Sunday, March 02, 2014

Former Indiana GOP Chairman James Kittle Fingered In Bribe Offered To House Speaker To Block HJR-3

Wealthy businessman and former Indiana State Republican Chairman James Kittle has been identified as the businessman who offered House Speaker Brian Bosma unlimited campaign cash earlier this session if he would kill HJR-3, the proposed marriage discrimination amendment according to the AP's Tom Lobianco. Citing multiple sources familiar with the offer, Lobianco said Kittle withdrew the offer of "unlimited" campaign help after Bosma questioned the legality of his offer.
Jim Kittle offered "unlimited" campaign help to House Speaker Brian Bosma as part of a push to defeat the proposed amendment, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the discussion. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to disclose the private discussions.
Kittle withdrew his offer after Bosma questioned its legality, and it turns out the money wasn't needed after all. Only four House Republicans targeted by ban supporters face primary challenges, and changes to the proposed amendment's language will keep the issue off the ballot until at least 2016. But the back-room intrigue illustrates how election-year politics and campaign dollars shape some of the state's most important decisions . . .
Bosma also has said a potential candidate notified him that he had been offered $500,000 from an out-of-state source to challenge the speaker in the May primary.
But Kittle's offer is the one that raised some eyebrows. Bosma first announced an offer of campaign dollars in a January news conference but did not identify the potential contributor.
"I received a pledge of unlimited campaign funding if I were to make this issue go away," Bosma announced.
Bosma said he rejected the offer and expressed concern that it might have violated state or federal law. He has worn his decision as a badge of pride throughout the session, telling reporters he does not bow to threats or intimidation.
Bosma told The Associated Press last week that he didn't think the offer constituted a crime. But the speaker, who has never said Kittle made the offer, acknowledged voicing some concerns.
"I did bring to that individual's attention what it sounded like he was saying and I think he was pretty concerned about it after he said it," Bosma said.
Kittle did not return calls seeking comment . . .
This isn't the first time Kittle's name has surfaced in connection with nefarious activities. Kittle, who stepped down as the GOP's state party chairman and Gov. Daniels' finance chairman after before his arrest for drunk driving in Hamilton County in December, 2010, was identified as one of several investors a controversial Chinese immigrant had supposedly lined up to start up a new company that would assist Chinese investors with investment opportunities in the United States. Monica Liang, then a newly-hired consultant to Mitch Roob, the former head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), became the subject of a complaint lodged by Chinese businessmen after Liang lured a Chinese billionaire, Ao Yuqi, to wire $50,000 into her bank account. According to a written complaint several Chinese businessmen had delivered to Gov. Mitch Daniels accusing Liang of criminal wrongdoing, Liang had identified Kittle as someone with whom she was very close who had tremendous political clout in Indiana.
She advised us that the State of Indiana would set up an office in China and she would be appointed as the manager of that office. She also repeatedly hinted to us that she was connected politically because she was in an intimate relationship with Chairman of Republican Party of Indiana. She advised us that the Chairman was "super rich," owned two large biotechnology companies and was the largest campaign contributor of Governor Daniels' election. As she put it that meant it was no problem for us to meet Governor Daniels when we next visit Indiana.
Sources familiar with an FBI investigation of Liang's business dealings tell Advance Indiana that she had formed a new company, China North American Investment Group, LLC, whose members according to Liang were to include herself, Ao, Kittle, Mitch Roob and Bingham McHale managing partner, Toby McClamroch, a former Indianapolis City-County Council member. Liang used a letter dated February 18, 2011 signed by Roob appointing her as his special assistant for Chinese relations to impress potential investors in China. Liang had also supposedly represented to the Chinese investors an opportunity to invest in a $12 million nursing home project she was trying to develop in a building she had purchased in Marion, Indiana, which she claimed included Gov. Daniels, Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold and Roob as investors according to an expose' on the entire sordid affair by the Indianapolis Star, titled, "The China Letter." Among the supporting documents Liang provided to the Chinese investors was a letter on the City of Marion's letterhead signed by the city's economic development director, Darren Reese, pledging support for TIF incentives for the project.

The FBI dropped its investigation of Liang's business dealings after she died unexpectedly from an aneurysm during a visit to her apartment in Carmel in late October, 2011 from a Chicago attorney, Thomas Gehl, who was advising her on EB-5 immigrant visas, a visa program that allows large foreign investors to obtain permanent resident status in the U.S. in consideration for investing in qualified American investments.  As a result of an internal investigation of the complaint sent to Gov. Daniels, Liang was immediately terminated and Roob stepped down as IEDC's CEO a short time later, although he insisted that the sordid affair was not the cause for his resignation. IEDC also ended its long-term relationship with Pacific World Trade, which had an exclusive contract to assist the IEDC in developing business relationships in China, in retaliation for its perceived role in helping bring the serious allegations of wrongdoing on Liang's part to light. The company's owner, Dennis Kelley, delivered the complaint on behalf of the Chinese businessmen, a fact that irked state officials, even though essentially all of the allegations contained in their complaint had been determined to be accurate based on the state agency's internal investigation of the complaint. Roob had demanded that Kelley retract the allegations set forth in the complaint prior to his abrupt departure from the state agency.

Last December, the Indianapolis Star featured a $2.5 million log cabin home in Carmel owned by Kittle that was being offered for sale. "Detailed craftsmanship is the hallmark of this spacious Carmel home being offered for $2.5 million," the article read. "Jim Kittle's custom log home is filled with signature lines from the family furniture business." "Set in a private, wooded area, the home resembles a mountain retreat, complete with natural interior features such as slate flooring and exposed board and batten ceilings." Watch the Indianapolis Star and other media outlets to bury this AP story since it doesn't fit their meme on HJR-3, not to mention the advertising Kittle's furniture store purchases from them.


Anonymous said...

Many are glad for your connections, instincts and more. Dig deeper...It's coming...Be safe...Problem though...DOJ...

LamLawIndy said...

Gary, I admire your candid reporting regardless of party label. However, I have to ask: qui bono? What would Kittle get out of the defeat of the amendment? I simply see no motive on his part. Without a motive, I think the accusations are pretty weak.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I think the better question, Carlos, is why Brian Bosma would make the accusation publicly if it's not true. He is, after all, an attorney.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Remember, it was Karl Rove who first went around the country and pushed the GOP to put the marriage discrimination amendment up to vote in various states as a way of drawing religious right voters out in elections. Now Rove and all his sycophants are trying to put the genie back in the bottle that they originally unleashed.

Anonymous said...

Kittle stepped down at GOP chairman long before 2010. Pretty sure he stepped down in 2006/2007.

Gary R. Welsh said...

You're correct, anon. 9:06. Thanks for pointing that out.