Chesterton Tribune

Daniels' PAC donated $50K 2 days before Purdue nod

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mitch Daniels’ political action committee donated a total of $50,000 to two statewide candidates two days before he was chosen as Purdue University’s next president.

The $25,000 donations to U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, the Republican nominee to succeed Daniels, and Tony Bennett, who’s seeking re-election as superintendent of public instruction, could be the last candidate donations Daniels makes for a while, The Indianapolis Star reported Thursday.

Moments after Purdue’s trustees elected Daniels on June 21 to assume the school’s helm when his tenure as governor ends in January, Daniels said he would no longer be involved in partisan politics. Daniels said the only exception would be if he felt compelled to defend his administration’s record during his eight years as governor.

With the $50,000 the governor gave to Pence and Bennett, plus some other expenses, Daniels’ Aiming Higher PAC had about $50,000 left, said Brian McGrath, the PAC’s executive director.

Although Daniels would not say precisely what he plans to do with that remaining $50,000, McGrath said he expects any use of the money would be consistent with the governor’s pledge to stay out of partisan politics.

A separate Aiming Higher issues fund, which Daniels has used to push for legislative initiatives such as education reforms, had about $18,000 on hand.

“We’ll wind ‘em both up by the end of the year,” Daniels said. “I don’t know exactly. The money needs to be given for the purpose that somebody donated it. We can’t take it and divert it to a different purpose.”

The governor could give the money to an issues-oriented cause rather than a political candidate.

He has some funds left in his three pots of political cash, but not much. At the end of March — the last reporting period — Daniels had just $14.27 in his gubernatorial campaign account.

Wherever it goes, the money remaining in the funds is small compared with what Daniels raised in the past and could have raised for this November’s elections.

In 2010, when Daniels made winning Republican control of the Indiana House a priority, his political committees donated more than $2.3 million. That strategy paid off, as Republicans won a 60-40 majority. This year they are aiming at 67 seats, a majority so big they could pass bills whether Democrats show up to work or not.

Mike Gentry, who has managed the House Republican campaigns, said Daniels’ help has always been important.

“Obviously, he’s a very popular governor, and there are still districts where we could have utilized his endorsement. We would have loved to have had the governor available to us this fall to basically help us out,” he said.

Mike Murphy, a former Marion County GOP chairman and former state representative, called Daniels’ departure from politics “huge.”

Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, said Republicans are losing a man to Purdue who has for years been their chief spokesman, fundraiser and political leader.

“This definitively closes the door on Daniels as a political figure in Indiana for now,” Downs said.


Posted 7/6/2012