The Gannett-owned Star had few questions of how either IEDC or Develop Indy operated, but now that it is on a mission to drive Gov. Mike Pence from office, it's now got an issue with its operations. In a story in today's paper by Tony Cook, The Star questions lobbying tactics IEDC is employing to gain legislative support for Gov. Pence's regional cities initiative:
Promotional gift bags. A slick, campaign-style website. Undisclosed corporate donors.
Gov. Mike Pence has employed each of those strategies in a last-ditch effort to save one of his top legislative priorities — a new $84 million "regional cities" initiative intended to boost economic development across the state.
The campaign is being operated out of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state's semi-public job creation and business attraction arm. And it's being funded with donations to the Indiana Economic Development Foundation from undisclosed private companies.
It includes a website, indianaregionalcities.com, that criticizes the General Assembly, saying lawmakers "SIGNIFICANTLY SLASHED FUNDS FOR HOOSIER COMMUNITIES' TRANSFORMATION."
The site directs people to "TAKE ACTION!" and provides a form letter for residents to send to legislators urging them to "restore Governor Pence's proposed $84 million appropriation for the Regional Cities Initiative."
At the same time, the IEDC sent gift bags to 25 key lawmakers last week. Inside were letters of support from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and mayors of several cities. There was also a gift: a magnetic paper clip sculpture with the regional cities website written on it.
The end-of-session lobbying effort is raising eyebrows among Pence's fellow Republicans in the legislature. Some are questioning the tactics and refuting the administration's claims . . .IEDC's president, Eric Doden, defends the propriety of its actions since its a quasi-governmental entity, unlike other state agencies--just why former Gov. Mitch Daniels created. Of course, The Star could care less about anything the IEDC did when Daniels was governor. Times have changed. As I warned you, The Star is in the process of building a case against Mike Pence to force his resignation from office. Just sit back and watch as news stories will continue to appear questioning Pence's ethics and then asking out loud whether Pence has broken any laws before deciding he has committed crimes that warrant his resignation from office. It will likely involve tying campaign donations to state actions, something it could have done on any number of occasions with former Gov. Daniels and Mayor Ballard but chose not to do so. Massive public corruption scandals were overlooked in both the Daniels and Ballard administrations by The Star. Their end game is to get rid of Pence, and there's more than one way to crack that nut. You read it here first so don't be surprised when it plays out.
UPDATE: Indiana political observers will get a kick out of this. The idea of privatizing the state's economic development agency has been exported to neighboring Illinois where former Daniels' political crony and Barnes & Thornburg attorney Jason Barclay now serves as Gov. Bruce Rauner's chief legal counsel. From Crain's Chicago:
A bill to partially privatize the state's economic development agency has surfaced abruptly in Springfield, and it may be on a fast track to passage.
The proposal, contained in an amendment filed yesterday by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie to a bill sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, would give both the speaker and Gov. Bruce Rauner something they want.
Rauner would get to establish a private Illinois Business & Economic Development Corp. that would pick up many of the key functions of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, a state government agency. For instance, the corporation would have the power to negotiate tax incentive deals with companies, subject to final approval by DCEO. The idea is similar to proposals Rauner made during his race for governor.
Madigan, in turn, would get something he's pushed for: the creation of an independent, free-standing agency to run the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. That responsibility would be taken away from the state's Historic Preservation Agency, which would be dissolved and its remaining functions assumed by the DCEO, according to the proposal.