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The Journal Gazette

Monday, December 11, 2017 2:40 pm

Conservatives again target Speaker Bosma

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS -- For the second time in recent months, GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma finds himself the target of scurrilous attacks by conservatives.

First, the pro-life Hoosiers for Life group blasted Bosma for not supporting a bill banning abortion. This included labeling him a special snowflake and questioning his truthfulness.

That and other online attacks led to an emotional plea from Bosma on the House floor on Organization Day calling for civility.

"Some of you here in the building encourage incivility, encourage misrepresentation, you participate in the vilification of others," he said. "You're insensitive to those who are hurting and those who are misunderstood. And I would only encourage you to stop."

Things got decidedly less civil when the shadowy Indiana First Political Action Committee last week called out Bosma for tax increases and raising other concerns.

"As Speaker of the House accusations have circulated of past affairs, and sexual misconduct," a release from the group said. "Indiana First PAC knows that there is NOTHING CONSERVATIVE ABOUT BOSMA!"

Caleb Shumaker -- founder of the PAC -- said the sexual misconduct allegations are "rumors from good reliable sources" and said he is hoping women might now step forward publicly.

Bosma declined an interview through a spokeswoman because it's "a discredited source with ties to white nationalism." She pointed instead to his remarks on civility made at the end of November.

Indiana First popped up earlier this year though it hasn't filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. Shumaker said the group is raising money but wouldn't say how much or from whom. The 25-year-old from Washington, Indiana, said the goal of the PAC is to support candidates who are behind President Donald Trump's agenda.

The group supports embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who is accused of impropriety with girls and young women.

Indiana First endorsed U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, in November but that endorsement has been removed from the group's website. Shumaker declined to say why.

The Associated Press reported that Shumaker briefly led a white nationalist movement. Racially charged internet postings from 2014 list Shumaker as chairman of National Youth Front, and a YouTube channel listed as belonging to the group bears Shumaker's name.

Shumaker has denied being a racist and condemned white nationalism.

Bosma said in his Organization Day speech that people on social media called him a pathetic excuse for a Christian, a liar, disgusting and compared him to a Nazi.

Some of those came on his mother's funeral memory page.

"That's exactly how low we've gotten," he said. "I refuse to participate in the long spiral to uncivil conduct in political life."

He didn't name Hoosiers for Life in the speech but said it was a group whose purpose he agrees with, and noted he is the most pro-life speaker in 40 years.

Warsaw mom Amy Schlicter -- who runs Hoosiers for Life -- said the people who posted those terrible things were not members of her group, and she was disappointed Bosma targeted the group with his talk.

"It was sad to see the posts about his mom. I certainly don't hate the speaker. I was disappointed in the avenue some people are taking," she said. "But assuming Hoosiers for Life are responsible for every pro-life person is the same as saying Speaker Bosma is responsible for every Republican in the state."

Bosma said he wants his words to encourage and inspire others to serve their neighbors.

"And I pledge personally not to attribute all that is wrong with society on any one person because we disagree," he said. "To the extent I can control it -- and I can a little bit -- that's how we're going to conduct ourselves here and I hope you will choose to conduct yourself in the social netherworld."

Since that speech, Hoosiers for Life now says Bosma is considering not running again and the group has pushed for a hearing on the abortion bill carried by Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen. Bosma wouldn't comment on any campaign plans.

The bill Nisly is carrying would effectively ban all abortions, and last year didn't receive a hearing because Bosma said it was against U.S. Supreme Court rulings and would invite a lawsuit. That, frankly, is what supporters want -- a challenge that can rise up to a new court.

"If these guys really are against abortion and not just liars pretending to care about the babies dying every day in Indiana to get our votes, then they will give us what we want, and what we want is a vote on Protection at Conception," Hoosiers for Life said on its website.

Schlichter said "we will hold their feet to the fire if we feel like they are failing Indiana. But to attack people's personal lives like that -- that's not us."

nkelly@jg.net