Who's Who On The Indiana Higher Ed Commission

Meet the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, a 14-member panel appointed by the governor that makes recommendations to public universities about degree programs, investments and, most controversially, tuition rates.

The recommendations led to a minor dust up this year, with several universities deciding to exceed the commission’s suggested rates. So who are these members? What do they do? And how did they get there? And how much did they give to political candidates? Officially, the commission is not a political entity and takes no position during elections. But the members do get involved in politics through campaign donations — some of them quite generous — to state candidates.

 

Indiana University

Member: Cynthia Baker
Position: Faculty Representative
Profession: Professor
Hometown: Indianapolis
Employer: Professor, Indiana University
Donations: $300

Cynthia Baker is the Commission’s faculty representative. As such, her term is limited to two years. Baker is not a prolific political contributor, but does have the distinction of being the only member of the Commission for Higher Education to have donated more to Democrats than Republicans.

 

Indiana University

Member: Gerald Bepko
Position: At Large
Profession: Retired
Hometown: Indianapolis
Employer: Former Administrator and Professor, Indiana University
Donations: $2,400

Besides serving as chancellor of the law school, Bepko briefly ran the Indiana University System after the departure of former resident Miles Brand. Gerald Bepko has given a few political donations over the years to candidates from both parties.

 

Indiana University

Member: Dennis Bland
Position: 7th
Profession: Director
Hometown: Indianapolis
Employer: President, Center for Leadership and Development
Donations: $0

There are no donations listed in Bland’s name. His organization was established to help minority youth in Central Indiana by encouraging education and career success.

 

Conexus Incorporated

Member: Carol D’Amico
Position: At Large
Profession: Consultant
Hometown: Indianapolis
Employer: Conexus
Donations: $2,150

D’Amico has made a smattering of small donations to Republicans over the years, mostly to Governor Mitch Daniels. Like several other members of the the commission, D’Amico contributed to “Businesses for Responsive Government,” a PAC run by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

 

 

Member: Susana A. Duarte de Suarez
Position: 4th
Profession: Executive
Hometown: Zionsville
Employer: CEO, Media Moon Communications
Donations: $250

Duarte de Suarez is among the the least politically active of the members serving on the the commission. Her only listed contribution was to a PAC started by Governor Daniels called “Aiming Higher.” According to the group’s website, the PAC is charged with “promoting results, ideas and candidates that focus on government reform and serving taxpayers.”

 

Ball Brothers Foundation

Member: Michael “Jud” Fisher
Position: Secretary, 6th
Profession: Endowment Manager
Hometown: Muncie
Employer: Foundation Manager, Ball Brothers Foundation
Donations: $2,950

The majority of Fisher’s political giving has been directly to Governor Mitch Daniels. He also made donations to a campaign committee set up to promote Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman. His organization issues grants to groups in the Muncie area.

Member: Chris LaMothe
Position: At Large
Profession: Businessman
Hometown: Daleville
Employer: Chairman/CEO, Sherry Laboratories.
Donations: $56,000 

LaMoth is a generous Republican donor. He’s made large donations not only to the central Republican committee, but directly to numerous Republican candidates. Unsurprisingly, he outpaces all of his colleagues on the the commission in terms of contributions to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce PAC “Businesses for Responsive Government.”

 

1st Source Bank

Member: Christopher Murphy
Position: 2nd
Profession: Executive
Hometown: South Bend
Employer: CEO, 1st Source Corp.
Donations: $81,000

Appointed to the the commission in 2010, Murphy made major contributions to both the campaigns of Republican Governor Mitch Daniels and Democratic Governor Joe Kernan. He has also actively contributed to a number of statehouse races including former 7th Congressional District Republican Joanne Blacketor and House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer. Like Eileen Odum, Murphy also made major contributions a PAC run by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce called “Businesses for Responsive Government.

 

Nisource

Member: Eileen O’Neill Odum
Position: 1st
Profession: Retired
Hometown: Crown Point
Employer: Former CEO, Nisource
Donations: $7,850

Appointed to the the commission in 2009, O’Neill Odum has made thousands of dollars in donations to Republican candidates running for state office. Notable exceptions include House Minority Leader Pat Bauer and US Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh. VanDenburgh serves on the House Education Committee. Odum, along with several other members of the commission, also made major contributions to a group know as “Businesses for Responsive Government.” The group is an active PAC run by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

 

George Rehnquist

Member: George Rehnquist
Position: 8th
Profession: Retired
Hometown: Princeton
Employer: Consumer and Business Lawyer
Donations: $500

While Rehnquist did donate a small amount to Governor Mitch Daniels’ campaign committee, he is not as politically active as many other members of the Commission. Rehnquist is a graduate of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

 

Commission

Member: Kenneth Sendelweck
Position: Chair, 9th
Profession: Banker
Hometown: Jasper
Employer: President of Private Banking and Wealth Management, German American Bancorp
Donations: $900

Over the years, Sendelweck made a variety of small donations to a handful of Republican candidates for the Indiana State House of Representatives. Kenneth Sendelweck has worked in a number of divisions within German American Bancorp, including insurance and accounting.

 

Vectren Energy

Member: Michael Smith
Position: 5th
Profession: Retired
Hometown: Carmel
Employer: Former CFO, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Donations: $2,000

Most of Smith’s recorded political contributions have been filed through a PAC affiliated with Vectren Energy Group. There are currently no direct donations recorded in his name. Though retired, Michael Smith still serves on the board of directors of the Vectren Energy Group.

Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce

Member: Marilyn Townsend
Position: Vice Chair, 3rd
Profession: Executive
Hometown: Fort Wayne
Employer: CEO, CVC Communications
Donations: $7,000

Marilyn Townsend has donated thousands of dollars to the Mitch Daniels for Governor Campaign Committee. Like several other members of the the commission, Townsend made several large contributions to “Businesses for Responsive Government.” An active PAC run by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

   

* Donations to state-level candidates from 2000 to 2010.