Citizens who peer deeply into State Sen. Vi Simpson's campaign for governor will be offended by far more than just her sellout to the Evansville Chamber of Commerce on I-69. Those who expect leaders to lead rather than morph into the enemy will be more than offended at Simpson's effort. They will be spurred to action.

Indeed, the contrast between Sen. Simpson's campaign rhetoric and her fund raising offers citizens a textbook case study in what is wrong with American politics today. They simply do not jibe, and the contradictions shed light on a recent survey from Lee Hamilton's Center on Congress at IU that found 86 percent of Americans do not trust politicians.

Compare, for example, Simpson's longstanding claims to having been a champion for the environment, consumers, and health care during her almost 20-year career in the Indiana State Senate with the Vi Simpson for State Senate campaign finance report for 2002.

According to the Indiana Secretary of State's Campaign Finance Database Web Page, Simpson last year accepted $66,361 in campaign contributions from individuals, corporations, labor, political action committees, and other organizations. Of that total, 38 percent - $24,990 - came from vested interests that profit from anti-environment, anti-consumer, and anti-universal health care policies at the state and federal levels.

A complete list of campaign contributions to Simpson candidate committees - Vi Simpson for State Senate and Vi Simpson for Indiana - as well as other candidates for state office, are viewable online at ...

Here are just some of the people, PACs, and corporate interests whom Simpson allows to finance her political career:

Polluters and developers: Jerry Gates, Eric Stolberg, Rogers Group, CFC, US Steel, Indiana Manufacturers Association, Vectren, Cinergy, American Electric Power, BP, Indiana Petroleum Marketers, Indiana Coal Association, Ispat Inland Steel.

Pharmaceutical companies: Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott, Merck, Wyeth.

Health care providers and insurance companies: Anthem, Unicare Health Plan, Friends of Indiana Hospitals, Indiana Dental Association, Indiana Orthopeadic Society.

Telecommunications giants: Ameritech, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon.

It is important to note that Simpson serves on the Health & Provider Services Committee and Provider Services Subcommittee in the Indiana Senate. Nearly one-quarter of the financial support she received in 2002 - at least $14,950 - came from health care providers, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers and retailers.

Simpson's husband is Frank O'Bannon's chief utility regulator, responsible for regulating the energy and telecommunications companies who contributed another $6,450 to her campaign last year.


The disconnect between Simpson's fund-raising practices and claims to being an environmentalist and health care advocate is particularly revealing.

As any environmentalist knows, the connections between chemicals emitted from coal-burning power plants and health impacts include asthma attacks, heart disease, and learning and developmental disabilities, to name just a few. Studies have attributed 15,000 premature deaths in the United States each year to particulate matter, or soot, which is released by coal-fired power plants, among other sources.

Indiana relies on coal-fired power for roughly 90 percent of its electricity. Yet, Simpson, who claims her environmental credentials are beyond reproach, accepted $4,300 in campaign contributions from polluting electric utilities like Vectren Energy Delivery of Indiana and Cinergy Corp. last year.

Vectren operates the Culley Generating Station in Yankeetown on the Ohio River just east of Evansville, an antiquated, 50-year-old environmental beast that the utility refused to modernize and the state of Indiana failed to force into compliance with state and federal clean air laws.

According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Culley - which is located upwind of Bloomington - emitted 376,739 pounds of toxic chemicals into the air in 2001. Among those legal emissions are:

  • 320,005 pounds of sulfuric acid;
  • 31,000 pounds of hydrochloric acid;
  • 1,400 pounds of arsenic;
  • 950 pounds of lead;
  • 97 pounds of mercury.

The Associated Press reported on June 6, 2003, that the Evansville-based Vectren agreed to pay a $600,000 civil penalty and make $16 million to $28 million in air quality improvements at the Culley plant to settle a four-year-legal battle with the EPA over Clean Air Act violations.

Despite Vectren's abominable environmental record and the ongoing health problems suffered by countless numbers of Hoosier citizens as a result of its refusal to comply with health-based environmental laws, Simpson accepted $300 from the Vectren Corporation Employees Federal Pac. The PAC's chairperson is a Vectren vice president.

Just last week, the Associated Press reported that environmental groups were running radio ads critical of $600-Simpson-contributor Cinergy Corp. for failing to live up to a 2000 agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to settle Clean Air Act violations at 10 power plants in Indiana and Ohio. (See "Groups call on Cinergy to Keep its Promise" in this issue of The Bloomington Alternative.)

At the time the settlement was announced, EPA proclaimed in a news release: "The enforcement action, valued at $1.4 billion, is the largest ever taken by the US EPA under the Clean Air Act."

In response to Cinergy's foot-dragging in implementing the terms of the agreement, environmentalists, including the Hoosier and Ohio Environmental Councils, ask in their ads: "What are they waiting for? More deaths? More pollution? It's time for Cinergy to clean up its act."

Hoosier citizens who care about the environment, human health, and integrity in government should pose those same questions to Vi Simpson.

Steven Higgs is editor of The Bloomington Alternative.