That was Franklin's response to a series of criminal arrests. As Schneider informs us:

He pleaded guilty in 2001 to a misdemeanor of criminal recklessness for firing a handgun at an occupied truck. He was acquitted of a felony drug charge in 2000 after police found cocaine in his car and also was acquitted in 1998 after marijuana was found in his car. In both cases, Franklin said the drugs belonged to others.

Murphy reassures us that this is no problem. "People make mistakes. They pay for their mistakes. Ron Franklin faced some tests and came through stronger and a better person." Yeah right.

As to the other candidates (and they are a colorful group of candidates), they can be summed up in one paragraph:

Also running against her is Bob Hidalgo, who ran for Congress in 1998 as Bob Kern against U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.; Pierre Quincy Pullins, Indianapolis, making his first run for elective office; and Joseph Charles Stockett III, who has a history of anti-Semitic statements and was convicted in 1976 of setting fire to a Planned Parenthood office in Oregon.

Thinking of how much she could accomplish if the Democrats were in the majority, Carson tells Schneider, "If I was in the majority, oh my God!" And Carson is getting tired of those pesky rumours her opponents keep spreading about her health. No, she didn't go to Holland for cancer treatment. She was just inspecting dikes and flood control projects.

And what about the issues? Well, they didn't make it into the story. Better luck next time.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Federal Court Dismisses Challenge To "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Law

A federal district court in Massachusetts today issued an order dismissing a case, Cook v. Rumsfeld, brought by gay members of the U.S. military who believed their constitutional rights had been violated when they were separated from continued service in the military under the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law (10 U.S.C. § 654). The plaintiffs were represented by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which released a statement expressing its disappointment with the decision, indicating that it is "reviewing all possible responses."

The plaintiffs contested the law under several constitutional theories. Judge George O'Toole, Jr. rejected each of the constitutional claims, including violations of homosexual soldiers' due process, equal protection and First Amendment free speech rights.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that no person shall be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The gay soldiers, relying on the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Kansas believe they have a “fundamental liberty interest in private adult consensual intimacy and relationships, including consensual intimacy and relationships between adults of the same sex” which "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" violates. Judge O'Toole, interpreting the Lawrence opinion very narrowly wrote:

I conclude that neither Lawrence nor any relevant precedent requires treating plaintiffs' ariticulated liberty interest as a "fundamental" interest calling for heightened scrutiny in judicial review of the legislative decision-making. Rather, for the purpose of plaintiffs' substantive due process claim, Congress' enactment of {Don't Ask, Don't Tell} and the armed forces' promulgation of implementing regulations are to be reviewed to determine whether they lack a rational basis.

Judge O'Toole concedes that the holding in Lawrence, which struck down Texas' gay criminal sodomy law, "seems to be a matter of some uncertainty" and that the Lawrence court did not directly answer the question of whether homosexuals have a fundamental right to engage in consensual and intimate sexual relationships. If that had been the Court's holding, O'Toole reasons that it would "have been stated" by the Court, particularly when it is stating a new "principle of constitutional law." He notes that Justice Scalia's dissenting opinion asserted that the Court had recognized no such fundamental right. O'Toole said, "[I]t mightbe expected that if that statement wrongly characterized a principal holding of the case, the majoritywould have answered and corrected it . . . the majority’s silence on the point amounted to acquiescence in the dissent’s statement that the case did not hold what the plaintiffs here say it did."

The gay service members argued that the law allows openly homosexual members of the armed services to be separated for that reason alone, whereas other service members are not. This distinction, the plaintiffs argued, constitutes an inequality of treatment without a compelling, important, or even legitimate government interest to justify it, amounting therefore to a violation of the equal protection under the First Amendment's Due Process Clause. Applying less scrutiny to the law under the "rational basis" test, Judge O'Toole said of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law:

{It} was the product of a focused process of debate and deliberation . . . there is as a matter of fact some level of risk to morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion from the presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual acts-and an evaluative judgment-that the identified risk is unacceptable."

Judge O'Toole sees the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law as no different than state classifications which treat older workers differently than younger workers, such as for uniformed police officers or mandatory retirement laws for civil service workers. Judge O'Toole said, "What that means in this case is that the plaintiffs would have to show that Congress could not reasonably conceive that the service of open homosexuals in the military would have the deleterious effect on 'morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion' that was described by some military leaders and is contained in the legislative record." He concludes, "The plaintiffs cannot meet that standard."

Because the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law penalized statements by the plaintiffs about their sexual orientation, which were later used to separate them from the military, the plaintiffs argued that their First Amendment free speech rights were violated. Judge OToole didn't see this as a viable claim because he believes the law is primarily directed at their conduct, not their statements. He says:

The fact that one might speak about one’s conduct, or one’s propensity or intention to engage in certain conduct, does not mean that a governmental regulation pertaining to the conduct is also an impermissible restriction on speaking about it. When certain conduct combines both “speech”and “nonspeech” elements, “a sufficiently important governmental interest in regulating the nonspeech element can justify incidental limitations on First Amendment freedoms . . . The governmental interest served by {the law} is the effective enforcement of the policy. Facilitating the enforcement of a valid policy is a legitimate, and one may even say important, governmental interest.

Responding to today's decision, SLDN said, “We continue to believe the military’s ban is un-American and unconstitutional. There is no reason lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans should be prohibited from serving our country. The men and women in this lawsuit represent the best of our armed forces. They are patriotic, dedicated veterans. America should welcome their contributions and honor their commitment to our country.”

Don't expect this to be the last word on this issue. AI expects this case to make its way eventually to the Supreme Court.

South Bend Common Council Prepares To "Publicly" Debate Gay Rights Ordinance

The South Bend Tribune reports that the proposed gays rights ordinance will be read publicly for the first time this Thursday, whereupon it will be referred to a standing committee for public hearing. Earlier, we reported that the council held an executive session to discuss the proposed ordinance, which is a clear violation of Indiana's Public Meetings Open Door Law. The Tribune's Jamie Loo reports:

The debate over changing the human rights code to include gay, lesbian and transgendered people has become a written ordinance proposal before the Common Council. This is the first time the proposal has been written into ordinance form for the council to consider.

The ordinance, written by council members Charlotte Pfeifer, D-2nd, and Roland Kelly, D-3rd, is set for first reading Thursday but won’t be up for discussion or a vote at that time.

According to council procedures, the ordinance likely will be referred back to a council standing committee for a public hearing on a different date. Another public hearing before the full council would happen on the bill’s second reading and then formally voted on after the bill’s third reading.

The proposed amendments to Article 9 of the city human rights code add protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, education and access to public accommodations.

The proposal exempts religious organizations in cases in which the protections may “affect the definition, advancement of the missions, practices or beliefs” of that group.

If South Bend adopts the proposed ordinance, it will become the third Indiana city to protect persons from discrimination based on both "sexual orientation" and "gender identity"; Indianapolis and Bloomington are the other two cities. Several other communities, including Ft. Wayne, Michigan City, Lafayette and West Lafayette, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but not gender identity.

Did Bopp Flop In Attempt To Circumvent Blackout Period?

Favorite wing-nut attorney and Indiana's new national GOP Committeeman, Jim Bopp, argued before a three-judge panel today that the Christian right group he is purporting to represent, Maine's Christian Civic League, should be allowed to drive a hole through McCain-Feingold and run anti-gay marriage ads during the so-called blackout period. These particular ads would target Maine's two Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of whom oppose a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages. An AP report by Peter Yost suggests that Bopp's argument flopped with the 3-judge panel. Yost writes:

Three federal judges reacted skeptically Monday to a conservative group that wants to air an advertisement around election time singling out Maine's two U.S. senators on the issue of same-sex marriage.

The Christian Civic League is challenging a provision of federal law that bars corporate and union treasury funds from being used to influence campaigns right before an election.

The league's proposed radio ad represents grass-roots lobbying rather than electioneering, said James Bopp, an attorney from Terre Haute, Ind., for the conservative group that claims its free speech rights are harmed by the law.

In Maine's election primary, scheduled for June 13, Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican, is running unopposed. Maine's other senator, Republican Susan Collins, doesn't face re-election until 2008.

The Federal Election Commission said allowing the ad to run would seriously erode what has been a bright-line rule in the campaign fundraising reform law sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis.

The provision prohibits corporations or interest groups from airing advertisements that name candidates within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days before general elections.

The Christian Civic League "is basically asking for a blank check" to run ads that the law prohibits, said Daniel Ortiz, an attorney for five members of Congress who supported the reform legislation.

The three judges who heard the arguments expressed strong doubts that the ad could be broadcast as worded and still comply with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

The Christian Civil League is a Christian hate group not unlike Indiana's Advance America. Like Advance America, it also purports to be a 501(c)(3) charitable group. As Yost explains:

A tax-exempt Maine corporation, the league wants to run the ad in advance of an early June vote in the Senate on the Marriage Protection Amendment, which says that marriage is solely between a man and a woman.

The ad says: "Unfortunately, your senators voted against the Marriage Protection Amendment two years ago. Please call Sens. Snowe and Collins immediately and urge them to support the Marriage Protection Amendment when it comes to a vote in early June."

Yost points out in his article that Jim Bopp is also an attorney for Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family, the group behind this lawsuit as we previously reported. All three of the judges who heard Bopp's case were appointed by Democrats, two by President Clinton and one by President Carter.

WTHR Puts Spotlight On Garton's Senate Race

WTHR's Kevin Rader puts the spotlight on the Senate District 41 primary race between the 36-year veteran Senate President Pro Tem Bob Garton and accountant Greg Walker. Walker's performance in Rader's report was a political consultant's dream.

It begins with Walker explaining why he's driving around the district in a red 1970 plymouth--that's the year Garton was first elected to the Senate. As Walker walks from door-to-door in a neighborhood, he tells Rader that like any worn out vehicle, it's time to trade it in for a new one. Walker then zings Garton for creating a health insurance for life legislative perk and a generous retirement plan which requires taxpayers to pony up $4 for every $1 legislators like Garton kick in without bothering to find a fix for the hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers who have no health insurance. A retired, elderly man confirms Walker's sentiments to Rader.

In contrast, Garton is shown filing his papers for re-election with most of his GOP Senate colleagues gathered to show their support for the incumbent. Next, Rader shows Lt. Governor Becky Skillman standing on the county courthouse steps in front of a small gathering of people explaining why she and Gov. Daniels believe Garton is a critical partner in the administration's efforts to turn Indiana around. One of the few standing in the audience is a former Shelbyville legislator, Jeff Linder, who left the House to become a well-paid lobbyist for Ball State University.

Added to Walker's populist message is the support he enjoys from conservative groups like the Indiana Right to Life Committee and the American Family Association, which can provide much-needed grassroots support to offset the huge financial advantage Garton has over him. If voters are as discontent as AI suspects they are, Garton just might be in for a big upset this year, if not in the primary, then in the general election where the Republican nominee will face off against a serious Democratic candidate, Columbus attorney Terry Coriden.

A Different Form Of Justice For The Rich?

The Star's Richard Walton tells us that Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's office allowed Nancy Irsay to cop a plea. In exchange for a guilty plea for reckless driving, drunken driving charges against Irsay were dropped. Walton writes:

Nancy C. Irsay pleaded guilty today to reckless driving in connection with a July 2003 incident in which police said she was driving 70 mph in a 30-mph zone.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped drunken driving charges against the widow of Indianapolis Colts owner Robert Irsay.

Irsay was pulled over in her Porsche Carrera GT near 38th and Illinois streets. Police said the car went airborne through the intersection. The Hamilton County resident was arrested after she refused to take blood-alcohol and field sobriety tests.

Marion Superior Court Judge Linda Brown sentenced Irsay to 180 days in jail, but suspended 178 and gave Irsay credit for time she spent in jail after the incident. Irsay also was fined $1,000 plus court costs and ordered to attend defensive driving school.

I don't handle drunken driving cases in my practice, but I've talked to plenty of attorneys who do handles these cases. They tell me it's like pulling teeth to convince the prosecutor's office to reduce charges in a drunken driving case. Absent police error in gathering evidence, defense attorneys typically have to be prepared to fight these cases in front of a jury if their client wants to beat the rap. That's not going to be the case for Irsay.

Brizzi Goes After Juvenile Center Employees

The Star's Richard Walton is reporting that Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has filed criminal charges against 9 former workers at the Marion Co. Juvenile Detention Center concerning sexual misconduct with underage girls at the facility. Walton writes:

Criminal charges have been filed against nine former workers at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center in connection with sexual misconduct by employees against underage girls.

Also charged was the center’s Superintendent Damon Ellison. He allegedly failed to report to authorities evidence of molestation obtained six years ago from one of the victims. Investigators found a tape recording of her allegations in Ellison’s desk drawer.

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said today that when Ellison failed to act on the girl’s complaint, he sent a message to staff that sexual misconduct would be tolerated.

The charges follow a five-month investigation into practices at the center on North Keystone Avenue. Ellison has been suspended without pay, Brizzi said.

This is quite tragic. The juveniles housed at these detention facilities already have enough problems in their lives, let alone having to worry about being sexually abused by the people hired to protect them. Brizzi should be applauded for his actions today.

Someone who may not come out looking good in all of this is Judge James Payne, Director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, who served as the juvenile court judge in Marion Co. for 20 years before joining the Daniels' administration last year. At least some of the these crimes took place on his watch. Speaking of his service as Marion Co. Juvenile Court judge, his biography boasts that he was "responsible for the development of a nationally recognized detention center."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Former Gov. Dan Walker Describes Life Behind Bars

Scott Fornek of the Chicago Sun-Times has a timely story today giving Illinois former Gov. Dan Walker's perspective on life behind bars in light of former Gov. George Ryan's conviction this past week on 18 counts of political corruption. Walker does not paint a pretty picture for the 72-year old Ryan. I had always been under the impression that the Minnesota federal prison at which Walker served at was more like a country club than a prison, but it certainly dealt him plenty of bad moments during his 17-month stay, enough that he contemplated suicide at one time. Fornek writes about Walker's time in jail:

He was searched by guards who ordered him to "strip, squat and spread" (which included a humiliating search of all body cavities). He was threatened by fellow inmates when he balked that they were bucking the breakfast line.

His job was scrubbing toilets, but twice a day he had to pick up cigarette butts with a nail on a wooden rod marked "Governor's Stick."

So don't tell former Illinois Gov. Dan Walker that minimum security prison is a picnic or a Club Fed. He calls it "brutal" -- so brutal that he contemplated suicide while inside.

"It's what it does to you personally," Walker said. "It's not like 'hard time,' as they call it. But is it as searing? Yes, yes. For someone like me, yes. Certainly it is searing."

Fornek reminds us, though, that Walker's prison was still not as bad a the prisons to which most offenders are sent. He writes:

Walker was sent to the minimum security prison in Duluth, Minn. It had no bars or locked cells, but a fence surrounded it. The 94-acre former military base had tennis courts, a softball diamond and other recreational facilities, but Walker remembers its isolation and arctic weather.

Although Walker was originally sentenced to 7 years for fraud convictions related to his ownership of an Illinois savings and loan, his sentence was later reduced to the 17 months he served. So what advice does Walker have for Ryan? Fornek writes:

If Ryan does wind up going to prison, Walker said "I hope he doesn't have it as bad as I did" with "a warden who singled me out and made my life miserable."

"But still he will go through what I went through, what everyone goes through when they go to prison -- the loss of freedom," Walker said. "The older you are, the more it hits you. "It will hit him hard, no question about it."

Walker said he had no real advice for Ryan, saying that "would be very presumptuous. "Do your best to hold your head high. That's all I can say."

Marion County's "Bipartisan Judiciary"

The Star's Richard Walton takes a look at Marion County's politically-driven judicial selection process five days after AI first took a look at a system which will give us 20 judicial candidates in November and no losers. Walton thinks of the system as a "Rube Goldberg-like system for choosing superior court judges, a blend of party politics and safeguards to keep campaigning to a minimum."

Judge Robert Altice, Jr. defends the process, which he calls a "hybrid" system which allows "party input while giving voters a say." Barnes & Thornburg attorney and former Indianapolis Bar Association President John Maley, commenting on the flood of campaign fundraising solicitations he's been receiving from judicial candidates rhetorically asks: "Does that instill confidence in the integrity and independence of the judiciary?"

Superior Court Judge Cale Bradford thinks the system actually builds "a strong, bipartisan judiciary." He says, "It will also cut down on the need for judges to raise money that primarily comes from attorneys." That's spoken by a person who was hand-picked by Marion County Republicans for a seat on the superior court when he was still a very young attorney with very little experience. But he had what counted most in Marion County--a family with strong political connections.

Judge Altice tells Walton that he would have had to raise at least $60,000 if his race had been competitive, but he now expects to get by on much less with no competition. What is totally missing from Walton's story is why Altice has to spend any money at all. While he touches on the slating process, he ignores a central point in our story this past week about how much judicial candidates have to pay over to the local parties in order to get slated. While Altice kicked in only $1,700 to the Greater Indianapolis Republican Finance Committee, his fellow GOP candidates have paid the local party substantially more. William Nelson, Michael Keele, Sheila Carlisle, Carol Orbison and Reuben Hill have all kicked in more than $10,000 each to GIRFCO over the last several years.

The slating process essentially allows a small group of party insiders to hand-pick the party's judicial candidates. There is nothing open about the process at all. And these people who make the decision could care less about your abilities as an attorney. As long as you have been admitted to practice law for at least 5 years, demonstrate that you are loyal to your political party and pay the so-called "slating fee", you get the party's blessing. Walton's failure to include this aspect of the process in his report is inexcusable and a disservice to the Star's readers.

The Star includes the Indianapolis Bar Association's survey ratings of the judicial columns as a side bar to the main story, but it offers no context or insight to the Star's readers on what to make of the ratings. As we noted in our story this past week, two of the Democratic candidates, Karen Celestino-Horseman and LilaBerdia Batties, were recommended for the bench by fewer than half of the responding attorneys. One sitting judge, Becky Pierson-Treacy, wife of Democratic County Chairman Ed Treacy, was recommended by only 58.5% of the responding attorneys. Walton included an explanation from Batties as to her low rating; she thinks that other attorneys think she is rude because "they mist[ake] her strong advocacy for clients for lack of courtesy." That's as close as Walton comes to telling us anything meaningful about the judicial ratings.

It's nice that the Star finally has spoken at all on this extremely important subject. But as the newspaper of record for our state, AI would expect better reporting, which would generate the public outrage that is needed to overhaul Marion County's judicial selection process to ensure that the system is open to all qualified candidates, and is one that eliminates the backroom deal-making from the process.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Indiana Democrats Outraise Indiana GOP In First Quarter

Although the Indiana Republican Party controls the Governor's office, along with every other statewide office and both houses of the General Assembly, Indiana Democrats still managed to outraise the Indiana Republicans by almost $200,000. The Indiana Legislative Insight reports that Democrats raised $544,013 during the 1st quarter of 2006 compared to $366,870 raised by Indiana Republicans.

Both parties spent similarly during the quarter. Republican spent $659,341 compared to the Democrats' $665,013. The Democrats also reported having cash-on-hand of $322,445, while the GOP has considerably less with $185,937.

So much for the advantage of being the in-party when it comes to fundraising. Looks like the Indiana GOP's new chairman, Murray Clark, has his work cut out for him.

A Conservative Chicagoan's Takes On The 8th District Race

Daniel Sullivan, a Chicago writer for the conservative, thinks folks should be playing close attention to Indiana's 8th Congressional District in which the incumbent John Hostettler (R) will likley face off against Democrat Brad Ellsworth, who is Vanderburg County Sheriff. Sullivan writes:

As the pundits look for the congressional races likely to come down to the wire this year, there is one that many may miss. Indiana’s Eighth Congressional District voted 62% to 38% for President Bush over Senator Kerry in 2004. By all accounts, it is a conservative place with a conservative, six-term, Republican incumbent in a reliably red state. But a closer look reveals a serious opportunity for the Democrats and an overall fascinating race from the standpoint of party identity in this turbulent era.

Sullivan describes the politics of the 8th District as "populist" and "a place where anti-Washington rhetoric plays well." He sees Ellsworth as "youthful" and "more conservative than some Republicans – openly and (apparently) sincerely religious, staunchly opposed to compromise with illegal immigrants and pro-military." Although Ellsworth has directed anti-Washington rhetoric at Hostettler, Sullivan acknowledges the challenge Ellsworth faces. Noting his refusal to take PAC money and his reliance on an army of volunteers to eke out close races where he is typically outspent by his opponents, Sullivan thinks Hostettler "makes it hard for Ellsworth’s relatively standard “inside-the-beltway” critique to stick." As Sullivan sums it up:

Populism is always part of a minority’s strategy, especially in this country. But the people can be an unstable basis for a political party, ironically enough, and candidates like Ellsworth might take the Democrats whither they dare not go. How Hostettler meets such a challenge, and whether Ellsworth is willing to bring it, make this a race worth watching.

Friday, April 21, 2006

South Bend Gay Rights Ordinance Back On The Table

South Bend Equality is delighted that city councilors Charlotte Pfeiffer and Roland Kelly have introduced a human rights ordinance for the city which will include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as protected classes to ensure equal opportunities in education, employment, public access and accomodations and housing. The proposed ordinance was introduced this week as Bill No. 29-06.

The human rights ordinance is scheduled for first reading on April 27. A vote on the ordinance could come as soon as May 8. Supporters believe a majority of the council members will support Bill No. 29-06, as well as South Bend Mayor Stephen Luecke. WNDU-TV has a story posted on its website which you can check out here.

Bopp Aids Dobson In Driving Hole In Campaign Finance Reform Law To Air Anti-Gay Marriage Ads

Gov. Mitch Daniels' choice to replace Fred Klipsch as Indiana National GOP Committeeman, Jim Bopp, is teaming up to aid Focus on The Family's Dr. James Dobson in driving a big hole in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Law (BCRA) so the group can air ads during the so-called "blackout period" after May 14, 2006, to support the Marriage Protection Act (MPA), which the Senate plans to take up for debate in June. The Indiana Daily Insight writes today:

A nasty battle of words is brewing on election law experts on national listservs and blogs and in press releases over Indiana Republican Party Treasurer James Bopp, Jr. This battle swirls around a lawsuit you may hear more about next week. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this week agreed to hear arguments on the motion of the Christian Civic League of Maine for preliminary injunction for Monday, April 24. CCL, a tax-exempt Maine corporation, filed suit on April 3 to secure preliminary injunction to allow it to broadcast a grassroots lobbying advertisement in support of the federal Marriage Protection Amendment after May 14, 2006, when the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) “blackout period” prohibiting such broadcasts will begin. The suit also seeks permanent injunction allowing broadcast of similar ads during future blackout periods. Bopp represents the plaintiffs. During discovery last week, the Campaign Legal Center contends that Federal Election Commission attorneys "uncovered evidence that the suit was actually instigated as a test case" by Bopp, "an attorney who has challenged BCRA's constitutionality since its inception. The court documents filed by the FEC [Monday] made it clear that Bopp worked through the Colorado-based Focus on the Family group to search the United States for a group willing to run a candidate-specific ad that could be used to bring this as-applied challenge. 'This case is not about grassroots lobbying. It's a one-person crusade by Jim Bopp to take down a law he doesn't like," said Gerry Hebert, the Legal Center's Executive Director and Director of Litigation. 'The Christian Civic League had no plans to broadcast this ad prior to the June 13 Maine primary until they met Mr. Bopp.' " The dialogue continues in several places, including the Election Law Blog, More Soft Money Hard Law, and on the election law listserv. Why might this be important? Look for Indiana Democrats to suggest that while Bopp may not have a problem actively seeking out a "plaintiff
based on a set of facts largely manufactured by counsel" as the Legal Center's Hebert alleges, he chastises the Indiana Democratic Party/ACLU plaintiffs for failing to find even one person who would be disenfranchised by the Voter ID law.

It should be noted that Maine's Christian Civic League, who Bopp is supposedly representing in this suit, is the same group which fought tooth and nail to prevent Maine from enacting a statewide law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination. Maine voters handily turned back an initiative last fall initiated by the group to repeal the new law before it took effect.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Is Rove Next?

Truthout's Jason Leopold reports that Special Prosectuor Patrick Fitzgerald is back at work in the CIA leak case this week, fresh from the conviction he won against former Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R) on all counts, presenting a federal grand jury with additional evidence against Karl Rove, the President's closest political advisor. According to Leopold, Fitzgerald plans to ask the grand jury to return a multi-count indictment against Rove. Leopold writes:

Just as the news broke Wednesday about Scott McClellan resigning as White House press secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove shedding some of his policy duties, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case and introduced additional evidence against Rove, attorneys and other US officials close to the investigation said.

The grand jury session in federal court in Washington, DC, sources close to the case said, was the first time this year that Fitzgerald told the jurors that he would soon present them with a list of criminal charges he intends to file against Rove in hopes of having the grand jury return a multi-count indictment against Rove . . .

Fitzgerald is said to have introduced more evidence Wednesday alleging Rove lied to FBI investigators and the grand jury when he was questioned about how he found out that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA and whether he shared that information with the media, attorneys close to the case said.Fitzgerald told the grand jury that Rove lied to investigators and the prosecutor eight out of the nine times he was questioned about the leak and also tried to cover-up his role in disseminating Plame Wilson's CIA status to at least two reporters.

Additionally, an FBI investigator reread to jurors testimony from other witnesses in the case that purportedly implicates Rove in playing a role in the leak and the campaign to discredit Plame Wilson's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose criticism of the Bush administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence lead to his wife being unmasked as a covert CIA operative.

This cannot be good news for President Bush as a Fox News poll shows his approval rating at an all-time low of just 33%. No president since Richard M. Nixon has experienced approval ratings this low. With Nixon, it was a third rate burglary that ended his presidency. Will a third rate leak have the same consequences for Bush?

Abdul In The Morning

Tune in "Abdul In The Morning" on WXNT (1430 AM) Friday morning. AI Editor Gary R. Welsh will be a guest of Abdul's, along with Taking Down Word's Jennifer Wagner and IndyStar's RiShawn Biddle from 7:00-8:00 a.m.

McCain Continues Tap Dance On Gay Marriage Issue

Sen. John McCain last week announced that he would once again be voting against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages. In 2004, McCain voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) "because it usurped a state's authority to legislate the issue." But as the Washington Blade observes, the Marriage Protection Act (MPA), a revised version of the FMA which the Senate will take up in June, would "block judges from interpreting the U.S. or state constitutions to require civil marriage for gays." As the Blade explained, "By theoretically leaving open the door to states to legislate gay marriage if they so choose, McCain's concerns about states rights might have been assuaged." The MPA reads as follows:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

Notwithstanding that the MPA may leave open the possibility of states legislatively allowing gay marriages, McCain's not budging from his position. "I intend to vote against it," he said. "I believe each state should decide." Just the same, his position makes clear that he believes it is acceptable for the states to enact constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage as a number of states have already done. And, despite his claim that he favors allowing each state to decide for itself, he voted for the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits marriage between members of the same sex in federal law, and provides that no state is required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. McCain did vote for enhanced criminal sentencing for crimes committed against a person because of their sexual orientation, as did all but four of his Senate colleagues, but he opposes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Moderate Republicans who may be more inclined to support McCain have been turned off by his recent overtures to Rev. Jerry Falwell, a former nemesis from his 2000 presidential campaign. Then McCain said, "Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right." Next month McCain will deliver the commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University.

Log Cabin President Patrick Guerriero offers a weak defense for McCain's reaching out to Falwell. He tells the Blade that "the new alliance strengthens McCain's reputation within the GOP." "We disagree with Falwell on a wide range of issues, and he has said some things that are outrageous," Guerriero said. "I don't want to underplay or forget that. I just think it's not shocking to people who understand American politics that the candidates will reach out to people in different segments like this."

Sen. John McCain succeeded former Sen. Barry Goldwater, Arizona's long-time senator and 1964 GOP presidential candidate. McCain has often spoken very highly of his predecessor. Goldwater's views on gay rights emerged very late in his career when he spoke out against a ban on gays serving in the military. As Goldwater explained, "Having spent 37 years of my life in the military as a reservist, and never having met a gay in all of that time, and never having even talked about it in all those years, I just thought, why the hell shouldn't they serve? They're American citizens. As long as they're not doing things that are harmful to anyone else. ... So I came out for it."

Goldwater also openly embraced his gay grandson in his own way. "You try to find out where [homosexuality] started, even going back to old Egyptology – and you knew damn well the Egyptians had to have those people – but you can't find any writings," he says. "I have one grandson who's gay. And my brother [Bob Goldwater] has a granddaughter who is gay. We're sort of at a loss to know what the hell it's all about." Goldwater explained that his views were not based upon having gay relatives, but his belief that government should stay out of people's private lives. As he is famous for saying, "keep the government off my back and out of my bedroom." It's too bad Goldwater's libertarian attitude didn't rub off a little more on McCain.

Abdul: GOP'S Franklin Doesn't Like Gays Or The Disabled

WXNT radio talk show host Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is reporting this morning at Indiana Barrister that 7th District Republican congressional candidate Ron Franklin during a recent interview made cracks against gays and disabled persons. But Ron Franklin is charging that the interview was a dirty trick set up by his Republican primary opponent, local businessman Eric Dickerson. Abdul writing, "the bomb just went off", says:

One 7th District Republican Congressional candidate says he is the victim of dirty tricks by his opponent. Former City-County Council member Ron Franklin says comments made in a recent interview about gays and some individuals on disability are being taken out of context.

In an interview conducted last month, Franklin was asked about gay rights and social security. On the gay rights issue, Franklin says the Indianapolis city county council was wrong to pass the human rights ordinance. He says marriage should be between a man and a woman, however he concludes the interview by saying "he likes it better when they [gays] kept it in the closet."

Later in the interview after touching on other issues he comments on people on social security disability (SSI). He says he's seen too many people getting disability and tells his office manager to not rent to them. Franklin manages the Mosell Sanders public housing complex on east 38th Street in Indianapolis.

Franklin says he knew he was being set up by his opponents so he gave answers that weren't to be taken seriously.

He blames the entire matter on the Eric Dickerson campaign, which he says has tried to use a number of dirty tricks to derail his campaign. Already the two sides are hinting at legal action against each other over the interview.

If the allegations are true, they may damage not only Franklin's political campaign but also his livelihood. As Abdul reports, Franklin manages the Mosell Sanders public housing project on East 38th Street. It is hard to understand how he managed to hold on to that job after he was convicted of firing a gun at a truck carrying several passengers in a road rage incident in August, 2001; he was acquitted in that same incident of possession of cocaine which was found in the vehicle he was driving at the time. But since it's against the law in Indianapolis to discriminate against either the disabled or gays in housing, one must question whether a person with those views is suited to manage a publicly-financed housing project.

As Abdul reports, Franklin's campaign is blaming the incident on a dirty trick by the Dickerson campaign. Abdul does not tell us who conducted the interview, or for whom the interview was being conducted. That would shed some light on Franklin's charge. Nonetheless, one has to question Franklin's judgment, who, according to Abdul, knew the interview was a set up by Dickerson and "so he gave answers that weren't to be taken seriously."

This is yet another in a string of embarrassments for Marion Co. GOP chairman Mike Murphy. Many in the party were already taken back by Murphy's decision to slate Franklin for the congressional race over several more qualified and less controversial candidates. In light of this most recent development, AI predicts that the successful and respected automobile dealer Eric Dickerson will handily defeat Franklin in the May primary. While local Democrats are sure to be amused by this latest development, AI doubts that Julia Carson's campaign will like the fact that it will aid Dickerson, who will likely prove to be a much more difficult candidate to beat in November.

UPDATE: In response to a question from AI Editor Gary R. Welsh, Abdul says the interview of Franklin was conducted by a GOP precinct committeeman, whom he did not identify by name.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bloomington Council Approves Transgender Rights

The Bloomington City Council tonight gave final approval to a revised human rights ordinance which includes protection from discrimination on the basis of "gender identity" according to Fox59 News. Bloomington added "sexual orientation" to its human rights ordinance nearly 10 years ago. With the approval of the new ordinance, Bloomington becomes the second community in Indiana to include protection against discrimination for transgender persons. Indianapolis became the first when it enacted its HRO earlier this year.

The city of South Bend is once again taking up consideration of a proposal to add both "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to its human rights ordinance. A proposal there has lingered for more than two years despite several hearings by the common council and the urging of many local citizens and organizations, including South Bend Equality. A new proposal was introduced this week by Councilor Charlotte Pfeiffer, which appears to have the support of a majority of the city's common council. South Bend Mayor Stephen Luecke also supports the proposal.

Can't We Find A Better Way To Select Judges In Marion County?

The Indianapolis Bar Association, of which I am a member, in an effort to have “the strongest judiciary possible” in Marion County has established a Judicial Excellence Political Action Committee (“JEPAC) “to educate voters on the qualifications of candidates for judicial office.” JEPAC conducted an online survey of attorneys to “help voters in assessing the strengths of the candidates on the upcoming primary ballots.” As noble as JEPAC’s intentions may have been, the survey results, while quite revealing, will have little impact on the outcome of the judicial races in Marion County. That’s because there are no real judicial races so to speak.

This year, Marion County voters will select judges to fill 20, county-wide judicial offices in Marion County, three of which are newly created positions. Under state law, however, each party will nominate just 9 candidates in the May 2 primary election. Following the primary, “each party may nominate one additional candidate by using the candidacy vacancy provisions provided for in I.C. 3-13-1,” explains Christine Hayes Hickey, JEPAC chair. She continues, “Those two additional candidates and any Libertarian or other third-party candidates, will comprise the ballot for the general election.” In other words, “the Republican and Democrat parties will nominate 10 candidates each for the 20 judicial offices to be elected in November,” which means there are no losers.

The Republicans have only the party's 9 slated judicial candidates competing in the May 2 primary, while the Democrats will have 12 candidates competing for 9 judicial spots. To the extent there is any race at all this year for these 20 critical judicial positions, it will only occur on the Democratic primary ballot. If you take a look at the JEPAC results and give them any weight, the choices for elimination are quite easy. Democrat LilaBerdia Batties was recommended by only 29.6% of the attorneys who participated in the survey, meaning that nearly 70% of her colleagues don’t believe she is fit for service on the bench. Karen Celestino-Horseman, a former city-county councilor, was recommended by only 44% of her colleagues, meaning that 66% don’t believe she is fit for service on the bench. Incidentally, Celestino-Horseman is one of the Democratic attorneys Judge Sarah Evans Barker sharply criticized in her opinion dismissing the Democrats’ lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s new voter I.D. law.

The tough choice for Democrats will be selecting the third judicial candidate to eliminate. The third-lowest approved candidate is Becky Pierson-Treacy, a sitting judge who is the wife of Marion Co. Democratic chairman, Ed Treacy. Pierson-Treacy was recommended for judicial office by only 58.5% of the respondents, an embarrassing showing for a sitting judge. She was slightly bested by Democratic judicial candidate Jose Salinas, who only 61.4% of the respondents recommended for the bench. William Fatout was the only other Democratic judicial candidate who was recommended by fewer than 70% of the respondents. He drew a recommendation from 67.2% of his colleagues.

The other Democratic judicial candidates scored higher marks from their colleagues. Judge Mark Stoner topped the list with 95.2% approval, followed by Heather Welch (92.5%), Judge Grant Hawkins (90%), Judge Linda Brown (85.9%), Judge Barbara Collins (80.6%), Judge Thomas Carroll (74.9%) and Judge John Hanley (71.9%).

Although there is no competition among the Republican judicial candidates, voters can rest a little easier in knowing that all of the candidates scored a recommendation rating of at least 70%. Judge William Young came in the lowest with 70.1% of his colleagues recommending him for the bench. Judge Michael Keele scored the highest with a recommendation from 96.6% of his colleagues followed in a close second by Judge Robert Altice, Jr. with 96% recommending him for the bench. The other candidates received favorable recommendations in the following order: Judge Carol Orbison (90.4%), Judge William Nelson (88.4%), Judge Sheila Carlisle (88%), Judge Reuben Hill (82.5%), Judge Scherry “S.K.” Reid (82.2%) and candidate Clark Rogers (79.6%).

So one might wonder why there is so little competition for a prestigious position of Marion County Superior Court Judge? Some complain that the pay is too low. Judges elected this year are scheduled to earn $110,500 a year, which compares favorably to the pay scale for judges in many states, and they receive a generous pension and health benefits plan along with the job. The reason for the lack of competition is the law itself, which basically allows the parties to hand-pick who they want to fill the judicial slots in Marion County. Prior to the enactment of a recent law adding 3 new judicial spots for Marion County, each party would have nominated 9 candidates in the primary and only one of the 18 candidates would lose in the November election. This year, no candidate of either major party will lose because of the way the legislature wrote the new law providing for the addition of 3 new judges; the only losing candidates will be candidates of a third party (unless lightning strikes and one of them wins by some big miracle).

So how do you get hand-picked by one of the parties to be a judicial candidate? Make contributions to the local party, and make sure they are big enough. A look at data available from the state’s Election Division makes this abundantly clear. On the Republican side, you need to make your contribution to the Greater Indianapolis Republican Finance Committee. Let’s see how much the GOP judicial candidates have contributed to GIRFCO:

William J. Nelson ($14,900)
Michael D. Keele ($13,400)
Sheila A. Carlisle ($12,300)
Carol J. Orbison ($12,035)
Reuben B. Hill ($11,166.24)
S.K. Reid ($9,600)
William Young ($8,000)
Clark Rogers ($5,125)
Robert R. Altice, Jr. ($1,700)

If you are a Democrat, you need to make your check payable to the Marion County Democratic Central Committee. The Democrats, however, appear to let there candidates off the hook, so to speak, compared to the GOP’s judicial candidates. Here’s a look at how much the Democratic judicial candidates kicked in:

William Fatout ($8,654)
Grant Hawkins ($7,760)
Thomas J. Carroll ($7,200)
Barbara Collins ($4,205)
Linda E. Brown ($3,310)
Becky Treacy ($2,000)
Mark Stoner ($235)
John Hanley ($130)
Heather Welch ($50)
LilaBerdia Batties ($0)
Karen Horseman ($0)
Jose Salinas ($0)

The Indianapolis Bar Association should be holding its head in shame at the manner in which we select judges in Marion County. Even Lake County’s system of selecting judges through a merit selection system is preferable to Marion County’s politically-driven system. Often, I hear members of the bar complain about the incompetence of certain of Marion County’s judges. It is not uncommon for many attorneys to file for an automatic change of judge, which is permitted by court rules, if their case is assigned to a particular judge in Marion County; not because the judge is necessarily unfair, but because the attorney does not have confidence in the ability of the judge to hear his case.

Don’t count on the Indianapolis Bar Association to make any real effort in promoting judicial reform of this undemocratic system in Marion County. Two recent presidents of the Association, including the current president, Judge Cynthia Ayers and past president Gary Miller, are Marion County Superior Court judges and probably like the system just the way it is—totally political and free of competition. You would think we were living in some banana republic rather than Indianapolis based upon the system we've chosen for selecting judges.