In my recent blog about the termination of the PR contract intended to repair the considerable damage to Indiana’s reputation inflicted by the RFRA debacle, I questioned Governor Pence’s assertion that Indiana was creating lots of jobs so the contract was no longer necessary.
I also noted that there has been considerable criticism of the way in which the state’s economic development agency reports job creation numbers. (In all fairness to Governor Pence, those concerns precede the current administration.)
I knew there had been allegations that the Indiana Economic Development Corporation routinely and intentionally “cooked the books,” but I was unaware of the considerable evidence supporting those allegations until a regular reader sent me a link to a story done last year by WTHR.
The extensive report is pretty devastating. Among WTHR’s findings:
- IEDC’s new transparency website is missing basic disclosure information that other states release to taxpayers.
- The state agency is not releasing any information about hundreds of projects it previously announced.
- IEDC is reporting official job statistics that exclude all failed economic development projects from its calculations.
- Both IEDC and the governor are citing the state’s new job transparency law as justification to withhold information from public disclosure.
I encourage readers to click through and read the entire report. It documents misdirection and “gaming the system” by the Administration in great detail–and it should make taxpayers pretty angry.
It certainly made me angry, for two reasons: first, because our elected officials are playing fast and loose with the truth; and second, because this sort of investigative reporting about local government is all too rare.
The whole purpose of freedom of the press was to provide this sort of “watchdog” function–to allow the press to act on behalf of citizens who lack the time and expertise to keep tabs on those we’ve charged with managing our governing institutions. Kudos to WTHR–but where is the rest of the local media?
We get lots of coverage –indeed, I’d suggest overkill–of things like the Richmond Hill trial, the (thus far speculative) investigation of Subway spokesman Jared Fogle, and the most recent bar openings, but little or no oversight of the state and municipal government agencies that spend our tax dollars and regulate our behaviors. Figuring out what’s going on is admittedly more work than telling us about the opening of the latest restaurant–but it’s also a whole lot more important.
When I see a well-researched story like this one, it reminds me why journalism is so important–and makes me sad that we have so little of it.