Monday, April 15, 2013

It's All In The Family For Eric Turner

If the House Republicans cared about their image, they would immediately call for the resignation of State Rep. Eric Turner as their Speaker Pro Tem. For the umpteenth time, Turner has been busted for engaging in self-dealing activities for his family's business interests. The latest involves his efforts to allow the BMV to enter into a multi-million dollar contract with a private company to screen uninsured drivers. Turner's daughter, Jessaca Turner Stolts, is a lobbyist for Insure-Rite, a company that lobbied for the legislation and hopes to win the contract. According to an AP report, Rep. Turner personally aided in the passage of the legislation that has now been signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence.
House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner pushed a measure in the House opening the door for Insure-Rite to win a multimillion-dollar contract screening uninsured drivers for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Turner's effort to include the proposal in a sweeping tax bill failed late last month, but a similar measure was signed into law by Pence last week.
Turner, R-Cicero, said he saw nothing wrong with advocating for the measure being sought by his daughter, Jessaca Turner Stults, a lobbyist working for Insure-Rite. He said he has previously voted against the interest of his daughter's clients on legislation and didn't think it was necessary to recuse himself.
"I vote the way I feel my constituents feel and the way I feel would be the best to vote," Turner said. "I only vote in what's in the best interest of Indiana."
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show Turner authored the failed House amendment. But Turner and his daughter say it was instead written by House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville . . .  
Stults said she saw nothing wrong with her father supporting the Insure-Rite measure and pointed to legislation he authored that would harm one of her other clients, online retailer Amazon.

"I think that we do a very good job of trying not to cross that line, but I'm not going to deny that I'm his daughter," Stults said. "This is my job, and I represent my clients. Just like he does what he needs to do from a policy perspective."
Turner's daughter formerly worked as general counsel for FSSA at the same time it was seeking legislative backing for the agency's efforts to privatize welfare services, which Turner actively worked to pass. After the privatization deal went forward, a company owned by Turner's family entered into a multi-million dollar long-term lease with ACS-Xerox for a school building in Marion , which the family's business had just coincidentally purchased a short term earlier, for the FSSA contractor to operate a call center as part of its responsibilities under the agency's welfare privatization deal with it. Just last week, a business controlled by Turner's family received $345,000 in state aid to relocate its headquarters in Cicero to a building owned by Simon Property Group in Carmel's Clay Terrace development. And the AP's Tom Lobianco reminds us of yet another conflict in the past:
In 2011, Turner had another brush with a potential conflict. Turner was asked to skip a vote dealing with nursing homes in the House Ways and Means Committee after The Indianapolis Star reported he was a partner in a company that invested in his son’s nursing home development firm. His daughter, Stults, and son, Zeke Turner, each had testified against the proposal to limit private-pay nursing home beds. Turner had told the Star earlier that month that he saw no need to abstain from voting, but then-Chairman Jeff Espich asked Turner to abstain.
Turner's number one job as a state representative seems to be to see how much money he can make for himself and his family members. His colleagues know that he blatantly engages in these self-dealing activities but don't have the courage to speak out against him. Their complicity in his wrongdoing makes them equally as guilty as him as far as I'm concerned.

UPDATE: The Star has a separate story about two lawmakers doing all they can to ram the pole up the butts of every Indiana natural gas utility user to ensure that their employers make more money from legislation they are trying to affect:
A proposed coal-gas plant in Rockport could have a big impact on the pocketbooks of Indiana residents, but legislation that would introduce new ratepayer protections has twice been watered down at the hands of lawmakers whose employers could benefit from the project.
The lawmakers, Sen. Jim Merritt and Rep. Matt Ubelhor, both have strong ties to the coal industry, which wants to see the project move forward because it would open up a new market for their product. Demand for coal has been waning as aging coal-burning electric plants are shuttered and replaced with cleaner forms of energy production.
Merritt, who is chairman of the Senate Utility Committee, also is vice president for corporate affairs with the Indiana Rail Road Co. Most of the railroad’s business comes from hauling coal, and its largest clients include utility and coal mining companies. Ubelhor is an operations manager for Peabody Energy, the largest coal mining company in Indiana. Both companies could gain new business from the Rockport plant.
The lawmakers’ connections are raising questions about their role in shaping legislation that could alter the course of the planned $2.8 billion Rockport project.
“You don’t have to look at this with a high-powered pair of lenses to see the conflict of interest. It’s glaring,” said Julia Vaughn, policy director with government watchdog group Common Cause Indiana. “Two people with the most obvious and direct conflicts on this issue have been the ones to come to the project’s rescue.” . . . .

No comments: