Tad DeHaven

That’s Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels – the allegedly above-the-political-fray politician who a lot of Republicans and conservatives continue to pine for as the would-be hero to deliver us from big-government Obama in November.

In December 2010, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources received Think’s first fifteen electric vehicles. Daniels stated that “we’re proud to be the first customer.” According to IDNR’s press release, “Energy Systems Network used a combination of federal stimulus funds and private donations to purchase the vehicles, then donated the vehicles to the state at no cost.”

That’s not good for federal taxpayers. But at no state cost, it’s still good for Indiana state taxpayers, right? Well, it turns out that this Energy Systems Network, which “provides development and coordination for collaborative projects and joint ventures” between Indiana universities and energy-related firms (including Think), receives money from Indiana state taxpayers courtesy of the Daniels administration.

From ESN’s website:

ESN member institutions provide industry expertise in advanced technology vehicles, distributed power generation, advanced biofuels, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Collectively, they make up a world-class clean-tech cluster with expertise that spans the energy spectrum. ESN is also fortunate to have close working relationships with government agencies and policymakers at the local, state and federal levels. ESN’s projects have benefitted greatly from funding and technical support provided by the State of Indiana and its agencies.

The bolded text is my emphasis. As it turns out, ESN has friends in high places. Take a look at the resume of ESN’s president and CEO, Paul Mitchell:

Prior to joining ESN, Mr. Mitchell served in the Office of Governor Mitch Daniels as Policy Director for Economic Development, Workforce, & Energy. In this capacity he oversaw legislation, policy, and program development for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Indiana Department of Workforce Development, and Indiana Department of Labor, and acted as Governor’s liaison to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and Office of Utility Consumer Counselor. During his tenure with the Governor’s Office, Mr. Mitchell also led the formation of and directed the Indiana Office of Federal Grants and Procurement.

As fate would have it, I worked in Indiana Office of Management and Budget when Paul was a policy director for Gov. Daniels. Let’s just say that it didn’t take a genius to see that Paul recognized the opportunities awaiting him on the other side of the government-business revolving door. Now I’m absolutely not suggesting that illegal activity is involved here. I just think that people – especially those who view the world through a partisan lens – need to understand that the often sordid relationship between government and business is not a problem that is unique to either Democrats or Republicans.

Tad DeHaven

Tad DeHaven is a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Previously he was a deputy director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget. DeHaven also worked as a budget policy advisor to Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK).