I Don’t Think D- Is A Good Grade…

Here in Hoosierland, we like to grade stuff. Well, some stuff.

We assign grades to public schools despite the dubious nature of some of the criteria used. We are less enthusiastic about the grades given to our infrastructure by the Corp of Civil Engineers, although we’ve seen some grudging acknowledgment of those scores, given that our crumbling roads and bridges are hard to hide or ignore. (A former student tells me that a big chunk of the bridge from I70 into downtown Indy just fell off yesterday…)

Then there’s a grade I’m betting we won’t hear very much about: the grade for ethical government, awarded by the Center for Public Integrity. Indiana got a D-. (If you click through, you can see the scoring criteria, and the categories.

You may recall lawmakers’ promise to make ethics reform the centerpiece of the last session :

During the 2014 legislative session, a top Republican House leader, Rep. Eric Turner, privately lobbied his fellow Republicans — who control both chambers — to scuttle a proposed ban on nursing home construction that would have hurt his family’s business. A House investigation cleared him of wrongdoing, but he was later stripped of leadership roles and stepped down after being re-elected. Department of Transportation official Troy Woodruff took advantage of an ethics law loophole that allowed him to skirt a one-year cooling-off period and become an independent contractor for an Indianapolis firm he’d regulated. And former state education superintendent Tony Bennett only had to pay a $5,000 fine for questionable campaign practices, including the use of state staff and computers, even though the state’s inspector general condemned his actions as wire fraud and misuse of state resources. Bennett wasn’t charged.

Ultimately, legislators approved an ethics reform law, effective in July. But even during the reform debate, two lawmakers floated proposals that drew conflict of interest charges and sharp criticism.

To be blunt, the vaunted “reforms” were more atmospheric than effective. Indiana earned F’s in numerous categories, including public access to information, political financing, state budget process, judicial accountability, ethics entities and civil service oversight. The only B’s were earned by the state pension systems (B+) and internal auditing practices (B-).

Ironically, Indiana’s score was better in 2012. Before “reform,” we earned a C-.

Knowledgable observers cite many reasons we consistently  fail to clean up our act: lax enforcement of guidelines, a culture of quid pro quo, and most of all, a gerrymandered state where 80% of the legislative seats are uncompetitive, making it highly unlikely that unethical behavior will be punished at the ballot box.

That’s what happens when lawmakers choose their voters, rather than the other way around….


  1. Don’t forget, government is best when it is smaller and “closer to the people”. (Well, for some people, anyway.)

  2. A chunk of a bridge fell off ? We have to ask ourselves: How many people have to die in order for the state government to be held responsible for not doing their job? Another example, not funding child welfare services where children are killed by their caretakers or parents before we fund this program so that children are not the victims?

  3. The ethics of our state government reflects the fact that we have very bad legislators. I don’t mean that they are bad people, but they are just really bad at the job they have been elected to do. You can look at the number of State House seats that were unopposed – a total of 47 – and realize that our gerrymandered districts are one of the causes of these people being elected. Although the majority of the uncontested seats were GOP (34), there were 13 Democrat seats where no one challenged the incumbent. These figures are important when trying to understand how our state got into this position, one of being a national joke and one of the most corrupt state governments. None of these people are worried about getting voted out of office when nearly half of the House is unopposed. When they do bad things they are not worried about any legal repercussions as in Tony Bennett or Eric Turner.

    Years ago I met Larry Conrad in Terre Haute while he was running for Governor. He was clearly not going to win and was speaking to a small group of die-hard Democrat students (me and about 10 others) at Indiana State. He said that he was running against the odds because Republicans need Democrats and Democrats need Republicans to be better at running the state government (paraphrased to the best of my memory). So Larry (God rest his soul) was right, and he could see the problem that many could not – absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    That in mine I urge all of you to join with Common Cause in its efforts to redraw our legislative districts, and enforce ethics in our state government. If you want to know more about Common Cause, visit their website http://www.commoncause.org/states/indiana/?referrer=https://www.google.com/

  4. Sheila,

    Indiana is a dirty state because it’s completely owned and operated by the Indianapolis sports teams and the downtown Indy law firms.

    If you give enough money to one of the select downtown Indy law firms, the statehouse will give you whatever you want.

    Downtown Indy law firms are so sleazy and so powerful that Hogsett got a million dollars from Bose McKinney for doing nothing more than campaigning for Mayor. Smart money by Bose.

    You never touch the real power. You never discuss a real solution. You’ll pick on middle-class Christians for months straight, but you never take on anyone who has the power to have you removed from your job with a couple of phone calls. You know that’s how Indiana works, and it’s why you always steer well clear of true controversies concerning the real players.

    You know that the other Indianapolis bloggers who do discuss the real dirt would never be allowed to hold a IUPUI job very long.

    Real change in Indiana will only come by banning lobbyists and campaign funding. Lobbying and campaign funding ensure that democracies are always easy to purchase and corrupt.

    Bose McKinney and Baker & Daniels have eight years of bright futures ahead of them.

    Take an easy stand, Sheila. Come right out and say that Indiana and Indianapolis should never give a cent to the Colts and Pacers or either of their stadiums. That money back with the City would sure free up a lot for bridge repairs, wouldn’t it?

  5. Sheila; an excellent list of points of reference in this vital on-going election-at-all-levels period in politics…local and national. Sadly, you are preaching to the choir again as these facts, and many others, have been reported (if somewhat in passing) but ignored by Republican voters and those Democrats and Independents who sit at home on election days. Maybe seeing them listed here will make an impression, if not on our GOP responders here, maybe on those who still believe they are making a statement by NOT voting. Who knows, who cares, who can change their minds? I have ranted to one non-voting friend frequently, telling her if she doesn’t vote she has no right to complain. She let me know she voted this month to give her the right to complain – see, my determination got one “my vote doesn’t count” person to the polls.

    The issues you mentioned are vital but I wonder what grade the IMPD and Public Safety Department in general would receive. So far this year 129 murders in Indianapolis; each and every one a loss to loved ones no matter the situation, and we have six weeks left in this year.

    I have driven on many city streets in my limited driving area on the east side where I think my car has developed mechanical problems. The bridge on East 16th Street over Pleasant Run Creek at Pleasant Run Drive somehow lost the entire middle section of the wall on the south side almost two years ago, leaving a drop off into the rocky creek below. For months it had nothing but yellow tape, then two large saw horses which soon disappeared, then three small saw horses which were eventually replaced with two cement barriers just sitting on the sidewalk, repairs still not done. The water in Pleasant Run Creek at that site is frequently tested because e-coli was found 6-7 years ago in the drainage ditch water which flows directly into the creek on the north side of 16th Street. I was told that the drainage ditch contains a “safe level of e-coli” by the Department of Public Health.

    Many are familiar with my mugging story 18 months ago; I was followed from the local Kroger, as I drove over the bridge (with no barricade at that time) I decided to report it when I got home. Well; I didn’t get that done but as the ambulance carried me over the bridge I told the EMTs to look at it and please report it. No idea if they did but…after that the three small saw horses appeared. With the two cement barriers on the sidewalk, there are still spaces between them and at both ends for neighborhood children or pets to get through. I am giving that situation an F.

  6. Not that integrity should be graded on a curve, but 3 states got b’s and 14 got c’s. All of the rest got d’s and d’s.

  7. Sorry to be cynical…they will be voted in because the source of reporting will be the liberal media who has an agenda. Eric Turner got voted back in even though his unethical actions were reported….same goes for Jud McMillan and yet they got voted in by their local peeps who knew it and by voting them in again…and again…encourage and sanction these behaviors.

  8. Gopper, you are on the right track this morning. Lobbying and campaign financing are at the root of most of the unethical problems this state has. What to do about these corrupting influences on government is another problem as both lobbying and campaign donations are considered free speech.
    Harnessing these great freedoms so that they reflect society’s best interest has been a challenge since the country’s founding. The least intrusive and most effective means at our disposal is the bright light of day. Total public exposure. Sunshine laws and public access to EVERYTHING in the government would put a stop to most of the unethical and corruption this state endures.
    I’m with you on opposing tax money going to sports teams too. Seems all my city gives the world is pills and sporting events. Somehow they go together.

  9. Since anyone with an “R” by their name is almost certain to be elected, there is little hope of any real change. Maybe having an experienced prosecutor in the Mayors office will make some of these folks cautious for a while. I sure HOPE so. I would like to see some butts in jail for some of the crap this last Rep Mayors team pulled off.

  10. It’s a conservative myth that those who make laws sit around all day brainstorming on what they might want to legislate, like business people do on how to make more money regardless of the cost to others.

    Of course those in the governance racket instead address problems brought forth that can be mitigated by requiring or prohibiting some or all behaving in a way that imposes what’s best for them on others to whom it’s a small or extremely large burden.

    The problem with issues of public integrity legislation is that they rarely become public issues per se. It’s the consequences of not having those laws in place that are problematic. Plus of course it’s easier for any and all of us to try and change the behavior of others instead of our own.

    No wonder the average for states seems to be a D. It’s not a priority for those making law.

    Look at the effort that Republicans invest in gerrymandering for instance in order to compromise democracy to their advantage.

    All in all this dilemma is a consequence of civic illiteracy among voters. We are easily fooled into hiring those low in integrity because we vote for power for our tribe over others rather than ethical legislators.

    It hasn’t always been like this so there is always hope that it doesn’t always have to be. There is hope for change as long as someone is watching and educating voters.

  11. Gopper,

    “Indiana is a dirty state because it’s completely owned and operated by the Indianapolis Colts and the downtown Indy law firms.”

    Thanks for giving credit to the downtown law firms. They are usually unappreciated for all the work (dirty) that they CAN do whether in Indianapolis or here in Jacksonville.

  12. Liberals and conservatives want the same things, liberals for everyone. I really believe that explains party differences more than ethics or honesty or intelligence.

    Democracy requires government to serve the governed. All of them equally. It’s an intensely and naturally liberal concept.

    Absent democracy, government is about power. Who has it and who doesn’t and that’s the focus of conservatism.

    Democracy came about because we the people noticed that power corrupts. The only solution is to put the hiring and firing in the hands of the governed. Eliminate power.

    Our Constitution enshrines that concept.

  13. Does anyone else here think Gopper writes very much like Gary R. Welsh at Advance Indiana? Has anyone ever seen them together, hmmm?

  14. Gopper has noticed that lawyers spend inordinate amounts of time in courthouses and other institutions of law.

    Very suspicious.

  15. I like to think of politics as being somewhat like our environment, each plant or animal plays it’s part. Recently, I took a trip to Ohio and back again to Indiana on I-70. I knew I was back Home in Indiana when I-70 turned into washboard, with cracks and potholes. The D in Indiana has several sources.

    Anyone who has ever ran for political office knows speech is not free. You have to raise money. The big contributors are like a gardener, they will water and fertilize the plants they want to grow. If the big contributors decides some one may be a threat they apply the political equivalent of Roundup, that is an attack ad. The gerrymandering is one further step in the “gardening” process. Make sure the garden is expanded and has only corporately approved plants.

    One other piece is in play. Back in the 1930’s and 1940’s the Mafia decided to stop fighting among themselves. The Mafia Families became the Mafia Franchise. The Republicans and the Democrats have morphed in most cases into the Republicrat Party. This especially true in Marion County. Hogsett and Brewer were just different sides of the same Crony-Capitalist coin. The Crony-Capitalists have as their goal to use government as a cash cow. A new stadium for the Pacers or Colts or more subsidies for them and the elected Republicrat puppets will vote a resounding yes for Corporate Welfare.

    Do not hold your breath for any prosecution of political corruption crimes in Indiana. The gardener has made sure the Executive, Judicial and Legislative Branches, along with a totally complaint Media provide an interlocking defense for Crony-Capitalism. .

  16. The main problem in Indiana (though a corrupted political culture ranks highly) is gerrymandering. With safe state and federal congressional districts in hand, it appears that the bedrock principle of democracy (that the governed pick their governors) is violated when almost half of the state legislative seats have no opposition candidates, so there is no “picking.” In such districts, the people are cheated out of a choice for legislative office.

    So one runs and loses? Losing isn’t the end of the world; Abraham Lincoln lost eight out of eleven elections. Every district needs opposition candidates if we are to satisfy a fundamental tenet in the makeup of democracy, and there are reasons why beyond democratic requirements, like, if this geographical con job continues to the next decennial count there is no good reason to believe the gerrymandering will not continue, perhaps into perpetuity. Gerrymandering is at odds with democracy, and yielding to its results amounts to political surrender, perhaps for the very long term (and we’re not that far from the next redrawing of the electoral map). Things can change with perseverance. Look at Vermont. In 1936 FDR took 46 out of the then existing 48 states, losing only what was then called “rock-ribbed Republican” Vermont and Maine. Now Vermont has a self-proclaimed social democrat as a senator vying for the presidency. So Indiana blue? Possibly, but not without effort. It’s time to prepare for our political future, because that’s all we have. We at the very least should have candidates file in every district that would otherwise see the incumbent reelected by default – every election – and air out the issues with his/her opponent in the interest of democracy whatever the electoral outcome. Elections are about more than just winning.

  17. I have a hard time feeling hopeless Louie. Our founders gave us what we need to have the government that we want and it’s all still available to us. We’ve faced down bigger threats than what you describe.

  18. If we the people of Indiana cannot clean up the government of our own state, how could we ever clean up a corrupt federal government? What happens if the crazy right takes over completely and starts shipping those they do not like out of the country by force?

  19. Pete! The problem is that people like you are only concerned about the abuses and corruption on one side. Crony capitalism is corruption at its finest when perpetrated by left or right. Your relentless attack on all conservatives or all businesses because a few (or several or many) are unscrupulous in naive. You say liberals want what conservatives want only for everyone. I say the difference is conservatives want others to get it for themselves rather than take it from someone else. People who pay their own way appreciate it more. They have self-respect. They take themselves farther than government will let them go.

  20. I remember when the notion of closing state institutions for people with disabilities and placing people in local group homes was first given serious consideration. A legislator named Miller, who’s family owns a large chain of nursing homes, introduced a proposal that would REQUIRE that at least 50% be placed in private for profit nursing homes. Fortunately it didn’t get out of committee. But the very idea that it was proposed at all is monstrous.

  21. “I say the difference is conservatives want others to get it for themselves rather than take it from someone else”

    This is an example of two things. Something that everyone wants and crony capitalism.

    Again the difference between conservatives and liberals is that liberals want everybody to have what they need, not all that they want, and business has been unable to solve that problem. For one thing they are too busy helping themselves to the public coffers to be good at running their businesses.

    So we do what we have to to get by in the absence of adequate business performance.

    Will business someday step up to the plate fully?

    I hope so.

    Is government at the plate? The public role in full employment is education and while we have to do much better, current failures don’t seem to be from lack of effort there.

  22. “They take themselves farther than government will let them go.”

    The role of democratic government is to limit people with power from imposing what they want on people with less power who don’t want what’s being imposed.

    Are there other types of government with different objectives? Many. They’re just not here.

    If you find that our government is limiting you unnecessarily, first ask, who am I imposing something undesirable to them on?

    99% of the time there will be an answer.

    If you ask that question and don’t find an answer than chances are you have a legitimate beef.

    Remember it’s “we the people” Ken.

  23. One of the mind tricks of oligarchs is to offer false choices. Like between socialism and capitalism. The world learned long ago that the answer is both socialism and capitalism.

    Or the choice between unlimited wealth inequity or zero. Again the answer is both. The middle of the road. Some wealth inequity.

    Or the choice between freedom and obligation. Again the answer is both.

  24. “Your relentless attack on all conservatives or all businesses because a few (or several or many) are unscrupulous in naive.”

    I agree that it’s seldom productive to assume that all of the members of a class of people that share one trait therefore share all traits.

    Diversity rules.

    So there are unscrupulous conservatives and businesses as well as scrupulous ones.

    I keep trying though to get a conservative here to define for me what that means that’s positive. It has never happened. Until it does I will therefore treat it is as a negative.

    As for privately owned businesses nobody denies that their fundamental driver is make more money regardless of the cost to others. Millions of institutions with only that for guidance just don’t strike me as adequate to the needs of society.

    Most of my business experience was working with businesses whose thinking went well beyond that simplicity. They considered themselves contributors to the community and their workers. They were high minded rather than low and simple. They prided themselves in the number of customers and workers who benefitted from their existence.

    Our national move to the low ground correlates in time to the rise of the conservative meme and the Republican slavish devotion to it. Correlation doesn’t prove causation but in this case it’s a very plausible and quite provable hypothesis to connect the two.

    Many of us hold that hypothesis.

  25. Re RN at 8:23: “Sorry to be cynical…they will be voted in because the source of reporting will be the liberal media who has an agenda.”

    I’m always amazed that anyone insists that the media has a “liberal agenda” when the likes of Rupert Murdock own and control the capital city’s newspaper. Political investigative news reporting has been quashed and there is rarely a story that could be by any stretch said to be liberal. News-lite, yes. Liberal, no. I grew up with the Louisville Courier Journal and my mother insisted on receiving the Indianapolis Star. There is not now nor in my memory been a time when the Star could be accused of any hint of liberalism.

  26. My head spins, at this early hour, as I finish reading Gopper’s post. (1) He is very on-target with most of his post; 2) He had no need to use exact quotes (my mouse is acting up and it is difficult to scroll up—need to buy a new one0; 3) Then he lays out an (unnecessary) attack on the Professor to state what she should address—the last item was unnecessary and more an ad hominem attack . I will try to develop a point system to score rationality, accuracy and irrelevance on Gopper’s posts. As for the new mayor, as a former prosecutor, perhaps cleaning up matters—he was the United States Attorney and had an excellent position from which to do that as his actual job—he did nothing. The Circle City’s corruption plays out each day on the front page (largely unread) of the daily newspaper and on the screens of TVs and computers.

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