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Friday, December 09, 2016
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Attorney General Greg Zoeller talks with State Rep. Mike Karickhoff at the 2014 Indiana Republican Convention in Fort Wayne. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
Attorney General Greg Zoeller talks with State Rep. Mike Karickhoff at the 2014 Indiana Republican Convention in Fort Wayne. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
Friday, December 09, 2016 10:12 AM
INDIANAPOLIS – He served with Vice President Dan Quayle and under former Attorney General Steve Carter. Now after eight years as the state’s top lawyer, Attorney General Greg Zoeller is stepping down and away from politics and, perhaps, the Republican Party.
Zoeller won the first of two terms as attorney general by defeating Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas, who was hand-picked by Gov. Mitch Daniels in an effort to bring that constitutional office under his control, at the 2008 Indiana Republican Convention. During his two terms, he has defended a number of controversial laws and also challenged what he describes as a federal overreach by the Obama administration.
Zoeller now finds himself wondering where the GOP is headed under President Trump. “Republicans have always stood for a number of principles, limited government, limited federal government, more authority based on states,” Zoeller observed. “Those were things I was attracted to being a Republican. Quite frankly I tell people I’m a former Republican because I’m not quite sure what the party stands for.”
Zoeller added, “As I leave office I don’t have to be one party or the other. It’s not like I’ve joined the other party. I’m going to wait and see how the party develops in this new Trump presidency because, frankly, I don’t think anybody can predict how it’s going to evolve.”
Howey Politics Indiana sat down with Zoeller Tuesday evening at the Red Key Tavern in Broad Ripple for this exit interview.
HPI: What’s on the immediate horizon for you, and then give us a sense of what you  will be doing on a longer term basis.
Zoeller: I want to finish strong. I’ve got another month here as attorney general and I’ve got a number of projects here and in Washington, so I’ll have just enough to keep me busy for the next six months or a year until I figure what’s next on the horizon.
HPI: What kind of thing would be on the horizon? Will you ever run for office again?
Zoeller: I doubt I’d run for another office. I didn’t intend to run for this one. I was chief deputy and didn’t want someone else to run the office, so that’s why I ran. But I’ve never really liked politics, never really intended to be an elected official. I know a little about it; I feel like I made a pretty good run in elected office. I wouldn’t look for me a run for another office.
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    SOUTH BEND – In my journalism classes at Notre Dame, I admonish my students to check their writing for accuracy, to check the facts, even mentioning the storied challenge of the old City News Bureau in Chicago to check everything: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” A background check on Mom goes too far. But accuracy is important. Important for the reputation of the writer. Important for the credibility of the print, broadcast or on-line provider of the news. Important for the readers or viewers searching for information as they make decisions in a democracy. I have no concern about my students. If they go on in journalism, they will seek to get it right.  And, almost every time, they will. My concern is that so many Americans won’t believe them. They will become members of what has recently been vilified as “the lyin’ media.” They will join a profession described as “scum,” “disgusting” and composed of “the lowest form of humanity.”

    INDIANAPOLIS – He didn’t ask, but I have some advice for our in-coming governor, Eric Holcomb. I’ve had advice for all our governors since 1970, but none has been taken. Nonetheless, we press on. What do so many Hoosier like? Our convenient smaller towns. What do folks beyond our borders think of, if they think of Indiana? The 500, corn, Larry Bird, and small town life. What are we trying to attract? Imaginary people: Millennials who have a perverse passion for trolley cars and the skills to earn $90,000 a year, the first year out of college. These people, we think, want to live downtown, in quaint, restored old buildings, riding bicycles to work, buying groceries from small neighborhood shopkeepers, but having elevators so they don’t have to lug baby and carriage upstairs, in the unlikely event they ever have a baby. Yet, what do we have in abundance? Our convenient smaller towns losing, or struggling to gain, population. Do we promote those places? No. We have no specific program to encourage businesses and their workers to locate in Logansport, Peru, or Wabash.


    LaPORTE – Just because he didn’t win doesn’t mean John Gregg didn’t get it right.  In any other year, his campaign of inclusive, bottom-up populism would have carried the day and kept both our base of white, blue collar voters intact with younger and minority voters to help win Indiana’s governorship. But not this year. The Trump tide cruelly swept away all in its path. Take a look at the town of Kingsford Heights in LaPorte County that was expertly profiled in a front page piece in Sunday’s South Bend Tribune by veteran writer Virginia Black. The town, consisting of blue collar workers, is a mix of both white and African American voters that has reliably supported Democratic presidential nominees for decades. The town is a good example of where the Democratic presidential candidate’s message did not resonate with blue collar voters with its happy-talk insistence on “building on gains” of the Obama administration and which thought that focusing obsessively on the many missteps and offensive talk by Donald Trump would somehow carry the day. 

    FORT WAYNE – Many were predicting that when Donald Trump lost, he would form his own television network.  Instead he won, and has taken over all the networks and all other media as well.  He is a marketing machine. 1.) Trump is terrific at promoting his brand. That is what he’s always done.  Members of the media have incredible angst over whether or not their constant coverage of him led to his victory.  Yet they know that Trump has an intuitive ability to sense how to insert himself into every hot story.  In old-fashioned media lingo, he sells newspapers. Trump is financially helping them at a time when media needs all the help they can get. Thus the angst. 2.) Trump uses his skill tactically, not just randomly. When there is a bad story about his personal life, or finances, he tweets some greatly exaggerated statement and media leaps at the bait.  For example, the New York Times did a story on his financial conflicts but Trump tweeted the allegation that millions of illegal voters had deprived him of a popular vote victory.  His supporters jumped to his defense, critics poured out scorn and outrage, which buried the more substantive story.
    INDIANAPOLIS - For 50 years, from 1963 to 2013, there was either a Bayh or a Lugar representing Indiana in the U.S. Senate. Birch and Evan Bayh won five elections, while Dick Lugar lost a 1974 showdown with the elder Bayh, then rattled off six victories. All told, these two dynasties accrued close to 15 million votes. A good part of their combined successes were prodigious political and state organizations that raised the bucks, stroked allies as well as the media, and dealt swift retribution for anyone who got out of line. There was an obsession for detail. I remember as a political reporter for the Elkhart Truth in 1988 when Evan Bayh was running for governor, my phone rang and there was Bayh’s campaign manager, Joe Hogsett, on the line. “How ya doing’?” he asked. “What are you working on. Anything I can help you with as far as our campaign goes?” The political careers of the two Bayhs and Lugar, all once invincible, ended in defeat.

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  • Prosecutors seek DNA legislation
    CNHI Statehouse Bureau

    INDIANAPOLIS – As John Clements, 82, stood in his Zionsville driveway last September, collecting mail while his dementia-suffering wife remained safely in their home, someone drove by and shot him. Clements’ random killing in a quiet neighborhood seemed almost impossible to solve until police compared DNA from shell casings found at the scene with a database of samples from people arrested in other states. Their subsequent capture of a 21-year-old suspect is why prosecutors are now renewing calls for Indiana to expand DNA collection to anyone arrested on a felony charge. “It’s long overdue. I’ve seen firsthand why it’s needed,” said Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer, who is handling the Clements case. Anyone convicted of a felony in Indiana is required to turn over a DNA sample, which goes into a national database. But lawmakers have repeatedly refused to widen the scope of DNA collection to include people arrested but not yet convicted, even though 30 other states have done so.
  • HPI Analysis: Trump/Pence Carrier deal implications
    INDIANAPOLIS – Donald Trump and Mike Pence came home to “Importantville” last week to cash in on a campaign “euphemism.” By the time the presidential-elect ticket left the Carrier manufacturing facility late Thursday afternoon, they had “saved” somewhere between 730 and 800 jobs. The headlines blared 1,100, with a $16 million promise to invest in the Indianapolis facilities. The reality is that 300 of those jobs were never headed to Mexico, while at least 700 in Huntington are. By Wednesday night, Trump and United Steelworkers Local 1999 President Chuck Jones had exploded into a Twitter war. “Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!” Trump wrote.
  • Lugar paints a grim picture on the precipice of Trump


    INDIANAPOLIS - President-elect Donald Trump was barely mentioned by name, but he loomed large in a grim forecast of worldwide events as former Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar made his annual address to Hoosier high school students on Saturday. Trump undoubtedly looms heavy on the elder statesman’s address at the University of Indianapolis where he “informs America's future leaders about what problems they will face in the world.”
    Lugar rarely acknowledged the President-elect but the way he crafted his words showed a clear difference between their ideologies.

  • Trump, Pence rally Carrier jobs, vow to cut taxes, regs

    INDIANAPOLIS - Donald Trump and Mike Pence began their presidential victory lap at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis Thursday afternoon, claiming credit for saving 1,100 jobs from migrating to Mexico. “United Technologies stepped up,” Trump told workers of a coming $16 million investment or more. “Companies are not going to leave the United States any more without consequences.” “We’re going to be lowering our business tax from 35% to 15%,” President-elect Trump vowed, adding he will take aim at regulations. He noted that 216 new federal regulations have passed in the last eight years, including 53 that impacted the Carrier plant. “We have to have a fair shake.” “I want to let all the other companies to know, there’s no reason to leave any more,” Trump said. “You’re taxes are going to be low and your regulations are going to go. Most of the regulations are nonsense. These companies are not going to be leaving any more. They are not going to be like Carrier, announcing they are leaving.”
  • Holcomb advises legislators of Trump impact on 2017 session
    ZIONSVILLE – Governor-elect Eric Holcomb is advising members of the Indiana General Assembly to expect a potential “mid-course correction” in the upcoming session after President-elect Donald Trump takes office. “We find ourselves in this unique situation where governors and legislative leaders are putting together their budgets all over the country, and we have to do that in January, of course,” Holcomb told Howey Politics Indiana in an exclusive interview Sunday at Trader’s Point Creamery. “The president will be sworn in on Jan. 20 and he’ll have some executive orders to tend to that will have an impact on our budgets. His legislative package, and Congress’s will likewise will have implications to our own,” Holcomb said. Calling Trump the delegator-in-chief, Holcomb added, “You’ve got this president-elect who has spent a career in the private sector excelling and he didn’t get there without delegating and hiring good people around him to get the job done. He’s got as his partner and vice president, a Hoosier Mike Pence who understands instinctively that it’s governors who are people closest to citizens who can better get the job done. I look for governors of both parties across the country to seize the day.” What should legislators expect in the next three to six months? “We’re in unprecedented territory,” Holcomb explained.
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  • Judge Barker challenges new American citizens
    “In light of the turbulent events in recent weeks, which played out as part of the political campaigns and were characterized by some really ugly, divisive, and demeaning words and hate-filled, violence-tinged name-calling, your responsibilities as new citizens have become more important than ever. You will now be called upon to do your parts to help build and maintain our country’s best values and highest principles and historic traditions. On the nettlesome issues surrounding immigration policy in the United States, no group of American citizens is better qualified to contribute to this debate than you are. Help our elected leaders figure out a workable, humane, fair, and just solution. Help our policymakers shape a fair and just narrative that works for all people.” - Federal Judge Sarah Evans Barker, in her address to new American citizens on Nov. 17 in Indianapolis. Her remarks were covered in The New Yorker. You can read the New Yorker article by clicking here.
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HPI Video Feed
Pence talks Rexnord, Carrier on ABC's 'This Week'
Vice President-elect Mike Pence discusses the Carrier and Rexnord situations on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.

Pence lauds Carrier deal
Gov. Mike Pence talks about the Carrier jobs deal with Scott Pelley on CBS.

2 videos
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Trump taxes

Should Donald Trump release recent tax returns, like every major party nominee has done over the past 40 years?


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