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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

August 27, 2019

The (Munster) Times. August 23, 2019

Cyanide spill shakes public confidence in safeguards for Region waterways

Lake Michigan and its associated waterways are quite literally everything to the Region.

So determining a cause of chemical contamination, including cyanide, into that water system last week and devising better safeguards to prevent it from happening again should be front and center for environmental and industry leaders.

A full probe also is needed into complaints the public wasn’t notified in a timely manner, possibly putting health at risk.

At the center of this probe should be absolute public transparency.

The lake sustains us with a bountiful source of drinking water.

The beauty of the lake and associated waterways are the biggest recreational, quality-of-life and tourism draw for Northwest Indiana, including the aesthetic dunes of the newly anointed Indiana Dunes National Park and Indiana Dunes State Park.

Heavy industry also is part of the Region’s economic lifeblood.

But the environmental integrity of our great lake and its connected waterways cannot be put at such risk.

It’s good major Region steelmaker ArcelorMittal took full responsibility for what it deemed a chemical spill last week.

But why and how did it happen to begin with, and what will be done to keep it from occurring again?

The spill led to a massive fish kill in the Little Calumet River in Portage and closed down a number of beaches.

The company said the incident happened “despite having safeguards in place and conducting regular sampling in accordance with permits.”

“We are working closely with state and federal regulatory agencies to address the situation and to prevent its reoccurrence,” a written statement from the company said.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management directed ArcellorMittal to identify the cause of the exceedances, and ArcellorMittal told IDEM that its blast furnace closed water loop station failed, according to the statement.

Cleanup efforts were slated to be completed by Saturday.

Even more disturbing are reports regarding notifications of the public, or lack thereof, in this mess.

Portage Mayor John Cannon has accused state environmental officials and others of waiting several days before notifying the city of the contamination.

He contends IDEM and others were made aware of the problem Monday, but the city was not informed until Thursday.

This is a serious accusation against the system meant to safeguard our most precious asset and the people who use it for its multitude of purposes.

Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said there were no warnings for surfers to stay out of the water Thursday.

“And now they are concerned about long-term health risks of this possible exposure,” Benjamin said.

The state has provided some answers, but many more are needed.

The public must be confident of the systems in place to prevent environmental threats to our very essence.

Right now, this confidence must be restored by the responsible parties.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. August 23, 2019

Maximum disclosure

Donor addresses provide essential information

State Rep. Jeff Ellington doesn’t want you to know who’s supporting Indiana politicians. The Bloomington Republican told the Herald-Times he is considering legislation that would remove street addresses from the campaign finance reports.

There’s no reason for federal and state governments to collect the information except to make it easier to harass and target donors, he told the Bloomington newspaper. Names, donation amounts, occupations and city or county of residence would continue to be required.

Ellington is wrong. There are many good reasons to collect street addresses of donors.

. A complete address is needed to fully identify who is backing a candidate. A contributor’s occupation is required only if the contribution exceeds $1,000, according to the Indiana Election Division. Ellington’s own donors include Bloomington resident Eric Smith, for example. But a quick internet search for Eric Smith in Bloomington finds a postdoctoral researcher, a urologist and the controller at Oliver Winery. A street address is needed to determine which one gave to Ellington’s campaign.

. A street address can determine whether a candidate’s donors live within his or her district. In Ellington’s case, a donor identified as a Bloomington resident might live in Rep. Matt Pierce’s district. Voters should know where a candidate’s campaign support comes from. Do his own neighbors support him?

. A street address can reveal information not otherwise available. A website search for Education Innovation Research LLC, for example, gives no clue to where that Ellington donor is located. But the street address shows the corporation, which gave $36,000 to Republican legislative candidates last year, was an Indianapolis office park neighbor to the offices of Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. Those are the online charter schools that allegedly charged Indiana taxpayers $40 million for students who were not enrolled or earned no credits.

Indiana is one of just 11 states that impose no contribution limit on individual donors. It’s not unreasonable to demand that candidates give more information about their contributors in exchange for that allowance. Hoosiers should know who is donating to political campaigns, as contributions can represent both a sign of support and an effort to influence candidates.

The impetus for Ellington’s bad idea is obvious. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, recently posted the names and employers of San Antonio donors who contributed the maximum amount allowed under federal law to President Donald Trump’s campaign.

“It’s highly disturbing that a congressman and brother of a presidential candidate would harass citizens and donors using a federal database, especially in the aftermath of two mass shootings, both by men on the extreme fringes,” Ellington told the Herald-Times.

But the congressman violated no law. The information is required under federal election law. If a donor doesn’t want to be known as a candidate’s supporter, he or she can simply not contribute to a campaign.

Julia Vaughn, policy director of Common Cause Indiana, said Ellington’s proposal was a “horrible idea based on a knee jerk reaction to a national news story.”

“Campaign contributors under siege because of disclosure is not an issue here,” Vaughn wrote in an email. “Hoosiers need more information about who’s contributing to campaigns, not less. Takes us in the wrong direction for no reason. Bad idea, bad public policy.” State Rep. Jeff Ellington doesn’t want you to know who’s supporting Indiana politicians. The Bloomington Republican told the Herald-Times he is considering legislation that would remove street addresses from the campaign finance reports.

There’s no reason for federal and state governments to collect the information except to make it easier to harass and target donors, he told the Bloomington newspaper. Names, donation amounts, occupations and city or county of residence would continue to be required.

Ellington is wrong. There are many good reasons to collect street addresses of donors.

. A complete address is needed to fully identify who is backing a candidate. A contributor’s occupation is required only if the contribution exceeds $1,000, according to the Indiana Election Division. Ellington’s own donors include Bloomington resident Eric Smith, for example. But a quick internet search for Eric Smith in Bloomington finds a postdoctoral researcher, a urologist and the controller at Oliver Winery. A street address is needed to determine which one gave to Ellington’s campaign.

. A street address can determine whether a candidate’s donors live within his or her district. In Ellington’s case, a donor identified as a Bloomington resident might live in Rep. Matt Pierce’s district. Voters should know where a candidate’s campaign support comes from. Do his own neighbors support him?

. A street address can reveal information not otherwise available. A website search for Education Innovation Research LLC, for example, gives no clue to where that Ellington donor is located. But the street address shows the corporation, which gave $36,000 to Republican legislative candidates last year, was an Indianapolis office park neighbor to the offices of Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. Those are the online charter schools that allegedly charged Indiana taxpayers $40 million for students who were not enrolled or earned no credits.

Indiana is one of just 11 states that impose no contribution limit on individual donors. It’s not unreasonable to demand that candidates give more information about their contributors in exchange for that allowance. Hoosiers should know who is donating to political campaigns, as contributions can represent both a sign of support and an effort to influence candidates.

The impetus for Ellington’s bad idea is obvious. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, recently posted the names and employers of San Antonio donors who contributed the maximum amount allowed under federal law to President Donald Trump’s campaign.

“It’s highly disturbing that a congressman and brother of a presidential candidate would harass citizens and donors using a federal database, especially in the aftermath of two mass shootings, both by men on the extreme fringes,” Ellington told the Herald-Times.

But the congressman violated no law. The information is required under federal election law. If a donor doesn’t want to be known as a candidate’s supporter, he or she can simply not contribute to a campaign.

Julia Vaughn, policy director of Common Cause Indiana, said Ellington’s proposal was a “horrible idea based on a knee jerk reaction to a national news story.”

“Campaign contributors under siege because of disclosure is not an issue here,” Vaughn wrote in an email. “Hoosiers need more information about who’s contributing to campaigns, not less. Takes us in the wrong direction for no reason. Bad idea, bad public policy.”

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Kokomo Tribune. August 23, 2019

Gun research block remains

Starting in 1996, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention self-imposed a ban on researching firearms deaths in the United States. The agency had been cowed by the National Rifle Association and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, among others, who accused it of being a fellow traveler of those pushing for gun control.

Fast forward to December 2012. The world was shocked by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in which 28 people, including 20 first-graders, were shot to death. The following month, President Barack Obama issued a direct order to then Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to lift this prohibition and “conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it.”

Since then, the CDC has done little to nothing on this issue. Congress once again has clamped down on dedicated funding for this valuable research. The bureaucratic stalemate continues unabated while a shooter such as Patrick Crusius of Dallas can drive 10 hours to an El Paso Walmart and shoot to death 22 people and injure 25 more.

Cold, hard facts should always be welcome in a debate as serious as this one. No one is saying either side can’t have their intractable positions. What we are saying is that without the needed data in hand, we can’t have an intelligent discussion on this issue. The CDC is uniquely qualified to do this research, yet it isn’t allowed to do so for purely political reasons.

“CDC increases the health security of our nation,” reads its mission statement. “As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. To accomplish our mission, CDC conducts critical science and provides health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats, and responds when these arise.”

Do those words mean anything at this point? What is so scary about numbers? And what, exactly, are Congress and the gun lobby so afraid of finding?

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