Monday, August 08, 2005

Mitch's Man Dave

Apparently I didn't post this, but only saved it as a draft... Here it is, better late than never.

From the Indianapolis Star, August 2:

State Inspector General David Thomas says a complaint by Democrats that Gov. Mitch Daniels violated ethics rules by taking RV1 to a political fundraiser is hogwash.

The Democrats call that a whitewash.

Here's the take from the Evansville Courier & Press:

Thomas interviewed Daniels' security escort, a team of Indiana State Police officers, who said no one except the governor's staff entered the RV. Eric Holcomb, an employee of the governor's office who attended the fundraiser, said the RV was parked 100 yards from the fish fry. Holcomb didn't see anyone enter the RV, but if someone did, "it probably would have been a spontaneous and unplanned occurrence as has happened in the past," Thomas wrote.

[...]

Thomas did not mention the family by name but said his office contacted a family "revealed in the article" who said Whitson's report was false. "With our focus on whether the RV was used to obtain political donations in alleged violation of an ethics rule, the evidence did not even show that members of the public entered the RV for any purpose," Thomas wrote.

So it wasn't used for political purposes, according to My Man Mitch's man. Anyone who says otherwise is lying, or worse, a Democrat. And even if it was used for political purposes, it's just a vehicle.

The Courier & Press also ran this AP piece, also August 2:

J. Bruce Baumann, executive editor of the Courier & Press, said the newspaper stands behind its reporter.

"She personally observed ordinary citizens entering and leaving RV1, and therefore, we stand behind her story," he said.

Parker, the state Democratic chairman, said he was disappointed but not surprised about the report.

"Mitch Daniels said this (RV) is an extension of his office, so I guess we can have fundraisers from the state office," he said.

As it happens, taking down words has the best post on this issue.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bringing Accountability Back to Indiana

I have been following the investigation into Governor Daniels' alleged misuse of state property (RV1) at a Republican fundraiser. Rather than try to add something new to the topic -- I think everything worth saying has been said already -- I'll give a quick rundown of the events.

My Man Mitch, honorable governor of our Hoosier state, pushed hard for the creation of the office of Inspector General. The AP put it this way in a March 21 report (no link):

Daniels created the post of inspector general by executive order, but legislation to give that official prosecutorial powers ran into serious trouble in the House. Democrats are outnumbered 52-48 in that chamber, but claimed the bill would allow a governor to conduct political witch hunts.

It was among several bills and actions House Democrats claimed were GOP-power grabs. They killed that and 131 other bills by boycotting the floor during a deadline day for legislation to clear its house of origin.

But House Republicans revived that legislation in a Senate bill, the parties worked out some compromises, and it passed the House unanimously last week.

Here's an excerpt from his April 13 press release (no link):

"[...]We are creating a culture that encourages state employees to seek advice and report wrongdoing, as well as an understanding that rules will be enforced and unethical behavior is unacceptable," said Daniels.

A seemingly inocuous article in the Courier & Press on July 20 led with this:

Gov. Mitch Daniels stopped by in his RV1 to stump for Rep. Troy Woodruff at a Vincennes fundraiser to cap off a day of events in Southwestern Indiana.

People who made the $25 per family donation to get into the Woodruff fish fry on Tuesday lined up to shake hands and get pictures with the governor, tour RV1 and even have him autograph a copy of "Notes from the Road," a collection of the writings Daniels posted on his campaign Web site while touring the state.

Democrats seized on the apparent use of RV1 -- which, according to My Man Mitch, is state property:

When questioned in April, Daniels said the RV, which is worth about $175,000, does not run afoul of his administration's ethics rules because it was not a personal gift to him but rather a gift to the state for his use.

Democrats filed an ethics complaint with Daniels' own inspector general's office. My Man Mitch, determined to restore honesty and accountability to Indiana politics, responded in a characteristically classy manner:

"Here's what I really find interesting ... that the once-proud Democratic Party has been reduced to this," Daniels said. "They only stand for what they say they're against and seem to exist only for the purpose of attacking me personally.

The inspector appointed in this case, "Bud" Allcron, is wrapping up the investigation. [Late addition: Allcron is a retired State Police detective who was worked a number of high profile cases, including the "Angel of Death" Orville Lynn Majors case and the 1968 murder of Carol Jenkins in Martinsville (as a cold case).]

This great editorial in the Courier & Press from July 31 hits the nail on the head (well worth the free registration):

The irony may not be appreciated in the governor's office, but who would have thought that an early target of the state's new inspector general would be the very person who pushed so hard to create the post?

[...] But no matter how the case turns out, it's likely to leave the perception that a governor who showed great concern for the ethics of the previous administration has a blind spot when it comes to his own.

Other Indiana blogs have done a great job on this story (and others). The highlights:

  • taking down words uses Daniels' own words to hang him.
  • taking down words on the potential conflict of interest in following up the investigation.
  • Liberal Indiana shows how Daniels brought his White House-style financial honesty to the Hoosier State.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

More CAFTA Kickback for IN-9?

Have I mentioned Vice President Cheney's role in all of this CAFTA news?

Several people, including my friends over at TPMCafe, have pointed out Cheney's last minute fund-raising appearances for Republican House members in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. Both of those representatives voted for CAFTA.

A few months ago, Cheney was in Jeffersonville, IN, to speak at a fundraiser for Mike Sodrel -- and he received some good Southern Indiana hospitality. In May, Sodrel released a statement that revealed some other benefits of Cheney's appearance:

But in March, after Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at a Sodrel fund-raiser in Jeffersonville, Sodrel said it was "very probable" that federal money would be found for the project.

This was followed by this tidbit from the Washington Post coverage (7/28):

GOP leaders told their rank and file that if they wanted anything, now was the time to ask, lawmakers said, and members took advantage of the opportunity by requesting such things as fundraising appearances by Cheney and the restoration of money the White House has tried to cut from agriculture programs. Lawmakers also said many of the favors bestowed in exchange for votes will be tucked into the huge energy and highway bills that Congress is scheduled to pass this week before leaving for the August recess.

So it might be that Sodrel just deserves credit for thinking to ask for a favor in advance.

I've also managed to find more references to the link between HR 3283 -- aka the "Talk Tough to China Bill" -- and CAFTA. The most blunt, courtesy the AP and Evansville Business Journal:

"This bill has nothing to do with China. It has everything to do with getting votes for DR-CAFTA," Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said in reference to the trade deal with the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sodrel Trades Vote for CAFTA

From the WSJ 7/28/05:

Republican leaders secured at least five votes for CAFTA by agreeing to bring separate legislation to the floor that would allow the U.S. to impose duties on exports from China and others designated as nonmarket economies by the Commerce Department. The measure, approved yesterday in the House by a 255-168 vote, was castigated as "a sham" by Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and faces uncertain prospects in the Senate.

The Journal requires a subscription, but you can see this article here.

Mike Sodrel (IN-9) was a co-sponsor of HR 3283, the bill referred to in the above graf. He had been consistently labeled as undecided on CAFTA until the vote. In fact, Sodrel defended his vote of CAFTA by referencing China:

“It is in the best interests of our national security to maintain strong relationships with these countries, especially at a time when China is very interested in investing in and exporting to these countries.” Sodrel said.

I called Sodrel's local office today to ask whether he was one of those five referred to in the Journal piece, but did not receive a reply.

During his 2004 campaign, Sodrel criticized incumbent Baron Hill for supporting trade normalization with China, because it cost Indiana manufacturing jobs. But according to this Economic Policy Institute report, it's free trade agreements that have caused job loss in Indiana. If you look at Appendix A-1, Indiana is among the top ten states in terms of net job loss due to NAFTA.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Indiana and National Issues Update

From the Bloomington Herald-Times, July 15 (no link, subscription required):

Monroe County Democrats want an investigation into U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel’s allegations of vote fraud during last year’s election.

The request for an investigation comes eight months after a heated and prolonged congressional race between Republican Sodrel and Democratic incumbent Baron Hill.

[...]

“If an ineligible person voted, the Democrats want to know,” said Matt Weber, secretary of the Monroe County Democratic Party.

Weber delivered a request for an investigation Wednesday to Jack Davis, president of the county election board, and Monroe County Clerk Jim Fielder, board secretary. Both said that the allegations will be looked at.

Representative Mike Sodrel (IN-9, millionaire) has yet to comment, although his spokesman "said that Sodrel welcomes any effort to encourage open, fair and accurate elections."



In Terre Haute, reaction to the Ellsworth fundraising numbers continues.

From the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, July 18:

Having said all that, however, this is the biggest number a prospective opponent to Hostettler has raised in years, which is an indication that either his opposition is galvanized for a run against him, or there's more money around to finance a campaign.

Pete Ciancone, "The Spectator", is a columnist for the paper. He's known to be a fairly astute observer of state and local politics, so hopefully he's right on.



Here is a letter I sent today to my Senator, Evan Bayh:
Senator Bayh,

I am writing to encourage you, in your role on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, to remind your colleague Senator Roberts of his promise to further investigate the intelligence on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction.

It is imperative that there be an investigative record of the political influence, if any, on the gathering and use of intelligence used to convince the country to go to war. If any member of any party influenced the process, it should become a part of the public record. As Americans, we believe -- red state or blue, conservative or liberal -- that war should be waged on legitimate grounds as a last resort. America needs to know that the intelligence on Iraqi WMDs was not fixed around pre-existing policy, and that our leaders genuinely believed there was a threat from the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. This is not a matter of partisanship or politics, or even the past; this is about honesty and the future of our country and its people.

I would like to ask you to further encourage the honorable Mr. Roberts to stop recklessly spreading demonstrable falsehoods in the media. He has been repeating Ken Mehlman's talking point that Ambassador Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson (Plame), was not actually a covert agent. However, it seems clear that her superiors at the CIA thought she was, otherwise they would never have referred it to the Justice Department. It seems clear that former Attorney General Ashcroft's office thought she was, otherwise it would never have been referred to the special prosecutor. It seems clear that the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, thinks that she was indeed a covert agent; otherwise he would not have continued with the investigation. Unless Senator Roberts has some evidence that Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Ashcroft’s office, and CIA leadership have engaged in a conspiracy to smear a few Republican aides, please ask him to stop trying to confuse the American people. I don't have any degree of high-level clearance, and I don't know all the facts in this case. What is clear, though, is that this investigation is about the rule of law and national security, and not about politics and public relations.

Senator Bayh, I do not believe that "the truth will out" of its own accord. It requires the assistance of honorable men and women who put honesty above ideology and politics. I encourage you to speak for the citizens of Indiana, and to choose to act in the name of truth and posterity. While I have many specific policy disagreements with both you and Senator Lugar, I have always been proud of Indiana’s Senate delegation and the way they represent the state to the country and the world. I can’t think of another state in the country that has two leaders with a higher caliber of intelligence, honesty, and honor than our Hoosier state.

I wish you and your family good luck and health in your future political endeavors, and encourage you to continue to act in the good name of the people of Indiana.



I'm still working on following up on the Ellsworth campaign. I've also been doggedly pursuing interviews for an article for Bloomington CultureWeek (website soon to come) about the reaction to the arson at the Islamic Center here in Bloomington. I will post the text of the article when it is published. I am also developing a new feature for the paper about political involvement -- I did my first interviews for the feature with representatives of the Emily's List Political Opportunity Program (and some of their local trainees).

As Drudge would say, "developing..."