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Friday, September 30, 2022
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  • WASHINGTON – When I started contributing to the Howey Political Report in 1997, it launched my journey from Capitol Hill to journalism. One of my most reliable sources was Mark Souder. I wasn’t sure how well I would be received by the Indiana congressional delegation as I moved from being Sen. Richard Lugar’s press secretary to reporting for what is now Howey Politics Indiana.  Of course, Lugar was deeply respected by his Washington colleagues. But I was concerned that that feeling of good will wouldn’t necessarily transfer to one of his former aides who was now calling Hoosier lawmakers pursuing stories that weren’t always flattering to them. It wasn’t the potential occasional awkwardness of the revolving door that gave me the most worry. It was the concern that Hoosier members of Congress and their staffers simply would ignore me. When I joined HPI, there were several Indiana regional reporters who covered the D.C. delegation aggressively and daily, led by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette’s Sylvia Smith. Why would someone like Souder deal with me when he talked to Sylvia all the time and also was sometimes quoted in the Indianapolis Star as well as other Hoosier media outlets? Souder didn’t lack for media coverage.

  • WASHINGTON – At a time when so much of politics is defined by what people oppose and what makes them angry, Sen. Todd Young wants to build an aspirational Republican Party. An example of that effort is his signature piece of legislation, the Endless Frontier Act. It’s a $250 billion package designed to bolster U.S. technology, advanced manufacturing, research and development and workforce skills in those areas so that the country can better compete with China. The measure, which Young wrote with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was incorporated into the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 that passed the Senate, 68-32, on June 8. Earlier this week, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed that chamber’s version of the bill on a voice vote, sending it to the House floor. Plenty of Americans have suffered job losses and social and psychological setbacks due to globalization, and automation. Another culprit is the intense economic rivalry with China. Young describes the victims of these trends as having “lost agency” in their lives.
  • WASHINGTON – Two Indiana Republicans – Sen. Todd Young and Rep. Jim Banks – are positioned to play roles in reshaping the party after a tumultuous end to the Trump administration that saw the GOP lose the White House and the Senate. The denouement of President Donald Trump’s tenure was the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 by supporters inflamed by his claims of election fraud that had been rejected by state officials and courts. But it wasn’t just the end of Trump’s term that was marked by anger. It characterized his rhetoric and the mindset of many in his constituency.  As he prepares to run for reelection in 2022, Young is working on a plan to change the GOP’s approach to addressing economic and social grievances. He wants the party to be more positive in its policy framing. “There is a question about whether our party is going to be a party that is grounded in resentment and anxiety and fear or if, instead, we’re going to be an aspirational party that is dedicated towards addressing the convergence of globalization and the fourth technological revolution and urbanization and the lack of agency and control over one’s lives that these those different forces have imposed upon certain segments of our population,” Young told reporters on a Feb. 2 conference call. “That’s what we need to wrestle with right now – and the hollowing out of certain communities on account of these forces.”
  • WASHINGTON – After strongly supporting or at least acquiescing for weeks to President Donald Trump’s attempt to declare himself the winner of the presidential election, Republicans in the Indiana congressional delegation accepted his defeat earlier this week – sort of. Democrat Joe Biden prevailed over Trump, 306-232, in the Electoral College on Dec. 14. Following the tally, one Hoosier Republican addressed the result. “Today, the Electoral College has cast their votes and selected Joe Biden as the president-elect,” Sen. Mike Braun said in a statement. “State legislatures, state courts, and the United States Supreme Court have not found enough evidence of voter fraud to overturn the results of the Electoral College vote. I, like many Hoosiers, am disappointed by the results of the Electoral College vote, but today marks a watershed moment where we must put aside politics and respect the constitutional process that determines the winner of our presidential election.” Sen. Todd Young, who is helping lead GOP efforts to hold two Georgia Senate seats in January runoff elections, was lower key in his acknowledgement of Biden’s victory.
  • WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s reversal on coronavirus relief legislation might be giving Sen. Todd Young policy whiplash. Just days after exhorting his administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reach an agreement on a package to boost an economy ravaged by COVID-19, Trump abruptly switched gears on Tuesday and called off negotiations. That change of heart forced Young to modify his own position on getting a recovery package through Congress before the election. He was looking forward to that outcome a few days ago and completely abandoned hope as of yesterday morning. Young’s gyrations were evident in two meetings with reporters – one on Zoom on Friday, Oct. 2, and one on a conference call on Wednesday morning. “I think we’re getting closer to an agreement between [Treasury Secretary] Steven Mnuchin on one hand, who’s representing the administration in these negotiations, and Nancy Pelosi on the other to try and reach a reasonable agreement to provide relief for our small businesses, our health care providers, our school corporations, our childcare centers – all the other entities and individuals within this ecosystem that makes our society operate,” Young told reporters on Oct. 2.
  • WASHINGTON – Despite the strong headwinds facing Senate Republicans, the leader of their campaign arm says the party can maintain control of the chamber. The coronavirus pandemic continues to run rampant. The country has been riven by racial justice protests. President Donald Trump has fallen behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in national and key statewide polls. Add to the mix a stalemate between lawmakers and the White House over pandemic relief legislation. Yet Sen. Todd Young is hopeful of a good result for his party in November. Young, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, points to what he calls strong GOP candidates and the organization’s fundraising muscle as reasons for his upbeat attitude. He asserts the NRSC has broken fundraising records each month since he took over in January 2019 and could raise a record $200 million for the cycle. “The Senate majority is up for grabs at this point,” Young said.

  • WASHINGTON – Christina Hale is emphasizing bipartisanship in her attempt to win the 5th CD seat being vacated by the most bipartisan member of the Hoosier congressional delegation. Her first television ad, launched earlier this week, extols Hale’s ability to work across the aisle. The narrator says she passed 60 bills as a state legislator – all with bipartisan support. The spot said such a virtue is critical as Congress wrestles with the coronavirus outbreak. “Rebuilding will be our next test, and we can’t afford partisan bickering,” the narrator says. “We need problem solvers.” Hale is hoping that theme will strike a chord in the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Susan Brooks, who achieved the highest score among Hoosier members of Congress in the latest Bipartisan Index. The survey, released last week and sponsored by the Lugar Center and the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy, measures the extent to which lawmakers work with members of the opposite party in writing and co-sponsoring legislation. The question is whether Hale’s bet on bipartisanship will pay off at a time of extreme political polarization. Dan Diller, policy director at the Lugar Center, said the issue can gain traction. “It’s always a winner in November, especially in a district that’s proven to support a very bipartisan member, which Brooks is,” Diller said.
  • WASHINGTON — George Stuteville used to wake up in the morning worrying about what the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette  was reporting from Washington. When he was covering Capitol Hill for the Indianapolis Star  from 1992 through 2001, Stuteville competed against the Journal Gazette’sWashington correspondent, Sylvia Smith. An aggressive and thorough reporter, Smith kept close tabs on the Hoosier congressional delegation. If her readers were getting a story before the Star’s readers, it would make Stuteville’s life more difficult. “That would ruin my day,” he said. Today, no Washington-based journalist is worried about what the competition is digging up on Hoosier lawmakers. That’s because there are no longer any full-time reporters based in the capital reporting for Indiana audiences. The Indianapolis Star  lost its Washington reporter when Maureen Groppe transferred to the national desk of USA Today  last year. She had been the lone holdover from a vibrant era of Indiana regional journalism.

  • WASHINGTON, D.C. - After two weeks of public impeachment hearings in the House, there is now a distinct difference between Vice President Mike Pence and his two predecessors who most recently served alongside a president threatened with removal from office by Congress. Vice President Gerald Ford was not implicated in the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up that forced President Richard Nixon to resign before the House could take an impeachment vote in 1974. Vice President Al Gore had nothing to do with President Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky that was the basis for Clinton’s impeachment in 1998.
  • WASHINGTON  — When I would return home to Fort Wayne from Washington while working for Sen. Richard Lugar, I would frequently find myself talking politics the moment I mentioned my boss. Folks would express frustration with what was happening in the capital and, occasionally, blame it on the Republican Party. I politely reminded them that I worked for Lugar, not the GOP. During his 36 years in the Senate, Lugar was a Republican and conservative stalwart. He voted with President Ronald Reagan more than 95% of the time and was a reliable ally of each Republican occupant of the White House as well as GOP Senate leaders. But Lugar was a brilliant and independent thinker who would defy his party – and political convention – when it was necessary to achieve policy breakthroughs to benefit the country and the world. Despite his strong backing of Reagan, Lugar veered away from him on the issue of applying sanctions on the government of South Africa. Lugar played a key role in enacting sanctions, which ended apartheid.  He drew Republican ire when, as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he pursued reforms of the Department of Agriculture that included streamlining its sprawling field office structure. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Ia., decried Lugar as a “Lizzie Borden.” I remember Lugar’s uphill battle against USDA bloat because I was his Senate press secretary at the time.
  • WASHINGTON  — As the Democratic presidential field starts to form, the easiest thing to do is count out South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Even though we’re at a moment of peak volatility in American politics, it’s hard to imagine that a 37-year-old, openly gay man who is married to another man can achieve something that’s never been accomplished – going directly from city hall to the White House. But before dismissing Buttigieg as a novelty who will never break single digits in the polls – if he can even make it to that lofty level – consider what he uniquely offers to a party that was stunned to lose the Oval Office to Donald J. Trump a little more than two years ago. Those traits were on display last Sunday in Washington at the bookstore Politics and Prose, where Buttigieg introduced his new book, “Shortest Way Home,” which chronicles what he’s learned as the chief executive of a midwestern city whose turnaround he helped engineer. The book cracked the New York Times best seller list this week at No. 11. He brings his book tour to Indianapolis on Sunday, with a 2 p.m. appearance at IUPUI's Hine Hall Auditorium. Here's what you'll likely learn from Mayor Pete:

  • WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence is the Hoosier with the highest profile in Washington, but in 2019, the most influential person from Indiana likely will be Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. Just before Thanksgiving, Roberts had an enough-is-enough moment when it came to President Donald Trump’s repeated bashing of federal judges who hand down decisions that contradict his policies. “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said in a Nov. 21 statement. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.” Trump wielded the cudgel against the federal bench again late Wednesday night, as the White House released a statement criticizing a judge who struck down a Trump administration asylum rule. Roberts is the steward of an institution that is still willing and able to provide a check and balance to Trump. The Republican-led Congress didn’t offer any resistance during the first half of Trump’s term until late this year, when the Senate rebuked him by passing a resolution implicating Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

  • WASHINGTON – In one of the most hard-hitting ads of the 2018 election cycle, Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd CD, castigates her Democratic challenger, Mel Hall, for his association with a Washington law firm that also does a substantial amount of lobbying. The ad mentions a pharmaceutical manufacturer that it asserts engaged in price gouging on a medicine that prevents premature births. “Mel Hall’s D.C. firm lobbied for this evil drug company,” the narrator says. The D.C. firm alluded to in the ad is Dentons, which has become the largest law firm in the world under the leadership of former Indiana Democratic Chairman Joe Andrew. In Dentons’ sprawling operation, you’ll find many different activities, including lobbying. But that doesn’t mean that everyone under the Dentons roof is a lobbyist. In fact, a Dentons spokeswoman said in an Oct. 8 statement said that Hall worked as a senior adviser to the firm from 2012 through 2014 after he left Press Ganey in South Bend. “During the time with our law firm, Mel was not a registered lobbyist,” the spokeswoman said. The Walorski campaign said that it is irrelevant that Hall never lobbied because it never asserted he did.
  • WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence is no Gerald Ford. The former president was a moderate. That species of Republican is almost extinct. Those who are still occasionally spotted in the political wild are known as RINOs – Republican in Name Only. Pence has staked out a position on the far right, becoming not just a darling of conservative Christians but their lodestar. There’s that word again. It’s a favorite in Pence’s lexicon – and it was conspicuous in the anonymous Sept. 5 New York Times oped by a “senior administration official.” If that piece was the beginning of an attempt to pave the way for Pence to triumphantly enter the White House after a forced exit by President Donald J. Trump – either through impeachment or resignation – then Pence would do well to consider the Ford model for a vice president to succeed an ethically challenged commander-in-chief. The New York Times piece excoriated Trump’s leadership style and intellect and asserted that the writer and others in the administration are working furiously and furtively to check the president’s worst instincts and decisions before they harm the country. Recent speculation – by some Hoosier political insiders and by no less an authority than former Trump-loyalist-turned-fierce-enemy Omarosa Manigault – has centered on Pence chief of staff Nick Ayers as the author. 
  • WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly and his Republican challenger, former state Rep. Mike Braun, bust out their blue shirts on the campaign trail. But when one of them is serving in the Senate next year, he will be wearing a jacket and tie, a sartorial change depicting governance that Donnelly can use to his advantage. Braun upended his primary challengers – Reps. Todd Rokita, R-4th, and Luke Messer, R-6th – by touting his outsider status. The anti-Washington trope can be a powerful campaign theme, but there is a potentially compelling counter-argument. Once Braun comes to the capital and starts wearing a suit, he has to decide how much of a check he wants the Senate to be on President Donald Trump. So far, the indication is that he won’t provide any brake on the president. Braun is a businessman who doesn’t push back on Trump’s tariffs against steel and aluminum from the European Union, Mexico and Canada and a variety of products from China. The retaliation to these levies could hammer Hoosier farmers and manufacturers. Braun wants to scrap the Affordable Care Act and start from scratch on health care reform. Presumably, he backs the Trump administration’s decision not to defend in court provisions of the law that would prevent insurers from denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Even Hoosiers critical of Obamacare likely take comfort in that part of the measure.
  • WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans are on the verge of securing a sweeping tax-cut package, their signature political win of the first year of the Trump administration. In the process, governance in Washington has sunk to new depths. The GOP achieved victory by doing to Democrats exactly what Republicans accused Democrats of doing to them on health-care reform. They’re ramming through massive legislation with no substantive input from the other side. The House and Senate bills were introduced, voted on in their respective committees and on the floors of each chamber over the course of about a month. Republicans lamented what they called a legislative process in health-care reform that ignored regular order. But the GOP’s committee markups of tax reform were just as devoid of any real legislating as the Democrats’ mark ups of the health care bill. In each case, the opposition could raise objections, but there was no way the majority was going to allow them to make meaningful changes to the bills. In addition, Democrats will not be able to apply the leverage of a filibuster in the Senate because the tax bill in that chamber will be advanced under special rules requiring only a majority vote.
  • WASHINGTON – The Wall Street Journal recently ranked Purdue University as the fifth-best public school in the nation and the 43rd overall. That’s heady recognition but not enough to attract much attention from Hoosier politicians. In the political world, there are plenty of volatile issues for members of Congress to navigate. They step gingerly into the fray, making sure to emphasize the message of the day that will be most helpful to them. That’s what makes something like Purdue’s ranking an inviting respite. To use an analogy based on Indiana’s favorite sport, it’s a layup for a lawmaker who wants to promote good news about the state. Why not celebrate Purdue’s once again placing highly in the Journal’s ratings? But only one member of the Indiana congressional delegation said anything. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd CD, tweeted: “Not surprised that Purdue is thriving with @purduemitch at the helm.” Indeed, the WSJ’s ranking is another example of how Purdue is advancing since Daniels took over as president nearly five years ago. One thing Daniels hasn’t been able to change, however, is the fact that Purdue continues to be overshadowed by Indiana University when it comes to adoration from Indiana politerati, despite the fact that Daniels himself came to Purdue from the top of the Hoosier political mountain following his two terms as governor. At this point, I have to make a full disclosure: I’m a Purdue partisan. I’m a proud alum and an annual donor.
  • WASHINGTON – Business leaders may be abandoning President Donald J. Trump in the wake of his reaction to last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., but the two leading candidates in the Indiana Republican Senate primary race are sticking with him. While CEOs exited White House advisory councils after Trump on Tuesday reaffirmed his stance that there “was blame on both sides” of a demonstration by white nationalists and a counter protest that led to one death and several injuries, Reps. Luke Messer, 6th CD, and Todd Rokita, 4th CD, avoided contradicting Trump. “Hate, bigotry and racism are un-American and unacceptable,” Messer said in an email statement. “I denounce these groups in the strongest terms. To me, much of the criticism surrounding the president was unfair. President Trump denounced the violence and racism displayed in Charlottesville, and I have denounced it, too.” Like Trump, Rokita cast a wide net of blame. “Rep. Rokita believes Americans need to come together to reject all hate groups that encourage domestic terrorism and violence,” Tim Edson, a Rokita campaign spokesman, wrote in an email.
  • WASHINGTON – President Donald J. Trump’s America First approach to international relations and world leadership probably would have resonated with the late Jim Jontz. Jontz, a former Democratic Hoosier congressman, ran against then-Sen. Richard Lugar in the 1994 election. At the time, I was Lugar’s deputy press secretary and often had to help respond to Jontz’s favorite attack: Painting Lugar as someone who cared more about Peru, the country, than Peru, Ind. Or Brazil, the country, more than Brazil, Ind. Jontz ran radio and TV commercials depicting him visiting such Hoosier small towns in a red pick-up truck and asking rhetorically when Lugar had last been there. The ads turned out to be ineffective because Lugar was a regular presence in Indiana. But Jontz had the advantage of just being flip and trying to make people laugh. The bigger challenge fell to Lugar, who explained how his leadership on foreign, security and agricultural policy led to a stronger and more prosperous United States in which Hoosier workers and farmers in Peru and Brazil – the Indiana versions – could thrive. But 23 years after Hoosiers embraced Lugar’s internationalist views and sent him back to Washington in a landslide, Jontz’s rhetoric is being revived by Trump.
  • WASHINGTON  – Vice President-elect Mike Pence was an afterthought to President-elect Donald Trump during his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning. After showering supporters, campaign staff and family members with lengthy encomiums, Trump turned to walk away from the podium. Then he returned abruptly, looked to Pence and said, “Thank you, Mike Pence.” The slight was probably unintentional, even though Pence’s presence on the stage could not be overlooked. Pence was the person who introduced Trump. That awkward moment surely does not foreshadow the importance of Pence in a Trump administration. Pence provided ballast during a stormy campaign when Trump went off course, and will wind up doing the same when Trump has to work with Congress. There may not be much of a honeymoon, despite the fact that Republicans control both houses of Congress. Trump laid into many Republican lawmakers with alacrity during the campaign, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.
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  • Morales denies sexual harassment allegations; Wells comments
    "As a husband and father, I understand sexual harassment is deplorable and can leave devastating scars. The claims being made against me are false and I unequivocally deny all of them. The women, who will not reveal their identity, cannot corroborate their stories. They have neither documentation nor sources to substantiate their defaming comments. The falsities stem from 15 years ago and were not brought forward until now. The timing is clearly politically motivated, especially considering one of the women mentions that she is now volunteering for my opponent's campaign. The claims were printed in a publication that uses a disclaimer stating, 'This is a compiliation of pure gossip, rumor and blatant innuendo'. I am appalled to be included in this publication (and) I was not provided an opportunity to respond to these falsehoods before they were printed." Republican Secretary of State nominee Diego Morales, responding to allegations published by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz at IndyPolitics. Democrat nominee Destiny Wells said in a statement: "Diego Morales' victims need to be heard and believed. It takes tremendous courage in coming forward, and the last thing I want is for their personal sacrifice to be for naught. While this race has been focused on safeguarding our right to vote, we too must safeguard a woman's right to exist in the workplace free of sexual harassment and assault. For weeks we have seen mounting evidence that Diego will say and do anything to get what he wants — as Hoosiers, I know this is not in line with our values — we have had enough."
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