Monday, October 17, 2011

Is The Kennedy Campaign In Trouble?

Melina Kennedy has a lot going for her.  She is intelligent, articulate, understands the issues and can formulate approaches to solutions.  But if you looked to her television ads, you will not have seen any glimpse of that view of Kennedy for about a month.  That is because all of her latest ads, run on a heavy schedule (at least on the channels we tend to watch), are about current Mayor, Greg Ballard.  Now, an advanced sorry to those who earn their living by advising campaigns.... but.... with Ballard's record as Mayor, critiquing his job performance should be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Instead, Kennedy's campaign has used its last two ads to infer, but not clearly state, that Ballard has exchanged city contracts for campaign contributions.  This is the pay-to-play politics frequently brought up by my fellow bloggers Paul Ogden (Ogden On Politics) and Gary Welsh (Advance Indiana).  So, there are plenty of specific instances that could be brought to the public's attention.  The Kennedy camp has, however, taken to supposedly enumerating the dollars given and the dollars returned, without specifying the donors' corporate identities. 

The list of these supposedly suspect donors and contracts has not been made available to the public.  That list, however, was obtained and analyzed by the Indianapolis Star.  The Star analysis concludes that a) "But as Kennedy's campaign acknowledges, she has received contributions from some of the same city contractors that have given to Ballard, as well as from their employees, though Kennedy receives less overall." and b) "But when it comes to the contract total cited by Kennedy's ad, a spot check of a list provided to The Star suggests the figure is, at best, unreliable."  One does have to wonder if the release of the list of suspect donors and contracts would embarrass Kennedy and put her at odds with some of her own donors.

After the Star analysis was published, the Kennedy camp came out with a second ad that only discusses the campaign contributions.  When it played on our television last night, my husband and I looked at each other and asked, is the Kennedy campaign in trouble?  Why else spend your air time on a claim that didn't stand up to scrutiny and for which there is ample time for the Ballard campaign to correct that claim? 

Hopefully in the waning days of the campaign, the Kennedy ads will return to her qualifications for the office and her vision for our City.

 Here's what the Star had to say about the ad on Sunday, in its entirety:

Math in Kennedy ad about contracts doesn't quite work
Editor's note: The Indianapolis Star is examining campaign ads throughout the fall election season, focusing on those in which candidates attack or make claims about their opponents.
The candidate: Melina Kennedy, Democratic nominee for Indianapolis mayor.
The ad: After a couple of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's TV ads have criticized Kennedy, her ad highlights Ballard's campaign contributions from city contractors.
The script: "Notice how many of Greg Ballard's ads talk about Melina Kennedy? Maybe it's because Greg Ballard is trying to hide the fact he lost the endorsement of Indianapolis police. Or that he's raised taxes, rates and fees 140 times. Or maybe it's because Greg Ballard is hiding the fact he gave $300 million in city contracts to his political contributors . . . who gave Ballard $1.3 million for his campaign. It's true. It's troubling. And it's why we need a change."
The facts: The new claim here is about city contractors donating to Ballard's campaign. The connection, a long-recognized political issue faced by incumbents, creates, at the very least, a perception that contributors are being rewarded with big contracts.
But as Kennedy's campaign acknowledges, she has received contributions from some of the same city contractors that have given to Ballard, as well as from their employees, though Kennedy receives less overall.
Kennedy's campaign says it searched the city's online contracts database to look at contracts or renewals that took effect after Ballard took office in 2008.
And it counted any campaign donations to Ballard by the contractors and their employees.
But when it comes to the contract total cited by Kennedy's ad, a spot check of a list provided to The Star suggests the figure is, at best, unreliable.
 On the list are 76 contractors -- more than a third of them connected to public-works projects -- associated with $309.5 million in contracts. Others are law firms, consultants and technology companies.
 Among the problems:

Several contracts originally signed long before Ballard's term began are counted at the value listed in the city database. That's a problem because the amounts appear to represent their value over the contract's lifetime -- not just the value since they were renewed or amended under Ballard.
At least two contracts -- including one for nearly $12 million -- were signed by the county's Information Services Agency. Ballard appoints a minority of members to the ISA's board, so he doesn't have direct control over its contracts.
The largest contract -- listed at $98 million for United Water -- is questionable. The company has operated the city sewer system since the 1990s, and the city renewed it for nine years in 2007.
One problem: Democrat Bart Peterson, Kennedy's one-time boss, was mayor when that happened. Ballard took office soon after, and aside from minor amendments pursued by his staff, the financial terms -- a base fee of $29 million a year -- changed little.
When pressed about the contract's timing, Kennedy spokesman Jon Mills pointed out that regardless of who signed the contract, Ballard has been very good to United Water.
The company retained its sewer system role even after the city sold its water and sewer utilities this year to Citizens Energy Group. Kennedy's list counts United Water as giving $17,500 to Ballard's campaign.
The spin: Ballard spokeswoman Molly Deuberry called Kennedy's contracts attack "political hypocrisy" because she accepts campaign donations connected to contractors. Deuberry also pointed out that some of the contractors did city work when Kennedy was Peterson's deputy mayor.
"It is obviously a sign of a desperate campaign when Kennedy is funding the ad with money from the same people she is maligning," Deuberry said.
Mills stood by the ad's contracts figure. He said Ballard "is a mayor who said when he came to office that he was going to get away from pay-to-play politics. . . . These companies all have the right and should do all they can to work with the city. What we're drawing into question is how this mayor decides to conduct city business."
The bottom line: Kennedy's ad raises a fair issue that may resonate with some voters. But while Ballard clearly has received contributions from contractors holding very big contracts, the size of the ad's headline figure -- $300 million -- doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
 Compiled by Star reporter Jon Murray


Paul K. Ogden said...

I think Kennedy, as a challenger, has to tell voters why they should not re-elect Ballard. I think she should have done 100% bio piece early on (instead of jumping into issues), but now is the time to be going on the offensive.

I think her ad made a point about insider dealing that Ballard is very susceptible too as there is a pre-existing belief that Ballard basically put the city up for sale on 1/1/2008. I don't think being off somewhat on her numbers matters much. I do agree more specificity would be helpful for her argument.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I'm going to disagree with you Paul. I think accuracy does matter,not only the voters, but to the election process itself. In addition, if you are taking money from the very same donors - it undercuts your credibility with the voters.

If Kennedy has the inherently larger pool of voters, then surely she can afford to give voters reasons to vote FOR her more than give voters reasons to vote AGAINST her opponent. There are a lot of reasons to actually vote for her. But her ads are now all about her opponent. I think it turns people off.

Anonymous said...

Yea sure, Indianapolis police supports Kennedy...If you look at her ads, the three men wearing black "security" uniforms standing behind Kennedy do not match IMPD's.The emblem patches are wrong, the hats are wrong, even the guy in the middle is missing a hat badge. I don't want another four years of big wastful spending from Bart peterson's phony balony ideas. Fool me once, shame on you...Fool me twice, shame on me. Kennedy..quit insulting us with your ads.

Anonymous said...

I've had it with law firms, sports teams, corporate interests, and the media directly or indirectly calling the shots.

Ms. Kennedy's background does not bode well for her election being any less beholden to a particular firm than Mayor Ballard.

Why do the Pacers need a new scoreboard and more funding provided for the CIB when we have to reduce our library hours? Is Kennedy really going to be any less apt to placate the whims of our sports teams?

Why are TIF funds raided for corporate interests? Don't we have plenty on needs in streets and schools? Kennedy is going to be apt to be influenced?

Why doesn't our newspaper cover important issues like the abysmal graduation rate of IPS and the role of the superintendent and school board? Why is there no investigative reporting of that? With due respect to the lack of Ballard on educational leadership- where is the newspaper on this issue?

I'm voting for a complete rookie for mayor: Chris Bowen- Libertarian. He has zero mayoral experience and that's exactly how much corruption he will bring to office, as he owes NOTHING to the two major parties.

I understand that's about how Ballard started, but it's not how he is now. I do not forsee Kennedy being any better. I think our chances are better with someone learning on job, but not as predisposed to corruption and influence.

Anonymous said...

"... with Ballard's record as Mayor, critiquing his job performance should be like shooting fish in a barrel."

Yes, it should be - but because she is being wishy-washy and won't target specific issues with hard hitting ads and debate answers, she allows him to coast by - Ballard can handle the hard hit; he will fall apart. He is a bully and the only way to beat a bully is keep slapping him down - hard!

Frankly, I don't want either candidate. For me to like Melina, she would have to repudiate Peterson, which will never happen.