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Sarah Janssen | The Journal Gazette
Kindergartners line up for breakfast at Southwick Elementary in United Way’s Kindergarten Countdown Program.

Furthermore …

Bopp

Attorney’s ties to interest group under scrutiny

Terre Haute attorney James Bopp, whose legal argument was the underpinning of the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision, is the target of a whistleblower complaint alleging that the GOP activist is violating federal tax law.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning interest group, charges that Bopp has diverted funds contributed to the James Madison Center for Free Speech, which shares an address with the Bopp Law Firm, for his personal enrichment.

CREW has asked the Indiana attorney general, the Indiana secretary of state, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana and Washington, D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to investigate.

Slate.com’s Jon Campbell first wrote about Bopp’s interesting relationship with the James Madison Center, a sort of right-wing equivalent to the American Civil Liberties Union, last October.

“As a charity, the organization doesn’t really exist, outside of a few tax records in an IRS file cabinet,” Campbell wrote. “In reality, Bopp is the Madison Center, and vice versa, and for more than 15 years, the Indiana-based charity has helped fund Bopp’s influential litigation by channeling tax-exempt, mostly anonymous donations to his for-profit law firm.”

Bopp, you might recall, defended former GOP mayoral candidate Matt Kelty before the Allen County Election Board when complaints about campaign loans first arose. Kelty’s bankruptcy filing in 2010 showed he owed Bopp’s law firm $20,214.

Bopp dismisses the CREW charges as “bogus complaints.”

Helping to fill a knowledge gap

Lots of people have ideas to improve Indiana schools. Too few offer anything but a substitute for something already happening there, however. United Way of Allen County has likely hit on one that will make a difference: Start early.

No, it’s not an effort to lengthen the school year. It’s recognition that not all children begin school ready to learn. Kindergarten Countdown, a United Way initiative, allowed 5-year-olds at three inner-city schools to get a jump start on learning this month. Students at Southwick Elementary in the East Allen County Schools district and at Fairfield and Adams elementary schools in the Fort Wayne Community Schools district are participating in the four-week pilot program. The early start is designed to develop social and emotional skills, along with some literacy and language-development skills.

The children were targeted by the schools because they had little or no preschool experience or are students who will learn English as a second language.

The pilot program is promising because it acknowledges a gap Indiana policymakers have ignored. Children from middle- or upper-income families are much more likely to start school with learning experiences than refugee, immigrant and other students from low-income households. Some research shows a vocabulary gap of almost 10,000 words, and yet teachers are expected to raise all children to the same level by the time they reach first grade.

With federal budget cuts reducing Head Start opportunities and Indiana investing no money in preschool, the United Way initiative is more needed than ever.

Area gains by power of cooperation

Large-scale power outages are handled in much the same way as large fires with multiple companies coming to the rescue of those in need.

A half-page newspaper ad sponsored by Xcel Energy, which ran Sunday in The Journal Gazette, thanked Indiana Michigan Power for sending help when a storm caused more than 610,000 customers in Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Cloud and surrounding areas in eastern Minnesota to lose electricity.

According to Tracy Warner, a spokesman for I&M, the local utility company sent 24 line mechanics along with support staff. The company also released 36 private contractors to help deal with the storm’s aftermath of broken poles, uprooted trees and downed power lines.

The system works similarly to mutual aid agreements between fire departments, but much of the work begins long before a storm even hits. There is a regional organization for the Great Lakes area that closely watches the weather to anticipate where resources will be needed.

“It is definitely a mutual-aid thing because the idea is that they will come help us when we need help,” Warner said. “That certainly was the case during the 2008 ice storm and then last year’s derecho.”

Visiting crews travel to other states and work side by side with the local utility company – often working around the clock.

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