Sunday, July 17, 2011

Journal-Gazette Wonders If Campaign Contributions Influence City Government

Politicians throughout Indiana are bought and paid for by a relatively small group of contractors and law firms that receive the lion's share of contracts dispensed by the politicians to their benefactors. Government in Indiana is as corrupt as neighboring Illinois. The only difference is that the corruption that takes place in Indiana is not prosecuted as it occasionally is in Illinois. It doesn't help in Indiana that the news media has proven to be incompetent as watchdogs for the taxpayers. The Journal-Gazette's Benjamin Lanka makes a feeble attempt to discuss the role of pay to play in the Ft. Wayne mayor's race in a story entitled, "Do contractors' gifts taint politics?".

Money influencing politics is nothing new. People have been giving to politicians for centuries.
Yet whether the amount of money given to city politicians is problematic, especially by those seeking to do business with the city, is not an easy question, according to numerous officials.
Some argue the cure is worse than the perceived disease.
All four major mayoral candidates took contributions from people or businesses that also make money from city government, although incumbent Mayor Tom Henry hauled in by far the biggest share . . .
Henry has been successful in raising money for his re-election campaign, thanks in large part to donations given by companies – and their employees – that do business with the city.
Since the start of 2010, Henry has raised $427,750, according to campaign finance reports. A study of those reports by The Journal Gazette showed about 60 percent of that money came directly from firms working for the city or people working for those firms.
While Lanka's story mentions that 60% of his contributions came from city contractors, the story names no names. If you study contributions made to state and local officials in Indiana, you very quickly learn that the bulk of their money is coming from the same group of contractors that receive contracts from Republican and Democratic elected officials alike. So powerful is the influence of these contractors over our elected officials that it is a complete waste of time for ordinary citizens to even discuss matters that bear on these government contractors' business.

Watch any public meeting televised on Indianapolis' public access station, WCTY, and you will constantly see the voices of the public shot down in favor of the ruling class. God bless folks like Pat Andrews for attending Indianapolis city council meetings and asking the right questions, but the points she raises are met with outright lies and deceptive responses from elected councilors and members of the Ballard administration who defend their corrupt actions. Media watchdogs are nowhere in sight to hold them in check. As Andrews speaks, the camera catches the influence peddlers turning up their noses and making snarky comments to one another. They know they've bought the outcome they seek and smugly wonder why any ordinary taxpayer would think their voice could possibly matter in a public debate.

I suppose I should be thankful that at least Lanka and the newspaper that employs him asks the question of whether the contrators' money taints our governmental processes. The Star's editor, Dennis Ryerson, has declared that there is no such thing as pay to play politics and forbids his reporters from writing any stories that question the motives of the contractors who finance our elected officials' campaigns despite the overwhelming evidence of just how much it has corrupted the process. Candidate Greg Ballard four years ago bemoaned the influence government contractors had in helping then-Mayor Bart Peterson raise millions for his re-election. Back then he had to scrape together a couple of hundred thousand dollars from individual citizens who were concerned about the direction of city government. Today, he sits on a multi-million dollar campaign war chest financed almost exclusively by the same contractors who were financing his opponent's campaign. Are we to believe those people who found him so objectionable four years ago now favor him for any reason other than the fact that he's the one passing out public dollars to them?

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