Fact check: What’s true in Indiana’s gubernatorial race ads

Businessman Eric Doden, former Attorney General Curtis Hill, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and former Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers participate in a panel on Dec. 13, 2023. (Credit: Mark Curry).

Dec 26, 2023

Gubernatorial candidates have started releasing campaign ads that are critical of their opponents ahead of the competitive May 2024 primary election. 

This primary is unique: Rarely have there been as many credible candidates running for office in a Republican gubernatorial primary, raising large sums of money. 

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, former Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers, former IEDC President Eric Doden and former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill are all likely to make the ballot.

State Affairs will be breaking down some of the claims from attack ads throughout this election cycle. 

Is there an ad you want us to look into? State Affairs will update this story.

Qualified immunity criticism of Braun

The Doden campaign released an ad in November, criticizing Braun for pushing a bill to reform qualified immunity, which shields law enforcement officers from liability while performing official duties.

Claim: “Instead of standing up to the radical liberals in Washington who wanted to make [police officers’] jobs harder, Braun took up their cause sponsoring a plan to make it easier to sue law enforcement for simply doing [their] jobs.”

Our rating: True.

The facts: Braun filed a bill in 2020 while serving in the U.S. Senate limiting qualified immunity for police officers. Braun later walked back the proposal after pushback from police.  

At the time Braun said the current standards were “overly broad” and “allows law enforcement in many of the high-profile excessive force and abuse of power cases to avoid civil suits,” IndyStar reported in 2020.

During a Dentons Legislative Conference panel last week Braun said he proposed the bill as a response to those who wanted to completely eliminate qualified immunity. 

“I wanted to codify it, put it in place where it protected law enforcement, got rid of frivolous lawsuits. And when [police] told us they would prefer that you do nothing at the national level … we listened and learned,” he said.

‘Desperate Doden’ attacks from Sen. Braun

The Braun campaign released a “Desperate Doden” webpage after Doden’s campaign went after his record. 

Claim: “Doden’s campaign is now being funded by over $1 million dollars in donations tied to businesses that profited from his time at the IEDC and Greater Fort Wayne Inc.” 

Our rating: This one is murky. 

The facts: The Braun campaign pointed State Affairs to $350,000 worth of campaign donations from companies that received money from the IEDC while Doden was president of the agency. The owners of Ash Brokerage, Premier Truck Rental and Sweetwater Sound each contributed money to Doden’s campaign, State Affairs confirmed. (Chambers has faced similar concerns about his time leading the IEDC, Indiana Capital Chronicle reported.)

The Braun campaign didn’t provide any other examples of companies that directly received money from either the IEDC or Greater Fort Wayne Inc., a nonprofit economic development organization. 

However, the Braun campaign also counted donations from Doden’s parents and his father’s company Ambassador Enterprises totalling $950,000 as part of that $1 million number. Ambassador Enterprises was a lender for a project Greater Fort Wayne Inc. advocated for when Doden served as its CEO.

Claim: “Doden awarded $6 million in taxpayer funded incentives to companies that he had a financial interest in.” 

Our rating: Mostly false

The facts: The “Desperate Doden” website links to a $6 million contract between the IEDC and Ash Brokerage Corp. Doden has never had a financial interest in Ash Brokerage, according to his campaign. The only connection: Ash Brokerage’s CEO was involved in another project, known as Cityscape Flats, during the same time period that Doden’s company Domo Venture was working on it. Both development projects were located in Fort Wayne. 

But, while Doden initially asked the state’s ethics commission whether there would be a conflict of interest if his company received a state tax credit for the Cityscape Flats project, Domo never actually received a contract. 

Claim: Doden supported a Democrat for mayor in Fort Wayne and was opposed to Trump tax cuts. 

Our rating: Half true 

The facts: In an editorial in the Fort Wayne Gazette in 2019, Doden wrote that he supported Democratic Mayor Tom Henry in 2015 because he “believed him to be the best candidate.” In that same editorial, Doden explained why he was not supporting him again in 2019. 

In the October 2017 article the Braun campaign cites to back up the statement that Doden was opposed to Trump’s tax cuts, there’s no indication that Doden was resistant to the cuts themselves. But he did voice concerns that Republicans would eliminate the federal Historic Tax Credit as part of the tax reforms, which they did consider. The tax credit, though, was retained in the final version of the bill, which was signed by President Donald Trump two months later.

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