Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

March 5, 2014

TOM LoBIANCO: Money pledge exposed in Indiana gay marriage fight

Ex-GOP chairman made offer, sources say

A former Repub­li­can Party chairman’s pledge to provide campaign cash to protect House members who were considering voting against a constitu­tional gay marriage ban offers a rare look at the private power game that plays out on tough issues at the Statehouse.

Jim Kittle offered “unlimited” campaign help to House Speaker Brian Bosma as part of a push to defeat the proposed amendment, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the discussion. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose the private discussions.

Kittle withdrew his offer after Bosma questioned its legality, and it turns out the money wasn’t needed after all. Just four House Republicans targeted by ban supporters face primary challenges, and changes to the proposed amendment’s language will keep the issue off the ballot until at least 2016. But the back-room intrigue illustrates how election-year politics and campaign dollars shape some of the state’s most important decisions.

The fight over the proposed marriage ban was always tinged by the 2014 election cycle, if not always on the surface. Voters must decide all 100 House seats this year, and supporters of the marriage ban used the threat of election challenges to try to secure a November vote on the issue.

Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute and a leading supporter of the ban, sent an email to supporters Jan. 28, shortly after the House stripped language barring civil unions from the proposed amendment. That move forced lawmakers to restart the amendment process and kept the issue off the November ballot.

The email listed Republicans who had voted to remove the civil unions ban and closed with a reminder that Indiana’s primary election filing deadline was Feb. 7. It also included a link to the form needed to file for office.

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