Pence’s Protege?

Yesterday’s New York Times highlighted an amicus brief filed by prominent Republicans in the  gerrymandering case that will be heard by the Supreme Court this session.

Current and former GOP luminaries– including John McCain of Arizona; Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio; Bob Dole, the former Republican Senate leader from Kansas and the party’s 1996 presidential nominee; the former senators John C. Danforth of Missouri, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming; and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former governor of California–urged the Court to end the partisan redistricting that “has become a tool for powerful interests to distort the democratic process.”

Then there’s Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, who joined a very different “friend of the Court” brief, arguing that some partisanship is inevitable when legislators draw districts, there’s nothing “invidious” or improper about that reality, and even if there is, there’s no way for the Court to prove it.

So there!

Other than Hill, I have been pleasantly surprised by Indiana’s current Republican administration. Governor Holcomb seems eminently sane, and has focused on issues of governance–the “nitty-gritty” that Mike Pence ignored in favor of his crusades against Planned Parenthood, reproductive choice and gay people. Our current Superintendent of Public Instruction has actually demonstrated knowledge of and support for public education–a welcome change from the last Republican to hold that position.

Attorney General Hill is the exception. I knew nothing about him before his election, and not much more now, but his more newsworthy activities have been troubling, to say the least. It isn’t just his enthusiastic defense of gerrymandering–a position not universally shared even among Indiana Republicans. (The reform bill that failed in Indiana’s last legislative session was co-sponsored by Republican Representative Jerry Torr and Republican Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, both of whom evidently recognize that the process is pernicious.)

Hill has also clashed with the Centers for Disease Control over needle exchange programs. According to Indiana Public Media, Hill is accusing the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of manipulating facts in order to push a “pro-needle-exchange agenda.” Hill insists that needle exchange programs increase drug use, a claim that medical research has consistently debunked.

The new U.S. Surgeon General (and former Indiana Health Commissioner) Jerome Adams has been a vocal proponent of syringe exchanges.

“There’s been no evidence that [a syringe exchange program] increases drug use,” says Dennis Watson, a researcher at the Fairbanks School of Public Health. On the contrary, he says, exchange programs can actually decrease the amount of injection drug use…

A Seattle-based study found that syringe exchange participants were five times more likely to enter treatment than those who didn’t participate.

Perhaps Hill hasn’t had time to review evidence about gerrymandering or the results of needle exchange research, since–as the Indianapolis Star recently reported–he has been busy redecorating his offices.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on office renovations and a new state vehicle, sparking criticism from some budget leaders.

The renovations underway at Hill’s Statehouse office are expected to cost about $279,000. That includes $78,000 for new furniture, $71,000 for historic replica painting and $2,500 for seven reclaimed chandeliers. The six-room office is home to Hill and 10 to 15 of his top staffers.

Of course, Hill has found time to appeal rulings that favored Planned Parenthood, that protected the rights of LGBTQ citizens and that allowed police to pat down people to determine whether they’re carrying guns.He’s a perfect partisan culture warrior.

Mike Pence must be so proud…..


  1. Something tells me he’d be less sympathetic to gerrymandering if the Democrats were doing it.

  2. AG Hill is also defending the state statue that results in Marion County voters having significantly less access to early , in-person voting than voters in other communities. When citizens called his office to complain about that stance, they were told comments can only be made on-line. How’s that for shutting up any dissent?

  3. My guess is that Indiana, and specifically Indianapolis (in spite of its Progressive climate), won’t be seeing a new Amazon Headquarters anytime soon.

  4. “Honest To Goodness Indiana”; did Pence miss Gov. Holcomb’s sanity due to being distracted by Hill’s Republican support for gerrymandering and using our tax dollars for his pleasure? Who else will see his new decor or ride in that new car? We are still paying for Mitch Daniels’ I-69; the interstate that is going nowhere, and now more job losses coming here in Indianapolis and globally due to our local drug manufacturer. Headlines in today’s Star; “CEO: 3,500 JOBS CUT TO BOOST LILLY”, supposedly these job losses globally will provide more dollars for research and development. Small inset, “MORE DOWNSIZING” regarding 230 job cuts in addition to 70 at the beginning of this year at Angie’s List locally. Page 3 boasts the headline article; “More layoffs loom at Angie’s List”. Also on page one today the distracting headline, “Could Indianapolis compete for Amazon HQ?”.

    Indiana is reported to be one of the best sources for jobs in the country; per the Republicans. There was never a mention of the CVS firing locally of all their undocumented workers shortly before Trump’s boast of thousands of new job openings nationally. All a boost to Pence as vice president. Watching a news clip yesterday of Trump’s questionable (questionable by the Republicans) apparent siding with Democrats regarding debt limits; I notice that Pence now even sits in the same position Trump uses for news releases. Indiana’s own bobble-head/gofer who is willing to demean himself before the nation and the world as he awaits being promoted to the presidency via default due to Trump’s irrational behavior and decisions.

  5. He knows if he wants to get to Congress he needs to carry the water can (or pick cotton) for the Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly. And yes, I just said that, and I understand the Uncle Tom reference. But to call Curtis Hill an Uncle Tom would be an insult to old Tom, who was a genuinely good fictional character. Again, we got a lunatic for AG not because of the strength of the candidate who won but because of the weakness of the candidate who lost and the utter collapse of the Democratic Party in Indiana. But at least Curtis significantly improves the racial diversity of the fascist wing of the GOP. It’s just too bad that he wouldn’t have the right to vote, much less run for political office, if they were to prevail.

  6. … there is nothing “invidious” or improper about that reality, and even if there is, there is no way for the Court to prove it.

    By golly! There’s a defense for you. Prosecutors and victims of crime everywhere take note.

  7. My concern nee fear is that the gerrymandering will be no easier to defeat than Citizen’s United. Gerrymandering has worked, and the talons gripping power today have no desire to loosen, to share or to negotiate. The world the fascistic Right envision for us will be a dystopia.

  8. Not being a lawyer, I must ask -is it proper decorum for someone to essentially tell the High Court they can’t do anything about gerrymandering?

  9. Mike from Iowa:

    Even though I am or should say was an attorney — retired now — it’s not really about whether it’s “proper [legal] decorum” to challenge the 9 “Black Robes'” power to stop or at least curb gerrymandering. Regardless of the setting, legal or otherwise, my experience has taught me that it’s seldom a wise or terribly smart idea to tell anyone, who does in fact have the power and authority to do something about a problem or issue, that the reason they shouldn’t try to do anything about it is because they “can’t” do anything about it.

    It’s not really fair to try to draw an analogy between a raging bull and a judge, whose authority and power has been challenged, but that would be akin to waving a red cape at a bull. The only difference might be that a judge might still find gerrymandering constitutional, but not because she/he didn’t believe that they could in fact do something about it, if they found it to be unconstitutional; while the bull would try to gore you regardless.

  10. I’m so sad and sorry to say that nothing the republinazis do any more surprises me.
    They seem to have NO respect for the SPIRIT of our Constitution or We the People!
    They seem to not share the larger values of our nation. They seem to have no moral center
    or any kind of heart or conscience.

    They only seem to be interested in themselves, their retention of and excercise of power.
    To me, as the descendent of people who came here in the 1650’s and the very early 1700’s, this is truly UNAMERICAN!

  11. David F; this could certainly not be considered a minor or frivolous law suit, would SCOTUS be required to hear the case? A case involving their own law which effects the entire nation!

  12. JoAnn:
    My remarks to Mike from Iowa were perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, and directed to his question about “proper decorum” to a court. The gerrymandering case is, indeed, neither minor nor frivolous (although some Republicans such as the aforementioned Indiana A.G. Curtis Hill might like to believe so).

    In fact, the USSCT has already accepted jurisdiction in the case of Gill v. Whitford, No. 16-1161 (although it appears the State of Wisconsin is attempting to question whether the USSCT does have jurisdiction to hear and decide the case.). The case has been fully briefed to the Court, including the amicus brief Professor Kennedy referenced above from some prominent Republicans, and the Court will hear oral arguments this coming on Oct. 3 with a decision likely to be issued by the end of the current term next June.

    Gill is a case out of Wisconsin where a Wisconsin Federal District Court held that Wisconsin’s redistricting plan was unconstitutional. The case is important because it will likely clarify the legal standards for what kind/level of proof is necessary to establish that the redistricting was in fact done with a partisan, i.e., unconstitutional, intent.


  13. Of course gerrymandering can be constitutionally remedied, but it is apparent that it is going to take heavier judicial interference than we have had to date to get the job done. The courts have been reluctant to interfere with processes they describe as “political,” but I think that political processes that are leading to the destruction of our democracy (minority rule over majority vote) should be subject to judicial interference if we are to survive via a process formerly known as the consent of the majority to be governed. The present system of obtaining the consent of the minority for the majority to be governed leads to resentment and civil commotion and cannot last indefinitely with such wrongs as gerrymandering, voter suppression etc. that lead the way in promoting the destruction of one of the linchpins of democracy – the right of majority rule.

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