In the middle of 2011 — with a decision to ask state lawmakers for financial help still months away — Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials began donating tens of thousands of dollars to political candidates.
By the time the election campaign had ended, the IMS had contributed more than $100,000 to Hoosier politicians and campaign committees -- 12 times more than speedway officials had donated over the entire previous 10 years when such contributions totaled about $8,500.
“We made a strategic decision,” IMS spokesman Doug Boles said, “that it was time to be more than a passive observer.”
Boles said the Speedway’s increased involvement arose from a general desire to become more politically active and came before it made specific plans to ask for state assistance.
“It did not,” Boles said, “coincide with our planning.”The lobbying and more than $100,000 in campaign contributions didn't coincide with the IMS' decision to seek $100 million in state welfare assistance? C'mon, Doug. How stupid do you think people are? Campbell's story continues:
Those contributions began to pick up in July 2011. By that time IMS had hired Bose Public Affairs Group, a government affairs firm, Boles said . . .
In talking with Bose, IMS decided to “invest in the entire process,” Boles said. That meant supporting candidates at the state and local levels in both political parties. Early on, IMS sent $450 in donations to Luke Kenley, the Republican chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and $250 to Democratic Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis . . .
As they pushed forward with the possible proposal, IMS officials kept the donations coming. The company gave nearly $60,000 to candidates in 2012.
It also registered as a lobbying organization with the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission for the first time since 2000, reporting it had given tickets, food and drink worth $300 to $600 to 10 lawmakers. IMS has long given away tickets to the big races to all state lawmakers, Boles said, but reported some of the 2012 tickets because they were invitations to a particular suite.
With the campaign contributions, IMS continued on a bipartisan track. It gave $10,000 to the Indiana Republican State Committee, and $10,000 to the Indiana Democratic State Central Committee. IMS contributed $5,000 to Mike Pence’s campaign for governor, and $11,000 to his eventual Democratic opponent, John Gregg. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma received $1,250; Democrat House Minority Leader Scott Pelath $250 . . .There are only two items of note from this story, which barely scratches the surface of the corrupt behind-the-scenes deal-making that led up to lawmakers agreeing in secret to make the largest single direct welfare grant in state history to the Hulman-George family's IMS. Firstly, why did the IMS cease using its long-time lobbyists at Ice Miller, the law firm that served as the IMS' general counsel for decades? Secondly, why are the vast majority of tickets given away by the IMS to state lawmakers not reported? Boles told Campbell that it only reported a few of the tickets it gave away last year "because they were invitations to a particular suite." Does the IMS get around reporting the gift of free tickets to lawmakers because its invitation to attend the race is extended to all 150 lawmakers? If that's the case, then it's just another example of how piss poor Indiana's financial disclosure laws are for state lawmaker and officials.
Several campaign veterans, though, told The Star they hardly noticed IMS’s new strategy.For example, the senator who proposed moving this bill in the first place -- Indianapolis Republican Mike Young, who received $550 -- said he hadn’t noticed any particular uptick in IMS’ political contributions. In fact, he said, “I don’t know who they contributed to.”Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, received three donations in June of last year totaling $1,000. He said that’s about the time he had a fundraiser. He remembers IMS sending money, but said he wasn’t asked about any specific policy proposal.“I don’t remember if they even attended it,” Lanane said, “or if they just sent a check.”Lanane said he voted for the Speedway’s taxing district simply because of the track’s historical significance and its importance to the state.
UPDATE: A friendly reader sent me this old advisory opinion issued by the Indiana Lobby