Step Right Up: Who Wants To Be The GOP Attorney General Nominee?

Ladyjustice The unexpected announcement over the weekend that two-term Attorney General Steve Carter will not seek re-election this year has set off something of a GOP gossipfest, with several names being tossed around as Republicans scramble to find someone -- preferably someone with name ID and funding -- to take Carter's place on the ballot:

"This caught most everybody flat-footed," said Wheeler, 45, who is with the Indianapolis law firm Locke Reynolds. "I had talked with Steve (Carter) about my interest in running in 2008, and he indicated to me he was going to run again."

Starting the work of putting together a campaign at the end of March is not ideal, Wheeler said, "but there is (still) plenty of time," because candidates can focus on convention delegates, rather than all state voters, and have until mid-June to make their cases.

In a statement issued by the spokesman for his county office, Brizzi said he, too, "was surprised by Attorney General Carter's announcement."

"Carl is flattered that he has been mentioned as a possible candidate, and it is something he is considering," Matthew Symons said.

Zoeller, the chief deputy, also sought the party's nomination for attorney general in 1996 but lost that bid to Carter. Carter, defeated in the 1996 general election by Democrat Jeff Modisett, was elected in 2000.

"I may be the only one who's worked in the office," said Zoeller, 52. "I'm pretty proud of what the attorney general has been able to do, and for people who think he's done a good job, I would be a known commodity and a continuation of what we have been doing."

Another Republican who was being mentioned as a possible candidate is Secretary of State Todd Rokita, but a call to Rokita's election committee was not returned Monday. Elected to his second term in office in 2006, Rokita is prohibited by Indiana law from running for another term as secretary of state in 2010.

The Do-Not-Run List: Steve Carter Takes Himself Out Of The AG Race

Lawbooks Attorney General Steve Carter is throwing in the towel, according to this Easter Sunday update from the Star's John Strauss. (Odd timing, anyone?)

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter today said he will not seek a third term in office and will likely bring his career in public service to a close.

"I want to look at a number of things in both the private sector and the not-for-profit sector," Carter, 54, said at a news conference in his office.

"I've enjoyed my term as attorney general. There have been great opportunities. We have achieved a lot, but I think we can achieve things outside government."

Carter, a former top aide to then-Lt. Gov. John Mutz and former corporation counsel to Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, vigorously championed the state's Do-Not-Call law and enforced it from his office. The AG’s office also pursued claims of gasoline price gouging after the 9/11 terror attacks.

Carter is married with two teenagers and a 12-year-old. He said today he has not interviewed for other jobs and has not decided what he would like to do next.

This bodes well for Linda Pence, the extremely talented and well qualified Democratic candidate who will go from running against incumbent Carter to running against Some Random, Late-To-The-Game Republican. It doesn't look like Pence has a campaign website just yet, but TDW will steer you to it once she does.

Sign Here, Please: McCain Short In CD04, May Not Make Indiana Ballot

Elephant Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain will be here tomorrow, but he might not be on the Indiana ballot in May. Blue Indiana creates and reports this story:

For those of you who have been following the site over the last few days, you are probably well aware that I have been covering the gubernatorial signature battle, as both of our candidates sought to get their 500 signatures in each congressional district, and thus earn a place on the statewide ballot for the May primary. As part of that process, I've been requesting daily updates from the Indiana Election Division, which keeps a rolling tally of the number of signatures that each candidate has collected.

Now, I'm originally from the 4th District, so curiosity led me to check out who had made it (and by how much) in my old stomping ground. To my surprise, I noticed that John McCain -- the presumptive front-runner for the GOP nomination -- was just a little short in a few districts, including my precious 4th, despite the fact that Attorney General Steve Carter had already turned in their petitions. I made a few phone calls, and one by one I found out that the McCain camp had got the job done across the state.

Except in the 4th District.

In the 4th District, they are short.

By my latest count, they turned in 496 signatures for the 4th, and the latest IED report for this morning shows them with only 491.

Lots of big-name Republicans, including the Guv and Attorney General Steve Carter, turned in McCain's petitions as though they were complete. They were not. When caught, they changed their story to say that there are still petitions coming in, which is interesting, since they were due for certification last Tuesday.

Are we really to believe that after nine days, some county clerk is going to find a few stragglers stuck to the back of some absentee ballot applications?

They really dropped the ball on this one. At best, it's sloppiness. At worst, it's incompetence.

Of course, the national chattering class is chewing on this McCain-related story today. Sex sells, baby.

On The Job? Steve Carter Snags Air Time To Prevent Drunk Driving

Questionmark1Here's a strange little factoid from this week's Indiana Legislative Insight, to which you really should subscribe if you don't already:

"Attorney General Steve Carter (R) launches a campaign aimed at preventing drunk driving and underage drinking with three new 30-second radio public service announcements that will air in rotation on stations throughout the state. The spots are timed to coincide with the Fall season, and will air 2,300 times between now and the end of November."

Next thing you know, he'll be jetting off to distant lands to present watercolors to foreign dignitaries.

Lawyer Up: Seventh Circuit Says Robocall Suit Doesn't Belong In Federal Court

Phone2Put down the robocall machine and step away from the phone. The Seventh Circuit has [kinda] spoken:

"A state law that bans automated phone calls unless recipients have previously agreed to receive them has survived a federal court challenge -- at least by default.

"The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Wednesday ordered a district judge in Indianapolis to dismiss a complaint involving the ban, saying the case doesn't belong in federal court.

"The case stemmed from automated calls made by FreeEats.com on behalf of a California group called the Economic Freedom Fund during the 2006 congressional campaign.

"Virginia-based FreeEats.com was appealing an October ruling by U.S. District Judge Larry McKinney that found Indiana's automated calls ban does not violate the First Amendment nor restrain interstate commerce as the company had contended.

"Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter had sued the company in Brown County in September after receiving 12 consumer complaints regarding automated calls that attacked 9th District congressional candidate Baron Hill, who ultimately won, in his race against Republican then-Rep. Mike Sodrel.

"FreeEats then filed its federal lawsuit, which the state sought to have dismissed on the grounds that it fell under case law by which federal courts generally abstain from hearing constitutional claims involving cases where state court action is pending.

"The 7th Circuit ruled Wednesday that McKinney should have dismissed the case, because among other things FreeEats had not demonstrated a pressing need for immediate relief and had itself delayed court proceedings.

"'We will not reward FreeEats with its desired federal forum merely because it decided to delay seeking injunctive and declaratory relief until the eve of the election, regardless of the harm it potentially could have suffered at that eleventh hour,' the three-judge panel ruled."

After The Fact: Carter Says Voter ID May Merit Review, But Not Just Yet

JuryboxAttorney General Steve Carter thinks it would be a really good idea to wait until after the next big election to find out if Indiana's voter identification law needs constitutional review. Dunno about you, but TDW's one of those people who'd rather try to prevent a mistake than have to clean it up after the fact. The Indiana Lawyer reports:

"The nearing 2008 presidential election is a key reason why the Supreme Court of the United States should not accept a challenge to Indiana's two-year-old voter identification law, the Indiana Attorney General's Office argues in a brief filed with the nation's highest court.

"Even while recognizing that the constitutionality of voter identification laws is a significant question that may eventually need review, the 29-page brief filed this week urges the court to deny a petition for certiorari."

While it would probably crimp Todd Rokita's travel plans for the next few months, perhaps we should consider erring on the side of, you know, the people and their franchise instead of cooling our heels for another year.

Just a thought.

Double Standard? Guv Helpless On Some Tax Laws, Tinkers With Others

Gasnozzle1While we're talking about the Guv's sudden emergence on the property tax stage, can anyone explain why he couldn't do anything about gas prices because of the way the law was crafted, but he can step in and extend a statutory deadline for adjusting county income tax rates?

It seems to TDW that the gas sales tax issue, especially with prices at the pump once again on the rise, affects just as many, if not more, people than the property tax. (Admittedly, the property tax issue is hurting a smaller group in a more fiscally noticeable way.)

If the Guv is going to call a special session to address one tax issue, maybe it would be a good time for lawmakers to give him the authority to address another one.

Just one of those thoughts on the side.

Be Bold, Guv: Look Beyond Carter's Hackery To Gas Sales Tax Relief

Gaspump1The Gary Post-Tribune thinks the Guv should keep pushing on the gasoline sales tax issue, despite a requested advisory opinion from Attorney General Steve Carter stating that the law doesn't allow for the suspension of the tax:

"Because Carter's ruling isn't binding, we encourage Daniels to continue pursuit of the issue. Gasoline in Northwest Indiana topped $3.50 a gallon a month ago. Although it has fallen back to $3 a gallon -- still a staggering figure -- some oil-industry analysts are predicting it could reach $4 a gallon by year's end.

"The sales tax on gasoline is punitive in that Hoosier motorists also pay an excise tax on every gallon purchased. Indiana is one of seven states with a sales tax on gasoline. And, as the cost of gasoline soars, the money collected from the sales tax provides a windfall for state coffers at the expense of the motorists who not only are paying more in tax, but also more for gasoline.

"House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, last year argued that gasoline is no different from groceries and prescription drugs -- all are necessities. He argued that we should treat gasoline the same as groceries and drugs -- which aren't taxed. He has a point.

"Elimination of the tax would save motorists about $200 annually, while costing the state up to $300 million.

"Although elimination of the tax isn't wise at this point, a temporary suspension or reduction of the tax is something Daniels should consider, regardless of what Carter had to say."

Run For Cover: Carter Says Guv Can't Do Anything About Gas Sales Tax

Gasnozzle1Who didn't see this coming from three miles away?

Talking points: "Gosh, y'all, I'd love to help out with the gas sales tax, but I just can't, ya see."

"An Indiana governor does not have the power under a 1981 state law to suspend the sales tax on gasoline, according to a letter issued by the attorney general's office Thursday.

"Gov. Mitch Daniels, who has rejected several requests in the past two years to suspend the gas sales tax because of high prices, sought the legal advice last month.

"Mark Massa, Daniels' general counsel, said then that his legal interpretation the 1981 law that former Gov. Frank O'Bannon used to temporarily suspend the tax in 2000 would not allow Daniels to do the same.

"But the administration was researching whether a threshold for declaring an 'energy emergency' under that 1981 law was being met now, and it asked the attorney general's office for a legal opinion on whether a governor could suspend the gas sales tax under that law.

"The 1981 law allows a governor to declare an energy emergency. That's defined as an 'existing or projected shortfall of at least 8 percent of motor fuel or other energy sources that threatens to seriously disrupt energy supplies or diminish energy supplies to the extent that life, health or property may be jeopardized.'

"The law says if that threshold is met and an emergency declared, the governor can implement programs, controls, quotas or curtailments to affect the conservation or consumption of energy. O'Bannon relied on language that said a governor also could 'suspend the provisions of any state statute regulating transportation ....'"

Renewal Notice? Attorney General Puts Insider Contract Out For Bid

Money_2Attorney General Steve Carter has put out a request for proposals for tort litigation services. Those who follow this kind of thing will recall that the initial contract, which was issued in March 2005, went to John Lewis, a deputy attorney general who was working for Carter when he won the bid.

After outsourcing his job to himself, Lewis established his own firm, Lewis and Wilkins. That firm has since added Marion County Republican Chair Tom John's last name to the letterhead.

Cozy, eh? We'll see if Carter renews the contract or looks elsewhere for outside counsel.

Here's an excerpt from the original Star story:

"Attorney General Steve Carter has awarded a $1.3 million, two-year contract to one of his deputies, who bid on and won the job while he was still working for Carter.

"Now, lawyer John Lewis, who was chief of the tort litigation division, will continue to defend the state in lawsuits but will do so from his new private firm, Lewis and Wilkins.

"According to Lewis' bid for the contract, his firm also would be made up of at least three other former staffers with the attorney general's tort litigation office.

"The move has raised questions about Carter's decision to outsource tort litigation to one of his former deputies, and whether he took appropriate steps to screen Lewis from the bidding process.

"Carter said outsourcing tort litigation would save his office more than $370,000 over two years because 12 employee positions would be eliminated or shifted to other departments. Had the work not been shifted to the private sector, the attorney general's office predicted, tort litigation would cost the state $1.67 million over the next two years.

"Lewis, who earned $88,526 in salary and benefits while working for the state, had a leg up on the competition for this work.

"He managed the division that was being outsourced -- and provided factual reports about tort litigation to the team drafting the request for proposals. He had worked with those on the team that evaluated the bids. And the request for bids was narrowly written; only one other firm competed for the work.

"'It certainly raises red flags,' said Julia Vaughn, policy director of the watchdog group Common Cause/Indiana."

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