Souder’s Tour Guide Days Are Over

When soon-to-be-resigned U.S. Rep. Mark Souder says, "I am so ashamed" when talking about the affair that is driving him from office, I believe him. I can’t say that is often the case when politicians, athletes, entertainers or the like are admitting their wrongdoings.

You won’t find any flippant comments or double entendres here. Just a quick anecdote about Souder that makes yesterday’s development all the more incredulous for me.

I attended the Indiana Chamber’s annual D.C. Fly-in 2009 for the first time in quite a few years. Following the traditional opening night congressional roundtable (as many Indiana reps and senators as you will ever see in one place), I talked to a few of our business participants and caught up on several phone messages. When ready to make the trip back to the hotel, I noticed that most of my Chamber colleagues were gone.

Slightly more than a handful of attendees did remain and two were engaged in a conversation with Souder. When the longtime represenative (he defeated 2008 gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson in 1994 to gain the congressional seat) offered a tour of the U.S. Capitol, I was quick to tag along.

I don’t think any in the group were Souder’s constituents. After a long day filled with a variety of votes, meetings and the Chamber event, he certainly didn’t have to go that extra step. And he didn’t just point out a couple of key locations and send us on our way. The lesson in Washington and American history (Souder was passionate in detailing the statues, artwork, lesser-known passageways and the like) lasted close to two hours. Without exaggeration, it was akin to an artist or playwright explaining the deeper meaning behind his or her work.

Did that make Souder a saint? Obviously not. Did it mean he was a little different than many of his colleagues who serve in Washington for so many years? I thought so then, and maintain that opinion at least somewhat today. Shame on Souder for his mistakes, but give him at least a little credit for admitting his shortcomings, accepting the blame and giving up his position.

Now, an already interesting election season has another bit of intrigue. The secretary of state’s office outlines the procedures for the upcoming special election and November vote.

Last Train to Debatesville for Gov. Candidates

If you’re still undecided on the upcoming gubernatorial election, your last chance to watch the contenders square off in debate form will be Tuesday night. This time, Gov. Mitch Daniels, Jill Long Thompson and Andy Horning will sit at a table with moderator Tom Cochran.

And while audience members posed questions in the last debate, Cochrun, a former news director at WISH and a documentary filmmaker, will ask the questions this time.

Kyle Niederpruem, spokeswoman for the Indiana Debate Commission, said Cochrun will use his own questions and some of the 400 submitted by the public to home in on issues not touched on in the first two debates. He plans to push the candidates for answers if he thinks they haven’t responded.

The debate will be held in the I.U. Auditorium in Bloomington at 7 p.m. The event will be shown on some cable stations, according to the Indianapolis Star. So that probably means just flip around until you find it. (I’m sure my fellow males are familiar with that m.o. — flipping through the channels with no clear direction of where you’re headed. It’s a fun little journey, isn’t it?) The Star also notes the debate will be shown on its web site.

Reminder: The final presidential debate will be held Wednesday night, as well.

Howey Highlights Township Assessor Issue in Governor’s Race

Hoosier scribe/pundit Brian Howey recently penned a thoughtful article on township government and the gubernatorial race. The piece is worth a read, and our own Mark Lawrance is quoted:

Mark Lawrence [sic], senior vice president for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, is part of a consortium that includes the Indiana Association of Realtors and the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership that is pushing a “yes” vote on the referendum.  He said the coalition would have limited resources, though he expects some direct mail campaigns in the coming weeks.  He called the assessor referendum “a bump on the road on the way to Kernan-Shepard.”

The fact that the referendums come in each township, as opposed to countywide, means the “deck is stacked against us,” Lawrence said. The problem is that poor assessing in one township can impact property taxes for the entire county.

“We hope there will be enough interest in having fair assessments,” Lawrence said. “You want to make sure your house is assessed fairly as well as the neighbor’s down the street,” noting what he called the current “fragmented system.”

“If people understand it under those terms, they’ll see it impacts their pocketbooks,” Lawrence said.

An influencing factor may be the recent Washington and Warren township fire mergers with Indianapolis. “That went very smoothly,” Lawrence said. “It is saving millions of dollars. There has been no decrease in services.”

Want to Start a Political Movement? Try Social Media

The National Conference of State Legislatures’ blog has a post explaining how some folks, who may lack free speech privileges in their countries, are using Facebook as a way to broadcast their political messages:

This ‘Facebook political movement’ has also taken off in Egypt. One blogger, Sandmonkey, talks about how new media are being used to promote political activism. The LA Times wrote an op-ed on how the Egyptian government has threatened to shut down Facebook, after it was credited for helping to mobilize protests against food prices earlier this year. Moroccans used YouTube to capture protesters clashing with security forces, because sights like this would not be shown on state-run TV. Activists in Lebanon used text messaging to organize an anti-Syria rally.

And as I’ve posted before, Congress has gotten in on the social media action via Twitter. In fact, Indiana’s gubernatorial candidates — Governor Mitch Daniels and challenger Jill Long Thompson — currently have their own feeds (as best I can tell, these are official campaign feeds and not just orchestrated by fans).

The People Speak Through ‘Letters to Our Leaders’

If you’re going to borrow an idea or a title from someone, six-term Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar is not a bad person to emulate. Lugar’s 1988 "Letters to the Next President" was a book on U.S. foreign policy and his well-honed suggestions for future actions in various parts of the world. (A more recent entry from former Okahoma governor and U.S. senator David Boren, now the president of the University of Oklahoma, was titled "A Letter to America.")

The Indiana Chamber’s focus is our state. While the letters on key public policy issues are being delivered directly to the candidates for governor, they’re also intended for all those involved in the lawmaking and regulatory process. Thus, Letters to Our Leaders is the title.

Several of our state’s leading newspapers, including the Indianapolis Star and the South Bend Tribune, have this morning published overviews of the campaign. Additionally, you can watch the video of Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar discussing the reasons for releasing the letters. The effort officially kicks off this afternoon with five press conferences around the state. The letters, press releases and short videos on each policy area will be available online at 1:30 p.m. today, and this site seeks your input on the issues important to our state’s economic future. 

Who came up with the topics and the suggestions for these letters? You did, at least indirectly. The Chamber’s Economic Development Committee led the project, with input from the executive committee and board of directors. It was leaders of companies big and small, located throughout the state. The more than 4,800 Chamber member companies employ 800,000 Hoosiers.

Governor Mitch Daniels and Democratic challenger Jill Long Thompson, the people of Indiana have something to say. We look forward to your responses.