By John Krull
July 14, 2023
So, Curtis Hill has launched a campaign to be Indiana’s next governor.
If there is a more compelling sign this state’s political structure has moral rot at its core than the disgraced former Hoosier attorney general thinking he still has a political future, I can’t identify it.
Hill derailed his once-promising political career by groping and gripping his way through a party marking the end of the 2018 legislative session.
Four different women said Hill grabbed them or touched them inappropriately. One was a Democratic state legislator. Another was a member of Hill’s own Republican Party. Three were young enough to be his daughters.
Still other women reported they were so concerned about Hill that night they had female friends or men they trusted accompany them if they found themselves near the attorney general.
When confronted about his conduct, Hill began shifting both his story and his tactics to try to save his political career.
First, he tried to excuse his behavior by saying he was drunk that night. Then, he sought to blame the women. After that, he used the power of his office to try to intimidate them. Following that, he vowed to hunt down those who reported his predatory actions.
At no time did he seem to consider what was fair for the women.
Nor did he ever seem to ask what was best for the people of Indiana.
This is where the failures of political will and moral courage on the part of Indiana’s political leaders began.
Gov. Eric Holcomb and the leaders of the Indiana General Assembly’s four legislative caucuses called on Hill to resign, but they failed to put muscle behind the demands by initiating impeachment proceedings.
Perhaps that was because Hill dropped unsubtle hints that he would be only too happy to out state legislators who had histories of treating female interns or other women as play toys.
The Indiana Supreme Court disciplinary commission did a thorough investigation of Hill’s conduct. The commission found his actions to be “deliberate, loathsome and demeaning” and recommended that his law license be suspended for two years.
The hearing officer for the case, former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby, reduced the recommended punishment to a 60-day suspension without automatic reinstatement of his license to practice law.
Then the Supreme Court eased up even more, giving Hill a 30-day suspension with a promise of automatic reinstatement.
That meant Hill would continue to be Indiana’s lawyer even though, for a month, he wasn’t legally allowed to practice law.
Holcomb made some abortive attempts to appoint a replacement. When Hill resisted, the governor asked the Supreme Court to offer an opinion about whether the attorney general still was entitled to cling to the office.
The Supreme Court declined to answer the question unless the governor sued. Holcomb chose not to do so.
And Curtis Hill took a month-long vacation with a lapdog staffer managing the attorney general’s office while he was away.
The consequences of the abdications of moral and ethical responsibility by the legislature, the governor and the Supreme Court have been far-reaching.
Because our leaders chose to send a signal that even the grossest of misconduct would be treated with the gentlest of reprimands, our government is now rife with characters who think ethics are for losers and accepting responsibility for one’s actions is for suckers.
We now have an attorney general, Republican Todd Rokita, who sees his office not as a solemn responsibility but as a vehicle for engaging in personal vendettas and advancing his political ambitions.
We have a secretary of state, Republican Diego Morales, who sees his office as a means of building a family business by hiring relatives.
We have a state representative, Republican Jim Lucas, who dismisses a night in which he drove drunk, high and armed while demolishing state property as a “hiccup”—and laughs on social media at people who are troubled by his laissez-faire attitude about the fact that he easily might have killed someone.
And we have Hill, who says—with a straight face—that he’s running for governor because Hoosiers hunger for a leader “with the courage to stand up for the traditional values upon which our Republic was built.”
Yes, we do.
And the fact that Curtis Hill and his ilk are still around shows just how hard such leaders are to find.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College.