Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Indiana Campaign Finance Law Has A Big Hole When It Comes To Caucus Elections

Advance Indiana has recently discovered a major hole in Indiana's campaign finance laws with respect to persons elected to office via party caucus elections. An increasingly common practice in Indiana is for a sitting officeholder to vacate his or her office before the end of a term in office. Under state law, the county party chair of the resigning officeholder's political party convenes a caucus meeting of the precinct committee persons elected or appointed within that officeholder's political boundaries to elect a candidate to fill out the remainder of the resigning officeholder's term in office. Incredibly, any receipts or expenditures made to elect a person at a caucus election is not subject to reporting under Indiana's campaign finance laws.

Ordinarily, Indiana's campaign finance law requires a candidate for political office to form a campaign committee and begin reporting receipts and expenditures made in support of his or her candidacy when either $100 is raised or spent for the campaign. Under Indiana's campaign finance law, the term "elections" does not include a caucus election to fill an office vacancy according to Dale Simmons, co-counsel of the Indiana Elections Division. "Procedures to fill office vacancies are better understand as 'appointments pro tempore,'" Simmons said. Simmons went on to explain:
For purposes of argument I will assume an individual has made expenditures exceeding $100 in an effort to be appointed in a caucus to fill an office vacancy. To determine if this individual must file a statement of organization, I would look first to IC 3-9-1-5(c)(2) and conclude nothing in this subsection applies to the individual since all of these filings are related to getting on the ballot in an election set forth in IC 3-5-1-2 (a primary or genera/municipal election).
The triggering event listed in IC 3-9-1-5(c)(1) would require that the candidate receive more than $100 in contributions or make more than $100 in expenditures. While the threshold would be exceeded in our example, there is a more fundamental question as to whether the individual’s expenditures are considered expenditures in the election code. Contributions (IC 3-5-2-15) and expenditures (IC 3-5-2-23) are defined in a way to make clear that the contribution or expenditure must be for purpose of influencing the nomination or election to office of a candidate. These definition sections do not include reference to money raised or spent with respect to the procedure to make an appointment pro tempore to fill an office vacancy.
Therefore, the individual who exceeded the $100 threshold with respect to the caucus to fill an office vacancy would not, in my opinion, be required to file a statement of organization (CFA-1) by noon 10 days of reaching that threshold.
Simmons contrasted a caucus election to fill a vacancy on the ballot as opposed to a vacancy in an office. Indiana law specifies that the filing of a certificate of candidate selection to fill a ballot vacancy triggers the filing and reporting requirements under Indiana's campaign finance law.

This hole in Indiana's campaign finance law is very troubling. Increasingly, we are seeing members of our state legislature, city and county councils and other important state and local offices ascend to office not through the ballot box filled with votes cast by voters but by ballot boxes cast by a handful of elected and appointment precinct committee persons.

My interest in this issue was piqued when I noticed that Jefferson Shreve, a long-time Bloomington resident who came out of nowhere to get elected by a handful of Republican precinct committee persons in Perry Township in January 2013, had never established a campaign committee or reported any receipts or expenditures as a City-County Council candidate. Shreve won that caucus election after the incumbent City-County Council member, Jeff Cardwell, resigned to take a job with the administration of Gov. Mike Pence. Shreve upset Michael Kalscheur, a long-time Perry Township resident, financial advisor and former at-large candidate for City-County Council. Shreve had stated at that time his intention to seek election to the seat at the next election if chosen by the precinct committee persons.

Shreve, the owner of a self-storage business, had been a liberal Democrat appointed to serve on the county hospital board in Monroe County and a large campaign contributor to several prominent Democrats like Evan Bayh, John Fernandez and Linda Pence before he suddenly decided he was going to be a Marion County resident and started making large campaign contributions to various Republican organizations and candidates. This loophole in Indiana's campaign finance law essentially gives a green light to a wealthy businessman like Shreve to spend all kinds of money to influence a handful of precinct committee persons in order to win an election. Precinct committee persons in that race faced incredible pressure by Marion Co. Chairman Kyle Walker and ward chair Kay Spear to back Shreve despite his questionable Republican credentials and weak ties to that City-County Council district.

As it turned out, Shreve got thrown into a newly-drawn district with incumbent City-County Councilor Jeff Miller. Shreve, who was pretty much an empty suit on the City-County Council who never saw a tax increase or taxpayer giveaway he wouldn't support, opted against running in last year's primary against Miller, but word quickly began spreading that he might contest State Sen. Brent Waltz in this year's primary. Waltz, who has never been popular with party bosses after he toppled former State Sen. Larry Borst, the long-time powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, decided to seek the 9th District congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Todd Young, who is running for the Senate seat now held by retiring Sen. Dan Coats, instead of seeking re-election.

Shreve is now facing off against City-County Councilor Jack Sandlin, a long-time Perry Township resident, former township trustee and retired Indianapolis police officer, for the Republican nomination to succeed Waltz in the Senate. Once again, party bosses have entered the fray and started twisting arms to force Republican precinct committee persons to back Shreve during a slating caucus meeting for the Senate seat. Part of the district is in Johnson County where party leaders will have no part of a rigged slating process. Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, GOP national committeeman/Ice Miller lobbyist John Hammond, Marion County GOP Chairman/Bose McKinney lobbyist Jennifer Ping and ward chair Kay Spear are all trying to cajole precinct committee persons into backing Shreve. Sandlin is expected to seek the Republican nomination for the Senate seat even if Shreve is slated. Sandlin, unlike Shreve, has appeared on the ballot on multiple occasions and won several elections within the district. Shreve lost the only contested race he's faced when he got trounced in an election for state party convention delegate a couple of years ago.


Anonymous said...

Always interesting and informative. Are either of these birds honest?

Anonymous said...

Who is the money man behind Shreve's self-storage business? He didn't have the financial wherewithal to grow that business that quickly. That will tell you something about why all of these corrupt pols are pushing this "empty suit" as you call him on the Republican Party.