Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

May 15, 2014

DAVE BANGERT: Statute of limitations on Daniels' vow of no partisan politics

Purdue president set standard for himself; maybe he shouldn't have

There is no statute of limitations on a vow, including the one Mitch Daniels made to Purdue University the day he was selected as president: No more partisan politics.

But in the game of separating what counts as playing politics and what simply amounts to attempting to expand the Purdue brand among an influential crowd, maybe it’s time to institute a new standard to Daniels’ presidency: “What if France Córdova had done that?” (Feel free to insert the names of Martin Jischke, Steven Beering or any of Daniels’ predecessors at Hovde Hall.)

Because, let’s face it. Every time Daniels gets caught in a room of former vice presidents, future presidential hopefuls or assorted think tankers — particularly of the Republican persuasion — he’s going to prompt a trip to the scales to weigh his actions. At this point, Purdue should simply accept that it’s going to happen with its president.

Daniels recently found himself, once again, forced to knock down the notion that he was dabbling in politics on the sly.

Did his participation in a private, off-the-record conference hosted in March by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, at a tony Georgia resort cross a line the former Republican Indiana governor drew when he took the job in West Lafayette? And what about his use of Purdue’s jet to get there and back?

Daniels’ explanation: This conference was no secret — at least among Washington insiders — and it was no campaign stop. He also said big Purdue donors and potential donors were on hand.

“I do everything to stay away from politics, as I said,” Daniels told the J&C. “I consider this a trip of use to Purdue. … I smuggle a Purdue commercial into every speech I make. I look for opportunities.”

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