INDIANAPOLIS – A bombshell report from the IndyStar exposed a governor playing whack-a-mole as a series of scandals rocked the Indiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The Star uncovered a dubious, six-digit, taxpayer-funded contract awarded to a state senator turned lobbyist, potentially in violation of regulations to prevent lawmakers from monetizing their legislative connections. On Monday, when confronted with the controversy, Holcomb seemed to be taken by surprise, quickly terminating the contract. It’s disconcerting that, amid a crisis at IDVA, the governor still hasn’t performed an exhaustive investigation of the agency.
“The deal, signed nine months after former state Sen. Allen Paul left office, appears to run afoul of Indiana’s revolving door law meant to curb politicians from cashing in on government service. Paul also failed to register as a lobbyist.
“When IndyStar asked Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office for details about the arrangement, Paul’s contract was terminated with little explanation. That was just the latest in a series of actions — including the resignation of a longtime IDVA leader and two state audits — that have rocked the veterans agency in the wake of an IndyStar investigation that revealed poor financial controls and potential misuse of funds.
“State offices typically avoid hiring outside lobbyists because of the criticism that can come with it. Taxpayers often don’t like it when a state agency uses tax money to lobby lawmakers for more tax money. About a dozen states ban the practice, but not Indiana.”
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody questioned Holcomb’s ability to police the state government he leads.
“Governor Holcomb is attacking the corruption and insider deals at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs with glacial urgency,” said Zody. “Now, after another scandal, it’s time the governor steps to the plate and publicly lays out a plan to root out the corruption at the agencies he leads. Holcomb’s alarming indifference to this fraud and wasteful spending doesn’t exactly inspire confidence he’s safeguarding taxpayer dollars.”