Friday, November 21, 2014

Human Rights Co-Founder Charged With Molesting 15-Year Old Boy

Terry Bean, the co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign, has been arrested by Portland police on allegations he molested a 15-year old boy. The USA Today describes Bean as "a big money Democratic donor and liberal political activist with connections inside the Obama White House." Bean raised more than a half million dollars for President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. The 66-year old's former boyfriend, Kiah Lawson, 25, was also charged with having sex with the same boy. After Bean and Lawson broke up, Lawson went public with accusations that Bean had a penchant for secretly-videotaping his sexual encounters.

Bean's attorney, Kristin Winemiller, claims her client is the victim of an extortion ring being carried out by several men. Winemiller says Bean's arrest is connected to an ongoing investigation of the extortion case in which she says Bean has fully cooperated. Bean says he had been paying Lawson a $400 a week allowance after they began their relationship a year ago, and he accompanied Bean on a trip to the White House where he introduced him to President Obama. Bean accuses Lawson of placing a hidden camera in a smoke detector above Bean's bed which recorded him having sex with various men. He claims Lawson used the videos to extort money from him. Records obtained by Williamette Week show that Bean offered to pay Lawson $40,000 to return the videos and refrain from disclosing information about his sexual encounters with six individuals.
Bean with Lawson in happier times

Republicans And Democrats Upset With Obama's Executive Action On Immigration

President Barack Obama announced sweeping actions he's taking by executive action to change the nation's current immigration laws. The greatest attention is focused on a plan to grant so-called deferred action to an estimated 4.4 million undocumented aliens who arrived in the country on or before January 1, 2010, have remained in the country continuously and have U.S. citizen children. If the so-called Deferred Action Parents ("DAP") can clear a background check and pay back taxes owed to the government, they would be eligible to apply for work authorization for a period of three years, subject to re-authorization at the expiration of the authorized period of deferred action during which they could not be subject to removal from the country for mere unlawful presence.

The proposed regulations aren't available yet so it's unclear how the back taxes would be calculated. The President emphasizes that work authorization will not allow these undocumented aliens to be eligible for benefits under the Affordable Care Act; however, under current law they cannot be denied health care when they show up for emergency care at a hospital based on whether they have insurance or are able to pay for their health care.

The President is also expanding his earlier deferred action program for childhood arrivals known as DACA for so-called Dreamers. That program offers deferred action with work authorization for period of two years, subject to reauthorization, for undocumented aliens who arrived in the country prior to their 16th birthday on or before June 15, 2007, had obtained or were obtaining an education and had remained continuously in the U.S. for five years. The President is upping the authorization period for DACA beneficiaries from two to three years and expanding its coverage to include those who arrived on or before June 15, 2010.

Gov. Mike Pence reacted sharply to the President's announcement, suggesting he may join other state executives in challenging the legality of President Obama's executive authority to change current immigration laws and policies.
“Tonight the President announced his plan to by-pass Congress by issuing an executive order changing American immigration laws. While reasonable people can differ on ways to improve our nation’s broken immigration system, the President's unilateral action is an unacceptable end run around the democratic process and must be reversed. The proper place to debate immigration policy is through the legislative process defined in our Constitution. The State of Indiana will carefully evaluate the details of the Executive Order and take any available legal actions necessary to restore the rule of law and proper balance to our constitutional system of government.”
Gov. Pence's office tells the Indianapolis Star it has started discussions with Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office on potential legal action the state might take in opposing the President's executive actions. It's not just Republicans complaining about Obama's action. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) is not happy with President Obama either. "I am frustrated as anyone that Congress is not doing its job, but the president shouldn't make such significant policy changes on his own, "Donnelly told the Star. 

There are many other changes the President is proposing to make, including changes to make it easier for employment-based immigration applications to be approved and expanding investor-related visas and national interest waivers. The President also plans to make it easier for undocumented aliens with qualifying U.S. citizen relatives to obtain hardship waivers to allow them to become permanent residents, as well as expanding changes previously made to benefit those undocumented aliens to include spouses and children of lawful permanent residents. 

Law enforcement will not like the President's proposed changes on enforcement. He plans to do away with the Secure Communities program under which detainers are placed on aliens who have been arrested. The detainers required local law enforcement to hold aliens being released from jail until they could be picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), processed and given a Notice to Appear before an immigration court for hearing on their legal status in this country. Detainers are expected to be replaced with notifications to ICE when incarcerated aliens are about to be released by local law enforcement. The administration is supposed to release a very strongly-worded memo regarding the exercise of prosecutorial discretion to avoid many removal proceedings that are initiated under existing laws and policies. 

Existing ICE memos regarding enforcement priorities and prosecutorial discretion are to be replaced with a priority on the following categories of immigrants: (1) suspected terrorists, convicted felons (including aggravated felonies), convicted gang members and persons apprehended on the border; (2) persons convicted of multiple or serious misdemeanors and very recent border crossers (those entering after January 1, 2014; and (3) those who, after January 1, 2014, failed to leave under a removal order or returned after removal. Again, the emphasis is on the use of prosecutorial discretion to limit the number of removal cases. Some ICE officials are grumbling that their enforcement capabilities are effectively being neutered by the President's action. So essentially, if you are an undocumented alien who is arrested for misdemeanor offenses like drunk driving, traffic-related offenses, domestic battery, as long as you haven't had multiple similar arrests, ICE will be told to stand down and not take enforcement action against you.

UPDATE: The Associated Press fact-checked some of the claims Obama made during his address last night. True to form, he lived up to Jack Cashill's "YOU LIE" tag.

OBAMA: “It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.”
THE FACTS: He’s saying, and doing, more than that. The changes also will make those covered eligible for work permits, allowing them to be employed in the country legally and compete with citizens and legal residents for better-paying jobs.
* * *
OBAMA: “Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years.”
THE FACTS: The numbers certainly surged this year, but it was more than a “brief spike.” The number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the border has been on the rise since the 2011 budget year. That year, about 16,000 children were found crossing the border alone. In 2012, the Border Patrol reported more than 24,000 children, followed by more than 38,800 in 2013. In the last budget year, more than 68,361 children were apprehended.
* * *
OBAMA: “Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.”
THE FACTS: Indeed, in the 2014 budget year ending Sept. 30 the Border Patrol made 486,651 arrests of border crossers, among the fewest since the early 1970s. But border arrests have been on the rise since 2011.
The decline in crossings is not purely, or perhaps even primarily, because of the Obama administration. The deep economic recession early in his presidency and the shaky aftermath made the U.S. a less attractive place to come for work. The increase in arrests since 2011 also can be traced in part to the economy – as the recovery improved, more people came in search of opportunity.
* * *
OBAMA: “When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders.”
THE FACTS: He overlooked the fact that he promised as a candidate for president in 2008 to have an immigration bill during his first year in office and move forward on it quickly. He never kept that promise to the Latino community.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

DECA Financial Services Executive Faces Federal Fraud Charges

Todd J. Wolfe, the CEO of Fishers-based DECA, a credit collection company now in bankruptcy, faces bank fraud, wire fraud and bankruptcy charges in a federal indictment handed down by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana today. Wolfe's fraud involved the theft of more than $5 million according to Acting U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler, who said Wolfe was taken into custody by federal officials this morning.

Wolfe is accused of filing false financial statements with BMO Harris bank in order to obtain an inflated line of credit from $1 million to $7.5 million, which he allegedly tapped for personal use. Wolfe is accused of using some of the money to make payments on his house, an automobile, personal credit card accounts and a lake house.

In June 2013, Wolfe allegedly sold $1 million worth of stock to an unnamed individual for a 5% stake in DECA, which he failed to provide to the stock purchaser. Wolfe allegedly used some of the money to purchase an Audi automobile for himself. Creditors forced Wolfe into personal bankruptcy earlier this year. The U.S. Attorney claims Wolfe's attorney represented to the bankruptcy court Wolfe had access to a $14 million living trust to help repay creditors. The actual value of the trust was $52,000, a misrepresentation the U.S. Attorney says delayed the appointment of an independent trustee to oversee DECA.

Wolfe could face up to a decade in prison and be liable for significant fines if found guilty of the charges. The U.S. Attorney's Office says the indictments against Wolfe were aided by a joint investigation of the FBI and the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee.

Marion County Election Board Concedes It Illegally Enforced Unconstitutional Slating Statute

The Marion County Election Board finally threw in the towel and has agreed that its efforts to enforce Indiana's unconstitutional "slating statute" against Democratic state legislative candidate Zach Mulholland in the 2012 primary election was illegal. Taxpayers will now be forced to pay not only the hundreds of thousands of dollars it spent on outside attorneys to defend its actions but also pay to compensate Mulholland and his attorneys at the ACLU of Indiana for their costs and fees. The Board unnecessarily ran up legal fees in the case by taking a frivolous appeal up to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Fellow blogger Paul Ogden shares a press release Mulholland's attorneys put out today about their settlement with the Board:
Indianapolis--Political parties in Marion County cannot prevent the free speech activities of candidates they do not back for election, and county officials cannot enforce an unconstitutional law used to impede such speech, a federal judge affirmed today.
Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, in approving an agreed judgment filed by the parties, ruled that Indiana's "slating" statute -- Indiana Code § 3-14-1-2(a)(2) and (3) -- cannot be enforced. The order also provided that the Marion County Election Board cannot convene further hearings concerning the 2012 primary election or the plaintiff in the lawsuit, Zachary Mulholland, and required compensation and fees to be paid to Mulholland and to the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, who brought the case on his behalf.
In 2003 the Election Board conceded, in an approved judgment in a separate federal lawsuit, that Indiana's slating statute -- which made it a crime for a candidate in a primary election to publish election materials linking him with other candidates without prior permission and notice to the Board -- violated the First Amendment. Still, during the 2012 primary season, the Board enforced the statute against candidate Mulholland by seizing his campaign literature at polling sites on Election Day and demanding he appear for a hearing.
In March the ACLU of Indiana won an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on behalf of Mulholland, a candidate for state representative, and the case was remanded to federal court for a final judgment. Seventh Circuit Court Judge David Hamilton wrote in the opinion that the Election Board's pursuit of action against Mulholland "shaves very close to harassment or bad faith prosecution."
"The Judge's decision today is a major victory for our plaintiff and for the First Amendment," said Kenneth J. Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director, who argued the case with ACLU of Indiana senior staff attorney Gavin M. Rose. "Government agencies cannot enforce laws that have been declared unconstitutional, and the Election Board cannot prevent voters from receiving information about candidates for public office."
"We agree with the Seventh Circuit that this has been an outrageous misuse of power," said Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana executive director. "The Election Board has wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on private attorneys' fees in defense of actions that are indefensible. If the Board had admitted the unconstitutional nature of its behavior two years ago, the total cost to the taxpayers would have been a couple of hundred bucks, the cost of the seized pamphlets."
The decision, Zachary Mulholland v. Marion County Election Board, 1:12-CV-01502 SEB-MJD,was issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, on Nov. 18, 2014.

Gannett Grabs One Of The Only Legitimate Investigate Reporters Left At The State House

I'm sure Tom LoBianco considers his move as a State House beat reporter for the AP to the Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star a career advancement, but I doubt the management folks at the Star had the same thing in mind when they hired him. Under Gannett's management, the Star's State House reporting efforts have been decimated to the delight of the politicians. As a reporter for the AP, LoBianco was doing the hardest hitting reporting at the State House, which made the politicians uneasy. When I see some  of the disinformation flacks reacting in a giddy-like fashion to LoBianco's move, I can only assume they are showing their delight in knowing that a reporter who has not been under their thumb has now been neutered. They sure as hell aren't hoping he continues doing the investigative reporting other State House reporters were neglecting to do. The agenda-driven Gannett buries many stories in order to protect the establishment it represents. I hope I'm proven wrong, but their past track record leaves little hope that I'm wrong.

Here's a tweet LoBianco's new colleague at the Star, John Russell, posted:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

GTECH Expected To Miss Hoosier Lottery Revenue Target By 10%

The Hoosier Lottery learned it private operator, GTECH, expects to miss its revenue target this fiscal year by $31 million, or 9.7% below its contracted revenue target without incurring a penalty according to the Northwest Indiana Times. GTECH contractually agreed to a return of $320 million this fiscal year, but it now forecasts it will generate $289 million. The lottery attributes the lower-than-expected revenues to "lackluster ticket sales for Powerball and other big money draw games." If the revenue forecast holds up, GTECH expects to pay the maximum penalty of $16 million under its 15-year contract with the Hoosier Lottery. Officials with the Hoosier Lottery are not concerned about the lackluster performance because the lottery's revenues under GTECH's management are still higher than they were under state management.

Clark Not Running For Mayor

It doesn't look like the Marion Co. Republicans will have any "A" list candidates for mayor next year. J. Murray Clark, Jr. said today he won't run for Indianapolis mayor next year. This is more evidence the powers that be have already decided Joe Hogsett will be Indianapolis' next mayor.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Billboard Industry Has Purchased Indianapolis City-County Council

Fellow blogger Pat Andrews has done a great job sounding the alarm bells about the subterfuge the corrupt lobbyists for the billboard industry have been engaged in the backrooms with members of the Indianapolis City-County Council, whose votes are pretty easy to purchase if we're being honest. Apparently for all the lip service paid by many members of the council to the notion of "building better neighborhoods," nothing trumps a few expensive steak dinners at the Capitol Grille or St. Elmos, free Colts and Pacers tickets, topped off with very generous campaign contributions to finance their re-election campaigns next year.

For those of you unfamiliar with the current law, which was worked out under former Mayor Bart Peterson, digital billboards are not permitted in Indianapolis. The billboard industry has devoted tremendous legal resources to overturning that law unsuccessfully over the past decade. Some of you may recall how the industry tried to upend the law as Mayor Greg Ballard was coming into office in 2008 by hiring then-Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John to lobby the Ballard administration to prevent the removal of ten billboards owned by Lamar which the City had obtained legal authorization to have torn down. The billboard lobbyists even hired the City's former corporation counsel to work on their behalf. As public pressure mounted, Mayor Ballard blocked moves already underway within his new administration to acquiesce to Lamar's lobbying power.

Under current law, the Metropolitan Development Commission alone has jurisdiction to initiate changes in the City's zoning laws. The lobbyists have successfully worked in the backrooms to convince a bipartisan group of council members to initiate recommended changes to the City's zoning law to prod the MDC into adopting amendments to permit digital billboards. The proposed ordinance in front of the "council for hire" was written by Bose Public Affairs Group, which represents Lamar. Councilor Mary Moriarty-Adams (D) introduced Proposal No. 250 on behalf of Greg Hahn, the lead lobbyist at Bose Public Affairs Group, which is the same lobbying firm associated with the law firm where Democratic mayoral candidate Joe Hogsett is now a partner. The other major billboard company, Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc., is represented by Barnes & Thornburg's Bob Grand and all that that implies. If their proposal would become law, the existing billboard companies would conveniently hold a monopoly on digital billboards in Marion County.

I've posted compelling testimony provided to the Metropolitan & Economic Development Committee by Marjorie Kienle on behalf of Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis ("HUNI"). She pretty much covers the universe of issues which should be foremost in the council members' minds if their votes hadn't been bought. There were two no votes cast by Vop Osili (D) and Jeff Miller (R); however, their comments made clear that they are on board with the concept in general. I learned many years ago when I worked for the Illinois legislature that among the sleaziest lobbyists in the hallways at the State House were the lobbyists for the billboard industry. Not much has changed after all these years. These people will do whatever it takes to get what they need, even if it means standing the process on its head. The council should be embarrassed by how it's being used by this industry, but it takes a lot to shame this council.

Illinois Governor-Elect Chided For Voting Not To Retain Cook County Judges

On election day, Capitol Fax blogger Rich Miller snapped a photo of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who defeated incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn (D), as he cast his ballot on election day. An observant blog reader blew up the digital image of Rauner holding his ballot before inserting it into the optical scanning machine and noticed he had voted "No" on the retention of all 73 judges on the ballot for retention in Cook County. Rauner's "secret" ballot is now becoming fodder for public criticism according to the Capitol Fax.

Judge James Riley, a Republican, wrote a letter to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin chastising Rauner for his No votes, noting the Chicago Bar Association had given the vast majority of the judges up for retention favorable ratings. The president of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, John Litchfield, also penned a letter complaining about Rauner rejecting "even the stars of the bench."

One commenter pointed to an Illinois law that makes it a Class 4 felony for “any person who knowingly marks his ballot or casts his vote on a voting machine or voting device so that it can be observed by another person, and any person who knowingly observes another person lawfully marking a ballot or lawfully casting his vote on a voting machine or voting device." Miller noted he innocently snapped a photo of Rauner with no intention of examining how he marked his ballot.

It seems to me that Rauner is getting a bum rap here. What do you think? The Cook County judiciary has a long history of corruption within its ranks, in part, because of the highly-political manner which determines who becomes a judge, which has more to do with a person's political connections than their legal qualifications. It's hard to imagine that even the best-educated voters would have a clue about the judicial qualifications of a list of 73 judges on the ballot. I suspect there are more than a few voters who think Rauner should wear his "No" votes like a badge of honor.

Public Access Counselor Advisory Opinion Says Voter Registration Records And Voting History Are Public Records

Recently, I made a simple request of the Marion Co. Board of Voter Registration ("BVR") to obtain the voter registration and voting history of a specific individual identified as a potential candidate for Indianapolis mayor in next year's municipal election. Voter registration and voting history records of individual voters have, after all, always been treated as public records. To my surprise, the BVR denied my initial request. A letter dated October 1, 2014 signed by LaDonna Freeman and Cindy Mowery, the Democratic and Republican co-directors of the Board of Voter Registration, stated:
"Pursuant to the policy adopted by the Marion County Board of Election we are not permitted to release this information," the letter read. "Voting history is prohibited from disclosure by the Board of Voter Registration."
Upon further inquiry, I obtained a copy of the policy referenced in the letter. The policy pertained to requests for electronic lists of registered voters in Marion County, which was adopted by the Marion Co. Board of Elections on April 20, 2012. That policy (Resolution 05-12) on its faced applied to compiled electronic voting record lists and was "not intended to address other public records requests addressed to the Marion County Board of Voter Registration under I.C. 5-14-3-1 et. seq." The state law upon which the local board's policy was based (I.C. 3-7-27-6(c)) applied only to restrictions on records obtained from the computerized compilation of statewide registered voters.

After I wrote back to the BVR clarifying my request for the sole record of an individual voter and that voter's voting history, citing the applicable law, the Corporation Counsel's office responded by providing only a partial record of the individual's voter registration record. An October 8, 2014 letter from Joseph Smith in the Corporation Counsel's office stated that "voter registration records are maintained electronically in the Statewide Voter Registration System ("SVRS")." He continued, "Neither MCBVR nor the Marion County Election Board has possession or custody of these records, however MCBVR does have access to them through SVRS."

While acknowledging the information I sought may have been provided prior to the adoption of the Board's April 20, 2012 policy, Smith insisted BVR is "limited in what voter registration information it is able to disseminate to the public." Under Smith's interpretation of the Board's policy, the public would be denied access to an individual registered voter's date of birth, gender, telephone number, voting history, the date of their voter registration, as well as their social security number and voter identification number or other unique field used by the BVR to identify a voter. Under a separate state law, the social security number is automatically made confidential. In addition, public records requests made of a person under a court-ordered protective order can also be shielded from disclosure. With respect to my request, the BVR produced only a redacted copy of the voter's registration card (VRG-7), which blacked out the person's gender, date of birth, telephone number, social security number and date of registration.

On October 16, 2014,  I filed a complaint with the Office of Public Counselor. The BVR refused an opportunity afforded to it by the Public Access Counselor to respond to my complaint. Today, Public Access Counselor Luke Britt responded to my request by concluding the BVR had "misapplied the resolution passed by the Marion County Election Board and Resolution 05-12 should not be considered to prohibit the release of individual records." Britt offered the following analysis in support of his conclusion:
The public policy of the APRA states that "a (p)roviding person with information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of public officials and employees, whose duty it is to provide the information." See Ind. Code § 5-14-3-1. The Marion County Board of Voter Registration is a public agency for the purposes of the APRA. See Ind. Code § 5-14-3-2(n)(1). Accordingly, any person has the right to inspect and copy the Board’s public records during regular business hours unless the records are protected from disclosure as confidential or otherwise exempt under the APRA. See Ind. Code § 5-14- 3-3(a).
The Board has not alleged that any record you seek is confidential, but rather the resolution passed by the Marion County Election Board ("MCEB") prohibits the Board of Voter Registration from releasing the record pertaining to the individual. I agree with your interpretation of the law and find the Marion County Board of Voter Registration is misapplying the policy in regard to your request. 
The statute allowing the MCEB to pass the resolution (Ind. Code § 3-7-27-6(c)) strictly applies to lists of names and addresses (See Ind. Code § 5-14-3-3(f)). You did not seek a list but rather an individual record. The Board has not stated any authority declaring an individual’s voter registration record or voting history to be confidential.
If the Board maintains a copy of the record you seek (and apparently it does based upon the representations at the end of their letter dated October 8, 2014), then it must release the information to you upon request.
The position taken by the BVR with respect to public records requests of individual voters would have severely impeded the ability of members of the general public to gain access to the very same information that is freely shared with the political parties in bulk, which in turn upload the information into party-maintained computer databases used by party officials for political purposes. The adoption of Resolution 05-12 was an effort to thwart attempts made by non-slated judicial candidates to obtain access to the same computerized voter registration records and information that is provided to the political parties. For whatever reason, the BVR is seeking an even broader interpretation of the law to prevent people other than political insiders from researching information about an individual's voter registration and voting history. The media should be deeply concerned about that interpretation, although I won't hold my breath waiting for any of them to express outrage.

You can view the Public Access Counselor's opinion by clicking here.