Political Notebook

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Stutzman misses his first vote

Peaks and valleys aptly describes the week Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, had.

At the beginning of the week, it was a thrill to attend the White House gala in a tuxedo with his wife, Christy, who wore a gorgeous one-shoulder white gown with a red ribbon sash.

POTUS and FLOTUS were “very gracious” hosts, Stutzman reported.

But by the end of the week, Stutzman had made a boo-boo that nabs every member of Congress sooner or later: He missed a vote because he turned off his BlackBerry. He was meeting with friends from Indianapolis who were in Washington to attend a fundraiser for Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th. The event was hosted by political commentator Oliver North, who was at the center of the 1980s Iran-control political scandal.

“My bad,” Stutzman said of being recorded as “not voting” on legislation that would provide a pathway to legal status for children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents who were in the country illegally. For the record, Stutzman would have voted against the bill, which the tea party lobbied heavily to kill.

You be the judge

The leader of a pro-Wendy Davis political action committee insists he did no wrong in supporting the eventually successful judicial candidate.

Richard Runestad, chairman of Friends of Good Government, sent a letter to the Allen County Election Board last week detailing his group’s activity. He insists he followed all laws and did not coordinate his efforts with Davis.

On Oct. 29, Allen County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger filed a complaint with the election board because Runestad’s group had not properly registered as a political action committee. The day after the election, the group filed its organizational papers listing Runestad as chairman and saying it formed Oct. 28. Runestad filed an amendment last week showing his group actually formed Oct. 27, which is when it reserved airtime for pro-Davis commercials.

Whenever two or more people gather together for the purpose of raising or spending more than $100 in support of a particular candidate or issue, or against a particular candidate or issue, that group is considered a political action committee under Indiana law. The group then has 10 days to file a statement of organization with either the county election board or the Indiana secretary of state’s election division.

Runestad was the lead signer of a petition trying to kick Scheibenberger off the ballot; that petition was tossed by the Indiana Election Commission. His letter to the election board was in response to a formal inquiry sent last month by Zach Klutz, election board president.

In his response to the election board, Runestad wrote that the only contribution and expense made by the group was for advertisements on two local television stations.

“None of the advertisements run by the Friends of Good Government were designed, coordinated, reviewed, consented to, or approved by the Wendy Davis for Judge Committee,” he wrote.

Budget briefs

The Senate Democratic caucus is chronicling ongoing State Budget Committee hearings on a new website as part of its open government initiative.

The goal is to provide the public with information on the budget-writing process by highlighting budget requests from individual agencies and making the related materials, such as presentations and financial reports, available.

You can find the posts at The Briefing Room, at www.insendems.wordpress.com/category/budget-briefs/.

In no hurry

When an emergency alarm sounded at a downtown Indianapolis hotel during last week’s Education Roundtable, there was no panic in the halls.

After all, temperatures had dipped to the coldest of the winter so far and no one wanted to go outside.

Indeed, it seemed everyone was taking their cue from Gov. Mitch Daniels. He did adjourn the meeting early, but his Indiana State Police bodyguards didn’t hustle him away. He instead ambled about for a bit, chatting with members of the panel and other educators or interested parties in attendance.

Eventually, the emergency was declared over and he attended a news conference, where he jokingly accused someone in the press corps of pulling the fire alarm to end the meeting.

Sylvia A. Smith, Journal Gazette Washington editor, contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by e-mail, contact Benjamin Lanka at blanka@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. To discuss this entry of Political Notebook or others, go to the Political Notebook topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net.

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