The Governor’s hand-picked inspector general has cleared the Governor of wrongdoing in an ethics charge.
State Inspector General David Thomas says a complaint by Democrats that Gov. Mitch Daniels violated ethics rules by taking RV1 to a political fundraiser is hogwash.
The Democrats call that a whitewash.
Thomas — appointed by Daniels to be the state’s first inspector general investigating ethics violations and corruption in state government — said Monday that the governor broke no ethics rules by parking the 34-foot recreational vehicle outside a July 19 fundraiser for Rep. Troy Woodruff, R-Vincennes.
(I’ve gotta give the Indy Star’s Mary Beth Schneider a big round of applause for the hogwash/whitewash juxtaposition.)
Taking Down Words has some thoughts about the Inspector General’s Ruling, saying it was unsurprising but also inartfully done.
The jist of this story is that the RV was initially donated to the Governor, prompting questions about whether the donation was an excessive gift. Governor Daniels said it was a donation to the State and not to him, so it was acceptable. That’s fine, but it places limitations on how the property can be used. In that capacity, the RV can be used for official functions of the Governor but not for political functions. In this case, the RV was apparently used to transport the Governor to Troy “DST-Dead Man Walking” Woodruff’s fund raiser, and was also apparently used as a display piece at the fundraiser. There is some question as to whether anybody got to go on a tour of the RV at the fundraiser.
I discussed the matter a bit in a prior post. As I mentioned then, I couldn’t work up any outrage over the matter. It’s all fairly technical and small potatoes. But, given Gov. Daniels penchant for casting stones about ethics during his campaign, he should be careful about having any glass in his house (whether it’s the Governor’s mansion, a house in a posh northside suburb, or an RV). A prior Star article mentioned Deputy Inspector Jeff Gill’s preliminary assessment:
Deputy Inspector General Jeff Gill — speaking before the Democratic Party asked for the investigation — was asked in general whether a state office or vehicle could be used for political fundraising. While stressing he was not giving an official opinion, Gill said no.
“Unless it’s permitted by a general written agency policy, it looks to me like it would be prohibited,” Gill said.
The official investigation concluded, “Our investigation shows the RV was not in any way connected with a partisan event, other than as a means of transport for the governor.”
This despite the Evansville Courier Press’s July 20, 2005 report that some people attending the $25-per-family fish fry benefiting Woodruff’s campaign also toured the RV. Today, the Courier Press stands by its prior reporting:
Thomas interviewed Daniels’ security escort, a team of Indiana State Police officers, who said no one except the governor’s staff entered the RV. Eric Holcomb, an employee of the governor’s office who attended the fundraiser, said the RV was parked 100 yards from the fish fry. Holcomb didn’t see anyone enter the RV, but if someone did, “it probably would have been a spontaneous and unplanned occurrence as has happened in the past,” Thomas wrote. Invitations to the fundraiser did not mention tours of RV1, Thomas said. Whitson reported that Rob and Kathy Southwood took their twin 6-year-old daughters, Hannah and Heidi, inside the RV. Thomas did not mention the family by name but said his office contacted a family “revealed in the article” who said Whitson’s report was false. “With our focus on whether the RV was used to obtain political donations in alleged violation of an ethics rule, the evidence did not even show that members of the public entered the RV for any purpose,” Thomas wrote. Courier & Press Executive Editor J. Bruce Baumann supported Whitson’s account of the fundraiser. “We stand behind our reporter as she personally observed ordinary citizens entering and leaving RV1, and therefore we stand behind her story,” he said.
So, o.k., maybe I can gin up a bit of outrage for this investigation if not the initial violation itself. The IG interviewed the Governor’s security escort, an employee of the Governor’s office, and possibly the family mentioned in the article (quite possibly loyal partisans if they’re attending a Woodruff fundraiser) without interviewing the reporter — a presumably disinterested witness to the violations — and without putting anybody under oath. Looks like a whitewash of a relatively trivial violation to me.