One way that some candidates avoid a lot of public scrutiny about where their campaign funds come from is to use one or more Political Action Committees (PACs) to funnel contributions through. For example, if an officeholder wants to avoid being seen in the pocket of special interests, he or she sets up one or more PACs to accept contributions. After all, when you file a campaign finance report, a contribution from "ABC PAC" seems a lot more innocent than a bunch of money from "Big Developer" who does a lot of business with that officeholder's government.
Nowhere is this practice more common than in Fishers, Indiana, where the incumbent members of the Town Council have a long history of such PACs. A couple of examples are the "Good Government for Fishers PAC" and the "Future of Fishers PAC", both of which have accepted and handed out tens of thousands of dollars in contributions. But the funny thing is, both of those PACs share a common mailing address, which just happens to be the home of council incumbent Eileen Pritchard.
And if you look at the current campaign finance reports posted on the Hamilton County website (http://www.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultlist.asp?ARG1=/Campaign%20Finance%20Images), some disturbing facts emerge. Lets take a look at some of those huge contributions, and who they are from.
- SAMCO, $10,000. SAMCO is the operations affiliate of HSE Utilities, the sewer utility for over half of Fishers.
- Baker and Daniels, $10,000. B&D is a large law firm which has been paid large sums for legal work for the Town Council.
- Bose McKinney & Evans, $5000. Another large law firm with ties to the Town Council.
- Barnes &Thornburg, $3500. Another large law firm that the Town Council paid $126,500.00 last year in fees.
- Church, Church, Hittle and Antrim, $2500. The law firm headed by Doug Church, the Town Attorney, who has also gotten involved in local political conflict before, and who has been infamously quoted as referring to Fishers' voters as the "little people". They were paid $120,000 last year by the Town Council.
- Assorted other realtors, developers, and engineers with ties to local government.
Relatively few individuals who live in Fishers and who do NOT have "insider" ties to the current Town Council seem to be contributors. A list of the insiders, their ties, and their contributions, would be a whole new column. In fact, the only contributor this period to Council President Scott Faultless' campaign committee is Future of Fishers PAC, over $17,000.
So, the question naturally comes, "IS FISHERS FOR SALE?" to these special interests, who in many cases have been enriched by actions of the Town Council, and naturally, would love to keep the cash flowing in. There is nothing OVERTLY illegal about this, however, unless it could be proven that there is a quid pro quo, an agreement to vote a certain way in return for a campaign contribution, or so-called "Pay to Play" politics.
But, the Town Council is playing with TAXPAYER DOLLARS, not their own, although they sometimes act as if local government were their personal toy. But for the first time in memory, nearly all of the incumbents are being challenged. Each of the persons I have named is being challenged in the Republican primary on May 3rd. If you are a Fishers voter, and intend to vote in the Republican primary, you might want to stop and consider if this is what you want, or not, for the future of Fishers.
[The author is a candidate for Fishers Town Council in District 4. Unopposed in the primary, he is a November election candidate who is NOT running against a council incumbent. For more information, go to www.Purvis4Fishers.com.]