Senator Richard Lugar (R-In) is nearing the end of his sixth term as Senator of Indiana. During the past thirty-five years the Senator has learned much about himself and put that education to work for his constituents. One of those valuable pieces of learning may be that he doesn’t really like the people of Indiana, and that’s why doesn’t own a residence in his home state and visits there as little as possible.
Lugar’s residency should be a particularly important issue for the state and national GOP efforts.
Recently Secretary of State Charlie White was removed from office because of a conviction for voter fraud. According to the prosecutors, he illegally registered to vote at his ex-wife’s house.
Under Indiana law once a candidate is on the ballot they cannot be replaced even if for some reason the candidate cannot continue to run. If the Democrats time it right, and go after Lugar the same way they went after White, it is possible that their candidate will run unopposed for Senate, turning one R (albeit a very liberal R) in the Senate to a D. With the Senate possibly for grabs in 2012 the possibility of eliminating the need to contest one election would be very appealing to the Democratic Party Senate Campaign Committee.
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When he was entered the senate in 1977, Lugar sold his house in Indianapolis (he was the Mayor at the time). He lists that same house he sold almost 36 years ago as his legal voting residence which according to the Senator is legal. And the Republican Attorney General agrees with him.
…since Indiana’s constitution allows those in the service of the nation to keep their last address.
The Lugar campaign brushed off the criticism, saying the senator spent 89 days in Indiana over the last year. And, Lugar political director David Willkie said, Lugar is following the law.
“It’s the same as when Dick Lugar was in the United States Navy, he kept his residency there. Other classes of people, too — foreign service, military personnel, anybody that’s traveling for state or federal business — keeps the last place” they lived, Willkie said.
Serving in the Navy is not the same as serving in the Senate where you are supposed to be representing your state.
Even if the AG’s ruling remains unchallenged it remains a potentially dangerous issue for Lugar. The Senator and his wife own and live in a home in McLean, Virginia valued at slightly more than $1 million in McLean, Va. Many Indiana residents may ask themselves why the Senator couldn’t own a smaller house near the capital and another house in Indiana. According to Open Secrets the Senator had a net worth of over $1.4 million in 2010, he surely could take $200,000 and purchase a house (and an investment) in his home state.
Perhaps he doesn’t do it because, when he visits Indiana he stays in a hotel paid for by the US Tax Payers.
The Democrats have already started to make it an issue. According to Fox News:
The Indiana Democratic Party has combed through records going all the way back to Lugar’s first year in the Senate, 1977.
The hundreds of pages of itemized travel expenses were passed along to Fox News. Among the findings offered by the party is that the six-term US Senator has spend almost $50,000 in travel expenses just visiting his home state.
The expenses are necessary, in part, because Lugar has no home in Indiana. The Indiana Senator lives in the Washington DC suburb of McLean, Virginia. So, virtually every time Lugar stays in Indiana there’s an added cost.”At the very least, Senator Lugar should be compelled to better explain the more than twenty years worth of taxpayer dollars used to fund his travel expenses in Indiana,” says state Democratic party chairman Dan Parker.
Another of the Indiana Democratic Party’s findings puts a finer point on the issue. It says Lugar appears to have expensed 325 nights in Indiana over a 21-year period, from 1990 through 2011.
If those numbers are correct that translates into a little over two weeks a year. Lugar’s campaign denies this charge saying he was in the state for 89 days in 2011. Admittedly Lugar’s numbers are a bit better, but not that much better.
The Senate was in session for 175 days last year. That leaves 190 days he could have visited with his constituents and listened to their concerns. Even if he decided to go away on vacation for a month (30 days) after working those 190 days, that leaves the Senator with 160 days to visit with his constituents. But he only spent 89 days in Indiana.
Its been said over and over, the 2012 election is vitally important for the future of this country. Just as key as winning the Presidency is winning the Senate, because it would be impossible for the GOP to roll back some of Obama’s most oppressive legislation without control of both houses.
While ultimately it is up for Indiana’s GOP voters to decide, to this observer it seems as if Senator Lugar, is too much of a potential liability to the GOP chances for re-taking the senate to be renominated for his senate position.