Archive for February 2, 2012
I am not an attorney but in reporting news and covering justice issues, I can tell when something stinks and there is a smell coming from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. The stench comes largely as a result of Ted Oberg’s reports on KTRK-TV about the Grand Jury Investigation into the office of Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos. While Lykos did not get indicted, there is a more sinister and disturbing report. Lykos denied investigating the very Grand Jury that was sworn to look into her office but she did…she abused her power.
Since I am not a lawyer, I draw my conclusions from those with an understanding of the system. One of those people is Murray Clark whose blog I follow frequently. ABOUT MURRAY CLARK: I’m a Criminal Defense Attorney and a former Harris County prosecutor. I’ve been involved in Criminal Law since I was in college, and I’ve been practicing in Houston for over 11 years. Most people never have to come down to the Harris County Criminal Justice Center unless they have jury duty. This blog is meant to give the Outsider an inside view. These are just my opinions.
The long story short is that despite Lykos’ triumphant “Hey I didn’t get indicted!” press conference yesterday, where she denied investigating the 185th Grand Jurors, she, in fact did. On SATURDAY, October 22nd, First Assistant Jim Leitner called Chief Investigator Don McWilliams at home and ordered him to run all the background information he could on the Grand Jurors. On SATURDAY, October 29th, that investigation expanded into researching not only the Grand Jurors, but also Judges Marc and Susan Brown, and Judge Mike Anderson.
Lykos’ response is that this is not an investigation. I guess that would depend on what your definition of “is” is, wouldn’t it? Or something like that. I’m sure that Lykos supporters will once again scoff at the paranoia behind this story and how it really is no big deal, but to them, I will once again pose the following question: If any other Defendant or subject of an investigation was caught researching the men and women of a sitting Grand Jury or Jury, would there be a cause for concern or at least an air of potential retaliation in the works?
What exactly differentiates that type of behavior when the District Attorney is the one doing it as opposed to a “common criminal”?
ANSWER: Absolutely nothing.
For Lyko’s part, check out this statement from the official District Attorney’s website:
Response to the Statement
Issued by the 185th Grand Jury Foreman
In 2008 I was elected to reform the Harris County District Attorney’s office. With the team I brought in and the many extraordinary people in the office, we have accomplished that goal. We restored professionalism and ethics, and brought transparency to the office. A few years ago, the Department of Public Safety notified us that a contract employee, who was supervising breath-alcohol machines, was not testing them on a set schedule. This involved hundreds of cases. We immediately notified all the defendants and their lawyers who had active and disposed cases, and further informed all the courts. We demonstrated good faith and transparency then and now.
What this politically motivated investigation has done is an outrage. It is an abuse of power and corruption of the criminal justice system. For months this office has been hounded, and there was a torrent of grand jury leaks to the news media and blogs. A DWI defense attorney who represents the “star witness” informed one of the County Commissioners that he was being subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury–such subpoenas are secret under the law. This same lawyer is actively supporting my opponent. And in fact, he inserted himself in the foreman’s press conference today.
The entanglements of certain participants are well known and documented, as are their relationships with the Old Regime and with my previous and current opponents. I will not let the honor and reputation of this office and of me personally be slandered and libeled. When allegations were first raised about Intoxilyzer test results, there were pending cases against accused DWI drivers. To proceed with these cases, I had to be assured that the test results were reliable–expert testimony is introduced in my name. We issued two Brady Notices and requested that the Department of Public Safety test the BAT-van Intoxilyzers under the conditions the technician described. The DPS found the reservations the technician had were without merit. Now these cases will be litigated in open court under rules of evidence.
The foreman of the grand jury faults persons in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for “unexpected resistance” to the grand jury’s investigation. This is a remarkable statement. When the District Attorney’s Office was barred from the grand jury room in October of 2011 with no explanation provided from the grand jurors or the court, this Office invoked its constitutional authority to prosecute and its statutory authority to participate in the grand jury proceedings. To do otherwise would have been an abdication of our constitutional duties. It was only after this office sought admittance into the grand jury proceedings that any explanation was provided. Had the grand jury been forthcoming about the subject matter of the investigation at the outset, it would have been easier for all parties to address the issue in a timely and cooperative manner consistent with principles of grand jury secrecy.
After the investigation was announced, this office did not impede the grand jury’s investigation. As an entity, this office was fully cooperative with the grand jury. Harris County leads the nation in DWI-related fatality accidents. HPD Chief Charles McClelland and I are committed to working together to change that. Despite repeated public insinuations to the contrary, there was no criminal conduct in the operation of the HPD BAT-vans, nor was there suppression of evidence. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has long been eager to share what we know with the public. Now that the grand jury’s proceedings have ended, we will be responding—vigorously. In the days to come, our website—HarrisCountyDA.com—will feature a new section devoted to setting the record straight. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is confident that anyone willing to review the full set of facts, in an unbiased and fair-minded manner, will conclude we have acted responsibly and with integrity in every respect.
In my humble opinion, there is considerable paranoia on the part of D.A. Pat Lykos. The people don’t really care about her political opposition as much as we do the integrity of the criminal justice system which has its share of noted problems. She was not indicted which could have been a cause for celebration I suppose and assured us the air was clear but her stealth actions in investigating the people sworn to investigate her gives me no choice but to now suggest that I have no confidence in Pat Lykos and that’s a real shame.
I don’t like politicians who abuse their power. I have been a fan of Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos (R) until now. Lykos was elected to clean up a mess left by previous District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal who was caught screwing around on his wife, allegations of substance abuse and a myriad of professional problems that saddled the prosecutor’s office. Lykos was a breath of fresh air but now, it seems that breath is becoming a bit stale. What has been a largely successful career has gone south lately with a Grand Jury investigation into potentially faulty DWI test evidence from the Houston Police Department.
KTRK-TV reports that the Harris County District Attorney claims she’s been persecuted by political opponents and local media after a six-month grand jury investigation closed Tuesday without any indictments. District Attorney Pat Lykos had some harsh words about how she says her office was treated and portrayed in the investigation. Lykos went before the cameras in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
These grand jurors were supposed to answer a relatively simple question — who knew what when about potentially faulty DWI test evidence from HPD BAT vans and whether anyone committed a crime. “They saw something they thought was of concern to the citizens. They investigated it — they did it in good faith,” said Jim Mount, special prosecutor to the grand jury. This criminal investigation has been unfolding for months, much of it behind closed doors in the grand jury room. The grand jurors ended their six-month investigation without an indictment — neither Lykos nor any of her assistants ended up in a mug shot. But the picture grand jurors paint of the DA’s office isn’t pretty.
When we asked the grand jury foreperson, Trisha Pollard, about saying the DA’s office is left with a “stain” after the criminal investigation, she replied, “That’s our opinion.” Pollard was quiet in front of cameras, but not shy in a written statement, which read, “Our attempts to initiate our investigation were met with unexpected resistance from persons in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Nothing prepared us for the events that unfolded.” Later Tuesday, the DA struck back. “It is more than enough time that this pall that has hung over our office is removed,” Lykos said. “This politically motivated investigation — I would submit to you — is an outrage, it’s an abuse of power and a corruption of the criminal justice system.”
Her team made that allegation all along, but Tuesday was the first time Lykos talked about that. The grand jurors denied it. But on a day when everyone seemed to be talking about a secret process, it wasn’t the last allegation we have to examine. Grand jurors Tuesday said they were followed, investigated and photographed by Lykos’ employees.
Jim Mount, Special Prosecutor: It was a senior investigator at the DA’s office.
Ted Oberg: What exactly were they charged with?
Mount: Looking to see if there was any reason to believe there was a political motivation to the grand jury’s request to conduct an investigation.
Lykos denied it. “I know nothing of that, I certainly didn’t authorize it,” said Lykos. Think about that allegation — county employees ordered to investigate the motivations of grand jurors.
Oberg: Did you feel intimidated?
Trisha Pollard: No.
Oberg: Then why did they do it?
Pollard: Unnecessary harassment.
But the grand jury wasn’t done there. When we asked Harris Co. Assistant District Attorney Rachel Palmer why she pleaded the Fifth back in December, she replied, “That’s not an appropriate question.” The grand jury’s written statement Tuesday concludes Palmer was legally within her rights to plead the Fifth, but morally wrong. Grand jurors said it distracted their investigation and they wrote, “the stain upon the Harris County District Attorney’s Office will remain regardless of any media statements issued or press conferences performed by anyone.”
Lykos took to Shakespeare to parry that thrust. “If there a stain, it is on the people who demagogued this issue, and as Lady MacBeth found out, it will be tough to wipe that spot out,” Lykos said. One of those critics is attorney Chip Lewis who represents the BAT van whistle blower. On Tuesday, Lewis said all of this could have been avoided if Lykos simply spoke up when she knew about the problems. “She chose not to do that. And all this — all this pain and embarrassment — can be attributed to that ineptitude,” Lewis said. KTRK recently reported that HPD’S BAT vans are being phased out and the grand jury took some credit for those “positive changes in the enforcement of DWIs in Harris County” in Tuesday’s letter.
As if the BAT van mess is not bad enough, the controversy doesn’t stop there. Ted Oberg, Investigative Reporter for KTRK says that after an aggressive denial, now there is news that the Harris County District Attorney did in fact look into the secret grand jury charged with investigating her office. It’s the latest chapter in the DA saga. With harsh words, Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos claimed victory after that grand jury ended its six-month probe of her office without any indictments on Tuesday. But one day later, it’s the DA’s examination of those grand jury members that’s causing some controversy.
We’re faced with a question of just what an investigation is. One day after the DA told all of you she knew nothing of an investigation into grand jurors, she admits she ordered an investigator to look into grand jurors. She just doesn’t call it an investigation. Grand jurors said nothing prepared them for what unfolded after they launched their investigation of the DA’s office. “I think the District Attorney’s Office always wrongly believed that this was politically motivated,” said Jim Mount, Grand Jury Special Prosecutor. Just hours after the grand jury told us they were investigated by the DA, the DA denied it.
DA Pat Lykos: I know nothing of that. I certainly didn’t authorize the investigation. And, you know, give me a name.
Ted Oberg: I think they said a senior investigator. I don’t know how many of those you have, but what have you done this afternoon to make sure none of your senior investigators engaged in that.
Lykos: I called our chief investigator and asked him.
Oberg: What did he say?
Lykos: He said no investigation was conducted on the grand jury.
Only after we told Lykos what we learned today, she told us she didn’t order an investigation, but did order in her words “a cursory internet search… to learn if there was a political motivation behind the attacks” on her office. No matter what she calls it, here’s what we know about what was ordered. According to sources, on Saturday, October 22, 2011 the DA’s chief investigator was called while off duty. He was told by the DA’s first assistant, Jim Leitner, to collect information on members of the grand jury themselves — specifically the foreperson, Trisha Pollard, and another member who shared a last name, but no relation with DWI defense attorney Mark Theissen.
“This suggests a conflict of interests. You’re interfering with the process. You’re misusing your authority,” said KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy. A week later, on Saturday, October 29, sources confirmed the chief investigator was called again and told to expand the scope of his examination to include the special prosecutors, the judge in the case Susan Brown, and her husband, and a potential Lykos political opponent Mike Anderson and his wife. Sources tell us the investigator was told the orders were coming from the boss — meaning Lykos — and she wanted to know what political motives the grand jury might have to look into her. “This politically motivated investigation — I would submit to you — is an outrage, it’s an abuse of power and a corruption of the criminal justice system,” Lykos said on Tuesday.
Remember, the district attorney said she knew nothing of the investigation into the grand jury. And maybe she forgot. But a few minutes before she denied the investigation of grand jurors she reminded us why she took office. “I was elected to reform the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. And with the team I brought in and with the extraordinary people in the office, we have accomplished that goal. We restored professionalism and ethics to the office and brought transparency,” Lykos said.
On Wednesday afternoon, only after we told DA Pat Lykos what we were going to report, we got a statement instead of an interview. She sent us a statement reading, in part, “At my request, (Chief Investigator Don) McWilliams did a cursory Internet search. Investigations involve obtaining confidential information, accessing law enforcement databases, surveillance or interviewing witnesses such as friends or associates, etc.” That investigator said in a statement, “What I did does not remotely approach the level of what I would consider an investigation. It was a cursory review of information that exists in the public domain.”
You can read the DA’s statement as well as the investigator’s statement here.
The grand jury investigation stemmed from problems with the DWI testing equipment, also known as BAT vans. KTRK exposed problems with the BAT vans back in March 2011. A grand jury was convened to determine who knew what and when about potentially faulty DWI test evidence from those BAT vans, and whether anyone committed a crime. On Tuesday, grand jurors wrapped the investigation without any indictments.
Chicago, Illinois this afternoon.
NFL stars have super homes
Both current and former NFL players have put their homes on the market; one is listed for a whopping $35 million
Madonna at today’s press conference at the J.W. Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.
Columbus, Indiana is a Superbowl host site, 40 miles south of downtown Indianapolis, the city has some fame in it’s own right. World renowned for it’s architecture featured on the CBS News Program Sunday Morning, the city of 60,000 is also home to Fortune 500 Diesel engine maker Cummins but while Indianapolis is focused on Superbowl activities, Columbus is featured on, at least the rumors of, celebrities staying in the community in advance of the big game.
Sources in Columbus say that actor Johnny Depp has been spotted in the downtown area, not completely unlikely as Depp may be staying at the swanky Hotel Indigo. Columbus happens to be the hotel chain’s smallest market so it seems logical…at least. Because Columbus is close in proximity to Indianapolis, the cities airport north of town is also a gateway for some of the rich and famous. Excitement continues to build around the Superbowl and even this journalist is excited about Madonna’s half-time performance. Perhaps its because we are the same age or maybe I just still like her music but the Material Girl promises to rock the house at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Madonna gathers quite a crowd. On Tuesday, the music icon met with a room packed with media for the first time to address her forthcoming performance at the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I have to say that over 25 years of performing, I’ve never worked so hard or been so scrupulous or detail-oriented,” she said from the JW Marriott Downtown. “I’m really excited to be here. I feel very welcomed. I’ve been inside the stadium, and the stadium is great. I just keep pinching myself.”
The singer wouldn’t divulge many details regarding her impending show, though she did say she’ll play three old songs and one new one. She was also asked if a wardrobe malfunction was on her conscious. Madonna prepped four songs during a five-hour rehearsal Wednesday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, according to sources involved in the production. Madonna worked on renditions of “Vogue,” “Music,” new single “Give Me All Your Luvin’ ” and “Like a Prayer.” “Great attention to detail, and I can guarantee there won’t be anything like that.”
She added that she was hoping to dedicate Sunday’s performance to her father. “He’s the personification of Midwestern values,” she said. “This might be the the thing he’s most excited about that I’ve ever done.” The singer also admitted to a few nerves for Sunday’s big performance. “I do feel the pressure,” she said. “I want people to be knocked off their seats. I hope the show is a feast for the eyes and a feast for the ears.”
John Goodman, shown with attorneys Mark Shapiro, left, and Guy Fronstin, is released from the Palm Beach County Jail in West Palm Beach on May 19, 2010. Photo: Gary Coronado, Houston Chronicle / The Palm Beach Post
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida — (DMN/WPTV) – In the strangest wrinkle yet in a legal drama that pits the state of Florida and a car crash victim against a polo-obsessed Houston millionaire, the girlfriend of John Goodman is now his daughter. The heir to an air-conditioning fortune, Goodman, 48, has legally adopted 42-year-old Heather Laruso Hutchins, whom he has been dating since 2009. The adoption, which took place in October 2011 but was not publicly disclosed until Tuesday, potentially allows Hutchins to control a third of the assets of a trust fund he set up for his two other children.
A Florida judge called the action “surreal” and a step into a “legal twilight zone” in a recent related ruling. The purpose of the adoption, however, is likely rooted in practical financial matters. Because of her age, Hutchins can avoid the legal stipulation that does not allow beneficiaries to take from the fund until they are 35. Whether the move could have any effect on a civil trial brought by the parents of Scott Wilson, killed in a collision with Goodman’s Bentley in February 2010, is uncertain. An engineering graduate, Wilson was 23 when Goodman allegedly ran a stop sign and knocked Wilson’s car into a drainage ditch. He drowned.
Wilson’s parents filed a wrongful death suit against Goodman that is set for trial in late March. The state has charged Goodman with vehicular homicide, claiming that Goodman had a blood alcohol content more than twice the legal limit when he allegedly ran a stop sign and ran into Wilson. That trial, too, is scheduled for March. Goodman, also charged with driving under the influence manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident, faces up to 30 years in prison.
Florida Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley ruled in October 2011 that the civil jury should not be told of the trust fund, saying it might encourage jurors to impose a larger financial penalty than they would otherwise, even though Goodman has no access to the irrevocable trust. A jury award inflated by awareness of the trust might end up bankrupting Goodman, the judge ruled, and that would violate Florida law. Lawyers for Lili and William Wilson have appealed that ruling.
How the adoption might affect the exposure of Goodman’s assets to a potential jury award is unclear, as the trust money already is off limits. It’s also a matter of speculation whether a future probate court will recognize Hutchins as a legitimate trust beneficiary. Kelley said that for the purposes of the civil trial, he will recognize the adoption as legitimate. One effect that seems apparent is that Goodman has the potential to achieve some immediate benefit of the money set aside for his children. The trust reportedly requires disbursement of 70 percent of the sum to which the beneficiary is entitled once they turn 35. “By way of this adoption, John Goodman now effectively owns one third of the trust assets,” the William Wilsons’ attorney, Scott Smith, told the Palm Beach Post. “It cannot go unrecognized that he chose to adopt his 42-year-old adult girlfriend as opposed to a needy child.”
John Goodman’s attorney has released a statement regarding Goodman’s adoption of his adult girlfriend Heather Colby Hutchins:
In response to numerous media inquiries regarding the JBG Children’s Trust and Mr. Goodman’s adoption of Heather Colby Hutchins, his attorney, Daniel M. Bachi of Sellars, Marion & Bachi, P.A., has issued the following statement:
It should be obvious to everyone that at the present time Mr. Goodman’s continued availability to ensure that the Trust’s assets grow and continue to provide benefits for his children is uncertain.
Nothing in this arrangement with Ms. Hutchins is illegal. Everything that has been done by Mr. Goodman was done with the intention to preserve and grow the assets of the Trust for his two minor children, even should he personally be unable to continue his historical role in achieving these goals.
The adoption of Ms. Hutchins will have no effect on the civil proceedings as none of the assets of his children’s Trust belong to Mr. Goodman. All of the assets of the Trust have been disclosed to all parties in the current civil proceedings, so any allegation of hiding or secreting of assets is totally false.
Mr. Goodman cannot have a beneficial interest in the Trust nor can he derive financial benefit from the Trust. The legal adoption of Ms. Hutchins does not change that in any way.
By making Ms. Hutchins a beneficiary of the trust, Mr. Goodman provided her with the status and ability to protect the closely held family assets that only this adoption could give her.
Mr. Goodman established the JBG Children’s Trust in 1991and made a cash gift to the Trust that year of just over $1.5 million for the benefit of his children. The money came from his separate assets under a valid Premarital Agreement. At no time did his then wife, Carroll, or any member of Carroll’s family contribute assets or funds to the Trust.
Within seven years, the assets of the trust had grown to more than $100 million because of the extraordinary increase in the value of Goodman Manufacturing Corp. stock under John’s management, and his management of other Special
Holdings in the Trust. At present the assets of the Trust amount to several hundred million dollars.
When JBG selected Bessemer Trust Company in 2009 to act as a Trustee, Bessemer agreed to keep the management team that had grown and protected these holdings in place for many years. Instead, Bessemer took steps to change management of these holdings, which have significant financial and intangible value to the children.
Consequently, Mr. Goodman lost confidence in the ability of Bessemer to manage the Trust in the interests of his children. By making Ms. Hutchins a beneficiary of the Trust, he ensured that Bessemer cannot disregard her.
Mr. Goodman has placed his trust in Ms. Hutchins to continue his vision and provide oversight, should he become unavailable to do so, for the growth and preservation of the Trust assets for the benefit of his two minor children.
A separate contract between Mr. Goodman and Ms. Hutchins assures that 95% of the assets of the Trust ultimately will go to his two minor children. The contract provides funds to take care of Ms. Hutchins and her family and to compensate her for the large undertaking of overseeing such a complex and closely held family business.
The PALM BEACH POST and the HOUSTON CHRONICLE contributed this report.
In 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama proposed legislation that would have required all presidential candidates to disclose information about supporters who raised at least $50,000 for their campaigns during the two-year period prior to Election Day. That legislation was never adopted, but as a presidential candidate Obama voluntarily released certain information about his top fundraisers. Obama has continued that practice as he revs the financial engine of his re-election campaign. Between April and the end of September, the Obama campaign released the names of 357 bundlers who had collected at least $50,000 to benefit him and the Democratic National Committee. Together, these elite moneymen (and women) raised at least $55.9 million — or about $8 out of every $25 added to Obama’s account during that time.
Bundlers often receive special treatment because of their ability to raise big money. Obama, in fact, elevated some two dozen bundlers to serve as ambassadors during his first year in office. Current law requires candidates only to release the names of bundlers who are registered federal lobbyists; that statute was adopted in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. No candidate on the Republican side of the aisle has gone beyond the law and joined Obama in voluntarily disclosing information about his or her other bundlers. (Ron Paul’s presidential campaign says it doesn’t use bundlers, as OpenSecrets Blog previously reported). Republicans Rick Perry and Tim Pawlenty each disclosed exactly one lobbyist-bundler last year. Mitt Romney has disclosed eight, who collectively have raised nearly $1 million for his campaign.Obama does not have any lobbyists bundling money for him, and his policy is to refund any money donated to his campaign by a lobbyist.
Learn more about the bundlers active in the 2012 presidential race in the infographic below:
Secrecy Shrouds ‘Super PAC’ Funds in Latest Filings
The New York Times reports that Newly disclosed details of the millions of dollars flowing into political groups are highlighting not just the scale of donations from corporation and unions but also the secrecy surrounding “super PACs” seeking to influence the presidential race. Some of the money came from well-established concerns, like Alpha Natural Resources, one of the country’s largest coal companies, which is backing Republican-aligned American Crossroads, or from the Service Employees International Union, a powerful union allied with Democrats, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Some came from companies closely identified with prominent industrialists or financiers, like Contran, a mammoth holding company controlled by the Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, a patron of a number of conservative groups and candidates, and Blue Ridge Capital, a New York hedge fund founded by the wealthy investor John A. Griffin, a supporter of Mitt Romney. But some checks came from sources obscured from public view, like a $250,000 contribution to a super PAC backing Mr. Romney from a company with a post office box for a headquarters and no known employees. President Obama continues to outraise all of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination by large margins when it comes to money that goes directly into campaign coffers. But the money race is increasingly focused on outside groups that are legally not allowed to coordinate directly with campaigns but pay for advertising and other activities that support particular candidates.
Most of the money disclosed this week went to independent groups supporting Republicans, giving them an enormous money advantage over similar Democratic groups in the first phase of the 2012 election cycle. Such donations were made possible by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 and subsequent court rulings, which opened the door to unlimited corporate and union contributions to political committees and made it possible to pool that money with unlimited contributions from wealthy individuals. But the full scope of such giving is impossible to ascertain from federal campaign filings: Much of the money raised by the leading Republican and Democratic independent groups went into affiliated nonprofit organizations that are more restricted in how they can spend the money but do not have to disclose their donors.
The contributions have already helped the Republican Party’s elite donor class, who increasingly favor Mr. Romney, regain some control over the party’s nominating process. Many of the party’s top givers sent checks to Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney group, underwriting an advertising campaign that battered Mr. Romney’s Republican rivals even as Mr. Romney himself struggled to win the trust of the party’s restive conservative base. Mr. Romney, who assailed Newt Gingrich in Florida last week for “working as a lobbyist and selling influence around Washington,” also got a major boost from some of the Republican Party’s top corporate lobbyists, who raised more than a million dollars in checks for Mr. Romney’s campaign during the last three months of 2011.
Mitt Romney campaigned Wednesday in Eagan, Minn. Mr. Romney has received heavy support from outside groups with limited accountability.
Patrick Durkin, a lobbyist for Barclay’s, raised over $400,000 in contributions. Bruce A. Gates, a lobbyist for Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, raised $275,000. And Austin Barbour, a Mississippi lobbyist and nephew of the state’s former governor, Haley Barbour, raised $210,700 in contributions. Restore Our Future raised at least $5.8 million from corporations during the last six months of last year, along with $12.2 million from individuals. American Crossroads raised $4.6 million from corporations and $7 million from individuals. Priorities USA and two other Democratic-leaning super PACs raised about $1,835,000 from individuals, $1.3 million from political action committees affiliated with labor unions and other groups, and about $415,700 from other organizations.
Groups supportive of each party employed a technique that allows them to cloak the identities of many of their donors. Those groups, including Crossroads and Priorities USA, have affiliates that are organized as nonprofit organizations known as 501(c)(4) groups, which can raise unlimited money but do not have to reveal their donors. Donors wishing to remain anonymous have the option of making their contributions to those nonprofit groups, which raised tens of millions of dollars in 2011, according to officials at the groups. “While we now know some names of some people giving megabucks, we know nothing about the funders of the nonprofits,” said Ellen S. Miller, the executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for greater transparency in political giving. “We don’t know what we don’t know.”
Even donors who chose not to give via nonprofit affiliates can find ways to guard their identities by giving through a limited liability corporation or other entity that is hard to trace. For example, Restore Our Future received a $250,000 contribution last August from “Glenbrook LLC,” which listed an address on Lagoon Drive in Redwood City, Calif. The suite number provided on Federal Election Commission records matches one occupied by a certified public accounting firm, Seiler LLP. But an official with the firm told a reporter who went to the address that it could not discuss its clients. A search of corporate records revealed at least eight different Glenbrook LLCs around the country. The only one registered with the California secretary of state is located in San Francisco and is connected to a wealth management firm, Monte Vista Management. But Morton Pactor, who manages the firm, said in a telephone interview that his office was not connected to the donation.
The pro-Romney super PAC also accepted a $250,000 check last summer from Paumanok Partners LLC. The donor listed only a post office box in New Canaan, Conn., outside New York City, in campaign finance records. A Paumanok Partners LLC is registered with the New York State Department of State with an address in East Northport, N.Y., but about a dozen different companies appear in phone listings for the address, none of them Paumanok Partners. Other corporate donations, while initially appearing opaque, were easier to trace back to the probable source after combing through corporate records. A contribution of $100,000, for instance, came from “Slocum and Associates” in Salt Lake City, Utah. Records filed with the Utah State Department of Commerce revealed the president of the entity to be Jonathan W. Bullen, a real estate investor who is also owner and president of Provo College, Eagle Gate College and Evolution Fitness. Mr. Bullen was a national finance co-chairman for Mr. Romney’s campaign in 2008. He did not return a call or e-mail seeking comment about his donation.
In another example, “Pita Raleigh LLC” in Salisbury, N.C., contributed $50,000 to the super PAC in late December. Corporate and campaign finance records show the company’s link to Bill Graham, a Salisbury lawyer who personally contributed $50,000 to the Restore Our Future in late June. He did not return a call seeking comment about the donation.
The NEW YORK TIMES contributed to this report.
As Indianapolis hosts this years Superbowl, the future of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is on the minds of fans in the home of the horseshoe. Colts owner Jim Irsay says he plans to sit down with the star quarterback after the Superbowl to discuss his future with the franchise but called the quarterback’s situation “a very complicated medical issue.” If they plan to keep Manning, the NFL’s only four-time most valuable player, the Colts have to pay him $28 million by March 8. They have the No. 1 pick and are in position to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Manning missed the 2011 season recovering from multiple neck surgeries, and reports vary on how far he has come to this point.
“When you try to consult doctors literally worldwide in terms of what are the expectations, what are the dangers, the risks, the aspects of coming back from it, no one can give you a definitive answer,” Irsay said Wednesday. “It’s one of those things where even some of the doctors said if this came up again that it’s going to be something people are going to rely on as trying to have some sort of historic reference medically to look back on. It’s very unusual. It’s been going on for almost a year.” Irsay said he has watched Manning throw but declined to get into specifics or evaluate what he has seen.
“I’ve said from the beginning that it is a two-phase medical aspect,” the owner said. “It is, can he return to play at a really high level, with what his expectations are? That is the only level that he wants to be. Can he drill it in Foxborough in January when it’s 10 degrees outside for 50 yards? Is he going to be back to the Hall of Fame level that he expects to play at? I think the second issue has always been the health and the risk of going back onto the field. So I think there are two separate issues, and they are complicated issues.” Asked if he would be willing to push back the March 8 deadline, Irsay said: “Anything is possible if two parties choose to get together with him. So I don’t think that is something that is impossible by any stretch.”
When Manning wanted to talk after the season, he reached out to Bob Kravitz, a highly respected sports columnist for the Indianapolis Star. It was to Kravitz last week that Manning said, in referring to the Colts’ practice complex: “I’m not in a very good place for healing, let’s say that. It’s not a real good environment down there right now, to say the least. Everybody’s walking around on eggshells. I don’t recognize our building right now. There’s such complete and total change.” Kravitz believes Manning’s 14-year run in Indianapolis is at an end, and that the city is slowly coming to grips with that.
“I think we’re going through the five stages of grief here just as we did when we heard Peyton was going to be out for the season,” he said. “For the longest time, people were in total denial. Now there’s some anger, people saying the media’s trying to run Peyton Manning out of town, and we’re slowly moving into acceptance. “Financially, bringing back Peyton Manning doesn’t make any sense. Competitively, it doesn’t make any sense. The Peyton Manning era is done in Indy, and the only thing you root for is, is he going to be healthy enough to play somewhere else? Although there are going to be a lot of people who’d much rather see him retire than go somewhere else.”
Headed to Indianapolis for the Superbowl? The city thinks it is ready for the onslaught of football fans. The first stop in Indianapolis for a of folks will be the cities new midfield airport terminal which opened in 2008. Indianapolis International located west of downtown is modern, convenient and easy to navigate. Airport workers say they have been preparing for Super Bowl week for more than a year. Safety is their number one priority, but so is the experience for travelers. For many visitors, the Indianapolis Airport is the first and last place they’ll see in the city.
The pilots on inbound flights are trained to say, “Have a super day,” there are kiosks set up with super bowl gear, and hospitality volunteers are on hand at the airport. “The minute people get off the plane they can tell that we are the host city,” said airport spokesperson Carlo Bertolini. 20,000 more passengers than usual will make their way to Indianapolis this week. To add some perspective, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 brought in about 150 private jets. This week 600 private jets will make their way to the Indianapolis Airport for the Super Bowl, and 700 will land at reliever airports.
Workers say there will be temporary air traffic towers at the Indianapolis Regional and Eagle creek reliever airports. Officials say Monday is going to be the super big day. Transportation Security Administration, shops, and restaurants will be open around the clock at the Indianapolis Airport. 23,000 passengers will leave Monday, and the Indianapolis Airport usually handles about 10,000. “We are recommending Monday that passengers get to the airport three hours before their departure time. Checking in online will also save time,” said Bertolini.
Big time security in place for big game
The nation’s top Homeland Security official was in Indianapolis Wednesday, detailing some of the plans to keep fans and visitors safe during Super Bowl festivities. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said there have been no specific or credible threats in against Super Bowl XLVI events, but a high level security plan is in place nonetheless. Napolitano called the Super Bowl a Level 1 national security event. It involves dozens of agencies and thousands of law enforcement offials. But a major part of the security plan involves the public. “We are continuing a partnership with the NFL League (for the) ‘If you see something, say something’ public campaign,” Napolitano said.
The awareness and reporting campaign was first used at Super Bowl XLV in Dallas. “We have seen time and time again that the public itself is some of our best preventers. We could say that about the Times Square bomber in 2010, we can say that about the reported bomber in Spokane, Wash., the reported assassin out of Killeen, Texas,” Napolitano said. Indy’s Super Bowl security plan involves 35 different law enforcement agencies. Walk through downtown, and you will see many of them on the ground and in the air.
Earlier this week IMPD had to overcome two security-related problems. Officers’ radios were not working at one point, and the video wall at the Regional Operations Center crashed. Public Safety Director Frank Straub said those issues have been fixed. In preparation for Sunday’s game, the Department of Homeland Security trained 8,000 stadium staffers and volunteers in what’s called first-observer anti-terrorism and security awareness training. Along with the large police presence downtown, the NFL is adding an additional security force of its own for the game. “We have hired in excess of 3,000 private security and crowd management personnel and staff of private security experts to assist in coordinating the security for this event,” said Jeff Miller, who oversees Super Bowl security for the NFL. Miller said fans going to the game should expect some delays at the security checkpoints. He recommends ticket holders leave all bags, purses and camera cases at home. They will not be allowed into Lucas Oil Stadium.
The NFL released a list of prohibited items for the Super Bowl:
PROHIBITED ITEMS IN LUCAS OIL STADIUM FOR SUPER BOWL XLVI
The following list is a guide only. It is not intended to be all-inclusive.
- Weapons of any kind
- Beach balls
- Poles, Sticks
- Laser lights and pointers
- Containers of any type
- Coolers of any size
- Cans, hairspray
- Camera cases and binocular cases/tripods
- Mace/pepper spray
- Noisemakers, Horns
Cameras and Binoculars – Small cameras and binoculars will be allowed. Camera cases and binocular cases are prohibited. No spectator cameras with lenses longer than six inches will be permitted. Camcorders are prohibited.
Electronic Devices – Spectators are strongly urged not to bring electronic devices into the stadium. Any electronic device will be thoroughly inspected, causing delays for the spectator with the device. Electronic devices include, but are not limited to, camcorders, televisions, radios, and computer tablets.
COLUMBUS, Indiana — (DMN/WISH) – Police in the Central Indiana city of Columbus found a 9mm loaded handgun in a car in a parking lot at the high school that was locked down last week following a report of a student with a gun. Authorities say the two events at Columbus North High School, 45 miles south of Indianapolis, are not related. The COLUMBUS REPUBLIC reported that Dalton Prewitt, 18, was arrested on preliminary charges of possession of a firearm on school property, a Class D felony, and possession of a firearm without a permit, a Class A misdemeanor, after school administrators allegedly found the gun in his vehicle, which was parked in the far north end of the student lot. Police don’t believe he made any threats.
Police say the weapon they found yesterday was not related to the incident last Friday in which a student was accused of having a gun in a Columbus North classroom. Two Columbus high schools were locked down last week when a student was reported to be possibly walking the halls with a gun. Several students told police they saw a firearm. Police have not found a weapon in that case, and the student has not been charged or arrested. David Clark, principal at Columbus North, said there have been a few firearms incidents on school property in the nine years he has been principal, however having two in one year, let alone within a few days of each other, is unusual.
Tampa Bay, Florida this morning.