- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Authorities are investigating whether one of Indiana’s largest beer distributors improperly funneled more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions to some of the state’s most powerful elected officials.

Former Indiana Inspector General David Thomas has been appointed to review allegations that Monarch Beverage skirted an annual $22,000 corporate campaign finance limit by making donations through a small limited liability company over the past 15 years, the Indianapolis Star reported (https://indy.st/1RFnG7d ). The allegations were made by the Indiana Beverage Alliance, a group representing Monarch’s competitors.

In a Dec. 14 letter to Indiana Beverage Alliance President Marc Carmichael, who filed the complaint, Thomas wrote that he had “requested and received confirmation from the Indiana State Police that they would conduct an investigation.”

Indiana’s campaign finance laws put strict contribution limits on corporations, but not on limited liability companies, which didn’t exist when the campaign finance laws were written.

Monarch distributed the money through Vision Concepts, an LLC which shares a CEO and address with Monarch. In the past, Monarch has denied doing anything wrong, and Vision Concepts CEO Phil Terry did not respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Since 2007, Monarch has tried to persuade lawmakers to throw out a Prohibition-era restriction that prevents beer wholesalers from also distributing hard liquor. Indiana is the only state without state-run liquor stores to have such a ban.

House Speaker Brian Bosma and the House Republican Campaign Committee that he leads have received more than $200,000 from Vision Concepts over the past 15 years. The Indiana Republican Party has received more than $100,000, former Gov. Mitch Daniels received more than $117,000 and Gov. Mike Pence has received more than $84,000.

Democrats also have received substantial contributions. The Indiana House Democratic Caucus received more than $40,000, former Gov. Joe Kernan $60,000 and John Gregg, the former House speaker running for governor, has received more than $30,000.

The practice has raised questions about whether such corporations are breaking a separate law that prohibits companies from hiding the source of campaign cash by giving in the name of another company. The Indiana Election Commission has never investigated the issue, much less resolved it, and state lawmakers have been reluctant to take up legislation that would further restrict corporation campaign finance practices.


Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com

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