Friday, June 25, 2010

Indy's New Lobby Law Has Few Takers

A new ordinance that took effect on January 1 of this year requires all persons who engage in certain lobbying activities of city and county officials to file a registration statement and to report annually on their lobbying activities, including expenditures made for this purpose during a calendar year, has produced few registered lobbyists. According to a new online database the City has made available, only 61 persons have registered to lobby city and county officials so far this year, and 15% of those registrants came from a single law firm, Barnes & Thornburg. More than ten times that number of persons are registered with the state's Indiana Lobby Registration Commission.

City-County Councilor Joanne Sanders reacted with skepticism to the number of registrations in a story in today's Star. "I think it sounds low," Joanne Sanders, the Democratic minority leader, told the Star's Evan Shields. "I'm not sure 61 is a valid number." "Sanders' doubts stem from her experience with the potential sale of the city's water and sewer works," Shields continued. "She said she sees plenty of lawyers working on the issue and does not believe they all have registered." On that point, the law firm of Baker & Daniels has been engaged and is being paid $2 million to assist the Ballard administration with its proposed transfer of the water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy. Although several of its lawyers have appeared at City-County Council meetings and met with councilors on the issue, a search of the database produced no registrations from the law firm. Citizens Energy, according to the database, has hired Ice Miller's Lesa Dietrick and former Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer, to lobby for it, both of whom have registered as lobbyists.

The City says it has notified everyone who is registered with the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission of the City's new ordinance. Shields' story notes the $250 fine for not complying with the law may not be much of a deterrence to complying with the registration and reporting requirements. One law firm that is erring on the side of caution is Barnes & Thornburg, which employs City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn, who authored the new lobbying ordinance. According to the database, nine employees of the firm have registered to lobby, including former CIB President Bob Grand and a former Deputy Mayor under Steve Goldsmith, Joe Loftus. The firm lobbies for: Corrections Corporation of America, which operates Marion Co. Jail II; Microsoft; Emmis; Katz, Sapper & Miller; National City Bank; Holladay Partners-Midwest, Inc.; Malcom Pirnie, Inc.; The Hagerman Group; Republic Services of Indiana; Town of Fishers; ACS State & Local Solutions; Crowe Horwath; Schneider Corporation, Johnson Controls and the Smoot Corporation. A number of those registrations indicate the firm's lobbyists are lobbying the mayor's office. Both Grand and Loftus advise Mayor Greg Ballard under a contract for which they are paid more than a $100,000 a year, creating the potential for serious conflicts of interest.

The database indicates that some former city officials have began lobbying the City after leaving their government jobs. Former Public Safety Director Scott Newman, who is also a former partner at Barnes & Thornburg, is paid to lobby for ESG Security, the firm that provides security for the CIB's facilities. Former DPW employee, Kyle Walker, is lobbying for Commonwealth Engineers, Inc. after leaving his job last year. Kevin Taylor, the former head of the Bond Bank who recently left his city job to join City Securities as a Vice President, is not registered to lobby. City Securities has been involved in previous financial transactions, in particular, related to the water company's financing. Former mayoral chief of staff Paul Okeson also is not registered to lobby. He now works for Keystone Construction, which has numerous contracts with the city-county agencies to do construction-related work.

There are also a number of registrations of people closely related to the local parties. Frank Short, a former Democratic city-county councilor and Washington Township Trustee, is lobbying for the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association. Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John is lobbying for The Consultants Consortium. The software consulting business employs newly-appointed at-large City-County Councilor Angel Rivera. John played a key role in getting Rivera appointed to the council. Michael Biberstine, a former executive director of the Marion Co. GOP, is lobbying for National Heritage Academies, a charter school-related organization. Marion Co. GOP Vice Chair Jennifer Ping, who also serves on the local alcohol licensing board, is lobbying for A&F Engineering, Beam Longest & Neff, CSO Architects, Daniels Associates, Hannum Wagle & Cline and  L'Acquis Consulting Enterprises.

As a candidate, Ballard pledged to enact an ordinance barring lobbyists from serving on city-county boards, but in one of his first acts as mayor, he appointed Bob Grand to serve as president of the CIB. Grand has been succeeded by Ann Lathrop of Crowe Horwath. Her firm lobbies the City through Joe Loftus, Grand's partner at Barnes & Thornburg. Frank Short serves on the waterworks board while he lobbies for the ICVA and Ping lobbies for numerous business interests while serving on the alcohol board.

I found it interesting that nobody is registered to lobby for either Veolia or United Waterworks. Or for the Pacers or the Colts. Bose Public Affairs Group, one of the largest lobbying firms in town, also has no registrations. There are no registrants for Baker & Daniels, one of the City's largest law firms. Toby McClamroch of Bingham McHale, the general counsel for the CIB, is registered to lobby but his registration lists no clients. I found this to be the case with several of the attorney registrants. Also, former Mayor Steve Goldsmith has spent a considerable amount of time on the 25th floor in the mayor's office since Ballard took office. A firm that employed Goldsmith, Capital Source, won a nearly $1 million contract to advise the mayor on the transfer of the utilities. Goldsmith did not register as a lobbyist. He recently became a deputy mayor for New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has been rumored to be involved in a number of initiatives undertaken by the Ballard administration.


Jon said...

Has our mayor registered as a lobbyist for the Pacers?

Paul K. Ogden said...


The Mayor should register as a lobbyist for the Pacers. So too should Lathrop and Okeson.

dcrutch said...

No one has registered as a lobbyist for the Pacers or Colts? That tells me they're either sitting pretty or nobody give a rat's ass what the law says. Probably both.

When you're so corrupt that even your reforms are ignored, to paraphrase Richard Pryor, "You've got more reformin' to do."