Building an election

CROWN POINT: Developers account for more than half of Klein campaign money
2007-02-25T00:00:00Z Building an electionMARISA KWIATKOWSKI

CROWN POINT | Shown in more than brick and mortar, Crown Point's booming development is an integral building block in the incumbent mayor's campaign.

More than 50 percent of Mayor Dan Klein's 2006 campaign dollars came from corporations and individuals in the development industry, a Times computer-assisted analysis of campaign finance records shows.

At least $34,600 of the $71,540 Klein raised in 2006 came from active developers, builders and engineers who have worked in Crown Point.

Another $2,580 came from indirect growth and development supporters, including subcontractors, banks and landscaping companies.

Crown Point has become a hot spot for growth in recent years -- igniting a struggle by city officials to balance the needs of residents and developers.

Klein argues neither he nor the city are for sale and that his supporters know better than to expect something in return for their campaign contributions.

"Even when I started my campaign meeting, I said I would not promise anyone anything," the 51-year-old Republican said. "I have two fundraisers -- in January and October -- and everybody is invited equally." Eight of Klein's 12 largest contributors worked on city projects in 2005 and 2006.

Larry Geisen, of Geisen Funeral Home, Inc., fed $3,000 into Klein's war chest through LK Properties LLC. Geisen said he is a longtime friend of the Klein family.

"They've been nice to us, and we try to help him out any way we can," Geisen said. "It's a way to take care of the people who take care of you ..." In 2006, the city purchased the East Street Geisen Funeral Home property and a two-story building for $905,000. Geisen is relocating his business to a new 13,000-square-foot facility at 606 E. 133th Ave. along the Broadway corridor.

Commonwealth Engineering President Mark Downey contributed $2,500 to Klein's coffers. Downey said his Indianapolis-based company has been given city contracts for about 15 years -- long before Klein was in office.

"I think Mayor Klein is a wonderful mayor doing things that are appropriate for the citizens of Crown Point," he said. "We are just supporting the mayor."

Residential developer Olthof Homes also gave $2,500 to Klein.

Klein said he is a proponent of conscious, controlled growth. Handling Crown Point's development is one of his platforms for the 2007 election.

"You can't stop a developer from developing farmland," he said.

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