Friday, February 10, 2012

Journal-Gazette Talks About Lugar Residency Issue

I'm telling you folks that this issue will sink Sen. Richard Lugar's re-election campaign in the general election if he's chosen by Republicans to run for an unprecedented seventh term this year. The Democrats have managed to not only get the national media to take notice of the issue but now a major newspaper within the state. The Journal-Gazette takes up the issue of Lugar billing taxpayers for overnight stays when he visits Indiana since he hasn't owned a home in Indiana in more than 35 years. Brian Francisco writes:

Democratic Party officials contend Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., is putting his hotel expenses on the public’s tab when he visits his home state.
Lugar’s re-election campaign says the claim is partly true.
“If it’s official business, that’s common practice” for federal lawmakers, David Willkie, political director for Lugar’s campaign, said Thursday.
But if Lugar, who has a farm but not a home in Indianapolis, is in the state to campaign or for personal reasons, his expenses do not come out of his office budget, Willkie said.
“This is all in keeping with Senate rules,” Willkie said.
Willkie points out that Lugar doesn't bill taxpayers if the trip is campaign-related, but that's not the point. The point is that he doesn't have any home in Indiana.

Lugar lives in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C. A year ago, conservative bloggers wondered why he was allowed to vote in the precinct where he lived when he was Indianapolis mayor in the 1960s and 1970s. Lugar’s camp pointed to a 1982 opinion by Indiana’s attorney general that found congressmen, for voting purposes, can claim their most recent Indiana residence even if they no longer live there.
In the past week, questions about where Lugar lives have been revived by Fox News, CNN, Democratic officials and Republican Charlie White, who lost his post as Indiana secretary of state after being convicted of voter fraud.
“This is about being in touch or out of touch,” Ray said. “Sen. Lugar hasn’t lived in Indiana since Jimmy Carter was president.”
Again, it's the United States Constitution, stupid. It says Lugar must be an inhabitant of the state of Indiana each time he is elected to represent Indiana in the U.S. Senate. Forget that Attorney General's opinion about what state law says. State law doesn't trump the U.S. Constitution. If Lugar can't prove that he is an inhabitant at the time of his election, then he is not eligible to represent Indiana in the U.S. Senate. He cannot rely on a home he owned more than 35 years ago to claim that he is still an inhabitant of Indiana, particularly when he openly admits that he stays in hotels when he returns to Indiana because he has no home here. I challenged one newspaper reporter to poll the rest of Indiana's congressional delegation and ask them if they maintain an Indiana residence. I believe a reporter would find that every single one of them at least maintains a rented home or apartment within the state, or relies upon a relative's home for their residence. Members of Indiana's congressional delegation privately are surprised Lugar has gotten by touting this legal fiction that he is not required to maintain any form of residence in Indiana.

If Lugar sticks to this story and would happen to win re-election, should the Democrats still control the Senate, Harry Reid and his fellow Democratic senators could refuse to seat Lugar because he was not an inhabitant of the state and seat Donnelly instead. Think it's not possible? It happened once before when the state's Recount Commission headed by then-Secretary of State Ed Simcox ruled that Richard McIntyre had won his 8th congressional district race against incumbent U.S. Rep. Frank McCloskey back in 1984. The Democratic-controlled Congress refused to seat McIntyre and instead seated McCloskey, declaring him the winner notwithstanding the Recount Commission's determination  that McIntyre had won the race.

Meanwhile, a Democratic political action committee, American Bridge PAC, has launched a video going after Lugar on the residency issue.


Jeff Cox said...

Evan Bayh was not secretary of state in 1984. That was Ed Simcox. Bayh was elected to SoS in 1986.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks for the correction, Jeff. I confused that case with the 1986 Hiler congressional race when Bayh chaired the Recount Commission.