Political Notebook

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Zoeller defends stance on immigration law

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller came out swinging last week in defense of his decision to back away from an Indiana immigration law he believes is unconstitutional.

Zoeller in July said he would recommend that U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker strike down most of the portions of the Indiana law, passed in 2011, which enables police to make warrantless arrests based on certain common immigration documents.

The attorney general believes a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a similar Arizona statute rendered those sections of the Indiana law invalid.

But not everyone has accepted his judgment, and he has been a target on some blogs and other social media.

“Some people questioned whether this decision violates my obligation to my state clients. Some have even questioned my professional ethics as an attorney,” Zoeller said in an editorial piece he released to newspapers around the state Thursday.

“As state government’s lawyer, the AG’s Office represents multiple ‘clients’ who all hold different views on important legal issues. For all of us in state government, our first responsibility is to the Constitution and the people.

“I have had the unenviable task of explaining this fact to government officials who disagreed with my decisions. I respect their views; but the oath I took as AG means I must acknowledge that at times the law is not what we might want it to be, and must shepherd state legal resources in a responsible manner.”

Zoeller also said disagreements are healthy and welcomed, but he cautioned against anyone filing an ethics complaint against his office.

“That would be disappointing; such political stunts are the height of cynicism and help create further public distrust.”

Interestingly, that statement was prepared before three senators filed a motion Wednesday to have a federal judge allow them to defend the parts of the law Zoeller won’t.

The senators – Mike Delph, R-Carmel; Brent Steele, R-Bedford; and Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville – say Indiana’s law differs from Arizona’s. They want the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform to intervene on their behalf.

Some on Thursday also questioned whether outside counsel is even legally allowed without Zoeller’s consent – something that will likely be part of his response to the motion filed in court.

“I have a clear conscience,” Zoeller said in the op-ed. “I rest easily knowing I made the right decision, to defend the parts that are defensible, to not defend the part that is clearly unconstitutional, to uphold the Constitution and to speak truthfully to the people of Indiana whom I serve.”

What does he like?

There wasn’t much Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, liked about an administration proposal Tuesday to hire a consultant to study how the city hires its contractors, with an eye toward including more women- and minority-owned companies in the bidding pool.

He didn’t like the price tag – $143,849 now and $90,000 for a possible second phase.

He didn’t like that he suspects the money will be wasted, since he believes it “extremely unlikely that we will find discrimination.”

He didn’t like the scope of services. He pointed out that Fort Wayne mayors, Republican and Democrat alike, have worked for decades to make the city more inclusive.

He didn’t like the duplication the study would cause. The city already spends $200,000 a year on salaries in its contract compliance department.

He didn’t like that officials insisted they need the study, even though the purchasing director said he had seen no evidence of discrimination.

But there was one thing he liked: Officials had taken his advice on hiring professional firms – where traditional bidding is not required – and negotiated the price with several of them before choosing one.

After three pages of bashing the proposal, he ended with this: “I would like to compliment the purchasing department on the excellent methodology they used in competing out the selection of possible providers for the study.”

Lugar, not by name

Former President Bill Clinton made a reference to Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. – although not by name – during his Wednesday night speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Clinton was talking about how Democrats and Republicans had worked together in his lifetime to solve problems.

“Unfortunately, the faction that now dominates the Republican Party doesn’t see it that way,” he told convention delegates at Time Warner Cable Arena. “They think government is always the enemy, they’re always right, and compromise is weakness.

“Just in the last couple of elections, they defeated two distinguished Republican senators because they dared to cooperate with Democrats on issues important to the future of the country, even national security,” Clinton said.

One of those senators is Lugar, the six-term incumbent defeated in this year’s Indiana GOP primary election by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. The other was Bob Bennett, a three-term Utah senator rejected by that state’s Republican nominating convention in 2010.

In both cases, the senators were portrayed as too moderate by conservative tea party Republicans.

Daniels interview

C-SPAN founder and Executive Chairman Brian Lamb will interview Purdue’s president-elect, Gov. Mitch Daniels, about higher education issues and his preparation for the role of university president at a public event Sept. 27.

The “conversation” will be at 4:30 p.m. in Stewart Center’s Loeb Playhouse on Purdue’s campus. Seating for the event will begin at 4 p.m.

The discussion is free and open to the public. No backpacks are allowed inside Loeb Playhouse, and bag check will be available. The event also will be streamed live via webcast.

“We anticipate a lively and nonpartisan discussion on the important issues facing higher education, as well as the governor’s reflections as governor and how he is transitioning to university president,” said Carolyn Curiel, a clinical professor of communication.

Curiel is director of Project Impact, a student-driven, universitywide initiative. It’s focused on experiential learning, in partnership with C-SPAN, at Purdue and in Washington, D.C., and through on-campus forums.

The one-hour interview will include questions from the audience at the end, and audience members will be able to use Twitter to ask questions.

Lamb interviewed Daniels in 2011 on his role as governor and his new book, “Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans.”

Daniels is serving the remainder of his second term as governor before taking over as Purdue’s 12th president in January.

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@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.