Governor Mitch Daniels is leading a 32-member trade delegation
to Germany and the United Kingdom this week as part of an "effort to bring jobs and investment to Indiana and strengthen relationships with companies that employ Hoosiers in their Indiana operations." While I believe these trade missions can be beneficial to our state, they too often become nothing more than junkets for political insiders and cronies. One look at the makeup of this delegation confirms it is more of a junket than a serious trade mission.
Ten of the delegation members are members of Daniels' administration, including the governor. Of course Nate Feltman, the head of the IEDC, is on the trade trip. That is to be expected. He also drags along four other members of the IEDC staff, including Chad Sweeney, Stephen Akard, Edita Ubartaite and Michael Kruger. Daniels is bringing along two members of his personal staff, including his press spokesman Jane Jankowski and aide Ben Ledo. Two members of the governor's security detail are also on the trip, as well as Tom Dusing from Carefree Travel. His commissioner of Agriculture, Andy Miller, joined the trip, and he brought his assistant, Beth Bechdol.
It wouldn't be a true junket unless members of the legislature were along for the ride. Four lawmakers take this honor, including Sen. Sue Landske (R), Sen. James Lewis (D), Rep. Matt Whetstone (R) and Rep. Dennis Oxley (D). Notice the even split between Rs and Ds. This helps insulate the trip from partisan criticism.
Two members of the business and community delegates on the trip have close ties to the IEDC's Nate Feltman. His uncle, Ed Simcox, is along for the trip as the lobbyist in chief for the Indiana Electric Association. Melissa Reese is a partner at Ice Miller, the same law firm where Feltman was a partner before joining the administration. According to her bio at the firm's website, she concentrates her practice in employee benefits. I'm not sure how her work relates to this trip.
Simcox also managed to get a couple of his fellow utility industry friends on the trip as well, including NIPSCO's Don Babcock and Duke Energy's Marie Christine Pence. Kyle Hupfer, the former DNR commissioner for Daniels and now an executive with ProLiance Energy, also made the trip.
Matrix Global Partners' Terry Anker is on the trip. His company was the beneficiary of a $1.2 million from the state's 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. The Reimbursement Group's Michael Duff, a GOP contributor, is on the trip. Ray Moistner and David Bramlage, representing Indiana's harwood lumber industry, are both on the trip.
Frank Hoffman, a real estate attorney for Krieg DeVault with strong GOP ties, is on the trip. Kenneth Yerkes is the head of Barnes & Thornburg's labor and employment practice and that earned him a seat on the trip. And Christine Keck of Old National Bank joined the group.
Several local economic development folks are on the trip, including Wayne County's Jim Dinkle, Washington County's Bill Nolting, Lawrence County's Eugene McCracken and the Northeast Indiana Regional Marketing Partnership's John Sampson. And the final person on the list might keep an otherwise hostile blogger to the Daniels' administration from commenting on this trade mission. Gordon Hendry, husband of Taking Down Words'
Jen Wagner, made the trip on behalf of the Indy Partnership. Also, Sven Schumaker of Lutheran Child and Family Services is accompanying the group as a volunteer for IEDC.
“We select trade mission trips based on where we think the chance of return is highest,” said Daniels. “We’ll talk about the welcoming climate in Indiana and what we’re doing to make our state an even more attractive place to do business." One has to wonder, though, whether that same criteria carries through to the persons selected to participate in these trips based on some of the participants on this trade mission.