Tag Archives: Rokita

From Hudnut And Lugar To…Pathetic

In a recent post, I explained my long-ago departure from the Republican Party by sketching the GOP’s transition from a political party into a ragtag collection of culture warriors, con men and moral pygmies.

I’m certainly not the only person who’s noticed: David Brooks–a conservative-but-not-insane columnist for the New York Times recently bemoaned the fact that Republicans have abandoned principled policy debate in favor of fighting culture wars. And Yuval Levin of the American Enterprise Institute has wondered whether we may see a “policy realignment without a partisan realignment” because Republicans have found so many “cultural ways” to attract votes.

One of the many problems with Republicans’ metamorphosis from political partisans to culture warriors (a nice word for White Supremicists)  is the quality–or, more accurately, the absence of quality–of the political figures the party elevates.

Here in Indiana, the GOP is no longer  the party of able, principled people like Bill Hudnut and Richard Lugar. Besmirching the legacy of Lugar’s long and honorable Senate service, we have Mike Braun enabling the worst of Trumpism, and Todd Young obediently protecting billionaires from taxation and gun crazies from regulation.

Both have voted  in lockstep with other Trumpian “ditto heads” in the Senate–against the recent COVID relief package, against confirming Merrick Garland as Attorney General… essentially, against anyone or anything a Democratic President wants.

Neither of them can point to anything positive or important that they’ve accomplished. Their sole “platform” is that they have faithfully enabled  the GOP descent into Trumpian bigotry and culture war. 

Dick Lugar is rolling over in his grave.

And then we have Todd Rokita. I have previously posted about his effort to hold a second, well-paid job while purportedly acting as Indiana’s Attorney General–a full-time job. After the media highlighted that particular scam, Rokita quit that particular private-sector job–but it turns out, that wasn’t the only con he was running.

According to the Indiana Star

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is getting paid $25,000 a year for advising a Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company on top of being compensated by at least one other company for similar work, IndyStar has discovered.

On Wednesday, Rokita filed a financial disclosure form with the Indiana inspector general’s office in which he described his ongoing involvement in 2020 with various companies. He acknowledged being paid by these companies, but his office declined to tell IndyStar how much. 

“We have provided all of the information required to be in compliance with the law,” spokesperson Molly Craft told IndyStar over email.

The financial disclosure comes weeks after Rokita faced scrutiny when it was reported that he was still working for the health care benefits firm Apex Benefits despite taking public office.

The paper reported that Rokita is being compensated by business accelerator Acel360, the Indianapolis-based transportation and logistics company Merchandise Warehouse and a pharmaceutical company, Sonnet BioTherapeutics. It was also able to confirm that he is being compensated by another pharmaceutical company called NanoViricides that he began working with in 2020 (in anticipation of his winning his campaign for AG?). 

Democrats have labeled Rokita a “walking conflict of interest,” and pointed out that–as a “well-known opponent of the Affordable Care Act”  he’s in position to place not just his political ideology but the interests of his private-sector benefactors ahead of the duties his office demands.

Thanks to the fact that the Indiana General Assembly is part-time, members are allowed to keep their “day jobs.” (That situation has pluses and minuses–members arguably bring  deepened understanding of many issues to legislative discussions, but the potential for conflicts of interest is greatly enhanced.) That same permissiveness doesn’t apply to statewide elected positions. Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction and Attorney-General are intended to be full-time jobs.

It would seem obvious to principled people that if they can’t “make it” on the state’s salary, they shouldn’t run for the office. Of course, it would also be obvious to principled people that throwing  dishonest red meat to voters terrified of losing cultural hegemony is a dishonorable way to win an election.

But then, these aren’t principled people.

 

What’s The Matter With Indiana?

Remember Thomas Frank’s book What’s the Matter with Kansas? Unfortunately, it’s not just Kansas. Indiana is governed by Republicans who refuse to believe science–and for that matter, routinely reject any reality inconsistent with an ideology firmly grounded in the 1950s.

Most recently, our embarrassing and self-aggrandizing Attorney General joined the state with others suing the Biden Administration for confronting the threat of climate change.The states we are joining are hardly economic powerhouses: Missouri, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. (A recent study out of Yale describes “low road states” like these as those laboring under  legacies of “conservative governance,” characterized by lower minimum wages, anti-union policies, and underfunded education and infrastructure.)

The lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court in Missouri as a response to President Joe Biden’s sweeping environmental protection order called “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.”

Biden signed the order into action Jan. 20. It set in motion the reversal of a bevy of Trump administration-era policies that promoted economic growth over environmental regulations.

The lawsuit is a stark example of the refusal of far too many lawmakers in too many states to admit that climate change is real, and that it poses an existential threat to civilization–a threat that is daily becoming harder to ignore. It’s hard to know whether the group of Attorneys General who are participating in this lawsuit are truly among the “deniers” or simply pandering to state populations unwilling to confront reality.

It isn’t just our current, unfortunate Attorney General. This year’s session of the Indiana General Assembly offers evidence–if any was needed–that our lawmakers have absolutely no interest in America’s environment, or even in combatting their own state’s high levels of pollution.

Committees have been called the “workhorses” of the Indiana General Assembly, the places where Hoosiers can testify on bills and lawmakers can hash out their differences.

But one committee has been missing in action this year.

The House Environmental Affairs Committee has not met a single time. Not because it didn’t have any legislation assigned to it. Thirteen bills were filed, many dealing with weighty topics.

One would have required preschool and daycare facilities to test for lead and address any high levels that are found. One would have prohibited utilities from keeping contaminating coal ash in unlined ponds where it pollutes groundwater. One would have limited the amount of toxins known as “forever chemicals” in drinking water.

But since the deadline to hear bills from the House has now passed, all of them died without any consideration. And while it’s common for bills to die in committee — most do — it’s unusual for a committee not to meet at all.

As the linked article notes, lawmakers have found time to advance bills making popcorn the official state snack, providing protections for children’s lemonade stands and preventing Indianapolis from changing its name. They just couldn’t be bothered to address the state’s high levels of pollution.

According to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory, using data from 2019, the most recent, Indiana releases more chemicals and pollutants per square mile compared to any other state. And those releases have health implications: EPA data also shows that pollution poses a higher risk to public health in Indiana than in most other states.

If there is one characteristic shared by Indiana’s GOP lawmakers, it is willful ignorance.

Gerrymandering explains why the state’s voters continue to install super-majorities of the retrograde, but there are other reasons so many Hoosiers have only the dimmest understanding of science, economics or the operation of government, including the allocation of governmental authority under federalism. Michael Hicks– director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University–recently pinned Indiana’s multiple problems on lawmakers’ refusal to adequately support education.

Indiana is failing at the single most important thing the state does to ensure a growing economy: educate our children and young adults. Our “Mississippi Strategy” of low taxes, declining educational attainment and huge tax incentives to businesses is finally having an effect. It is precisely what an economic model would predict; declining relative wages, declining productivity and the need to offer even larger incentives to lure employers into our state. That isn’t a strategy any Hoosier should be proud of supporting. But, it is certainly having an effect.

It sure is. What was the lyric in that great Tom Lehrer song about the environment? “Don’t drink the water and don’t breath the air.”

Voting Your Tribe

Anyone who’s ever taken Sociology 101–or history–understands that people react defensively in times of rapid social change. If they perceive the changes as threats to their world-views or economic prospects–and many people do–those defense mechanisms very often include an exaggerated tribalism, a stronger-than-usual identification with the racial or religious or political group to which the person belongs.

The worldwide wave of White Nationalism we are experiencing is one manifestation of this reaction. So is the animosity toward immigrants and the re-emergence of overt racial and religious prejudices.

The election of Donald Trump–itself a manifestation of these attitudes–has given people who harbor racial anxieties permission to be far more public about those attitudes; we’ve seen a spike in hate crimes and the public expression of appalling attitudes toward black and brown people, Muslims, Jews, immigrants…any and all people whose appearance and/or behavior suggests that they aren’t one of “us.”(Whoever “us” may be.)

Tribal attitudes are destructive of democracy in a country as diverse as ours, and they are a real minefield for progressive candidates for public office. 

A new study highlights the challenges politicians face trying to connect with a multilingual citizenry, including the intensely negative reaction voters who only speak English may have when they see Spanish-language political ads.

Two scholars from the University of Chicago and Yale University teamed up to investigate whether Spanish-language political ads can help Republican and Democratic candidates win over bilingual voters. The good news for candidates: These ads likely will help some of them win a little more support from bilinguals. The bad news: If a candidate’s Spanish ad is broadcast to an English-only audience, support could plummet.

The negative response to Spanish-language ads by viewers who spoke only English wasn’t limited to  Republicans or to more conservative voters; the study found the same response from Democrats. English-only participants generally responded negatively to the Spanish ads, with support for the candidate making the spot declining pretty substantially.

The study didn’t delve into motivation, but it is more than plausible that the Spanish-speaking candidates were viewed as somehow less American–as smarty-pants globalists willing to speak to “interlopers”–immigrants from Spanish speaking countries–in their native tongue, rather than demanding that they  speak English like “real” Americans.

Republican candidates, of course, are more willing to exploit and deepen such attitudes. A recent Washington Post article titled “The All-Consuming Tribalism of Trump’s Republican Party in One 30-Second Ad” features Indiana’s own–ugh–Todd Rokita, a perfect specimen of the GOP’s current cohort of despicables.

As metaphors for the Trump-led Republican Party go, it’s difficult to beat Rep. Todd Rokita’s new ad in the Indiana Senate race.

In 30 seconds, the Republican congressman from Indiana discusses no policy issues and says basically nothing besides “I will support Trump the most,” before throwing on a Make America Great Again hat for emphasis.

The ad, titled “MAGA,” is a remarkable little window into how at least one candidate thinks you win in today’s GOP, and Rokita hopes it’s his ticket to the Republican nomination to face Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) next month.

The article notes that Rokita and his opponents have basically turned the primary into a competition over which candidate is the Trumpiest.

Trump has rendered many policy positions negotiable — even with himself — and has turned a Republican Party that was all about conservative purity earlier this decade into one that is more about Trump purity. It’s a party built on personality whose base has stood by Trump, even as he has shrugged off an antagonistic foreign power’s incursion into U.S. elections. It’s a party that almost instantly and universally dismisses every Trump-inspired controversy as unimportant and a media creation — even “fake news.”

So here’s where we are: we’re being asked to vote for the candidate who is most entitled to tribal membership. Republicans are to base that determination not on an avowed commitment to the U.S. Constitution or the rule of law, not on a pledge to pursue the common good or provide ethical leadership, but on a fervent promise to be an obedient sycophant.

The GOP is no longer a political party. It isn’t even a tribe. It’s a cult, and Trump is its “Dear Leader.”

Rokita, Redux

A Facebook friend shared this statement from Indiana congress-critter Todd Rokita:

After many emails, phone calls and letters, as well as meetings with all involved, I’m pleased to announce a long-term solution to low-flow situations along the Tippecanoe River: Late last week, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agreed that NIPSCO, operator of Oakdale Dam, should allow the river to flow more naturally.

My office continues to work on shorter-term ways to alleviate the situation on Lake Freeman — but we find ourselves in this situation due to the Endangered Species Act, which places endangered species, including six species of mussel along the Tippecanoe, ahead of the economic interests and safety of human beings. There is no economic balancing test under the law by design.

The Senate passed it unanimously, and the House passed it 355-4, in 1973. Only one Indiana Congressman, Earl Landgrebe, opposed the law.

Given the situation on Lake Freeman today, would you support repeal of the Endangered Species Act? When I posed that question at my Monticello Town Hall last week, several people raised their hands. Others said no.

What say you?

Well, Congressman, I say that the “economic interests and safety of human beings” is rather obviously connected to the health of the environment, and that protection of the ecosphere is a rather obvious element of environmental health.

I also say that, in sane times, comparing yourself to Earl Landgrebe (most famous quote, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind”) wouldn’t be seen as a particularly helpful career move.