Saturday, March 13, 2010

What To Do With Our Corrupt Marion County Republicans?



As an elected Marion Co. precinct committeeperson and life-long Republican, I am totally ashamed of the corrupt state of affairs my party has brought to our public. I grew up in Illinois and believe me when I say, Indianapolis has become every bit as corrupt as the City of Chicago. The only difference is that it's my party stinking up the place and not the Democratic Party.

Think about recent events. Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is strongly linked to an alleged Ponzi scheme operator, Tim Durham, a major benefactor of Republicans throughout the state of Indiana. Evidence emerges that his office negotiated the early release of a convicted murderer in exchange for large contributions from the murderer's wealthy father. And more recently, there have been damaging revelations about Brizzi's all-too cozy relationship with real estate developer John Bales, which has been well-documented by the IBJ's outstanding coverage of Brizzi's tendency of landing business opportunities with city contractors and well-heeled members of the community on his relatively modest salary as county prosecutor.

Earlier this week, disgraced and indicted Perry Township Constable Roy Houchins conveniently drops dead in a restaurant/pub parking lot shortly before he was rumored to have been scheduled to enter a plea agreement on the federal charges brought against him. A federal investigation uncovered a badge-selling scheme run out of his office. Apparently, many of his badge buyers were members of the Columbia Club (and not all were Republicans) who had much to fear from damaging information he could share with federal prosecutors as part of a plea agreement. The Perry Township Trustee Gary Coons negotiated a deal to merge his township's fire department with the Indianapolis Fire Department and was quickly rewarded with a new job in the public safety department created especially for him. Until the media inquired about how he could hold two full-time public jobs at the same time, Coons had intended to continue drawing salaries from both positions.

This past week, City-County Councilor Lincoln Plowman, who also served as a high-ranking IMPD official resigned both his police officer's job (with full pension benefits) and his council position after an ethics complaint was filed by Councilor Angela Mansfield to determine the reason behind Plowman's sudden suspension a month ago after he reportedly refused to cooperate in an FBI investigation. Mayor Ballard and Public Safety Director Frank Straub know the nature of the investigation but refuse to disclose any facts to the media. Why? Might it be that players a little too close to the Mayor had an unsuspecting part in the undercover sting conducted by the FBI that allegedly nabbed Plowman accepting a consulting fee for help with an out-of-state strip club owner needing assistance with a zoning matter? Instead of addressing the issue, Mayor Ballard headed out of the country on another junket to Brazil, his fourth overseas trip since becoming mayor by my count. A trip that I might add is funded by business interests lobbying for economic development handouts. Coincidentally, his economic development advisor, Nick Weber, announced he would be leaving his city job to assist Baker & Daniels and its clients in economic development matters.

The revolving door thing is proving quite fruitful for Ballard top officials. His chief of staff, Paul Okeson, left last year to work for Keystone Construction, a growing local contractor that does a lot of government work and passes out a lot of money to top Republicans. Kevin Taylor, the bond bank director who was formerly employed by AIG--the company whose failure cost taxpayers billions in bailout money, conveniently announces a move to a high level job at City Securities on the eve of the Mayor announcing his plans to sell the water and sewage services owned by the City to Citizens Energy. City Securities coincidentally is the same firm that had a big stake in the disastrous deal struck in 2002 to purchase the water company from NiSource for more than double its actual value and assumption of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of needed capital improvements. Under state law at the time, the intent of the law was to provide Citizens, a public benefit corporation, a right of first refusal to acquire the company and operate it for the benefit of Indianapolis area residents. It seemed that then-City-County Councilor Beurt SerVaas had a big beef with Citizens and felt it was best that the city acquire the utility to keep it from falling into foreign ownership. As it turned out, the City entered into a one-sided contract with a French-owned company that has totally bilked taxpayers. And as we later learned, SerVaas had negotiated an exclusive right to develop a water pipeline connecting Indianapolis water services with Lake Monroe in Bloomington without disclosing his little conflict of interest.

Mayor Ballard, who has already raised water rates nearly 100% since taking office, tells us the deal is good for taxpayers because the City will raise close to a half-billion dollars to invest in public infrastructure improvements. What he conveniently omits is the fact that Citizens will have to raise water rates in the comings years over 100% and sewer rates over 300% to cover the cost of the capital improvements it will have to make to bring the systems up to government standards. The City's short-term capital gain will be traded off for skyrocketing water and sewer bills. But the real gut of the matter is that Mayor Ballard will be able to award more large capital project contracts in the run-up to his 2011 re-election bid to faithfully reward all of those campaign contributors who have been filling up his campaign warchest.

The Republican Party was resurrected in the 2007 election after Ballard and Republicans fiercely attacked the ethics problems of former City-County Councilor Monroe Gray and the large tax increases enacted under Mayor Peterson. Ballard and the Republicans promised a cleaner, more transparent government that would rely on less taxation and property tax reduction. Instead, we have leadership dripping with ethical issues and a growing appetite to tax the little guy to death while passing out big handouts to businesses that never produce the jobs they promise to produce when they are awarded our public tax dollars. When our Mayor recently used a clawback for a company that failed to meet its goals, he passed the money out to the agency that promotes downtown conventions and the economic development council that funds his international travels instead of returning it to the taxing districts that had been deprived of those revenues in the first place.

To say I'm totally dissolutioned by what my Marion County Republican Party has become is an understatement to say the least. The only thing my party has proven to me these past few years is that it can do business just as corrupt as the old Democratic big city machines our party used to lambaste and use as a reason for electing Republicans. If you want to be involved in the party because of core principles of governing that you hold dear, our party leadership wants no part of you. They are only seeking to enlist people who are government job-holders, people seeking government jobs, current and prospective government contractors and the cronies who can raise the most campaign cash. The idea of a party of ideals is no longer operable. Machiavelli rules the day.

26 comments:

varangianguard said...

I don't know how long you've lived here Gary, but the Indianapolis area Republicans have a long tradition of this kind of chicanery. But, for many of the last 35 years most of the worst of the excesses had been dampened by real leadership in the Mayor's office. Those days seem to be gone.

Unfortunately, former Mayor Peterson's second administration seems to have re-opened the floodgates for a resurgence of "robber baron" politics around here, on both sides of teh political fence. Some of his closest aides still seem to be sucking off the teats of the economic "opportunities" they presented themselves with while working as unpaid board members. Nice gig, if you can get it, I guess.

What's worse though, is that his replacement, who many (including myself) had hoped to show some real leadership in putting a stop to the growing trend back to politicians representing themselves instead of their constituents has been dashed by his being led around by the buffet bar by nominal Republicans who are just in it for what they can wring out of the tax base, not out of any kind of civic duty.

None of these people seem to realize that the positions they hold are a trust, and that even the appearance of unethical, or even illegal behavior is a terrible violation of the spirit, if not more, of thos positions the citizens entrusted them with.

And, sadly for them, I don't think that they have the slightest clue that even the appearance of a violation of that trust is that politican's real legacy.

Advance Indiana said...

Well said, varangianguard.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Varan,

I agree that the current Republican administration is simply engaging in the same corrupt, insider dealing, "let's make our friends rich with taxpayer money" activities the Republican administrations have done since about the very beginning of Uni-Gov.

There is a huge political difference now though. Back then a Republican administration could do that and still glide to re-election on the heels of a solid Republican majority in the county. That's gone. The Ds have a solid majority in the county now. The only way for Ballard to have won re-election was to pursue an ethical, good government, populist type agenda. Mayor Ballard in fact ran on that in 2007. Governing as a Republican country club type will have disasterous results.

It's too late to salvage Ballard though. The best thing that Council Republicans can do is to distance themselves and try to hold onto their own districts.

Mayor Ballard and his people cannot win re-election playing the same old country club politics played during the Hudnut and Goldsmith administrations.)

Erich said...

I don't live in the area or understand what is going on, but there is something seriously wrong with the Democratic party, even if it is simple ineffectiveness.

In Iowa we have a Democratic legislature, Democratic governor, but a Republican auditor who does a good job pointing out whatever he can find, and some things he can't quite find. :-)

So glad you are back!

Advance Indiana said...

I agree, Paul, that the council Rs need to function more independently, but that's not happening. Ryan Vaughn, a stooge for the Ballard administration, is the CCC President. The litmus test for appointing Kent Smith's and now Lincoln Plowman's successor is perceived loyalty to Ballard. There are perhaps two R councilors at most who aren't afraid to buck Ballard.

Diana Vice said...

Excellent post and an example of why you're sorely needed in the blogosphere! Before the Kool-Aid drinking Republicans start criticizing you as a traitor for speaking ill of fellow Republicans, let me offer this food for thought.

The Bible says that judgment begins in the House of God, and we can apply this same principle to politics as well. Unless we're willing to clean our own Republican houses, we're nothing less than hypocrits when we chastise Democrats for their misdeeds.

As a mother and grandmother, I can offer another analogy. If my child or grandchild were caught stealing a candy bar from the corner drugstore, would I be much of a parent if I tried to cover up or ignore his/her petty crime? Of course not!

A good parent would march that little butt right down to the store and have him/her confess his crime, apologize, and take whatever punishment he/her has coming.

It's called tough love, and it's a good prevention method for children who could well grow up to commit more serious crimes if the small ones aren't nipped in the bud.

Some of the alleged crimes being committed by Republicans in Indy are not small ones, and one can only wonder if these crimes could have been avoided had fellow Republicans criticized the smaller ones a little sooner rather than overlook them for the sake of party unity.

I want to belong to a party that I can be proud of. Some of the actions from some Republican officeholders are shameful, and it's so bad that others from around the country are starting to watch and wonder if Indiana has been infected by the corrupt politicians from the neighboring state of Illinois.

I hope and pray that the feds go after every evil doer in our party, and if that makes me a disloyal Republican, then maybe it's not a party worth supporting anymore. I'm hopeful that there's something left to salvage once the dust settles.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Erich,

I agree...Indy politics is strange. Both the Ds and Rs look out for each other when it comes to these insider deals that makes the corporate elites in the city rich at taxpayer expense. Both parties seem to be run by one entity - a corporate community that loves the corporate welfare both parties have handed out at the expense of the taxpayers

Cato said...

Vaughn is absolutely not a stooge for the Ballard administration. Vaughn was part of the control group that got Ballard elected.

Vaughn predates Ballard. Vaughn is an attorney who has a long career ahead of him on The Team. Ballard is the current stooge of Vaughn and the big people behind Vaughn.

Ballard is an empty vessel who has no ability to say "no, thanks" to the moneyed interests, because he's afraid of them, and he can't find troops and leadership anywhere else.

Remember, the Republicans openly backed Peterson over Gilroy, and Ballard has been advised that he needs to play ball, or he'll be a very lonely man. If he had his druthers, Ballard might very well bring you, me and Ogden in to run the administration, but Ballard is afraid that guys like us can't protect him from the big Republicans.

Ballard has been told that if he plays his cards right, he'll be set in Indy for the rest of his life.

Downtown Indy said...

What the current crop of politicians seems to ignore is they are elected to serve the best interests of their constituents - not their party, not their employers and certainly not their own careers.

Sean Shepard said...

Cato makes an interesting point about politicians who are afraid of the moneyed movers and shakers.

It is easy to forget that lots of our elected folks are just regular people and in many cases probably look up to the wealthy and connected. Sometimes people want so badly to be 'part of the club' that they don't stop to consider whether the club is serving everyone's best interest.

Those who are willing to question everything and buck the system from time to time are generally easier to respect than those who just rubber stamp it all.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Cato,

I agree totally that Vaughn is not a stooge of Ballard, though I would point out that Vaughn himself is definitely a stooge. He is bought and paid for by B&T's Grand and Loftus.

I don't agree that he has a long career ahead of him on "The Team." Vaughn's career in any sort of a leadership position expires on Election Day 2011. Vaughn, Tom John and others are going to be run out of town for the damage they've done to the Republican Party. Vaughn may be able to hold onto his seat on the council as a back bencher but his days as a leader in the GOP will be gone.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Thank you for this very principled report. I do share your disillusionment. Most people will continue to not even bother to vote in our local elections, even though Libertarians go to so much trouble to give them a choice.

guy77money said...

The problem is the corruption is now starting to cost the taxpayers 'BIG' money! I could look past them handing out contracts and putting a few thousand dollars in their pockets. Big now it's huge contracts and bond payments. When they blow up (Lucas Oil and the Water Company) it cost the people of Marion county millions! I honestly think we have started on the decline of the American empire. I don't know if you caught the story on Yahoo but Social Security is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes — nearly $29 billion more.
How long will the rest of the world finance our debt? What's really disgusting is that state and city governments are starting to act like the Federal government and spend money they don't have. It doesn't seem to matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat. We are heading down the same road as England. Eventually they will have to raise taxes to pay for all of this silliness. I can understand why people are saying I will take care of myself and screw the rest of the world.

HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAX said...

The mayor also conveniently forgets to tell us that the legal fees received by Barnes & Thornburg on behalf of Veolia water will be astronomical.

HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAX said...

...and yet all these years the well-meaning fools who want good government stay with the filthy Republicans.

Had you left the party years ago and defected to the libertarians, we'd have the clean government we all want already.

The Marion County GOP is full of sociopaths. How much more proof do you need? It is not going to ever be cleaned up.

Rosie said...

Good article! We had to clean house with Republicans up here in Crown Point a couple years ago. Mayor Dan Klein offered a company called Plasmatronics half a million dollars to open up in CP. They never came (in fact they have now claimed bankruptcy...probably because they were claiming to make/sell a product that didn't exist or even work!...hmmm no scam here!), but most of the money was paid out. Now the FBI is investigating as some of the claims that city paid were paid for services that were never rendered. It's funny that klein had some contributions from Indy that couldn't necessarily be traced to a real company or person. Couldn't be that there was something funny going on now could there be?

Advance Indiana said...

Sorry to report that I'm back in the hospital to treat blood clots in my lungs. Probably will be here for a few days. I don't anticipate blogging much this week.

varangianguard said...

Rest well, and take care.

XQRX912 said...

Imagine a pyramid of political power. At the very top are the corporations that run this town. Directly underneath are various politicians and political operatives acting under multiple motives [ego; financial gain; revenge; sociopathy; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera]. These include political party leadership [lawyers and lobbyists]. As long as the actors lower down the pyramid don't aberrate in ways that damages the credibility of the entire structure they are tolerated [e.g. Brizzi, Plowman, Monroe Gray, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera]. If they do they get toasted. At and near the bottom of the pyramid are many well-intentioned [non-delusional] political activists such as many of the committeepersons of both parties who innocently and inadvertently hold up much of the corruption. If the committeepersons of both parties [who actually agree on a lot of things other than guns, abortion, immigrants, et cetera] ever go together they could make a change.

Cato said...

Gary, seriously, it's time to think about Albuquerque, Vegas, or Phoenix.

guy77money said...

Take it easy Gary and get well! Our prayers are with you!

JudgeNot said...

get better soon. if there is anything i can to to help, let me know.

Bob Cardwell said...

This is one of the best articles I have read. Thank you and thanks for all the well written comments.

I hope the hospital trip is short and you are bad soon.

I look forward to future articles.

Bob Cardwell said...

So sorry. My comment should have said back soon , not bad.

Brian Jessen said...

Good post Gary.

I agree about the "blackeye" that certain members of the GOP have brought to Marion County.

Growing up in Lake County, there are times I see no difference in the problems the Democrats have there with what the GOP does here.

But I also don't think that we should give up on Greg Ballard.

The man deserves the chance.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Brian,

We have given Mayor Ballard 26 months of "chances." All he does is stab us in the back and betray Republican principles. The man governs as a liberal, big government, corporate welfare loving, gun rights hating Republican In Name Only. (RINO).

I can hardly think of a Republican princple that Mayor Ballard has not betrayed. The only Indiana Republican I can think of who is even comparable to Ballard is former State Senator Virginia Blankenbaker who was also despised by rank and file Republicans.

Please tell me why we should support someone who has betrayed virtually every Republcian princple there is and is governing as a less competent version of Peterson? Is Ballard going to suddenly wake up and govern like he ran? 26 months of history says "no."

I deal with the Ballard administration on the legal front line. You would not believe how much the Republican Ballard administration defends the Peterson shenanigans pulled off after the 2007 election. You would also not believe how much the Republican administration is willing to defend wrongdoing by the Democratic Sheriff Frank Anderson.

Please give me some reason to support Ballard besides the fact he has an "R" by his name. After 26 months, I don't see any other reason to "give him a chance."