Monday, June 27, 2011

Indiana Media Continues A Double Standard In Its Coverage Of Charlie White Case

Regardless of what you personally think of Charlie White, it is difficult to argue against the fact that he has received nothing close to a fair shake from the news media in its analysis of his case. The latest coverage in the case is an attempt to take a hit at the Indiana Recount Commission's Chairman, Tom Wheeler, in an effort to discredit a ruling at tomorrow's meeting that might be made in White's favor against the Indiana Democratic Party petitioners. The Commission is controlled by Republicans 2-1. In addition to Wheeler, Republican Gordon Durnil and Democrat Bernard Pylitt serve on the Commission. WTHR questions Wheeler's impartiality because his law firm's PAC contributed to White's campaign, along with a variety of other political candidates of both political parties. Wheeler said he did not personally contribute to White or attend the fundraiser where the contribution was made to his campaign. The AP and other media outlets quickly picked up on this report by WTHR:

The state panel that is weighing voter fraud allegations against Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White includes a Republican linked to White through political contributions.
Indiana Recount Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is listed as a participant in a White fundraiser in May 2009. Campaign finance records show a political action committee for Wheeler's law firm donated $5,000 to White's campaign in July 2010.
Frost Brown Todd spokesman Mike Murphy says the state double-counted contributions and that the PAC donated $2,500 to White and $1,000 to Democrat Vop Osili.
Wheeler says he did not attend the White fundraiser and made no direct contributions to White.
Democrats want White ruled ineligible and Osili to take office. The commission is scheduled to rule on their challenge Tuesday.
The story fails to mention that Wheeler was appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels to fill White's spot as Commission chairman, a position he would normally hold as the state's Secretary of State but for the fact the case involves him. Gov. Daniels, of course, earlier called on White to step down as Secretary of State until the matter was resolved and has otherwise made no attempt to publicly defend White, even though he backed his candidacy when White sought the support of the delegates to the 2010 GOP convention which nominated White.

The story doesn't question the impartiality of Democrat Bernard Pylitt as a commission member, even though he has contributed more than $6,500 to various Democratic candidates and committees in recent years, including the petitioner in this case, the Indiana Democratic Party, and the Hamilton County Democratic Party, members of which first raised questions about White's residency for voting purposes. Nor did anyone in the news media consider it relevant that Judge Louis Rosenberg's daughter was the first person to formulate a legal opinion she published on the Internet prior to last year's election explaining why Charlie White should be declared ineligible to hold the office, an analysis adopted lock, stock and barrel by the attorneys arguing the case for the Indiana Democratic Party, and by Judge Rosenberg in his opinion deciding the Commission erred last year in dismissing the petition filed after the election by the Democratic Party and ordering the Commission to rehear the case.

The media elites have made up their minds. Charlie White is guilty as charged. They will print or air any story that advances that view, while shielding their readers and viewers from any opposing viewpoint, regardless of whether the facts as presented to the Commission at the hearing support the explanation White offered for why he registered to vote at his former wife's home while preparing to purchase a new home, planning a marriage with his current wife and campaigning statewide for Secretary of State. Much to the media's and White's protagonists chagrin, both White's ex-wife and current wife supported his explanation. At worse, White waited three months too long to resign his seat on the Fishers town council after moving into his new condominium following his marriage to his second wife. He timely changed his registered voting address prior to last November's election to his newly-established residence. The evidence does not in my opinion support the Democrats' or the special prosecutor's contention that he voted in a precinct at which he did not reside, thereby committing voter fraud. If you only relied on the mainstream news media for coverage of the Charlie White controversy, you would never know there was any reasonable doubt as to his innocence or guilt. The media has already tried and convicted Charlie White.

UPDATE: Charlie White penned this letter to the editor that appears in today's Indianapolis Star:

In recent months, much has been said and written about the Indiana Democratic Party's challenge to my candidacy and election. Months to you have felt like years to me, and I welcome the end to this chapter with today's findings of the Indiana Recount Commission -- whatever they may be.
It was unnecessary and cruel to drag my family into this matter. Much of what forms the basis of the dispute in this challenge and the criminal action in Hamilton County center on my attempts to put the needs of my family first -- to respect the wishes of my wife, Michelle, and her children, and my desire to be near and share custody of my son with my former wife and friend, Nicole, during my campaign. Both Michelle and Nicole have been targeted or questioned by prosecutors and the Democrats' legal team. I'm relieved our side of the story is now public record.
Speculation that my refusal to withdraw or resign from my duties as secretary of state because I hoped to "cut a deal" was simply wrong. I have rejected calls to quit the race and office because of my earnest belief that the election challenge is based on false, partisan allegations. Further, I believe in the due process rights guaranteed in our Constitution. Finally, after I invested two years of my life interviewing for this office, nearly 1 million Hoosiers hired me to do this job.
Pundits and partisans have suggested that, regardless of the facts and law, the Recount Commission is poised to deliver a partisan decision. This is an insult to the hard work and integrity of all who have participated in the process and who have publicly pledged to keep party politics out of the decision. To suggest anything else turns a blind eye to a transparent process leading up to today. The efforts of the Recount Commission and courts in this case have demonstrated considerable, even extravagant, deference to a losing candidate's rights after an election -- a process our lawmakers typically expect to be concluded 45 days after Election Day. Eight months after Nov. 2, 2010, we find ourselves here.
Having endured the challenges, frustrations and expense of the election contest thus far, I would like to make it perfectly clear that I have no desire either for myself or my political party to be handed an election contest victory if it is not honestly and fairly won. I have no request or expectation of the Recount Commission other than that they decide the case strictly on the facts and law as they see it.
A few weeks ago, I received a copy of former Indiana secretary of state and current U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett's excellent scholarly article on the 1988 challenge to Evan Bayh. Then, a collection of Indiana Republicans led by state party leadership tried to derail then Secretary of State Bayh's planned run for governor. Republicans claimed to have "damning evidence" that Bayh was ineligible to serve as governor on account of brief lapses in continuous residency and vote fraud -- for voting in Vigo County when he lived in Virginia. In the process of doing so, Bayh was accused of violating the Constitution, repetitive lying and felony vote fraud.
Mirroring the last few months, the Bayh challenge was quite a spectacle 23 years ago. Anxious citizens picked sides, the press made angry pronouncements, investigations were conducted, and a downright confusing collection of hearings was carried out before different authorities in which Bayh was called a liar and a criminal. In the end, the Indiana Supreme Court settled the matter in a lengthy opinion that is reportedly still good law today. The court basically said, "We're not buying that Evan Bayh isn't a Hoosier."
The court says the residency requirement at the heart of both Bayh's and my challenges exists to ensure candidates have some connection to the community they are seeking to represent and vice versa. I doubt anybody would claim my 39 years living in Indiana prevent me from adequately fulfilling this obligation for the office in which I now serve. Thousands of pages of evidence and uncontradicted testimony offered last Tuesday support my claim to be living with my son when not campaigning.
The threat of opening a Pandora's box in Indiana allowing any candidate or political party dissatisfied with an election outcome to pursue a victory outside the popular vote should not go overlooked. The extreme manner in which a political party has undertaken an effort to overturn an election result by simultaneously engaging civil and criminal courts, election agencies and the court of public opinion creates a disturbing precedent. Moving forward, I urge fellow Hoosiers and candidates, regardless of political affiliation, to support the established law and will of the voters.

1 comment:

Cato said...

Good letter, Charlie.

You should have been doing more of this sort, earlier on, but I think the public tide is shifting in your favor.

Best of luck in the Recount decision.

P.S. Think about this stupid prosecution of you as you're asked to defend Rokita's terrifying Voter I.D.

Your case has scared me away from the polls, and I wonder how many others have been scared away by other forms of voter intimidation.