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Policy Expert: Indiana Ethics Laws Need To Be Broadened

Statehouse

A policy expert says Indiana’s ethics laws need to be examined after a recently-retired Indiana lawmaker took a job for a vaping company that benefited from a law he supported.

The Vapor Association of Indiana recently hired former Senator Brent Steele as its executive director. This comes after the FBI in August questioned lawmakers about a controversial vaping bill that gave only seven producers control of Indiana’s market.

The FBI could not comment on whether the investigation is ongoing or whether it’s connected to Steele’s position.

Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, says, regardless, it looks bad. She says in Indiana, “lobbying” is narrowly defined and that it allows Steele to take the position as executive director.

“The law should be tailored more broadly. It shouldn’t apply only to being a registered lobbyist, but it should be employment by anybody who lobbies the Indiana General Assembly,” Vaughn says.

Vaughn says she doesn’t know whether the situation will be enough to reopen the state’s ethics statute, but that hopefully it creates a dialogue for a bigger picture.

"We are at a time in our political history when mistrust and distrust of government seem to be at an all-time high, and it’s because of situations like this," Vaughn says. "Too many people believe, and we have too many instances that I think make us believe that our elected officials are using their public offices for private gain."

Steele did not respond for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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