Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bruce White: Billionaire Dad Gave Me Unlimited Budget To Entertain Indy's Elite

White Lodging Executive Barry Cochrum
 It's pretty much a summation of how business gets conducted in Indianapolis. Downtown elites tell us the future of our city rests on public subsidies for projects that benefit only Downtown businesses. Billionaires come to city leaders with hat in hand asking for handouts and city leaders happily oblige by giving them tens of millions of dollars for their private businesses. Billionaire Dean White's White Lodging wanted close to $65 million to build a new J.W. Marriott Hotel downtown to help boost the city's convention business. They hire Barry Cochrum whose father served as president of the City-County Council and as a member of the Capital Improvement Board that oversees the convention center.  Not surprisingly, the city obliged them with every penny their hearts desired for their 1,000-room hotel project. Does the White family thank Indianapolis taxpayers? Absolutely not. They treat the politicians and downtown elites who financed their project with your money to a star-studded gala and a free night's accommodation for the grand opening of the luxury hotel.

White Lodging's Bruce White
 Last weekend's gala featured entertainment by diva Diana Ross. Mayor Greg Ballard was there, along with a host of downtown elites, a/k/a "Rent-A-Civic Leaders", who are renowned for engaging in blatant self-dealing all while being touted to you by the local news media for being great, unselfish civic leaders.  "My dad gave me an unlimited budget (for the party) tonight, and I have managed to exceed that," the Star's Cathy Kightlinger quotes Bruce White of White Lodging telling the downtown elite attendees at last weekend's gala.

Cocktails and artful-looking hors d'oeuvres were plentiful, as were the city's civic and social leaders.

Among those spotted were Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and his wife, Winnie; Emmis Communications Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Smulyan and his wife, Heather; Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission Commissioner Carolene Mays-Medley and her husband, Fred; and Indianapolis Downtown President Tamara Zahn and her husband, Tim Wade.

Carolene Mays with husband Fred
Kightlinger avoided the mistake she made in last Sunday's edition of the Star telling how the Whites had given a free night's accommodation at the hotel to the "city's civic and social leaders." Tell me I'm not surprised IURC Commissioner Carolene Mays was in attendance. It's a passing joke that her appointment to the IURC is nothing more than a proxy for her uncle, Bill Mays, and Ice Miller's Lacy Johnson, both of whom have business ties to utilities with matters before the commission and who brought you the 300 East nightclub in the Julia Carson Government Center. She certainly wasn't appointed to the commission by Gov. Daniels because she was uniquely qualified to serve as a former legislator and employee of one of her uncle's businesses. The Star's website included a photo of another former CIB member, Craig Huse, as another person in attendance at the gala. Someone flying back from Florida last week before the gala e-mailed me to say another person on the flight had been overheard bragging about how she had cut her Florida vacation short so she could get back to Indianapolis in time for the J.W. Marriott gala to which she had been invited. The airline passenger overheard bragging was identified as Ice Miller's Melissa Proffitt-Reese, who has accompanied Mayor Ballard on several of his overseas junkets. And of course it goes without saying that Tamara Zahn, who gets paid a six-figure salary with your tax dollars to run Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., was at the party.

Mayor Greg Ballard promised to put an end to country club politics after he won his upset victory over former Mayor Bart Peterson four years ago. He hasn't stopped running backwards from that commitment since the day he made it. He has accepted more than $50,000 in free country club memberships, travel, meals, gifts and entertainment during his first four years in office, none of which I'm betting he paid income taxes on. It's okay. He doesn't have anything to worry about. It's an accepted way of conducting business in Indianapolis. Both federal and state prosecutors in Indianapolis refuse to prosecute self-dealing and corrupt influence matters that other prosecutors across America prosecute every day. It's no wonder why guys like Bruce White feel no compunction about rubbing in our faces the graft they spread around to the politicians and downtown elites in consideration for the tens of millions of tax dollars they hand out to the greedy billionaires, particularly when they can count on the Indianapolis media to pat them on the back for doing so.

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