Sunday, January 27, 2008

What To Do With Our Unethical Politicians?

A couple of stories in today's Star provide more alarming proof of just how unethical our politicians have become in Indiana. Despite running on a pledge of enacting ethics reform as mayor, Greg Ballard took office with no self-imposed ethics rules on himself and his appointees. When he appointed Paul Okeson as his chief of staff, Advance Indiana was the first to tell you that the engineering firm which employed Okeson, Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates, had strong ties to Mayor Bart Peterson, having donated $10,000 to his re-election and having appeared at the grand opening of the firm's new offices in Indianapolis last year. Not surprisingly, the firm does a lot of business with the City of Indianapolis. The Star's "Behind Closed Doors" column reports this morning on a $10,000 contribution Ballard's campaign accepted from the firm shortly before he announced the hiring of the firm's branch manager as his chief of staff:

Many engineering and architecture firms make donations to candidates from both parties in a political campaign.

But one set of donations stood out among all others made in the last mayoral election, both for its size and the timing.

Keith Lochmueller, president of the Evansville-based firm Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates, gave $10,000 to former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson on Sept. 20, about six weeks before the election.

Three weeks after the election, Lochmueller gave the same amount to Greg Ballard, the surprise winner.

"We normally give to both parties," Lochmueller said. "I was going to give to Ballard before the election, but I never got around to it."

What cemented the donation, he said, was that Ballard took the head of his Indianapolis office, Paul Okeson, to be the mayor's new chief of staff. Lochmueller said he made the donation as part of attendance at the mayor's upcoming inaugural ball on Wednesday, where a gold sponsorship gets you 10 tickets, plus five photos with the smiling mayor.

Lochmueller said the firm does not donate in order to receive government contracts. "To have good government," Lochmueller said, "you need to support the candidates that will do the most for the city, the county and the state."

Okeson, who is a resident of Fishers, should have never been offered the job in the first place, but it is simply a complete abandonment of any sense of ethics to accept a contribution from a firm which does so much business with the city and hire one of its key employees at the start of your administration. Unfortunately, this is not the first indication of a lapse in judgment by Mayor Ballard when it comes to ethics. The Star's Susan Guyett caught Ballard's children off guard at last weekend's luau with these comments about the "perks of office." "I don't think it's changed too much for us, except we enjoy some of the perks," Erica said. Greg, Jr. agreed, saying they have access to great seats at the RCA Dome and Conseco Fieldhouse. So should any of us be suprised to learn that Mayor Ballard is making it a top priority in his administration to work on a Super Bowl that the City might be able to host many years into the future and is considering a more generous public subsidy for Pacer owners' Herb and Mel Simon because they're team is reportedly losing money on the books after disenchanted fans have stopped attended their games?

Meanwhile, Sen. David Long's short tenure as President Pro Tempore continues to take hits on the ethics front. Recall that he and his members recoiled from public demands that it end the generous health insurance for life perk for retired senators and their spouses but eventually came around as public pressure grew. Now, the body has killed a proposal to implement a cooling off period after legislators retire before they can lobby their colleagues simply for spite. The Star's Mary Beth Schneider writes, "Sen. Marvin Riegsecker, the Goshen Republican who controlled the bill's fate as chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, said he killed the proposal because he and other senators were angered by comments that 'we're taking money under the table. That's the interpretation we had.'"

As her report indicates, more than 30 Indiana lawmakers are now registered to lobby their former colleagues. Two lawmakers, Robert Kuzman and Matt Whetstone, left the legislature last year shortly after the House adjourned. Both lawmakers were key lawmakers on the legislation which legalized slots at the state's two horse race tracks. Coincidentally, both went to work for law firms which represented the horse racing interests which benefited from the new law. A quote in Schneider's story from Ed Mahern would be funny if it wasn't so absurd and insulting. "I've never seen a situation where I thought an individual legislator behaved a certain way during his term in hopes that he'd be employed by somebody afterwards," said Ed Mahern, a former Democratic state representative from Indianapolis.


Anonymous said...

Riegsecker is retiring and I don't
think that he's going to be a lobbyist in Indy.

Anonymous said...

e-mail sent to my Senator.

Legislator to lobbyist bill.
I cannot help but want to comment regarding the on-line article I just finished reading. My immediate reaction is..."you have got to be kidding me". That our lawmakers could reject consideration of a bill because they were "offended"? You folks are truly out of touch with reality. It is inconceivable to me how any person could not see at least the potential for a conflict of interest. That you are "offended"? Get over it. You folks have been elected for the people, by the people; not in spite of the people. In case you and your colleagues are not aware, people are starting to take a very direct interest in what is going on at the state and federal level. The cozy relationships that have been tolerated in the past will no longer be in the future. I am proud to say that I worked very hard on the Ballard campaign because of a belief that the local CCC did not understand the frustration the people felt. I promise to you that I will work very hard in support of those who are first and formost interested in the people they serve, not in those they serve with, now or in the past. That anyone in the Senate can be "offended" by a challenge in what to anyone is common sense tells me that more change is needed. Please, I ask you directly, be a part of the change. Do not let selfserving politicos control the agenda.

Thanks you.

Anonymous said...

Harrison Ullman wrote it right, time after time: America's Worst State Legislature.

Unfortunately, we're the losers in that game.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how most of Ballards supporters have not seen fit to comment on the latest example of their savior's metamorphosis into one of those "country club republicans" he ran against.

Bart Peterson. Greg Ballard. Whats the difference, really?

Anonymous said...

I am a "Former Ballard Support", I am so sorry for my faith in this man and I apologize to all of those that were mislead by my actions! What a shame!
Another corrupt politician!

Anonymous said...

Funny how the statehouse has NO PROBLEM putting a 1 year waiting period for state employees but not a DAMN THING for themselves. What a bunch of hypocrites!

Anonymous said...

Let's see what happens with the public pap and The Simons. That will be a pretty good acid test. The Mayor who wasn't an accident had no problems, I guess, helping the Pacers to public monies and his accidental supporters don't complain of those boons even now since the Simons are (or were) Democrats. Thanks for constructing the experiment and setting the bar.

Anonymous said...

Another former Ballard Supporter who is very sorry for picking this lemon! This does not mean that I would have voted for Bart Peterson. He was a liar and a crook but so is Ballard!

Anonymous said...

What to do to our unethical politicans? How about brilliantly orchestrated public humiliation? Ask Bart how it feels to be humiliated in national media.

Eric Miller is going to get a dose of public humiliation on Friday. He's trying to hijack the property tax repeal movement to SJR 7 with a rally at the statehouse on Friday.

Most homeowners don't want anything to do with SJR 7, and worse, resent our legislators wasted time in session with it last year when they all knew the property tax crisis was looming. Seems to me that the resulting property tax crisis was the real threat to Indiana's children.

What's worse is that Eric Miller was approached by many pro repeal advocates asking he back off SJR 7and not attach the property tax issue to it. He won't listen and is pushing forward with the rally anyway.

I will be there on Friday with Miller's rally. That should tell you something is going to happen.

indyernie said...

"Interesting how most of Ballards supporters have not seen fit to comment on the latest example of their savior's metamorphosis into one of those "country club republicans" he ran against."

Mayor Ballard is the same man now, as he was a year ago. If you have concerns talk to the man he is very approachable. Understand that requires you to pull your head out of your ass long enough to lessen to his reply.

Give the guy a chance, he hasn't been in office a month and you crybabies are coming out from the woodwork. You crybabies remind me of a bunch of cockroaches attacking a cheese puff. Everyman for himself.
Leave the Mayor alone and let the man govern, jezz.

Anonymous said...

"Mayor Ballard is the same man now, as he was a year ago"

No Ernie, he is not. Thats the point of this and many other threads which call into question Ballards' decision making. For a candidate who campaigned on an Everyman schtick, one who "promised to end the 25th floor bloat" and who has done the opposite, for one who got the support of the teabaggers with "end property tax" and then waffles on that, well...there you go. This blog is about keeping Ballard accountable and honest, and your strident, profane laden defense of Ballards' hypocrisy thus far, does not do your Mayor any favors. Let Him answer as to his decision making..and try and act a tad more mature, eh?

indyernie said...

I stand by my earlier comment.

"Mayor Ballard is the same man now, as he was a year ago. If you have concerns talk to the man he is very approachable."

"and try and act a tad more mature, eh?"

It's not my head up my ass.
I can see clearly.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ernie, keep standing by your man. Tammy Wynette would be so proud.

As for the rest of your "mature" commentary, go back to the playground and let grown folk talk, ok? Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Greg Ballard is as much of a liar as Bart Peterson was, if not more. Ballard relied upon the common people and when he won he turned to the corrupt lawyers and politicians to help him divide the millions of dollars of political payoffs! Is it just me or does Greg Ballard look a lot like a Big Rat? Look at his long nose and the way it wiggles when he talks or lies! We have a Big Rat for Mayor!

anonymous said...

Bernardin and Lochmueller's current Indianapois branch manager is Patrick Tamm, a lobbyist who was also Mitch Daniels Hamilton County campaign manager in the last election. He doesn't know a thing about any discipline that might be found in an engineering company.