Campaign Finance website is a tool the public can use to search and find out
who is giving money to political campaigns from a database of campaign
finance reports throughout Indiana.
Federal, state and
local candidates as well as political action and regular party committees
all, by law, must disclose not only contributions but loans, expenditures
and distributions of more than $100 taken in before a primary or general
election and the end of every year.
agencies reporting on Pavilion Partners LLC’s deal to rehabilitate the
historic Indiana Dunes Pavilion have said that principal Chuck Williams has
made significant contributions to Republican officials and causes.
If you search for
Williams’s name on the campaign finance website, it will report $110,230 for
total contributions made by him and $121,142 for expenditures paid to him,
predominantly from the Porter County Central Committee reports.
And, if you search
for contributions or expenditures under Williams’ business 212 Lincolnway
LLC, the site will report contributions totaling $126,292 and expenditures
of $121,394 to the County Republicans.
But according to
current GOP Party Chairman Michael Simpson along with the party’s executive
director Kenard Taylor and former treasurer Ken Williams, the actual total
in donations that Williams has made to the Porter County Republican Central
Committee, which supports campaigns for party candidates, is $3,250 over the
course of 11 years.
Tribune last week asked Republican officials to explain the large
installments listed from Williams, one as big as $38,400 on their reports.
Payments to 212
Lincolnway LLC began in 2004 with $5,200 annual expenditure for rent.
Simpson said that Williams offered an unrented space for the party in a
building he’s owned at that address once the party’s lease was up for their
headquarters on Napoleon St. in Valparaiso at the end of 2003.
The party for years
has regularly maintained a headquarters from various locations, Simpson
said. Whenever he had unrented space available, Williams provided the space
for the headquarters.
The leases with
Williams have been at market rate compared to other buildings in downtown
Valparaiso, Simpson said.
In 2004, Keith
Hall, who was chair of the party that year, entered into a lease with
Williams based on square footage and the party also agreed to pay for
signage and a portion of utilities, Simpson said.
The committee was
able to pay for the lease for a few years with money it received from
license plate funds until about 2006.
For decades, both
Democrats and Republican parties were each granted money for personalized
licenses plate but the Indiana General Assembly in 2005 passed a bill to
give the money to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles instead.
Simpson said that
once the funds from the license plates dried up, the party used money it
raised from other activities to pay the rent.
“When there was a
shortage of funds available to pay the rent, (Williams) let the rent go
unpaid but asked (money) for utilities,” Simpson said.
The 2005 committee
report indicates the party was able to pay Williams in full $13,500 for the
space at 212 Lincolnway. That was also the year Williams took the role of
chairperson of the party.
The 2006 committee
report shows $15,000 paid for rent but lists a debt of $1,049. The party’s
debt to Williams grew in 2007, with a debt of $9,799 reported.
Then in 2008, the
report lists an in-kind donation of $28,250 by 212 Lincolnway LLC seen as
“forgiveness of debt” leaving the debt balance at $1,049 for that year. In
2010, Williams forgave $38,400 of debt, or “free rent” as the party has
referred to it. Then in 2011 the committee paid off the remaining debt of
$1,049 to 212 Lincolnway.
In summary, the
total amount of rent that was donated in-kind or forgiven by Williams was
$69,500, according to party officials.
“Mr. Williams did
not feel he should burden the current chairman with the debits he was
responsible for so he forgave the debits and in the long run didn’t make any
monetary gains but lost money from his involvement as party chairman,”
A contribution for
rent appears later in the 2013 committee report for the address of 212
Lincolnway again, this time as Courtney Morgan LLC for $600. The committee
paid another $12,500 for rent according to the 2014 report.
Simpson said he
entered into a lease with Williams then for the party to have a headquarters
at 15 Franklin St. in Valparaiso for the 2014 County elections. The lease
ended in January 2015 and the party headquarters has since moved to a
location on Napoleon St. in Valparaiso, Simpson added, in a building not
owned by Williams.
Debts to Williams
The reports also
list a debt to Williams as an individual in 2006 of $12,701, which increased
by $500 in 2007. Then it increases to $22,283 of debt owed in 2008 and
$20,099 in 2009, all those years Williams was party chair.
The 2010 report
said Williams forgave the debt of $20,099.
according to the report, are for items such as “Popcorn Festival supplies,
state delegate convention dues, mail postage and advertising.”
Simpson said that
the debts to Williams are the ones that are “most misunderstood.” The GOP
chairmen in Porter County have placed these kinds of items on their credit
cards including state convention dues, meals at conventions, booths and
floats for the Popcorn Festival, campaign mailings and polling whenever
committee funds are not available to pay for them, Simpson said.
A more recent
committee report in 2014 states that Simpson loaned $15,723 for “campaign
expenses” which he later said was for a poll done in the 2014 campaign
season for countywide elections.
When asked by the
Tribune if it is customary for party chairs to make such loans,
Simpson responded it does happen in other counties throughout the state.
The Lake County
Republican Party recently reorganized and renamed its organization to
“escape the debt” of a former party chair, Simpson said. In the case of
Williams, he chose to have the debt forgiven and written off, he said.
Democrats “Pay as
Democratic Party Chair Jeff Chidester told the Tribune his central
committee works its spending with what contributions they are able to raise
and avoids making loans it can’t pay at the end of the year.
“We are pretty much
pay as you go,” Chidester said.
For money not given
as rent, the reports state that Williams made direction donations $1,500 and
$500 in 2007, a $300 loan in 2008 and four donations in 2013 adding up to
$950, making a grand total of $3,250.
Williams’ clothing business Elegan Customwear in 2010 provided t-shirts for
Republican campaigns as an in-kind donation of $303.
Donations to other
In addition to the
Porter County Republican Central Committee, the Indiana Campaign Funding
Website search also turned up other direct contributions Williams has made
2004: $1,000 to
Mitch Daniels for Governor Campaign Committee, $1,000 to Friends of (State
Sen. Victor) Heinold, and $500 to the Committee to Elect Ralph Ayres State
2006: $2,790 to the
Indiana Republican State Committee, $250 to Friends of Pam Buhman (State
2007: $1,000 to the
Mitch Daniels for Governor Campaign Committee
2008: $5,001 to the
Mitch Daniels for Governor Campaign Committee, $250 to the State Majority
2009: $250 to the
Senate Majority Campaign Committee, $200 to Aiming Higher
2010: $1,000 to
Citizens for Klein (Daniel Klein for State Representative), $500 to Charlie
for Indiana (Indiana Secretary of State), $150 to Unhappy Taxpayers for
Shawn Olson (State Senate Candidate), $108 to Friends of Ed Soliday (State
2011: $500 to Mike
Pence for Indiana
2012: $500 to Mike
Pence for Indiana
2014: $250 for
Friends of Connie Lawson (Secretary of State)
2015: $250 for
Charbonneau for Senate (State Sen. Ed Charbonneau)
In kind donations
include $2,100 to Mike Pence for Indiana for “event catering and supplies”
in 2011 and $420 in 2012. Elegan Customwear made an in-kind donation of
$5,305 to Friends of Pam Buhman.