Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ballard Illegally Transferred $6.8 Million Out Of IMPD Fund For Spite

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UPDATED: The man who ran for mayor saying "public safety is job one" has sure moved to a different place. Despite raising  income taxes this year for the supposed purpose of providing more money to hire additional police officers Ballard promised to hire when he was first elected in 2007, he vetoed a $4.7 million appropriation approved by the City-County Council to purchase 75 replacement police cars for an aging fleet, and to make repairs and capital improvements at the department's firing range and  the police academy. Council members rebuked Ballard by overriding that veto by an astonishing 28-1 vote.

Ballard was then caught transferring $6 million from the parking meter fund to pay for his sweetheart exclusive electric car sharing deal with Blue Indy, a newly-formed company owned by the French company, Bollore. Ballard was also caught illegally transferring close to $300,000 from the storm water fund to pay for his illegal, 7-year, $32 million lease agreement with Vision Fleet to lease more than 400 electric and hybrid cars. The City-County Council has gone to court to void that lease agreement, and it's now raising questions about the legality of the Blue Indy car sharing program that utilizes French-made cars not approved for use on American highways and power charging stations that are not UL-certified as required by law.

Could it get any worse? Apparently the answer is yes. Council members have just learned that Ballard illegally transferred $6.8 million from the IMPD fund, effectively wiping out funds that would have otherwise been available to pay the appropriation approved by the council in April following its vote to override the mayor's veto and jeopardizing the ability to fully-fund a new class of police recruits. City-County Council President Maggie Lewis released the following statement this evening:
Very recently I was informed that Mayor Ballard unilaterally authorized a withdraw of $6.8 million dollars out of the IMPD general fund without consultation or approval from the Council. This is not how good municipal government works. The Council recently overrode the Mayor's veto to add appropriations to fund critically needed pursuit rated vehicles and necessary upgrades to IMPD facilities. His decision means many IMPD officers will continue to operate substandard vehicles and train at outdated facilities. We have too few officers on the street to begin with and this action by the administration may put at risk the city's ability to fund this Fall's final recruit class of 2015. I call on the Mayor to immediately reverse course and follow both the letter and spirit of Indiana law by returning the money to IMPD now."
I warned folks last year that Ballard had no intention of using the money raised from the latest income tax increase for public safety as it was sold to the public. By his recent actions, Ballard has removed any doubt concerning the accuracy of my prediction. The man is convinced he's above the law and can do as he pleases without any consequences. He's Rod Blagojevich on steroids without any fear of a prosecutor holding him to account for his actions as would have long ago occurred in almost any other state in this country.

UPDATE: The City's controller is claiming the money was needed to restore the City's fiscal stability fund's balance to maintain the City's bond rating. There are other funds which could have been tapped--namely the downtown TIF fund the mayor uses as a slush fund to financially reward his big campaign contributors. There are some saying Ballard is tapping the money to pay for his pre-K initiative, which is not in any way a responsibility of municipal government to provide. Campaign contributors before public safety. That's the take-away from this action.

Grand Jury Clears Two IMPD Officers Involved In Fatal Shooting Of Mack Long

Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry's office announced today that a grand jury reviewing evidence received in the shooting death of Mack Long last April by two IMPD officers decided they should not face criminal charges. A vehicle in which Long was a passenger was stopped for a minor traffic offense. Police said Long fled on foot when the police officer asked the driver of the car to provide her license and vehicle registration. The officer reportedly pursued Long, who said he observed Long carrying a firearm at his hip. That officer fired one shot into Long after he caught up with him and he refused to comply with his order to drop to the ground. Long continued to flee after being shot once. The officer says he began wrestling with Long after catching up to him again, at which point a second police officer who arrived on the scene fired two more shots into Long, killing him.

An IMPD spokesman initially claimed that Long had fired at one of the police officers, who allegedly was injured when a bullet grazed him. Police later retracted that statement, agreeing that Long had fired no shots during the altercation. One of the police officers involved in the shooting was wearing a body camera. In addition, a nearby witness recorded the shooting on a cell phone. The police and prosecutor's office both refused to release the video to the public. Curry insisted Indiana law did not permit him to release the video because of an ongoing grand jury investigation. That's an inaccurate statement of Indiana law, which actually gives law enforcement the discretion of withholding the video as an investigative record. The law does not expressly prohibit the video's release. So why not release the video now? You can review the press release issued by the prosecutor's office here. There isn't much there to read.

Community Health Network Agrees To Pay More Than $20 Million Civil Penalty For Medicaid/Medicare Billing Fraud

Community Health Network ("CHN") agreed to repay a multi-million dollar sum to the federal government for Medicare and Medicaid billing fraud it committed over nearly a decade period between the late 1990s and 2009, but the question left unanswered by today's announcement by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana is why the office is bringing no criminal charges against officials of CHN responsible for this not insignificant fraud on federal taxpayers.

According to a press released issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office, CHN contracted for free-standing ambulatory surgery centers ("ASCs") to perform outpatient surgery services for CHN patients. CHN would submit bills for Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement as if the surgeries were performed at a CHN facility instead of one of the ASCs which actually performed the outpatient surgery. CHN misrepresented the place of the surgery because CHN facilities generally received a higher rate of reimbursement for the same service performed at one of its ASCs. CHN continued this fraudulent practice for nearly two years after it had been put on notice that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ("CMS") required hospitals like CHN to bill at the ASC rate, not the hospital rate.

As part of the settlement, CHN agreed to repay the federal government $20,324,902.22 for submitting false claims to Medicare and Medicaid. Under the False Claims Act, the government can collect up to three times the amount of the loss occurred, plus a fine of up to $5,000 to $11,000 for each false bill submitted. It's not clear just how much CHN defrauded the federal government out of since billing records no longer existed for the entire period during which the fraud occurred. The U.S. Attorney's Office could have also brought criminal charges against the individuals responsible for the fraudulent billing but it did not. The settlement agreement didn't even require CHN to acknowledge guilt.

There seems to be a pattern of the U.S. Attorney's Office to treat individual health care providers differently than it does hospital administrators. The office has not hesitated to bring criminal charges against individual health care providers involving far less sums of money. Last year, the office brought criminal charges against an Indianapolis man, Ronald Reed, whose company overbilled Medicare and Medicaid for medical equipment, including wheel chairs, scooters and hospital beds. Reed's company sold used, refurbished equipment but billed it at rates applied to new equipment. He faced a prison sentence of up to 10 years for the charges brought against him for overbilling the government by a little more than $400,000. Similarly, a Fort Wayne woman, Kateen Morris, who operated a transportation company, faced criminal charges for overbilling Medicare and Medicaid. She was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to repay the government nearly $400,000.

The U.S. Attorney's Office handled a case involving Gibson General Hospital the same way it handled CHN's case. Gibson General stood accused of overbilling Medicare and Medicaid in precisely the same manner that CHN overbilled the federal agencies, albeit for a much small sum. Gibson General was only asked to repay double what it overbilled taxpayers, which amounted to a total fine of about $1 million. Twenty percent of the money went to a government whistle blower, a former hospital employee, as a reward for reporting the false claims made by Gibson General. No criminal charges were brought in that case either. Why are hospitals treated differently than persons operating smaller, health care provider businesses. Are hospital administrators too big to jail?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Levin Blinks: Won't Light Up At First Cannabis Church's Inaugural Service

The Grand Poobah of the First Cannabis Church won't risk arrest at his inaugural church service this Wednesday by lighting up and smoking marijuana as he earlier assured his followers and media folks would occur. Bill Levin now says his church will file a civil lawsuit against the state after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act takes effect on Wednesday. The Indianapolis Star quoted the attention-seeking Levin from a post he made on Facebook:
"Right now, we do not want to address this in criminal court, because it's not a strong hand," Levin said in an interview with The Indianapolis Star. "If we address this in civil court, we have a stronger hand."
"Due to the threat of police action against our religion I feel it is important to CELEBRATE LIFE'S GREAT ADVENTURE in our first service WITHOUT THE USE OF CANNABIS," Levin wrote on his Facebook page. "The Police dept has waged a display of shameless misconceptions and voluntary ignorance. We will do our first service without the use of any cannabis. CANNABIS WILL BE PROHIBITED ON THE FIRST SERVICE.
"We will not be dragged into criminal court for their advantage. We will meet them in a civil court where the laws are clear about religious persecution. We do not start fights. We Finish Them!
"One Love!"
Ignorance is bliss. Whether Levin's church could assert in a court of law a religious right to use marijuana as part of its religious ritual has absolutely nothing to do with the enactment of Indiana's RFRA law, which does little more than codify into state law a federal RFRA law that's been on the books for two decades and the associated case law interpreting that statute. RFRA re-affirms free exercise rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. Mainstream news media reports and radical leftist organizations unfairly characterized the law as a license to discriminate against gays in an effort to demonize the long-accepted American tradition of religious freedom.

Prosecutor Files More Charges Against Driver Of Car Involved In Police Action Shooting

Matthew Cole, the 41-year old man driving a car in which a passenger was shot and killed by an IMPD officer last week following a brief police chase, is now facing more serious charges according to Marion Co. criminal court records. Police initially charged Cole with resisting law enforcement and operating a vehicle without a driver's license. He now faces felony charges for possession of an altered gun and two felony charges for possession of less than 5 grams of meth and possession of narcotic drug possession less than 5 grams as an enhancement crime. He also faces three misdemeanor charges for possession of a handgun without a license and an infraction for possession of paraphernalia.

A 34-year old Huntington man, Joshua Dyer, was shot and killed by an IMPD officer following a brief chase after a police officer attempted to question Cole, whose car was reportedly parked illegally in Washington Park. Cole drove away rather than answer the officer's questions. After a short pursuit, Cole's car proceeded down an alley in a residential neighborhood. The car came to a stop after Cole's car plowed through two backyard fences. Cole initially exited his vehicle, facing three officers with their weapons drawn. He reportedly got back in the vehicle and put it in reverse, moving towards the officers, at which time one of the officers fired shots into the car, killing Dyer instantly. The police officer involved in the shooting has not been identified.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fifteen Things You Might Not Know About Bill Levin

Bill Levin, founder of The First Church of Cannabis.
Bill Levin (Indianapolis Star Photo)
The Indianapolis Star has a big spread this weekend on Bill Levin, the Grand Poobah of the First Church of Cannabis. Because Gannett likes list, I'm providing a list of 15 take-aways from the lengthy story authored by Mark Alesia and Tim Evans. They didn't leave too many stones unturned. It's too bad these folks can't devote more time to doing investigating reporting on the rampant corruption in local government instead of promoting this clown and his faux church, but it's the Gannett way and it's not likely to change. The newspaper scarcely covers a mayoral candidate or other candidate for public office with this kind of in-depth coverage.
  • He was born into an upper-middle class Jewish family in 1955 (age 59)
  • His family owned a successful toy distribution business where he occasionally worked in his younger years.
  • He smoked pot for the first time in his early teens after it was offered to him by an older guy. He was the kid in the neighborhood who turned the other kids onto pot. 
  • He rebelled against his parent's country club lifestyle (they were members of Broadmoor Country Club), and they sent him away to boarding schools in Maine and Ohio.
  • He's been an "inveterate huckster" most of his life: "I can look at something and have it marketed before the person finishes the first sentence."
  • He spent most of his younger adult years working as a punk band promoter.
  • He's had minor brushes with the law, including charges for public intoxication and growing marijuana.
  • In the 1980s, he briefly made a living selling a high-caffeine soft drink, Jolt. 
  • He ran a party bus in Broad Ripple for about 10 years.
  • He started a group to legalize marijuana in the 1990s.
  • He fled the country and lived in Thailand for several years because he said his life "was falling apart."
  • He filed for bankruptcy in 2005, claiming he had no income in 2003 or 2004.
  • He's been married a couple of times and has two grown daughters to his first wife, Julie Lahr, who sees his role as the Grand Poobah of the First Cannabis Church as just the latest of his exploits and attempts at reinventing himself.
  • Levin has twice run for public office unsuccessfully as a Libertarian candidate for city-county council and state representative in 2011 and 2014, respectively.
  • Levin says he's not in it for the money: "I want to see the church grow and expand," Levin said. "Again, I don't need s---. What the f--- do I need? I got a 36-year-old girlfriend. I'm 59 years old. I'm happier than f---. ... I see it as a huge growth of a loving religion. I'm not looking at it as a cash cow. I'm looking at it as helping others to develop freedom of religion."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sun-Times Continues To Report On Extravagant Salaries Paid To Chicago Tourism Officials While Indy Media Is Mum On Visit Indy's Outrageous Executive Salaries

Choose Chicago WATCHDOGS-CST-062815-4

Advance Indiana has told you about the outrageous salaries that are being paid to Visit Indy's executives. The Chicago Sun-Times has been on the tail of Visit Indy's counterpart in Chicago since our ridiculously overpaid former CEO Donald Welsh left Indianapolis to become the head of Choose Chicago in 2013. The Sun-Times Watchdogs learn that a hefty six-figure payout was made when Choose Chicago gave the boot to its former CEO, Warren Wilkinson, to make room for Welsh, who is now one of the highest paid public officials in Chicago earning well over $580,000 a year two years ago.

Choose Chicago has an annual budget of $32 million, 87% of which it receives from taxpayer dollars, but the nonprofit has refused to release details of how it spends its money to the Sun-Times Watchdogs. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has upheld Choose Chicago's claim of secrecy regarding its massive annual budget. Welsh was hired in at $375,000 a year before his salary was pushed up more than $200,000 a year. A spokesperson for Choose Chicago defended Welsh's high pay, saying it was "commensurate with that of industry leaders in similar positions." Through other public records sources, the Sun-Times has been able to uncover large, six-figure consulting payments made to lobbyists and other politically-connected individuals. Choose Chicago's board is made up exclusively of political insiders like Chicago Cubs' owner Tom Ricketts, Gibson's restaurant owner John Colleti, the head of Chicago's chamber of commerce, Obama's former social secretary, Desiree Rogers and a cousin of former Mayor Richard Daley.

Visit Indy's has an annual budget of more than $13.6 million, which is funded mostly by government grants paid for with your tax dollars, according to its most recently-available tax return for 2013. Membership dues paid by hotels, restaurants and other businesses which directly benefit from the money Visit Indy spends promoting tourism and convention-related business pay just over $730,000 a year, or only about 5% of the revenues the nonprofit generates annually. Nearly 50% of its annual budget is used to pay salaries and payroll-related expenses for its officers and employees. It spends close to $1 million a year for its employees to travel and to attend other conventions and meetings.

In 2013, Visit Indy's CEO Leonard Hoops was paid a base salary of $475,984, plus more than $65,000 in additional compensation, providing him an annual compensation package worth more than $540,000 a year. Executive Vice President James Wallis had an annual compensation package worth more than $284,000. Other high-paid executives included: Janet Arnold ($197,696); Chris Gahl ($177,501); Mary Huggard ($157,472); Susan Townsend ($195,003); Matthew Carter ($206,392); and Dustin Arnheim ($168,124). Visit Indy's board is made up of the usual suspects of downtown elites, including the following in addition to the aforementioned executives:

  • Michael Browning
  • Ellen Saul
  • Derrick Burks
  • Jeff Belskus
  • Chris Cotterill
  • James Isch
  • Thomas Jernstedt
  • Jerry Semler
  • Dave Sibley
  • Keira Amstutz
  • Tanya Bell
  • Karen Crotchfelt
  • Michael Crowther
  • Traci Dolan
  • James Dora, Jr.
  • Robert Duncan
  • Pat Early
  • Greg Fennig
  • Rick Fuson
  • Dr. James Gladden
  • Kirk Hendrix
  • Cynthia Hoye
  • Craig Huse
  • Ann Lathrop
  • Ryan Vaughn
  • Michael Huber
  • Phillip Terry 
  • Janet Arnold
  • Pete Ward
  • Melissa Barnes
  • Barney Levengood
  • Maggie Lewis
  • Mike McQuillen
  • William McGowen
  • James Morris
  • Sherry Siewert
  • Allison Melangton
  • Dave Lawrence
  • Steve Stitle
Board members often work for organizations that receive Indy Visit dollars. Ellen Saul's consulting firm received over $30,000. The Pacers organization where James Morris is an executive received over $21,000. Exact Target, which employed Traci Dolan, received over $13,000. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Jeff Belskus worked received nearly $16,000. The presence of the Indianapolis Star's Karen Crotchfelt on Visit Indy's board helps explain why the Star, unlike its counterpart in Chicago, works to keep the inner-workings of Visit Indy under wraps. Back in the day when the Pulliams owned The Star, the newspaper took the nonprofit to court to force them to open up their records.

Visit Indy has also set up an affiliated nonprofit, Tourism Tomorrow, Inc., which has annual revenues of more than $755,000, more than 20% of which is spent on salaries and related expenses. It has a much smaller, more exclusive board made up of the following: Michael Browning; John Krauss; Robert Reynolds, Milt Thompson; Caterina Blitzer; Martha Lamkin; Brian Payne; Adam Thies; and Molly Chavers. Several Visit Indy executives, including Hoops, Wallis and Carter also serve on Tourism Tomorrow's board. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lead Attorney In Utah's Sister Wives Case Finds Solace In Today's Gay Marriage Ruling

Chief Justice John Roberts' warning in his dissenting opinion that today's Supreme Court decision mandating all states recognize and issue gay marriage licenses as a fundamental constitutional right is opening the door to similar recognition for plural marriages, and that point has resonated with a prominent constitutional lawyer advancing the rights of such persons to be free from criminal sanction. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley is the attorney in the so-called "Sisters Wives" case out of Utah in which he is seeking to strike down Utah's law making plural cohabitation arrangements unlawful.

In a sense, Turley observes that the case is closely analogous to the Lawrence v. Kansas case in which the Supreme Court paved the way for today's historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Lawrence case struck down state sodomy laws as unconstitutional because of their use to punish the sexual activities of gays. Here's the passage in Chief Justice Roberts' opinion in which Turley finds solace for his "Sisters Wives" case:
One immediate question invited by the majority’s position is whether States may retain the definition of marriage as a union of two people. Cf. Brown v. Buhman, 947 F. Supp. 2d 1170 (Utah 2013), appeal pending, No. 14- 4117 (CA10). Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective “two” in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.
Turley's case is currently pending before a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Denver. He says he now fully expects to amplify today's decision in his upcoming argument. Although most people think of Mormons when they think of plural marriages, the largest religious group that practices plural marriage is the Islamic faith, which is rapidly growing in numbers in this country. It seems only a matter of time before persons who practice faiths recognizing plural marriages begin advocating the legal recognition of them. Will the ACLU stand behind them the way they have gays in their successful quest to achieve the constitutional right to marry?

Citizens Energy Seeking 20% Water Rate Increase

It's the gift that keeps on giving. Members of Indianapolis' downtown mafia made hundreds of millions of dollars through a series of flips in the ownership of the Indianapolis Water Company before it wound up under the control of Citizens Energy. Each sale of ownership was quickly followed by a series of double-digit rate increases. The overpaid, top-heavy management at Citizens Energy is back seeking yet another 20% rate increase next year. They always couch their rate increases in the least-offending way. It's only $6 a month they say. Add that to the $30 a month average bill, and it's a 20% increase. The utility obtained approval to raise rates by 9% last year after originally seeking a 15% rate increase. The utility also got approval to raise waste water rates by 26%.

Rates have more than doubled over the past decade. Mayor Greg Ballard's latest sale of the water company to Citizen's Energy is largely to blame. The water company was already saddled with more than a billion dollars in debt, and our doofus mayor convinced the City-County Council that it was a good idea to tack a half billion dollars in additional debt on to the purchase of the water company so he could blow the money lining the pockets of his campaign contributors. The deal was nothing more than a series of bribes, payoffs and kickbacks to a group of elite insiders who get rich at our expense. They believe the public is too distracted by their unhealthy attention to sports and pop culture to comprehend what's happening to them, and they're right.

Hite And Curry Warn First Church Of Cannabis Worshipers Of Potential Arrests: Hite Likens To Jim Jones' Cult

UPDATED: IMPD Chief Rick Hite and Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry held a press conference this morning to warn those who intend to use the excuse of attending the first service of the First Church of Cannabis as a cause for lighting up and smoking marijuana that they need to be prepared to face arrest. "Anyone who is present in that sort of setting is subject to be prosecuted for visiting a common nuisance," Curry said.

Bill Levin, the church's founder, leader and self-identified Jew, has long advocated the legalization of marijuana, which he claims is beneficial to the human body. Levin has attempted to make a mockery of religion following the passage of Indiana's RFRA law, which in practical terms, is no different than the federal law passed by Congress two decades ago and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Levin is pretending the founding of his church making the worship of cannabis a central tenet was made possible by the law's passage, a total fabrication openly perpetuated by the mainstream media. Levin, who refers to his members as Cannaterians, says his church seeks "love, understanding and health." He plans his first church service on July 1, the day Indiana's RFRA law takes effect.

"The RFRA act does not create any sort of immunity from prosecution because it’s under the alleged guise of religious practice," Curry said. Chief Hite went further in his condemnation of Levin's church, comparing it to the infamous Indiana cult leader, Jim Jones. "As Jim Jones once did within our state; he led a group of people into a place of no return. We don’t want that to happen again in our state," Hite said. "We want to send a message: This is not the way to challenge a law. You certainly can’t expect the police to stand by and not do something about it." Ironically, Levin's Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation donated an old synagogue near the city's downtown that cult leader Jim Jones once used for his People's Temple church services before relocating it to California. Jones was actually an agent of the CIA contracted to perform a Nazi-like human mind control experiment that ended with the execution of more than 900 innocent men, women and children, including dozens from the state of Indiana.

Something the media has paid little notice to is the fact that many employers in Indiana, including some of its largest employers, have a zero tolerance drug use policy that extends to the use of marijuana, even if used in states like Colorado where it's legal. Levin set up a GoFundMe site to fund his church, which identifies hundreds of contributors by name. Members of Levin's church could be unwittingly opening themselves up to a random drug test that could result in the termination of their employment, something Levin is probably not a whole lot concerned about as he basks in the incredible fifteen minutes of fame he's earning at the expense of people who hold sincere religious beliefs.

UPDATE: Levin reacted angrily to Chief Hite's comments comparing his church to Jim Jones' People's Temple cult. He wrote the following on Facebook:
I would think that if a person in position of power who is supposed to serve and protect... injecting insults and slander to our church and myself would be frowned upon by many... I would hope that the Mayor of Indianapolis, would ask for his resignation. This kind of brutal ignorance and bigotry needs to be nipped in the bud asap. If he made those comments about any other religion, there would be riots in the streets. I am ashamed of him representing our fair city.

Supreme Court Says Gay Marriage Is A Fundamental Right

UPDATED: With the stroke of a pen, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 opinion swept away centuries-old state laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman. The majority opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy extended the reach of equal protection and due process guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution to impose upon all states in the union the requirement of recognizing same-sex marriages. This ruling mandates that states both issue licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages granted by other states and jurisdictions. The right to marry a person of the same-sex is deemed a fundamental right under the constitution by virtue of today's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The dissenting opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts criticized the majority opinion, saying whether same-sex marriage is a good idea or not should be of no concern to the Supreme Court because it is not a legislature. While he agreed that there were strong public policy reasons for advocating for legislative recognition of same-sex marriages, the constitutional recognition of it as a fundamental right was not compelling. "The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a State change its definition of marriage," Roberts wrote. "And a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational." "In short, our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage. The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition."

Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas both wrote separate dissenting opinions. Justice Scalia characterized today's majority opinion, which he refers to as a "decree," as representing "a threat to American democracy." "So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage, " Scalia writes. "It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me." "Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court." "This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves."

Gov. Mike Pence issued the following statement in response to today's decision:

“Like many Hoosiers, I believe marriage is the union between one man and one woman, and I am disappointed that the Supreme Court failed to recognize the historic role of the states in setting marriage policy in this country. Nevertheless, our Administration will continue to uphold the rule of law and abide by the ruling of the Court in this case. Under our system of government, our citizens are free to disagree with decisions of the Supreme Court, but we are not free to disobey them. As we move forward as a state and a nation, Hoosiers may be assured that our Administration will respect the law and the dignity and worth of every Hoosier and every Hoosier family.”

Woman Dies After Falling Off A Motorcycle Driven By Off-Duty IMPD Officer

WTHR Photo
A one-vehicle accident involving an off-duty IMPD officer has claimed the life of a woman. The off-duty police officer was reportedly navigating a curve near the intersection of West and Washington Streets at 2:30 a.m. earlier this morning when the woman passenger fell off the motorcycle and hit a utility pole. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver, whose name was not released, was described as a 10-year veteran detective of the police department. He apparently misjudged a curb as he was navigating the turn and struck it, causing the woman to be thrown from the bike. The motorcycle traveled nearly another block before coming to a stop. The officer attempted unsuccessfully to render aid to the accident victim. Police say alcohol or speed was not a suspected factor in the crash. The officer was being treated for minor injuries.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Supreme Court Upholds ACA Insurance Premium Subsidies

If the Supreme Court had ruled today the way the state of Indiana had urged it to hold in a case challenging the availability of health insurance premium subsidies to residents in states like Indiana which chose not to implement a state health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act, at least 180,000 Hoosiers would have lost their health insurance coverage. Those Hoosiers can breathe easier today because the Supreme Court in a 6-3 opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that Congress could not have intended to limit health insurance premium subsidies only to persons in states where state health exchanges had been implemented. The full opinion in King v. Burrell can be viewed here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Troy Riggs Bails As Public Safety Director

This isn't real surprising. Mayor Greg Ballard's Public Safety Director Troy Riggs, who proved to be all talk and no action after taking over for his controversial predecessor, Frank Straub, announced he's bailing out early. Apparently IUPUI has a bunch of money to blow with those skyrocketing tuition fees and created a six-figure make-work job for him in public safety research and outreach. IU's Public Policy Institute Director Mark Lawrance says the university found value in Riggs' "holistic approach" to public safety and crime prevention using data-driven resources." Have you ever noticed these guys always toss out the word "holistic" whenever they're trying to sound intelligent saying something that sets off the BS detector?

IMPD Officer Shoots And Kills Vehicle Passenger After Chase Following Minor Traffic Stop, Indianapolis Media Yawns

If a police officer is going to kill a citizen, there's no better place in America to do it than Indianapolis because the media seems to lack any intellectual curiosity to question the circumstances of the shooting. If a police officer shoots and kills you, the presumption is that you had it coming to you. And that may prove to be the case in the latest police-action shooting, but I find disturbing the lack of inquisitiveness of our local news media when these shootings occur to ascertain the most basic of facts and explanations.

The latest fatal shooting occurred near 38th Street and Keystone Avenue. We're told an IMPD officer stopped to question two men in a parked car around 6:30 p.m. yesterday in Washington Park near 34th and North Dearborn Streets. The car was reportedly parked illegal. IMPD spokesman Kendale Adams said the two men were uncooperative when the police officer began questioning them, and the car pulled away from the scene at a low rate of speed. The officer began pursuing the car, which eventually turned down an alley, crashed through two fences and ended in someone's backyard. Two other officers had joined the pursuit at this point and had their guns drawn at the scene. The driver first exits the car after being ordered out of the car by police officers with guns drawn before returning to it and attempting to put the car in reverse, allegedly heading towards the officers. One officer fired shots into the car, killing the passenger instantly. Citizen eyewitness accounts of the shooting seemed to vary regarding the events leading up to the shooting.

So were the two men armed? That question wasn't answered in any of the media reports I read. Is the vehicle a weapon? Yes, if it's being used as a deadly weapon to run down an officer. Was that the case? We only have the officers' word at this point that was the driver's intent. Was the passenger driving the vehicle? Obviously not. Why shoot the passenger instead of the driver if you were trying to stop the use of the vehicle as a deadly weapon? At the end of the day, one man is dead and another man is in police custody for what began as nothing more than an illegally parked car. Neither the dead man nor the man in police custody has been identified. The facts aren't a whole lot different from the facts a couple of months ago when Mack Long was shot and killed by a police officer after he fled on foot following a minor traffic stop. Perhaps both police shootings were justified. Who knows? As with the latest shooting, police accounts of what happened didn't necessarily jive with what witnesses saw. In Mack Long's case, initial police reports that Long had fired the first shots turned out to be completely untrue. He fired no shots, although he was supposedly armed. What we know is that nobody seems to be asking the tough questions to get basic answers to ascertain any presumptions regarding the justification of the shootings. That's disturbing.

UPDATE: Police have now identified the driver of the car as 41-year old Matthew Cole of Indianapolis. A quick check of Indiana's online criminal records does not reveal any serious prior arrests. He's identified as being homeless. He's charged with a felony for resisting law enforcement with the use of a vehicle and operating a vehicle without a license. The victim of the police shooting was 34-year old Joshua Dyer of Huntington.
Matthew Cole

More Problems Ahead For Blue Indy

Advance Indiana has learned folks are beginning to ask questions about Mayor Greg Ballard's authority to declare designated parking areas on Indianapolis city streets for exclusive use by Blue Indy or any other business for that matter. Some are questioning whether Mayor Ballard had any legal authority to do that at all without council authorization. The special parking permit authorized by Mayor Ballard for Blue Indy on Washington Street is actually designated a "no parking" zone under city code. We are hearing that a council resolution may be in the works that would order the Blue Indy cars removed from Washington Street. That's in addition to the problem with the electric cars not even been approved for use on American highways by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Obama Trade Deal Would Strip Congressional Authority Over Work Visas

UPDATED: It's just another example of the death of the U.S. Constitution and our republican form of government. The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact negotiated by President Barack Obama with other nations would effectively strip Congress of its ability to adjust work visas issued to foreign workers and hand that control to an international tribunal.

American college graduates are seeing their hopes dashed as they finish their college degrees with enormous student loan debt only to find they are unable to find a job, particularly STEM jobs, because employers are using work visas issued by the federal government to hire foreign workers. Those work visas were originally intended to be issued only to workers in fields for which there were a shortage of American workers, but in recent years, record numbers of work visas have been issued to foreign workers while many skilled American workers are unable to find employment.

What is now clear is that these guest worker programs are not being used as they were intended to be used. In my practice of law, I've uncovered major abuses of these programs that are being ignored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security. Some employers treat foreign workers like indentured servants, violating every rule applicable to their employment with virtual impunity. They are nothing more than an exercise in depressing wages in this country for even the most skilled workers. I hate to say it, but the American dream is dead for most people. We are rapidly devolving into a third world country with a large gulf between the haves and have nots, which seems to be the design of the multi-national corporations and billionaire oligarchs who now control our elected officials lock, stock and barrel.

You need to be contacting members of the Indiana congressional delegation and asking them why they favor this trade deal. Any member of Congress who supports this trade deal is violating the oath of office they took when they were sworn into office. If they are unable to abide by the terms of the U.S. Constitution, then they should resign or be removed from office.

UPDATE: Senate Republicans handed President Obama a major victory when they provided enough votes to allow for fast track authority of the trade deal to proceed to a vote tomorrow. Only four Republicans joined 33 Democrats in opposing the motion approved on a 60-37 vote. They included: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). Not surprisingly, Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN), who is not seeking re-election, favors a vote on the trade deal. Sen. Joe Donnelly, the state's junior Democratic senator, voted against the procedural motion.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Former Lawrence Township Small Claims Court Judge Charged With Felony Sexual Misconduct With Jail Inmates He Represented

An Indianapolis criminal defense lawyer and former Lawrence Township Small Claims Court judge, Clark Rehme, has been arrested for sexual misconduct with female inmates he had been assigned to represent as a public defender. The arrest took place this morning at the Shelby County Jail after a female inmate told officials that Rehme had asked her to expose her breasts before exposing himself and having her to perform oral sex on him during a jail visit. Another female inmate represented by Rehme had made similar complaints about him.

According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by WRTV, police got the two women's consent to monitor and record conversations Rehme had with them when he visited them at the jail this morning. The probable cause affidavit says Rehme quickly changed the topic to sex after discussing a bail hearing with one of the women. Rehme asked the woman to raise her shirt before exposing himself and asking her to move closer to him. That's when police officers entered the room and placed Rehme under arrest. He faces three charges of felony sexual misconduct and one count of official misconduct, also a felony.

Rehme is currently a practicing attorney at the law firm of Brown Tompkins Lory & Mastrian. Rehme, a Republican, was appointed to fill the unexpired term of former Lawrence Township Small Claims Court Judge James Joven following his election to the Marion Superior Court. He lost the November 2014 election to Kimberly Bacon. Rehme is a member of the Marion Co. Animal Care & Control Board and vice president of the state's Indiana Home Inspector Licensing Board.

UPDATED: The Indiana Lawyer posted a copy of the probable cause affidavit and charging information, which you can access by clicking here. The Indiana Lawyer says Rehme joined the law firm of Mark Sullivan & Associates in January, although the website for Brown Tompkins Lory & Mastrian still lists him as an attorney with their firm.

UPDATED II: Several days later, Rehme's name has been removed from Brown Tompkins' website. One of the firm's principals, John Tompkins, is representing Rehme in his criminal case.

City Securities Fined $250,000 For Municipal Securities Offering Violations

The Securities & Exchange Commission announced a $250,000 fine against Indianapolis-based City Securities in connection with the sale of two municipal security offerings. According to the agreed order, City Securities acknowledged failures in conducting adequate due diligence in the offerings, which resulted in the securities brokerage firm being unable to form a reasonable basis for believing the truthfulness of certain material representations in official statements issued in connection with those offerings. The agreed order notes that City Securities self-reported the violations.

In a separate story, the IBJ reports that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") suspended one of City Securities' brokers for 20 days for allegedly executing client security trades without written authorization. John Cody Miller, a securities broker and investment adviser, served the 20-day suspension from May 4 through June 1 and agreed to pay a $10,000 fine. According to the IBJ, Miller settled a previous customer dispute in 2007 for allegedly tendering share options without a client's consent after paying a settlement fee of $14,884.

Two years ago, City Securities paid a fine of $580,000 in connection with municipal security offerings, including:underwriting public offerings that contained material misrepresentations; defrauding taxpayers by billing expenses from bond proceeds not permitted by law; and making illegal gifts and gratuities to public officials involved in municipal bond offerings. One of its brokers, Randy Ruhl, agreed to serve a one-year suspension and pay a $38,475 fine. Michael Bosway is City Securities President & CEO. Its directors includes John Biddinger, Mark Miles and Mark Lubbers.

Where Else Would A Clinton Host A Political Fundraiser In Central Indiana?

Hillary Clinton is in town today to raise money for her presidential campaign. It's not too hard to figure out who will be hosting the fundraiser for her. Yes, it's a Simon billionaire heiress. The $2,700 per ticket fundraiser will be held at Cindy Simon Skojdt's Carmel mansion. Former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, a Clinton supporter, is helping out with Clinton's fundraising efforts in Indiana. Clinton hopes to raise $100 million from the people who keep getting richer while the rest of us keep getting poorer by the end of this year.

AP Photos: A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz (AP Photo)
An Associated Press photo of Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, has drawn jeers from conservatives who think its depiction of a gun aimed at his head is no accident. Recall how AP and other mainstream media services repeatedly used photos of Barack Obama with mystical auras seemingly paint-brushed into them to conjure up images of someone beyond human.
Then-Sen. Barack Obama campaigning for president (AP Photo)

Another IMPD Officer Found Dead

A second IMPD police officer has been found dead inside his home in the past month. Noblesville police found a 10-year IMPD veteran, Officer Robert McCauley, dead in his home yesterday evening. The Indianapolis Star says McCauley died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police discovered his body after receiving reports of a person inside the home threatening to harm himself.

Last month, IMPD officers found the body of veteran IMPD Officer Gregory Slaven in his home. His cause of death has not yet been determined. A month earlier, a 34-year old man living with Officer Slaven, Aaron Barnes, was found dead in the same home. His death was ruled an accidental death resulting from an overdose of chloroform ingested by Barnes.

Officer McCauley was one of several police officers named as defendants in a federal lawsuit Willie King filed, claiming police violated his First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights when he was arrested in 2011 after police told him to stop filming an arrest of his neighbor. Officer McCauley seized King's camera. King was charged with resisting law enforcement, disorderly conduct and public intoxicated, but he was later found not guilty of those charges at trial. The City later settled the lawsuit filed by King for $200,000 and agreed to implement a new policy that prohibited officers from interfering with private citizens recording their actions.

Noblesville Triples Number Of Availaible Liquor Licenses: Star Calls It Economic Development

UPDATED: A new riverfront district designation approved by the Noblesville city council allows the city to expand the number of liquor licenses it can currently issue in its downtown area substantially. The number of liquor licenses will grow from 10 to 30, tripling the current number of businesses licensed to sell alcohol. The Gannett-owned Star in a report today calls it economic development. The head of the local chamber of commerce tells the Star he has no worries the explosion in liquor licenses will cause the city's downtown to become more like Broad Ripple and transform the city's family-friendly atmosphere. Gannett is just happy that more people will have the opportunity to get too drunk to see what's happening to their country.

UPDATE: The Star popped another story online from its alcohol reporter, Amy Haneline, recommending five of her favorite cocktails to consume at local bars. While she's at it, why doesn't she start sampling all of Indy's sex clubs and reviewing them for us. Perhaps she can also check out online escorts and recommend the best to her readers.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Redflex Official's Guilty Plea Implicates Columbus And Cincinnati Officials In Bribery Scheme

An unsealed plea agreement involving a former executive of Redflex, the controversial red light camera company ensnared in a Chicago bribery scheme, has implicated city officials in Columbus and Cincinnati in a bribery scheme. Karen Finley, the former Redflex executive, admitted trading campaign contributions to certain officials in exchange for their support of red light camera legislation according to the unsealed federal indictment. Redflex sells red light camera technology, which it hoped to install in Columbus and Cincinnati once the legislation was approved.

The officials implicated in the bribery scandal were not identified in Finley's indictment, although the Columbus Dispatch speculates that City Council President Andrew Ginther, a Democratic candidate for mayor this year, is one of the unnamed officials in Finley's plea agreement. According to the plea agreement, Finley used its Ohio lobbyist as a conduit to funnel bribes to officials in both cities in the form of campaign contributions. The lobbyist issued phony consulting services invoices to Redflex, which were actually nothing more than reimbursements for campaign contributions.

The scheme outlined in the plea agreement fits a pattern commonly practiced here in Indiana where lobbyists who consistently make extremely large campaign contributions to certain elected officials are, in fact, acting as a conduit for well-heeled clients. Some prominent lobbyists in Indiana consistently shell out contributions ranging from the tens of thousands to well into the six-figure range. Campaign contributions are not tax-deductible, but outside lobbyists can issue phony invoices to their clients as a means of obtaining reimbursement for campaign contributions they make on their behalf without disclosing the true source of the campaign contributions. Corrupt politicians and their lobbying friends have nothing to fear here in Indiana though. Federal prosecutors in Indiana refuse to investigate this form of bribery, and there are no real investigative journalists left in the mainstream media to report on these illegal activities and put pressure on prosecutors to act.

LAZ Parking Executive Fired For Allegedly Taking Kickbacks From Parking Meter Provider

LAZ Parking, the company that manages Chicago's parking meter assets, fired an executive of its company this past week after learning he was under investigation for accepting kickbacks from the CEO of a company the firm awarded a contract to supply LAZ Parking with the smart meters it uses in Chicago. The LAZ Parking executive allegedly accepted $90,000 in kickbacks from the company by having payments funneled to a consulting firm set up by the executive's wife. The executive, who has not been named, was fired after a Chicago reporter learned he was under investigation by federal authorities and called the company for comment.

News reports did not identify the company executive responsible for paying bribes to the LAZ executive; however, other news reports seem to suggest it may be a Florida businessman, George R. Levey, who pleaded guilty in April to paying bribes to Portland, Oregon's former parking manager. Portland's former parking manager, Ellis McCoy, was reportedly cooperating in an ongoing federal investigation when Levey pleaded guilty. Levey, who owns Cale Parking Systems, paid made more than $56,000 in phony consulting payments to a consulting business McCoy set up, as well as paid for golf, gambling and vacation trips for him. McCoy had been arrested by federal authorities four years ago.

Don't think this sort of thing isn't going on in Indianapolis because it is. The difference is that we don't have federal prosecutors who will dig as deeply into the weeds as they do in other cities to uncover public corruption. Federal investigators and the news media ignore whistle blowers while building those up who are defrauding the public as respectable civic leaders. Bribes, payoffs and kickbacks are all a part of the way business is conducted here as vendors throughout the nation are well aware. The LAZ Parking investigation is intriguing because here we have the feds investigating bribes paid to a privatize operator's employees when we can't even get deals involving actual public officials investigated here in Indianapolis.

Hill-Rom Moves Corporate Headquarters To Chicago

Buried in recent news reports of Hill-Rom's more than $2 billion acquisition of Welch Allyn was a plan to relocate the company's corporate headquarters from its long-time home in Batesville to Chicago. John Greisch, the former CEO of Baxter International, never moved to Indiana in 2010 after he joined the company. This past week's announcement formalizes a decision to permanently relocate the company's headquarters to Illinois where it will become one of Illinois' 50 largest public companies. Its corporate offices employ about 80 people and is growing. The decision is not expected to affect the nearly 1,500 operations jobs still located in Batesville.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fitch Bond Rating Release On IMS Bonds Sheds More Light On The Deal

The Indiana media's coverage of the mechanics of the $100 million public subsidy for improvements to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been less than informative. A press release this week from Fitch Ratings announcing an AA+ rating for the bonds provides more information than previous news reports have offered about the deal. Along with issuing its second-highest rating to the IMS bonds, the credit rating agency also reaffirmed the state's AAA bond rating.

The bonds are described as "limited obligations" of the Indiana Finance Authority ("IFA"), which are paid from biennial appropriations made to the legislatively-created Indiana Motorsports Commission ("IMC"). The high bond rating assigned to the IMS bonds is instructive. It's based entirely on the state's current financial and debt situation and has nothing to do with the continued economic vitality of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ("IMS") as a going concern.

According to Fitch, IMS will lease to IFA any part of its facilities on which improvements are being made with the $96 million derived from the bond proceeds. IFA will, in turn, lease the facilities to the IMC, the state entity responsible for carrying out the improvements to the IMS, which will then lease the facilities back to the IMS. The IFA and IMC have covenanted to obtain state appropriations of $7 million annually to repay the bonds, which will have a 20-year maturity cost of $140 million.

Fitch's rating is unaffected by the fact that the proceeds of the bonds are being used for a privately-owned facility. "IFA has strong incentive to seek appropriations for this project given the demonstrated state commitment," Fitch says. "In three consecutive legislative sessions the general assembly approved legislation for this transaction. Each of the legislated changes enhanced protections for bondholders and deepened the state's commitment to the project." Fitch notes the currently biennial budget includes a $14 million appropriation to cover debt service on the bonds.

IMS has pledged to pay $2 million annually to IMC to cover the $40 million difference between the amount the $100 million authorized by the legislature and the $140 million needed to cover the 20-year bond obligation. The state will also credit the IMS for taxes and fees collected from the special taxing district it has created to encompass the speedway and surrounding areas. After 30 years, the IMS pledges to guarantee any shortfall in the difference between the $140 million and the annual $2 million in payments it made to the IMC, plus a credit for taxes and fees paid into the special taxing district. It's interesting that the bonds have to be paid off in 20 years, but a determination of a shortfall between revenues generated from within the special taxing district and the $140 million won't be made until a decade later.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Expert Who Discovered Blue Indy Was Non-Compliant Told To Butt Out By City Officials

John Storm
UPDATED: John Storm, a farmer, Purdue-graduated engineer and highly successful business owner of Indianapolis-based Contour Hardening, Inc. discovered more than a year ago that the Bollore Blue Indy electrical car sharing system rolled out in Indianapolis was not in compliance with industry-accepted standards or city-imposed standards. When he attempted to call this to the attention of city officials, he was essentially told to butt out.

Storm testified at yesterday evening's Indianapolis City-County Council Public Works committee meeting. City officials and representatives of Blue Indy, who were invited to address council members about concerns raised by Storm, failed to show up and defend the safety of the electric car sharing product. Storm noted that when he first inspected the power stations installed on Washington Street last year, he immediately noticed they lacked the UL stamp of approval which the city's code expressly requires. That led him to contact one of IPL's attorneys at Barnes & Thornburg, who passed along his concerns. When city officials learned of his concerns, rather than thank him for bringing the matter to their attention, he was met with an angry response. He was essentially told he was just bitter his patented product wasn't being utilized and to butt out because it was none of his business.

As word began circulating among members of the City-County Council after Councilor Christine Scales brought Storms' concerns to their attention, Storm was contacted and urged to go back and re-check the charging stations. He learned the original charging stations had been changed out; however, they still lacked the UL stamp of approval. Instead, a Canadian company had certified that the charging stations met standards equivalent to UL standards, which still doesn't meet the mandatory UL standard imposed by the city's code.

It's not just the charging stations that are a concern. Storm also learned the French-made electric vehicles have not been approved for highway use in the United States by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. The cars were only granted a temporary permit to be used in the U.S. for demonstration purposes under an import waiver. As it stands today, the vehicles cannot be used by the public unless an employee of Blue Indy accompanies the driver. They don't have passenger-side airbags. They don't have braking systems or bumpers that meet federal standards. The batteries used by the cars are yet to be tested and certified. Yet the Blue Indy cars have been on our city streets now for more than a year despite all of these shortcomings. Why? The public deserves answers, even if the administration lapdogs at the Indianapolis Star, IBJ and elsewhere think otherwise. Storm deserves a big thanks from the general public for coming forward as a government whistle blower.

UPDATED: Some Advance Indiana readers have complained that city officials have removed prime parking spaces at 54th and College Avenue along College Avenue to provide spaces for the Blue Indy cars. This area already has a severe shortage of parking spaces, and the wasted spaces for Blue Indy is only exacerbating those problems.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Oesterle-Financed Poll Says Pence Is Vulnerable

The day before Gov. Mike Pence was set to announce his re-election, a new poll commissioned by his new-found nemeses claims he's in big trouble nearly 16 months ahead of next year's general election. A poll conducted by long-time Daniels pollster Christine Matthews on behalf of businessman Bill Oesterle claims 54% of the state's voters favor electing a new governor over re-electing Pence, who has a 16 point net negative disapproval rating according to the poll.

Matched against two leading Democratic candidates for governor, former House Speaker John Gregg and state education Supt. Glenda Ritz, Pence faces a tough re-election odds. Gregg leads Pence by one point and is tied with Ritz according to the poll, which attributes Pence's supposed poor handling over Indiana's RFRA law and education issues as reasons for his poor standing with the public. The poll claims 54% of the state's voters favor adding non-discrimination language to the state's civil rights laws to protect gays and transgender persons from discrimination.

None of the news results I've read indicate how Oesterle, who has been mentioned as a potential candidate for governor, paid for this poll. Has he formed a political action committee or an exploratory committee to run for governor? If he's trying to influence next year's gubernatorial campaign, doesn't he have a legal obligation to do that? I would be curious to see how well Oesterle's poll numbers would fare, particularly if the news media actually did real investigative journalism about the business practices of Angie's List, the company he co-founded that has never turned a profit in its nearly two decades of existence despite receiving tens of millions of dollars in public subsidies courtesy of former Gov. Mitch Daniels and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

Star Has 10 Suggestions For Staying Fit While Drinking Beer And Wine

In keeping with its daily tradition of urging all of its readers to consume alcohol, the Indianapolis Star has a story today offering ten ways you can stay fit while downing your beer or wine. "I don't think beer pong qualifies as cardio," Star reporter Amy Haneline deadpans. Why not? Beer pong typically leads to sex and what better way to exercise than to top off a drinking game with a romp in the sack.

In all seriousness, The Star is worried because Indianapolis is the least fit major metro area. "But, we all know alcohol is not the best for our waistlines," Haneline writes. "And there's a reason beer is called 'liquid bread.' And wine, well, it's only heart-healthy for the first glass." For the first time I noticed The Star added this disclosure to its latest story promoting alcohol consumption: "Alcoholic beverage consumption is only for people 21 and older."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ballard Accuses Republican Council Members Of Voting To Sue Him Over Vision Fleet Deal Because Of Gay Pride Support

Mayor Ballard and Winnie at gay pride parade (Star Photo)
Just when you thought Mayor Greg Ballard couldn't stoop any lower, he goes and proves you wrong. During an interview this week with radio talk show host Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, Ballard attributed a majority of the Republican caucus' decision to abandon him on his controversial Vision Fleet deal to a retaliatory move on their part over their supposed anger that he agreed to serve as grand marshal for this year's gay pride parade.

For those of you who haven't been following the discussion of this issue, Mayor Ballard's administration illegally entered into a contract to lease a fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles. Upon realizing the errors of its way, his administration made matters worse by executing a new contract that attempted to recast the same agreement as a contract for services instead of a lease agreement to circumvent public bidding requirements. It then backdated signature pages on the new contract to make it appear it had been executed at the time the original contract was signed without actually rescinding the original contract. When council members attempted to obtain copies of the contract, the administration heavily redacted it to the point nobody could understand what was in the contract. Under mounting public pressure, the administration finally released the multiple copies of the agreement without redaction. Compounding those missteps, the administration illegally transferred money from the storm water fund to make payments under the contract.

The council's attorney, who opined the contract was either void or voidable, found there had been no fewer than five state and local laws broken in the process. The council voted 23-6 to take the administration to court to overturn the illegal contract. That bipartisan vote included the votes of 8 Republican council members. To hear Ballard explain it, those eight Republican members acted out of politics as opposed to the need to uphold the rule of law.
There are a couple who just really hate electric cars . . . They don't understand where the world is headed on this . . . There's been talk a few of them didn't like me being grand marshal of the parade and this is all retaliatory . . . It was not about the real process . . .  I don't know how we could have been more open. . .  Here we are five months from the election and they do this . . . To me it's pretty obvious . . . We all know what the Dems are trying to do.
Ballard went on to describe Indianapolis as earning a "business unfriendly" reputation because of the actions of the City-County Council in killing his controversial P3 plan to develop a new criminal justice center and its decision to take him to court over the Vision Fleet deal he insists is "highly innovative." "The whole country is talking about [the Vision Fleet deal]," he said. "They do what they do . . . They're trying to score political points." I can think of more than a couple of those Republican council members who have to be infuriated by Ballard's insinuation they voted to sue him over the Vision Fleet contract because of their alleged disapproval of his participation in the gay pride parade. You can hear Shabazz' full interview with Ballard by clicking here to here the musings of a sad and pathetic man who is unfit to hold public office.

Report: School Voucher Program Costs Explode From $16 Million To $40 Million

The Indiana Department of Education released a new report on Tuesday which says costs of the state's CHOICE Scholarship program grew from $16 million to $40 million over the past school year. The program provided vouchers to 29,100 students to attend private schools, up from 19,800 the year before. The report undermines proponents' claim it costs the state less to send students to private schools rather than traditional public schools.

The program anticipated that most of the participants would be students moving from public to private schools. According to the report, about half of the students who participate in the program have never attended a public school. Voucher proponents claim the report's calculations are flawed, insisting that no more than 20% of the students using them could have participated in the program without the vouchers. The Department says it used the methodology approved by the state board of education to calculate the results.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Where Do Non-Profits End And For-Profits Begin?

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation announced today it was awarding up to $1.2 million in conditional tax credits and more than $100,000 in job training grants to two IT start-up companies in Carmel launched by tech entrepreneur Scott Jones. The companies are called Eleven Fifty Academy and Eleven Fifty Consulting. Reading further into the press release, I realized that Eleven Fifty Academy is actually a non-profit educational organization focused on providing low-cost computer coding and professional training for future IT workers. Eleven Fifty Consulting is a for-profit company that provides website and mobile app coding services to businesses. Presumably, the tax credits are being awarded to Eleven Fifty Consulting since its non-profit counterpart pays no taxes. The IEDCs press release, however, speaks of the two entities as if they're interchangeable, further blurring the lines between the worlds of non-profit and for-profit companies.

One Reporter Is Talking About Jeb's CIA Past

There's very few true investigative reporters left in the United States who aren't on the payroll of the military/industrial complex and Wayne Madsen is one of those guys. Madsen told you nearly a decade ago about then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert's horrific past as a pedophile while working as high school teacher and wrestling coach, while other reporters scoffed at his reporting. He's the only reporter who bothered to research Barack Obama and his reputed family members to uncover their extensive ties to the CIA, which would foretell a foreign policy he would pursue indistinguishable from his predecessor, George W. Bush. And he's one of the few investigative journalists who has doggedly reported former President George H.W. Bush's ties to the intelligence agency long before he was named its director, including his ties to the Bay of Pigs fiasco and ensuing assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream media amidst the announcement of yet another Bush family member laying claim to the White House is not reporting what Madsen has uncovered about Jeb Bush's ties to the CIA dating back to his first job fresh out of college after earning his bachelor's degree from the University of Texas in two and a half years. It seems Jeb (real name "John Ellis") may have been working under non-official cover ("NOC") for the CIA when he landed his first real job at the age of 24 as a branch manager and vice-president for the Texas Commerce Bank in Caracas, Venezuela, a job he landed with more than a little help from Pappy Bush. TCB was founded by his father's old pal, James Baker, and included among its board members the likes of former President Gerald Ford, Lady Bird Johnson and even the infamous Ken Lay. Madsen uncovered a letter Jeb wrote to Robert Gambino, then-Director of Security for the CIA on June 7, 1977 following an extensive briefing he received from Gambino while working for TCB in Venezuela. TCB was the primary lender Bush's Zapata Offshore Oil relied upon for loans. Three of its ships were loaned to the CIA to covertly carry out the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, code named Operation Zapata.

Madsen observes that TCB sold a skyscraper that housed its bank headquarters in Houston to Sheik Khalid bin Mahfouz, the head of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia in 1985. Mahfouz, who lived in the same Houston neighborhood as the elder former president, has been linked to Osama bin Laden and the network supporting the 9/11 terrorists, just one of many juicy tidbits that remain undisclosed in 28 classified pages of a Senate Intelligence Committee report on 9/11. Mahfouz died suddenly at the age of 59 in 2009. Madsen has a lot more about Jeb's nefarious work in Venezuela and the very bad company he kept there and when he later moved to South Florida to launch his meteoric real estate career and his own political career with more help from his daddy's old CIA hands. Read more about Madsen's reporting the mainstream media doesn't want you to know about by clicking here. Madsen never disappoints. The Justice Center Project's Andrew Krieg has more here, which is worth a gander as well.

Indianapolis Star Has Another Featured Story Promoting Drinking

I don't profess to understand all that drives the news reporting at the Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star, but quite clearly a top priority of the newspaper is to promote to its readers the consumption of alcohol. Today, reporters Amy Haneline and Will Higgins share a story about a drinking tour they recently took of 10 Indianapolis bars offering "drinking nostalgia." Again, I have nothing against drinking alcohol in small, measured amounts, but I don't think the media should be encouraging us to drink alcohol anymore than I would expect it to promote us lighting up cigarettes or popping pills to calm our nerves or feel better. There's hardly a day that goes by that the newspaper is not promoting alcohol consumption in one form or another. Why? Does going out and tying one on every night lead to better health and stronger families? A lot of people struggle with alcoholism, and The Star isn't making life any easier for those folks.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg: I Am Gay

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) in a column in today's South Bend Tribune has revealed to his city's residents that he's gay. Buttigieg believes with the U.S. Supreme Court set to issue a ruling on same-sex couples' right to marry any day now, the time was right to discuss his sexual orientation. Buttigieg, who is seeking re-election this year, says he had already come out to his family and friends. Here's an excerpt of what he wrote in his coming out column:
. . . I was well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay. It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am.
Putting something this personal on the pages of a newspaper does not come easy. We Midwesterners are instinctively private to begin with, and I’m not used to viewing this as anyone else’s business.
But it’s clear to me that at a moment like this, being more open about it could do some good. For a local student struggling with her sexuality, it might be helpful for an openly gay mayor to send the message that her community will always have a place for her. And for a conservative resident from a different generation, whose unease with social change is partly rooted in the impression that he doesn’t know anyone gay, perhaps a familiar face can be a reminder that we’re all in this together as a community.
Whenever I’ve come out to friends and family, they’ve made clear that they view this as just a part of who I am. Their response makes it possible to feel judged not by sexual orientation but by the things that we ought to care about most, like the content of our character and the value of our contributions.
Being gay has had no bearing on my job performance in business, in the military, or in my current role as mayor. It makes me no better or worse at handling a spreadsheet, a rifle, a committee meeting, or a hiring decision. It doesn’t change how residents can best judge my effectiveness in serving our city: by the progress of our neighborhoods, our economy, and our city services.
We’re moving closer to a world in which acceptance is the norm. This kind of social change, considered old news in some parts of the country, is still often divisive around here. But it doesn’t have to be. We’re all finding our way forward, and things will go better if we can manage to do it together. In the wake of the disastrous “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” episode here in Indiana earlier this year, we have an opportunity to demonstrate how a traditional, religious state like ours can move forward. If different sides steer clear of name-calling and fear-mongering, we can navigate these issues based on what is best about Indiana: values like respect, decency, and support for families — all families.
Like most people, I would like to get married one day and eventually raise a family. I hope that when my children are old enough to understand politics, they will be puzzled that someone like me revealing he is gay was ever considered to be newsworthy. By then, all the relevant laws and court decisions will be seen as steps along the path to equality. But the true compass that will have guided us there will be the basic regard and concern that we have for one another as fellow human beings — based not on categories of politics, orientation, background, status or creed, but on our shared knowledge that the greatest thing any of us has to offer is love.
I believe Buttigieg becomes the first Indiana mayor to openly acknowledge he's gay while serving in office.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hogsett Rolls Out Latest Ad

Indianapolis Democratic mayoral hopeful Joe Hogsett has rolled out his second TV ad of this campaign season. This one talks about a serious car accident in which his father was involved when he was six years old. This experience allows him to know what it's like for a family of four to struggle to survive according to the candidate's message. He promises to deliver a message for making Indianapolis stronger during his campaign.

Republican mayoral candidate Chuck Brewer released a YouTube clip, which is apparently crafted as a Chamber of Commerce-like message encouraging out-of-state businesses to choose Indianapolis. It is not airing on Indianapolis TV stations. He says he was born in Connecticut, joined the military, has lived all around the world, you don't have to live with higher taxes (although that's precisely what the current Republican occupant of the mayor's office has chosen to do repeatedly over the past seven and a half years) and that's why he chose Indianapolis to locate his business. You can view it by clicking here. The coding does not permit me to share it on this blog.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Indiana Lawmakers Block Bad Trade Deal, But Not Necessarily For The Right Reason

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly last week on a 126-302 vote against passage of a key provision of President Barack Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that virtually everyone agrees will be a big job killer for American workers. The provision voted down provided welfare assistance to those workers lawmakers know will lose their jobs as a result of a trade deal brokered to benefit large multi-national corporations and their international banking friends. Only 40 Democrats and 86 Republicans voted for the government assistance to displaced workers' portion of the trade pact voted down by members as a way of expressing their displeasure with the deal in one form or another.

Three Republican lawmakers from Indiana, including Reps. Susan Brooks, Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, support the trade pact unconditionally and voted for the government assistance program. The rest of the Democratic and Republican lawmakers from Indiana voted against providing financial aid to displaced workers. Rep. Todd Young (R), who supports the underlying trade deal, voted against financial aid to displaced workers based on philosophical differences against government assistance in general according to the Indianapolis Star. Both Democratic members of Indiana's congressional delegation, Pete Visclosky and Andre Carson, oppose the trade deal, although Carson was one of six members absent for Friday's vote. The portion of the legislation allowing for fast track approval of the trade deal passed the House narrowly by a vote of 219-211. Only Visclosky and Carson voted against it, while the state's 7 Republican members all voted for it.

Without the displaced workers assistance, the fast track authority cannot advance. Democrats abandoned President Obama in droves due to concerns raised by labor groups. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voted to block its passage by registering a no vote on the displace workers assistance portion. It is quite interesting to see President Obama rely so heavily on Republicans to bail him out on a trade deal that promises to do so much harm to American workers. Who would have thought President Obama would become a president who constantly sides with big business interests over ordinary workers, who have not benefited at all from the anemic economic growth during his two terms as president following the 2008 Great Recession? One thing we know for certain is that whenever the United States enters into a trade agreement with other countries to make the buying and selling of goods across borders easier, it's always a windfall for multi-national corporations that comes at the expense of American industry and jobs.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Private Lottery Contractor Made A Bad Deal So State Rewrites Contract

UPDATED: Former Gov. Mitch Daniels' administration awarded a 15-year deal to GTECH to operate the Hoosier Lottery in 2012. Less than three years later, the commission that oversees the Hoosier Lottery has re-written the contract because GTECH couldn't achieve the revenue targets it was contractually obligated to meet. GTECH agreed to make penalty payments to the state whenever it failed to reach the target revenues. Because the company was having to pay millions in penalty payments, the state has decided to come to its rescue and lowered the annual goals rather than exercise its right to terminate the contract

Long-time readers will recall that GTECH also won a contract to manage Illinois' lottery before it won Indiana's contract. After it failed to meet revenue goals three straight years, former Gov. Pat Quinn terminated the state's 10-year contract with the firm rather than permit the company to continuum making penalty payments to the state. The contract has remained in limbo after Bruce Rauner became Illinois' governor in January.

GTECH's original contract required it to meet revenue goals of $320 million and $365 million, respectively, in the next two fiscal years. The Journal-Gazette is reporting that the terms of the re-written contract lowers the revenue goals to $270 million in the next fiscal year with an incentive goal of $290 million. The company will make a one-time lump sum payment of $18.25 million and agree to lower its annual management fee in consideration for a reduction in the revenue target goals. The company is expected to pay a $16 million penalty payment at the end of this fiscal year based on an expectation it will return fewer dollars to the state--$243 million compared to $251 million last year.

GTECH is paid an annual management fee of $13 million. It will now share all profits above $290 million with the state. Under the original contract, it only shared revenues if the annual profit exceeded $360 million. According to the Northwest Indiana Times, GTECH's increases by just $5 million in each subsequent year of the 15-year contract. Officials claim the market has permanently changed due to "jackpot fatigue," whatever that's supposed to mean. The bottom line is that the changes made by the commission ensures a hell of a lot more money will shift from the state's pockets to GTECH's pocket.

Sen. Mark Kirk's "Bro With No Ho" Comment About Sen. Lindsey Graham Lands Him In Hot Water

UPDATED: The comment seemed out of character with his public persona, but a joking reference Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk (R) made about a colleague and presidential candidate, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), has landed him in a lot of hot water as he approaches a very difficult re-election campaign next year. Sen. Graham, a confirmed bachelor, recently told the Daily Mail he had a sister and a lot of female friends who could serve as rotating first ladies if he becomes president. The Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet summarizes the comments Sen. Kirk attempted but failed to share privately with a Senate colleague:
Does Sen. Mark Kirk have no filter?
The Illinois Republican gave a giant in-kind donation Thursday to his major 2016 Democratic rivals, an-all female line-up eager to take his seat. Kirk is one of the very top Democratic 2016 targets.
Sitting in front of an open microphone during a public Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, Kirk said this about Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the only bachelor in the 2016 presidential pack.
“I’ve been joking with Lindsey,” Kirk said. “Did you see that? He’s going to have a rotating first lady. He’s a bro with no ho.”
Kirk added, “That is what we’d say on the South Side,” a reference to a part of Chicago with a big African-American population.
Kirk was speaking during a committee roll call — when the microphones were on.
So there were no tricks here, no trackers, no secret recordings. Just a lot of Democrats, who have ears, in the committee room.
 Ho, in case you are not familiar with the slang, is a diminutive reference to a prostitute.
Both Kirk, who is divorced, and the single Graham have been the subject of persistent rumors about their sexual orientation. Sweet notes that Kirk came under fire last February when he suggested Republicans should "build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office" in the event of a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. In April, he told a reporter "we driver faster" through a black community. Apparently Sen. Kirk suffered hasn't fully recovered from the stroke that nearly claimed his life a few years ago.

UPDATE: Wow. The Chicago Tribune's John Kass, for whom I have great admiration, thinks Kirk should step down from his Senate seat; otherwise, he'll be a drag on the entire GOP ticket in Illinois in 2016.

State's Top Budget Director Takes Executive Job At Main Street

Ethics questions swirled around former Indiana House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, whose family nursing home business, Main Street Property appeared to benefit from actions he took as a former state lawmaker. Turner's company was sold to an Ohio-based company, Health Care REIT, last year as part of a $2.3 billion deal shortly after the former lawmaker successfully lobbied state lawmakers to kill a proposed moratorium on the construction of new nursing homes. Health Care REIT has ties to two prominent Indiana businessmen and large Republican contributors who serve on its board, Fred Klipsch and Scott Trumbull.

Now word has come that Gov. Mike Pence's Director of Office of Management and Budget, Chris Atkins, is leaving his top state job to become a senior vice president at Main Street. Atkins worked as general counsel and policy director for OMB under former Gov. Mitch Daniels before leaving the agency to serve as a senior policy director for Pence's 2012 gubernatorial campaign. The legislature sent a measure to Gov. Pence this year, which he signed into law, placing a moratorium on construction of new nursing homes for a 3-year period. That moratorium does not apply to assisted or independent living centers, a popular alternative to nursing homes.