Political Notebook

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Dead, yes, but still giving to Democrats

Political donations from the deceased might spur thoughts of a conspiracy, but in the modern technological era it’s a bit simpler than that.

Local Republicans last week pointed out to Political Notebook that the Allen County Democrats reported receiving three $30 donations from Richard Ver Wiebe in November and December. Ver Wiebe died in April 2011.

Kevin Knuth, local Democratic spokesman, said the issue was that the deceased signed up for the party’s Democratic Action Fund program, which automatically withdraws money from a person’s bank account. Ver Wiebe’s three payments occurred on the same days as those of several other party supporters. The autodebit program was started to ensure the party could pay for its own headquarters. Knuth noted his own wife is part of the program.

Knuth said the party has no authority to stop those payments, which must be done by the new owner of the account.

Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, said while he doesn’t consider the deposits a campaign violation, he would encourage the party to correct the situation as quickly as possible. If Ver Wiebe’s widow, Carol, would like to continue making the payments, they should probably be listed under her name, he said.

The situation speaks to the holes in decades-old law in a modern world.

“This is another instance when election law hasn’t necessarily kept up with technology and the way we live,” Downs said.

Financial disparity

The Allen County Democrats were late turning in their finance report this month, but the filed documents show a familiar story: Democrats raised less money than the Republicans.

The party’s report, which was filed a day after the March 1 deadline, showed Democrats raised $61,782 last year and spent $63,029. In comparison, the local Republicans raised $154,221 last year and spent $161,419.

Many of the Democrats’ donations came from party supporters making automatic contributions from their bank accounts – a service Republicans have noted can cause blips when the contributor dies but the contributions continue.

Republicans’ largest contributor was Bruce Dye, who gave the party $17,100 last year, including $8,600 to supplement the cost of the Bean Dinner fundraiser.

The Democrats’ biggest expense was $12,018 to a group from Virginia for doorknob advertisements. It also spent $9,000 on rent. The GOP spent more than $27,000 on rent and other expenses related to its headquarters.

The Democrats ended the year with $5,120 in the bank compared with $23,546 for the Republicans.

Marker madness

Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, has started the process to honor former Indiana Gov. Ralph Gates with a historical marker in Whitley County.

“As the 37th governor of the great state of Indiana, he led the charge to restore our economy at the end of World War II,” Banks said. “This honor is well-deserved and long overdue for a Hoosier who had such a profound impact on this state.”

Banks said that while Gates was governor, he developed a state highway system and worked to overhaul education and provide incentives for industrial growth. He is credited with returning the Republican Party to power after the Ku Klux Klan scandal in the late 1920s.

Gates was born in Columbia City in 1893. He became acquainted with Thomas R. Marshall – who later became vice president of the United States – while earning an income as newspaper delivery boy. After graduating from high school, Gates attended the University of Michigan where he earned a bachelor’s and law degree.

The process to obtain a historical marker is long, but Banks said it is worthwhile.

“Historical markers can honor events, individuals, buildings, sites and other entities of statewide significance,” Banks said. “But applying for a marker isn’t just choosing what you want to honor, it involves a great deal of research and documentation.

“For me, it’s well worth it because former Gov. Gates did a lot for our community and our state. This is just a small way we can recognize that.”

The Indiana Historical Bureau handles marker requests.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Benjamin Lanka at blanka@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.

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