Saturday, April 14, 2007

Kelty Weaves Tangled Web

Questions are being raised about the circumstances surrounding the commissioning of a Zogby Poll taken recently in the Fort Wayne GOP mayoral race between County Commissioner Nelson Peters and architect Matt Kelty. Supporters of Peters believe the poll may have been commissioned for the benefit of Kelty's campaign and should be claimed by the campaign as an in-kind contribution. Kelty, for his part, is denying he had anything to do with the poll, although he was the first to tout its results publicly, showing a neck-and-neck race with Peters polling 26% to Kelty's 25% and another 46% undecided.

Fort Wayne Observed's Nathan Gotsch grilled Kelty on the poll during an interview this week. Kelty's answers could be characterized as evasive and disingenuous. "I didn't commission it. I didn't fund it," Kelty defensively told Gotsch. Then why were the poll results only released to Kelty? And who were the people behind the poll? To hear Kelty describe it, the poll was commissioned by persons supportive of the proposed Harrison Square redevelopment project for downtown Fort Wayne and had nothing to do with the mayoral race. Kelty tells Gotsch:

Well, I will tell you this -- and I don't even know who all is involved in the group that did this, but the few guys that I do know don't have any direct involvement in campaigns. They were excited about -- and they're concerned about Harrison Square, so they were excited about that aspect in particular, and I think because of my well-publicized concerns regarding Harrison Square, building another baseball stadium by the public's dollar, they thought of me immediately and called me up and said, "Would you like to know the results of a poll that we commissioned?" and I said, "You know what? I'd love to. Can I use it? Please?" They said, "Yes, just don't tell anybody where it came from." So I said, "Alright, fine."

And I haven't used Ron Reinking's name when I've released his stuff. I've said, you know, there's a guy who's very well-known, he's a CPA in Fort Wayne, who shared this information with me. Should I have used his name? Maybe.

I don't understand, I mean if -- this was not something we commissioned, it's not something I paid for, it's not something that our campaign was responsible for. It's information which they could release except they don't want the notoriety and the exposure so they thought, "Well, Kelty will love this information. We'll give it to Kelty and he'll use it." And you know what? They're right.

Gotsch includes in his interview with Kelty the script of questions posed to potential voters by the Zogby poll. It starts out just like any other candidate-focused poll with a focus on the upcoming mayoral race. The fourth questions into the interview asked respondents whether they intended to vote for Kelty or Peters, while the fifth question asked respondents who they favored in the Democratic primary for mayor. Those questions are followed by questions testing the favorable ratings of both Kelty and Peters. The Harrison Square project is tested near the end of the poll. Curiously, two of the questions are focused on the respondent's religion. One asks the potential voters to identify their religious affiliation, while another question asks if the respondent is "a born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian?"

Religion has played a big part of Kelty's campaign. AI previously observed how Kelty wears his religion on his sleeve. The conservative Indiana Family Action PAC has endorsed Kelty. "Mr. Kelty has been a hand’s-on conservative activist in his community and prioritizes issues that the Indiana Family Action PAC cares about," the group said in offering its support to Kelty. One has to wonder if anyone affiliated with the PAC had anything to do with the PAC given the attention the poll gave to religion.

Fort Wayne Council Sam Talarico, Jr. believes it is clear the poll was commissioned for Kelty. In a comment posted at Fort Wayne Observed, Talarico notes Kelty's disproportionate reliance on in-kind contributions to finance his campaign. He calls Kelty's comments attempting to distance himself from the poll as an "absolute absurdity." Talarico writes:

Clearly Matt Kelty understands the concept of an "in-kind" campaign contribution. His last campaign finance report was loaded with them and these "in-kind" contributions helped fluff up his report considerably to mask the $18,000 in cash he had actually raised from those other than himself. His campaign manager's services (which includes the providing of INFORMATION") were correctly listed as "in-kind" contributions.

If indeed his CPA were asked to prepare financial reports or financial statements of any type and if his CPA does not charge the campaign for such services, then this is an in-kind contribution. Kelty, IS correct that if he bumps into his CPA on the street and the CPA provides information that the "community has a billion dollars in debt on the books" that this is NOT an in-kind contribution of "information".

The Poll, however, is a no-brainer. It could not be clearer that this poll was prepared for Kelty's use. When is the last time you heard a group of non politicians decide to just go drop $10,000 on a zogby poll just to see what is going on? This is laughable. This was commissioned for political use AND it was not given to the Peters Campaign; it was not given to Tom Henry's campaign; it was not given to Ivan Hoods campaign; and it was not given directly to the newspapers. It was given to Matt Kelty for his use (his brilliant use I might add) in his campaign. This very expensive zogby poll was contributed to Matt Kelty for use in his campaign, period. This literally defines what an "in-kind" contribution is.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why either:

1. Matt Kelty does not want people to know who paid for the poll? or

2. Why these Kelty supporters do not want people to know that they are supporting Kelty (and why are they making Kelty embarrass himself by having to dance around this issue)?; or

3. Why these Harrison Square opponents dont want people to know that they are opposing the project?

I dont get. It just doesn't make sense to me.
I think Talarico hits the nail on the head. Kelty seems to have weaved quite a tangled web for himself. Talarico's questions about Kelty's evasive responses about the poll are worthy of a closer look. The mainstream media should be delving into this. It should be pointed out these matters have all been brought to light on a blog published by Fort Wayne attorney and Republican city council candidate Mitch Harper, who has provided even-handed coverage of the mayoral race.