Sunday, June 24, 2007

Money & Influence Pays Off For Gambling Industry And Others

Nearly ten percent of the money spent to lobby the Indiana legislature during this past session, or $2 million, came from the gambling industry. The two horse race tracks, which won the right to purchase franchises from the state to operate slot machines at their facilities, shelled out more than $760,000. And, while you won't read this in today's Star story, Hoosier Park was represented by the law firm of Ice Miller. That's the same law firm which just hired Rep. Bob Kuzman (D), a key legislator involved in the property tax rebate deal which allows slots at the tracks. The firm also lobbies for Indiana Gaming Company. And two years ago, the firm hired then-Rep. Luke Messer (R-Shelbyville) to become a lobbyist with the firm. As a legislator, he was a big advocate for slots at the tracks for the Indiana Downs race track in his district, which also spent big money lobbying the legislature this year.

On Kuzman's hiring by Ice Miller, the Star took great pains to assure us there was nothing untoward in the firm's decision to hire Kuzman. In advocating a cooling off period in an editorial yesterday, the newspaper wrote:

As we've said before, that is a reasonable stricture, even as we stipulate there is nothing dishonorable or suspect about Kuzman's move to the employ of the esteemed Indianapolis law firm Ice Miller. He represents a significant loss to the legislature and surely will be a resource to his ex-colleagues wearing his new hat.
For you Indianapolis taxpayers who are reportedly being hit with $200 million in new taxes this year thanks to the leadership of a former Ice Miller attorney, Mayor Bart Peterson (D), you will not be too happy to learn that Mayor Peterson spent $324,400 lobbying the legislature, which ranked the city as the third-highest paying lobbyist this session, spending more than Eli Lilly, the Indiana State Teachers Association and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce among others. And who got paid to lobby for the City of Indianapolis? You got it. Ice Miller. Adding further insult to injury, the firm also got paid to lobby for the Center Township Trustee's office to make sure Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer, a close political associate of Lacy Johnson could go on fleecing the taxpayers. Does anyone see a conflict of interest here? Wasn't Mayor Peterson arguing for consolidation of local government to eliminate township government? And wasn't Carl Drummer lobbying the legislature to make sure his job as Center Township Trustee didn't get eliminated?


Wilson46201 said...

There has long been a love/hate relationship between the Indiana Legislature and the City of Indianapolis over issues of "local control". I am surprised our city spent so much on an "outside lobbyist" as opposed to home-grown staffers on the city payroll. With the way Hoosier laws are structured we need a lot of lobbying to ensure our big city interests are not subsumed to the interests of Logootee or Elwood...

Anonymous said...

Mayor Peterson was never a partner at Ice Miller, although he was an associate at the start of his career.

A significant amount of the City's lobbying expenditures go to Baker & Daniels.

Anonymous said...

And a fair amount goes to Bose Public Affairs Group.

Anonymous said...

It's unbelievable the Star could write that editorial the way it did knowing the information it had gathered for today's story. A real disconnect in the newsroom wouldn't you say?

Anonymous said...

Good observations, Gary.

Here's another one:

Indiana's lobby reporting laws are the most lax in the nation. The commission that oversees these expenditures and reporting, is composed entirely of legislative appointees.

Ask Joe Hogsett what happened when the former regulations, which weren't exactly draconian, were enforced. He was SOS then, and in charge of the reports.

All Hoggy wanted to do, was enforce the lazy requirements in place in that office for decades, and largely unenforced. The legislature, led by Garton, Bauer, Borst, Pat Miller, Sen. Harrison, and the rest of those dinosaurs, immediately removed the reporting function from the SOS's office and replaced it with their own hand-picked commission.

The buggest surprise was that they defended their action, and had no shame. And likely adjourned to a local pub to drink and eat on a lobbyist's credit card.

The reporting rrequirements which led to these stories, only cover about half the news. That's how wide-open the regulations and reporting are.

Translation: it's worse than it looks. And it looks smelly.

Again, it bears repeating: Harrison Ullman was right.