Well, Look Who’s Calling Out Crony Capitalism!

Four friends have now sent me a link to this column from the Indiana Policy Review, penned (okay, typed) by Tom Charles Huston. It was surprising for a number of reasons.

For those who don’t remember, Huston was the national head of Young Americans for Freedom, back in the 60s when that college organization was considered radically conservative, and later–and more ominously–was the “mastermind” behind the Huston Plan to expand Nixon administration spying on the anti-Viet Nam war movement. After his stint in the Nixon White House, Huston returned to Indianapolis and practiced law at Barnes & Thornburg; he has been retired for several years now, and if he has participated in local policy debates these past few years, I’ve missed it.

That makes his column all the more interesting; it’s a slashing–and very effective–attack on the bill to provide a financing mechanism for the Indy Eleven soccer stadium. A bill sponsored by Huston’s nephew. A bill ardently desired by Ersal Ozdemir (who is described by Huston as “rapacious.”)

The assurance by the bill’s sponsor of transparency in financing the proposed soccer stadium rings hollow to anyone who hasn’t been asleep or on the take for the past seven years. Mayor Greg Ballard has refused to turn over documentation relating to either the special operations center lease or the financing structure for the proposed criminal justice center (both multi-million dollar deals) and has conducted as much of the public business in secret as his handlers thought he could get away with.

I gather from the Indianapolis Star report that taxpayers are expected to sleep better knowing that the legislators orchestrating this hand-out to special interests are committed to “making sure state taxpayers are at mitigated risk.” This is typical no-doze for idiots, but why taxpayers should be at any risk or who profits from this assumption of risk are not questions that interest a Star reporter.

I am undecided whether those pushing this scheme are in on the action or are simply reading from a script prepared by the lobbyists (which, incidentally, include every major lobbying outfit in Indianapolis).

Huston doesn’t mention it, but Ozdemir’s company, Keystone Development, employs Ballard’s former chief of staff. Lots of eyebrows were raised–and criticisms leveled–when Keystone got a sweetheart deal to build a parking garage (still underused) on a floodplain in Broad Ripple. Critics  pointed out that the city (over)paid to build the garage and also assumed the project’s risk, while the profits went to Ozdemir. (Crony capitalism at its finest: socialize the risk, privatize the profits….)

Others have noted that he walked away mid-construction from two libraries he’d contracted to build, forfeiting the bonds he’d posted on those projects. (Usually, if a contractor or developer forfeits even one bond, he’s toast–he can’t get another. Construction industry insiders don’t understand how Ozdemir has managed to keep operating after those defaults.)

Now the World’s Worst Legislature is in the process of enriching Mr. Ozdemir further, thanks largely to the fact that–as Huston points out–he’s hired lobbyists from every major firm in town. 

I may not have agreed with his politics, but when Tom Charles Huston is right, he’s right. And in his screed in Indiana Policy Review, he’s right.


  1. If I remember correctly; all of the praise and pride in accomplishing the completion of Lucas Oil Stadium was marred when someone suddenly remembered (who believes that fairy tale) planners forgot to include maintenance and security in the overall costs. CIB came to the rescue with our tax dollars. Then wasn’t there a massive amount of water damage to the entire computer center in the stadium due to broken pipes with a holdup on insurance coverage paying for repairs – didn’t CIB again come to the rescue with a “loan”? Also if I remember correctly; unlike other teams in the NFL, the Colts do not pay to use Lucas Oil Stadium but do receive a percentage of profits made by concession stands during home games. Are there other such surprises in recently completed venues in Ballard’s sports center fantasy we have yet to learn about?

    The Republican legislature was provided out-dated information by a Republican to budget public education tax dollars; thus shorting IPS $14 million in addition to previously planned $18 million in cutbacks while increasing the number of voucher students. Ballard seems to have his fingers in many pies; must get messy at times to keep it all straight and out of the public eye. Who is his manicurist? We need a soccer stadium like we need more public education cutbacks due to school vouchers. It takes balls to coninue pushing for the soccer stadium with education, infrastrastructure and public safety problems going underattended; but balls is the name of Ballard’s political game.

  2. Difficult to believe that is the same Tom Charles Huston we all knew back in the Nixon days. With age comes wisdom, I guess.

  3. We need to kill both the play pen for morons and the Justice Center . . at least until after Joe is in office. (Maybe the morons can kick their balls in OUR Cricket stadium.)
    PLEASE lawyers…. Tie these things in knots.
    Kids are going to bed hungry, Schools are in need, Cops need help in many ways …but the “R” people keep looking for ways to make themselves and their friends even richer. Just amazing. They are completely shameless.

  4. “Socialized risk, privatized profits”. What a concept. To sell such blatant theft of public funds lots of “opium for the masses” is required. Somebody get Fox et al on the phone. “Government is not the solution, government is the priblem!” And the people said amen.

  5. Patmcc; as Sheila said a few days ago, “They aren’t even pretending anymore”. They have total control and I say again, we are under seige. I see no escape in sight; especially now that we must live in fear of losing funding for Homeland Security on top of all else the Republicans have victimized us with. Well; we can always hope that terrorists would make Boehner their first target but that won’t happen because he is the American equalivent of Bin Laden.

  6. Democrat Ed DeLaney offered an amendment that Huston describes in his column as, – I simply blanch in embarrassment for my friend and former law partner: DeLaney said he didn’t ask for a 100 percent guarantee because he wanted a “fair and measured approach. Huston states further – – Studiously avoiding any argument why the state or the city should be stuck with any responsibility for a stadium designed solely to benefit private interests, DeLaney is oblivious to the reality that the only obligor/guarantor who is going to be of interest to buyers of bonds issued to finance the stadium is the deep-pocketed Capital Improvements Board. Any guaranty from others will be simply window-dressing for boobs.

    The Republican and Democratic Party, here after known as the Republicrat Party has never to my knowledge ever opposed with any vigor Stadiums financed by the Tax Payers for the Colts or Pacers. Mayor wanna be Joe Hogsett has not offered any public comment on the ROC Investigation. We do not know either what Hogsett’s opinion is on the Justice Center or the Indy Eleven Stadium.

  7. Representative John Bartlett raised a good point. If our sports venues are supposed to create jobs and enrich the tax base, then why haven’t those enrichments enabled more funds for our schools, public safety, city infrastructure, etc? Instead, this year’s school formula proposes to cut $18 million from Indianapolis public schools while we propose to spend $80+ Million on a soccer stadium. How about another approach – taxes collected at sports venues, restaurants, and hotels should go to schools and the city for NECESSITIES. If sports venues can’t yield that dividend, why invest?

    Once sports venues are built, they do not become self-supporting despite the multi-millions of dollars they collect. It seems the venues must return to taxpayers time and again for maintenance, repair, and upgrades. Does a stadium really yield more future benefits than education for our children and grandchildren?

    Dan Parker commented on In. Week in Review that arguments to repeal prevailing wage legislation said let the market determine wages, so why not let the market determine whether or not another stadium will be built with private funds?

    In the tug-of-war between wants and needs, when do the necessities get to take first place?

  8. Two things:
    1. You are very wrong when you label the Indiana legislature the world’s worst. Come to Arizona if you really want to see venality, rapaciousness, and just plain stupid all wrapped up in one spot at the Capital.
    2. Perhaps the old Roman tradition of literally falling on one’s sword should be revived for all disgraced politicos. If nothing else, they should simply shut up.

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