By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – Following the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, a number of big corporations announced they would no longer be giving campaign contributions to the 140 House Members who refused to accept the Electoral College results. In a memo to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks appears to say, “Bring it on.” 

Banks is advocating an embrace of former president Donald Trump, saying his Jan. 6 “gift didn’t come with a receipt.” He believes that the Republican Party “embrace our new coalition” as the party of the working class.

“In the last five years, the GOP has undergone a coalitional transformation and is now the party of the working class,” Banks tweeted Wednesday. “We should embrace that. Not fight it.”

“Both parties are undergoing coalitional transformations,” Banks, R-Columbia City, said, adding and that Republicans shouldn’t fight the trend of corporate donors pulling back from the GOP. “When Eli Lilly and several other corporate PACs blacklisted me” for objecting to the certification of President Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, “I reached out to individual donors, explained the situation, and asked for their support. Once my supporters learned that liberal corporations blacklisted me because I refused to cave to their demands on Jan. 6, they were happy to make up the difference. That’s how, in the first quarter of this year, I regained every penny of the $241,000 I lost in corporate money through individual donations.”

According to CitizensForEthics.org (CREW) the Business Roundtable, an industry group that represents the CEOs of corporations denounced the “inexcusable violence” and counted by mid-February nearly 190 companies pledged to halt donations from their political action committees. Axios reported that Charles Schwab, Nike, Walt Disney, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Walmart, Comcast, Verizon, Northrop Grumman, Amazon, BP, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Dow, Goldman Sachs, Airbnb, Boston Scientific and AT&T are all at least temporarily holding donations.

That Banks represents one of the most uncompetitive congressional districts in the nation (the Cook Partisan Index puts Indiana’s 3rd CD +18% Republican), and has won landslide victories every time he’s run doesn’t appear to alter the congressman’s political calculation for how to play in the couple of dozen races expected to determine which party holds the majority after the 2022 elections.

“Every Republican Member in a competitive district should know exactly how much corporate cash their opponent received in 2020, and they should relay those numbers to their constituents,” Banks continued. “The NRCC should arm Members with that information and commission advertisements that contrast Republican challengers with corporate-backed Democrat incumbents.

“House Republicans can broaden our electorate, increase voter turnout, and take back the House by enthusiastically rebranding and reorienting as the Party of the Working Class,” Banks said in the memo. “There is an embittered and loud minority in the GOP that finds our new coalition distasteful, but President Trump’s gift didn’t come with a receipt.

“Our electoral success in the 2022 midterm election will be determined by our willingness to embrace our new coalition,” the memo continues. “House Republicans can broaden our electorate, increase voter turnout, and take back the House by enthusiastically rebranding and reorienting as the Party of the Working Class. Republicans are pro-business and pro-worker, not pro-corporation.”

The memo notes that opposing Big Tech “would be popular and politically effective.” It said that 45% of Americans have a negative view of Big Tech, up 33% since 2019. It observed that from February 2020 to May 2020, the jobless rate for high-wage workers rose by 3.6% while the unemployment rate for medium and low-wage workers rose by 14.2% and 19.8%.

In what the memo describes as “Main Street vs. Wall Street,” it advocates, “Republicans should use regressive coronavirus lockdowns to illustrate how Democrats harm working-class Americans. Republicans opposed draconian lockdowns because we knew that small, independent businesses and working class Americans would be hurt most. Democrats supported them because their donors would profit, and that’s exactly what happened.”

“Republicans should state clearly, our opposition to China as corollary of our support for working Americans. The reverse is also true: Democrats’ coziness with China results from their coziness with Wall Street.”

The memo noted Donald Trump’s cornerstone issue – “Build the Wall” – and noted that 73% of voters now recognize the border crisis is an issue, “so Biden’s immigration agenda is likely even more unpopular now that it was in early February. The GOP should continue highlighting Biden’s border crisis by contrasting Democrats’ open-border policies like the wall, remain in Mexico, and opposition of amnesty.”

In “action items” the memo recommends holding “worker class roundtables,” create “working families task forces,” focus on individual and digital donations, and embrace the made-in-America agenda.

The memo concludes: “The Democratic Party is more vulnerable than it’s been in modern history. Democrats’ agenda is now shaped entirely by corporate interests and radical, elite cultural mores, but they still rely on many blue-collar voters. Democrats rely on labor votes but support open-border policies that undercut American workers. They rely on Christian Hispanic voters but want to repeal the Hyde Amendment. After their push to ‘defund the police,’ the murder rate jumped more in a single year than it has in U.S. history, and urban, poor, blue areas were hardest hit.

“Democrats will keep alienating working-class voters because that’s what their donors demand, and Republicans should welcome them with open arms by fully embracing an agenda that’s worthy of their support.”

According to Lakshya Jain, writing for Sabato’s Crystal Ball today, “It appears as if the Republican Party’s strength with evangelicals and religious, working-class whites may be beginning to take hold in areas where the realignment had not hit quite as strongly, and the rates of erosion in Democratic support were thus significantly faster than one might have expected given the other 2020 results across the nation.”

Indiana Democratic Executive Director Lauren Ganapini told HPI, “Congressman Jim Banks’s votes and the Indiana Republican Party’s record do not help working-class Hoosiers. Just last month, Banks and the INGOP voted against increasing the minimum wage for 30% of the state’s workforce, they voted against the American Rescue Plan which will help us get through COVID-19 and get our economy back on track, and they never supported affordable healthcare for Hoosiers. Banks is proving to be a typical Republican politician who talks a big game but is unwilling to do the work.” 

Trump on Biden infrastructure plans

Former President Trump said in a press release on Wednesday: “Joe Biden’s radical plan to implement the largest tax hike in American history is a massive giveaway to China, and many other countries, that will send thousands of factories, millions of jobs, and trillions of dollars to these competitive Nations. The Biden plan will crush American workers and decimate U.S. manufacturing, while giving special tax privileges to outsourcers, foreign and giant multinational corporations. Biden’s policy would break the back of the American worker with among the highest business tax rates in the developed world.”

Schmuhl lauds Biden jobs plan

Indiana Democratic Chairman Mike Schmuhl said today President Biden’s American Jobs Plan would “give workers again.” In his first policy statement since taking the helm on March 21, Schmuhl said, “The Biden-Harris administration and Indiana Democrats made a promise to help Indiana and its workers build back better into a new era where infrastructure projects will create good-paying jobs, revitalize our infrastructure system, and help our families live, drive, and thrive in every Indiana community. The American Jobs Plan will do just that. Indiana has a strong union tradition, and it’s time the state’s elected leaders start treating its workers and unions with the respect and dignity they deserve. Through the PRO Act, the Hoosier worker will have a voice again while on the job and better opportunities will be available to families who want a pathway toward a brighter future.” 

Gubernatorial 2024 updates

Yes, yes, 2024 is still two election cycles off, but we’re watching both major parties for clues on who will be in what lanes.

For Democrats, the list of potential contenders includes former senator Joe Donnelly, former Republican superintendent of public instruction Jennifer McCormick, State Sen. Eddie Melton, businessman Josh Owens, and newly elected Democrat Chairman Mike Schmuhl.

The case for Donnelly is simple: He’s run statewide twice, winning once. He raised $18 million in his 2018 loss to Sen. Mike Braun. While he begged off a challenge to U.S. Sen. Todd Young in 2022, he told HPI in March, “I remain open to being involved in public service again, but I will not be a candidate for public office in 2022.” Donnelly maintained a moderately conservative profile during this six years in the Senate, as well as during his House tenure.

McCormick had a listening tour with Sen. Melton in 2019, then campaigned for a handful of congressional and General Assembly Democrats last year. She’s kept a Statehouse profile up during this session, opposing the proposed voucher expansion. She was rumored to be interested in forming a ticket with Sen. Melton.

Melton raised his profile a bit by joining the tiny Senate caucuses leadership, but any statewide race would be a huge leap for this Gary Democrat. Indiana has never had a governor from Lake County.

Owens weighed in during the Democratic chair race earlier this year, though he did not advocate for a specific candidate.

Schmuhl managed a $100 million presidential campaign and served as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s chief of staff. His mission is the rebuild the party over the next four years. If no obvious contender emerges, why not him? Gov. Eric Holcomb is a former state party chairman, as was Rex Early prior to his 1996 GOP run.

As for the Republicans, Importantville asked Sen. Braun if he might seek the open governor’s office in 2024. He responded, “I’m going to tell you this. As hard as it was to get into the arena, I’m going to stay involved in politics until I view that there’s no marginal return left in doing it. Also weighing the chronology, the clock, too, because most ask why I didn’t retire. Of course I’ll never do that. I’ve got too many interests, things that I do, even if I weren’t in politics. But I’m going to carefully measure where I can have the most impact, and then stay involved until I’m either fatigued of it or find out that it’s not worth the time to do it.”

That’s hardly slamming the door on the prospect. Braun would bring a self-funding component to the race after spending about $5 million to secure the 2018 Senate nomination. If Braun ran for governor, it would open up a Senate seat for a still relatively young Gov. Eric Holcomb, who began his statewide profile by seeking the Senate in 2016 until Gov. Mike Pence appointed him lieutenant governor.

The most active Republican has been Attorney General Todd Rokita, who has been showing up at GOP events statewide, and has been active on burnishing his cultural cred on issues ranging from abortion, to opposing President Biden’s environmental regulatory agenda. Rokita has also received considerable negative publicity for continuing to draw a salary from outside sources after being elected to office.

Newly reelected Chairman Kyle Hupfer has become the GOP’s “$25 million man” after he raised that much money for the state party and Gov. Eric Holcomb’s reelection campaign.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch has been presiding over the Indiana Senate thus far this year, but expect her to be making statewide rounds as well as adding to her war chest after the General Assembly sine die on April 21.

‘Retired’ Pence eyes prez run

The Associated Press released a story about how former vice president Mike Pence is “steadily” preparing for a 2024 White House bid. “He’s joining conservative organizations, writing op-eds, delivering speeches and launching an advocacy group that will focus on promoting the Trump administration’s accomplishments,” AP reported. But “for someone who built a reputation as one of Trump’s most steadfast supporters, Pence is now viewed with suspicion among many Republicans for observing his constitutional duty in January to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to the Biden administration, a decision that still has Trump fuming.

“To prevail in a Republican presidential primary, Pence may have to reinforce his loyalty to Trump while defending his decisions during the final days of the administration when the president alleged widespread voter fraud, leading to a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. If anyone can achieve this awkward balance, some Republicans say, it’s Pence.” The AP quoted GOP strategist Alice Stewart, who said, “Anybody who can pull off an endorsement of Ted Cruz and become Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee should not be counted out. He has a way of splitting hairs and threading the needle that has paid off in the past.”

Pence has an array of perception and security problems. Just keeping safe following the Jan. 6 insurrection where Trump-inspired loyalists chanted “Hang Mike Pence” will require a campaign security team. 

And the memo of a potential Pence presidential bid obviously didn’t reach the Indiana Senate this week. NWI Times report Dan Carden wrote on Tuesday: “Mike Pence’s political career is over. That at least is the opinion of the Republican-controlled Indiana Senate, which unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday congratulating the former vice president and Indiana governor on his “retirement.” Senate Resolution 33 declares the Senate honors Pence “upon his retirement” and “thanks him for his many years of service to the state of Indiana and the United States of America. Vice President Pence’s enduring service, integrity, faith, conservatism, and bold leadership will be greatly missed throughout the state and the nation.” It also notes, during his retirement, Pence “will continue to advocate for conservative principles, small government, and pro-American policies, and spend time with his wife, Karen, and their family.”