Say what you will about Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, he is a man of convictions. But for purposes of this earned polemic, let’s set aside the wrongful convictions that are still being overturned from Hill’s years as Elkhart County prosecutor. Instead, let’s focus on his time as AG and explore Hill’s personal and political convictions.
Hill’s campaign recently sent a letter to delegates who will choose the Republican AG nominee at the party convention next month. In it, Hill said he would use the month starting May 18 to “reflect on lessons learned.” That’s some euphemism for “suspended from the practice of law for 30 days.”
But Hill needs much more time for reflection, demonstrating he has learned nothing from his suspension. Because Hill’s bedrock conviction is he is right. If you disagree, Hill is a hammer, you are a nail. In suspending Hill, the Indiana Supreme Court cited Hill’s vindictive streak toward the four women who accused him of groping and sexual misconduct. Nevertheless, within days, Hill’s fellow Republicans were getting a taste.
Hill’s campaign braintrust went from reflection to retaliation in the length of a letter. “Don’t be fooled,” his letter warned fellow Republicans, telegraphing scorched-earth politics. “These new candidates don’t care about your voice. They only care about themselves and taking another step up the ladder.” Hill is talking here to members of his own party about his fellow Republican challengers — Nate Harter, Todd Rokita and John Westercamp.
Hill’s campaign letter also warns “the establishment” is out to get him, never mind that he occupies — well, did occupy — the office of Indiana attorney general. Has it never dawned on Hill that he won? That once you hold statewide office, you are the establishment?
But playing the establishment card feeds another Hill conviction: that he is a victim. This is amplified in his appeal to Republican delegates. “(T)he establishment is just being quiet now, biding their time to take out everyone who doesn’t give them power,” says Hill’s letter, stopping just short of seething, “my precious!”
“The establishment” in this case is everyone who told Hill that the right and proper thing for him to do was resign and spare the state a pointless years-long slog through the muck.
Amid his rhetoric, Hill told delegates, “I don’t need Rhetoric … I’ve got a Record!”
He sure does. Just this month, Hill not only claimed the record of first Indiana attorney general disqualified from office due to professional misconduct, he also created a very un-Indiana-like constitutional crisis over who is in charge in the AG’s office. Hill had his chief deputy cover for him, but Gov. Eric Holcomb thinks he should be able to appoint an AG while Hill is off reflecting. The Indiana Supreme Court snubbed Holcomb when he asked if he could appoint a new AG. Predictably, a lawsuit now challenges Hill’s eligibility to serve. Onward through the muck we slog.
Hill’s record also includes a lack of transparency on spending and picking fights with elected prosecutors and fellow statewide Republican elected officials, suing in their names even when they beg him not to. Secretary of State Connie Lawson can tell you about this, and if she won’t speak about it, the court filings where she did live on. Hill was making his record on voter suppression when he went to court as AG to undermine Lawson — the official duly in charge of elections in Indiana — because Hill wanted to block expanded voting in Indianapolis.
There were any number of legitimate, timely opportunities for Holcomb and the Indiana General Assembly to hold Hill accountable. Cowardice prevailed. They blew it, and we’re stuck with a malcontented, unscrupulous AG whose convictions are surpassed only by his unfitness.
The next test of political will comes June 18 at the GOP convention.
“And on June 17th, I will come back stronger than ever,” Hill promised GOP delegates. “… I just want you to know that nothing changes.”
That alone is reason not to vote for the man.•
• Dave Stafford is editor of Indiana Lawyer. Opinions expressed are those of the author.