By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – When legislative leaders began floating the idea for extending sine die for most of the rest of the year as they grapple with the constitutional issues with Gov. Eric Holcomb, Howey Politics Indiana  raised the executive and legislative ban on campaign fundraising as a potential issue. GOP sources indicated that legislation would deal with that issue.

On Monday, Gov. Holcomb signed HB1372, which extended the sine die through Organization Day in November, while maintaining the ban on political fundraising through April 29, the constitutional sine die date. But the nascent campaign of newly appointed Secretary of State Holli Sullivan didn’t get the memo.

Her Monday Facebook announcement that she would seek a full term included a pitch for donations. It was flagged in a Facebook page screen capture of the Sullivan announcement: “Now more than ever, we need conservative leadership to defend our elections and fight for Indiana’s future. Watch my message to Hoosiers below, and join me in our campaign! Sign up today for updates and to volunteer at [link removed] or donate at [link removed],” part of the Facebook announcement made by Secretary of State Holli Sullivan on April 26 at 12:02 p.m.

“If you are vying to be elected to head the office that oversees elections and enforces campaign finance laws it would probably be a good idea to not break those laws,“ said Libertarian Chairman Evan McMahon. Under Indiana code 3-9-2-12 candidates for the legislature or any statewide office are prohibited from soliciting or accepting campaign contributions from the start of the budget session until after the legislature has adjourned sine die.

“To avoid the appearance of impropriety and to maintain the integrity of the office, the Libertarian Party of Indiana calls on Secretary of State Sullivan to recuse herself and her office, which includes the Indiana Election Division, from investigating and adjudicating this matter,” McMahon said.

“After review of changes made to Indiana campaign finance law during this legislative session, the Committee to Elect Holli Sullivan has determined that it made an improper solicitation of campaign funds,” the Sullivan campaign acknowledged. “These public solicitations have been removed and all contributions have been returned.”

It prompted Newton County Commissioner Kyle Conrad to tell HPI on Wednesday, “Less than 60 days into this and we’re already seeing why election experience is vitally important in the resume of our secretary of state and any potential candidate. You can talk all you want about election security, integrity, and transparency, but if you don’t understand the process and haven’t been on the front lines of elections, this is the likely result.”

Conrad is still weighing a bid for the nomination at the Republican Convention in June 2022. He applied for Gov. Holcomb’s nomination after former Sec. Connie Lawson announced she would retire last winter. Conrad was appointed Newton County clerk and then served two full terms. “I’ve breathed elections since 1991 and believe I would be one of the most qualified SoS candidates in recent memory,” Conrad said. Diego Morales is also seeking the Republican nomination.

In making her pitch on Monday, Sec. Sullivan said, “I am running for secretary of state to bring my proven record of conservative leadership to defend the integrity of Indiana’s elections. Hoosiers deserve a secretary of state who will fight for our future by standing up against an overreaching federal government, and threats at home and abroad, to keep our elections safe. Indiana’s elections are free, fair, and secure. Now more than ever, we need leadership in the secretary of state’s office to protect public trust in our democracy and Indiana’s record as a national leader in election security.”

Congress

Indiana to keep 9 CDs

As expected, Indiana did not lose any congressional seats when preliminary U.S. Census data was released to states on Monday. Indiana’s population grew about 5% during the past decade to nearly 6.8 million residents and the state held onto its nine U.S. House seats. According to the Associated Press, the Census figures released Monday show that Indiana’s population grew 4.7% between 2010 and 2020, from about 6.5 million residents in 2010 to about 6.8 million in 2020, for a net gain of nearly 302,000 residents. Indiana lost one seat after the 2000 count, but held onto its nine congressional seats in 2010 and now in 2020. In 1910, Indiana had 13 House seats, but it lost one seat each in 1930, 1940, 1980 and 2000 as the nation’s population shifted.

Presidential

Biden says ‘America is rising anew’

President Joe Biden declared last night that “America is rising anew” as he called for an expansion of federal programs to drive the economy past the coronavirus pandemic and broadly extend the social safety net on a scale not seen in decades (AP). Biden’s nationally televised address to Congress, his first, raised the stakes for his ability to sell his plans to voters of both parties, even if Republican lawmakers prove resistant. The Democratic president is following Wednesday night’s speech by pushing his plans in person, beginning in Georgia on Thursday and then on to Pennsylvania and Virginia in the days ahead.

In the address, Biden pointed optimistically to the nation’s emergence from the coronavirus scourge as a moment for America to prove that its democracy can still work and maintain primacy in the world. Speaking in highly personal terms while demanding massive structural changes, the president marked his first 100 days in office by proposing a $1.8 trillion investment in children, families and education to help rebuild an economy devastated by the virus and compete with rising global competitors.

His speech represented both an audacious vision and a considerable gamble. He is governing with the most slender of majorities in Congress, and even some in his own party have blanched at the price tag of his proposals. At the same time, the speech highlighted Biden’s fundamental belief in the power of government as a force for good, even at a time when it is so often the object of scorn. “I can report to the nation: America is on the move again,” he said. “Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”

While the ceremonial setting of the Capitol was the same as usual, the visual images were unlike any previous presidential address. Members of Congress wore masks and were seated apart because of pandemic restrictions.  “America is ready for takeoff. We are working again. Dreaming again. Discovering again. Leading the world again. We have shown each other and the world: There is no quit in America,” Biden said.

This year’s scene at the front of the House chamber also had a historic look: For the first time, a female vice president, Kamala Harris, was seated behind the chief executive. And she was next to another woman, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The first ovation came as Biden greeted “Madam Vice President.” He added, “No president has ever said those words from this podium, and it’s about time.” 

Sen. Scott, Rep. Banks respond

Sen. Tim Scott accused Democrats on Wednesday of dividing the country and suggested they’re wielding race as “a political weapon,” using the official Republican response to President Joe Biden’s maiden speech to Congress to credit the GOP for leading the country out of its pandemic struggles and toward a hopeful future (AP). Scott, R-S.C., in his nationally televised rebuttal of Biden’s address, belittled the new president’s initial priorities — aimed at combating the deadly virus and spurring the economy — as wasteful expansions of big government. “We should be expanding options and opportunities for all families,” said Scott, who preaches a message of optimism while remaining a loyal supporter of former President Donald Trump, “not throwing money at certain issues because Democrats think they know best.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks tweeted: “If we really want to help working class families, we should reopen the economy now and let Americans work, get kids back to school, stop the Chinese from undermining our economy and end the border crisis.”

Pence’s first post-office speech tonight

Former vice president Mike Pence will give his first speech tonight since leaving the White House, a move aimed at laying the groundwork for a possible run for president in 2024 (Politico Playbook). It’s no coincidence he’s giving the address in the early primary state of South Carolina — to an organization, the Palmetto Family Council, that champions “biblical values” in government. Per a source familiar with his remarks, Pence will compare the accomplishments of the Trump-Pence administration with the first 100 days of Biden’s White House. He’ll blast Bide n for moving to the left under pressure from progressives. And Pence will talk about how a return to a “positive” policy agenda rooted in conservative ideological principles can help the party flip the House and Senate. He’ll also talk about his faith and the causes that he’s backed his entire career, such as opposing abortion and advocating for religious liberty. This would be Pence’s most promising lane in a potentially crowded GOP primary if Trump doesn’t run.