Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Warner: Election Board Turned Vote Into A Partisan Issue

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette's Tracy Warner explains how the Allen Co. Election Board's Republicans fell for Jim Bopp's partisan attacks against Democrat Andy Downs hook, line and sinker, ignoring the nuances of Indiana's campaign finance laws. Warner writes:

Unfortunately, the vote sent the erroneous message that the way Kelty reported loans was purely a Republican-Democratic fight, reinforcing Kelty supporters’ claims.

Kelty’s attorney, James Bopp Jr., certainly cast it that way at Tuesday’s Election Board meeting.

“You are acting as the prosecutor,” Bopp told Andy Downs, the only Democrat on the board, after Downs made his case on why he thought Kelty’s reporting was a possible legal violation.

Bopp said Indiana law was written to allow candidates to use their own resources to run for office, partly so they couldn’t “be drug in front of some election board and have some partisan trash you.”

Bopp also said that the board could not forward the case to the prosecutor merely if it was unsure of the law, as I suggested Tuesday. “You have to have substantial reason to believe there is a violation to take such a Draconian step,” he told the board.

Bopp's personal attacks on Downs during this official, government proceeding were unprofessional to say the least. The sheer arrogance of knowing he could do this without so much as an admonition says much about partisan intent of the Republican members. Warner was equally disappointed in their performance. Warner writes:

The two Republicans on the board – David Wright, the party appointee, and Therese Brown, the clerk of courts – asked no probing questions and expressed little interest in the nuance of the law. Wright started the meeting by saying appointees are expected to leave partisan tendencies behind and later criticized Downs’ presentation as one filled with “supposition and innuendo.”

Wright should be ashamed for allowing Bopp to address Downs in such an insulting and disrespectful manner, even if he didn't agree with Downs' line of questioning or interpretation of the law. “We’re not in your classroom,” Bopp told Downs, who is director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, as a few people in the crowed snickered with delight. “This is a legal matter. This is not a matter of theory.” Whether Bopp liked it or not, as a member of the election board, Downs role meant he had to play the role of prosecutor, judge and jury, a task Wright and Brown were clearly not up to doing.

Warner hits on one very critical point which cannot be overlooked in this case, and this is why I think the board's decision did such a great injustice to our campaign finance laws. Warner writes:

Bopp repeated the main thrust of his legal argument: The Kelty campaign committee accurately and legally reported that Matt Kelty the person loaned money to his committee. Where Kelty got the money is immaterial. “Loans are treated differently,” Bopp insisted, acknowledging that had the money been given rather than loaned, it would be a violation.

Unfortunately, neither Wright nor Brown – nor for that matter Downs – challenged him on this point. In fact, the law specifically defines a contribution as “an advance, a deposit, a gift, a loan, a subscription or a contract or promise to make a donation.”

Nor did the board probe the question of whether a candidate and a candidate committee are totally different entities, as Bopp seemed to suggest.

If Kelty had never disclosed the loan after intense prodding from Republicans, the public would have never known any money was loaned to him for the purpose of financing his campaign so it couldn't even consider whether it was a gift or a loan. I just can't believe such a weak legal argument carried the day yesterday. Do the Republicans on the board have any idea how bad they look right now? Do they even care?


11101000101 said...

We now have a new dance in Indiana campaign finance. It's called the Kelty Two-Step. I anticipate it will become a very popular dance.

Doug said...

Are there any significant tax implications to Kelty since this is characterized as a loan to Kelty rather than a donation to his campaign? If the loan is not made at market rates, then the difference between the loan terms and the market rate is taxable income, correct?

My ignorance of the tax laws are vast, so I wouldn't be surprised to be wrong. Could some one institute a qui tam action against Kelty for unpaid taxes if he cheated the government out of this sort of taxable income?

Jeff Pruitt said...


The interest rate on the loan was 8% so I would consider that a market rate.

Mike Sylvester, a CPA, has looked at the issue and said that he didn't think there were any tax implications...

Doug said...

Presuming, of course, that the loan is paid back as agreed and is not forgiven at some later date when nobody's looking.

Anonymous said...

Where's the vaunted Protector of All Things Voting, our esteemed world traveller, the SOS, Field Marshall Rokita?

He protected the hell out of all of us, against the demon Voter Fraud.

This is much more serious.

Well, Todd? How about if we coat the whole thing in Swiss chocolate--then will you protect voters' rights? Isn't the SOS the ultimate protector of election processes?

And would someone please explain to me how Mr. Bopp went from righit-wing abortion legal hack, to esteemed election law attorney?

Just because two people repeat a claim doesn't make it true.

Of course this was improper reporting. Of course Allen County Republicans are holding onto power and decision-making by a thread. Of course voters are repulsed by this.

Plus, don't forget: they've still got Kelty as their mayoral candidate. He truly is the Democrats' eternal gift.

Coupled with his deer-in-the-headlights look, Kelty is a perfect foil. He doesn't get it.

He will.

Again, thanks, Gary...if we depended on local media to report this story, we'd die on the vine.

ROACH said...

according to state laws, boards, and commissions must have what is called "partisan balance". the short rant is this: if there are 3 parties in Indiana, with ballot access, the r's, the d's and the Libertarians, then shoudnt a 3 member election board have a registered Libertarian as a member. Isnt the ACEB an illegally constituted board, and as such, arent its decisions, and all therefore null and void?
I wont even begin to rant about all the other hundreds of boards throughout the state which also must meet the same requirements, and the nullification of illegally constituted board decisions, contracts, and the legal afteraffects of those aggreived by this glaring injustice.
Locally, this would throw a wrench into the redevelopment commission, zoning, planning boards, alcohol beverage licensing boards, and too many others to list.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Kelty, a weaker Democratic candidate will win the mayoral race by keeping out the stronger Rep Candidate. Sounds like Allen Co. Republicans have egg all over their face and just want the whole thing to go away.

Anonymous said...

Who does Kelty's Campaign Committee pay the loan back to?

Matt Kelty the individual or Fred Rost?

Will they pay it to Kelty and then Kelty pays it back to Rost?

By the way is a loan for $150,000 usually without collateral for someone with Kelty's means? Obviously, he couldn't get a loan thru a bank.

Rost had a line of credit with a secured loan. Probably secured against his home since it is worth about $300,000.