Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Bait And Switch On Indy Parking Meter Lease Deal

When the Ballard administration touted its 50-year plan to lease Indianapolis' parking meter assets to ACS for 50 years, it claimed one of the reasons for raising the hourly parking rates and extending the hours of metered use was to encourage turnover in metered spaces in high traffic areas of Downtown, Mass Avenue and Broad Ripple. Some business owners on Mass Avenue, in particular, complained about people parking to go to dinner and the theater and hogging the spaces in front of their businesses all evening.

Today, the Ballard administration announced ParkIndy, the private operator of the parking meter assets, will allow motorists to pay for 4-hour blocks of time in the evening times rather than the current 2-hour limit. In other words, a motorist can pull up to a meter at 5:00 p.m., pay for 4 hours up to 9:00 p.m. after which time you can park for free and remain parked in the same space until late at night. Ballard said the change was being made in response to motorist feedback. "This arrangement will allow residents and visitors to Indianapolis to enjoy … events in the evening that keep them away from their cars longer than two hours," Ballard said in a news release.

I would also note the new parking meters were suppose to allow motorists to access a website via the Internet remotely to add more time to their meter with the new technology that was promised by ACS. I guess that technology wasn't included in the used electronic meters mounted on the existing rusty poles that ParkIndy rolled out this month in the high traffic areas only, which has been falsely represented in the news media as "new electronic meters"; the old mechanical meters remain in use elsewhere. It looks like the private contractor was able to start raking in revenues under its 50-year lease with very minimal investment--certainly not the $8 million investment the Ballard administration claimed the private operator would invest after being awarded the lease. Who knew the lease allowed the company to pull used meters out of storage to finance the better technology promised on a pay-as-you-go basis. Couldn't the City have done the same thing and pocketed millions more annually that it is giving up to the private operator under the lease?

UPDATE: Jon Murray's story in the Star today indicates only about one-third of the City's meters were replaced with the electronic meters. "ParkIndy, led by Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services and including two local companies, has replaced old meter heads on about one-third of city meters, he writes. "Those are in the Downtown core, along Massachusetts Avenue and in Broad Ripple. The rest will be upgraded later this year, and many blocks will get multispace pay boxes." Not surprisingly, there are already complaints that some of the used electronic meters installed are not working properly and causing people to get tickets. "Mary Buckner fed $1 in coins into a new meter in Broad Ripple on Wednesday, returned 15 minutes later and found a $20 parking ticket, her husband said." "A meter repairman working down the street opened up the unit and found it was already full; her coins had gone in but not far enough to be registered by the meter." "We are not impressed with the new meters and will avoid Broad Ripple and Massachusetts Ave. for the foreseeable future until all of the bugs get worked out of this new system," Andrew Buckner, who lives on Indianapolis' Northside, wrote in an email."

Rep. Eric Turner's Suggestion Women May Fabricate Rape Claims To Get Abortions Goes Viral On YouTube

House Assistant Republican Leader Eric Turner (R-Cicero) may now be regretting comments he made during a debate over an amendment to an anti-abortion bill in the House this week. Turner suggested women may fabricate rape or incest allegations as an excuse for obtaining an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Rep. Gail Riecken (D-Evansville) offered an amendment to HB 1210 to soften the impact of Turner's proposed law outlawing late-term abortions by making exceptions for cases where a woman became pregnant due to rape or incest. Turner's comments brought an emotional rebuke from Rep. Linda Lawson (D-Hammond), who formerly worked as a sex crimes investigator. House video of the exchange has been uploaded to YouTube and has now gone viral. The House voted down Riecken's amendment on a 42 to 54 vote.

Indianapolis Attorney Reaches Settlement To Repay Funds To Fair Finance Trustee

An Indianapolis attorney and his wife have reached a settlement agreement to end litigation the bankruptcy trustee for Fair Finance brought against them last month in an effort to recover part of the more than $200 million indicted Ponzi scheme operator Tim Durham defrauded out of Ohio investors. Under the terms of the agreement, Stephen and Linda Plopper have agreed to repay nearly $371,000 to satisfy a $250,000 loan that was originally extended to them in 2003 by a Durham-owned company that had siphoned money from Fair Finance. The couple later secured the loan with a mortgage on their home after obtaining an extension on the loan but never satisfied interest and principal payments on the original loan. Plopper formerly worked as an attorney for Durham at his offices in the Chase Tower in downtown Indianapolis and had served as Secretary of Fair Holdings, Inc., a company Durham established to funnel funds invested by Ohio investors in Fair Finance to then distribute to other Durham-owned companies through which funds were made available to Durham and other business associates and insiders.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Retired Air Force Officer May Be Prosecuted For Attempting To Prove Obama Fraud

Retired Air Force Col. Gregory Hollister
 Shortly after the 2008 election, fellow blogger Debbie Schlussel published a bombshell report claiming that Barack Hussein Obama's Selective Service registration record had been forged. Although the report was ignored by the mainstream media, the story became part of a growing number of conspiracies surrounding a potential fraud of unparalleled proportions in American political history--namely, that Obama lied on several fronts about his personal biography, including his natural born status, to win the presidency. Now a retired air force officer stands accused of illegally accessing Obama's Selective Service records by using a social security number allegedly used by Obama in order to gain access to his records in an effort to prove his Hawaiian birth claim is a fraud. Records obtained by Retired Air Force Col. Gregory Hollister were filed in an amended complaint filed by controversial birther lawyer Orly Taitz in a D.C. federal court last week. Denver's ABC 7 News reports on the hot water Taitz filing with the court has landed Hollister:

A Colorado Springs man who claims to have records that proves Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate was forged could face criminal charges because he is alleged to have illegally accessed an online Social Security database.

Retired Air Force Col. Gregory Hollister impersonated Obama with the Selective Service and managed to get a card with President Obama’s Selective Service information on it, a blogger posted on last week.

Hollister told the Colorado Springs Gazette that a private investigator gave him what is purported to be the president’s Social Security number and he then accessed the Social Security Number Verification Service to find out to whom it was issued and to access Selective Service documents
The site allows registered users to verify names and Social Security numbers for employment purposes and warns that using it under false pretenses is a violation of federal law . . .
Schlussel's original report set the wheels in motion that led to Hollister's claimed discovery. Schlussel, with the assistance of a retired federal official, discovered the discrepancy in Obama's Selective Service registration, which suggested the record had been created a short time prior to the 2008 presidential election instead of June, 1979 when he was required by federal law to register. Schlussel wrote in November, 2008 of some of the findings she and a retired federal official had made after reviewing Obama's registration records obtained through a FOIA request:

The official campaign for President may be over. But Barack Obama’s Selective Service registration card and accompanying documents show that questions about him are not only NOT over, but if the signature on the document is in fact his, our next Commander-in-Chief may have committed a federal crime in 2008, well within the statute of limitations on the matter. If it is not his, then it’s proof positive that our next Commander-in-Chief never registered with the Selective Service as required by law. By law, he was required to register and was legally able to do so until the age of 26.

But the Selective Service System registration (“SSS Form 1″) and accompanying computer print-out (“SSS Print-out), below, released by the Selective Service show the following oddities and irregularities, all of which indicate the document was created in 2008 and backdated . . . .
First, there is the Document Location Number (DLN) on the form. In the upper right hand corner of the Selective Service form SSS Form 1, there is the standard Bates-stamped DLN, in this case “0897080632,” which I’ve labeled as “A” on both the SSS Form and the computer printout document. On the form, it reflects a 2008 creation, but on the printout, an extra eight was added in front of the number to make it look like it is from 1980, when it was actually created in 2008 . . . .
And guess where the Selective Service registrations are marked and recorded? Lucky for Obama, it’s his native Chicago . . .
Barack H. Obama signed the SSS Form 1′s “Today’s date” as July 30, 1980, labeled “D“. But the Postal Stamp reflects the PREVIOUS day’s date of July 29, 1980, labeled “E“. Yes, Obama could have mistakenly written the wrong date, but it is rare and much more unlikely for someone to put a future date than a past date . . .
Then, there is the question as to whether the Postal Stamp is real. The “postmark” stamp–labeled “E“–is hard to read, but it is clear that at the bottom is “USPO” which stands typically for United States Post Office. However, current “postmark” validator, registry, or round dater stamps (item 570 per the Postal Operations Manual) shows “USPS” for United States Postal Service. The change from Post Office to Postal Service occurred on August 12, 1970, when President Nixon signed into law the most comprehensive postal legislation since the founding of the Republic–Public Law 91-375. The new Postal Service officially began operations on July 1, 1971.

Why was an old, obsolete postmark round dater stamp used almost ten (10) years after the fact to validate a legal document . . . that just happened to be Barack Obama’s suspicious Selective Service registration form?

After Schlussel's report was published, there have been a number of Internet news reports claiming that private detectives had determined Obama had used a social security number to register for the Selective Service System that had actually been issued to a deceased man from Connecticut born in 1890. Social security numbers are never reissued even after a person is no longer living according to the Social Security Administration. Hollister used the social security number a private investigator claimed had been used by Obama to access Obama's Selective Service records. In fact, anyone could go to the Selective Service System's online database, enter their social security number and access the record in question. I verified my own Selective Service record in this fashion. Hollister apparently went a step further and obtained a verification that the social security number was issued to Obama from the Social Security Administration and used the social security number to have his Selective Service registration record mailed to him at his address in Colorado Springs--in effect impersonating Obama--to prove he was using a phony social security number. Taitz filed a copy of the document Hollister obtained with her court filing last week, which you can view here. It seems rather strange that someone would be capable of obtaining a document involving the President of the United States by means of identity theft.

Taitz has run afoul of federal court rules in the past with her numerous court filings concerning lawsuits she has filed seeking to have Obama deemed ineligible to serve as president because he is not a natural born citizen as required by the U.S. Constitution. In at least one instance, she has been sanctioned with fines by a federal judge. Taitz looked particularly foolish in one of her cases when she offered what turned out to be a forged birth certificate claiming that Obama was born in his father's native country, Kenya, rather than the state of Hawaii as he has always claimed. Constitutional scholars agree that a person must be born within the United States in order to be a natural born citizens, but some also argue that a person must be born of U.S. citizen parents. Obama's father was a British citizen when he was born because Kenya was still a possession of the British empire at the time of his birth in 1960. That made Obama a dual citizen at birth. Some constitutional scholars believe only persons owing no allegiance to another government at the time of their birth can qualify as natural born citizens. The issue has never been decided by the federal courts.

Real estate mogul Donald Trump, who has dangled the possibility of running for president as a Republican in 2012, recently reignited the debate over Obama's NBC status when he challenged him to release his birth certificate. Trump even released his own birth certificate showing his birth at Jamaica Hospital in New York. Some Obama apologists in the media, who have dismissed the questions about Obama's NBC status as just a conspiracy concocted by "birthers" as they derisively call them, questioned Trump's NBC status because his mother was born in Scotland. His mother became a naturalized citizen after she married Trump's father and prior to his birth.

Trump has dismissed the Certification of Live Birth the Obama campaign furnished to during the 2008 presidential campaign to prove his birth in Hawaii because it was not the original long-form birth certificate generated at his birth. Critics point out that a person can actually obtain a COLB from the state of Hawaii based on affirmations filed by a child's parents near the time of the child's birth without establishing the child was actually born in the state. Further clouding the issue is the existence of evidence Obama was actually adopted by his Indonesian step-father, Lolo Soetoro, and renamed "Barry Soetoro." His Indonesian school records confirm that Lolo was identified as his father, his name had been changed and his citizenship identified as Indonesian, not American. Typically, a new birth certificate is issued when a child is adopted to reflect the identity of his adopted parent and name change. It is unclear why Hawaii records would show Obama's name on his COLB as "Barack Hussein Obama II" and list "Barack Hussein Obama" as his father if he was in fact adopted by Soetoro. Trump has hinted to reporters he believes Obama has his original birth certificate but is hiding it because of something it shows that doesn't comport with his biographical narrative.

This strange episode surrounding the social security number allegedly used by Obama and the authenticity of his Selective Service record is one of many troubling issues with a man who was never vetted by the news media as other presidential candidates have been. Lest we forget the strange happenings when employees of a firm contracted by the State Department accessed Obama's passport file during the 2008 presidential election. It turned out the employees worked for a company run by John Brennan, who Obama later appointed as his top terrorism and intelligence officer at the National Security Agency. According to a Newsmax report, the unauthorized access of Obama's passport file was carried out in order to "cauterize" potentially damaging information about Obama. The Washington Times lated reported that a key witness in the investigation of the passport file breach case was murdered in Washington, D.C. "A key witness in a federal probe into passport information stolen from the State Department was fatally shot in front of a District church, the Metropolitan Police Department said yesterday." "Lt. Quarles Harris Jr., 24, who had been cooperating with federal investigators, was found late Thursday night slumped dead inside a car, in front of the Judah House Praise Baptist Church in Northeast, said Cmdr. Michael Anzallo, head of the department’s Criminal Investigations Division," the Washington Times reported.

UPDATE: Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who has been on the birther bashing bandwagon for some time, went after Donald Trump on his show tonight where he appeared as a guest for raising the issue of Obama's NBC status. Here's the exchange as reported by Politico:

O'Reilly, who faced a walk-off from the ladies of "The View" in a recent appearance, noted that Trump mixed it up with host Whoopi Goldberg over the debunked questions about whether the president was born in the U.S.

"That was worse than what I did," said O'Reilly, who's pushed back hard on the "birther" arguments in the past after looking into it himself.

"We very early on did an investigation into Barack Obama's birth certificate," O'Reilly said, noting that his team had turned up two Obama birth announcements in local Hawaiian newspapers, "[So] I just dismissed it but you made a big deal out of it."

Trump said of the birth announcements: "I grew up with Wall Street geniuses. What they do in terms of fraud, and how they change documents — and I'll tell you something, if you notice, those dates were three days later. And here's what I ask people — who puts announcements? [Here's] two poor people, a man and a woman with no money, they have a baby. There's announcements in the newspaper? ... Nelson Rockefeller doesn't put announcements in. I've never seen one."

"They're common," said O'Reilly to Trump, interrupting him.

Noting that he'd provided his birth certificate, saying reporters said "the one I gave [originally] wasn't good enough," Trump added, "I have a birth certificate. I have my birth certificate. ... People have birth certificates. He doesn't have a birth certificate. Now, he may have one but there is something on that birth certificate — maybe religion, maybe it says he's a Muslim, I don't know. Maybe he doesn't want that. Or, he may not have one.

"But I will tell you this," Trump added. "If he wasn't born in this country it's one of the great scams of all time."

"Absolutely," O'Reilly replied, but he added, "But I don't think that's the case. ... I don't think you believe that either. You get a lot of attention raising the question."

Trump insisted, "Two weeks ago I felt like probably he was born in the country. Today it's possibly. I'm telling you, it's changed. I've seen too many things."
I like how Trump played the hide and seek game the Obama people have been playing to his credit. He produced to Newsmax both a commemorative birth certificate issued to his parents by the hospital where he was born and the official birth certificate filed with the New York City Public Health Department. Newsmax showed the commemorative birth certificate in its original report, which brought quick attacks from Politico's Ben Smith, who was outed as one of the JouralOlists carrying water for Obama's disinformation campaign in 2008, for producing an unofficial birth certificate. Newsmax obliged the complaining Smith and other apoplectic reporters on the Left with the official birth certificate. Naturally, they then focused on the fact that Trump's mother, a naturalized citizen, was born in Scotland and not the U.S. Trumps' point on the birth announcement in the Honolulu newspaper serving as no proof of the place of his birth is spot on, but his suggestion that families don't have birth announcements placed in newspapers is way off base. Families all the time have birth announcements of family members placed in their local newspapers regardless of the child's place of birth.

UPDATE II: The Colorado Springs Gazette has a story on Hollister accessing the records here. In this story, he insists he did not break any laws. He claims he sent a 1099 tax form to Obama. “I was very meticulous and made sure everything I did was compliant with the law,” Hollister said, noting that he sent Obama an 1099 tax form. "A 1099 is an IRS income reporting form for independent contractors and free-lancers, the Gazette reported. "Hollister did not explain how sending that to Obama complies with federal laws on the use of Social Security data." Very strange.

Media Could Care Less About Obama's Kill Team In Afghanistan

Newly-released videos and pictures from Rolling Stone magazine depict American soldiers killing Aghani civilians, mutilating their remains and standing over their kills like proud hunters who have just bagged some deer. The American news media has been strikingly silent in reporting on the magazine's horrific report on the "Kill Team." As The Rolling Stone's Mark Boal describes the rogue Army unit operating in Afghanistan:

Indeed, it would have been hard not to know about the murders, given that the soldiers of 3rd Platoon took scores of photographs chronicling their kills and their time in Afghanistan. The photos, obtained by Rolling Stone, portray a front-line culture among U.S. troops in which killing Afghan civilians is less a reason for concern than a cause for celebration. "Most people within the unit disliked the Afghan people, whether it was the Afghan National Police, the Afghan National Army or locals," one soldier explained to investigators. "Everyone would say they're savages." One photo shows a hand missing a finger. Another depicts a severed head being maneuvered with a stick, and still more show bloody body parts, blown-apart legs, mutilated torsos. Several show dead Afghans, lying on the ground or on Stryker vehicles, with no weapons in view.
Compare the news media's silence on the Kill Teams operating on Obama's watch to the photos that emerged of U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners being held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The news media pounded the Bush administration for weeks on end and liberal Democrats called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and the firing of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The striking effort by the media to cover up the atrocities occurring on Obama's watch have not gone unnoticed by Rumsfeld. Here's his reaction as reported by the Washington Times:

If they're the ones that I'm thinking of it's where some... there are some allegations that some soldiers killed some people. You know, I feel such a responsibility as an American that when people are in our custody, we treat them properly. It is always heartbreaking when we see that there are allegations and photographs or suggestions that people have mismanaged that process. And of course the courts will decide in this case. But it is interesting, in the case of Abhu Ghraib, that it was such an important press event and nobody was killed. And in this case, it looks like there are allegations that some people were actually killed . . .

The situation, of course, is much worse if someone dies, but it's a sad thing. It's unfortunate. The overwhelming majority of men and women in uniform are professional. They handle themselves well. They treat people properly in our custody. And no question but that they are punished in the event that the courts and the military commissions under the uniform code of military justice decide that they've done something wrong. They get punished.

Once again, we see how the rules of judging the actions of Republican presidents don't apply to Barry.

Feds Unseal Some Search Warrant Records In Fair Finance Case

Federal prosecutors have kept court documents it filed to obtain a search warrant for its FBI raid of Fair Finance's offices in Ohio and Tim Durham's Obsidian Enterprises offices in the Chase Tower in Indianapolis in November, 2009 under wraps until this week when it partially unsealed some of those records. The records unsealed this week "stated that they were requesting the search warrants for suspected U.S. criminal code violations in connection with wire fraud, money laundering and various securities violations," a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland told the Akron Beacon-Journal. From a Beacon-Journal story today on the unsealed documents:

Federal agents seized more than 200 business computers, computer servers, filing cabinets, accounting ledgers and monthly income reports in the November 2009 raid of Akron's Fair Finance Co.

The records, including the FBI application for the Fair Finance search warrant and a detailed list of items seized in the raid on the company's East Market Street office, were partially unsealed Tuesday in Akron by U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi.

Federal authorities from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland and Indianapolis, where the bankrupt company maintained its headquarters in the years leading up to the raids, had asked for the records to be unsealed after Fair Finance co-owners Timothy Durham and James Cochran were named earlier this month in a 12-count criminal indictment.

The indictment, also naming the company's former chief financial officer, Rick Snow, who was based in Akron, alleges that they defrauded thousands of Ohio investors out of some $208 million since Durham and Cochran bought the longtime Akron financial firm in 2002.
No information about records seized from Durham's Indianapolis office were released. "Winfield Ong, a U.S. Assistant Attorney in the Indianapolis office, said no similar documents were released there and he did not know whether his office would release them in the future," the Beacon-Journal reported. The affidavit federal agents filed in support of its application for the search warrant also remains under seal. ''The affidavit contains substantial substantive investigative information which would greatly prejudice the criminal case in a variety of ways if it were to be made public,'' U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach, who is based in Cleveland, stated in court documents filed earlier this week.

The Beacon-Journal notes the court action filed by it and the Indianapolis Business Journal seeking to unseal all of the records. A 2010 decision by a U.S. federal district court Judge Sarah Loi blocking the unsealing of the documents is currently on appeal before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lugar Still Has It Right On Libya

Sen. Richard Lugar isn't satisfied with the belated explanation President Barack Obama offered in a speech last night for starting a war in Libya without so much as reaching out for advice, let alone seeking consent from Congress. Strangely, President Obama was vacationing with his family in Rio when American warplanes began military strikes in Libya last week. All other recent presidents always addressed the American people directly at the commencement of a military action to make the case for foreign intervention. Obama didn't bother to offer a public rationale for the military action until he was met with widespread criticism from a broad political spectrum. Obama's speech last night was delivered to an audience at the National Defense University in Washington, and he appeared to be talking over the heads of average Americans. His speech seemed contradictory at times. He suggested Gadaffi must step down at the same time he argued against broadening the mission to include regime change. Sen. Lugar explains to the Star why Obama has still not made a case for the military action.

“Most of the concerns I had before, I still have with regard to the budgeting for this, the plan for how it ends, what the benchmarks of success are, what the repercussions are for other countries that have dictators but are very helpful to us in the war against terror,” the Indiana Republican said a day after the president gave a televised address defending U.S. intervention. “These are issues the president still will need to deal with.”

Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had said weeks before the U.S. participated in establishing a no-fly zone in Libya that the U.S. should not get involved. He also said the administration needed authorization from Congress if it did want to intervene.

Lugar said that when the president briefed congressional leaders on the situation Friday, Lugar pressed for the purpose of the action and was told it was to save civilians, an argument the president made in his national address.

“I think there are all sort of civilians that might be saved in many countries all over the world, almost every day,” Lugar said of that rationale.

Obama said Monday that while the U.S. can’t stop repression everywhere, Libya faced the prospect of “violence on a horrific scale.”

“We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves,” Obama said.
Lugar also wonders what the total cost of the action will be and whether it will include the invariable rebuilding cost to repair the damage a sustained bombing campaign will cause. He notes the cost to American taxpayers has already exceeded $1 billion.

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock is waging a campaign to unseat Lugar in the Republican primary next year as he seeks an unprecedented seventh term. Mourdock has criticized Lugar for being too liberal and too close to Obama, but he has remained silent so far on the Libyan action while Lugar has been an outspoken critic of Obama. I would be interested in hearing where Mourdock stands on the Libyan mission.

The Democratic Walkout By The Numbers

The Star has an interesting sidebar summarizing the Democrats 5-week, self-imposed exile in Urbana, Illinois. Here's what it shows by the numbers:

$3,150     The amount of fines most Democratic lawmakers will be assessed for the walkout
40            The number of Democratic members in the House
39            The number of Democrats who participated in the walkout (Rep. Stemler was the lone holdout)
35            The number of days the walkout lasted
$85,000   Estimated cost of the Democrats' hotel bill in Urbana, Illinois' Comfort Inn Suites

House Speaker Brian Bosma maintains the fines will be collected from the House Democratic caucus members by deducting the fines from their per diem pay going forward. I suspect the Indiana Democratic Party, which raised money from the special interest groups that stood to benefit from the walkout, is covering the cost for them. The question remains whether Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller or Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry will uphold the laws of the state that prohibit lawmakers from having their out-of-state travel paid by lobbyists and from soliciting campaign contributions while the legislature is in session. The Democrats clearly used their state party organization to break both of those laws, violations of which is a Class D felony. Taxpayers should further press governmental entities and public education institutions employing Democratic lawmakers to explain why the double dippers were not fired from their government jobs for failing to show up for work for more than a month without an excused absence for conducting their business with the House of Representatives.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kennedy's Batting Average Against Ballard Not So Hot

Mayor Greg Ballard essentially repudiated all of the public positions he took as a candidate for mayor four years ago. His core group of supporters from that campaign want no part of his re-election. There is much fertile ground for Democratic mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy to cultivate in making the case he doesn't deserve another four years. Yet the first two issues she has chosen to attack in her campaign against him have been complete strike outs.

Last week, Kennedy touted a plan to go after gun sales at gun shows as a way of getting illegal guns off the street to reduce Indianapolis' crime rate. Even the government acknowledges that very few illegal guns are purchased at gun shows at which there is typically a large law enforcement presence. Ballard has weakened his support among a key Republican constituency the past four years by advocating tougher gun laws and by appointing Frank Straub, a big proponent of gun control laws, as his Public Safety Director. Despite the fact that both President Obama and Gov. Daniels have supported laws allowing law-abiding citizens who are properly licensed to carry firearms into parks, Mayor Ballard supports barring gun-owning citizens from carrying licensed firearms into city parks. The only thing Kennedy presumably gains from her tougher position on firearms is to drive disenchanted Ballard voters back to him who might fear she will be as far out in left field on this issue as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has been. Daley enacted one of the toughest gun ownership laws in the country, which the Supreme Court struck down as violating the 2nd Amendment, and which proved totally useless in combating gun violence in Chicago. Nobody with any common sense believes tougher gun laws will keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Mayor Greg Ballard has recently come under tough questioning by the local news media on his claim that his adminstration created more jobs in 2010 than former Mayor Bart Peterson did during his entire tenure as mayor. Mayor Ballard defended his counting of jobs based upon his administration's use of the same formula used by the Peterson administration for calculating job growth. In his words, "it's the paradigm we inherited." The issue is particularly sensitive to Kennedy because she served as a deputy mayor in charge of economic development for Peterson. In a statement today, Kennedy said:

Ballard’s administration has touted the creation of 8,700 jobs, but experts say only about 20 percent of those commitments are solid. In an unprecedented move, Ballard has refused to provide information about jobs deals that have been negotiated and finalized.

“Once public dollars have been committed to a project or company, the public has a right to know what’s going on,” Kennedy said. “As mayor, I would make sure that taxpayers are notified when we commit their dollars to new jobs – and that they have access to updates as those jobs are being created. And if companies don’t follow through, we need to make sure taxpayers aren’t left footing the bill.”
If Kennedy truly means what she says, then she is opening up a big can of worms. The largest economic incentive offered in the history of the city was the one that happened on Peterson's watch. That would be the several hundred million dollars in economic incentives offered to Eli Lilly based upon job creation and investment promises made by Lilly. While Lilly made substantial investments locally, it has never fulfilled its job commitment promises. In fact,, the company has shedded thousands of local jobs over the past several years. So far the Ballard admnistration has shown no interest in clawing back any of the incentives provided to Lilly as it did when Navistar failed to fulfill its promises. Is Kennedy saying she intends to claw back incentives made to Lilly if she becomes mayor? Not surprisingly, Marion Co. Republican Chairman Kyle Walker struck out at Kennedy's statement today. Here's part of what he said in a press release in response to her statement today:
Melina Kennedy's campaign just sunk to a new low. Kennedy sent an email today that included lies about Mayor Ballard's record on job creation. Additionally, Kennedy's email demonstrates that she is either misrepresenting the Ballard administration's record or Kennedy doesn't understand the city's economic development work (which she touts she did for several years).

We all know why Melina Kennedy is launching false attacks...because Mayor Ballard's administration has produced a record number of job commitments for the city. In 2010, Indianapolis received commitments for 8,702 new jobs and $934 million in capital investment - both are record highs. And it is more job commitments than Melina Kennedy's economic development efforts yielded in 2003, 2004 and 2005 combined!

As the Indianapolis Business Journal noted, "The city's current procedures for reporting job commitments and tracking them are essentially the same as they were during Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson's administration, according to two Peterson-era economic development officials."

Melina Kennedy has previously promoted her "record" of economic development, compiled the same way by both administrations, but now she doesn't want to compare numbers.
I'm not sure who is advising Kennedy on the fights she needs to pick with Ballard, but she's batting 0 for 2 in her first two times to the plate.

House Democrats Ending Exile After 34 Days

House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer told reporters today his Democratic caucus will return to the State House later today after their 34-day self-imposed exile in Urbana, Illinois to stop the Republican majority from enacting legislation the minority members opposed. It remains to be seen what compromises, if any, Republicans made with the terrorists who have held the legislative body hostage since February 22.

UPDATE: The Star has updated its earlier story to indicate the fines of $250 a day, which were later increased to $350 a day, to compel the Democrats attendance will not be waived according to House Speaker Brian Bosma. The Republicans have agreed to compromise on legislation pertaining to labor project agreements for public works projects. The bill, which would have originally increased the size of projects that may be subject to such agreements to $1 million, will be increased from the current $150,000 threshold to $350,000, but it will be phased in over two years, in effect making the legislation useless, as the vast majority of public works projects can still be subject to project labor agreements. Project labor agreements allow governmental units to exclude all but union contractors from bidding on public works projects.

Another Ballard Tax Increase Takes Effect Today

Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to make more than a billion dollars for one of City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn's clients moves a step closer today. ACS, the politically-connected firm that Ballard awarded a 50-year lease for the City's parking meter business, begins collecting higher parking fees and charging for extended hours of use today. Persons parking at metered spaces downtown and in Broad Ripple will be charged to park an additional 5 hours during the week as hours are extended from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m at the rate of $1.00 an hour. Additionally, the City will charge them to park those same hours on Saturdays for the first time in city history. The rates will jump to $1.50 an hour beginning in January, 2011, double the current rate.

The Star's Jon Murray misleads the papers readers on a bit of bait-and-switch ACS and the Ballard administration engaged in when it sold the City on the deal. Individual meters mounted on the existing poles were to be replaced by multi-space pay boxes; however, when ACS began switching out the meters, it instead installed electronic meters on the existing meter poles, not even bothering to replace the rusty old poles. The Star, which endorsed the corrupt 50-year deal, tries to explain it away:

Beginning in late spring or early summer, ParkIndy will install multispace pay boxes to replace about two-thirds of the meters.

ParkIndy has drawn criticism for leaving rusty meter poles and bases and replacing only the heads. Lou Gerig, a spokesman for ParkIndy, said that as pay boxes go in, leftover meter parts that are in good condition will be used to replace older hardware on remaining individual-space meters.

The multi-space pay boxes were the cornerstone of what councilors were sold when they approved the deal last year. ACS is installing the electronic meters on the poles for now, which are actually used meters that were removed from another city where they were previously used. By installing the older technology now, ACS is getting immediate access to revenues it will generate from the 50-year lease that includes the higher rates and extended hours. ACS will use those revenues to finance the cost of installing the more costly multi-space boxes over time for most but not all spaces. ACS plans to use newer poles already purchased by the city to put on the remaining parking spaces where it intends to use its used electronic meters. In other words, ACS and the Ballard administration flat out lied about how much money ACS would invest up front to install new parking meter technology.

There are many signs that ACS has used insiders with ties to the company to expand its business operations in state and local government in Indiana. ACS played a key role in the botched privatization of FSSA's welfare services that cost taxpayers more than a half billion dollars. The administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels blamed the entire mess on IBM when it terminated IBM's contract but kept in place ACS. IBM partnered with ACS in order to win the contract originally because then-FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob, a former executive with ACS, initiated the privatization effort. Gov. Daniels then named another former consultant for ACS, Michael Gargano, to run the agency, who is married to another former ACS executive, Ann Lathrop.

ACS has long used the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg as its hired gun lobbyist to win government business in Indiana. The firm lobbies both state and city officials on behalf of ACS. Its chief lobbyist at the firm, Joe Loftus, is also paid as a key adviser to Mayor Greg Ballard. Lobbying records also showed City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn lobbied the state on behalf of ACS as a lobbyist for the firm; however, when this blog reported on his registered status as a lobbyist for ACS, Vaughn claimed a paralegal at his law firm registered him with the state in error. Vaughn also twisted arms of councilors to ram the deal through the council and voted in support of the 50-year parking meter lease despite his obvious conflict of interest.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Unionization Of Illinois Government Workers Run Amok: Even Democrats Want To Curtail

Unionization madness of Illinois state workers has gotten so out of control that even some top Democrats in the state find themselves supporting legislation to curtail the collective bargaining rights of state employees. In the past 10 years alone, Illinois state government has seen a four-fold increase, or 10,000, in the number of workers joining the AFSCME union. More than 94% of all state employees now belong to a union. If 31 applications to expand the union ranks is approved, that number will top 97% of all state workers. In some state agencies, that would leave only one non-union person running the agency--the director. The AP lists some of the jobs AFSCME is currently trying to unionize:

Pending requests to unionize have come from employees whose jobs traditionally fell into the category of "boss:" prison wardens and their assistants, state agencies' chief fiscal officers, deputy agency directors, chiefs of staff, senior personnel officers and liaisons to the Legislature at social service, employment and regulatory agencies, according to the AP analysis of Labor Relations Board records.
When I worked for the Illinois legislature back in the 1980s, most of these positions were typically held by persons who served at the discretion of the governor--the few jobs a new governor could place political appointees without running afoul of the so-called Shakman decree that protected all but policy-making positions in state and local government from politically-motivated hiring, firing and promotion considerations. A very revealing statistic in the face of the massive unionization effort in Illinois state government is the precipitous drop in the number of state employees during the same period due to budget cuts. "State records show there were about 67,000 employees reporting to the governor when Blagojevich took office [in 2003], compared to 49,967 in February, according to the Department of Central Management Services," the AP reports. That's 25% fewer state employees over the past eight years.
Not surprisingly, even Democrats in Illinois are worried about the dominating influence of unions over state government, including Gov. Pat Quinn, who has been highly critical of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Keller's efforts to curtail collective bargaining rights of state and local workers in that state.
While Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states move to throttle the influence of state employee unions, the surge in Illinois' union membership worries even traditionally union-friendly Democrats, who fear it could harm the effective management of government.

It has put them in the awkward position of trying to smother union growth even as they criticize GOP curbs elsewhere.

Gov. Pat Quinn's office is pressing a key union to give up several thousand new members. If negotiations fail, Democratic lawmakers likely will resurrect proposed legislation to limit union-eligible jobs and rescind union coverage for thousands of people.

Quinn said earlier this month that Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker "should be ashamed of himself" for pushing through a new law that rolls back state workers' right to collective bargaining. But Quinn's effort to scale back union growth is "incongruous" with his and other Democrats' statements on Wisconsin, said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

A Quinn aide said there's no contradiction between the governor's two positions.

"We strongly support union representation and collective bargaining for many state workers, but the union system only works when there are workers and managers," spokeswoman Annie Thompson said. "Without this bill, we are looking at a situation where there is virtually no management at a variety of agencies and facilities."
Without managers, critics of the union growth maintain, who will stay late to get a project done? Will a boss take proper disciplinary steps against an underling if the two belong to the same union? If a union member is given confidential information, is his first loyalty to the governor or the union?

What is remarkable is the fact that despite Illinois shedding 25% of its workforce over the past 8 years it still faces a multi-billion dollar deficit and one of the worst unfunded pension systems in the country--even after enacting the largest tax increases in the state's history. The AP notes unionization slowed under the prior Republican governors because there were fewer changes in job titles than under Blagojevich. After Blagojevich took over in 2003, his administration signed into law a bill making it easier for state employees to join unions and changed many job titles, while also implementing a practice of freezing the pay of non-unionized employees to save money in the budget, all of which encouraged greater unionization efforts.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a very liberal Democrat from Chicago, is introducing legislation to curtail collective bargaining rights among state workers. "I don't believe labor was ever intended to save the whole workforce," said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the legislation to roll back the union membership. "Always, there was the idea that there is management, there is a place where the policy is set, where the buck stops." "[Her] proposal would rule out unionization for top-level policymaking employees — those who offer 'meaningful input into government decision-making,'" the AP reports. "It also would rescind collective bargaining rights for those types of employees allowed to join unions since December 2008. The board has approved unionization for more than 4,300 workers since then." "But Currie argues that a manager who's in a union could have divided loyalties that might affect important policy decisions. She noted a number of potential problems if the pending applications are approved."  "In the Department on Aging, there would be one person besides the director who is not part of a collective bargaining unit," she said. "I don't know how you run a correctional facility if all the assistant wardens are part of the bargaining unit."

Contrast the situation in Illinois with that of Indiana where Gov. Mitch Daniels in one of his first acts as governor signed an executive order repealing the right of state workers to collectively bargain. Is it any wonder Indiana has not had to resort to massive tax increases to balance its state budget?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fair Finance Trustee's Statement On Durham Campaign Contributions

The bankruptcy trustee for Fair Finance Company issued a statement in response to numerous press inquiries following Sen. Mike Delph's decision to return $10,000 his campaign committee received in donations from indicted Ponzi scheme operator Tim Durham. It's important to note Sen. Delph returned his contributions voluntarily to the bankruptcy trustee before Durham was indicted and without being asked to do so by the Trustee. Trustee Brian Bash indicated in his statement he would not hesitate to take other action to recover the contributions if the other campaign committees did not voluntarily return their contributions.

Sen. Delph has done the right thing. He came forward and returned the funds without being asked, and before Durham was indicted.

Months ago, the Trustee sent letters to many other politicians explaining the circumstances and asking them to return the contributions they received from Durham. The campaigns that received the largest amounts include Gov. Mitch Daniels, Carl Brizzi, Paul Rickets, the Indiana Republican State Committee and the Greater Indianapolis Republican Finance Committee. Governor Daniels responded, and we hope for mutual resolution through continued discussions. Most others did not respond.

We were also disappointed by media reports that some campaigns state they will not return the contributions because they were already spent. Such a glib response is not a defense, and it trivializes the losses suffered by the victims. If money were stolen from the people who made those statements, we wonder if they would be satisfied with that explanation. We understand that campaigns did not plan to have to return these contributions, but the victims also did not plan to be cheated.

We hope that those who received campaign contributions from or through Durham will contact us and arrange to return those funds for the benefit of the victims. The Trustee would much rather resolve these issues amicably, but will not hesitate to pursue other action if necessary.
It seems particularly outrageous that Attorney General Greg Zoeller and former Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi as law enforcement officers would show any reluctance to return the contributions, particularly since their campaign committees have sufficient balances to return the contributions to the Trustee. Brizzi and Daniels each received more than $200,000 from Durham, while Zoeller received at least $21,000. As I've also indicated before, Gov. Mitch Daniels will likely face many questions from the battleground state of Ohio, if not elsewhere, should he decide to enter the 2012 Republican presidential race.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tim Durham Is Skin Deep With Danny DeVito

Durham with Erica Taylor at Ludacris Live Party the couple hosted last year
The Dread interviews Hollywood actor/director Danny DeVito about his latest film short, Skin Deep, which stars indicted Ponzi scheme operator Tim Durham's lady friend Erica Taylor and was filmed at Durham's National Lampoon Mansion in the Hollywood Hills, which DeVito says was the perfect place to film his latest horror flick (no pun intended):

Speaking with the diminutive-in-size yet statuesque-in-personality DeVito early this March, the sixty-six-year-old actor chatted with Dread regarding his just wrapped Skin Deep, a Splatter Cut short film (as he refers to them) which will serve as the fifteenth entry in his ever-growing library of personally produced and directed horror shorts (which are streamed digitally via his The Blood Factory website . . .

Of that production which filmed over the course of three days, “Erica (Taylor) and Tim Durham’s place was just perfect for ‘Skin Deep’,” said DeVito of the Lampoon location, “and Erica is a really talented young woman, and she fit the bill (of our lead). Dave Margulies (Ghostbusters), who has been my buddy for many years and used to direct me on the stage, portrayed the devil, and he’s a solid, solid actor. Anyone that has worked with him can attest to how connected he is with the characters that he plays, but he also has a great whimsy to him. He’ll boldly go where others may not want to tread, and it’s a lot of fun that way.”

With the narrative of Skin Deep focusing on Taylor’s character, who sixty-six years after striking a deal with Ol’ Scratch finds him returning to claim her gambled beauty in the most ironic of ways, we commented on the obvious thematic similarities between DeVito’s Splatter Cuts and the iconic EC Comics’ title Tales from the Crypt, among others.
You can see photos of the big bash Durham co-hosted last year with rapper Ludacris at a Malibu home formerly owned by Cher here for approximately 1,000 guests, including aging rocker Gene Simmons. An earlier story on the Dread during filiming of the movie at Durham's National Lampoon mansion is found here. Wonder what you earn for renting a home out for the filming of a movie these days? Perhaps the bankruptcy trustee for Fair Finance Co. might want to find out.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller Might Return His Dirty Durham Money

It doesn't look like our state's Attorney General Greg Zoeller wants to be too virtuous when it comes to dealing with the dirty money he collected from indicted Ponzi scheme operator Tim Durham. The Indiana Legislative Insight's Ed Feigenbaum reports that Zoeller says he might return the campaign contributions he collected from Durham "once he sorts out just who would get the leftover lucre", whatever that means. Sen. Mike Delph is the only Republican to return campaign contributions he received from Durham to the bankruptcy trustee for Fair Finance Co. tasked with marshaling as much of the more than $200 million out of which Durham defrauded investors in Ohio. Delph told the AP "he is troubled and embarrassed at the attitude of Republicans who aren't returning Durham's donations." Feigbenbaum notes that Former Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said of the  more than $200,000 in campaign contributions he received from Durham during the same airing of his Crime Beat radio show on WIBC-FM last weekend where he berated a whistle blower in the case as a "crazy stalker" and "residual nutcase" that the money should be viewed no differently than a contribution Durham made to a local charity. Just listen to yourself, Carl. So bad.

Ballard Stumped On Job Claims

WTHR's Bob Segal tenaciously investigated the 100,000 job claim the Daniels administration touted that it had created since he became governor and found that in reality only about 38% of those claimed new jobs had been realized. WRTV's Kara Kenney similarly questioned Mayor Greg Ballard's recent claim his administration had secured 8,737 jobs in 2010 alone. She learned that the City had written agreements covering less than 25% of the jobs companies had supposedly committed to create, or 1,634 of the 8,737 figure cited by Mayor Ballard. Nine of the 72 companies touted for economic development activity made only a commitment to retain existing jobs, she found. Naturally, Ballard refused to sit down with Kenney to discuss his job-creation claims. She had to track him down for comment at a public event and apparently his press office had tipped him off to be on the lookout for her. "That the paradigm we inherited. That's what the previous administration did. That's what the city has done for a long time," Ballard told Kenney as he ran off while refusing to answer her questions. I suspect Ballard doesn't even know what the word "paradigm" means, or perhaps he does. He may have promised he was going to run things differently when he ran for mayor, but now you've heard it from the Mayor's own mouth. Bart Peterson's administration is the model for how the City of Indianapolis should be run. If he had only told us that four years ago, we could have just voted to re-elect Peterson. At least then we would have known what we were getting in a mayor. Be sure to check the video of Kenney's attempt to question Ballard here.

Last week, I lamented the City of Indianapolis offering tax abatements to Roll-Royce simply to move jobs already existing locally from other locations around the city to a building downtown that had been vacated by Eli Lilly, after Lilly reneged on its promised job commitments it made with the City more than 10 years ago  in consideration for hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives and instead shedded thousands of jobs. I noted at the time Rolls-Royce was heavily dependent on defense contracts to support its local jobs and defense spending would likely be curtailed drastically because of the serious financial crisis facing the federal government. Yesterday, the Defense Department directed Rolls-Royce and GE to halt work on an engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that is being manufactured locally in Indianapolis and elsewhere around the state, potentially affecting about 2,500 jobs between the two companies, which could increase to 4,300. "The Pentagon in a statement said the stop-work order applied immediately for 90-days, halting the expenditure of $1 million a day for an engine the military has said consistently since fiscal 2007 it does not want," the IBJ reported. "The order doesn’t terminate the program, however, the Pentagon said."

Who's Living In Tim Durham's House?

WISH-TV's David Barras wanted to learn where indicted Ponzi scheme operator Tim Durham plans to live when he returns to Indianapolis next month to face a 12-count federal indictment for bilking Ohio investors out of more than $200 million. He started with Durham's 11,000 square feet home on Geist and, to his surprise, learned from a neighbor someone had been camping out at the home for several days using a pop-up camper and a fire pit set up in the drive. Barras rang the door bell and a man answering the door asked Barras and his crew to leave the grounds. The gated drive was then closed when the crew left. Barras says Chase Bank recently paid more than $60,000 in delinquent property taxes owed on the home, which is now in foreclosure. A realtor who has the property listed for sale would not answer questions about the home.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Joe Hogsett Wants To Be Marion County Prosecutor, Or Mayor, Or Something Like That

He is suppose to be the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, but Joe Hogsett would rather devote his time fighting street crimes in Indianapolis that are clearly under the purview of the Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office. Apparently Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry is more than happy to cede his job to the consummate political hack that likes seeing his name in print and on TV. The Star's Carrie Ritchie reports:

“Fighting and reducing violent crime, not only in Marion County but throughout the southern district of Indiana, is a priority if not one of the most important priorities of the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Hogsett said.

The partnership, which is three or four weeks old, has already yielded results, he said.

More than 10 people have been indicted, and drugs and more than 30 guns have been seized.

Hogsett couldn’t estimate how much the crackdown might cost, but he said he and his partners will search for federal funding to keep the partnership alive.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry and IMPD Police Chief Paul Ciesielski joined Hogsett today to announce their support for the partnership.

“I am very tired of people pretending that we don’t have a gang problem in Marion County and talking about gang wannabes when the reality is, go to any neighborhood, and they will tell you that there’s graffiti on the walls, that there’s harassment,” Curry said. “Even if it’s low-level gang activity, it’s affecting the quality of life in neighborhoods across our county.”

Curry will send one of his attorneys to Hogsett’s office to help determine when federal charges could apply to cases.
A few weeks ago, Hogsett was telling Star political columnist Matt Tully during an interview how education was a big priority for him as U.S. Attorney. Whatever.

Indianapolis is the top city in America to engage in political corruption because the partisan elected county prosecutor refuses to investigate corruption in state and local government, and because only political hacks like Hogsett are chosen to run the U.S. Attorney's Office. There is pretty much blanket immunity granted to the political insiders to engage in as much political corruption as their hearts desire. I've lived in Indianapolis a little more than 20 years. During that time, this U.S. Attorney's Office has been obsessed with prosecuting low-level drug dealers (who are probably encroaching too much on the approved drug dealers' turf), losers who collect child pornography (usually in a victimless manner) and your garden variety criminals that could have just as easily been prosecuted by the county prosecutor. The U.S. Attorney's Office had to be dragged kicking and screaming to bring charges against Ponzi scheme operator Tim Durham and two of his co-conspirators, but signs suggest that many others equally culpable will escape prosecution altogether. The political insiders will simply go on raping, pillaging and plundering at will for their personal gain because the prosecutors have their back. Nothing ever changes in Naptown.

Indiana Chief Justice Sides With Mob Rule?

I was a bit surprised that Indiana Supreme Court Justice Randall Shepard took the bait and weighed in on a potential court challenge involving the ongoing stalemate in the Indiana General Assembly after the minority Democratic members walked off the job more than a month ago and have remained in exile in Urbana, Illinois, effectively shutting down any legislative progress this session. Shepard reportedly made remarks dismissing any potential legal challenge on the walkout while speaking to a Kiwanis Club in Valparaiso, as well as his view the courts would not get involved if it prevented lawmakers from redrawing legislative districts based on the new census data. The Northwest Indiana Times reports:

The chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court says he doesn't expect the state's courts to get involved in the legislative stalemate created by Democrats' more than month-long boycott of the Indiana House.

Most House Democrats fled to Illinois on Feb. 22 to prevent House Republicans from voting on bills they consider anti-labor by denying them a needed quorum.

The Times of Munster reports that Chief Justice Randall Shepard told a Kiwanis group in Valparaiso on Wednesday that the constitutional requirement that two-thirds of the representatives be present to take legislative action is not susceptible to a legal challenge.

Shepard also said he does not expect the courts to get involved if the stalled session results in lawmakers failing to redraw the state's congressional and state Senate and House boundaries.
Arguably, Shepard has strengthened Democrats' resolve to continue their walkout indefinitely by stating in advance his view the courts could offer no relief. Essentially, he is saying the Indiana Constitution allows a minority to completely shut down state government, even preventing other branches from carrying out their constitutional duties. What if the House Democrats prevent the legislature from adopting a new budget? How can state government offices remain open and function without a state budget? How will state employees, including judges, be paid? Is the House effectively without a court remedy to enforce collection of the fines it is imposing on Democratic members for their failure to show up to work--a remedy specifically authorized by the Indiana Constitution?  Wouldn't there be court-ordered redistricting in the absence of legislative action for state legislative maps as mandated by the Indiana Constitution? Congressional districts would be drawn by a Republican-led commission if the legislature failed to act, but new state legislative maps would still need to be drawn. If a minority can simply walk off the job and hold the entire state hostage indefinitely, we have ceased to be governed by the constitutional rule of law and replaced by mob rule. His comments are frankly quite troubling. He is typically more guarded with what he says publicly.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Donald Trump Debates The View Hags Over Obama's Natural Born Status

Donald Trump engaged in a spirited debate with The View hags today, insisting President Barack Obama should produce his original birth certificate if he wants to put the issue of his constitutional eligibility to hold the office of President of the United States to bed. Trump said he believes there is something on the birth certificate Obama does not want the American people to see or else he would have produced it long ago. Like I've said before, I had to produce my birth certificate to get my driver's license, to get a passport and multiple other occasions during my life. It is astounding that this man could ascend to the highest office in our country, decide on his own to send our troops to war and yet some people like Whoopi Goldberg can only say you're a racist to even raise the issue. Goldberg foolishly claims Bush didn't have to produce his birth certificate, ignoring the fact that the Bush family traces its ancestors to the some of the earliest arrivals to this country from Europe who sailed on the Mayflower, and both he and his father served in the military where they had to document their status. Not Barry. No, the rules that apply to you and I don't apply to Barry.

Lugar Wonders When Kerry Plans To Hold Hearings On Libyan War

It seems like a reasonable question to ask. The President of the United States has effectively declared war on Libya and authorized military strikes against the country without so much as consulting Congress, let alone getting some form of advanced authorization for the military action. Sen. Richard Lugar has written to Sen John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asking that he conduct hearings on the Libyan War. In a "Dear John" letter, Lugar writes:

I write to request Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the U.S. government’s ongoing intervention in the Libyan civil war and the innumerable policy considerations that flow from that intervention. I noted a newspaper story today that cited one of your spokesmen as saying that there are no plans for hearings on Libya. That statement may not accurately reflect your own intent. But I wanted to make clear that I believe prompt hearings on Libya in our Committee are essential.

Any U.S. military intervention in a foreign country would require oversight hearings by the Foreign Relations Committee. In my judgment, hearings on Libya are especially vital because the Obama Administration did not consult meaningfully with Congress before initiating military operations. Members have not yet had an opportunity to question the Administration on its policy goals or its diplomatic and military strategy. The Administration has not defined the U.S. strategic interest in Libya or adequately articulated how the conflict ends. Questions remain about how the coalition will function going forward and what role the U.S. will play among our allies. Administration ambiguity on these points is impacting our military activities, the cohesion of the coalition, and public attitudes towards the war.

We also know little about the Libyan opposition or the Administration’s plans for paying for the war. It is not clear that the Obama Administration has thought through the consequences of this action for regional stability, the fight against terrorism, the impact on oil markets, and other factors.

I believe hearings not only would provide some important answers to Senators and to the American people, they would induce the Obama Administration to conduct in-depth contingency planning that does not seem to have occurred. Is the Administration planning for the range of potential outcomes, including a prolonged stalemate in which Col. Qadhafi remains in power in Tripoli? All scenarios in Libya will have significant budget implications at a time when Congress is focused on achieving budget savings. We need to discuss this now, so the American people know what may be asked of them . . .
It is remarkable that the Obama administration has done nothing to reach out to members of Congress either of the President's own party or Republican members like Lugar who have shown a willingness to offer bipartisan support for Obama's foreign policy initiatives, such as the START Treaty with Russia, even if those initiatives were ill-advised in my opinion.

Even more troubling is the growing disarray among our allies. Germany has already pulled out of the coalition, while the Brits are calling for the assassination of Quadafi. We are offering support to rebels which some news reports suggest are backed by al Qaeda. To think Barack Hussein Obama was issued the Nobel Peace Prize before he ever demonstrated to the world he was deserving of the great honor. His actions are totally unconstitutional and placing our country at great peril at a time it is already reeling from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It's as if he is deliberately promoting the destabilization of the entire Middle East and causing oil prices to skyrocket, which is only pinching the wallets of struggling Americans further. It also disappointing that Republicans can't seem to speak with a unified voice in opposition to this military action. I've been very critical of Sen. Lugar on a number of issues, but he seems to be one of the few adults in the room when it comes to this issue.

State Senator Threatens Libertarian Party Over Opposition To Marriage Discrimination Amendment? UPDATE: Senate Says E-Mail Spoofed

[UPDATED] The Libertarian Party of Indiana is rankled after one of its members received an e-mail purporting to be from State Sen. Connie Lawson (R) with a less than thinly-veiled threat over the party's opposition to the marriage discrimination amendment, which the Senate Judiciary Committee approved on a 7 to 3 vote this morning. Senate President Pro Tempore David Long's Chief of Staff Jeff Papa has informed me that further examination of the e-mail leads them to conclude the e-mail was spoofed. Last week, Indiana School Superintendent Tony Bennett's office was the victim of a spoofed memo containing information Bennett supposedly put out concerning education reform. A State Police investigation should be launched to figure out who impersonated Sen. Lawson in putting out this potentially damaging e-mail. The Libertarian Party has not officially responded to the Senate's conclusion the e-mail was spoofed.

The e-mail response to one of the party's members presented as being sent by Lawson, who is the Senate Majority Leader, suggested the Republican Party may be forced to make "structural adjustments" if the opposition continues. The e-mail reads, in part, according to the Libertarian Party's press release:

I have come to realize that you have helped drive the Libertarian Party of Indiana’s most recent views against HJR-6 and SJR-13. While you do understand that I appreciate and respect your views on this issue, I do request that you keep these posts to a minimum. The Republican Party of Indiana does not wish to cause issue with the Libertarian Party of Indiana in any way, but should these oppositions continue to occur, we may have to make some structural adjustments . . .

I do appreciate your views and think that you have done a magnificent job in articulating an adequate viewpoint on these issues. While they are viewed as the most basic civil rights issues of our day, it should also be noted that continual political polarization in Indiana and in the United States could result in serious consequence should we not provide support and coalition together for the greater good of all Hoosiers . . .
The reaction to the apparently spoofed e-mail from the Libertarian Party's leadership was swift. “When a State Senator or their staff demand that a political organization remain silent on any issue, I consider this a very serious problem,” said Sam Goldstein, the Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Indiana. “If we aren’t silent, then what “structural adjustments would be made? I have personally reached out to Lawson’s office and the Indiana Republican Party to give them an opportunity to explain these statements, but we did not receive any response back. We have also been trying to confirm if this was a staffer using government time and resources or if these are the thoughts of the Senator herself. Either way she is accountable for these statements.”

Goldstein continued, “We are a bona fide political party. We are not servants of the Republican Party or the General Assembly, and we will proudly speak out against discrimination being amended into our State’s Constitution. Days after this email, we put out a press release denouncing HJR-6 and SJR-13. The desire to control the relationships of all Hoosiers is clearly spelled out in both Lawson’s email and these joint resolutions. Someone should remind Republicans that their legislative duty is to defend rights, not control behavior.”

Efforts by Senate Democrats in committee to remove by amendment a second sentence from the marriage discrimination amendment that expands the proposed gay marriage ban to include civil unions, domestic partnership agreements and other benefits enjoyed by unmarried couples failed in committee today. Indiana's Defense of Marriage law has barred same-sex marriages since 1996. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the statute in Morrison v. Sadler several years ago. Proponents of the constitutional amendment insist Indiana's Bill of Rights must be amended to include the ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions to prevent activist judges from overturning Indiana's current law, although there is no reason to believe an Indiana court would be able to do so given the Supreme Court's standard for overturning the constitutionality of laws passed by the General Assembly.  Indeed, Indiana courts have rarely overturned laws enacted by the legislature because the standard for reviewing state law enactments poses such a high hurdle to jump.

UPDATE: Here is the e-mail Jeff Papa sent to Goldstein explaining why the Senate concluded the e-mail was spoofed:


The address it claims to be from has been manipulated. This is NOT an outbound email address that we have. It is an incoming alias only. We publish this address because it is easy for constituents to remember without writing down numbers and letters, but it is only an inbound alias. We never send out with this address. In fact, look at the text you sent me – it has clearly been manipulated – part of the email address is in hypertext link and the middle part is in regular black text. Further note the person also changed the email at the end to . Also, we cannot find any such email in our outbound email and Senator Lawson never wrote any such letter. We did not send this, or write the accompanying email. Maybe you can look at the properties of the incoming message on your end to see what domain it truly originated from. Let me know if you have other questions, but this did not come from us. It seems similar to the fraudulent/criminal email that was sent last week claiming to be from Dr. Bennett. Can you update your web statements to reflect the fact that it did not come from us and change the title or update it? Please let me know if you would like to discuss further – no one here meant any offense or silencing of the Libertarian (or any other) voice… especially since we did not send this letter.

Thank you for taking my call and discussing the matter. We don’t show any calls from you that were taken or not returned, but in any case If you ever have trouble reaching anyone at the Senate please call me on my cell at any time.

Jeff Papa, Chief of Staff
Indiana Senate
UPDATE II: Senate President Pro Tempore David Long released an official statement on the incident moments ago confirming the Senate's believe the e-mail is a "hoax." “The most recent ridiculous incident involves a state senator supposedly threatening the viability of the Indiana Libertarian Party,” Long said. “This follows closely on the heels of a March 10 e-mail blast regarding proposed education reforms and attempting to embarrass State Supt. of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett. Both messages were complete hoaxes and should be disregarded as such.” A subsequent Indiana State Police investigation may result, Long said.

UPDATE III: The Libertarian Party has responded with this message from Sam Goldstein following the disclosure by Senator Long's staff that the e-mail was a hoax:

We sent out a press release this afternoon with a memo regarding a Constitutional ban on gay marriage. After further investigation we have determined that we were the victim of a similar hoax as the one that befell Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett last week. Our party cares deeply about accountability and transparency, so we want to be the first to confirm to you that this email was not sent from a state government email address.

This email was sent to us February 9, 2011, but we released it today. We wanted to take the time to hear the other side of the story before sharing it with our membership and the media. Unfortunately, answers were never provided.

The person working on our social networking sites at the time received the email first. We called the Indiana State's Senate Office to speak with Senator Lawson about the email's contents immediately after we were made aware of its contents. We were never able to get through to the Majority Leader for clarification.

We also reached out to the Indiana Republican Party last week, and provided them with a hard copy of the email. After no response, we felt it was time to make the public aware of this information, and hopefully get some answers that way.

We do not know where the email came from, or what motives were behind the hoax. We have and will cooperate with any authorities that wish to pursue this matter to get answers. We also apologize to the other victim of this hoax, State Senator Connie Lawson. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

In Liberty,

Sam Goldstein

SerVaas Explains Why Family Bailed Out Durham

Tim Durham was released on a $1 million bond after his arrest last week on a 12-count indictment on wire and securities fraud for operating the now-defunct Fair Finance Co. as a Ponzi scheme. Durham's ex-wife, Joan SerVaas, and her father, former City-County Council President Beurt SerVaas, posted bond for Durham. Joan released the following statement to WISH-TV explaining why the prominent Indianapolis family bailed out the man Beurt booted from his company years ago:

First and foremost, I want to say how sorry my father and I are for those who have lost their savings, investments and jobs as a result of the failure of Fair Finance.

Tim and I have long been divorced, but as the father of our twenty- year-old son, he will always be part of our family. My father and I have not paid one million dollars for bail. We signed a surety bond for that amount as part of an agreement between Tim and the U.S. District Attorney's office.

As I understand it, the purpose of bail is to assure Tim's attendance in court. We agreed to these terms because we are confident that Tim will continue to cooperate with the federal authorities and abide by the conditions of his release from detention.
Joan SerVaas is the CEO of Curtis Publishing, which publishes the nation's oldest magazine, The Saturday Evening Post. Beurt, in addition to being the first and longest serving President of the Indianapolis City-County Council, is the CEO of SerVaas, Inc., which owns a number of companies around the world. SerVaas was a high-ranking officer in the nation's first spy agency, the OSS, and has long been rumored to have CIA ties. Among the companies SerVaas has owned in the past include International Investigators, Inc., a private investigation firm based in Indianapolis that boasts of employing former FBI and CIA agents. The firm's role in corruption within the Indianapolis Police Department under former Mayor Richard Lugar is discussed at length in Pulitzer Prize-winning former Star reporter Dick Cady's recently-released book, Deadline: Indianapolis. Cady suggest surveillance equipment purchased by IPD with federal funds wound up in the hands of private investigators of the firm who allegedly illegally wire-tapped various politicians. Some believe SerVaas was responsible for landing Indiana's Dan Quayle, at the time a relatively obscure member of the U.S. Senate, the Vice-Presidential spot on the ticket of former President George H.W. Bush, a former CIA Director whose family was instrumental in establishing the nation's intelligence apparatus.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Daniels Administration's Attorneys Lose Fight To Exclude Thousands Of Documents From Discovery In Lawsuit Over Failed FSSA Privatization

I can't say that I'm surprised attorneys at Barnes & Thornburg, who are representing FSSA in a lawsuit with IBM over the failed welfare privatization effort despite their obvious conflict of interest in doing so, tried to exclude more than 11,000 documents from discovery under a claim of privilege. Fortunately, Judge David Dreyer wasn't impressed with the claim of privilege after personally reviewing the documents himself. With dollar signs no doubt flashing in his eyes (the state is paying him $475 an hour), Barnes & Thornburg's Peter Rusthoven says the state may appeal Dreyer's ruling. The Star's Carrie Ritchie explains:

A Marion Superior Court judge has ordered Indiana to turn over thousands of documents to help sort out two lawsuits over the state’s cancellation of a welfare modernization contract with IBM.

In an order entered this afternoon, Judge David Dreyer said documents the state claimed were privileged are not and should be turned over to IBM for review. They will not be released publicly.

Attorneys for the state are considering an appeal, which would temporarily stop the suits from moving forward, and will notify the court of their decision within 10 days, said Peter Rusthoven, who’s representing the state.

The documents include state employees’ e-mails, including some belonging to Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Daniels cancelled the 10-year, $1.37 billion contract in 2009 after only three years because of complaints about the automated system.

The state sued IBM in May to take back the $437 million it paid the company.
The most interesting aspect of Ritchie's story is the mention that some of the documents include e-mails authored by Gov. Daniels, who IBM is trying to depose in the matter. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn't be appropriate to insist the governor himself be questioned about an agency contractual dispute due to executive privilege, but a governor typically doesn't get directly involved involved in such matters; rather, he uses intermediaries to carry out his wishes to the extent he risks any involvement to keep his own hands clean. It is remarkable that the governor appears to have taken a more direct role in this matter.

IBM countersued, saying the state still owes the company about $100 million.

Dreyer, who reviewed more than 11,000 pages of documents privately before ruling, said in the order that he excluded “a relatively small number of individual e-mails or pages that are extraneous, personal or obviously unrelated communications.”

He also noted that he tried to be considerate of state employees’ privacy, and that he afforded the governor’s e-mails “particular scrutiny and due regard.”

Attorneys for IBM had criticized the state for trying to shield the documents.

“The state has delayed production of these documents since last fall and we hope we will now receive them promptly,” IBM spokesman Clint Roswell said today.

IBM also is trying to get a deposition from Daniels, and the state has requested a protective order to prevent the company from doing so.
The most outrageous aspect of this litigation is the fact that Barnes & Thornburg is being allowed to represent the state's interests. As I've previously pointed out, the firm has long represented ACS, the company that partnered with IBM on the welfare privatization agreement. ACS got to continue its role after the state opted to dump IBM. That ACS's services were retained was even more troubling because the company formerly employed former FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob, who initiated the privatization effort after leaving the company to work for Daniels. After Roob departed, the agency named another ACS consultant, Michael Gargano, as the agency's chief of staff and then later as the agency's Secretary. Gargano's wife, Ann Lathrop, also formerly worked at ACS with Roob. The agreement the state entered into with Barnes & Thornburg to handle the representation acknowledged the existence of the conflict of interest, but Daniels nonetheless insisted on using the firm. A top deputy in Daniels' office, Betsy Burdick, is the brother of the Barnes & Thornburg partner who signed the agreement with the state, Brian Burdick. It's notable that Burdick is a bond lawyer and not a litigator.

Will The Crime Beat Go On?

Carl Brizzi
Word on the street is that the days may be numbered for Carl Brizzi's Crime Beat show on WIBC-FM. A little birdy says Emmis Communications executives were none too pleased with Brizzi's on-air tirade during last Saturday's show against the whistle blower who blew the lid off Brizzi pal Tim Durham's Ponzi scheme, leading federal agents to descend on him and bring his high-flying world to a crash landing. Needless to say, the whistle blower feels Brizzi stepped way over the line when he called her out by name and suggested she was a "crazy stalker" and "residual nutcase." News executives at WISH-TV, which has also retained the services of Brizzi as a legal commentator after he stepped down as Marion Co. Prosecutor at the end of last year, were reportedly upset when Brizzi refused to take time out of a Las Vegas trip to comment on Durham's indictment last week after a satellite feed had already been set up for the interview. La de da de de.

Star's Hypocrisy On NFL Players' Negotiations With Team Owners

Over the past several years, this blog and others have consistently demanded that the Colts and the Pacers be required to produce audited financial statements as a condition to their continued receipt of public subsidies. I advanced this argument on numerous occasions during the recent negotiations with the Pacers that culminated in an additional $33.5 million subsidy for the team over the next three years. The Indianapolis Star always accepted at face value the Pacers' claim that they were losing tens of millions of dollars every year. It was reported as fact because the team's billionaire owners and their representatives claimed that's what their books showed. Now the Star is rooting for efforts of the NFL players to get access to all NFL team owners' audited financial statements to establish how much money they're making or losing in their ongoing labor negotiations for a new contract. A Star editorial today reads:

When National Football League teams are pitching for public funds for a new stadium, they say it's you -- the taxpayers -- who will share the riches from all those booked hotel rooms and restaurants brimming with fans that boost wages and tips and tax coffers.

When the teams are riling up the masses for another season, they say it's you -- the fans who buy the tickets, the jerseys and the beer -- who make it all worthwhile.

So it's within bounds to say the public has a vested interest in the NFL's labor dispute between billionaires and millionaires. No one knows if the NFL, which left a record economic footprint of $9.3 billion in 2010, will go on full lockdown.

As a smaller market with a mostly publicly financed stadium, and the host of next year's Super Bowl, Indianapolis is acutely exposed to the risk of a lost season. The National Journal rates Indy at the top of a list of public investment by NFL cities.

And the Colts were able to make the sweetheart deal for the $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium without revealing numbers to justify their purported financial distress. NFL players, like taxpayers, are locked out of real finances. They want teams to open their books before they'll consider giving owners another $1 billion in concessions. Taxpayers should root for the players; a win by them could help cities get more financial information when teams come looking for public funds.

So where was the Star when we were rooting for the taxpayers to get the Colts and Pacers books opened up to the public to aid the taxpayers in negotiations with the teams? Nowhere. It is curious that the editors would now be rooting for the players who only earn the ridiculous salaries they earn playing their sport because the taxpayers are compelled to pay billions in taxes to subsidize their profession. Yes, NFL players are more important than taxpayers to the editors of the Star. Just another reason to cancel your subscription to the Star.