Well, isn't that special? The man who promised to end country club politics has accepted free memberships to three private clubs. I don't know what it costs today, but I recall that it used to cost as much as $50,000 to get a club membership at Highland. Woodstock's membership similarly costs in the tens of thousands of dollars to join. And the Columbia Club membership is worth a couple of thousand dollars a year. If he declared all these free gifts on his income tax return, he couldn't afford to pay the taxes on his mayoral salary.
There's still more. Ballard accepted two leather jackets from Rolls-Royce valued at $500. He accepted Celine Dion concert tickets from the Pacers valued at $500. Although he doesn't disclose the value of all the free tickets he, his wife and family receive, his addendum states:
Moreover, I make it a point to participate in as many activities as possible because it is important to lend official support to productive members of the community. Attendance at such functions is often necessary to further the City's economic development interests. Therefore, I regularly attend sporting events, including Colts, Indians, and Pacer games and the Indianapolis 500, as well as cultural events, such as Dance Kaleidoscope.There you have it, folks. Our mayor has been totally taken in by the perks of office. He may have a cavalier attitude about accepting free tickets, trips and country club memberships, but I can assure you that you cannot accept all of these freebies and claim it doesn't influence your decision-making. Those court-side tickets to the Pacer games would cost you or me several hundred dollars a pop. The value of his free tickets to sporting events easily reach into the thousands of dollars annually, none of which are individually disclosed on the Mayor's statement of economic interest. In fact, his statement actually states he accepted nothing in excess of $100 value from anyone doing business with the city or county. That may be attributable to the numerous loopholes included in the City's ethics ordinance. For example, "gifts, favors, services, entertainment, food, drink, travel expenses or registration expenses from public agencies or institutions" are exempt from disclosure. I suppose if the CIB and the City get corporate suites to use for the Colts and Pacers games, along with free tickets, and give them to the politicians, they don't feel obliged to report these as gifts under this loophole. As far as I'm concerned, however, these are gifts from the Simons' Pacers and the Colts' Jim Irsay.
Tickets to events at properties managed by the Capital Improvement Board are often made available to the City. Additionally, the Pacers provide the City with four near court side tickets, and the Indians provide the City with four seats behind home plate. My staff and I routinely distribute suite tickets to employees and community groups so that more can enjoy those activities. From time to time, I use these tickets because I am an ardent supporter of our local teams.
Finally, this year, I attended the Super Bowl in support of the City's preparations for the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. This trip was funded by the Super Bowl Committee. My economic development trip to Japan was funded by the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee (GIPC), with funds designated for economic development. Finally, I also attended the NCAA Final Four this year at personal expense, although the tickets were provided by the NCAA.
What is happening as a result of all of these freebies is that Mayor Ballard and his family are living well beyond what his mayoral salary of $102,000 would otherwise support. Is it any wonder that he's now for whatever the people who've bestowed all of these generous gifts on him support? For a guy who ran on the meme of "I'm just a common person like you", he's doing a hell of a job of being like one of them.