Downstate mailers inflame local GOP candidates

2012-11-01T20:45:00Z 2012-11-01T23:27:03Z Downstate mailers inflame local GOP candidatesBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
November 01, 2012 8:45 pm  • 

Two more Republican candidates for the state legislature have been targeted in attack advertisements sponsored by the Indiana Democratic State Central Committee.

Ron Johnson and William I. "Bill" Fine said Thursday they were being smeared in campaign postcards sent by the downstate Democratic organization.

Johnson, running in Crown Point, Winfield and parts of Merrillville, Hobart and Porter Township in Porter County, decried a campaign postcard stating, "Ron Johnson has a tax problem." It alleges Johnson asked an employee of the Living Stones Fellowship Church, where Johnson is a pastor, to "lie to the IRS by misreporting $1.8 million in revenue to avoid paying taxes."

Fine, running in Munster, Highland and parts of Griffith to represent the 12th House District, objected to a mailer claiming he supports the Republican agenda of letting of for-profit corporations take over troubled public schools, even after a sexual assault at a for-profit alternative school in Pennsylvania.

The mailer about Johnson cites as its source a 2009 wrongful termination lawsuit filed in Lake Superior Court by the church's former finance director.

However, the suit alleged only that Johnson and the finance director disagreed on whether the church needed to report to the IRS details of $125,000 in spending by church missionaries or small gifts Johnson made to church volunteers or remit sale taxes from a church fundraising event.

The suit stated the church received $1.8 million in private donations in 2007, but didn't allege the IRS investigated that revenue or challenged its tax-exempt status.

The former employee withdrew the suit and its allegations several months later following an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed sum, Johnson said.

He said neither he nor the church is in trouble with the IRS.

"I want the community to know we have operated the church with the utmost in integrity," Johnson said.

"I don't make $1.7 million. I'm a middle-class Crown Point resident. I'm trying to pay my kids' school bills. I'm like everyone else."

The mailer about Fine is similar to one sent out earlier this week about Hal Slager, who running in the Tri-Town area to represent the 15th House District. The ads in Fine's and Slager's races claim they support the Republican agenda of allowing for-profit companies to take over troubled public schools, including one firm that initially declined to take legal responsibility for the rape of a student by another student at a school it operated eight years ago in Philadelphia.

Fine said he condemns the mailer as "dirty politics."

"I hope and believe most voters in House District 12 are smart enough to know what this really is and discard it," Fine said.

"I'm sure there are people who take it at face value and think (I'm) a bad guy in favor of allowing corporations that allow kids to be raped," he said. "It's ridiculous and is appropriate for people to understand this is b.s."

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker replied Thursday that Republicans are in the attack ad business, too.

"They tend to be high and mighty when they send their mailers out and infer things that we don't want to talk about in a family newspaper," Parker said. "I have a very strict rule about what goes out. All of that stuff is documented.

"The public policy question that Republicans don't want to talk about is that they are in favor of destroying our local schools in favor of for-profit corporations," Parker said. "Their agenda in the next (General Assembly) session is giving the state school superintendent authority to start privatizing entire school districts."

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