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Thursday, June 13, 2013 8:43 AM
This article was originally published in the June 6, 2013 edition of Howey Politics Indiana.


INDIANAPOLIS – Misty Buck was a deputy clerk in the Muncie clerk’s office and failed to deposit $11,325.50.
Brittany Cohee of the Benton Township trustee’s office in Monroe County made $2,370 overpayments of salary.
Chandler Clerk-Treasurer Timothy D. Osha rolled up $143,010.36 in personal expenses on credit cards, personal property use, penalties and interest and audit costs.
Bunker Hill Town Court Judge Melvin Smith didn’t make deposits of $37,052.50, including speeding tickets some of you might have incurred on U.S. 31 in Miami County.
Supt. Marion Chapman of Cannelton School Corporation rolled up $615,586.55 misappropriated compensation and benefits and improper handling of a trust fund principal.
Melody Buchanan, deputy clerk-treasurer of West Terre Haute, was responsible for $463,752.19 in missing collections.
Debbie Deitrich was a cafeteria employee at Logansport Memorial Hospital responsible for $60,403.24 in missing cafeteria receipts.
These public servants are part of a rogues gallery which in combination misappropriated $9,785,401 between 2009 and 2012, according to the office of the Indiana Attorney General. There is $9,017,490 in original balances for audit report cases still open. They are part of what is called the civil prosecution of public corruption that included 142 cases between 2009 and 2012 during the Zoeller administration.
Another 29 cases have been filed as of last week in 2013, pushing the total to more than $10 million. There have been 221 audit report cases, some of which did not result in civil litigation to recover funds. The amount still owed by defendants in currently open cases is $8.8 million, according to AG spokesman Bryan Corbin.

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  • Sen. Lamar Alexander's efforts to ward off a primary challenge from the right fell short Tuesday with Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr's announcement that he will mount a tea party challenge for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate (Fox News). Carr, a Murfreesboro business consultant, told WTN-FM host Ralph Bristol that he decided to abandon his challenge to embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais to instead take on Alexander because he considers the senator "the most liberal member of the delegation from Tennessee."…In response to the switch to campaign against Alexander, Carr's top campaign strategists, Chip Saltsman, resigned. "It is because of Lamar Alexander that people like you have the honor of serving in the majority of the state legislature," Saltsman said in his resignation letter to Carr.
  • Immigration reform's potency as a GOP incumbent slayer will be put to the test in South Carolina, where Sen. Lindsey Graham faces three primary challenges and probably a fourth (The Hill). If he blows them away, as currently seems possible, it could embolden Republicans to support legislation that gives illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. But if his race gets tough, GOP waverers would probably duck for cover, burying the chances of bipartisan reform. Graham is mistrusted by many conservatives because he has for years worked with Democrats, notably on the 2008 bank bailout and climate change legislation, and to help President Obama secure his nominees to the Supreme Court. But immigration may be even more critical to the party base.
  • He can’t use the Senate soapbox to rack up media hits and political points, like Rand Paul or Marco Rubio (POLITICO). He isn’t poised to run up the score in his reelection campaign as a show of strength heading into 2016, as Chris Christie intends to do this November in New Jersey. But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s game plan for the next three years is quietly taking shape: Win reelection next year in this purple state without moderating a record that has won many hearts in the conservative base; let the other GOP hopefuls get sullied by the mud pit of Congress and each other; then pounce in 2015. That, in essence, is the outline of the likely presidential contender’s game plan that emerged from interviews with multiple people in his orbit. Operating in the shadows of the emerging GOP presidential field, Walker has been laying the groundwork for a 2016 campaign. His bid would aim to capitalize on his record as a committed social conservative who has taken on Democratic interests repeatedly in a Midwestern battleground state — and won.
  • Charging out of last week's Republican National Committee meeting in Boston, Chris Christie's message was clear: The party needs to ditch fights over ideology and get back to winning elections. "I am in this to win," the New Jersey governor told establishment Republicans. "I am going to do anything I need to do to win."
  • ONa recent swing through the most conservative parts of his state, Sen. Marco Rubio told a packed banquet hall at the St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club that major policy issues were threatening the American dream: onerous taxes, burdensome regulations — and, above all, President Barack Obama's health care law (Associated Press). But all Doc Washburn wanted to know about was immigration. The local radio talk-show host asked the Republican senator why he had worked with Democrats on legislation that would give the estimated 11 million immigrants here illegally an eventual path to citizenship. "We know you, and we've always loved you," Washburn said, "and yet you're pushing this and it's a real problem for us.
  • Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a law on Monday barring licensed therapists from trying to turn gay teenagers straight, the latest example of the potential 2016 presidential candidate steering a moderate course (Associated Press). The governor said the health risks of trying to change a child's sexual orientation, as identified by the American Psychological Association, trump concerns over the government setting limits on parental choice. "Government should tread carefully into this area," he said in the signing note, "and I do so here reluctantly." The decision marked the third time this month that Christie has staked out a moderate position on a hot-button social issue as he seeks a second term in a Democratic-leaning state. It also offers more evidence that the popular governor is positioning himself as a pragmatist who shuns more conservative elements within his party.
  • Why in the world would Scott Brown, a former half-term Senator from Mitt Romney's Massachusetts, put himself in the mix for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination? The real question is: Why not? When Brown told the Des Moines Register over the weekend that he was heading to the Iowa State Fair "to determine whether there's an interest in my brand of leadership and Republicanism," the news was met with some amusement by political insiders. After all, Brown has already floated bids for New Hampshire senator and Massachusetts governor, and he doesn't seem likely to pursue either. Brown was thumped by Elizabeth Warren in his 2012 re-election bid, and he became something of a punch line earlier this year after he unleashed a volley of questionable late night tweets at some online critics. But so what? The truth is that in today's media environment, there's almost no downside for a long-shot "candidate" like Brown to tell people he's mulling a White House run. For someone with no real perch other than a paid gig at Fox News, it actually makes a lot of sense. Just by going to the Iowa State Fair, a must-do for any ambitious pol, Brown will be rewarded with the only currency that matters in modern campaign politics (other than hard fundraising dollars): Buzz.
  • Political allies of Vice President Joe Biden have concluded that he can win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination—even if Hillary Clinton enters the contest—and are considering steps he could take to prepare for a potential candidacy (Wall Street Journal). While Mr. Biden has made no decision about his future, people familiar with his thinking say, he hasn't ruled out a bid for the White House. If he runs, that could set up a titanic battle between two of the party's most prominent figures. Allies say Vice President Biden, visiting the USS Freedom in Singapore last month, could win the 2016 nomination. One step under discussion by Biden backers is to form a political action committee he would use to funnel money to other Democratic candidates, which could build goodwill for a possible White House bid, people familiar with the talks said. Meanwhile, Mr. Biden is preparing to attend a Democratic event in Iowa, which traditionally holds the first nominating contest, and to raise money this week for the Democratic governor of New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary. Many prominent Democrats believe that Mrs. Clinton would be so heavily favored in a presidential primary that Mr. Biden and other party hopefuls wouldn't even contest the nomination were she to run. A recent poll in New Hampshire showed Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Biden and other possible Democratic candidates by upward of 50 points. "I don't see Biden and Hillary running against each other," said David Axelrod, a senior strategist in both of President Barack Obama's presidential campaigns and who worked for Mrs. Clinton's New York senatorial bid in 2000. "I would be shocked to see that materialize." But Biden loyalists aren't writing off the idea. They say he has ties to elected officials nationwide, can attract crowds and money, and is a visible part of an administration that is popular with Democratic voters. "He's the vice president of the United States of America! When you're the sitting vice president and you're running against anybody, you still have a chance," said one person close to Mr. Biden.
  • Many Republicans who are eyeing a run for president in 2016 are backing an all-or-nothing plan to defund ObamaCare (The Hill). More than half a dozen possible GOP White House candidates support that strategy while a handful are calling for a more nuanced approach to defunding or repealing the healthcare law. Another five are dodging questions and a couple others are not signaling one way or another. In short, some are willing to go to the brink and beyond of a government shutdown to defund ObamaCare. But it’s far from unanimous. Still, the results of The Hill’s survey favors the shutdown-showdown strategy hatched by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), thanks to outspoken endorsements from GOP frontrunners, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The Florida Republican and three other colleagues also entertaining presidential runs — Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) — have backed Lee’s effort by refusing to support government funding bills that include money for ObamaCare. The effort places immense pressure on GOP leaders and could result in a government shutdown if it prevents Congress from agreeing on a continuing resolution by Sept. 30. Several top national Republicans have either been silent or agnostic on the threat, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
  • Bill Clinton offered a strong defense of his family foundation and insisted reports of mismanagement and deficits were taken out of context, in an unusual letter posted on the group’s website. The Friday post also addressed, for the first time, the audit that the foundation conducted in 2011, which led to a series of recommendations to bring change to a loosely-run, personality-driven organization after its first decade into a more sustainable structure. And the foundation released the summary of that audit. POLITICO reported earlier this week on the audit, which was driven in large part by Chelsea Clinton in order to bring the foundation into a new era. The letter, lengthy and posted with little fanfare, goes on for several paragraphs about the Clinton Foundation’s goals and work. But it also offered a rebuttal to the New York Times’ sprawling look at the internal dysfunction and intra-staff fighting that was taking place up until 2011. “The New York Times recently reported that the Foundation ran a deficit of $40 million in 2007 and 2008 and $8 million in 2012,” he wrote, saying that it is not an accurate look because it reflected a donation made in increments over several years.
  • FOX Television Studios has cancelled its plans to produce NBC Entertainment's forthcoming mini-series about Hillary Clinton, according to a report in The Hollywood Reporter. FTVS, the sister company of Fox News, revealed last Friday that it was in “the early stages” of discussions with NBC to to produce the mini-series and distribute it internationally. But in the wake of the Republican National Committee's vote to bar NBC and CNN, which is producing a Hillary Clinton documentary film, from the GOP primary debates, FTVS has apparently pulled out.
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told an Iowa crowd Friday that she was "serious" about continuing to represent her state in the Senate — while slyly noting that the Hawkeye State "has gained notoriety for picking the country's presidents." The two-term Minnesota senator kicked off a two-day swing through Iowa Friday night with an appearance at the annual "Wing Ding" fundraiser benefiting local Democratic candidates, prompting speculation that she could be considering a 2016 presidential bid (The Hill). But Klobuchar insisted that she was primarily focused on representing her state in the Senate. "I'm serious about that," she said. "We haven't had anyone stay in the job, sometimes because of tragedy, sometimes because voters make a decision one way or the other but I really like my work in the Senate."
  • President George W. Bush’s daughter Barbara said she would like to see Hillary Clinton run for president in 2016 (Politico). Barbara Bush, 31, called Clinton “unbelievably accomplished” in an upcoming interview with People magazine, saying she wants to see the former first lady mount a campaign. The former Republican president’s daughter said that her respect for Clinton wouldn’t necessarily mean she would vote for the former secretary of state, however. “I don’t know who she’d be running against,” said Bush, who is politically unaffiliated but supports gay marriage. Bush’s comments came up during an interview primarily about her work as the CEO of the nonprofit Global Health Corps, through which she works with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. “We want results. We work with people doing great work,” she said of the partnerships.
  • Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, N.J., and a quickly ascending Democrat on the national stage, won the party's primary race Tuesday night for U.S. Senate in New Jersey (Wall Street Journal). With 88% of the precincts reporting, Mr. Booker had 61% of the vote, topping state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and U.S. Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone. Mr. Pallone captured 20% of the vote, Mr. Holt 16% and Ms. Oliver 4%. Steve Lonegan, a former mayor in Bergen County, N.J., and past director of the state branch of the conservative Americans for Prosperity group, won the Republican primary.
  • Does "Duck Dynasty" star Willie Robertson have his sights on Congress? According to a new report, Republican strategists are suddenly interested in recruiting Robertson to run for an open congressional seat in Louisiana (Fox News). The speculation follows GOP Rep. Rodney Alexander announcing his retirement from Congress last week, as a result of his frustration with Washington gridlock. A special election to fill the seat is scheduled for Oct. 19.
  • Embattled New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner may have let slip former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s plans to run for president in 2016 (ABC News). In an interview with Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith Monday, Weiner said he knew what role his wife Huma Abedin will play in Clinton’s 2016 campaign, suggesting a Clinton presidential run is indeed in the cards. “I do,” replied Weiner, when asked directly by Smith about whether his wife will have a role in a 2016 Clinton campaign. Weiner demurred however when pressed to specify exactly what his wife’s role will be. “I’m not telling you,” Weiner said to laughter from the audience.
  • Republicans are using Virginia's gubernatorial race as a dry run to test attacks on Hillary Clinton for cronyism if she runs for the White House in 2016 (The Hill). The GOP feels it has the perfect stand-in for Clinton this year in Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton confidante running to become governor of Virginia. Republicans are focused on a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into GreenTech Automotive, an electric car company founded by McAuliffe. The probe concerns the company’s use of visas provided to foreign investors who invest more than $500,000 into U.S. companies. Republicans are hammering McAuliffe over the company, questioning whether he used his political connections to push visas through the immigration process. They have also raised questions about Tony Rodham, Hillary’s brother, who headed an investment firm that helped GreenTech gain foreign investors. His involvement helps Republicans underline the connection between McAuliffe and Clinton. 
  • Low turnout was expected Tuesday as New Jersey voters decide which candidates will run to fill the seat of the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in June (Associated Press). Democrat Cory Booker and Republican Steve Lonegan are expected to easily win their party primaries. Barring an upset, the two will square off in an Oct. 16 special election, with the winner headed to Washington for the remaining 15 months of Lautenberg's term.
  • Potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton kicked off a series of speeches on Monday with a call to combat what she called an "assault on voting rights” (Associated Press). She spent most of her 45-minute talk to about 1,000 members of the American Bar Association assailing a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a significant part of the Voting Rights Act and discussing what she sees as "deep flaws in our electoral system" as it relates to racial discrimination at the polls. The former U.S. secretary of state spoke in San Francisco after receiving the group's highest award for service to the law. She said her upcoming speeches would look at national security and U.S. global leadership. Next month, she intends to speak in Philadelphia about the "balance and transparency necessary in our national security policies as we move beyond a decade of wars to face new threats."
  • A team of IU researchers says Twitter can better predict elections than traditional polling (Wright, Indiana Public Media). The team of IU researchers collected more than a billion tweets from the months leading up to the 2010 U.S. Congressional Elections. By analyzing how many times each candidate was mentioned on Twitter, the team was able to correctly predict the winner in 404 out of the 406 cases, or 99.5 percent of the time. In many of the cases, tweets predicted the outcome within 3 percentage points—about the same as traditional polls. PhD student and researcher on the project Joe Digrazia says Twitter can offer information that polls cannot. “What it can be useful for is a lot of issues where polling data does not exist, especially in small elections or to get at issues that are difficult to talk about,” he says
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  • Pence visits Auschwitz for first time
    “It seems to me to be a scene of unspeakable tragedy, reminding us what tyranny is capable of. But it seems to me also to be a scene of freedom’s victory. I traveled in our delegation with people who had family members who had been at Auschwitz — some had survived, some not. But to walk with them and think that two generations ago their forebears came there in box carts and that we would arrive in a motorcade in a free Poland and a Europe restored to freedom from tyranny is an extraordinary experience for us, and I’ll carry it with me the rest of our lives.” - Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland on Friday along with Second Lady Karen Pence and Polish President Andrzej Duda and First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda. It was Pence's first time at the scene where Nazi Germany murdered more than 1.1 million Jews and other groups during the World War II Holocaust.
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  • Our first national park at Indiana Dunes
    It continues to amaze me how many folks from central and southern Indiana have never visited Indiana's sea, known to most of us as Lake Michigan. If you need another reason to take a couple hour trip northward on U.S. 31, U.S. 421 or I-65, thank President Trump for our first national park. It's now the Indiana Dunes National Park. The move was included in the spending package compromise that Trump signed on Friday, inserted in the legislation with the help of U.S. Sen. Todd Young and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky. 

    Visclosky said, "I also am heartened that because of the support of our U.S. Senators, the entire Indiana Congressional delegation, and numerous Northwest Indiana organizations, we have successfully titled the first National Park in our state. This action provides our shoreline with the recognition it deserves, and I hope further builds momentum to improve open and public access to all of our region’s environmental wonders.”

    The Dunes includes white sand beaches, trails and an array of flora and bogs, with a front row seat to the Chicago skyline. It richly deserves to be Indiana's first national park.
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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