Tag Archives: pence

Carrie Hightman Tied to Bobby Rush Scandal

29 Dec

by Ken Davidson

A new investigation by the Illinois Better Government Association, while not specifically mentioning Hightman, calls the relationship between SBC Illinois and the Office of Congressman Bobby Rush into question. Andy Shaw, President and CEO of the Better Government Association is quick to point out “We’re not suggesting that Rush broke the law, but we are saying the fog needs to be cleared and real answers provided.” SBC Illinois was the donor of the $1M grant to Rush’s non-profit organization. The grant was supposed to build a technology center in Chicago’s troubled Englewood neighborhood. According to reports from the BGA, the center was never built and the money was never accounted for. Shaw calls for an investigation into:

[Rush] maintains the money wasn’t stolen or squandered, but that claim, without verification, doesn’t suffice, so we’re suggesting some options for shining more light on the situation:

The House Ethics Committee can see if Rush crossed any legal or ethical lines in regards to the million-dollar grant, his charity accepting tons of money from regulated companies seeking his legislative help, and his campaign office apparently not paying rent.
The Federal Election Commission can look at whether Rush or his campaign operation violated federal law by apparently accepting free rent, not reporting it as an in-kind donation and possibly exceeding donation limits.
The Internal Revenue Service can investigate the tax implications of all this, including whether Rush’s nonprofit violated the law by wrongly claiming on one disclosure form the tech center had been built, which wasn’t true.
The IRS can also find out if Rush used campaign cash to enhance his personal lifestyle, which is what got former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in trouble.

Any such investigation would obviously focus on whether or not the grantor received anything of value in return for the no strings grant. Regardless of whether there was any impropriety in the transaction, the situation calls into question the professional judgment of Hightman.

Carrie Hightman, the Chair of the Gary P3 Committee, became Chief Legal Office for NiSource in 2007 after serving as CEO of AT&T Illinois, which was formerly SBC Illinois. In a statement released when Hightman joined NiSource, her experience in ” regulatory, legislative, governmental and external affairs activities, as well as community and industry relations, throughout Illinois” were cited. The statement went on to explain:

During her tenure at AT&T, Hightman led the company through a series of important public policy initiatives as AT&T evolved from a traditional telephone company into a provider of diversified communications and entertainment services, including wireline, wireless, data and video services. Under her leadership, AT&T secured unanimous regulatory approval of a landmark agreement to deregulate local telephone service and offer competitive pricing in the metropolitan Chicago market, as well as helped the company return to the long distance telephone market after a twenty-year absence.

The SBC Foundation states that they provide grants of $25,000 to $50,000. The Gazette could find no evidence of any other single grant in any amount near $1M. Additionally, the 990 tax forms submitted by the Rebirth of Englewood Community Development Corporation listed no such contribution, despite a specific question asking about “Unusual Grants.”

28 Unusual Grants: For an organization described in line 10, 11, or 12 that received any unusual grants during 20001hrough 2003, prepare a list for your records
to show, for each year, the name of the contributor, the date and amount of the grant, and a brief description of the nature of the grant. Do not file this list with
your return. Do not include these grants in line 15.
423121 12-03-04 NONE Schedule A (Form BBO or 990-EZ) 2004

Source: http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/364/364078159/364078159_200503_990.pdf
Hightman was instrumental in selecting the contractor that was recently approved by the airport board to run the airport for up to 40 years.  While this information was not disclosed to the airport board, the Gazette has previously reported on the connection between Hightman and one of the companies involved in the partnership that was ultimately selected.

The Better Government Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is not affiliated with the Northwest Indiana Gazette.  You can read the entire BGA article at their website  The Million Dollar Question

A Little Democratic Humor for You

30 Oct

by Ken Davidson


Seems Rich James has forgotten who pays his salary.  Yesterday he angered Lake County Democratic Boss Thomas McDermott by saying he sounded “almost like a republican.”  McDermott, who actually used to be a republican before he decided it was easier to win as a Democrat, fired back via Facebook:

Rich James calls me a Republican in today’s column. This type of protection, of the status quo, is to be expected of an old guard Democrat, like Rich James. Some people would do anything to go back to the glory days, even compromise their values. For those that speak up, off with their heads! Either that, or just label them a Republican

For purposes of full disclosure, I have to admit that someone sent this to me.  You see, Tom McDermott, who heartily criticized Governor Pence over deleting Facebook posts, deletes any Facebook “friend” who disagrees with him on anything.  His page is a veritable love fest of city employees and democrats who live outside the City of Hammond.

No worries though Chairman, James jumped right back into line today and wrote another peace, love and harmony article about your hand-picked Mayor of Crown Point.  No mention of the fact that Aaron McDermott sits on Crown Point’s Economic Development Corporation.

Education Board Member Responds to Ritz Lawsuit

24 Oct

Gazette Staff



Dr. Brad Oliver, a member of the Indiana Board of Education who was recently named in the lawsuit by Glenda Ritz, issued the following statement:


Dear Fellow Indiana Educators,


For over 20 years, I have enjoyed serving children and working alongside some incredibly talented educators in our State. I trust those who have worked with me over the years, or for whom I had the privilege of teaching as a University professor, will attest to my commitment for being a principled leader — a leader who is highly relational and passionate about finding win-win solutions, especially when facing complex challenges.


When I first learned that Governor Pence had appointed me to the State Board of Education, I was both honored and encouraged by the opportunity to exhibit even greater influence on our State’s system of education. I have always enjoyed strong bipartisan friendships, particularly among educators, and brought to the role of State Board member a desire to work very closely with Superintendent Ritz. I believe that Superintendent Ritz was sincere when she ran for office about her vision to imagine possibilities and make them happen.


But instead of celebrating our achievements as a State and imagining new possibilities, some have allowed emotions and political strategy to trump objectivity and productivity. As with any change in leadership, there is always an opportunity for new direction. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about building support for the change being sought after. If Superintendent Ritz is serious about working to find a way forward, then she needs to build relationships that honor bipartisan cooperation (something not typically achieved through litigation). For the current situation to improve, there must be a recognition of the statutory obligations of the State Board and a desire to leverage the collective strengths of each Board member to achieve her vision.


Over my 20+ years in education (many of those as a leader), I have always taken pride in helping people find win-win solutions to some very complex problems. I have always respected opposing points of view and I have viewed diversity of thought as a strength, not a threat. The last few days have been incredibly difficult to watch for everyone who is passionate about our profession. I remain committed to do all I can as a State Board member to help us find a way forward, but we will not succeed in resolving this current impasse unless leadership rises above positional levels of authority. Let’s not squander the educational improvements taking place in our State. We have much to celebrate! Let’s honor the resilience of our system of education by working collaboratively to keep what is working and fix what is not. And most importantly, let’s honor and respect each other so we can model for the very children we serve how to be a democratic learning community.


Dr. Brad E. Oliver

SBOE Member, 6th Congressional District

Muncie, Indiana

Ritz to Finalize Indiana Withdrawal from Common Core

30 Jul

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has indicated she will submit a letter finalizing withdrawal of Indiana from “Common Core.”  The Governor sent a letter withdrawing from The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  The standards developed by PARCC are commonly referred to as Common Core and are strongly opposed by both liberal and conservative groups alike. 

Common Core standards have been adopted by 45 states.  An offshoot of No Child Left Behind and other federal programs aimed at providing national curriculum standards; common core gained widespread acceptance until the Obama Administration tied them to federal funding.  

Former US Assistant Secretary of Education Diana Ravitch,  weighed in to oppose mandatory standards:

 have long advocated for voluntary national standards, believing that it would be helpful to states and districts to have general guidelines about what students should know and be able to do as they progress through school.

Such standards, I believe, should be voluntary, not imposed by the federal government; before implemented widely, they should be thoroughly tested to see how they work in real classrooms; and they should be free of any mandates that tell teachers how to teach because there are many ways to be a good teacher, not just one. I envision standards not as a demand for compliance by teachers, but as an aspiration defining what states and districts are expected to do. They should serve as a promise that schools will provide all students the opportunity and resources to learn reading and mathematics, the sciences, the arts, history, literature, civics, geography, and physical education, taught by well-qualified teachers, in schools led by experienced and competent educators.

Ravitch was a vocal supporter of Superintendent Glenda Ritz in her battles with the Indiana Legislature earlier in the year.

Both liberal and conservative opponents of Common Core worry about undue influence-possibly by corporations or non-governmental organizations- over local schools.  

Stay tuned to the NWI Gazette for more information on Common Core.

Gov. Pence Names Director of State Based Initiatives

30 Jul

Indianapolis – Governor Mike Pence today named David Johnson as Executive Director of the Office of State-Based Initiatives.

David Johnson, of Carmel, currently serves as a Staff Attorney at the Indiana Gaming Commission. There, he serves as the agency’s ethics officer, crafts agency contracts and rules, and ensures regulatory compliance of occupational and casino license holders in Indiana. Previously, he worked as Assistant Counsel for the Indiana State Senate Majority Caucus, and as a corporate in-house attorney. Johnson earned his undergraduate degree from Wabash College and his law degree from Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

“David Johnson is a principled leader with the skills necessary to drive Indiana’s efforts to reduce federally-created, burdensome mandates and regulations on Hoosiers, their businesses and both state and local governments,” said Governor Pence. “I look forward to working closely with him in the years ahead as we work to promote Hoosier solutions to federal problems here in Indiana.”

Earlier today, Pence signed Executive Order 13-20, which transforms the existing Office of Federal Grants and Procurement into the Office of State-Based Initiatives. More information on this agency’s role can be found here: http://bit.ly/15tEFS2.