In the Indiana Legislature, money talks


The report from the Hoosier Action Resource Center is titled “Corporate Captive: Big Business at the Indiana General Assembly.”

“Corporate Captive” is a pretty good description of the report’s findings.

“Overpowered” might be another.

The report reveals that 91% of all campaign contributions to legislative candidates in the 2020 election came from political action committees and large donors.

Using data from the website, the report reveals candidates for the Indiana House of Representatives raised nearly $17 million, and candidates for the state Senate raised more than $10 million. It says 79% of that money came from PACs and businesses, and just 2% came from contributors of $100 or less.

House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, alone raised $1.75 million, and Senate President pro tempore Rod Bray raised $1.06 million.

“Our campaign finance laws allow organized money to overpower the voices of everyday people in pursuit of their own interests and profits,” the report said. “The influence of the wealthy and powerful is pervasive, and our legislature has become enthralled to those who control the big money.”

The report singles out the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which contributed more than $420,000 to legislative candidates last year, and the Indiana Manufacturers Association, which contributed roughly $90,000. Both groups made a priority of pushing through retroactive immunity for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the concerns of organizations representing workers and consumers, the legislation moved quickly through both houses of the General Assembly.

The business lobby also fought off efforts to require employers to provide accommodations to pregnant workers. Instead, lawmakers approved a bill that merely allows those workers to ask for accommodations, something they already had a right to do under current law. The new law doesn’t require employers to grant such requests.

Lawmakers also responded to priorities of the Indiana Hospital Association and the Indiana Health Care Association by providing liability protections to hospitals, long-term care facilities and out-patient clinics. Together, those organizations contributed more than $115,000 to legislative campaigns.

The top five construction, housing and real estate PACs contributed nearly $2 million to would-be state senators and representatives. As a result, the report said, Hoosier tenants have some of the weakest protections in the country, and weak building regulations threaten Indiana’s environment and put consumers at risk.

Fighting back, the report says, will require a unified approach.

“To outweigh the money and power of corporate interests in our state, more Hoosiers must get off the sidelines and get involved in our legislative process,” said Kate Hess Pace, the organization’s executive director.

It would also be a good idea to put some limits on all those campaign contributions.

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