Jerame Davis

The interesting history of "Frugal Hoosiers"

Filed By Jerame Davis | September 19, 2008 2:46 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics

A recent conversation about the Frugal Hoosiers blog motivated me to look into a bit more closely at the site and learn more about who is behind it. The blog has never had a name associated with it other than the "Frugal Hoosiers" and sometimes gets its hands on some pretty high-level insider information.

So here's what I know so far - I'm asking our intrepid readers out there to help me fill in some blanks...

Frugal Hoosiers actually started as a state Political Action Committee. The original name of this PAC was "Frugal Hoosiers for Mitch." They were founded in December 2002 and did buy a website around 2004, but the "Frugal Hoosiers" blog didn't really hit the blogosphere radar until late 2006 or 2007.

The PAC's original filing lists Steven R. Schultz (Mitch's former General Counsel) and James E. Whiten (owner of a local landscaping business) as Chair and Treasurer repsectively. WISH TV noted the forming of the group in 2002 as a movement to "draft" Mitch Daniels to run for governor.

Mitch Daniels' 2004 campaign manager and Angie's List founder Bill Oesterle is rumored to have been one of the principles behind the founding of the PAC as well. Oesterle is indeed listed among the original set of donors in the "Frugal Hoosiers for Mitch PAC" filings with the state, but there were others who donated far more scratch than Oesterle, like noted Ice Miller attorney Lacy M. Johnson, for example.

Schultz and Whiten appear on the filings until 2006 when Michael O'Brien - a lobbyist with Bose Public Affairs, the lobbying arm of Indiana mega-law-firm Bose, McKinney & Evans - became the registered Chair for the PAC and Adam Collins became the listed Treasurer.

O'Brien's office address is listed on the most recent filing forms, but the Indiana Secretary of State also lists his home address in Avon, confirming his identity.

Some may recognize O'Brien as the former legislative director for Governor Mitch Daniels. His bio doesn't list the exact dates of employment, but he served in the deputy LD position for a time as well. And, well, you don't get to be a lobbyist at a big law firm known to be chummy with the Daniels administration unless you've done good work for your man Mitch.

Collins, the registered Treasurer, is a young attorney now in the employ of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. Collins previously worked for a smaller law firm, Harrison & Moberley, LLP, before joining the Ballard administration this year.

If I were a betting man, I'd say these young Republican protégé's are definitely two of the primary bloggers behind Frugal Hoosiers. They took over the reigns of the Frugal Hoosiers for Mitch PAC (and dropped the "for Mitch" part) together in 2006 - which corresponds to the "Frugal Hoosiers" website making it's way into the blogosphere consciousness. They also fit the young, ambitious, Republican mold that has (unfortunately) emerged as the one segment of conservatives that really "get" the Internet.

The conventional wisdom on the street has it that there are at least 6 current bloggers writing for the site and there have supposedly been a fair number of others, but I'd say it's a good bet that these two are regulars and the driving force behind the site. There is little evidence any of the founding principles are still involved directly - and I'd doubt that someone like Oesterle, Johnson, or Schulz would ever blog themselves anyway.

So, what a strange little history this group has had, huh? In a little over 4 years, they morphed from a Mitch Daniels front organization to a right-wing insider blog. Amazingly, their first year of expenditures was nearly $50,000 ($16,000 in direct contributions to good ol' Mitch,) but they've barely spent a combined $2000 since the end of 2004. They haven't really raised much either, though, keeping the same roughly $6,000 in the bank to dip into to pay hosting fees and miscellaneous other expense for their website.

The more you dig, the more interesting things get sometimes, no?

What else you got? Am I off on any of the details? I'd like to fill in the gaps about these folks - if they're gonna make a name for themselves, I think we should all know what those names are, don't you? So, start digging and let me know what you find...You know I'm gonna keep looking.

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Until now I had no idea they started life as a PAC. How interesting.