Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ogden: Ignore Frank Anderson; Go After Mayor Ballard

I my opinion, the best TV show of all time was The Twilight Zone. Its ironic endings and use of science fiction to analogize on political and social norms and themes still make it relevant today 50 years after it debuted. One of those themes was that we will encounter folks whose intentions are not what they seem. Two clasics on the subject: "The Hitch-Hiker," where a woman encounters a hitchiker who is Death in disguise, and "To Serve Man," where a supposedly altruistic alien species befriend mankind only for mankind to find out it is to turn them into the aliens' supper.

This is a theme that comes to mind as we examine why blogger Paul Ogden has an obsession with Barnes and Thornburg and publicly criticizing Mayor Ballard. As Paul wrote on his blog today, Ogden reinforced both his opposition to "pay-to-play" politics and his commitment to building a stronger Republican Party. That is what he says publicly when specifically addressing the subject, but his writings say something completely different. As you have seen already, he prefers to criticize Republican Greg Ballard, who has done nothing wrong, over Democrat Doris Minton-McNeill, who has been charged with three felony counts involved in assaulting a police officer. Next, let us examine his thoughts on Sheriff Frank Anderson.

To be up front, Paul Ogden has written frequently and critically on Anderson's administration of Marion County's Jails and their privitization. More on that later. But in October, there was an opportunity for Ogden to opine directly on Anderson and "Pay-to-Play" legal contracts, the frequent subject for which he criticizes Ballard.

In October, the Indianapolis Star published a story on Sheriff Frank Anderson's outside legal contracts with the law firm of Locke Reynolds. Ogden accordingly wrote a blog post, but instead of praising the Star for its investigatove reporting, Ogden expressed disappointment. This about says it all:

"Every Indianapolis lawyer waking up this morning seeing that story has to be
wondering the same thing. Why did the Star decide to focus on Locke Reynolds
rather than the more obvious beneficiary of city legal business since January 1
- Barnes & Thornburg?"

Given his analysis of Minton-McNeill, it is not terribly surprising on its surface that Ogden, despite his so-called Republican status, wants the powers that be to scrutinize the Republican Mayor over a Democrat with public evidence against him, evidence which Ogden again omits from his analysis. Ogden completely neglects to tell his readers of the prinicpal attorney in the Locke Reynolds contract, Kevin Murray, was also a paid campaign official for Frank Anderson's campaigns for sheriff. That is a direct pay-to-play conflict, one far worse than the supposed infractions by Barnes and Thornburg that Ogden harps about.

Even more revealing is that Ogden goes out of his way to praise Locke Reynolds for how they handle legal cases. Note that Ogden regularly supplements his Barnes and Thornburg diatribes with anecdotes of how he and other anonymous, unnamed attorneys hold Barnes and Thornburg in low esteem.

To recap, Paul Ogden contends his attacks on Mayor Ballard are to help Republicans and to protect taxpayers against corruption/conflicts of interest. Yet, with both Doris Minton-McNeill and Frank Anderson, cases with hard evidence of conflicts of interest, supposed Republican Paul Ogden says ignore the Democrats and instead investigate Mayor Ballard.

Now those who defend Paul Ogden will quickly note that Paul has gone after Sheriff Anderson on his CCA privitization contracts. What is the key difference between the pay-to-play with Kevin Murray Ogdne ignores and the CCA issue Ogden derides? Murray is with Locke Reyonolds and CCA is a client of Barnes and Thornburg.

Why does Paul Ogden only want Barnes and Thronburg investigated? Our examination will continue...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ogden: Minton-McNeill a Distraction from Barnes and Thornburg

The phrase "don't look behind the curtain" is of course a reference from The Wizard of Oz, itself a political satire. At first, the wizard seems to be this grand ethereal figure, but it is soon revealed it is an optical illusion as the real person behind the curtain is far more disappointing. As a result, the man behind the curtain begs the audience to ignore him and instead pay attention to the show he has carefully set up.

So as we began our examination of whether Paul Ogden has an unhealthy obsession with Barnes and Thornburg, resulting in biased and unfair coverage of Mayor Greg Ballard and local Republicans, we began to see evidence that when it comes to unsavory politicians in Marion County, Paul Ogden wants you to pay attention to his Barnes and Thornburg expose and ignore other far more blatant examples of persons violating the public trust.

One such example was Paul Ogden's sole post on City-County Councilor Doris Minton-McNeill (D-Dsitrict 15). Ms. Minton-McNeill was arrested this summer and charged this fall with multiple felony counts of assault and battery against a police officer. By most accounts, Minton-McNeill called police to report an unwanted guest at a party at her home whom she believed was a sex offender. When police arrived, the guest in question had left, but Minton-McNeill was drunk and beligerent towards police. A shouting match then escalated to where Minton-McNeill allegedly shoved one of the police officers, knocking her to the ground where she sustained a minor injury.

In October, after Minton-McNeill was charged by a special prosecutor (a fellow Democrat), Ogden on Politics wrote a blog post on the subject on why he would not write on the subject. Ogden had three points:
  1. "I have done some criminal defense work and I see people charged all the time who turn out to be not guilty."
  2. "I don't believe in judging people based on the worst moments of their lives."
  3. "The allegations against Ms. Minton-McNeil's do not involve a breach of the public trust or public corruption."

Point one is the classic "all persons are innocent until proven gulity in a court of law" response, although one might argue that Ogden affords Minton-McNeill this respect while he denies it to his fellow Republican Mayor. Point two is also, like point one, a description of how Mr. Ogden prefers to conduct himself.

But point three is a misrepresentaion, or ingorance, of the facts in the Minton-McNeill case as a political matter. First, Minton-McNeill is charged with assualting a police officer. As a City-County Councilor, Minton-McNeill was appointed (not elected, to fill Andre Carson's seat) to make laws and uphold them. Police officers, also known as law enforcement officers, embody a public's respect for the law. Attacking a police officer is a disrespect of the law and is a "breach of the public trust ."

Second, the police report of the incident stated that when confronting the police officers, Minton-McNeill grew upset that the police did not immediately do what she asked. McNeill went into her whom, grabbed her Council Business Cards, and shouted at the the police something to the effect of "Do you know who I am. I'm a City-County Councillor!" both when they did not immediately search her home and when they arrested her. The implication was Minton-McNeill tried to use her position of power to obtain special treatment that the public would not receive on their own. That is also a "breach of the public trust," and also gives us a hint that if in a higher position of power, Minton-McNeill would be prone to "public corruption."

Yet, Paul Ogden doesn't figure in his analysis that the alleged assault was against a police officer, nor that Minton-McNeill attempted to use her office during the incident. Instead, Ogden wanted you, the Indianapolis blogosphere, to ignore the Minton-McNeill distraction, which was taking good space away from Ogden's real issue: Barnes and Thornburg. Ogden wrote:

"I really think we conservatives and Republicans should devote our limited resources on those offenses that matter the most - those that involve public corruption, breaches of the public trust and unabated conflicts of interest among our elected officials. Every minute we spend outraged about Minton-McNeil possibly shoving a police officer is a minute we are distracted from exposing breaches of the public trust and working for a more honest and ethical government."

In other words, Paul Ogden doesn't want you to look behind the curtain at a real breach of the public trust like the foolish Doris Minton-McNeill. That issue takes away from Ogden's efforts to expose Mayor Ballard and Barnes and Thornburg!

So, why does Paul Ogden want you to ignore Doris Minton-McNeill and instead hold Mayor Ballard and Barnes and Thornburg in higher contempt? Our examination will continue...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

An Examination of Paul Ogden on Barnes and Thornburg

Recall the scene from the comedy film: PCU. Fraternity member "Pigman" is writing his senior thesis on the "Caine-Hackman Theory," his theory that at any given time, one can find on television a movie starring Michael Caine or Gene Hackman. He finds his closing argument when he stumbles across a film starring both Caine and Hackman together.

Now, it is no secret that blogger Paul Ogden holds the local Republican Party in low regard. So when Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John was tangentially mentioned in a post on the Indiana Barrister blog, Paul Ogden saw fit to write a blog post lambasting John, Mayor Ballard, and the local GOP. And with Mayor Ballard guessed it. Ogden found opportunity to discuss Barnes and Thronburg.

Now Barnes and Thornburg, a Republican law firm, was featured in an Indianapolis Star story in December on how several of its lawyers were given ppointments by the Ballard Administration. One of those appointments, Bob Grand, is Chairman of the body which oversees Indianapolis's sports arenas, whose operating deficits garnered a recent front page story. Two big stories in two months, publicity that can be considered negative, or at best mixed.

But while the main stream media has seen one hard news story and one feature story in the past few months, Paul Ogden has given a more frequent focus on the firm, for reasons we have discussed when this blog debuted. How frequent? Below is a breakdown and percentage of how many of Ogden's blog posts each month is devoted to Barnes and Thornburg, its lawyers and alumni, or how Mayor Ballard is "getting bad advice from his advisors" or should fire them:

August: 3 out 17 posts (18%)
September: 5 out of 36 posts (14%)
October: 4 out of 45 posts (9%)
November: 5 out of 46 posts (11%)
December: 13 out of 44 posts (30%)
January: 16 out of 48 posts (33%)

So in the past two months, Paul Ogden has devoted roughly a third of his blog to his distrust of Barnes and Thornburg, more than twice as much as November and before. What happened since November to cause the increase? The two news stories referenced did occur in that time, but Ogden devoted just two posts to each occurrence. More notably, up until November there were local, state, and federal elections taking place. It seems in the political news vacuum since those elections ended, Paul Ogden has chosen to devote his spare writings against Greg Ballard and the law firm of Barnes and Thornburg

Opinion is a key part to the blogosphere: putting out facts and helping your readers draw conclusions. But there is adifference between helping your readers draw conclusions from facts and drawing the same conclusion every time. And devoting a third of your blog posts to such a boutique political issue may be a psychologically unhealthy obsession, just as the Pigman's obsession was unhealthy in PCU.

Why does Paul Ogden want to frequently bemoan Barnes and Thornburg? Why does Paul Ogden want a public divorce of Mayor Ballard and Barnes & Thornburg? Why does Paul Ogden insist he is doing this to benefit the GOP? The answers are not as benign as Ogden says. Since Ogden's readers are convinced that Ogden is a taxpayer advocate who can save the GOP, these are questions that must be answered. These are questions that we will spend the coming days letting you know what our examination reveals.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ogden supported Ballard on Cars until Barnes and Thornburg Rumor Surfaced.

First we would like to wecome the regular readers of Ogden on Politics. Welcome!

One of those readers, Leslie Sourwine/Buringtonasacoach, asked us this question: "Everything I've seen on Ogden's blog was backed up with facts.... Will this blog also provide facts and evidence to back up the opinions coming from it or will this blog merely an opinion blog?"

I agree Mr. Ogden does include many facts, which is what made is blog so promising. It has been his concusions regarding the facts that are both wrong and objectionable.

It reminds me of the scene in My Cousin Vinny where Vinny tells his nephew the parable of the playing card and the brick. He says the other attorney wants you to believe the paying card was a brick (metaphorically). The card had four sides like a brick. The card was rectangular like a brick. The card was red like a brick. But the other attorney wanted you to see the card in a certain way so it looked like a brick, because if you turned it a certain way it was as thin as a playing card. Vinny said the attorney's arguments may seem like they were made of brick, but were simply a house of cards.

With Mr. Ogden, let's take his musings (quoted in the Ogden Truth Squad masthead) on Indianapolis's purchase of hybrid cars. Mr. Ogden first post on this topic was on December 6th. In December, Mr. Ogden questioned the politics of not buying American, but said Mayor Ballard made a defensible choice. Mr. Ogden wrote in that post:

I totally understand why the Mayor made the decision he did. The purchase price of the Toyota Camrys was fine and I agree that they'll probably save money over the long run.
However, on January 14th, Mr. Ogden wrote a second posting, changing his anaysis based soley on the presence of an entity Mr. Ogden hates:

So I had mixed feelings about whether it was a good deal...that is until I started hearing the rumors that pay to play politics might have been involved in the decision. The information I have is that it has been confirmed by some high-level Republicans, that Andy Mohr Toyota is indeed a client of Barnes & Thornburg, whose partners Bob Grand and Joe Loftus, regularly sit in on meetings with the Mayor, meetings where this kind of decision would have likely been discussed.

Curiously, Mr. Ogden makes a "freudian slip" in using the words rumors and information interchangeabley. In this post, there are no additional facts given, no documents showing the Toyota dealer is a client of said law firm, no facts showing Barnes and Thornburg was involved in a decision made on the purchsing level recommended by the Budget Office headed by David Reynolds, no evidence that he confirmed the rumors with Republicans or that those Republicans were indeed "high-level." Those items would be facts. All Mr. Ogden gave us to change his mind were rumors and innuendo, which he believes to be information despite the absence of fact.

So what to make of this? Mr. Ogden believed Mayor Ballard made a defensible decision based on facts. Then, Mr. Ogden heard rumors that his archenemy Barnes and Thornburg had degrees of separation to someone in the story. Mr. Ogden, armed with no facts, assumes the rumors are true and paints Ballard as doing something unethical, again with no facts to back it up.

The argument was nothing more than a House of Cards.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Welcome to the Ogden Truth Squad!

My name is Mary Jo, and like you, I enjoy reading and blogging about Indianapolis, Indiana, politics. (I know this because if you did not, you would not be reading this!)

Indiana is blessed with a a very active blogging community given our size and politics. Jen Wagner, Abdul Hakim Shabazz, Gary Welsh, Bil Browning, and the Blue Indiana and Hoosier Acccess crews have given Indiana more credible political blogs than many of our larger surrounding states. Even better, Indiana is very welcoming of new blogs as others (Taking Down Words, IndyUndercover) have gone away.

So, like many of you, I was excited last year when Paul Ogden gave us a new blog for our daily reads: Ogden on Politics. It had many good bits on the presidential race and state and local news nuggets with commentary from a solid conservative perspective.

But Mr. Ogden's promising blog has become something far more destructive. Mr. Ogden, while politically principled, has decided to turn his blog's purpose to attack Republicans, specifically Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. Mr. Ogden foolishly believes that if he openly attacks the Mayor for not gorverning as Ogden ses fit, he will save Republican Chances for winning municipal races in 2011.

What is more likely to happen is that Ogden will in the process rally conservatives against Republicans. While the facts do not support Mr. Ogden's notion that there are improprieties in the Ballard administration, Mr. Ogden is dead set on reporting as if there are, believing he can save the GOP's electoral chances. What Mr. Ogden fails to realize is that if his innuendos were in fact true, Ballard would lose re-election even if he did fire the advisors Ogden maligns. But, if the innuendos are not true as is most likely the case, all Ogden will have accomplished is organizing conservatives against Republicans and in the process returning these offices to the Democrats.

Mr. Ogden consistenty notes in his blog the so-called "many Republicans" who talk to him about their supposed disgust with Mayor Ballard's governance, and their grievanvces are not based on Ballard's fiscal stewardship or on Public Safety, but on Mr. Ogden's false innuendo regarding Barnes and Thornburg. Well, I want Mr. Ogden to know there is a silent Majority of Republicans who disagree with his dragging the Mayor through the mud to prove some chidish point abour Mr. Ogden's arch-enemies Barnes and Thornburg.

That is why I am setting up the Ogden Truth Squad. The purpose of this blog will be to show the world the inaccuracies of the lies Mr. Ogden is spreading about Mayor Ballard. It will also show, using Mr. Ogden's own words, his biases which cloud his judgement.

Paul Ogden is not an unbiased watchdog for Marion County, and he needs his own watchdog. I shall be that watchdog.