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Lawmaker wants Durham donations returned

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A Democratic lawmaker wants Indiana politicians and campaign organizations to return contributions they received from an Indianapolis businessman whose dealings are being investigated by the FBI.

State Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis said Thursday that contributions totaling more than $800,000 by Timothy Durham should be sent to a bankruptcy trustee for Ohio investment firm Fair Finance Co. Durham is a co-owner of the company, which was forced into bankruptcy earlier this year.

Trustee Brian Bash already has asked Indiana politicians and organizations to return the contributions. Most of the money went to Republicans, including $195,000 to Gov. Mitch Daniels, and at least $185,000 to the state Republican Party.

Durham gave the most money—$225,000—to his close friend Carl Brizzi, the Marion County prosecutor. Brizzi did not receive a letter from Bash when the state officials did because it took Bash's team longer to sift through local political fund-raising filings.

But the prosecutor's spokeswoman issued a statement Thursday saying that only $2,500 to $5,000 remains in campaign coffers. "If any of this money is linked to Fair Finance proceeds, it will be returned as requested by the trustee in Ohio," she said.

Bash has said that Durham owes Fair $54 million. He said the businessman spent some of the money on things like gambling, cars, artwork and political donations.

The FBI raided the offices of Fair Finance and Indianapolis-based Obsidian Enterprises in November. They were accused of being involved in a Ponzi scheme to defraud investors, but no criminal charges have resulted.

DeLaney said his request for the money to be returned was an "easier call" for a Democrat to make, since Republicans received most of the money.

"But on the ethical issue, it doesn't matter what party you belong," he said. "I just think it's better for both parties that the money go back."

Kelly Burgan and Joe Esmont, attorneys working for Bash, said Thursday that more than three politicians or organizations have responded to Bash's letters. But they cited confidentiality in declining to say who responded and what they said.

Asheesh Agarwal, an attorney who represents Daniels' Mitch for Governor campaign committee and his Aiming Higher political action committee, said he stood by a statement last week that the organizations do not intend to refund money already spent.

"Based on what we know now, it is not out of the question that some of the money could be returned, but we need to see more than a letter from an attorney," Agarwal said in the statement. "In fact, if a court finds wrongdoing, and these funds were the source, a refund of any remaining dollars would be appropriate."

Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who received $11,000 in donations from Durham, said his campaign treasurer created a segregated account for the money.

"The reason I did this was to balance my respect for our legal system's presumption of innocence with concerns from my role protecting consumers that there may be future actions that might possibly involve restitution to investors," Zoeller said in an e-mail.

"I did receive a letter from the bankruptcy trustee but intend to continue to hold these funds until the U.S. Attorney's Office completes their investigation," Zoeller said.

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  • Brizzi should be charged for insider trading
    go to mycase.in.gov and type in carl brizzi. you'll see he was sued for not paying $135 kids gymnastics bills at the same time he suddenly had cash to buy no less than 150,000 shares of Cellstar right before Brightpoint bought them. It should be noted Durham allegedly flew in on his corporate jet and met with Robert Kaiser, Cellstar CEO at the time who then got a $3.5M change of control payment for doing the deal, left and came back like 32 days later to resume his job, and arranged the sale of Cellstar to Brightpoint. Like Tim didn't know any of this was going to happen.

    Allegedly Dan Laikin is claiming he had no outstanding loans to Fair Finance. If this is true his only defense was the money he took was his reward for telling Tim to trade in his brothers company. Does this stuff ever end? No. And why? Because these guys never get charged by the SEC. NEVER. Look at David Knall--a slap on the hand for insider trading even though it was allegedly his son that tipped him off and Dad took the fall. Nothing ever changes in Indiana when you are buddies with General Mitch Daniels who had insider trading issues of his own on IPL if folklore is to be believed.

    Crossroads of American should be renamed Crossroads of White Collar Crime.
  • Does TD do twiitter?
    Wonder if he does facebook or twiiter? The Jet Blue guy is blowing up on the internet? He is now on his 16th minute of fame.
  • Return?
    I thought that if the money was proven to be stolen, (which it has) that the parties would return it. Not with Carl Brizzi! He sure thinks he is clever with his responses. "Well gee I think I may have 3 to 5k left which I will return. But first I'll have to get check to make sure it was from Durham that one night we were at PTs. I'll get back to you!! I guess proof isn't enough now either!! Oh no!! Now we must wait for a court ruling! So what happens then Brizzi? Brizzi is the biggest political crook in Indy's history!!
  • Morally & Politically Bankrupt Politicians
    Great idea Mr. Delaney. That is truely the honorable and moral thing to do.

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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.

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