Monday, March 28, 2016

Special Prosecutor Investigating Monarch Beverage Campaign Contributions

This is a campaign finance story that has been brewing for some time, and it appears a special prosecutor is now investigating it. Monarch Beverage, which is a corporation, a number of years ago set up a limited liability company, Vision Concepts, whose primary mission seems to be to make campaign contributions to candidate and party committees its affiliated company is barred under Indiana's campaign finance law, which places a $22,000 cap on corporate contributions.

Indiana's campaign finance law establishing limits on corporate donations was written before the law allowing the creation of limited liability companies existed. Mindful of the omission, state lawmakers knowingly chose not to amend the campaign finance law's corporate donation caps to apply to limited liability companies. This has resulted in a major loophole in the law that allows businesses to skirt the contribution cap. Monarch's Vision Concepts, LLC has made $1.5 million in campaign contributions over a period of years according to the Indianapolis Star. The Indiana Beverage Alliance filed a complaint with the Indiana Elections Board last year accusing Monarch Beverage of breaking Indiana's campaign finance law.

To nobody's surprise, the Elections Board never investigated the complaint. The Indiana Beverage Alliance then took its case to the Indiana State Police and Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry. How it happened isn't clear yet, but the Indianapolis Star is now reporting that former state Inspector General David Thomas has been appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate Monarch's campaign contributions. Monarch's CEO, Phil Terry, insists Vision Concepts is a legitimate business entity and not a sham company created just for making campaign contributions. Presumably, Curry requested a special prosecutor because he's been a past recipient of campaign contributions from Vision Fleet.

This is not an isolated issue. In last year's mayoral campaign, what appeared to be a phantom business, Indy Project Venture, LLC, sprung into existence and one week later made a $50,000 campaign donation to Mayor Joe Hogsett's campaign. After media inquiries seeking to learn the identity of the campaign donor were initially turned aside by a representative of the company, Scannell Properties eventually fessed up to creating the new business to support its interest in public safety and education. The firm denied it was interested in developing a new criminal justice center after the Democratic-controlled City-County Council followed Hogsett's lead in coming out against the private consortium chosen by the Ballard administration to develop a privately-operated criminal justice center. It was a peculiar move by Hogsett because his law firm's lobbying arm was being paid by the Ballard administration to lobby the council for passage of the deal.

Nationally, public interest groups have complained for a number of years that phantom businesses are being set up to make large campaign contributions to SuperPACs, PACs and other campaign committees. This has raised questions about whether campaign finance laws prohibited foreign contributions in federal elections is being circumvented by the use of phantom firms. Congress has shown no interest in reforming campaign finance laws to address these concerns just like the Indiana General Assembly has shown no interest in amending Indiana's campaign finance law to close this big loophole. Against that backdrop, I would be very surprised if Thomas chose to seek charges in this case.


Anonymous said...

Nothing new. 23 years ago I had friends who owned a catering company. They were short "trusted" staff for a luncheon buffet that took place in the Monarch beverage warehouse and offered me the gig. I helped set up, tear down and poured liquor. There were sales reps in expensive suits, big gold watches and driving expensive cars. And a couple of politicians. All I can say is that there was liquor, cash and drugs. It was a pretty swank, white tablecloth type lunch, lots of guys shaking hands and backslapping, throwing back drinks. More than a little coke. My friends have long since retired and moved away. It was just a catering gig to us. They paid extremely well. Somebody slipped me a bottle of liquor when I left. I always thought it must be a pretty cool place to make a living.

Anonymous said...

Phil Terry could be seen at any Democrat or Republican gathering offering seemingly unstoppable wine and beer flows. Lord knows just how much booze Terry poured down many politicians and the attorneys who run them.

I attended many political events, campaigns, etc., where Terry and Monarch were the benefactors for the glitterati and the connected monied set.

Has anyone delved into the truth of how that huge land parcel on Pendleton Pike was amassed by former Lawrence Republican Mayor Paul Ricketts and sold to Monarch.... who just happened to be looking for exactly a large land mass as they now have so that they could stay in Marion County? Ricketts is just another long-time political crook who stole his people blind.

Anonymous said...

The system benefits from these phony corporations. The system demands that corporations create these phony subsidiaries and pay shakedown money to the system.

We actually expect the system to police itself and shut these payola rackets down?

Our local FBI and Justice Department is useless. Maybe if there were porn at the phony corporation, they'd find that. Porn seems to be the most important crime in Indy to the feds.

Anonymous said...

Monarch is a French company.

Sir Hailstone said...

"Porn seems to be the most important crime in Indy to the feds."

Porn and Ponzi