Thursday, April 07, 2016

More Evidence You Have To Pay To Play

An e-mail exchange between a Hamilton Co. Commissioner and a St. Joseph Co. Commissioner demonstrates just how much "pay to play" is a part of the process by which government business gets conducted. Both a county contract under consideration in St. Joseph County and campaign contributions were discussed in the same e-mails. The e-mails in question were brought to light by the St. Joseph Co. Democratic Chairman, who does not contend any laws were broken.. Apparently, he just wanted to shame the two Republican officials for engaging in "pay to play" politics, which is prosecuted in Illinois and other states, just not here in Indiana.

Hamilton Co. Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt is employed by Ameresco, which is bidding on an energy-saving contract under consideration by St. Joseph County. Deborah Fleming is a St. Joseph Co. Commissioner who sits on a bipartisan committee that will recommend who should receive the contract. Ameresco is competing against Honeywell, Johnson Controls and Performance Services. In e-mail exchanges between Heirbrandt and Fleming, both the contract under consideration and campaign contributions for Fleming's re-election this year were discussed. Yes, folks, that's a very bad thing, even if the Common Cause lobbyist tells the Indianapolis Star the exchange falls short of breaking the law.

The e-mails began in January when Heirbrandt discussed with Fleming a meeting he had conducted with other county officials concerning the contract. Heirbrandt mixes in the e-mail discussions of the work Ameresco planned to do for St. Joseph County with an inquiry into her re-election campaign and whether she needed help with campaign contributions. At that point, Heirbrandt had already contributed $250 in the previous year to Fleming's re-election campaign. "Thanks for the update and thinking of me," Fleming responded. "I am glad you had a good meeting with Raphael and Andy. Anything you can do to help is greatly appreciated. ;) Stay in touch."

Heirbrandt then checks back with Fleming later the same month asking her how much cash she needs to raise for her re-election campaign and how he can help raise money from other vendors. "We think I will need at least $100,000-$120,000 to run my ideal campaign," Fleming responded that same day. "This will include mailers, TV and radio ads, billboards, etc. Thanks for any help you can give!" "I have spoken to several vendors that feel they can help you," Heirbrandt replied several days later. "I will talk to you sometime on Tuesday to discuss." Fleming responded, "Thanks." "I thought I would touch base to see if any progress has been made recently?" Heirbrandt inquired in an e-mail in March in which he again asked about the status of the pending contract.

Fleming, a former St. Joseph Co. GOP Chairman and appointed member of the county commissioners seeking election to public office for the first time, told the Indianapolis Star the discussion of campaign contributions in no way is influencing her position on the contract. "This is the first time I have run a campaign for commissioner, and he offered to help," she said. "That had nothing to do with the contract." Heirbrandt, who is seeking re-election this year, dismissed the suggestion anything was untoward in the e-mails as "ridiculous and a blatant attempt to mischaracterize the truth." He emphasized just that one $250 campaign contribution last year had been made to Fleming's campaign as a fellow county commissioner.

The bigger picture of course is whether Heirbrandt was in a position to direct other vendors to contribute to Fleming's campaign by leveraging his position as a Hamilton Co. Commissioner. That is the implication to be made from his e-mail exchanges suggesting he could help her raise money from other vendors. Why would other vendors be listening to his suggestions on campaign contributions unless it was a way of currying favor with him in his capacity as a county commissioner with contract decision-making authority? It's just an exercise in futility to discuss, though, since "pay to play" has been permissible activity by both federal and state prosecutors in Indiana, even if there's a long list of public officials who've been sent to prison for doing the same thing in neighboring Illinois. The fact that two public officials would so cavalierly discuss campaign contributions and a government contract in the same e-mail demonstrates just how bad things have gotten in the Hoosier state.


Anonymous said...

Amusing that duh Star can't find anything similar in Indianapolis....

Anonymous said...

"Am I the only reader of the Star who is shocked to see that the Indianapolis Star is worried about possible pay to play? Not that anything like that ever occurs in Indianapolis where the snow is pure white, the birds fly freely and don't crap, and the prosecutors are elgible for multiple disabilty payments....". As posted to duh Star's article.....

Flogger said...

This is same reasoning that $hillary is using to justify her Speaking Fees, and the Millions being raked in by her Campaign Committee, PAC and Super PACs.

Her official campaign committee is Hillary for America.
Priorities USA Action Type: Super PAC, As a super PAC, Priorities USA Action must disclose its donors. But not all of its donors disclose their donors. It accepted a $1 million contribution from Fair Share Action, a super PAC funded by two "social welfare" nonprofits that don't comprehensively reveal who funds them.

Ready for Hillary PAC: converted itself into a "hybrid PAC." Now, Ready for Hillary PAC could make direct contributions to other political groups. And donate it did, soon scattering tens of thousands of dollars among federal- and state-level Democratic Party committees and super PACs, as well as state- and federal-level candidates' campaigns. (Indiana included)

$hillary has pulled out the same defense, when Bernie Sanders brings up her Speaking Fees, and lavish sums of money she receives from the 1%. Her response in so many words is soliciting campaign donations or receiving them has no effect her.

As Margot Kidder has said: "Corruption is corruption is corruption no matter how many laws there are allowing it. Very few brilliant business people give presidential candidates upwards of six million dollars without expecting something in return. There is a reason they are brilliant business people. Throwing away millions of dollars for nothing is not one of them."

This Indiana Pay to Play is just small creek that empties into, streams, tributaries, and finally the huge Amazon size rivers of pay to play.

Anonymous said...

Heirbandt was appointed also, not an elected commissioner.

Anonymous said...

Why so many negative remarks about Indy?

Is it a game of "I know you are but what am I"?

Are you saying both are dirty?

I would tend to agree if that is your point.

Anonymous said...


Sir Hailstone said...

Oddly enough, I received a mail drop from Heirbrandt today. I thought it odd as I've seen so few mail drops so far this year, besides the state funded mail drops from whats-her-face my State Rep and Luke Kenley.

Anonymous said...

the doc (she's a dentist on the side)
will have a tough go to win the November

If not for the former D-Penn Twshp Trustee employing his girlfriend in a ghost employee scheme, the doc wouldn't be where she is at
now. Butch Morgan's fiasco also didn't help
the Dems.