Sunday, December 23, 2007

Kelty Case Points Up Need For Election Board Reform

The special prosecutor in the Matt Kelty campaign finance corruption case has offered a stinging rebuke of the Allen Co. Election Board's handling of Kelty's blatant failure to report the source of loans his campaign received from supporters. As you may recall, before Dan Sigler indicted Kelty for felony campaign violations, the Allen Co. Election Board ruled along party lines that Kelty had not violated the law. Sigler has been particularly perturbed by allegations of Kelty's supporters that his decision to indict Kelty has been politically-driven. In opposing a motion by Kelty's attorney to dismiss the charges against him, Sigler wrote in court documents according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette:

Special Prosecutor Dan Sigler, however, took the election board to task for doing a cursory look into Kelty’s finances. In his response to a motion to dismiss Kelty’s charges, Sigler, a Democrat, wrote that the Republicans asked only one question before the board voted to find no violation. Sigler wrote that the board disregarded its power to question witnesses under oath and its power of subpoena.

“The board ignored its investigative powers and had an absolute minimum invested in examining the defendant (Kelty’s) violations,” he wrote.

By contrast, Sigler said the grand jury met for more than a week and interviewed 15 witnesses and examined thousands of pages of bank records, e-mail and other documents.

Andy Downs, Democratic member of the board, said all of Sigler’s assertions were accurate, noting he thought he asked several good questions that weren’t answered by Kelty or his attorney, Jim Bopp.

“We didn’t push the issue very far,” Downs said.

David Wright, Republican member of the board, said he still doesn’t believe Kelty broke campaign finance law and felt the board did everything it was supposed to do.

“What does he (Sigler) expect us to do?” he said. “It’s not a grand jury. We don’t go out and investigate.”

Wright said he read the statute several times and didn’t believe it was broken based on the evidence presented.

Sigler's criticism of the election board is dead-on, and this problem is not limited to Allen County. Wright's defense of the election board's actions are a complete embarrassment. In Marion County, four years ago the Board completely ignored clear evidence that City-County Councilor Patrice Abduallah had blatantly misreported the source of his campaign contributions as alleged in a complaint by Libertarian candidate Brad Klopfenstein. To make a persistent Klopfenstein go away, the Board finally slapped Abduallah on the hand with a $100 fine and told him not to do it again, but amended filings by Abduallah hardly cleared up the matter. When Abduallah filed for re-election, his statement of candidacy clearly noted he lived outside his district. Again, election officials simply brushed it aside and illegally allowed his name to appear on the ballot. Only after this blogger reported on his residency issue did he finally resign his seat on the council. But election officials went on to commit another election violation by illegally placing Andre Carson's name on the ballot after the statutory deadline had passed.

This flagrant disregard for our campaign finance laws occurs because the election boards are simply comprised of political hacks who don't give a damn about anything but furthering a partisan political agenda on behalf of their respective parties. You don't get appointed to one of these Boards unless the party's leader can count on you to act as his puppet. It's time to revamp these election boards and make them accountable to the public, not to their political masters.

1 comment:

Wilson46201 said...

"It's time to revamp these election boards and make them accountable to the public, not to their political masters."

And just how do you propose this very noble project be undertaken? We do live in a constitutional democratic republic - how do you propose to remove politics from politics? Should the Election Boards be elected officials themselves? Elucidate, please!