Michael Leppert: Rep. Victoria Spartz is simply unreliable, and that’s the kindest description available

Michael Leppert

Maya Angelou gave the best advice with absolutely the best words when she said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I have found that people are really good at showing who they are, even when that’s exactly what they are trying to avoid. Angelou reminds us of the obvious, to believe what we see, but importantly to not waste precious time reaching the often inevitable conclusion.

Last week, Adam Wren and Daniel Lippman reported for Politico that the House Ethics Committee is making a preliminary inquiry into the behavior of Rep. Victoria Spartz, of Indiana’s 5th District. The reasons stem from complaints made by current and former staffers of the second-term congresswoman’s unstable and abusive behavior toward them.

While the reports were troubling, and I will share some highlights, I would be surprised if anyone who has been paying attention to Spartz over the years was surprised by the news.

Here’s an example of the behavior detailed by a current staffer, as reported by Politico: “The common thing is for her to call someone up or to their face, cuss them up, say the F-word about a million times, call them effing retards, effing children, effing whatever … That’s a weekly thing. It’s not rare. All my interactions with her have been filled with complete and total rage.”

That came from a current staffer, quoted in last week’s story. Since January, the resignations have piled up so fast, it would seem that former staffers are easier to find than those remaining on her damaged team.

Politico also reported that last Tuesday, “her chief of staff, Patrick Slowinski, resigned after being in the job for less than a month, according to a person familiar with the matter. He declined to comment. Michael Stevens, who has been communications director for Spartz since January, also resigned Tuesday night, according to the same person.”

Spartz is showing Hoosiers, and everyone else, exactly who she is. For anyone who might want to take the position that she is simply being tough, save it. This unpredictable and unproductive behind-closed-doors behavior is consistent with the brand she displays publicly. I have been baffled by her election and reelection because of it, and now, the Angelou quote rings truer than ever in the Spartz example.

Exhibit 2 was her announced retirement. In February 2023, one month into her second term, NBC News reported on her announcement that she would retire from politics after 2024. At the time, Spartz said, “I won a lot of tough battles for the people and will work hard to win a few more in the next two years … However, being a working mom is tough and I need to spend more time with my two high school girls back home, so I will not run for any office in 2024.”

I don’t know what battles she won, but again, those of us paying attention were never confident she was serious about retirement. Turns out, we were right. In the least surprising reversal in a career filled with reversals, a year later, she filed for reelection, telling Politico, “The country is too much in trouble.”

Exhibit 3 was displayed during the election of now-former U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. That month was a highlight reel for Spartz. NBC also reported that she went from “yes” to “present” and back to “yes” on his initial election as speaker in a weeklong series of votes. During that same timeframe, she initially came out against her party’s push to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, calling it a “charade” — before flipping to yes.

All of these things are “showing” us who Victoria Spartz truly is. These behaviors of quickly flipping on votes, and her lack of commitment to any particular decision, defines her as a member of Congress. It defined her career in the Indiana Senate, too. Again, for those paying attention, the pattern is clear.

The preliminary inquiry by the Ethics Committee is in response to the complaints by her current and former staff. But the complainants were told “the committee would not launch a formal investigation before (the May primary) given the potential appearance of meddling in the election.”

Let this be my reminder that the “election” is actually in November, but I understand what they meant.

Her primary battle was not an easy one. She was challenged energetically by State Rep. Chuck Goodrich (R-Noblesville) and others, and many Indiana Republicans have commented that the party let a better option slip away last month. Maybe.

One certainty though is that Spartz is unquestionably unreliable. Maya Angelou likely would have said that voters should have known that long ago.

Michael Leppert is an author, educator and a communication consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at MichaelLeppert.com. This commentary was previously published at indianacapitalchronicle.com. Send comments to [email protected].