Shovel salespeople must love Todd Rokita.
Whenever Indiana’s attorney general digs himself into a hole, his response is to just keep scooping.
It’s hard to know whether short-sightedness or some compulsion toward self-destructiveness drives this tendency of Rokita’s, but it does seem to be a pattern—one he cannot seem to control.
If there is a way to make an unforced error, he will find it.
We have seen that with the campaign of persecution he has waged against Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the Indiana doctor who performed an abortion for a 10-year-old Ohio girl who had been raped. Bernard did the abortion with the permission of the girl and her parents, notified all appropriate authorities in both Ohio and Indiana of the procedure and cooperated with law enforcement in Ohio as they worked to arrest and prosecute the rapist.
Heedless of that, Rokita sprinted to appear on Fox News and accuse Bernard of transgressions so outrageous that Fox—which is far from scrupulous when it comes to questions of fact and truth—backed away from them almost immediately.
That might have been a cue for Rokita to do the same.
Instead, the Hoosier attorney general doubled down.
Even after the facts had been made clear, Rokita attacked the good doctor for committing acts of malfeasance so absurd that no rational person could believe his charges.
As a result, Indiana’s top law enforcement official now finds himself fighting to overturn a judge’s ruling in a case that he won because the judge acknowledged the attorney general violated the law even while deciding in Rokita’s favor. Rokita continues to waste—er, spend—Indiana taxpayer funds paying an expensive Washington, D.C., law firm on attempts to get that uncomfortable assessment of his conduct erased from the record.
Rokita also is the subject of an investigation by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission for his actions regarding Bernard. Rokita’s predecessor as attorney general, Curtis Hill, had his license to practice law suspended for a month for violating Indiana law and legal ethical standards in ways that were as egregious but were less flamboyant than Rokita’s.
If the disciplinary commission and the Supreme Court decide to make a statement that they are tired of Indiana attorneys general treating state law, professional ethical standards and common decency with the same respect a dog shows for a fire hydrant, Rokita could precipitate a genuine governmental crisis.
All this could have been easily avoided.
If Rokita had stepped back after the Fox debacle, acknowledged that the facts showed Bernard had done no wrong and said, in effect, that it was his job to make sure no laws had been broken, the whole thing likely would have blown over.
Instead, he kept digging the hole.
We Hoosiers know about Rokita’s persistent acts of self-immolation in the Bernard case because of superb reporting by The Indiana Citizen’s Marilyn Odendahl. (Disclosure: The Indiana Citizen and TheStatehouseFile.com have a partnership.)
Odendahl now has a story detailing Rokita’s attempts to keep the public from seeing an opinion he solicited from the Indiana inspector general about whether he could turn the job of attorney general into a part-time gig.
Before he was elected, Rokita held a lucrative position with Apex Benefits. Once in office, he explored whether he could keep that job while serving as attorney general.
After taking office and while still working for Apex, he asked the inspector general for an opinion. Rokita claimed the subsequent report cleared him of wrongdoing.
The attorney general, though, has resisted all requests from the public—and particularly from good-government advocates—that he show them the report.
One of those good-government advocates took Rokita to court over the matter. Rokita used his taxpayer-funded deputies to represent him.
A judge ruled at the end of February that the attorney general had to make the report public, but that he could redact just about anything he wanted.
Again, a smarter man would have seen the opportunity for a graceful exit from an embarrassing mess. He would have taken a magic marker to the report, left one or two words untouched and then handed it over, putting his opponents in the difficult position of suing to get something they’d already won.
But that’s not Todd Rokita.
He plans to keep digging, wasting time, energy and money on yet another stupid legal fight.
The shovel salespeople must be beating a trail to his door.