A state election panel won't investigate Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma's use of campaign funds to collect information on a woman who says she performed oral sex on the married Republican lawmaker when she was a legislative intern in 1992.
Those who filed a campaign finance complaint about the $44,000 payment to Linda Pence, Bosma's attorney, said the process appears to be rigged in his favor, the Indianapolis Star reported.
"I have to wonder, were back door politics once again in effect because Speaker Bosma was involved and appears to be above the rules," said Joe Weingarten, the Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman who filed the complaint, arguing that expenses must be reasonably related to the candidate's campaign under campaign finance law.
The complaint came after the former intern told the Star that Pence and her investigators had reached out to a former boyfriend and an ex-husband in an effort to discredit her. The ex-intern and her family said Pence then threatened to reveal the information she had gathered if the woman went public with her story about a decades-old sexual encounter with Bosma.
Bosma and Pence have denied threatening or intimidating anyone, calling Pence's investigation routine and professional.
All four members of the Election Commission — two Republicans and two Democrats — agreed to dismiss Weingarten's complaint 4-0 during last week's commission meeting, noting that state election law requires them to find "substantial reason to believe an election law violation has occurred."
The Indiana Election Commission's proceedings and a House Ethics Committee meeting on a separate complaint against Bosma both took place Jan. 31 behind closed doors and without notice to those who filed the grievances.
"We are troubled by the fact that the IEC dismissed the complaint without taking sworn testimony in a public hearing and issuing a formal opinion," William Groth, the Indianapolis attorney who represents the former intern, said. "By denying a public hearing, the IEC has left unresolved many factual and legal questions."
Bosma has denied having a 1992 fling with the former intern. He declined to comment for the Star's story, referring inquiries to his attorney, Margaret Christensen.
"We are pleased with the bipartisan and unanimous decision made by the Indiana Election Commission during its recent public meeting to dismiss the complaint, which was clearly politically motivated," she said in an emailed statement.
One commissioner, Democrat Anthony Long, suggested Weingarten request another hearing.
"If he comes in and says he didn't know about the hearing, he was not given copy of their response, in that situation, it may be two-two tie, but I would be moving we give him that opportunity," he said.