Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Text of Yesterday's Press Conference of the Libertarian Party of Marion County on Possible Use of Taxpayer Money for Political Activity

Following a money trail that includes the Marion County Health Dept, Clarian Health Partners, the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians, and Smoke Free Indy

Text from the Libertarian Party of Marion County’s press conference, held today (11/16/09).

Timothy Maguire: As we all know, Smoke Free Indy is “a coalition…dedicated to reducing secondhand smoke, tobacco usage and tobacco initiation through education, prevention and advocacy.” As far as we can tell, their chief spokeswoman, Lindsay Grace, is actually employed by Indiana Academy of Family Physicians. We also know that Smoke Free Indy’s activities as of late have included political activity, including putting out negative public comments about both Republican Mayor Ballard and the Libertarian Party. And as I have not heard any negative comments from them about the Democrat Party, I could only assume they were involved in partisan political activities. We have also heard that Lindsay Grace, who again, is employed by the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians, has been heavily lobbying members of the City-County Council to pass the specific public proposal 371.

Remarkably, even with what they proclaim themselves to be, Smoke Free Indy is not your standard advocacy group. As far as we can tell, they are not a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, a registered lobbying group, or even a 527. It simply a unincorporated group of around 30 organizations, including Clarian Health, the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians, the Marion County Health Department, and others.

Because of Abdul’s reporting, we have now also learned that Smoke Free Indy has received up to $86,000 of taxpayer money to fund its activities. This $86,000 in taxpayer money comes from Indiana tobacco settlement dollars. Based on the information Abdul has published, we find that Indiana dolls out tobacco settlement dollars, and one of those agencies that distributes money is Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation. Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation gives money to the Marion County Health Department. The Marion County Health Department gives money to the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians and Clarian Health Partners. Clarian has a contract to promote anti-tobacco activities, but as far as we can tell, the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians is the home office for the unincorporated Smoke Free Indy on Monument Circle and employs Smoke Free Indy’s staff, including Lindsey Grace.

The reason I stand here today is that, based on this information, we are concerned about the possibility that there may have been improprieties committed by Smoke Free Indy as well as Lindsay Grace and the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians. In a few moments I will be asking our County Prosecutor, Carl Brizzi, to investigate this matter to see if there HAVE been improprieties, and if so, to prosecute the responsible parties fully under the law.

Later today I will also be filing a complaint with the Indiana State Board of Accounts, and will be asking them to look into potential state violations and we are exploring filing a federal complaint to see if there have been any Hatch Act violations by Smoke Free Indy’s organizational partners.

If Smoke Free Indy and their associated coalition members have not committed any improprieties, and we hope they have not, then the facts will bear that out. But if either Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, the State Board of Accounts or federal authorities find anything peculiar during their investigation, I will then ask Council President Bob Cockram to investigate what role any Councilors may have played in Smoke Free Indy’s attempt to push forward political legislation and sanction them accordingly.

1 comment:

Barry Campbell said...

Reading strictly from this press release, it appears that, based on an extremely tenuous connection between taxpayer money and Lindsay (or is it Lindsey?) Grace, the LPMC would seek enforcement of rules restricting her freedom of speech.

Additionally, far too much general information is left in doubt. Is Grace employed by the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians, yes or no? Has Grace made any negative statements about the Democratic Party? Is Grace lobbying the City-County Council? The release uses indefinite phrases like “as far as we can tell,” “I have not heard,” “I could only assume” and, “We have also heard.” And that is in just the first paragraph.

While the Party is requesting rules regarding advocacy groups to be applied, we admit they are not a standard advocacy group. Then there is another “as far as we can tell.” Smoke Free Indy either is or is not a 501(c)(3) corporation, is or is not a registered lobbying group, is or is not a 527. Then the Party admits Smoke Free Indy is simply an unincorporated group of organizations. Regardless, I fail to see what is remarkable about any of that.

Then we learn that the charges are based on the report of a radio talk show host. That sounds as convincing as the Republican party making accusations based on what Rush Limbaugh reports (no offense, Abdul, but the Party should have verified what it could before making any charges).

Then the statement explains that the money in question comes from the tobacco settlement without explaining how that money could also be considered taxpayer money. Not all state spending is funded by taxes.

That the whole thing appears to be based on negative comments made by Grace towards the Libertarian Party will likely impress the casual observer as a knee-jerk, sour-grapes type of reaction.

All in all, this statement seems little less schizophrenic than the one proposing a solution to the CIB budget shortfall. In that one, the Party first denies part of the shortfall (that part having to do with the Pacers and Conseco Fieldhouse), then goes on to support higher fees on visitors/events, not just at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Convention Center, but Conseco Fieldhouse and Victory Field as well. The Indians and Victory field were, in fact, never a part of the shortfall.

No less hypocritical, the Party then supported a casino. Apparently, state-supported sports are bad, but, somehow, state-supported gambling is okay?

Returning to the current release, I would think, more often than not, we would be backing free speech, not political restrictions.