Prostitution of the public trust, perversion of the Gospel message, prioritizing money and career over real values – Eric Turner is three for three. That’s a hat trick in hockey parlance, and the elite veteran of the Indiana House certainly knows how to skate.
“Skate” being lawyer slang for escaping the consequences of clear-cut bad acting, as in maneuvering to kill legislation that would have cost your family business many millions of dollars – dollars that ultimately come from the taxpayers, dollars that good public policy says your business doesn’t deserve to get.
The Cicero Republican lost his position as speaker pro tem in the fallout from his sabotage of a bill in the 2014 session that would have imposed a moratorium on nursing home construction. The moratorium would have been in keeping with a national trend to serve the elderly and disabled in their homes as long as possible, reducing the need for brick-and-mortar institutions and their greater Medicaid cost and far lower desirability.
The moratorium also would have hurt the nursing home enterprise of which Turner was part owner and his son was boss. “Was,” because the firm and an affiliate later got sold off for $2.3 billion. With a B.
That embarrassing windfall got Turner demoted. But the whole backdoor escapade failed to violate Indiana ethics law, according to a House panel that looked into the matter and presumably is still looking for an Indiana ethics law. I mean, if not this, what? The committee faulted him only for lack of “transparency.” I would suggest this whole charade, from misdeed to whitewash, is all too transparent.
Thus cleansed and sent forth to sort-of-sin no more, Turner now announces he plans to resign from the legislature – after the November election – and join the staff of a Christian organization known as EQUIP. No doubt he’ll do some good work. From a review of the organization’s agenda, he’ll fit in well by virtue of his standing as Indiana’s most prominent gay-bashing politician.
The architect of the proposal to engrave marriage inequality into the state constitution, Turner personifies the rightwing tactic of spouting piety while turning two paramount instructions from Jesus – love without judging and leave civil matters to Caesar – on their head. From his rhetoric in describing his new opportunity to serve Jesus, Turner also must assume he’ll waltz through the eye of the needle and into heaven as a rich man. Perhaps so. But could the Savior possibly have envisioned all this worldly success for all these politicians and preachers and “family values” spokesmen fighting for discrimination in his name?
Success no doubt will continue for the disgraced Eric Turner. Much as I admire and like Bob Ashley, a friend who’s waging a vigorous and intelligent campaign, the electorate in Cicero, to borrow a Hunter S. Thompson phrase, wouldn’t vote for a Democrat if he were running against a moray eel. It says here Turner will win, as usual, then quit, allowing Republican precinct committeemen to appoint a replacement without trifling with what the voters might want.
Everything is wrong with this picture. It says just about everything we need to know about Indiana politics. I pray – yes, pray – the voters defy my prognostication; but if so, that will be the exception that proves the rule. Doing good is the claim and the exception; doing well is the rule.
Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer, a contributor to The Indianapolis Business Journal and the author of “Indiana Out Loud."