Wednesday, May 31, 2006

IG's Report Notable For What's Missing

I have had the opportunity to thoroughly review the Inspector General's Report on the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and have reached several conclusions. At the outset, let me say that what the Inspector General left out of the report is as noteworthy as what is included in the report. Having said that, I can say that the report confirms my earlier conclusions that Heather Bolejack and Michael McKenna were up to no good--perhaps even more so than I earlier believed. Criminal laws were clearly broken, and it is imperative that the wrongdoers be appropriately prosecuted for their crimes. The report lists no fewer than a half dozen crimes the IG believes may have been committed, including, official misconduct, forgery, obstruction of justice, deception, theft and bribery. As bad as that may sound, reading between the lines, there is a far greater scandal afoot than even the Inspector General is willing to share with the public.

To put Bolejack's and McKenna's actions into perspective, let's look at how this matter unfolded from the very beginning. Bolejack assumed the position as executive director of the ICJI in April, 2005 after being appointed by Gov. Daniels. According to the report, McKenna, who at the time was working as a criminal defense attorney in New Orleans, contacted Bolejack soon after she began her new job and expressed an interest in obtaining a grant from the ICJI. As the report details, by hook or crook Bolejack was much too willing to aid McKenna in getting a grant from the agency.

When news of this scandal first broke, the story we were told was that McKenna wound up in Indiana after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The fact is that McKenna began laying the groundwork for a grant well before Hurricane Katrina hit. In fact, McKenna legally established McKenna Consulting, LLC on August 2, 2005, a fact missing from the IG's report. McKenna named Bingham-McHale law partner Matt Troyer as the registered agent, with the law firm's business address at 2700 Market Tower listed as McKenna Consulting's registered office. Bingham-McHale is managed by Toby McClamroch, who also chairs the firm's Government Services Practice Group. He is a former Indianapolis city-county councilor who is very active in Republican politics. Bingham-McHale also employed Bolejack in her first job out of law school.

When McKenna filed his initial application for a grant in August, 2005, he listed Matt Troyer as a contact for the business, and he used Bingham-McHale's business address as the address for McKenna Consulting. Oddly, these details are missing from the IG's report, even though they can readily be discerned from the Secretary of State's records and from McKenna's initial application for a grant, which is attached to the report. How is it that McKenna, who at the time was still living in New Orleans, wound up hiring a major law firm to set up his business? Because Bingham-McHale also has a substantial government relations practice and is listed as a contact on the application, was McKenna steered to the firm for more than simply preparing the articles of organization for his limited liability company? If so, by whom? The report sheds no light on these questions.

The report discusses a meeting McKenna had with Indianapolis city-county councilor Isaac Randolph to discuss the SKIP program. Bolejack introduced McKenna to Randolph because he had experience managing a similar program for the Ten Point Coalition, a faith-based group for which he had previously been employed as an executive director. The report only tells us that Randolph "was clear in articulating that at no point did he or Ten Point Coalition give McKenna permission to use either the concept or the name of the program."

What the report doesn't mention is the fact that McKenna and Randolph initially planned to partner together to win the grant according to an Indianapolis Star report. In fact, Randolph told the Star he e-mailed McKenna the details of the Ten Point SKIP program (which he obviously did without the consent of his former employer), but that McKenna cut off communications with him thereafter. Randolph assumed that McKenna had dropped the plan; instead, he incorporated it as his own, proving the old adage that there is no honor among thieves. While the IG's report ignores the part of the Star's report about the plan for McKenna and Randolph to partner on the grant application, it quotes McKenna in the report from that same article as saying, "I had no knowledge of any other program. This is a legal and valid program that I worked hard on."

It is also interesting to note that Randolph is a full-time employee of the Indianapolis Fire Department. What exactly was he doing pursuing government grant money to personally benefit himself while employed full-time by the taxpayers to do another job? It is clear that the IG's report went out of its way to insulate Randolph from any political fallout for his inappropriate involvement in this matter.

The IG report also implies that the meeting between McKenna and Randolph took place a week before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. However, the report incorrectly states that Katrina hit on August 25, 2005; it actually hit 4 days later on August 29, 2005, so the date McKenna and Randolph actually met is unclear from the report. The report does say that McKenna and his family immediately relocated to Indiana (with the assistance of Bolejack) after the hurricane hit and "the effort to secure federal grant money took on a new urgency and importance" the report says.

Laying aside Randolph's untoward involvement with McKenna, what is clear from the report is that McKenna himself was not eligible to receive any grant money for two reasons. Firstly, McKenna applied for a grant available under the federal Juvenile Accountability Block Grant (JABG) program, which is administered by ICJI. Federal law provides that grants may only be awarded to the state or a unit of government. As a private entity, McKenna did not qualify to receive funds. Secondly, the deadline for submitting applications for JABG grant money was August 1, 2005, acccording to a June 21, 2005 Memorandum issued by Bolejack's chief deputy, Kate Gullans. The report makes it clear that McKenna did not submit his application until after August 1, 2005, and when he did submit it, the application was missing key information such as the "eligible unit of local government", the applicant's financial officer and the proposed project director. It isn't clear what the precise date of its receipt was because the agency did not date stamp its receipt as it should have done. It is clear that at least one other grant application from the City of Gary was turned down because it was submitted after the August 1 deadline.

The report includes an e-mail Bolejack's chief deputy Kate Gullans sent to the ICJI's Michelle Tennell in which she speaks derisively of McKenna's application. She referred to it as "not very strong" and "the parts that are in there . . . are stuff that "I" have suggested that Michael put in." Further revealing her lack of confidence in McKenna, Gullans said she would have to wind up writing the grant. "I actually had to send Michael reseach links so that he would put in statistics." She adds, "I think I am just very critical . . . especially as this grant has some 'connection' to ICJI . . . since it was intiated by our office (so to speak) with Heather calling a meeting with Michael and Isaac Randolph . . . so it is then imperative that the application and program be strong so as to not warrant any 'favoritisms'--so to speak."

The IG's report next details a trail of deceit Bolejack and McKenna engaged into to secure the eventual awarding of a $417,000 grant to McKenna to administer the Saving Kids of Incarcerated Parents (SKIP) program. Whatever is said of Bolejack and McKenna, they'll never be accused of playing smart at their game of deceit based upon the details in the report. After initially filing an application on behalf of McKenna Consulting, someone figured out that wasn't going to work since he wasn't a governmental entity. The application was later revised to show it as being submitted on behalf of the Department of Corrections; however, the report offers no details of who Bolejack, McKenna or anyone else at ICJI spoke to at Corrections about the grant, if anyone was spoken to at all.

Later, the application was prepared to show the applicant as the Marion Co. Prosecutor's office with McKenna listed as the contact person. The report makes it clear that Bolejack herself communicated on several occasions with the Marion Co. Prosecutor's office about the grant, but it doesn't tell us who she spoke to. It tells us that she became frustrated with the office in an Oct. 27, 2005 e-mail exchange in which she implied that future funding to the office by her agency might be jeopardized because of the delay in getting the grant approved. The Marion Co. Prosecutor's office replied that same day that the delay was caused by the ICJI at which point Bolejack named the ICJI as the grant recipient and awarded it as a sub-grant to McKenna the following day. Bolejack would sign the grant award letter herself, which still listed the Marion Co. Prosectuor's office as the sub-grantee but was signed by both Bolejack and McKenna as sub-grantees. Bolejack would later find herself in the untenable position of arguing that the grant had been approved by the Board of Trustees at its September 8, 2005 meeting, even though e-mail communications revealed she was trying to get it nailed down a month and a half later.

Implicit in the report is that had either the Department of Corrections or the Marion Co. Prosecutor's office been awarded the grant as had been planned at one time, McKenna would have played a large role as a sub-grantee of the grant recipient. But the report sheds no light on these discussions and who they involved. And the $417,000 SKIP grant was not the only grant from which McKenna was to benefit. The IG's report says, "Applications or contracts in progress at ICJI reveal three additional contracts or grants by which McKenna was to benefit." The report said those contracts totalled $336,000, $70,000 of which would have gone directly to McKenna. The report says, "These additional groups had not intended to utilize McKenna's services until intoduced to McKenna was Bolejack." Disappointingly, the report tells us nothing about who these contracts or grants involved. Why? Is the IG protecting other people?

The most damning part of the report entails the doctoring of board minutes to give the appearance of a grant which did not go through the 3-step approval process as having been legally authorized. A grant for the Department of Corrections for the SKIP program was included in a spreadsheet of proposed grants considered by a committee at its meeting on September 1, 2005; however, the committee deferred action on the grant. A second committee met on September 8, but it did not discuss the SKIP grant and took no further action on the deferred grant. That same day, the Board of Trustees met and it also failed to discuss the SKIP grant or take any further action on the deferred grant. By the December 5 meeting of the Board of Trustees, the minutes from the September 1 and September 8 meetings had been altered to show that a $417,000 grant award to McKenna Consulting for the SKIP program had been approved.

Another problem with the grant noted by the report was the requirement that there be a 25% state match, or approximately $100,000, for the grant. Bolejack arranged funding for the grant so that federal funds were being used for the state match portion, a clear violation of federal law.

When the state suspended the grant on May 3, 2006, McKenna had already been paid $80,000 and another $110,000 was on its way. Neither payments were proper the report concludes. After 7 months, McKenna had failed to provide services or counseling for any children. He was, however, earning his $95,000 a year salary and enjoying his leased car the grant afforded him.

At the beginning of this post, I noted that this scandal is going to be much bigger than the IG hints as there are obviously many matters the IG did not include in its report. On that the report simply says, "Other investigative findings are being submitted to the Special Prosecuting and U.S. Attorneys for review." If the reviewing prosecutors do their job, you can be assured they're going to turn up more criminal wrongdoing than what is detailed in the IG's report.

When prosecutors take a look at all grants being awarded by the agency, as they should, they need to pay close attention to any money going to sub-grantees. AI suspects this may not be an isolated event. From the board minutes it is clear that there was a common practice of grants being administered by sub-grantees. This raises serious questions about whether the federal law limiting the awarding of the grants to state and local governments is being circumvented through the use of sub-grantees, whereby the governmental agencies are acting as mere pass-through entities so that the funds can benefit private individuals and entities. It has already been pointed out that ICJI grant funds have wound up in the hands of a business which is owned in part by former Marion Co. Prosecutor Scott Newman in this fashion.

What troubles me about the IG's report is how it focused exclusively on building a criminal case against Bolejack and McKenna, while ignoring or smoothing over the actions of others who by all appearances were complicit, if not cooperative, in Bolejack's efforts to steer business McKenna's way. By the report's own account, the investigation was triggered when a whistle blower complained via the IG's website hotline report on February 3, 2006, so it was presumbably anonymous. Wasn't the person(s) Bolejack dealt with in the Marion Co. Prosecutor's office four months earlier not suspicious of what was transpiring with the grant, or the person(s) she dealt with prior to that at the Department of Corrections? And didn't someone other than Bolejack make a decision to authorize the state warrants to McKenna first for $80,000 and later $110,000 without appropriate documentation to support the payment? Hopefully, prosecutors will find answers to the questions the IG hasn't answered of which there are plenty. And hopefully the mainstream media will dig deeper than the cursory review they've given the IG's report since its release late last week.

Gov. Daniels Takes Ownership Of FSSA Privatization Deal

Niki Kelly of the Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette reports today that Gov. Daniels has decided he's going to have the final say in the awarding of a contract to privatize much of FSSA's welfare-related services in a deal worth an estimated $1 billion. Kelly writes:

Gov. Mitch Daniels has inserted himself into the attempt to privatize the Family and Social Services Administration’s eligibility operation.

In a response letter released Tuesday to AFSCME Council 62 – a state employees union – Daniels said the decision is an important one for the state, and “it will be made by me and me alone.”

FSSA this year sought bids from outside companies that want to collect information from applicants and determine eligibility for Medicaid, food stamps, child-care vouchers, welfare and several other assistance programs.

The contract is estimated to be worth $1 billion over 10 years.

About 2,600 state employees perform those duties at county offices around the state.

As AI was the first to report, FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob formerly worked for ACS, one of the two finalists for the contract, immediately prior to joining the administration. Roob has reportedly removed himself from the decision-making process, although that was not made known until the agency's spokesman Dennis Rosebrough was asked about it. Roob did, however, participate in the "philosophical and policy discussion behind seeking bids from the private sector" Kelly reports.

Kelly also reports that the Governor has appointed an interagency team to review the two bids and decide whether to move forward. The team is made up entirely of Daniels political appointees, none of whom know anything about the services FSSA is planning to privatize under the deal. They are: deputy chief of staff Earl Goode; Department of Administration Commissioner Carrie Henderson; Nate Feltman, chief of staff and general counsel for the Indiana Economic Development Corp.; Karl Browning in the Office of Technology; State Budget Director Chuck Schalliol; and Debra Minot, director of the State Personnel Department.

Kelly said the decision came in response to a letter the Governor received from AFSCME Executive Director David Warrick. His concern was that the privatization would result in the loss of persons who "understand the [welfare] system" and "can help those most in need navigate the process." Warrick has also asked the agency to provide a cost-benefit analysis, which only seems appropriate, but Daniels refused to provide one Kelly reports. "There is no evidence anywhere to think that using a private company will solve the error rates and waste," Warrick told Kelly. "If there is, I wish the governor would show us and Hoosier taxpayers who will be footing the bill for this risky privatization scheme,” he said.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bush To Renew Gay Bashing Efforts

Faced with a 29% national approval rating, President Bush will invoke bigotry against gays as a means of gaining traction for his failing presidency. According to The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes, Bush will hold a Rose Garden press conference on June 5 as the Senate begins debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) to reiterate his support for the anti-gay bigoted amendment. The Human Rights Campaign reacted angrily to Bush's decision today:

“It’s a national disgrace that President Bush has yet again bowed to the far-right extremists. Instead of addressing the real challenges facing American families — from record-high gas prices, bankrupting health care costs and an endless and costly war in Iraq — the president will further divide this country and put the far-right extremists’ interests ahead of the American people’s well-being,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese . . .

Solmonese continued, “Rose Garden addresses have historically been reserved for occasions of unity and justice. Unfortunately, President Bush will break with history and use the Rose Garden as a backdrop to promote discrimination against a group of Americans. The president should stop playing politics with our Constitution and use his speech as an opportunity to lay out an agenda to fix what’s really wrong in

Bush's decision to speak out on an amendment that is already doomed to failure in the Senate just to please right-wing extremists demonstrates just how weak of a president he has become. Even First Lady Laura Bush recently expressed her personal disapproval with the FMA. Bush is no doubt following the advice of his gay-baiting political guru, Karl Rove, who is about the only Republican operative in Washington who doesn't think this year's elections are going to be disastrous for the Republican Party. He's living in a fantasy world if he thinks voters are going to let a phony issue like gay marriage get in the way of expressing their disapproval with the state of affairs in Washington.

Celebrate With Pride

Indy Pride plans to Celebrate With Pride at its annual pride festival for Indianapolis' GLBT community June 10, 2006 at University Park in downtown Indianapolis.

The festivities will kick off with the annual parade down Massachusetts Avenue starting at 10:00 a.m. at the corner of College Avenue and winding its way down to University Park at Pennsylvania Street. The Pride Festival in University Park will officially open to the public at 11:00 a.m. Entertainment is scheduled throughout the day and into the early evening. The event will climax with a show by singer/entertainer RuPaul.

If you've been down Massachusetts Avenue lately, you will find that businesses lining the street have displayed posters in their store-front windows promoting this year's pride festival. Please take the time to thank them for their support. One notable exception is Aesop's Table, which is owned by Indiana Equality President Kathy Sarris. It's her policy not to display any posters in her establishment promoting any events she tells a Pride volunteer, and she will make no exception for Indy Pride. By the way, Agio restaurant down the street from Aesop's Table is a big Pride supporter--something you may want to keep in mind when you are choosing where to dine.

This year's festival boasts several notable sponsors, including Anheuser-Busch, Smirnoff, Sam's Club, Chase, and AT&T, among others. Over 100 exhibitors will fill the park during the festival. Advance Indiana's Gary R. Welsh will have a booth at the festival. Please stop by and visit during the day. AI has a petition you'll all want to sign.

3-Man Race for Senate President Pro Tem?

Matt Tully chats it up with Sen. Tom Weatherwax (R-Logansport) who tells him that it's going to be a 3-man race for Senate President Pro Tem between him, Sen. David Long (R-Ft. Wayne) and Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford). Weatherwax sees himself as the "consensus" candidate, and he takes a swipe at Long and Steele for jumping into the race too soon. Tully writes at his blog, "While many consider Long the front-runner for the job, Weatherwax said he was 'disappointed' that Long and Steele began campaigning soon after Garton's defeat."

Weatherwax seems to have a 2-pronged strategy according to Tully. Promise younger senators more authority and promise conservatives he won't block any anti-abortion legislation. He is also promising to end the life-time health insurance perk for senators. Weatherwax is a nice guy, but AI doubts he's the man Senate Republicans will turn to as an alternative to Steele or Long.

Competition For Local Cable TV Providers

Finally, local cable TV providers, Bright House Communications and Comcast, will see some real competition. The Star is reporting that AT&T will announce a roll-out of an Internet-based TV service at the Indiana State Museum's IMAX Theater tomorrow, where it will demonstrate its IPTV service. The service will be launched in the fall under the brand name AT&T U-Verse.

The competition is made possible by the Indiana General Assembly's decision this year to deregulate the telecommunications industry in an effort to promote competition and innovation. Hopefully, AT&T's entry into the market will force down the outrageously high prices being charged to local customers by Comcast and Bright House and will lead to better service.

Star Examines Double Standard In Adoption Debate

The Morgan Co. lesbian couple whose adoption of an infant girl for whom they served as foster parents triggered a major legal battle finds incongruity in the state's position that they are good enough to be foster parents but not good enough to be adoptive parents. The Star's Tim Evans looks at the hypocrisy of the policy:

Gay-rights advocates see a troubling double standard: If they are OK to take care of children from families torn apart by drugs, crime, abuse or other tragic circumstances, why aren't gays seen as fit to adopt?

"We're good enough to fix the broken children they send to us," Brennan said, "but we're not good enough to be their parents? Look at that from a child's aspect: If gays and lesbians aren't good enough to adopt them, but they can be foster parents, what does that say about how the state feels about our foster children?"

Sen. Jeff Drozda (R-Westfield), who is pushing for a state law to prohibit same-sex couple adoptions after the Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that unmarried couples, regardless of sexual orientation, may adopt children, doesn't see any hypocrisy. "Whenever you're doing a foster situation, the child is still a ward of the state," he said. "And that is obviously a little bit different than turning over full adoption, full parental authority to (a gay) individual or couples." But the anti-gay Drozda would be willing to consider banning foster parenting by gays as well. "I would like to get their perspective to see if foster parenting should be included in the proposed (adoption) legislation,'' he told Evans.

The hypocrisy doesn't seem to be confined to Indiana according to the report. Evans writes, "While efforts are under way or planned in more than a dozen states to ban gays from adopting, only a handful of states have tried to block gays as foster parents."

A shortage of people willing to serve as foster parents is clearly the reason the state is willing to allow gay couples to be foster parents. According to Evans' report, Indiana has 4,638 licensed foster homes, while it has at least 5,000 children placed in foster homes at any given time. At least 11,000 children are placed in foster homes at some point during any given year.

Kim Brennan and Becki Hamilton, the lesbian couple at the center of the firestorm, got involved as foster parents because of the state's dire need for foster parents. "We didn't intend to get into the middle of some big thing," said Brennan. "We got into this because the state was in dire need of foster parents." Not surprisingly, Evans reports that the state hasn't needed their services since they chose to fight state efforts to block them from adopting the infant girl the Department of Children Services placed in their home.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Advance America Thumbs Nose At Non-Profit Law Governing Voter Guides

Speaking of Christian hate groups, Eric Miller's Advance America, which is a political action committee masquerading as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, recently released its biennial voter guide in time for this year's election to help sway voters to support state legislative candidates who support issues the group deems important to our state. The voter guide focuses on just 5 votes in the Indiana Senate and 7 votes in the Indiana House. You won't be surprised to learn that the voter guide generally portrays Republicans as being more "pro family, pro business and pro-church" than their Democratic counterparts. Republican members' records are depicted mostly with check marks next to their names like a grade school report card, while the Democratic members' records appear as incomplete as if they didn't complete all their school work.

While many legislative proposals of interest to Advance America pass through both the Senate and the House, the organization chooses, to an extent, different issues in the two chambers for obviously tactical political purposes. For example, you won't be surprised to learn that SJR-7, a constitutional amendment which would write discrimination into Indiana's Constitution against same-sex couples, was listed as a key vote in both the House and the Senate. SJR-7 passed the Senate by a whopping 42-8 vote, and it passed the House handily by a vote of 76-23. And the only votes against SJR-7 in the Senate and the House, of course, came from Democrats.

A new law requiring "informed consent" for women seeking abortions is a key vote according to the group. The bill requires physicians to inform their patients that ultra-sounds are available, and that she can hear the heatbeat of the fetus if she chooses to listen to the ultra-sound. For some reason, AI doubts that ranks high on the priority list of a woman or girl who becomes pregnant as a result of incest or rape, and has no other choice than to seek an abortion. SB 76 flew through the Senate on a vote of 40-8, while it passed the House by a 75-23 vote. The no votes, with the exception of one lone Republican in the House (Rep. John Ulmer), came from Democrats.

The Eric Miller Patriot Act also figured important in this year's voter guide. Under this critical new law, every public classroom must display the American Flag, and children in our public schools are required to recite the pledge of allegiance each day and observe a daily moment of silence where they can pray if they choose. SB 332 made it through the Senate on a vote of 46-3, and the House approved it on a vote of 86-6. If you guessed that those handful of no votes against SB 332 came from Democrats, you would have guessed right.

Now here's where Miller gets a little too clever for his own good. While he managed to muster a few Democrat votes against his standard fare which he could clobber them with in this year's election, many Democrats didn't fall for the bait and managed a record good enough to make a conservative Republican proud. The last thing the partisan Miller wants to do is hand his members a voter guide that makes some Democrats look as good as their Republican counterparts so he mixes it up a little.

The perfect bill in the House to use for this purpose was a vote on the 2005 budget bill, which was adopted strictly on party lines by a vote of 52-48. This is how Miller explains the budget bill to his members:

Previous budgets in Indiana have not been balanced and they spent more than what the state took in. This budget . . . was the first balanced budget in the past several years. It contains no tax increases and the budget would have eliminated the structural deficit in 2007.

There you have it. Anyone who voted against HB 1001 in 2005 was implicitly against a balanced budget and for tax increases. And guess what? They were all Democrats. And guess who controlled the House all those years when the budget wasn't balanced? That would be the Democrats.

And then there's that dreaded gambling coming back to bite us. A Senate amendment to that same budget bill, HB 1001, would have expanded gambling in Indiana. The amendment would have permitted Indiana's two horse race tracks to have pull-tab terminals, something akin to slot machines, and in the words of Miller, "would have expanded gambling in the state of Indiana dramatically." The Senate stopped the amendment by a vote of 16-33, but not before grabbing up 15 yes votes from Senate Democrats. Only one Republican, Sen. Bob Jackman, voted on the losing side with the Democrats.

Back in the House, Miller dirtied up the Democrats' voting records even more with a vote on education choice. SB 281 is part of Miller's agenda to have taxpayers subsidize parents who send their children to religious schools. Miller describes it as an "effort to empower parents to choose the education setting for their children." It would have provided a $1,000 education tax credit for each child, up to $2,000 per family, if a parent chose to send their children to a private school instead of a public school. SB 281 failed in the House by a vote of 45-54. The prevailing no votes were made up largely of the Democratic caucus and a handful of Republicans, but at least one of them, Rep. Mary Kay Budak, was vanquished in the primary by a more conservative challenger.

And then there was that now infamous bill to regulate abortion clinics in Indiana out of business. According to a misleading characterization of SB 281, Miller claims there are "no regulations for existing abortion clinics with regards to the building where the abortions take place." SB 281 would have simply regulated these buildings. In fact, the regulations SB 281 were so burdensome it would have led to the closure of most, if not all, of Indiana's existing abortion clinics. Planned parenthood advocates argued that was the true purpose behind the bill. The bill passed the House by a vote of 60-38. Once again, virtually all of the no votes came from Democrats, with the notable exception of Rep. John Ulmer.

Miller also included a vote on a bill which required an audit of the state lottery. It passed on a vote of 79-19. We're not sure whether this qualified as a pro church, pro business or pro family vote. Who even cares?

So why does this matter? Internal Revenue Codes permit 501(c)(3) organizations like Advance America to distribute voter guides only if they do "not indicate a preference towards any candidate." The guides must be "unbiased in form, content and distribution." IRS rules specifically provide that a voter guide may show bias by "comparing the organization's position on issues with those of the candidates" or by "only covering issues that are important to the organization, as opposed to a range of issues of interest to the general public." Advance America's voter guides are suspect on these bases to say the least.

Also, the manner in which Advance America poses the issues in the selected votes is done so in a very bias manner against IRS rules. When a candidate's position is based on a yes/no vote, the organization is required to give a reasonable opportunity to the candidate to explain their vote. If given the opportunity, AI suspects each of the House's Democratic members would have liked an opportunity to explain their vote against the 2005 budget bill. Instead of wasting party resources fighting Indiana's voter ID law, state Democrats should be challenging the legality of Advance America's misleading voter guides. According to the organization's website, 850,000 of these biased and partisan voting guides will be distributed to Indiana voters this year in clear violation of the rules and regulations governing not-for-profit organizations.

Faith In America Determined To End Religion-Based Bigotry

When you read through your Sunday Indianapolis Star, you may have noticed a different kind of ad. What you saw was a photo collage in the shape of a cross depicting gay families. The text read:




The ad is part of a national campaign by an organization called "Faith In America" to "emancipate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from bigotry disguised as religious truth." Locally, Jesus Metropolitan Community Church (JMCC) is actively participating in the national campaign. If you take a look at Faith In America's mission, it is very similar to what we've been saying about the deleterious impact Christian hate groups operating in Indiana have had on social and political discourse on matters partaining to gay civil rights. Describing the problem and how to eradicate it, Faith In America's stated mission includes the following passage:

This expression of religion-based bigotry against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people has historical precedents, including violence, intolerance, and inequity toward women, people of color, and people with religious traditions different from those of the majority, such as Jews, Roman Catholics, Mormons and others. These precedents are recognized today by the mainstream of America to have been misguided, wrong and evil. To end the persecution of gay people engendered by religion-based bigotry, its common link with these historical precedents must be acknowledged. Faith In America, Inc. is confident that, just as Americans have rejected the distorted religious teachings that sanctioned these injustices, Americans will reject the religion-based bigotry against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people when it is exposed.

As AI has similarly argued, linkage of these groups treatment of gays and lesbians to their treatment of other groups in the past, such as women, blacks, Jews and Catholics, is necessary to give the American people perspective on the way religious teaching is distorted to sanction unfair treatment of people. An important aspect of this education campaign is to provide a more accurate account of Jesus' teachings when it comes to the treatment of people who are different than we are. You may even be surprised to learn what Jesus taught about gay people. The efforts of Faith In America and JMCC come at a critical juncture in the gay civil rights struggle.

As part of this education effort, JMCC plans to hold a Town Hall meeting on June 15, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. at the church located at 2950 E. 55th Place in Indianapolis. Rev. Jeff Miner and Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson will share their insights on why everything you've always been told the Bible has to say about homosexuality is actually something quite different. If you would like to learn more about JMCC's efforts, click here. If you would like to learn more about the Faith In America campaign, click here.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Dickerson Needs To Clean Up Campaign Finance Reports

Federal Election Commission records which are available online hint that 7th District Republican congressional candidate Eric Dickerson is struggling to comply with the cumbersome, yet legally required reporting requirements. If he wants to be taken seriously as a congressional candidate, he needs to clean up his act quickly.

According to FEC records, Dickerson did not actually file a statement concerning the formation of his congressional campaign committee until March 17, 2006, nearly two months after he filed as a candidate for the office. Dickerson's campaign treasurer, Barb Coffey, received a Failure to Report Notice from the FEC dated April 21, 2006, concerning the committee's pre-primary report. Prior to that date, the committee had made just one filing and a 48-hour notice report of a $5,000 campaign contribution his campaign received from a PAC affiliated with the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Dickerson filed his pre-primary report on April 28, 2006, or a week after receiving the failure to report notice. In that report, Dickerson disclosed just $10,891.00 in receipts and a mere $40.50 in disbursements. The campaign listed debts of $3,000. By this point, Dickerson had commenced an extensive media buy for Indiana's May 2 primary, he had launched a first-rate website and he was touring the district in a luxurious RV. His official report belies the extent of his campaign expenditures.

AI can sympathize with a newcomer to politics struggling to comply with the burdensome and complex FEC reporting requirements. Several years ago my brother agreed to serve as campaign treasurer for a political novice running for Congress in Illinois. I told my brother, who had trouble balancing his own checkbook, that he was not up to the job and to find someone else better suited to do the job. He assured me that there wouldn't be much to it, and that he wasn't concerned. Not too much later he began calling me and asking all kinds of questions and lamenting that the reporting requirements were too complicated, and that he had inadvertently missed a filing deadline. Fortunately, his candidate lost in the primary and his troubles soon enough went away.

The FEC will not hesitate to crack down on the Dickerson campaign committee if it fails to comply with its reporting requirements. At a minimum, the campaign could be hit with fines which can amount to thousands of dollars. Dickerson has obviously made a serious commitment to running for the 7th Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Julia Carson (D). He should similarly make a serious commitment to finding someone who is experienced and capable of ensuring that his campaign complies with FEC regulations.

Race Weekend Begins

While it is technically Memorial Day weekend, for Hoosiers it is race weekend with the running of the Indianapolis 500. The racing weekend activities kicked off yesterday with Carb Day at the track. The B-52s and Third Eye Blind performed at an infield concert as part of the Carb Day events, and the size of the crowd was impressive. Moving Carb Day from its traditional day on the Thursday before the race to the Friday before the race appears to have paid off.

A fun part of the weekend for locals is spying out-of-town celebrities in town for the race weekend. Some celebrities prefer the night life Indy's gay community has to offer. And the B-52s Fred Schneider, shown above in a photo from today's Star, is no exception. He was spotted alone last night at Greg's Our Place, Indy's hottest and oldest gay club.

The 500 Festival Parade is scheduled to kick off in a couple of hours. It will feature several celebrities, including bicycling champ Lance Armstrong, Lost's Jorge Garcia, actor Luke Perry, singer Richard Marx and Harry Wayne Casey of KC and the Sunshine Band. Of course, the old stand-bys Florence Henderson and Jim Nabors will be there as well.

Friday, May 26, 2006

More Bad News For Bolejack

The Inspector General publicly released its report on the investigation of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute on the Friday leading into the extended Memorial Day weekend which began for many today. The 49-page report makes it almost certain that a criminal investigation will be lauched against ousted executive director Heather Bolejack and the family friend, Michael McKenna, who was the beneficiary of a $417,000 grant. Inspector General David Thomas has forwarded the results of the report to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Indianapolis and the Marion Co. Prosecutor's office. This investigation will most likely be led by the U.S. Attorney's Office because federal funds are involved and the Marion Co. Prosecutor has a conflict because it receives grants from the agency.

Based upon a late afternoon AP report, the IG's report breaks new ground in the investigation. Among other things, we learn that Bolejack attempted to steer two other grants to McKenna before he finally succeeded in obtaining the third $417,000 grant for the S.K.I.P. program. The report says the ICJI staff refused to process 2 of the grants for McKenna. The investigation found that there was "an effort to bypass state review and approval procedures" to direct the grant money to McKenna.

Raising further the specter of criminal wrongdoing, the report concluded that "[t]he primary purpose of the SKIP grant award was to benefit McKenna and not provide mentoring services to juvenile as required by federal law." McKenna had not mentored one single child of an incarcerated parent with the $80,000 he had received during the first 7 months after the awarding of the grant according to the report. McKenna "admitted that this grant was his only source of funding, that he intended to pay himself a $95,000 salary from the grant" and, according to the AP, had spent the money mainly on salaries, vehicle leasing, office space, computers and out-of-state travel.

Particularly problemmatic for Bolejack is the finding that none of the 3 reviewing boards scrutinized the grant before it was awarded. The AP reports that the minutes of two of those boards, however, "were fraudulently and perhaps criminally later altered and falsified to make it appear as if both groups had fully reviewed and approved of this arrangement," when they had not.

And it gets even worse. The report also found that Bolejack had other staff members put her personal travel expenses on their personal credit cards when she was travelling in an apparent attempt to hide the extent of her own personal travel while working for the agency.

AI suspects that reporters who have been closely monitoring this story will be not be happy with the Daniels administration for dropping the report at the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend, one of the biggest holiday weekends of the year in Indiana because of the running of the annual Indianapolis 500 race.

GOP's Vane Strikes Out In First Attempt At Flacking

The Star's Matt Tully puts the Indiana GOP new communications director to the test over at his blog this morning. As Tully describes him, "Robert Vane is the Indiana Republican Party's new communications director. Vane, a witty 38-year-old who spent more than three years working in the Marion County elections division, started his new job Monday."

First, Tully asks him what's so bad about the Democrats. Vane did okay with this answer: "You know, my mom's a Democrat so I have to be careful. I don't think there's anything wrong with them personally. But they have showed no leadership. They have no ideas and the principle aim of the party seems to be to bash the governor and his ideas, and to obstruct the governor's agenda."

But Vane strikes out big with Tully's question about "What's good about Republicans?". Vane responded: "We're a tolerant, innovate, bold party. We care about our fellow Hoosiers. We want to raise them up and create more economic opportunity for everyone." Indiana's GLBT community might have some problem with his description of the Indiana GOP as "tolerant" and "car[ing] about our fellow Hoosiers." The push for SJR-7 to write discrimination into the state constitution against gays and lesbian, the opposition of the party (with few exceptions) to Indianapolis' HRO, a far-reaching regulatory bill aimed at stripping gays and lesbians from assisted reproduction alternatives, and the push to ban gay parent adoptions speaks of quite a different party than Vane describes.

The first rule in flacking is to communicate your message in such a way that it has some semblance of believability. My first response to Robert's response to this question was to burst out laughing. You've got to be kidding. There are many positive things he could say about the Republican Party, but right now "tolerant" should not be a part of Robert's vocabulary for communicating the Republican's message until the party decides to take a decidedly different direction than it is currently taking on the question of gay civil rights.

Tully's take on Vane's performance is quite different than AI's. Tully say, "We'll give Vane a good review for his first interview as the party's spokesman. And in case anyone is worried about fairness, don't. I'll give the Democratic Party's spokeswoman a chance to respond in the coming days." And respond she will. Robert, you're no Jen Wagner.

Lugar And Bayh Get It Right On Immigration Reform

As an immigration attorney, I am very proud today of Indiana's two senators, Richard Lugar (R) and Evan Bayh (D) for rising above the fear-mongering of anti-immigrant extremists and voting for the passage of landmark immigration reform legislation yesterday. The bill pushed by Senators John McCain (R) and Edward Kennedy (D) surprisingly passed handily by a margin of 62-36. Even more surprising is the fact that 23 Republican senators rebuffed the prevailing conservative sentiment within the party and voted for the bill.

It is estimated that there are as many as 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. The Pew Hispanic Center puts the number of Indiana's illegal immigrants at 65,000. Many of these immigrants have been living and working in the U.S. for many years. Many have U.S. born children, and still many others are married to U.S. citizens. The extremists in Congress want to take punitive action against these persons, including charging them with crimes and forcefully rounding them up and deporting them from the country. That solution is neither practical nor humane.

Senators Lugar and Bayh have joined the voices of reason on the debate in supporting a legal path to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants who have been present in the U.S. for a minimum period of time and a guest worker visa program for later arrivals who are willing to accept jobs "for which there are few takers" as Sen. Bayh explains. The legislation also includes dramatically stepped up border security and enforcement. That's also a good thing and part of the "comprehensive" approach Sen. Lugar says he supports.

The Senate must now reconcile its differences with the House, and the two sides are far apart right now, although the size of recent immigration demonstrations across the country may have some House members reconsidering the draconian view they expressed in last year's House-passed version.

Rep. Mike Pence (R) has offered a compromise, which is completely unworkable. It calls for a guest worker program, but it would force the 12 million illegal immigrants to leave the country before re-applying for re-entry under the guest worker program. He would use private contractors to run the guest worker program. If he thinks people would run the risk of leaving the country voluntarily, leaving behind their families and current jobs in the hopes of getting a guest worker visa, he better think again. And if he cares about national security, the last thing he would support is turning over any part of our legal immigration system to a private company. Our nation's universities largely administer our student visa program, which has been frought with problems and which provided safe entry for several of the 9/11 terrorists. Private contractors will be driven by profits and not national security concerns in fulfilling their responsibilities.

The rest of Indiana's congressional delegation should get behind Lugar and Bayh. Rep. Julia Carson (D) and Rep. Mark Souder (R) were the only two members of Indiana's House delegation to vote against the draconian House-passed version. It's time for the rest of the delegation to rethink its views.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

No Off-Campus Recruiting For IU's Sampson For 1 Year

The NCAA today announced sanctions against IU's new men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson for past recruiting violations at the Univerity of Oklahoma which will carry over to IU. He will not be permitted to recruit off-campus or make any recruiting phone calls for a period of one year according to a Star report. The Star's Mark Alesia writes of the unflattering things the NCAA has to say about our new coach:

The sanctions, announced today by the NCAA Committee on Infractions, were in response to more than 550 impermissible phone calls made to recruits by Sampson and his staff from 2000 to 2004.

Sampson and the school admitted the violations. IU was aware of the situation when it hired Sampson in March.A news release from the NCAA said Sampson "fostered an environment of deliberate noncompliance" in his program. It said Sampson personally made 233 of the 577 impermissible calls.

The committee's report said it was "troubled" that the violations were happening while Sampson was president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and led a high-profile ethics summit."

At a time when the NABC identified impermissible phone contact as a serious issue and the organization was calling on its membership to be accountable, (Sampson) and his staff were engaged in a pattern of willful and significant recruiting violations," the Infractions Committee report said.

Sampson's contract with IU supposedly allows the university to penalize him in pay for any sanctions handed down by the NCAA. Let's hope they exercise this contractual term to the fullest extent permitted. It always bothered me that IU chose a known cheat for this coveted and highly paid basketball coaching position. As many problems as former basketball coach Bobby Knight had, at least he played by the rules and had an excellent graduation rate average for students who played on his teams at IU, neither of which can be said of Sampson.

Denny Hastert Is Not A Crook

ABC News led off its evening news broadcast yesterday with a report that House Speaker Dennis Hastert is under investigation by federal authorities in connection with the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal. The Department of Justice quickly put out a statement denying the Speaker was under investigation, and Hastert demanded a retraction and apology from ABC News. ABC is sticking by its original story, but I feel confident in stating my belief that Denny Hastert is not a crook--at least the Denny Hastert I worked with 20 years ago as a legislative staffer in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Before Hastert was elected to Congress, he served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives while I worked on the staff of the House Republican Staff. My contacts with him were primarily as a member of the House Revenue Committee, which I staffed. Hastert later became our party's spokesman on the Appropriations Committee, which brought his office just down the hall from mine in a suite of offices shared with staff members on the second floor of the State House.

Hastert was quite the work horse. He wasted no time in becoming noticed in the Illinois legislature. The former wresting coach had his hands in everything he could get a hold of, a move which sometimes earned him the ire of my boss the House Republican Leader because of his willingness to cross the aisle and work with Democrats to get legislation he wanted through the legislature, and which sometimes conflicted with our own leader's agenda. Hastert did not over-indulge in the lavish social entertainment Springfield's lobbyists offered members and their staff as many of his colleagues did. Instead, you would often find him working late hours in his office.

Hastert could at times be a very difficult person with whom to work. He once dressed me down for incorrectly analyzing some forgettable township assessors bill he was sponsoring in front of all the Republican members of the House Revenue Committee because of some bad information which was furnished to him by a lobbyist. When corrected on the lobbyist's mistake, he never offered an apology to me, although the lobbyist did. He could also be vindictive at times. I distinctly remember him asking his fellow Republican members on the Revenue Committee to help him in killing a bill sponsored by then-Rep. Dick Klemm because Klemm as Hastert put it "had done a number on his bill" in another committee on which Klemm served.

Whatever I can say of Hastert from that short period of time I worked with him, I cannot say that he was a crook. There was nothing about his style, approach or character which could ever lead me to conclude he is capable of being bribed. I frankly admired his courage in challenging leadership when he questioned their judgment, even at the expense of killing any opportunity he had of moving into leadership. I always suspected that's why he was so anxious to get elected to Congress--he knew he could never move into leadership as long as my boss was in charge.

There's no doubt that Hastert has changed a lot from those days in Springfield. His own rise to the Speakership at the hands of the ethically-challenged former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay no doubt led him to compromise some of his long-held beliefs. One also can make no excuses for Hastert making a terrible decision to write a letter to the Interior Department on behalf of one of Jack Abramoff's Indian gaming clients and accepting generous contributions from Abramoff. The letter, in particular, is a mistake he should have never made, and for which he is now paying a big price. But I just cannot believe Hastert would have broken the law to help Abramoff. Washington would have had to really change the man I worked with in Springfield for that to have happened.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rankings Of Indiana's Congressional Delegation Offer Some Surprises

The Indiana Legislative Insight this week takes a look at how Indiana's congressional delegation faired under a ranking system of power in Congress. It offers some surprising results. Explaining how the rankings are done, ILI's Ed Feigenbaum writes:

Knowlegis, which describes itself as a Virginia based “knowledge management company that provides services and software for government relations professionals” produces an interesting analysis and ranking system of power in
Congress, measuring various characteristics of power, including tenure, committee assignments, and leadership positions; influence through the media, campaign giving, and caucuses; and substantive legislative activity.

Under the Knowlegis system, Indiana's congressional delegation ranks 23rd out of 50. Not surprisingly, Indiana's senior senator, Richard Lugar (R), ranked high at 14th out of the Senate's 100 members. Shockingly, Sen. Evan Bayh (D) was ranked near the bottom of the Senate at 89th. Feigenbaum explained Bayh's low ranking:

Why did U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh (D), a presidential contender, rank so low? “Senator Bayh doesn’t have strong committee assignments and didn’t have a superstrong legislative record in 2005,” Knowlegis CEO Brad Fitch tells The Hill.

Indiana Democrats are also not going to be pleased at the ranking meted out to Rep. Julia Carson (D). She ranked the lowest of Indiana's House members, coming in at 361st out of 435 members. Surprisingly, Rep. Pete Visclosky (D) received the highest ranking of any Indiana House member, earning a ranking of 28th. Rep. Mike Pence came in a distant second, coming in with a 66th-placed ranking. Rep. Mike Sodrel earned the lowest ranking of Indiana's GOP delegation, finishing in 270th place. Other Indiana House members fell in the middle of the pack in the following order: Rep. John Hostettler (113th); Rep. Chris Chocola (130th), Rep. Dan Burton (150th), Rep. Steve Buyer (155th) and Rep. Mark Souder (161st).

No Prom For Dress-Wearing Male Student In Hobart

He's worn women's clothing to school throughout the school year, but when 18-year Kevin Logan showed up at Gary, Indiana's West Side High School's prom at Avalon Manor in Hobart wearing a pink, slinky fuschia gown and heels, school officials turned him away, even though they allowed at least one female student to wear a tux to the prom.

I have no formal pictures, no memories, nothing. You only have one prom," he told the AP. Logan, who is gay, received an $85 refund for his prom ticket Tuesday but was not satisfied. The AP says he is considering filing a complaint with the Indiana Civil Liberties Union.

"Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana legal director, said Logan's First Amendment rights were violated. In 1999, Falk helped an Indianapolis male teen win a court battle to wear a dress to prom."

"All students have First Amendment rights of freedom of expression. Those rights can be overcome for the legitimate needs of the school. For example, you can't protest. That runs the risk of disrupting instruction," Falk said. "But the court found at a prom, those risks are lessened. It's not a scholastic activity."

The article says Kevin is gay, but I think it would be more appropriate to characterize him as being transgender. But he apparently says he's gay. It's just that most gay men don't have an urge to dress up as a woman--at least every day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

South Bend Delays Vote On Human Rights Ordinance

A vote which had originally been scheduled for June 26 on South Bend's proposed human rights ordinance has been postponed. According to the South Bend Tribune's Jamie Loo, the delay was necessary to accommodate council members' vacation schedules. Council members want to schedule a vote when all 9 members of the city's common council will be present. A vote is now expected during the first week of July.

Speaking of Blogging

I was invited to participate in a panel discussion before the Public Relations Society of America, Hoosier Chapter, along with several other area bloggers including A Commonplace Book's Steph Mineart, Taking Down Words' Jen Wagner and journalists Rishawn Biddle and Matt Tully from the Indianapolis Star. I refer to the latter two as journalists because, like Steph Mineart, I do not categorize them as true bloggers. I originally did not intend to post on this topic today, but I got the courage after Steph Mineart was brave enough to share her thoughts on the session.

By way of introduction, Steph Mineart really is the mother of Indiana bloggers. A web designer by profession, Steph has been blogging since 1994, which is about the first time I ever surfed the Internet. She founded the IndyScribe, which eventually became a group blog and later founded A Commonplace Blog. If anyone has a right to an opinion on bloggers, it is certainly Steph.

Sounding off on Tully and Rishawn, Steph writes: "The Indy Star 'bloggers' (I'm sorry, you can't "blog" inside a newpaper, no matter what bandwagon you're trying to get on) dominated a lot of the discussion and seemed a bit self-important about their status as 'real' writers. That's nice. I have a journalism degree, too, kids. I thought it was interesting that Matt Tully only has to write three articles a week. I should have stuck with that journalism thing, because that's pretty slackerish to me. I have to write a lot more than that at my job, and I'm a designer for pete's sake . . . When it comes to RiShawn Biddle, I think the 'doesn't know anything about blogs' is pretty fair of me."

While I agree with Steph that Tully and Rishawn aren't true bloggers, let me preface my comments with the fact that I am very pleased that they are doing their "blogging" thing. It does provide an opportunity for the Star's readers to interact directly with the Star writers and editors in a way that hasn't existed in the past. I'll leave Steph's comment that Rishawn "doesn't know anything about blogs" alone, but Tully's comment about having to write only 3 articles a week struck me the same way. It takes 2-3 hours of work to write one column, which means he puts in about 8 hours in a 40-hour week. No wonder newspapers are struggling so much financially. With such low productivity per writer, they have to rely on a much larger staff of reporters. If I were his editor, he would being producing a story a day on average or be out on his ass. He's a very capable reporter. If pressed, he could be much more productive than 3 columns a week. Even the Sun-Times' Robert Novak (who must be at least 80 now) is cranking out more columns a week than that, in addition to doing 2-3 talking head shows a week.

Don't get me wrong about Tully. I think he is the best writer the newspaper has, and I really enjoy reading his column. But I certainly picked up a little on the condescension Steph spoke of in her post. Tully said he reads very few blogs on a daily basis because his work schedule didn't allow him time to look at very many. The real kicker though came when he said "I only read blogs that are written by insiders" who really have insight into what is going on. That pretty much sums up why he isn't a blogger. He defined himself as an elitist. True bloggers are the outsiders. You can't be on the payroll of a major media giant like Gannett Newspapers and be a true blogger. Sorry Matt, but you're no Matt Drudge, whose Drudge Report became a precursor to the blogging craze that's swept the world. Drudge, incidentally, began blogging as a hobby while he worked days managing a gift shop in CBS Studios in Los Angeles.

If you still have any doubt as to whether Tully is a true blogger, you've got to hear this. The panel discussed how anxious your readers are for you to continuously update posts on your blog. Tully tries to get a post up per day (during the week) he explained. When AI Editor mentioned that he didn't post for an entire week, Tully became defensive and said he was on vacation. "You can't expect me to post while I'm vacationing at Mackinac Island." Yes, Matt. A true blogger would post even while he was on vacation.

Tully boasted that his blog gets at least 2,000 hits per day on average, although he conceded that the Star's Falcon Cam gets about 4 times as many hits on average as his blog. What he didn't explain is where those hits come from. Many area bloggers, including Advance Indiana, provide a link to Tully's blog site since he first launched it several months back. Whenever he has a post that catches our interest, AI, like other blogs, will mention it in a post and link to his blog, helping to drive traffic to his blog. You won't find any links to other blogs at Tully's blog. A true blogger always links to other blogs because that's what blogging is all about. To Rishawn's credit, he often discusses at Expresso what other bloggers are discussing and provides a link to their sites. At least he reads what us low-rent outsiders have to say.

While we're on the subject of mainstream media bloggers, WISH-TV's political reporter Jim Shella, who has his own blog, is not happy about not being invited to Sen. Bayh's luncheon with bloggers yesterday which I participated in along with more than a dozen other Indiana bloggers. Shella writes on his blog today:

Since you are reading this, you understand the whole blog thing, but not everyone does. When I addressed a gathering from the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns this morning, I mentioned how blogs are changing political discourse and, in some cases, political influences. I even expressed my desire that more blogs (like a good blog with some link to the state Republican Party) appear on the scene. Some in the audience shook their heads.

I referred them to Sen. Evan Bayh, who while in Indianapolis on Monday, chose not to meet with the "mainstream" media, but instead conducted a luncheon for bloggers. By the way, members of the mainstream media who blog, including yours truly, didn't get invited.

Incidentally, Jim Shella's blog, like Tully's blog, doesn't link to other blog sites.

Senate GOP's Gay Fear Factor Fever

PageOneQ brings us a remake of Peggy Lee's "Fever" from Paul Hipp, which parodies the Senate GOP's efforts to write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution against gays and lesbians through the enactment of the Family Marriage Amendment (FMA), which the Republican majority rail-roaded through the Senate Judiciary Committee last week in a committee meeting room that was so small it didn't even have enough seats to accommodate all of the members, let alone permit access to the public.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, actually opposes the FMA, but he was a willing accomplice in the GOP's backroom deal led by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) to bring FMA to the floor for a vote so the Christian right can have an up or down (you're either with us or against us) vote to use in this November's election.

Click here to listen to the song. It's quite funny and quite sad at the same time. The lyrics are posted below:

With elections round the corner
When the voters start to care
About the mess we have created
We give you issues that aren't even there

We give you Homosexual marriage
Gonna wreck your family's life
Gay men want your husbands
Lesbians will steal your wife

Lies lit up the daytime
Till bombs lit up the night
Bin Laden sleeps in a cave somewhere
While in Iraq our soldiers die and fight

We give you Homosexual marriage
Gonna wreck your family's life
Gay men want your husbands
Lesbians will steal your wife

Billy Frist and Arlen Spector
Know the votes are just not there
Orrin Hatch said "Go tell all of your wives"
In his sacred Mormon underwear

Gas will be four bucks a gallon
Katrina's wrath is still unfixed
The deficit is at an all-time high
While Republicans play politics

They give us Homosexual marriage
Gonna wreck your family's life
Gay men want your husbands
Lesbians will steal your wife

With scandal all around us
Indictments everywhere you look
We ask ourselves what would Jesus do?
He'd said "Hey! Look out, what's that over there"

It must be Homosexual marriage
Gonna wreck your family's life
Gay men want your husbands
Lesbians will steal your wife

Just remember there's a price paid
For each inflammatory thing you say
Mathew Sheppard's safe in heaven dead
How many other souls will have to pay

You give them Homosexual marriage
It won't affect your family's life
Gay men don't want your husband
Lesbians won't steal your wife

By Paul Hipp

Bosma Now Ready To Repeal Life-Time Health Insurance Perk--Well, Sort Of

House Speaker Brian Bosma, who wisely ordered the end of the life-time health insurance perk for former House members elected in November and thereafter, went a step further today and signed a pledge to repeal the benefit by law. "I was taught as a young child that if you're going the suggest that someone clean house, you better start at home," Bosma tells the AP's Mike Smith. "We believe this is an important change that needs to happen to restore confidence in our institution."

Not to be outdone, House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer seconded Bosma's pledge, ensuring that whoever controls the House next year, the health care benefit for retired lawmakers will be buried for good. But Bauer couldn't pass up taking a swipe at Bosma in the process. "Basically what it (the GOP event) is is puffery for what's already been done," he said.

At least as far as the House is concerned. Bosma's pledge does not include the benefit still enjoyed by senators, even after the longest serving Senate President Pro Tem went down in flames earlier this month to a complete unknown.

And there's this little tidbit from our friends at Taking Down Words, which is reporting that J. Murray Clark, former state senator, state GOP chairman and partner at the prestigious Baker & Daniels law firm signed up for the lifetime health insurance benefit after stepping down from his Senate seat late last year. And all I have is a lousy, single policyholder plan with Anthem that carries a $2,500 deductible with very high monthly premiums and plenty of co-pays and exclusions.

It used to be that you had to be poor to get a handout from the government. But living in Indiana you have to be rich like the Simons, Irsays or even the Clarks to qualify for public benefits. Things aren't like they used to be. That's for sure.

Crawsfordsville Settles Sexual Harassment Claim Against Mayor

The City of Crawfordsville has settled an EEOC charge brought against Mayor John Zumer by a former city employee who complained that Mayor Zumer fired her after she spurned his sexual advances, but they're not telling the public what's in the settlement. The AP reports:

The settlement was reached Monday during a mediation session held by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involving Mayor John Zumer, former assistant Summar Keesee and their attorneys.

"The case is resolved," said Keesee's attorney, Bruce Petit. "There is a nondisclosure required in the settlement, so we really can't say more than we've resolved it to a mutual satisfaction."

Excuse me, nondisclosure or not, this settlement is a matter of public record. Taxpayers money has been used to defend and settle this charge, and the taxpayers have every right to see the terms of that settlement agreement. I don't see an exclusion in Indiana's Access to Public Records law which covers settlement agreements in litigation against a governmental body.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bayh Follows Middle-Of-The-Road, Consensus Building Approach

If Sen. Evan Bayh becomes the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee, he will have accomplished it by running down the middle as a consensus building candidate and not as a candidate who panders to party activists on the far left. That was the one clear message he left more than a dozen Indiana bloggers of all political stripes who gathered at an Indianapolis deli over lunch today for a question and answer session with him.

No Fan Of Impeachment
While red meat liberal Democrats have been fanning the flames with impeach Bush talk recently, Bayh will have no part of it. While many left-wing activists were dejected when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recently announced she would not put impeachment on the House's calendar should the Democrats regain the majority they lost in 1994 to the Republicans, Bayh offered them no solace either. Bayh reminded his audience that Republicans "went off the deep end" in 1998 with impeachment efforts against former President Bill Clinton and it backfired. Bayh noted that Democrats actually gained House seats in the 1998 mid-terms elections. Bayh made it clear that he wants no part of the slash and burn partisan politics that dominate Washington today.

No Second-Guessing On Iraq
On Iraq, you heard no finger-pointing coming from Bayh, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who supported the resolution authorizing the Iraqi War. A blogger explained that former Rep. Baron Hill (D), who is in a rematch battle with Rep. Mike Sodrel (R), felt that he had been misled by the Bush administration on the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that he would not have voted for the war resolution as he did then if he knew then what he knows now. Hill gets no support from Bayh, who is more circumvent. He cites the massive intelligence failures leading up to the 9/11 attacks and the sincere desire of U.S. intelligence experts not to make those same mistakes post 9/11. Are they being more aggressive in some of their assumptions Bayh asks? He says they are. But because the worst-case-scenarios are so catastrophic, Bayh thinks the circumstances warrant being aggressive with our intelligence assumptions.

Bringing it down to a more personal level, Bayh said he had the opportunity to directly question former CIA Director George Tenet about the WMD intelligence on Iraq. Bayh said he asked Tenet that if your life depended on the right answer, how would you answer the question of whether Iraq possessed WMD. Bayh said Tenet unequivocally answered "Yes." Bayh accepted that conclusion then, and he doesn't regret that he accepted that conclusion. He notes that after the first Gulf War, American intelligence discovered that Saddam Hussein had come much closer to developing WMD than even the best U.S. intelligence had thought at the time. When it comes to the country's national security, Bayh resists all urges to politicize issues for political gain.

Realistic About Hope For Success In Iraq
AI Editor Gary R. Welsh questioned Bayh about concern over growing sectarian violence in Iraq and, in particular, violence against gays following a Fatwah issued by the revered Muslim cleric al-Sistani, and the fear that Islamic law would trump any constitutionally-guranteed rights under Iraq's new government. Bayh said he believed that Islamic law was only to be looked to for a source of law under the new Iraqi constitution, and that he did not believe it would become the only real source of law as many fear. If it turns out to be that Islamic law trumps other rights, Bayh said there is little we can do since we can't rewrite their constitution for them.

Bayh is a realist when it comes to the likelihood of success under Iraq's new government. He points out that new government is currently only governing the so-called "green-zone" within Baghdad. He is not yet convinced that Iraq can be governed under a single authority. He thinks the Iraqi people need to see tangible benefits very soon from its new government to avoid further fractures and the potential of an all out civil war. He emphasized that we have to allow them to pursue a democracy consistent with their own values, and that we can't force our values on them.

Oversight Will Play Out In Wire Tap Concerns
On the issue of wire tapping, Bayh conceded that Bush had become "a very aggressive chief executive." He readily admits that questions about the President's authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) were never discussed during the debate on earlier congressional authorizations concerning the war on terror. Bayh has a lot of faith in our system of checks and balances. He expressed confidence that both congressional and judicial oversight will help protect Americans from FISA abuses. Again, you don't hear Bayh using the words "impeachment" and "criminal" while discussing the Bush administration's wire tapping policies for fighting the war on terror.

Appointing The Right Judges
When asked about recent questions which have been raised about signing statements President Bush has attached to numerous federal bills he has signed into law, several of which legal scholars argue run completely counter to the intent of the law, Bayh refrained from personally criticizing Bush. But he emphasized the importance of having judges appointed to the Supreme Court who will not make "radically different interpretations" of the constitution. He noted his own opposition to some of Bush's nominees, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, because of his concern that they would radically interpret the constitution.

Not Interested In Unseating Lugar
Closer to home, Bayh was asked about the Democrats failure thus far to recruit a candidate to oppose Indiana's Senior Senator, Richard Lugar (R), who is seeking election to an unprecedented sixth term, and whether he was working to recruit a candidate. Bayh said he believes that our system works best when there is vigorous competition for all elective offices, but he said he did not believe that Democrats should field a candidate just for the sake of having a candidate. If someone stepped forward as a candidate who truly wanted to run for the seat and not just as a sacrificial lamb, Bayh said he would be supportive of the candidate. It was clear from his comments though that he is not actively recruiting anyone to run against Lugar, with whom he has had a cordial working relationship since Bayh's election to the Senate in 1996.

Changing The Political Culture In Washington
On the domestic front, Bayh believes that our political culture in Washington is broken and dysfunctional. He is turned off by the strident partisanship and rigid ideology practiced by so many. He believes people are turned off in this election year, and he thinks the Republican Party is likely to pay a price at the polls this year for the voter's discontent with the current mood. Bayh thinks the people are looking for new leaders who can make the political process work again by finding common ground for getting things accomplished. Finding solutions to health care and alternative energy sources are major concerns of voters according to Bayh.

Bayh expressed concern about the general apathy of people towards the electoral process. He believes too few people are participating in elections, and that we need to find a way to get people more involved in their government again.

Reflecting On His Years As Governor
AI Editor Gary R. Welsh asked Sen. Bayh to reflect on his 8 years as Indiana governor from 1986-1994 with an eye towards his potential 2008 presidential bid and which of his accomplishments he thought best represented what he had to offer as president. Bayh briefly paused before first listing the 21st Century Scholars Program his administration sheparded through the legislature in 1990, a program designed to expand the opportunity for a college education to more Hoosiers. He touted his administration's record on meeting the fiscal challenges of the state during his tenure. Rather than pile up massive debts that our grandchilden will have to repay, he's proud that he was able to deliver record budget surpluses without increasing taxes during his administration. He's proud of his record of appointing record numbers of women and minorities to positions in state government. On the environment, he believes his administration improved water quality standards and expanded recycling efforts. He summed up his governing style as one that didn't "sell out" in a way that breaks people apart rather than helping people to "reconcile our differences" in a way that allowed progress to be made. He emphasized his role as a consensus builder, not a divider.

Bayh briefly discussed his 10-year old twin sons, Beau and Nich. They were born near the end of his second term as governor and have grown up in the family's suburban D.C. home. Beau is the extroverted one who likes standing at the podium next to dad. Nich is the shy one who hides behind the curtain. Bayh speculates that one may grow up to be a candidate for political office, while the other one might become a campaign manager. Protecting their zone of privacy is very important Bayh adds. Of course, if he becomes President, as teen-aged boys living in the White House they will have a tough time avoiding the public spotlight.

Josh Claybourne, a blogger from Indiana Barrister and In The Agora, has more you can read by clicking here, including a link to an audio clip of Sen. Bayh's luncheon meeting with bloggers today.

Bayh Opposes Federal Marriage Amendment

Sen. Evan Bayh (D), speaking to a group of Indiana bloggers today, unequivocally said he opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, which the Senate will vote on early next month. In response to a question from local GLBT activist Linda Perdue, Sen. Bayh said he would vote against the FMA if it comes to a vote next month. Bayh reminded Perdue that he similarly joined opponents of a similar "marriage protection amendment" in voting with 49 other senators last year to block a cloture vote, which had the effect of killing the FMA.

The FMA, like last year's version, would write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution against gays and lesbians by reinforcing the rights of the states to refuse to recognize or enforce same-sex marriages and the legal incidents thereof, even if legally recognized or enforced in another state. Indiana's senior Sen. Richard Lugar (R) voted with the proponents of the amendment last year in supporting a cloture vote. Lugar, who is seeking re-election but currently faces no Democratic opponent, has not yet announced how he intends to vote on the FMA.

Mindful that Indiana voters may be asked to vote on their own gay marriage amendment in 2008, Sen. Bayh declined to take a position on SJR-7, which has already passed one session of the General Assembly. SJR-7, which would recognize only marriages between a man and a woman and which would bar recognition of any rights similar to the legal incidents of marriage to same-sex couples, will be placed on the ballot in 2008 if it is passed in an identical form by the General Assembly during the next session.

Bayh's response came in a follow-up question from Bilerico's Bil Browning. Bayh told Browning that he had not read SJR-7, and that he felt that it was a matter which should be left to the voters of each state to decide. He later added that his position was not unlike that of Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney, whose daughter Mary is a lesbian, has also stated that he personally opposes the federal marriage amendment, but he believes each state should be allowed to decide for themselves.

Bayh did not directly discuss other GLBT-related issues during today's luncheon with Indiana bloggers. He made it clear, however, that he would have no part of promoting any divisive agenda with a "divide and conquer" strategy in mind for short-term political gain, an indirect slap at the Republican majority's use of such issues as the gay marriage debate for electoral advantage.

It should be noted that Sen. Bayh's staff made a conscientious decision to include GLBT bloggers at today's luncheon. By including participants from Bilerico and AI, Sen. Bayh's staff clearly understood the risk that he might be asked sensitive questions about topics the religious right loves to exploit for political gain. As a presidential candidate though, Bayh understands that GLBT voters can play a pivotal role in some of the battleground states. He is wise to cast a broad net in reaching out to voters from all groups at this early stage of his campaign.

If you would like to learn more about Bayh's records on GLBT-issues compared to Sen. Lugar's, click here to see an earlier analysis AI did of the two's records.

Bayh Lunches With Area Bloggers

Advance Indiana editor Gary R. Welsh and a dozen other Indiana bloggers had a rare opportunity to sit down with Sen. Evan Bayh (D), a contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, over lunch at Shapiro's Deli in downtown Indianapolis and discuss issues on the minds of bloggers. In a very relaxed setting, Sen. Bayh answered questions on a broad range of topics, including the war in Iraq, NSA wiretapping, constitutional bans on gay marriages, his record as Indiana governor and, on a more personal note, his twin sons, Beau and Nicholas.

This event reflects the growing influence bloggers have in the political process and how politicians, like Sen. Bayh, are learning to use them to reach out in a more direct way to communicate their views to voters who feel left out of the process. Many active blog sites were represented today, including In The Agora, Bilerico, Indiana Barrister, Left of Centrist, Taking Down Words, Fort Wayne Observed, Indiana Blog Review, Indiana Progressives, and Shakespeare's Sister among others.

I think it is fair to say that the bloggers present were impressed that Sen. Bayh took the time to meet with us. Bloggers were free to ask the questions they had for a little more than an hour. It was a very polite and collegial atmosphere throughout the luncheon. Sen. Bayh's staff should be commended for their good work in putting on today's event.

I've posted several photos from today's event. AI editor Gary R. Welsh is shown in the second photo with Sen. Bayh. Bloggers Mitch Harper and Zach Wendling can be seen talking in the third photo. The last photo shows most of the bloggers in attendance for today's luncheon.

AI will have more on today's luncheon with Sen. Bayh in a later post.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Pam's House Blend Weighs In On No Special Rights

Pam's House Blend, last year's winner of the #1 LGBT blog by Weblog Awards, takes a crack at South Bend's No Special Rights folks and their mission of "lovingly opposing the homosexual agenda." Click here to read what Pam and her readers are saying about No Special Rights.

And PageOneQ, a leading national LGBT-related news blog, features Advance Indiana's earlier report on Bishop John D'Arcy's statement in opposition to South Bend's proposed gay rights ordinance.

Bolejack & McKenna Hire PR Firm

The Star's "Behind Closed Doors" clues us in today on the hiring of a local public relations firm, Avatar, by the ousted executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute Heather Bolejack and the friend to whom she awarded a $417,000 grant Michael McKenna. Avatar's most famous client the column tells us is Stephen Hilbert, the former CEO of Conseco. The column reminds its readers of the now famous photo of the duo taken together at the recent grand opening of Sushi On The Rocks:

If nothing else, [Avatar President Ernie] Reno's experience with the Criminal Justice Institute's scandal has given him an important lesson he can share with others:

Discourage your clients from partying in public together as the scandal escalates. Or, at least, discourage them from having their pictures taken.

Bolejack and McKenna were photographed together by INtake (a sister publication of The Indianapolis Star) the day before Bolejack was fired -- a photo that then was publicized across Central Indiana.

AI has some even better advice for Bolejack and McKenna. Don't waste your money on a PR consultant. If the two of you have money just sitting in your pockets that you're just itching to burn through, hire a good criminal defense attorney.

"Behind Closed Doors" also takes a swipe at FSSA spokesman Dennis Rosebrough's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for being less than candid about his boss' former ties to the company which is bidding on a contract with the agency valued at $1 billion. The column writes:

Dennis Rosebrough, spokesman for the Family and Social Services Administration, apparently subscribes to the "don't ask, don't tell" philosophy, even when it comes to information.

When Rosebrough was asked recently whether the group headed by Accenture -- one of the two finalists for a $1 billion agency contract -- had any connection to FSSA Secretary E. Mitchell Roob's former private-sector employer, the answer was "no."

What Rosebrough didn't say at the time was that Roob's former company, Affiliated Computer Services, was a partner in the other consortium seeking the job. In fact, he didn't even mention that ACS was a part of the group headed by IBM during an extensive interview regarding progress on the privatization contract.

Rosebrough was asked later whether Roob's former employer was a part of the IBM group. He then confirmed that ACS was involved -- and that it was no surprise "because there are only a limited number of companies who provide these services."

As a side note, AI noticed that in a recent local news interview Rosebrough appeared to react with surprise when questioned about Roob's ties to ACS. Perhaps his boss didn't clue him in on that one.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

No Special Rights Group Cries Foul After Declaring Open Season On Gays

The South Bend Tribune prominently features a story in today's edition about a press conference called by the No Special Rights group, which was formed to fight against passage of a gay rights ordinance for South Bend. No Special Rights leader Patrick Mangan decries the criticism directed at his group's efforts by several blog sites, including Advance Indiana, as defamatory because the group is depicted as a "Christian hate group" which is "bigoted" against gays and lesbians. He demands an apology from Advance Indiana and other blogs for characterizing he and his group in this manner. Mangan also falsely asserts that AI is a part of South Bend Equality.

Where to begin? One need only wander over to the group's website to discern why the group has been subjected to criticism by this site and others. Because today's story by Jamie Loo makes no reference to the inflammatory and hateful words No Special Rights uses to describe gays and lesbians, AI can only assume she accepted Mr. Mangan's characterization of his group's work as strictly "loving".

While the South Bend Tribune didn't bother to share the content of No Special Rights' website with its readers, let us share some of their ideas with our readers. Let us begin with the group's name, which as it implies, is premised upon the notion that making it illegal to discriminate against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is tantamount to according these classes of persons "special rights." As authority to debunk this often repeated refrain of those who oppose equality for GLBT citizens, we need only look to the words of a conservative Republican justice of the Supreme Court, Anthony Kennedy. In striking down a Colorado law which prohibited communities in that state from enacting ordinances very similar to what South Bend is now considering to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination, Justice Kennedy made it clear that such laws did not provide "special rights." He wrote in Romer v. Evans:

[W]e cannot accept the view that [the Colorado law's] prohibition on specific legal protections does no more than deprive homosexuals of special rights. (emphasis added) To the contrary, the amendment imposes a special disability upon those persons alone. Homosexuals are forbidden the safeguards that others enjoy or may seek without constraint. They can obtain specific protection against discrimination only by [ ] enlisting the citizenry of Colorado to amend the state constitution or perhaps, on the State's view, by trying to pass helpful laws of general applicability. This is so no matter how local or discrete the harm, no matter how public and widespread the injury. We find nothing special in the protections [the Colorado law] withholds. These are protections taken for granted by most people either because they already have them or do not need them; these are protections against exclusion from an almost limitless number of transactions and endeavors that constitute ordinary civic life in a free society."

No Special Rights' website is replete with examples of hateful and demeaning words and phrases used to describe gays and lesbians which, if accepted, have the effect of promoting hate against gays and lesbians. Their entire premise is based upon an antiquated view that gays and lesbians choose their sexual orientation. This defies the medical opinion of every major health care organization, which accepts that sexual orientation is an innate characteristic over which the person has no more control than deciding the color of their eyes, hair or skin. Here are just a few examples:

  • refers to "homosexuality" as a "dangerous, destructive lifestyle"
  • warns of "negative consequences of giving homosexuality a "special protected class status"
  • describes homosexual sex as "a form of sexual sin as it is clearly defined by the Bible"
  • "persecution of faith-based organization" is the claimed result if ordinance is passed, even though it exempts religious organizations
  • calls homosexual sex acts "sinful acts"
  • argues that passage of a gay rights ordinance will "force the moral acceptance of homosexual acts as normal"
  • claims gays and lesbians are "addicted to homosexuality"
  • warns that "practice of homosexual sex is a key part in the spread of syphilis"
  • asserts that "life expectancy for homosexual men is 8 to 20 years less" than the life expectancy of heterosexual men
  • declares that the "sexual practices in question are physically and medically dangerous"
  • warns of "negative local effect on health care plans" if gay rights ordinance is passed

The dictionary meaning of a "bigot" is "a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices". "Prejudice" is defined in the dictionary as "an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts." It is AI's contention that any person or group who would use the words and phrases No Special Rights and its members use to describe gays and lesbians is an anti-gay bigot. No Special Rights accepts an obvious fallacy--that gays and lesbians choose their lifestyle--to form an adverse opinion of them. As their words and phrases so aptly reflect, they are intolerantly devoted to their wrong-headed opinions and prejudices.

That a fundamentalist religious group like No Special Rights would hold prejudicial views is nothing new. Slavery we were once told was an accepted practice in the Bible. Women hold an inferior status to men in society we were told because it says so in the Bible. Jews must be punished for not accepting Jesus Christ as their lord savior because the Bible says so. Catholics must be punished because they are paganists and not true Christians we were told because the Bible says so. Fortunately, voices of reason and moderation prevailed to help remove the scourge these views inflicted on society. That is what must happen when it comes to people's views on sexual orientation and gender identity. Legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians is the last great bastion of prejudice for religious zealots to use as scapegoats for all that is wrong with society today. This scourge like all the others that came before it must be eradicated. Only then will we have a country where truly all people are accorded equal rights under the law.

No Special Rights also criticized AI for its harsh characterization of Jay Dunlap's use of his brother's death to promote opposition to the gay rights ordinance. Mr. Dunlap attributes the untimely and tragic death of his brother to the "homosexual lifestyle", which he said has made it understandably difficult for his family to discuss homosexuality. As Jamie Loos' story reports, AI apologized to the Dunlap family for AI's unfair characterization and promptly corrected the original post when it was brought to my attention. AI does, however, believes the tragic death of Mr. Dunlap's brother is not justification for discrimination against an entire class of people. Unfortunately, Mr. Dunlap has adopted the logic of the No Special Rights group in opposing the ordinance. Reporting on a radio interview with Dunlap this past week, WFRN reported:

Former South Bend TV news anchor Jay Dunlap's brother, Tim, died at the age of 27 after a homosexual lifestyle, and Dunlap says it's not healthy and that homosexuals' life spans are less than the national average. Plus, he says changing city code could have a damaging affect on church-based programs, like Catholic Charities, which help find homes for unwanted kids. Catholic Charities in Boston has been forced to shutdown its adoption operations because of Massachusetts' law that allows same-sex marriages. The charity would have to allow gay couples to adopt to stay open.

Mr. Dunlap mixes the issue of gay marriage with the proposed gay rights ordinance. The use of this issue is disingenuous as Dunlap and No Special Rights know full well that Indiana law does not permit same-sex marriages, and that passage of the ordinance will not change that fact. The ordinance also exempts religious organizations, but again, this issue is raised as a misleading appeal for opposition to the ordinance.

Mr. Mangan's attempt at yesterday's press conference to convince Ms. Loo that AI is nothing more than a front-group for South Bend Equality is patently false. AI is operated by me, Gary R. Welsh. My writings on this site are completely independent of South Bend Equality. South Bend Equality has never engaged me to write anything on their behalf.

When it comes to fighting for civil rights, the views of AI and other blog sites with similar views cannot be silenced by No Special Rights. Much to their disappointment, our sacred right to free speech has not been deprived of us, as other fundamental rights have been. Our voices will be heard whether No Special Rights wants them heard or not.