Pence sidelines big Democratic fundraiser with IEDC pick

Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, named a prominent Democrat to lead Indiana's business-recruitment agency on Wednesday, adding a degree of bipartisanship to his administration ahead of what is expected to be a tough re-election campaign.

Pence picked Jim Schellinger to be president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the agency Pence turned to for help improving the state's image following national uproar over the religious freedom law, which critics argue was anti-gay.

The move also sidelines Schellinger, a Democratic donor, who says he will cease fundraising activities.

"I've got a new boss," said Schellinger, who is also taking a leave of absence as CEO of Indianapolis-based CSO Architects. "The rest will have to take a break."

Schellinger narrowly lost the Democratic primary for governor in 2008 and has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns over the past 20 years. He will soon step down as chairman of the Indiana Democrats Victory Committee, a political action committee supporting state and local Democratic candidates.

The PAC gave more than $75,000 to former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg, Pence's 2012 opponent, who seeks a rematch this year. Recently the fund donated $150,000 to Joe Hogsett, the Democratic candidate for Indianapolis mayor in this year's election.

But Schellinger has also donated to Republicans. He and his wife gave $15,000 to Pence's campaign last year.

Schellinger's appointment comes after the economic development agency prematurely canceled a $2 million contract with a national public relations firm, hired to counter damage to the state's reputation from the religious freedom law.

Pence said the contract was no longer needed because economic growth dropped the state's unemployment rate to 4.9 percent in June.

On Wednesday, Schellinger said he wants Indiana to be a "destination for talent" and added that he and Pence are both opposed "to any kind of discrimination."

When asked, Schellinger wouldn't say if a new law outlawing discrimination of gays and lesbians is needed—a proposal Democrats are pushing that Pence opposes.

Schellinger, who starts his new post on Aug. 10, is stepping away from fundraising as Democrats are gearing up for what many expect to be a hard-fought battle to oust Pence.

In a written statement, state Democratic Chairman John Zody said the party "will continue fighting toward that end, and we wish Jim Schellinger well."

Michael Clayton, who is treasurer for Gregg's campaign and the Indiana Democrats Victory Committee, said the group won't be hamstrung by Schellinger's departure.

"While Jim has been the chairman of one of our major fundraising entities, there are a lot of other people on the committee that are certainly there to take up the slack," Clayton said.

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