Commentary: Government shouldn’t be a political action committee


By Mary Beth Schneider

INDIANAPOLIS—Recently, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development put out a news release touting their “2020 campaign to tell real stories about Hoosiers.”

Each month, they said, they will put out – and hope news outlets use – a story and short video highlighting people whose lives have been helped by a state workforce program. It might be a military veteran who got a better job opportunity, a business which got a training grant for their workers to improve their skills or an adult who obtaining their high school equivalency certificate.

Mary Beth Schneider

How nice. And I mean that. While President Ronald Reagan famously said government is the problem, often government is the solution – or at least a means to one.

But it seemed so familiar. 2020. Real stories. Hoosier lives. Hmmmm.

In fact, it seems an awful lot like the campaign slogan and strategy of Gov. Eric Holcomb. Back in July, Holcomb went to the iconic gym where Indiana’s favorite basketball movie, “Hoosiers,” was filmed to kick off his re-election campaign.

His slogan? “Putting People First.”

His plan? To center his campaign on individual success stories.

What a cosmic coincidence!

The governor wants to tell Hoosier stories. DWD wants to tell Hoosier stories. Karma, right?

Maybe. But then, guess how long this DWD campaign runs?

If you picked early November, you’re right. The election is Nov. 3; the final installment of the DWD program is tentatively Nov. 9.

Holcomb is in an enviable position for re-election. As of June 30, he had more than $6 million in campaign funds, and has raised at least another million dollars since. We won’t know the full amount until the 2019 fundraising reports, due Jan. 15, are released.

Democrats, meanwhile, just lost the man many considered their best candidate. State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, dropped out of the race on Jan. 6. He’d been introduced at his campaign kickoff only a couple months earlier by Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, a Republican.

Still in the race are Dr. Woody Myers, a former state health commissioner, and businessman Josh Owens. Their campaign finance reports are likely to be meager, given that Myers so far has no large contributions which need to be reported before the annual report and the only one Owens got was $22,000 from himself.

This week, the Indiana Manufacturers Association released a statewide poll – conducted in mid-December of 1,000 Hoosiers — that found people here feel good about Indiana, even as they look askance at the national direction.

Even with former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence serving as vice president and as President Trump’s chief cheerleader, only 47 percent of Hoosiers approve of the job Trump is doing, with 48 percent disapproving. And 52 percent said the nation is headed in the wrong direction.

By contrast, only 36 percent felt the state is headed in the wrong direction. And while a quarter of those surveyed still have no opinion of Holcomb after three years of his tenure as governor, 51 percent approve of the job he’s doing, with 51 percent also saying he definitely or probably deserves re-election.

Heck, even 30 percent of Democrats approve of him.

There are issues that Democrats can exploit – if they can put together the money and organization to launch a credible challenge, a big ‘if’ at this point. Thousands of teachers filled the Statehouse in November to rally for better pay, among other education issues, to address their stagnant wages and the draining of their ranks as people quit in frustration or move to other states. Holcomb avoided the Statehouse that day, and so far has offered more talk than action to address teacher concerns.

And recent studies have shown Hoosiers pay more than people in surrounding states for their health care – even in places where the residents smoke more and are fatter. Hoosiers are seeking answers. The IMA poll showed health care and job creation are the top issues on Hoosier minds as this election year kicks off.

No wonder the Indiana General Assembly held hearings in their opening week on ways to reduce health care costs. No wonder that touting Indiana’s low unemployment rate and job creation efforts is a regular event for the Holcomb administration. He has a mostly positive record to boast about, and I have no quarrel with that at all.

But the DWD program – even if it is circumstantial – comes way too close to sounding like a series of campaign commercials. Governors have immense advantages over challengers as they seek re-election. That’s not going to change. But state agencies should never leave the impression that they are using taxpayer dollars as if they were political contributions.

Mary Beth Schneider is an editor at, a news website powered by Franklin College journalists.

The post Commentary: Government shouldn’t be a political action committee appeared first on

No posts to display