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Crazy Uncles Abound

By Jim Sack, 5/3/2019

When you vote for a mayor you’re not only electing that person but all their supporters, donors and political allies. It is like a marriage, where along with the new spouse you also acquire the crazy uncle, the cranky aunt, the sullen cousin, and that brother who runs a dicey bar. So it is in politics, you either elect the Democrat extended family or the Republican family, and both have more than their share crazy uncles.

About when the primaries are over the candidates will file their latest campaign finance reports. On those reports will be the names of their donors and how much each has given. If you want to know the names all the crazy uncles they will be right there. Well, most of them.

In politics there is something called the political action committee which has involved over the years from like minded individuals pooling resources to elect their champions into a bureaucratic to smokescreen to hide the names of donors who may be unsavory characters or who prefer to peddle influence from the shadows. I might give to the PAC for Really Good Government which gives to the Committee For Even Better Government that then gives to the Committee for Super Governent that the gives to a candidate or two. It is just money laundering when my initial contribution has three layers of subterfuge.

One such committee operating in the current campaign is the North East Indiana Committee for Good Government. As of its last report members contributed well over $50,000 to the campaign of Republican mayoral hopeful Tim Smith. It is a collection of Republican businessmen operating out of Star Financial on Berry Street with the books held by a CPA living in Aboite. The contributors include the leader of Parkview Hospital, Mike Packnet, as well as donors in Columbia City, South Whitley, Indianapolis, Decatur, and Smyrna, Georgia. The addresses of the donors makes one wonder why they are trying to influence an election in Fort Wayne?

As for the $5,000 donor from Decatur, ideal Suburban Homes, looking a little deeper, we find the name of Kevin Biggs who is one of the principles in the Electric Works development. Kevin has also been the recipient well over 50 residential lots in fort Wayne, thanks to the generosity of the city’s Redevelopment apparatus. In years past those lots would have been sold for between $250 to a thousand dollars each, but thanks to Mayor Henry, former redevelopment director Greg Leatherman and others in the administration we taxpayers gifted between $10,000 and $50,000 to Mr Biggs in a unadvertised, no bid process. So it is perplexing to see why he would bite the hand that is so handsomely fed him.

Certainly, Mr. Biggs has his motives and you can guess they revolved around even easier access to public tax dollars. The same is probably true for the rest of the donors to that NEI for Good Government PAC. They all have their own incentives for giving to Smith that one might guess include tax breaks for their companies. That in a nutshell is their concept of good government.

But it doesn’t stop there, other donors contributing to the mayor or various council candidates may angling for Jobs with an administration or more. Each administration chooses law firms that then bask in the earnings from lucrative legal work for the city, or for city council, or for the various commissions of local government. Two council members recently mused that among the champions of Tim Smith are included lawyers from Barrett McNagny who would like to replace the lawyers from Carson Boxberger, should Smith win in the fall.

The old adage is follow money. The Secretary of State’s website provides clear if a bit late lists of the many people contributed to the campaigns of the three candidates for mayor. If you want to know who’s sleeping with whom, whose crazy uncle may be appointed to the Redevelopment Commission, or whether friends of Kevan Biggs find a way to sit on the Safe Housing Board the campaign finance reports make fascinating reading.

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