Election panel chair's law firm donated to White

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The state elections panel that is weighing voter fraud allegations against Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White includes a Republican loosely linked to White through political contributions, raising questions about the panel's impartiality as it prepares to rule on whether White should remain in office.

Indiana Recount Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is listed among top-name Republicans as a participant in a White fundraiser in May 2009. A political action committee set up by Wheeler's law firm, Frost Brown Todd, donated $5,000 to White's election campaign in July 2010, according to state campaign finance records. The law firm itself donated another $2,000 that year, the records show.

The firm's PAC also donated $2,000 to Democrat Vop Osili, according to the campaign database.

Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Frost Brown Todd, disputed the state's figures, saying it double-counted contributions from the law firm and that the PAC donated only $2,500 to White and $1,000 to Osili.

Regardless of the amount, Common Cause Indiana policy director Julia Vaughn said the donations raise questions about whether the Republican-led commission, which is under a judge's order to consider Democrats' challenge to White's election, can be neutral.

"It certainly creates a cloud of impropriety," said Vaughn, whose not-for-profit group advocates for election reform.

Democrats accuse White of using his ex-wife's address on his voter registration form to keep his Fishers Town Council seat even though he bought a condo with his fiancée outside the district he represented. They want the recount panel to find that White violated the law when he voted in last year's May primary under his ex-wife's address and install Osili as secretary of state.

White also faces an August trial on charges including voter fraud and perjury. A conviction on any of the seven criminal counts against him would be enough to oust him from office and possibly put him in jail.

Wheeler was listed along with roughly a dozen other top Republicans — including Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, then-Sen. Teresa Lubbers, R-Indianapolis, and Dee Dee Benkie, one of the state's representatives on the Republican National Committee — on a Facebook invitation to a "kickoff" fundraiser for White's campaign on May 13, 2009, at Indiana Republican Party Headquarters in Indianapolis.

Wheeler said he did not attend the White fundraiser and made no direct contributions to White.

"I did not attend that, I was in New York City at the time. Not sure how my name got onto a Facebook invite. I don't do Facebook," Wheeler wrote in an e-mail Monday to The Associated Press.

Murphy said contributions from the firm's PAC are made on behalf of all employees at the firm.

White said Monday he did not remember whether Wheeler attended the sparsely attended fundraiser.

The three-member recount commission has two Republican members and one Democrat. The other Republican, Gordon Durnil, has given $50 each to two separate Republicans, not including White, according to the state's campaign finance database.

The lone Democrat on the panel, Bernard "Buddy" Pylitt, gave $150 to the state Democratic Party in 2004, according to the state database.

Pylitt said Monday he did not believe that donation to the plaintiffs in this case would sway his decision.


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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.