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August 29, 2014, 2:01 am

Hitting the Indiana corruption lottery

I wrote last week about my initial experience with political corruption in the state of Indiana. It was blatant and ugly but the ugliest was probably the rollout of the Hoosier Lottery (Powerball, scratch tickets, etc.). The Democratic Party controlled the governor’s office and it was used to rake in big money from their donors and operators. That is what an election is all about — power and money. They had no shame.

As Deputy Commissioner for Minority Business at the state Department of Administration, I had access to the procurement activity records. My wife, Kay, was also an executive at the Hoosier Lottery and a pipeline of information. I learned that their new insurance plan covered all pre-existing medical conditions. From a financial perspective, why would they buy such a very expensive plan? They began hiring Democratic cronies who had serious illnesses and no insurance. They actually hired terminally ill people so that they could participate in the plan for the remainder of their lives.

Very few of the people were highly educated. One clumsy guy was hired to deliver scratch tickets. One day an elderly lady called the Lottery and said she had found a box of about 2,000 scratch tickets inside a cart in the middle of a grocery store parking lot. The delivery gay didn’t even miss the tickets and nor did anyone else. It was a circus!

I got very involved when they were about to award the managing vendor contract. The winner of this contract would actually operate the ticket issuing and processing of winners. To say it was lucrative is an understatement. The three companies in competition were instructed to use my office for sourcing bona fide minority businesses within the state. One company did an excellent job of sourcing. They put into their proposal 22 minority businesses that they would use if they won the contract. They even signed formal letters of intent with these companies. Each one would become a multi-million dollar operation under their agreement.

Another company signed up 10 minority businesses and formally pledged to utilize them if they won the competition. Again, this would produce 10 new multi-million dollar operations. To say that I and these companies were excited would be a mild description. There was a lot on the line.

However, the third company in the competition avoided me and my office like the plague. There was no interaction and they didn’t seem to care. They knew something that we didn’t. The fix was in. Behind the scenes they were working the politics and all that it entails. Soon the announcement came and, low and behold, they “won” the contract. They had nothing but token minority participation.

We were terribly hurt. All that potential was not realized as the local Democratic Party had other ideas. Those subcontracts would only go to political cronies and Black business owners and other minorities would not benefit from this “public” procurement activity. I decided to declare war.

I expressed my outrage on radio and wrote articles for the press. The director of the Hoosier Lottery requested a meeting with me. We screamed at each other and it ended with his saying, “You have defied power and authority, therefore, you must burn.” That to me was clearly a death threat. I responded, “You got a match? Strike it and let’s see who burns.”

That was the last time I saw him. I told Kay that we had best watch each other’s back very closely. Something very strange happened a few days later. The director was aboard a plane taking a scenic view of Indianapolis while business prospecting. All of a sudden on this sunny day another plane crashed into his plane. All aboard died. Rumors of it being a “hit” still exist in Indiana today. All I knew was that someone who really wanted my demise was no longer on earth.

The lessons learned from the corrupt Lottery procurement operation and the other procurement transgressions are: We don’t always win; and never assume the powerful will do the right thing. Such was my mindset when the Obama stimulus bill was enacted. I assumed there would be little Black business interaction and I was absolutely correct. If there is politically driven activity, there will be no true diversity. That lesson increased my desire to find a more effective way to integrate the procurement activity of Indiana. It wouldn’t be long before I realized the need for a separate, watchdog, operation. An operation such as a Black chamber of commerce. I confided in Kay, “We are going to start our own organization.” We did, and now you know why. — (NNPA)

 

Harry Alford is the co-founder, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .