To borrow a phrase from the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, I may not be able to define the word Hoosier, but I know one when I see him. And Sen. Richard G. Lugar is the quintessential Hoosier.
Lugar has spent most of his life in public service on behalf of the residents of this state. On that point, not even his primary opponent can disagree. Yet the Indiana Election Commission was forced to parse the words of both federal and state constitutions last week to confirm that our senior senator is indeed eligible to run in the May primary.
Although he didn't file a formal complaint, Lugar's Republican primary challenger, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, has tried to make a campaign issue out of Lugar's lack of physical residence in Indiana.
The argument is nonsense and a distraction from pressing issues that deserve candidates' attention.
The state constitution is unequivocal: "No person shall be deemed to have lost his residence in the State, by reason of his absence, either on business of this State or of the United States."
Furthermore, an attorney general's advisory opinion issued after Lugar's first Senate election stated, "If a person has established residency for voting purposes in an Indiana precinct prior to his or her service in Congress, that residence remains the Congressperson's residence as long as he or she remains on the business of the state or the United States." . . .
To insist that public servants making $174,000 a year maintain second homes just for the sake of appearance would be both costly and unreasonable.
Mourdock's argument is especially specious considering that Lugar is still a principal owner of the family farm, Lugar Stock Farm, in Marion County.
As I've repeatedly complained about, Lugar, the Elections Commission and the news media have all simply read out of the legal challenge against Lugar the fact that it is based on the U.S. Constitution, not the Indiana Constitution. The state constitution cannot change the meaning of being an inhabitant for purposes of Lugar's eligibility to serve in the Senate. Federal courts have made clear that in order to be an inhabitant, a senator or representative must be able to show both a physical presence in the state and an intent to habitate within the state. Lugar may intend to be an inhabitant, but his refusal to maintain any home within the state for the past 35 years fails the physical presence requirement set out in the U.S. Constitution by the inhabitancy requirement.
Neal's suggestion that maintaining two homes would be both "unreasonable" and "costly" is laughable. The man makes $174,000 a year. The Internal Revenue Code has afforded members of Congress a tax break no other Americans enjoy--namely, the ability to deduct the expenses for maintaining that second home in Washington. The tax break was added to the Code to help offset the cost of maintaining two homes. Neal apparently doesn't know that when the "inhabitant" requirement was included in the U.S. Constitution adopted by the states--from that point until the Great Depression--Congress met in Washington for its sessions less than half the year, spending most of the year in their states of residence. Congressmen typically only rented apartments or stayed in boarding houses while Congress was in session. The idea that senators and representatives would become permanent residents of the nation's capital was anethema to the founders of our constitution.
Neal goes on in her column to raise the Evan Bayh residency case, which again, had nothing to do with federal law. That decision was based entirely on state law and whether Bayh met the residency requirement to run for Indiana governor under Indiana's Constitution, which required him to reside within the state at least five years prior to running for that office. Either Neal is totally ignorant of the law or deliberately lying to the Star's readers to protect Lugar. Either way, her so-called journalism is unaccepted practice by any standard, but it's the low-rent trash we've come to expect from the Star since it was taken over by media giant Gannett.