Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Bosma Identifies Kittle As The Person Who Offered Him Unlimited Contributions To Kill HJR-3

The Indianapolis Star has finally been shamed into covering the public flap created when House Speaker Brian Bosma recently announced during a State House press briefing that he had been offered unlimited campaign contributions by one of the opponents of HJR-3 if he agreed to kill the proposed constitutional amendment. Bosma refused to identify the offeror at the time, but the AP's Tom LoBianco, citing numerous sources, identified the person making the offer as former Indiana GOP Chairman Jim Kittle. Speaker Bosma acknowledged during an interview with the Star's Barb Berggoetz today that Kittle was indeed the person who made the offer.
On Wednesday in an interview with The Star, Bosma publicly acknowledged for the first time that the person was Jim Kittle Jr. — a prolific GOP fundraiser and former state party chairman . . .
“The exact quote was: ‘There will be unlimited campaign contributions if this thing can just go away,’ ” he said.
“I thought it was highly inappropriate,” Bosma reiterated Wednesday. “I didn’t think it crossed any criminal line. But I was very uncomfortable with it.”  
Bosma characterized Kittle’s offer as atypical and decided to make it public to show intensity of the lobbying effort on the gay marriage ban. 
“It’s not unusual for people to come to me to support a position,” he said. “Rarely, if ever, is it connected with any pledge of campaign support. I’ve never heard anyone ever say anything ever about unlimited anything.” 
When he told Kittle how he thought it sounded, Bosma said, Kittle changed the offer to “virtually” unlimited campaign funds. Bosma said Kittle he didn’t specify exactly to whom the money would go
For his part, Kittle tells the Star that Bosma is mischaracterizing their conversations about HJR-3:
Kittle said Wednesday, while vacationing in Mexico, that Bosma “mischaracterized” their conversations.
“I expressed my opposition to the marriage amendment and also expressed my belief there would be strong political support for those who had the courage to oppose it or at least amend the (constitutional) amendment,” said Kittle, owner and board chairman of Indianapolis-based Kittle’s Furniture. His company contributed $5,000 to the Freedom Indiana coalition which opposed the amendment and he played a key role in helping find financial support for the group.
Kittle denied he promised “unlimited” campaign funds for GOP lawmakers who would vote against House Joint Resolution 3, which lawmakers passed in February without the civil union ban, thus keeping it off the November ballot.
“Any implication or anything that can be construed as inappropriate or untoward, that’s simply not true,” Kittle told The Star. “I’ve been around politics for a long time. And I know the difference.” . . .  
Kittle said didn’t cross the line. He said Bosma told him he was concerned some House Republicans could draw primary opponents funded by social conservative groups if they voted against the amendment or agreed to remove the civil union ban.
But Kittle said he just told Bosma there would be “significant or substantial support” for them from the businesses, universities and many groups that opposed the amendment. He added, though, he wasn’t there representing anyone but himself, but acknowledged his support of Freedom Indiana.
“I think I had some credibility with Brian and that certainly was one reason I met with him and thought my counsel and offer to support folks who did stand up against it probably had some validity,” Kittle said.
The article goes on to discuss whether the offer might be considered a bribe. Of course, they reference the state's bribery statute and not the federal bribery statute and conclude Kittle's offer probably doesn't rise to a criminal level. As I've discussed before, the state bribery statute is intentionally written to make prosecution under it difficult. That's why cases involving allegations of bribery are typically referred to the feds for prosecution. The Star's story mentions that Kittle contribute $5,000 to Freedom Indiana, the political action committee formed to fight passage of HJR-3; however, Kittle insists that he spoke to Bosma in his individual capacity and not on behalf of Freedom Indiana.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like People's Agenda needs to rake through their archives on things said and done...and the parties protection and under the bus of one another...Connect the dots...

LamLawIndy said...

This whole tale is odd: I see no upside to either the Speaker or Mr. Kittle in taking this public. That being said, I also do not believe that a crime occurred. If Mr. Kittle was telling the Speaker that he'd back incumbents in a primary, then I'd call that core political speech protected by the First Amendment & Article I, section 9 of the Indiana Constitution.

There's also a prudential judgment here: do we want to attempt to assign possible criminal motives to a person who may simply be exercising his right to redress a perceived grievance when he is communicating with an elected official? IMHO, the answer is in the negative. Before assuming criminal intent, I'd personally want to hear a recording of what was said & not simply rely on the listener's recollection.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I will give you that it's an unusual conversation to be taking place publicly at this moment, particularly with all the rumors circulating around the State House about what a certain Turkish businessman is doing to get enough votes to pass public financing for his new soccer stadium this year.