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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, March 25, 2017 10:01 pm

Russia debate heats up Indiana House

Niki Kelly and Brian Francisco | The Journal Gazette

Things got testy in the Indiana House on Thursday – and the topic was Russia.

Rep. Ryan Dvorak, D-South Bend, offered an amendment that would divest state pension funds from companies that have active business operations or investments in strategic industries with the Russian Federation or any territory currently occupied by the federation.

"This amendment was intended to offer a clear statement of rejection against a country that has acted against the direct interests of the United States and has become a force for destabilization across this world," Dvorak said. "We need to be particularly outraged over the invasion, occupation and forced annexation of Crimea – an act of aggression without equal since the Second World War."

He went on to say "the Russian Federation is a kleptocracy – a government of gangsters and thieves. Any investment with them is not only tainted by blood and corruption. It is also a fundamentally bad investment."

But Republicans balked – saying there wasn’t enough information on how the amendment might affect retirees.

That led Rep. Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis, to say those opposing Russia divestiture support a murdering dictator in Vladimir Putin.

Republican Rep. Tim Brown objected – saying Forestal was impugning the motives of members, which is not allowed on the floor.

Later, House Speaker Brian Bosma called Dvorak’s move a "political amendment" and said he should have consulted with the Legislative Services Agency "before he offered major policy before the House without having any idea what it did to retirees in Indiana."

He noted the chamber has divested from other rogue nations in the past in a bipartisan manner.

The amendment was defeated along party lines.

Messer takes step at US Senate run

U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R-6th, sent a clear signal Tuesday he intends to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate – and that he will have some high-profile support.

Messer announced the formation of a statewide campaign finance committee for the 2018 election cycle. It is headed by Columbus businessman Gregory Pence, the brother of Vice President Mike Pence.

Although Messer’s announcement made no mention that he might become a Senate candidate, there is little reason for a House member to launch a statewide campaign finance committee unless that person lives in one of seven states with a single congressional district. Indiana has nine districts.

Messer has said he is considering seeking the Republican Senate nomination next year for the seat held by Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th, also has floated his possible candidacy. The only announced GOP candidate is Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt.

Messer, a Shelbyville resident who represents east-central and southeastern Indiana, named 47 people to his finance committee. They include former state GOP chairmen Murray Clark, Jim Kittle and Al Hubbard as well as prominent Republican activists Jim Bopp, Bob Grand, John Hammond III and Jean Ann Harcourt.

Two members are from northeast Indiana: Fort Wayne real estate developer Bill Bean and former state senator Tom Wyss of Fort Wayne.

Messer began this year with $1.05 million in campaign cash, according to a campaign finance report he filed with the Federal Election Commission. Donnelly started the year with almost $1.39 million, and Rokita reported nearly $1.32 million.

Holcomb honors local centenarian

Fort Wayne man Jacob Feichter recently received a Sagamore of the Wabash award at his 100th birthday celebration.

It was presented by Senate President Pro Tempore David Long and awarded by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Feichter started his career in real estate in 1937 and still practices today. He has been married to wife Lucille for 75 years; served as a bombardier in World War II and founded a firm to provide homes to low-income families.

Feichter also obtained all the land for the Historic Fort Wayne and was a bicentennial torchbearer last year.

It was thought to be the first Sagamore awarded by Holcomb, but his office confirmed his first was given during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in January.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at or Niki Kelly at An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at