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April 7, 2014

The job? Guarding public trust

U.S. Attorney targets public corruption in 60 of Indiana's counties

(Continued)

Hogsett, 57, a father of three and Rushville native, launched himself into state politics more than 25 years ago. He was a top aide to former Democrat Gov. Evan Bayh, elected as Secretary of State in 1990, and later served as chairman of the state Democratic Party.

But, earlier this year, Hogsett killed rumors he’d be leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office to run for Indianapolis mayor. In committing to stay in office until his term is up in January 2017, the Obama appointee effectively ruled out a 2016 run for governor or Congress.

“I cannot in good faith walk away from the responsibility that I have,” he said at the time.

His commitment to the job has earned him the “Mr. Clean” award from the Indiana chapter of Common Cause, the government watchdog group. The group honored him last summer for his decision to prioritize prosecution of public corruption.

But it was also a recognition of his history as a good-government advocate, said Common Cause Indiana director Julia Vaughn.

Back when he was Secretary of State, Hogsett, a Democrat, worked with the state’s then-attorney general, a Republican, to get a strict interpretation of lobbying disclosure laws. Both men, said Vaughn, drew the ire of party leaders and legislators who later rewrote the laws to make them more lax.

“He’s not a Johnny-come-lately to the idea that public service should be about public service and not about private gain,” Vaughn said.

Hogsett appreciated the award but sees the praise as fleeting. “If you decide to go after public corruption, you don’t make many friends,” he said. “Usually just enemies.”

Reach Maureen Hayden at maureen.hayden@indianastatehousebureau.com or on Twitter @MaureenHayden

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