Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Macquarie Laughing All The Way To The Bank Over Indiana Toll Road Bankruptcy

The Streetsblog recently provided a three-part series authored by Angie Schmitt and Payton Chung dissecting the massive private investment in public infrastructure projects like Macquarie's losing $3.8 billion investment in the Indiana Toll Road to explain just how the company manages to make money even when projects like the ITR lose so much money. As it turns out, the ITR loss was just a blip on the screen for the bank and financial services firm which has almost $400 billion under management currently. Macquarie and its partner on the ITR deal, Ferrovial, only had $374 million of their own money at risk. The other billions invested in the ITR came from seven European banks, six of which ultimately had to be bailed out by their respective governments.

Naturally, Macquarie set up a separate subsidiary which shielded the massive Australian-based company from liability for the ITR's losses. At the time it borrowed the money for the ITR, it used a form of balloon mortgage known as an "accreting swap," which offered a low, teaser interest rate. Macquarie assumed it would quickly refinance the debt until the 2008 economic collapse. The resulting higher interest rates that kicked in without a refinancing available is the reason the debt owed on the ITR was more than double the amount it had originally borrowed to close the transaction with the state of Indiana in 2006.

According to the Streetsblog analysis, Macquarie knew going into the ITR deal like other infrastructure projects in which it has invested there was a great risk of the business deal turning sour. Because of a complicated mix of fees and tax breaks associated with the project, investors like Macquarie stand to benefit even when the deal goes sour. Macquarie flips its infrastructure purchases into separate corporate entities that are sold to investors as "income trusts." According to Streetsblog, investors like income trusts because they offer higher returns than bonds, and companies like them because tax laws generally exempt them from paying corporate income taxes.

One analyst the Streetsblog quoted said Macquarie had a "perverse incentive to overpay for its assets" and likened the company to a Ponzi scheme. That's because Macquarie pays itself "handsome annual fees" fees to manage its multiple satellite companies. To encourage investment in their toll road projects, companies like Macquarie rely upon traffic forecasts that invariably are way too rosy, which is precisely what occurred in the case of the ITR. The companies which provide these traffic forecasts are often promised future business opportunities, which critics say result in "statements of advocacy rather than unbiased projections."

Streetsblog sees the ITR bankruptcy as the proverbial "canary in the coal mine" that should serve as a warning to the American public. Because of failures like the ITR, companies like Macquarie are now being forced to craft deals that shift the risk to the public when the traffic forecasts and revenue projections for toll roads fail to live up to expectations. This is precisely what is happening with the Illiana Expressway project the states of Indiana and Illinois are preparing to undertake jointly. The investors in that project are protected when traffic or tolls fail to meet expectations. Illinois and Indiana have pledged "availability payments" to backstop any revenue shortfalls, which will siphon money that would otherwise be available for highway projects elsewhere around the state.

While the primary focus of the Streetsblog series is on toll road projects, the authors think the warning should apply to the increasingly popular P3 deals, which aren't all that they are cracked up to be. "Though made in the name of innovation and efficiency, private finance deals are often more expensive than conventional bonding, threatening to suck money from taxpayers while propping up infrastructure projects that should never get built," the Streetsblog says. State and local officials in Indiana would be well-advised to heed their warnings.

Appeals Court Refers Case Of Prosecutor Using Perjured Testimony To Disciplinary Commission

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of a Mishawaka man on burglary charges because the prosecutor used the perjured testimony of his girlfriend, who had already pleaded guilty to committing the same burglary, and referred the matter to the Supreme Court's Attorney Disciplinary Commission for further investigation. The South Bend Tribune has identified the deputy prosecutor who worked for St. Joseph Co. Prosecutor Michael Dvorak in prosecuting the case as Micah Cox. Dvorak told the Tribune he disagreed with the opinion and planned to appeal it to the Supreme Court.

According to the facts summarized in the Court's opinion, Nicole Greenlee, the white girlfriend of Antonio Smith, had pleaded guilty to breaking into a Dollar General store alone and stealing $3,500 in her case. She later testified against Smith, who is black, that she served as a lookout outside the store while Smith broke into the store and stole the money. The store's surveillance cameras only captured a white female at the scene of the crime according to the testimony of police, although a police detective testified that cell phone records placed Smith and Greenlee at the scene of the crime as well.

The Indiana Supreme Court has previously held that the knowing use of perjured testimony is "fundamentally unfair and a conviction obtained by the use of such testimony will not be upheld." The prosecution maintains that Greenlee's testimony at Smith's trial was not perjured testimony; rather, it argues she merely provided contradictory or inconsistent testimony. Because Greenlee's testimony during her case and Smith's were both made under oath, the Court of Appeals concluded one of them was necessarily false. The Court of Appeals added this footnote to the case referring it to the Disciplinary Commission for further investigation:
The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission (“Disciplinary Commission”) has exclusive jurisdiction to discipline an attorney, where appropriate, for acting in violation of the Rules of  Professional Conduct. We are troubled that the State knowingly proffered perjured testimony but are even more concerned that the State granted the witness immunity from prosecution, which encouraged such testimony. Thus, we direct the Clerk of this Court to send a copy of this opinion to the Disciplinary Commission. We also note that instances of prosecutorial misbehavior continue to come before us on appeal notwithstanding our admonishments. See Joel Schumm, “Isn’t it Time to Get Serious About Prosecutor Misconduct?,” The Indiana Law Blog (July 7, 2014), 2014/07/ind_courts_isnt.html.

Book By Daniels Friend Says Governor's Residence Used For Campaign Purposes

It's always been common knowledge former Gov. Mitch Daniels never resided at the state's official residence for the governor on North Meridian Street during his eight years in office. Now a new book by a political adviser to Daniels claims it was used for political fundraising activities aimed at touting a potential run for president in 2012. PR flack Don Cogman's book, "Run, Mitch Run: The Hard Decisions One Man Faced For The 2012 Presidential Election," says Daniels' Aiming Higher PAC was more about promoting his presidential ambitions than electing a Republican majority in the Indiana House. The Journal-Gazette's Niki Kelly focuses on this tidbit in Cogman's book:
A newly-released book about former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ almost-run for president is full of juicy political tidbits but also has raised ethical concerns.
The key questions are whether it was appropriate for him to use the Governor’s Residence – where he did not live – for political dinners and fundraising and whether the Aiming Higher Political Action Committee was used improperly . . .
“What was most interesting was the mention of detailed political meetings that took place at the Indiana Governor’s Residence, which were then followed by requests for contributions from donors,” said Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody. “The governor never lived in the residence during his eight years in office, so why was it used for politics?”
A message seeking comment from Daniels – who is now Purdue University president – was not immediately returned Tuesday.
The latest revelations come from “Run Mitch, Run: The Hard Decisions One Man Faced for the 2012 Presidential Election” by Don Cogman 
Cogman was one of eight close friends and colleagues of Daniels’ who worked behind the scenes for more than a year on a pre-presidential campaign that was far more organized than most people realized . . . 
But one new slant from the book was that Daniels and his “group” used the Aiming Higher Political Action Committee to get the dollars flowing. Aiming Higher was organized to elect a Republican majority in the General Assembly. 
But the book reveals it was used for more than that. The book said the only way to get people from outside Indiana to contribute to the PAC “is to position it as a way to support him and encourage him to seriously think about the presidential race.” . . . 
Just another example of the utter incompetence of State House reporters when it came to covering anything concerning Mitch Daniels. There was a Pulitzer Prize to be won by a good investigative reporter, but they all preferred the role of being cheerleaders instead. Under Indiana's Constitution, the governor is required to live in Marion County. Although the media briefly raised that issue when it learned Daniels was moving into a new mansion he had built up in Carmel instead of the official residence so Cheri would play the happy wife, it quickly dropped the matter. Daniels still registered to vote at the governor's official residence, a fact that irked former Secretary of State Charlie White, whom Daniels quickly threw under the bus by asking him to resign over accusations he lived somewhere other than where he was registered to vote. With a full-court press of the State House reporters summoned to action by Daniels, White was vilified by the media and eventually prosecuted and convicted of six bogus felony charges related to his alleged illegal voter registration. The illicit use of the governor's residence and his political action committee is just more of the many things that went unreported during Daniels' tenure as governor.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Opposition To Digital Billboard Proposal Growing

A move by the billboard industry to do an end-run around the Indianapolis' current zoning restrictions against digital billboards through council action is meeting growing opposition. Last week, the Metropolitan & Economic Development Committee approved a proposal drafted by lobbyists for the billboard industry to dictate changes in the City's zoning laws it wants to see to specifically benefit the owners of existing billboards by allowing them a process to begin converting some of those static billboards to digital signs. That effort has outraged local neighborhood leaders. One early backer of the proposal, Joe Simpson (D), tells WTHR's Mary Milz he now plans to vote against it.
 . . . Democratic Councilor Joe Simpson, who co-sponsored one proposal with Republican councilor Aaron Freeman, said he's been inundated with calls from opponents "upset this proposal was not brought before the community." 
"This proposal jumped over our proposal. It came out of nowhere. I think they were just wrong the way they presented," Simpson said.
He plans to ask councilors to vote it down Monday and have backers return with a new proposal . . . 
Milz appears to be the only person in the local media to bother reporting on the issue to date. The debate has primarily taken place on local blogs and social media. You knew the billboard industry was getting worried when they stooped as low as to engage the egomaniac "opinion for hire" radio talk show host on WIBC to pimp for their cause.

UPDATE: I spoke too soon. Fox59 News' Liz Gelardi also has a story up now. Councilor Jeff Miller, who discussed his views on the issue on this blog, tells her he plans to vote against it.
. . . “The biggest issue is that the process hasn’t included the public so we have no basis on which to decide if the public wants digital billboards or not,” said Pat Andrews, 
Council Member Jeff Miller said he plans to vote no on the proposal or send it back to committee for further debate.
“I think a lot of people are not even aware this is being discussed and then from there we need to facilitate those meetings for people to come learn about it, give feedback. You know a lot of people have good ideas, small things that can sometimes make a very big difference and that’s why it’s so important that people feel involved in the process,” said Miller.
Councillor Miller said he’s not necessarily against digital billboards he just wants to see more opportunity for residents to voice their concerns and ask questions . . . 
The billboard companies are seeking a delay in the vote previously-scheduled for next Monday night's council meeting.  It looks like the proposal will be sent back to committee.

Tew Election To Council Expected At Tonight's Democratic Caucus

Marion Co. Democratic precinct committeepersons caucus tonight to fill the vacancy created when Zach Adamson gave up his at-large seat on the City-County Council to take the place of District 16 council member Brian Mahern, who recently resigned his seat to begin a new job at the Marion Co. Assessor's Office. Former Marion Co. Democratic Chairman and lobbyist Kip Tew is the only candidate expected to seek election at tonight's caucus meeting to the at-large seat vacated by Adamson, one of the four at-large positions eliminated as a result of a state law enacted by Republicans in hopes of weakening Democrats' narrow hold on control of the council. Tew, who is very close to Democratic mayoral candidate Joe Hogsett, is expected to run for election next year in the newly-drawn District 2 against Republican incumbent council member Will Gooden.

More Ballard Lies: We Knew All Along Criminal Justice Center Would Cost At Least $500 Million

When the Ballard administration unveiled its plan to use a P3 agreement to construct a new criminal justice center a year ago through the City's shadow government, the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, it placed the cost of the new facility at a little over $300 million. Now the administration claims it knew all along the construction cost would be $500 million after receiving bids from three foreign-led investment groups. Deputy Mayor Adam Collins told WTHR's Mary Milz yesterday afternoon the administration had "estimated from the very beginning this facility would cost $500 million."

The true cost is several times that $500 million figure because the City will be locked into making payments to the private developer for the next 35 years. The RFP the administration illegally refused to make public until yesterday pegged those annual fees at $50 million a year. Collins told yet another lie to Milz in explaining why the administration refused to at least acknowledge it had told the bidders the City placed a cap of $50 million on the annual payments. "The reason we kept quiet is we didn't want to prejudice the market and allow (the bidders) to think how much we were willing to spend on a particular facility," Adams told Milz. The only reason to keep it secret, along with the entire RFP in violation of law, was because the entire bidding process was nothing but a sham.

When the administration finally released the RFP, local media was using that $50 million figure to estimate total costs over 35 years at $1.75 billion. Anyone with a clue knows these deals always have cost-of-living allowances. Sure enough, the RFP provided a payment schedule where those $50 million payments would grow to more than $68 million during the life of the agreement. Total payments would approach $2 billion, not $1.75 billion, or about four times the actual cost. "There's a possibility, not based on performance but based upon cost of living or something like that over a 30-year period," Collins said.

Collins goes on to tell yet another lie to Milz by claiming the P3 arrangement is cheaper than if the City relied upon traditional bond financing to build the facility itself. "Even so, Collins said leasing a facility would be cheaper than the city building one itself." "We're confident that whichever bidder we choose will provide the taxpayer with a significant cost savings above and beyond our own estimates," he said. Anyone with a brain knows that the huge fees built into a P3 agreement to benefit the private developer wind up costing far more than traditional financing and self-management costs. The P3 costs are at least 40% to 50% higher. A P3 approach is preferred because the corrupt politicians don't want to do a straight up property tax-backed proposal that would be subject to voter approval at a referendum, and because there is a greater opportunity for more kickbacks to the political insiders to profit from a P3 deal. Let's be honest.

UPDATE: According to the council's CFO, Bart Brown, the administration plans to help cover the cost of the payments from nearly $3 million it intends to collect in parking fees to for visitors when they visit the criminal justice center. The City provides free parking to Simon Property Group's employees, but if you have to visit the criminal justice center, the City is going to make you pay for parking, which sort of defeats the purpose of moving the complex outside of the downtown where free parking is a luxury. The jail is also adding at least 1,000 more bed spaces than it needs in order to rent bed space to the feds, which would supposedly generate $3 to $5 million a year. The administration is also assuming $10 million in personnel savings from the sheriff's office, which is laughable. We're talking about the same sheriff's office which actually managed to spend tens of millions more after the merger of the law enforcement functions of the sheriff's department into IMPD.

Monday, November 24, 2014

IMPD Officer Shoots Unarmed White Guy

Ryan Hubbard
As the nation learns of the grand jury decision coming out of Ferguson, Missouri tonight that no charges will be filed in the shooting death of Michael Brown by a white police officer, Darrell Wilson, there was a near fatal shooting of a 37-year old, unarmed white man by an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer hours earlier.

IMPD officers approached Ryan Hubbard on S. Keystone Avenue near his house on the City's south side to serve an arrest warrant on him in connection with a drug investigation around 12:15 p.m. Police say Hubbard acted fidgety and appeared to be reaching for his waist when an officer fired about three shots at him, striking him. Police later discovered he was unarmed. Here's how Fox59 reported IMPD's justification for shooting the unarmed suspect:
. . . When they approached Hubbard on the street, he appeared “fidgety” and looked like he was reaching for his waistband. 
He refused orders given by police to show his hands. 
“He reached to his waistband several times and was fidgeting with his waistband,” said IMPD Sgt. Kendale Adams. “At which point officers made the determination that deadly force was appropriate.” 
That’s when an officer fired an undisclosed number of shots, hitting Hubbard. The man was taken to Eskenazi Hospital in critical condition, but was later upgraded to stable condition. 
Police said the suspect was not carrying a weapon. 
“It’s important to understand that officers don’t have to wait until they see a weapon to believe they’re going to be engaged in a gun battle.” 
Hubbard was about to be arrested for narcotics and was on parole for the same thing, police say. He was also being investigated on suspicion of physical abuse against his mother. 
Dan Deno, who lives across the street, says he heard three pops and knew immediately that it was gunfire.
“So when I looked out my front door, with this being right across the street, I could see really well and could see that somebody was on the ground,” Deno said . . .
Although Hubbard's condition is listed as critical, it is believed he will survive his injuries. According to the Odyssey court case management system, a number of felony drug-related charges were filed against Hubbard last Friday.

35-48-4-1(a)(1)/F3: Dealing in a Narcotic Drug Manufacture/Deliver/Finance-Sched. I or II narcotic
35-48-4-1(a)(1)/F4: Dealing in a Narcotic Drug Manufacture/Deliver/Finance-less than 1 gram/enhancin
35-48-4-1.1(a)(1)/F4: Dealing in Methamphetamine Manufacture/Deliver/Finance-less than 1 gram-enhanc
35-48-4-6(a)/F5: Possession of a Narcotic Drug Possession-less than 5 grams-enhancing
35-48-4-6(a)/F5: Possession of a Narcotic Drug Possession-less than 5 grams-enhancing
35-48-4-6.1(a)/F5: Possession of Methamphetamine Possession of les

With the encouragement of CNN's live coverage, protesters gathered in Ferguson, Missouri have now turned violent, destroying property and looting businesses at today's grand jury decision. Protesters are throwing bricks and other objects at police, who are firing tear gas into the crowds in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

Criminal Justice Center To Cost At Least $1.75 Billion Over 35 Years

Now that the bids from the three handpicked bidding teams led by foreign investors for construction of a new criminal justice system have been submitted, the Ballard administration has finally disclosed to the public that bidders had to agree to charge no more than $50 million a year for construction of the nearly half-billion dollar project according to the Indianapolis Star. The Ballard administration has refused to disclose the contents of the RFP it issued to the competing bidders up until now in clear violation of Indiana law. The administration plans to upload the RFP to the City's website for the first time later today.

The Ballard administration claims it will actually save taxpayers money by having a new center built to house the county's jail system and criminal courts. It says it currently spend $120 million annually for the criminal courts and the county's two jails. Part of the deal means ending the $19 million a year contract the sheriff currently pays to Corrections Corporation of America to operate Jail II. City-County Council member Angela Mansfield (D), who chairs the Administration and Finance Committee, says she doesn't trust the administration's cost estimates. "This administration has a history of rising costs on projects and doing things halfway and not in public," she said. "I don't trust it. The plan doesn't consolidate all of the criminal justice agencies at the new center as originally envisioned--a move apparently made to hold down the buy-in costs. The plan, however, includes an opportunity to the P3 operator to expand the existing project in future years to further consolidate all agencies at the new center.

Taxpayers have already shelled out over $12 million for no-bid professional services contracts the administration issued last year to begin work on the project. The Ballard administration claims those costs are being repaid if the council approves the 35-year deal; however, the taxpayers turn around and repay those costs again with interest since they are rolled into the $50 million fee being paid to the private operator over the 35-year period. The notion that a $50 million annual expense is being traded for the current $120 million costs is extremely misleading. There are many costs not included in that $50 million figure that are included in the $120 million figure. Make no mistake about it. At the end of the day, it will cost more annually for the criminal new justice system than what is currently being spent. In addition, the $1.75 billion figure is arrived at by multiplying the $50 million annual payment times 35 years. I'm pretty certain the $50 million is just for starts. There is likely an escalator clause that increases those payments during the life of the agreement if it is structured like other P3 agreements.

UPDATE: Sure enough the RFP allows for escalating payments to as high as $68 million a year. The center's payments will cost at least $2 billion over the 35-year period. If my math is right, the City could borrow the money by issuing 30-year bonds at today's low interest rates, have annual payments of about half, or $25 million  less than what it will be paying to the P3 operator and would wind up paying less than half what it will wind up paying to the P3 operator, or about $1 billion less.

Carmel Has Spent Over $35 Million On Parking Garages

As part of the City of Carmel's development efforts in recent years, six parking garages have been constructed using city tax dollars, two of which are owned by Pedcor, the politically-connected developer with close ties to Carmel Mayor James Brainard whose owners have become multi-millionaires, in part, thanks to the many city-subsidized projects Brainard's administration has approved. According to a summary of those parking garage projects detailed in a story by the Star's Chris Sikich, taxpayers have financed at least $35 million of the constructions costs for those six garages. In addition, City taxpayers are shelling out at least $400,000 a year on maintenance fees associated with running the four owned by the City. The actual costs of those parking garages is much higher since interest payments are made on bonds issued to finance construction of the garages.

Mayor Brainard is currently seeking council approval for yet another parking garage as part of a public subsidy being offered for yet another private development project. That parking garage will cost city taxpayers $13 million. Debt service on all of the parking garages are repaid using tax increment finance dollars. Missing from Sikich's story is the fact that Brainard is a big booster of a multi-billion dollar metropolitan mass transit plan that will be financed by raising income taxes on taxpayers in Marion and the surrounding suburban counties. Similarly, the City of Indianapolis continues to subsidize construction of one new parking garage after another at the same time Mayor Greg Ballard says an expanded mass transit system is essential to making Indianapolis a "world class city." Does anyone else see the disconnect between their words and policies?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Council Moves Forward With Yet Another Tax Increase

Next year your property tax bills are going to increase under a plan passed by the Public Works Committee with little discussion or even general understanding by the Indianapolis City-County Council members who voted on what the plan encompasses. The proposal will increase stormwater management fees that appear as part of your property tax bill, which do not apply against the property tax caps mandated by the state's constitution, to triple the amount currently collected annually from $10 million to $30 million. Those increases will fall primarily on homeowners, and it's not just a one-time increase. Automatic rate increases can be imposed over the next 20 years without any council action.

As is the case with so many proposals before the council, the members appeared completely ignorant of what exactly it was that they were voting upon. Fellow blogger Pat Andrews tried to educate the members on the shortcomings of their proposal, but her comments largely fell on deaf ears. According to Andrews, the proposal raises an additional $10 million to pay for operations, or a total of $15 million. About $15 million a year will be made available for capital projects; however, at least $5 million of that amount will be used to pay off old bonds. The effect of the proposal is to free up about $10 million in the current city-county budget that is spent to cover operating expenses concerning stormwater management according to Andrews. It supposedly provides a sufficient revenue stream to address the cost of undertaking stormwater management projects over the next 20 years.

One of Andrews' most pointed criticisms of the past stormwater fees approved by the City-County Council is that the past fee never lived up to its promises of being put towards new stormwater management projects. Instead of putting the initial $5 million a year towards new capital projects, most of the money wound up getting used to pay off old bond debt. A subsequent $5 million a year increase actually provided the additional $5 million a year needed to fund new capital projects--until the Ballard administration decided to sell off the sewer and water utilities to Citizens Energy. We've all seen our sewer and water bills skyrocket, in part, to pay higher debt to pay for the nearly half billion overpayment Citizens Energy paid to the city to buy the utilities, which was used for infrastructure projects, including the mayor's cricket field. More importantly, DPW lost $6 million a year the utilities spun off to pay for its operating expenses with the sale. As a consequence, the city diverted money intended for stormwater projects to cover DPW's operating expenses.

So now the City-County Council is going to allow DPW to triple the amount collected from stormwater fees, plus allow the fees to be raised annually for the next 20 years with the promise the money will get spent this time to pay for the projects the first two stormwater fee increases supposedly funded. The fee increase on homeowners is being masked as a fairness issue. Homeowners currently pay a flat fee per parcel. Under the proposal, they will now pay a fee based on the amount of stormwater runoff theoretically generated by their property, which can result in four-fold increases in some cases. As Andrews surmises, it's likely a plan designed to shift DPW's funding to provide additional funding elsewhere. At any rate, homeowners will be hit with another $20 million tax increase and every year thereafter for the next 20 years, on top of the 10% income tax increase you will start paying on January 1. The council committee's discussion was alarming in the sense of just how wilfully ignorant the council members are when making decisions that affects their constituents' pocketbooks. The local media won't tell you about that fact, but now you know. It's also obvious why the Democrats didn't want Andrews on the council when she ran the last time. God forbid we elect someone who actually knows something.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Varvel Taken To Woodshed Over "Extra Guests This Thanksgiving" Cartoon On Obama's Executive Action On Immigration

Gary Varvel cartoon original (Indy Star)
The Indianapolis Star's editorial cartoonist Gary Varvel created quite a firestorm with a depiction of a white family sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner with Mexicans climbing through their window to join them in response to President Barack Obama's sweeping executive order on immigration. The caption read, "Thanks to the President's immigration order, we'll be having extra guests this Thanksgiving." After the newspaper began fielding complaints over the cartoon, the Star airbrushed out the bushy mustache on what appears to be a Hispanic man climbing through the window. Later, executive editor Jeff Taylor removed the image altogether from the newspaper's website and admitted an error in allowing it to be published. Taylor writes today:
On Friday, we posted a Gary Varvel cartoon at that offended a wide group of readers.
Many of them labeled it as racist. Gary did not intend to be racially insensitive in his attempt to express his strong views about President Barack Obama's decision to temporarily prevent the deportation of millions of immigrants living and working illegally in the United States.
But we erred in publishing it.
The cartoon depicted an immigrant family climbing through a window of a white family's home as Thanksgiving dinner was served. I was uncomfortable with the depiction when I saw it after it was posted. We initially decided to leave the cartoon posted to allow readers to comment and because material can never truly be eliminated once it is circulating on the web. But we are removing the cartoon from the opinion section of our website, as well as an earlier version posted on Facebook that showed one character with a mustache.
This action is not a comment on the issue of illegal immigration or a statement about Gary's right to express his opinions strongly. We encourage and support diverse opinion. But the depictions in this case were inappropriate; his point could have been expressed in other ways.
Cartoons are seldom intended to be read literally. And Gary did not intend this one to be viewed that way. He intended to illustrate the view of many conservatives and others that the president's order will encourage more people to pour into the country illegally.
The illegal immigration issue evokes strong opinions and emotions. And it's important to encourage a vigorous public debate on issues of this magnitude, but with respectful discourse. That is what we believe at IndyStar and that is what we will continue to do – to publish views from all sides as we explore the important issues that will define the future of our nation, state and city.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Human Rights Campaign 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.

New Report: Kassig Killed By American Air Strike In Syria

There is a new report today claiming Indianapolis native Peter Kassig died on November 5 during a U.S. air strike in Syria against ISIS forces. This report is offered as an explanation for why Kassig was not videotaped making a statement prior to his alleged beheading, which also was not videotaped as was the case in prior beheadings allegedly carried out by ISIS. From the Daily Mail:
Peter Kassig's execution may have been faked by Jihadi John after the US hostage was killed in an US-led airstrike, according to extraordinary claims from the leader of a Syrian underground group.
Speaking over Skype from a hiding place near the Turkish border, the head of the anti-ISIS resistance group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently claimed there are reports that Mr Kassig died on November 5, when coalition fighter planes and drones pounded Tel-Abyad in northern Syria. 
The extraordinary allegation could not be independently verified. 
The claims come among increased speculation over why Mr Kassig's full body was not shown in the video. Unlike ISIS' previous sickening filmed murders, he did not speak directly to camera before being killed and his body was not shown after the murder.
U.S. sources have suggested that Mr Kassig could have been killed before the video was shot because he did not cooperate with the jihadists, either refusing to give a final speech on camera or possibly even fighting back while the murder was taking place.
American forces have previously attempted a daring rescue of U.S. hostages and President Obama has said that he would make all efforts to rescue U.S. citizens if their location could be identified.
Western planes have carried out a series of raids on the Isis weapons stockpile and refinery where Peter Kassig is claimed to have been hit but if there had been any intelligence suggesting where he was being held such strikes would have been highly unlikely to be authorized . . . .
The U.S. Central Command has not responded to the report. Yesterday, the White House quickly confirmed the authenticity of a video allegedly posted by ISIS on the Internet showing the beheading of at least a dozen Syrian soldiers, along with Jihadi John standing over an image of a head purported to be Kassig.  

Illinois Local Governments Lose Over $50 Million Invested In Local Government Investment Pool: Florida Banker Blamed

Nik Patel
The Illinois Metropolitan Investment Fund ("IMET") manages about $1.5 billion for nearly 300 municipalities and local government entities across Illinois through a pooled investment arrangement. Indiana has a similar investment pool administered by the Indiana State Treasurer's Office. According to a Chicago Tribune report, more than $50 million may have been lost through a fraud scheme devised by a 31-year old Florida banker, Nik Patel, CEO of First Farmers Financial. Patel was arrested last month by federal authorities for selling more than $150 million in fraudulent loans to a Milwaukee-based company, Pennant Investments, which served as an outside financial adviser for IMET.

According to the federal charging information, Patel sold 25 loans or repurchase agreements to Pennant under the false pretense that they were federally-guaranteed loans by the USDA. More than $50 million of the repurchase agreements made by Pennant were made with IMET funds. Patel was an authorized lender for a USDA-run loan program. In a lawsuit filed against Patel by Pennant, it is alleged that Patel invented borrowers and the loans represented by the repurchase agreements are worthless. Patel used the money acquired from the repurchase agreements to acquire Florida real estate, other investments and a luxury home.

Pennant has been successful in seizing some of First Farmer's assets in Florida. Pennant asked USDA to honor the loan guarantees fraudulently made by Patel, but it has declined to do so. "The loan documents did not reference any loans that were subject to valid loan guarantees issued under USDA's business and industry loan program," the USDA said. IMET was one of Pennant's largest investors in the fraudulent loans. Most of Pennant's clients are located in Illinois and include community banks and retirement plans. The Harvard Savings Bank in Harvard, Illinois disclosed it has $8.5 million in impaired assets as a result of Patel's fraud and is considering its options, which may include putting the bank up for sale.

Not surprisingly, Patel made large political contributions down in Florida. He hosted a fundraiser in his home for Gov. Rick Scott (R) that raised more than $100,000 and donated more than a $100,000 to the Florida Republican Party. Scott's campaign donated $2,800 to charitable causes, representing the amount the governor's campaign committee directly received from Patel. His fraud has placed several major hotel projects in which he invested money in the Orlando area in jeopardy. It was also reported that Patel lied about being a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

WRTV News Anchor Arrested For Drunk Driving

Marc Mullins.jpg
WRTV's "Good Morning Indiana" anchor Marc Mullins was arrested Saturday morning for suspicion of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated according to the Indianapolis Star. An IMPD officer stopped Mullins around 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning for making an illegal turn at the intersection of Meridian and Washington. After noticing a strong odor of alcohol, the officer administered a portable breathalyzer test. Mullins tested just under the legal limit at 0.072. He was then transported to another location where a certified breathalyzer was located. This time his blood alcohol level registered 0.113. Police then took Mullins to the Arrestee Processing Center where he was booked on a preliminary charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Supposed ISIS Video Claims Peter Kassig Beheaded

Another 15-minute propaganda video purporting to be produced by ISIS shows about a dozen Syrian soldiers being beheaded. Near the end of the video, a man wearing black whose face is covered speaking with an English accent sounding much like the infamous so-called Jihadi John of prior supposed beheading videos is shown standing over what he claims is the head of Indianapolis native Peter Kassig, also known as Abdul-Rahman Kassig. The video's authenticity has not been confirmed yet. Earlier beheading videos have been debunked as staged. This one is made to appear more realistic, at least the part showing the beheadings of the Syrian soldiers. Interestingly, before this latest video was released, the U.S. military claimed Jihadi John had been wounded in an airstrike in Iraq that supposedly killed ten top ISIS commanders.

Kassig, a 2006 graduate of North Central High School, is a former Army Ranger who served for a brief time in Iraq. He attended Hanover College and Butler University, received training as an EMT and then decided to convert to Islam. We're told he started an obscure charity known as Special Emergency Response and Assistance ("SERA") to assist victims of the civil war in Syria being provoked by Western countries seeking to topple the government of  President Bashar al-Assad. In 2013, he was supposedly kidnapped by terrorists, although his kidnapping had not been revealed to the public until recently. The media in Indianapolis had never once reported on his work in Syria until last month after he appeared in another beheading video as ISIS' next target.

As I previously pointed out, the website for SERA was only put online about two months before Kassig was reported kidnapped in Syria. True to form, CNN just happened to have stock footage of a profile the cable news network had done on Kassig, which seemed equally contrived. Kassig was providing medical assistance to rebels fighting the civil war in Syria, as well as civilian victims of the conflict. At one point in the video, one of the rebel fighters insisted to the CNN reporter they weren't terrorists or al Qaeda as some claimed. That was before we heard of ISIS, and yes, the very people to whom Kassig was supposedly providing humanitarian assistance were responsible for his kidnapping and now, we're told, his beheading. Almost all of these Western beheading victims have had dubious backgrounds which strongly hint of their roles as Western intelligence assets whose purpose is to convince the American people we should be fighting wars in the Middle East we have no business fighting. We've been lied about so much is difficult to know where the truth begins and the lies end.

UPDATE: The White House claims U.S. national security officials indicate the video confirms Kassig's death. That's no proof of the authenticity of what the video represents. This is the same administration which faked the shooting and capture of Osama bin Laden so nothing we are told by this White House on such matters can be believed. I'm not sure what to make of this statement on the New York Times' website:
The video footage circulated by the Islamic State, the violent jihadist group also known as ISIS or ISIL, was significantly different from the execution videos of four other Western hostages, whose televised deaths were carefully choreographed.
Those videos were shot with several cameras from different vantage points to give the appearance of a professional production. By contrast, the footage of Mr. Kassig’s death is shot with a single camera and appears amateurish, with the harsh lighting obscuring the executioners’ visage.
While in the earlier videos the hostages are seen kneeling in orange jumpsuits and are forced to make speeches before the executioner lifts the knife to their throats, in the one released Sunday, the moments leading up to Mr. Kassig’s death are not shown. The change in format — combined with the lower production quality of the clip — may suggest that the Islamic State is on the run and unable to pull off the same cinematic production as before.
The camera pans across the boots of the hooded killer. Between his feet, a decapitated head is seen, blood smearing the cheek.
The reporter must not have watched the same videos I watched. The earlier videos were very fake-looking, while the latest was replete with Hollywood special effects. The beheadings of the Syrian soldiers were made to appear as real as possible. Kassig's beheading was not shown; rather, the Jihadi John just stood over what was depicted as his head in front of him on the ground after the alleged beheading had occurred. It could have easily been photo-shopped into the frame.

See this analysis of the video: