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By Leslie Bonilla Muniz

Indiana Capital Chronicle

August 9, 2022

A Hoosiers Against Common Core co-founder turned policy consultant and state contractor mistakenly registered as a lobbyist for the city of Indianapolis rather than the state of Indiana, Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office has confirmed.

Erin Tuttle formed Tuttle Consulting, LLC, on August 16, 2021, according to Indiana Secretary of State records. Just one week later, on August 23, Tuttle and Chief Administrative Officer Larry Hopkins signed a two-year, maximum $200,000 contract for research, analysis and communications help for Rokita’s office.

The $8,333-a-month contract went into effect August 30 of that year. Among Tuttle’s listed-out duties: “Contractor shall interact and communicate with legislators.”

That item set Tuttle up for a potential violation of Indiana’s lobbyist requirements when she didn’t register with the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission. She was not listed in the commission’s annual rosters for employer and compensated lobbyists, which were both released in April 2022.

There’s a two-part test under Indiana law:

  1. Someone must register as a lobbyist when lobbying — or communicating by any means with a state political candidate, state legislator or most legislative branch employees with the intent of “influencing any legislative action.”
  2. Someone must also earn at least $500 for the work — or spend that amount — during a registration year.

‘An abundance of caution’

In a statement to the Capital Chronicle, Hopkins said Rokita’s office requested that Tuttle register as a lobbyist, but that she did so with the wrong entity — Indianapolis’ Department of Business and Neighborhood Services.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we asked [Tuttle] to complete the necessary registrations that are required,” Hopkins said in a statement Friday. “But this week, it was determined that she had inadvertently registered with the City of Indianapolis lobby commission. That oversight is being corrected and all appropriate filings relating to her and this office are being completed with the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission.”

By Monday, Tuttle’s name was listed in the commission’s public dashboard, albeit without any filings. And it came only after the Capital Chronicle inquired about the issue.

Tuttle herself declined to comment, saying she was not authorized to speak to media.

If Tuttle’s work included lobbying, she was compensated for it. Rokita’s office paid Tuttle $75,400 across 11 invoices from the beginning of the contract through June 30, 2022, according to the Indiana Transparency Portal. So far this fiscal year, the office has paid Tuttle $25,000 in three invoices. The money came out of the office’s general fund.

She was listed in the office’s staff list, but without a photo or biography — which was instead marked as “coming soon.”

Nuances abound

Indiana Lobby Registration Commission Executive Director and General Counsel Edward Ferguson said he wasn’t able to “conclusively determine” whether Tuttle met the two-part test. He indicated the question required more comprehensive review because at least six terms in the test have their own definitions in Indiana law.

“In determining whether or not one has met the test(s) and must register, reference must be made to the definitions of ‘lobbying,’ ‘compensation,’ ‘expenditure,’ ‘legislative person,’ ‘legislative action,’ and ‘influencing legislative action,’” he wrote.

A job description, for example, doesn’t always translate to actual duties.

Office spokeswoman Kelly Stevenson said, in a statement, that Tuttle “provides valuable insight and guidance on a variety of legislative issues, including but not limited to education, immigration, and pro-life policies.”

Ferguson wrote that while Indiana code exempts public employees from having to register, contractors aren’t public employees and aren’t exempt on that measure.

Hopkins said Rokita’s office brought Tuttle on as a contractor instead of as a full-time employee to afford her “the most flexibility possible to perform her assigned duties.”

Past activism

Tuttle, an Indianapolis Catholic school mother, was key in the conservative Hoosier movement against Common Core, framing the national educational standards as a case of federal overreach, according to the Indianapolis Star. She and friend Heather Crossin co-founded Hoosiers Against Common Core in 2010, according to her LinkedIn, and blew the standards into a major political issue in Indiana and further afield.

Indiana, an early Common Core adopter, was in 2014 the first state to withdraw from the standards. Then-Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation ending the state’s participation.

Tuttle went on to work as a policy analyst for the American Principles Project, a conservative, family-focused political group. Tuttle was there until 2018, according to the LinkedIn. In a photo on the organization’s website, Pence, Tuttle, Crossin and a former senior fellow smile together.

“Like previous administrations, the Office of the Attorney General utilizes outside contractors to assist in a variety of capacities, including legal work and legislative and policy assistance,” said office spokeswoman Kelly Stevenson in a statement. “We are fortunate to have her on our team.”

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Indiana Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Niki Kelly for questions: info@indianacapitalchronicle.com.

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