Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kelty's Attorney: It's Free Speech

Disgraced Fort Wayne mayoral hopeful Matt Kelty's attorney is asking a judge to dismiss campaign finance and perjury charges against his client, arguing Kelty simply exercised his free speech rights and committed no crime. “Matthew Kelty has been wrongly charged by a grand jury with crimes he did not commit,” Larry Mackey argues. “Fair and impartial justice requires the pending indictment against him be dismissed.” A memorandum by Mackey argues that "campaign contributions are a form of political speech protected by the Constitution and the indictments would violate the First Amendment by preventing future candidates from ever using a personal loan to finance a campaign, according to the documents" according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette's Rebecca Green.

Mackey makes an argument ala Jim Bopp, which would essentially render our campaign disclosure laws meaningless. "His attorneys are arguing there is no Indiana law that says a candidate cannot borrow money from a personal acquaintance or friend, nor one that prohibits a candidate from loaning the proceeds of a prior loan to his or her campaign committee, according to court documents," Green writes. That's right. But the law is very clear on disclosing the source of any contributions, which includes loans. Under Mackey's and Bopp's interpretation of our campaign finance law, a candidate could hide the true source of all of its campaign receipts. The Allen County Election Board, on a party-line vote, bought that tortured interpretation of our law. Hopefully, our courts will not be so easily swayed.

In the more bad news for Kelty category, a Journal-Gazette editorial blasts an AFA-sponsored, gay-bashing ad promoting Kelty's candidacy today and applauds Allen Co. GOP Chairman Steve Shine for denouncing the ad. The editorial expresses disbelief to Kelty's reaction that he had never heard the ad and points out that Republicans also supported the gay rights ordinance the ad attacked Kelty's Democratic opponent, Tom Henry, for supporting. The editorial reads:

The gay-bashing radio advertisement from the American Family Association attacking Tom Henry delivers a mean-spirited, divisive and inaccurate message that desperately attempts to boost Matt Kelty's campaign. Steve Shine, the Allen County Republican chairman, was right for denouncing the advertisement despite the political risk involved.

The ad unconscionably suggests Henry, a longtime member of Most Precious Blood Catholic Church, is not a proper Christian because he “repeatedly authored legislation promoting the gay rights agenda” when he served as a City Council
member. In fact, Henry sponsored a single anti-discrimination ordinance in 2001 that makes a strong statement against discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation. Compliance is voluntary because discrimination based on sexual orientation is not included in state or federal law. The council approved it 6-3; among the supporters was John Crawford, a Republican seeking re-election whom the advertisement does not name.

The American Family Association is entitled to use its free- speech rights as it wishes, but it does little good for the Kelty campaign, other than to wave some red meat to encourage Kelty's supporters. The ad comes at a time the Kelty camp - trying to deflect attention from the criminal charges pending against the nominee and Congressman Mark Souder's rescission of his Kelty endorsement - insists it wants to focus on the issues affecting city government. Repeating that Kelty is pro-life and endorsed by Allen County Right to Life has little do to with city government issues.

Shine, for his part, has long had a record of seeking diversity within the local GOP (See Tracy Warner's column, at right.). Given the heat Shine has already felt from Kelty supporters, he risked the wrath of the party's social conservatives when he sharply criticized the ad. True to his aim for inclusiveness, he rightly took the association to task.

“I fear greatly that the AFA's radio campaign conveys a message that Republicans are willing to look down upon men and women who share our moderate to conservative value, but who differ from us in other ways,” Shine said in his letter to Kelty. “Our city is a melting pot of different beliefs, religions, cultures, races and lifestyles. We work every day with people who may not live their lives as we do, but whose philosophies about government and fiscal policy we share.”

Kelty professed ignorance when confronted with controversy, saying he hadn't heard the ad - which is easily available on the Internet. He also said he was only vaguely familiar with the ordinance Henry wrote - despite the fact that a poll commissioned and released by the Kelty campaign specifically asks about the ordinance.

Kelty cannot control the American Family Association, but he can speak out
against the ad. He hasn't.

Shine, as a political leader should, stood up for what was right rather than what was expedient, and Republicans should show their support for the chairman.

Hat tip to Blue Indiana for catching this editorial.


Don Sherfick said...

As I recall the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld disclosure statutes except in those cases (the rolls of the N.A.A.C.P back in the 60's)when such disclsure was thought to endanger a targeted minority. There just doesn't seem to be a viable argument concerning who can or can't fund campaigns on First Amendment grounds at all.

ROACH said...

Imagine this attack ad:
deep booming voice:
"Matt Kelty will say anything to get elected......"
outrageous mendacities, and parsed half truths....
Karl Rove( thought id see if you were paying attention)
anyway- kelty is getting the "My silence speaks volumes" treatment by Tom Henry, although I wish he'd pulled the old ronald reagan quip- "I wont make an issue of my opponents inexperience, pending indictments, and queer views on church state relations"
And Kelty almost fired up henry with "there you go again".
I fear Indiana is becoming an "Idiocracy", and I'm the last surviving sane, intelligent citizen remaining...

I wish the election laws would be changed, so the far right, and the far left could form their own parties, and let the rest of us sane, centrist, fiscal conservative/social liberals get some good legislators, mayors, and other govt officials.