Many engineering and architecture firms make donations to candidates from both parties in a political campaign.
But one set of donations stood out among all others made in the last mayoral election, both for its size and the timing.
Keith Lochmueller, president of the Evansville-based firm Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates, gave $10,000 to former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson on Sept. 20, about six weeks before the election.
Three weeks after the election, Lochmueller gave the same amount to Greg Ballard, the surprise winner.
"We normally give to both parties," Lochmueller said. "I was going to give to Ballard before the election, but I never got around to it."
What cemented the donation, he said, was that Ballard took the head of his Indianapolis office, Paul Okeson, to be the mayor's new chief of staff. Lochmueller said he made the donation as part of attendance at the mayor's upcoming inaugural ball on Wednesday, where a gold sponsorship gets you 10 tickets, plus five photos with the smiling mayor.
Lochmueller said the firm does not donate in order to receive government contracts. "To have good government," Lochmueller said, "you need to support the candidates that will do the most for the city, the county and the state."
Okeson, who is a resident of Fishers, should have never been offered the job in the first place, but it is simply a complete abandonment of any sense of ethics to accept a contribution from a firm which does so much business with the city and hire one of its key employees at the start of your administration. Unfortunately, this is not the first indication of a lapse in judgment by Mayor Ballard when it comes to ethics. The Star's Susan Guyett caught Ballard's children off guard at last weekend's luau with these comments about the "perks of office." "I don't think it's changed too much for us, except we enjoy some of the perks," Erica said. Greg, Jr. agreed, saying they have access to great seats at the RCA Dome and Conseco Fieldhouse. So should any of us be suprised to learn that Mayor Ballard is making it a top priority in his administration to work on a Super Bowl that the City might be able to host many years into the future and is considering a more generous public subsidy for Pacer owners' Herb and Mel Simon because they're team is reportedly losing money on the books after disenchanted fans have stopped attended their games?
Meanwhile, Sen. David Long's short tenure as President Pro Tempore continues to take hits on the ethics front. Recall that he and his members recoiled from public demands that it end the generous health insurance for life perk for retired senators and their spouses but eventually came around as public pressure grew. Now, the body has killed a proposal to implement a cooling off period after legislators retire before they can lobby their colleagues simply for spite. The Star's Mary Beth Schneider writes, "Sen. Marvin Riegsecker, the Goshen Republican who controlled the bill's fate as chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, said he killed the proposal because he and other senators were angered by comments that 'we're taking money under the table. That's the interpretation we had.'"
As her report indicates, more than 30 Indiana lawmakers are now registered to lobby their former colleagues. Two lawmakers, Robert Kuzman and Matt Whetstone, left the legislature last year shortly after the House adjourned. Both lawmakers were key lawmakers on the legislation which legalized slots at the state's two horse race tracks. Coincidentally, both went to work for law firms which represented the horse racing interests which benefited from the new law. A quote in Schneider's story from Ed Mahern would be funny if it wasn't so absurd and insulting. "I've never seen a situation where I thought an individual legislator behaved a certain way during his term in hopes that he'd be employed by somebody afterwards," said Ed Mahern, a former Democratic state representative from Indianapolis.