Political Notebook

  • Shepard to receive democracy award
    The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site has announced Randall T. Shepard of Evansville as the recipient of the 2014 Advancing American Democracy Award.
  • Stutzman ready for a real recess
    Congress is off the month of August for a "district work period," but its members and the media still refer to such breaks as "recess."
  • Liz Brown gets 4 endorsements
    Liz Brown, the Republican running for the Senate District 15 seat, announced four endorsements Thursday.

Ethics complaints filed against Daniels

A Democratic lawmaker known to butt heads with Gov. Mitch Daniels filed ethics complaints last week concerning Daniels’ upcoming job as president of Purdue University.

Jane Jankowski, press secretary for the governor, quickly called the complaints “partisan nonsense.”

Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, who once famously referred to Daniels as “Lord Shorty,” filed two complaints about Daniels’ Purdue transition, which will become official in January.

First was about Daniels’ use of state employees and resources to send out a Sept. 4 statement criticizing expensive renovations to the Purdue president’s office. The statement was unrelated to state business and was sent out to reporters by his communication staff on state letterhead.

Jankowski said Daniels was simply setting the record straight after what could have been misleading headlines about him.

“As governor, he could very legitimately and properly comment about university expenditures at Purdue or elsewhere,” she said.

Brown’s second complaint questioned whether Daniels is allowed to lobby the legislature for funding when he takes his new position next year.

Opinions from Indiana Inspector General David Thomas and Tim Grogg, the Indiana Department of Administration’s executive director of executive branch lobbying, found that no post-employment lobbying restrictions will apply to Daniels.

Thomas, an original Daniels appointee, wrote that a state officer or employee leaving employment in the executive branch is not restricted from lobbying the legislature. Statutory lobbying restrictions apply to executive-branch lobbying only, he said.

But Brown points to an executive order issued by Daniels himself in 2005 that called for a one-year cooling-off period before state officials lobby state government in any way.

“Considering the impending end of Governor Daniels’ term of office, the taxpayers of Indiana deserve swift action and investigation into these complaints and alleged violations of the state ethics code,” Brown said in an ethics complaint to Thomas.

Jankowski said the lobbying question has already been addressed, and “now resources will have to be wasted disposing of this silly charge.”

She did not directly comment on the conflict between state law and Daniels’ executive order.

Appointed wonk

Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, is well known for his love of numbers.

His command of arcane financial detail is not often rivaled, and his use of charts and graphics to display those numbers during council meetings is legendary.

So it was no surprise that he was first to speak Wednesday when he and two other Republican city councilmen, Mitch Harper, R-at large, and Russ Jehl, R-2nd, were offering ideas on the city budget.

But Crawford is also humble.

“It was these two guys’ idea to have the news conference,” Crawford explained. “But I was appointed as the wonk.”

Political busing

The state director for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that has spent nearly $31 million trying to sway this year’s federal elections, rode into Fort Wayne last week to campaign against President Obama and Democratic Senate candidate Joe Donnelly.

Chase Downham, director of the Indiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity, spoke about Obama’s policies and told people how they can become involved with his group. The visit was part of a nationwide bus tour.

“President Obama’s failed agenda, which has been embraced by Congressman Joe Donnelly, has harmed Hoosiers by increasing our debt and wasting taxpayer dollars,” Downham said in a statement.

Americans for Prosperity was started by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. It advocates for lower taxes and reducing the size of government.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group, reports that Americans for Prosperity has spent $30.8 million this election cycle trying to defeat Democratic candidates.

Americans for Prosperity is sending three buses to 400 cities in 25 states for grass-roots organizing against Obama. Seven stops in Indiana, including the Fort Wayne visit, were planned for last week.

Banking on Espich

Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, was named 2012 Legislator of the Year by the Indiana Bankers Association.

The award was presented by IBA President and Chief Executive Officer S. Joe DeHaven at the Association’s annual convention Tuesday in French Lick.

Espich was recognized for his 40 years of service in the Indiana House of Representatives, where he currently is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and of the State Budget Committee.

For the past two decades, Espich has carefully monitored state tax dollars and authored balanced budgets, which have helped distinguish Indiana as one of the most fiscally sound states in the nation, the association said in a prepared statement.

Espich was elected to the House in 1972 and decided to retire after the November elections.

A self-employed small businessman and property owner/manager, Espich is a graduate of Indiana University and a veteran of the U.S. Army.

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook, email 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.