Pawlowski Should Resign

Yesterday’s plead agreement in which Bethlehem developer Ramzi Haddad pled guilty to charges of bribing Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski illustrate a corrupt city Administration in denial.  The FBI raided city halls in Allentown and Reading this summer and the dominoes are beginning to fall.  The DOJ will take down several of the players in each city before going after Mayors Pawlowski and Vaughn Spencer.  After they have enough cooperating witnesses the charges will fall on both of them for corrupt activities.

Ed Pawlowski should not wait to vacate the office of Mayor.  Yesterday’s information shows a Mayor who was clearly on the take for his U.S. Senate run and we should all be grateful his campaign never really got off the ground.  Agreeing to accept $25,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for lenient City oversight of Haddad properties not only violated ethics but may have put Allentown residents at risk.  It’s time for Ed to go gracefully.

As for Spencer the Reading Mayor has already been implicated in making an $1800 bribe to City Council President Francis Acosta to waive inconvenient campaign finance ethics laws.  Acosta also pled guilty and resigned his seat.  Spencer needs to resign so Reading can get past this scandal.

Democratic Corruption Going Wild

The corruption among elected Democratic officials in the Commonwealth keeps growing.  Yesterday Reading City Council President Francis Acosta pled guilty to conspiracy to accept a bribe.  Today Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is expected to face charges.

Two of Kane’s biggest personal faults are coming back to haunt her:  her vindictiveness and her inability to tell the truth.  She will be accused of leaking grand jury testimony in order to damage the reputation of someone she disliked and then lying about it under oath.  Kane lies about everything and her penchant to get back at those she dislikes has turned her office into a disaster area.

In Reading an FBI a few weeks ago led to the first domino falling in Acosta.  A man who seemingly came out of nowhere to get a seat on City Council then get elected as Council President, he agreed to try and repeal an ethics law designed to restrict corruption.  The campaign finance caps prohibited anyone receiving no bid city contracts from contributing more than a set amount to a campaign.  Mayor Vaughn Spencer (obviously “elected official #1 in the indictment) faced a tough re-election campaign due to a failed first term and needed to have the ethics law repealed.  According to Acosta’s plea agreement he agreed to contribute $1800 to “elected official # 2” if Francis would repeal the ethics law.  He introduced a resolution to do just that but Council members with integrity successfully fought the action.

It appears that Mayor Vaughn Spencer will soon join Acosta in federal prison.  He accepted $84,000 from four persons who were limited by that law in what they could contribute to his campaign.  The Mayor routinely violated laws and ordinances during his term leading to constant battles with Council.  The legal fees from those fights amounted to more than $1 million for a cash strapped city unable to provide basic services.  He and Acosta are both cronies of State Representative Thomas Caltagirone who has run the Berks County Democratic Committee from behind the curtain for years.  One of his staffers ran Acosta’s unsuccessful campaign for Mayor four years ago.  He and Spencer go way back.

The common denominator in the corruption in Reading and Allentown goes to consultant Mike Fleck.  This seems to have begun with the investigation of former Treasurer Rob McCord who pled guilty earlier in the year.  Fleck was his consultant in his failed campaign for Governor following Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s withdrawal from the race.  The Allentown City Hall offices were raided recently by the FBI and it has been reported that Fleck wore a wire against both Mayors before disappearing.  

I’ve known Fleck since he appeared on the scene running various Democratic campaigns.  No campaign he ran was legal and above board.  I even warned people running against his candidates to expect shenanigans.  There always were.  It’s no wonder that someone who had no regard for election laws would also violate other laws.  In the cases of McCord, Pawlowski and Spencer, this just goes to prove the old adage that when you sleep with stray dogs you get fleas.

When we combine these corruption scandals with the recent indictment of Congressman Chaka Fattah Pennsylvania Democrats have much work to do to clean up their act.  The Pennsylvania Democratic Party even hired Fleck’s consulting business for a time before severing the relationship.

Consultants are big business in politics.  They are paid well to manage and strategize campaigns for candidates.  A bad consultant, and they are legion, can do irreparable harm as Fleck has.  Shortly after the FBI raids in Allentown he dissolved his business and fled.  Acosta’s fall is simply the second domino to fall (after McCord) in what appears to be a succession of Democratic Mayors heading to prison.

Tough Times For PA Democrats

It’s been a bad year for Pennsylvania Democrats.  The FBI raid on City Halls in Reading and Allentown seem to have ensnared Mayors Vaughn Spencer and Ed Pawlowski in pay to play corruption schemes, the State Attorney General is facing potential criminal charges for leaking secret grand jury information and is accused of failing to prosecute Philadelphia area lawmakers in a probe which was successfully concluded by a rival DA.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has garnered multiple convictions against State Representatives Ronald Waters, Michelle Brownlee, Harold James.  Vanessa Lowery Brown and Louise Willaims Bishop are also facing charges.

Former Harrisburg Mayor Ed Reed may be the biggest prize of all for prosecutors though as he faces hundreds of counts for purchasing artifacts with taxpayer funds then keeping them for himself.

All of these corruption cases involve members of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. Did someone spike the punch at recent State Committee meetings?  It certainly seems to be contagious.  Of course public corruption inflicts officials of both major political parties but at the present time the state GOP has to be licking its lips at the stain being given to Democrats.

It begins at the top where AG Kathleen Kane is obviously over her head.  She can’t keep staff or even the attorney she hired to represent her against criminal charges.  It seems she has a bad vindictive streak she is unable to control.  She also has a bad habit of lying-something I exposed during that election.

So what doe Democrats here do to clean up their act?  Losing consultant Mike Fleck is a first step since he disappeared after wearing a wire against former clients Pawlowski and Spencer.  The Philadelphia lawmakers charged and convicted say much about the sad state of Bob Brady’s “machine” there.  No one in Philly can breathe without first clearing it with Brady and no one gets elected without his blessing.  Mush of this scandal must lay at his doorstep.

Update:  Yet another black eye.  Congressman Chaka Fattah has been indicted for accepting an illegal loan for $1 million.  Yet another Brady crony.

Pawlowski, Fleck Shut Down As Feds Close In

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski has suspended his U.S. Senate campaign following a raid on City offices last week by the FBI.  Thursday his political consultant Mike Fleck also shut down his firm H Street Consulting.  Democrats had recruited Pawlowski to run against Joe Sestak in the Senate primary.  Now they, again, have egg on their faces as it appears he’s headed for an indictment.

Allentown just completed the PPL Center, a local convention hall and hotel which hosted the Pennsylvania Democratic Party meeting last month.  It was a horrible venue for such an event and I left early Friday evening and didn’t return because the venue was so bad.  The entire thing was designed to be a launching pad for Pawlowski’s campaign.  Oops.

Fleck has run the Mayor’s political operations for some time and expanded south to Reading where his tendency to ignore election laws and regulations got that Mayor in some hot water recently.  Fleck has never seen an election law he respected.  I always advised candidates going against his clients to expect some last minute illegal shenanigans.  I was never disappointed.

This is yet another black eye for PA Dems who seem to be lost in the woods under Chair Jim Burn.  The decision six years ago to back party switcheroo Arlen Specter blew up in their faces when Sestak beat him in the primary.  In a big GOP sweep year Pat Toomey narrowly beat Sestak for the Senate seat when other Democrats lost in landslides across the Commonwealth.  Then last year they lost Tom Wolf so badly he created a shadow Party apparatus and simply ignored them.  So, in the space of six years the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has completely alienated their two top candidates:  the sitting Governor and their U.S. Senate candidate.  After disrespecting Sestak six years ago they dug their hole deeper by recruiting Pawlowski to challenge him this time.  Oops.  The only seat Ed is going to get next year is likely in a ten by ten cell shared with Fleck.

Joe Sestak Interview

I sat down for an interview this afternoon with US Senate candidate Joe Sestak.  We covered a wide variety of issues but the conversation kept returning to the issue of trust.  Trust in the integrity of our elected officials.  Towards the end of the interview I accidently knocked the video camera and Joe cracked a joke about it.

I’ve known Joe since he was in Congress representing Pennsylvania’s 7th District in suburban Philadelphia.  I covered several of his events then and also his Senate contest six years ago versus Arlen Specter and Toomey.  Enjoy our conversation.

Gasbag Kicks Off Gubernatorial Race

Gov. Gasbag kicked off his re-election campaign and is trying to message it as “Promises Kept.”  Yes, to the corporations and energy companies who bankroll his campaigns perhaps but not to the people.  He has kicked hundreds of thousands off health care, cut education by a billion bucks, channeled another $1.5 billion from public schools to charters, cut business taxes while cutting your services and illustrated a complete inability to work with the legislature.  Add to all that his affinity for putting his foot in his mouth every time it opens.

Remember “they just have to close their eyes?”  My advice for the Corbett campaign is this:  just close your eyes when the election returns begin rolling in next November.

A hundred protesters greeted the Guv in Philadelphia yesterday.  Eight Democrats have already greeted him in the race.  Corbett is dead Governor walking, an incumbent with zero chance of re-election.  Polish up that resume Tom and begin greasing up for the screwing the voters are about to give you.

Meanwhile Mayor Ed Pawlowski of Allentown showed a marked weakness Tuesday.  With just nominal independent opposition he failed to garner as many votes as he did in 2009.  His vaunted campaign team told the Express Times they had 220 volunteers knock on 120,000 doors Tuesday and 78,000 over the weekend.  Did anyone bother to do the math before publishing these ludicrous claims?  That means each canvasser hit 545 doors or 45/hour for twelve hours without a break.  Give me a break.

Corbett Compares Gay Marriage to Incest

State Reps Brian Sims and Steve McCarter introduced a marriage equality bill yesterday and today Gov. gasbag illustrated why he’s so stupid:  he compared same sex marriage with incest in an interview.  We’ve known for three years what a moron this Governor is and he continues putting his foot in his mouth whenever he speaks but this is absolutely ridiculous.  Comparing two adults who live one another, want to commit to each other for life and gain the same rights and benefits as straight couples is NOT the same as screwing your daughter or cousin.

Perhaps Corbett’s parents engaged in some familial incest resulting in an idiot offspring.  There has to be some logical reason Gov. “Just Close Your Eyes” is so stupid and continues saying stupid things in public.

Sims responded by reminding voters this is why Corbett needs to be defeated in 2014.  McCarter said:

“I condemn Gov. Corbett’s comments for their hatefulness and ignorance.  The issue of marriage equality is not a joke, and the governor’s words only further demonstrate that he is out of touch with the majority of Pennsylvanians.”

Gubernatorial candidates Katie McGinty and Ed Pawlowski had these statements to say (respectively):

“Tom Corbett owes an apology to the people of Pennsylvania. He has a history of making demeaning and insulting remarks towards Pennsylvanians of all walks of life, but even for Tom Corbett today’s remark is shockingly offensive. It’s more proof we need a new governor who respects every Pennsylvanian.”

There is no analogy that is appropriate for gay marriage except to say that love is love and civil rights for one are civil rights for all.  That is why I have signed on for Mayors For Marriage Equality.”

“The politics of division and social injustice can no longer be tolerated in Pennsylvania or in this country.  Again, I’ll repeat, that only by working together, no matter what your ethnic or religious background, or sexual preference, can we move Pennsylvania forward.”

Schwartz Officially Enters Gubernatorial Race

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz officially launched her campaign for Governor yesterday.  Tom Corbett is rated the most vulnerable incumbent Governor in the country and prominent Democrats are lining up to evict him from Front Street in Harrisburg.  Schwartz joins former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf, former DEP Secretary John Hanger and evangelical fundamentalist preacher Max Myers in the field.  State Treasurer Rob McCord will enter the race soon and rumors continue to circulate around Admiral Joe Sestak.

Gov. Gasbag’s painfully low approval numbers (26%) and high disapproval (49%) have led to a strong field of challengers.  Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor has launched a website in preparation of a GOP challenge and another Montco Commish Josh Shapiro is also considering a run.

The fact Corbett slashed education funding while giving those funds to corporations as tax breaks has driven his poll numbers to the basement.  

Schwartz is progressive on social issues but not economic social ones.  Her record is something of a corporate Democrat and would normally allow the Pennsylvania progressive community to get behind such a candidacy.  In this race however both Wolf and McCord easily outpace her in progressive credentials.  With another strong turnout of women voters however she could win the primary.  There is substantial doubt about her ability to win statewide due to her past ties to a Philadelphia abortion clinic.  Though that should not actually hurt her (abortion is a constitutionally protected right) it will in western Pennsylvania where even the Democrats are conservative.

It’s going to be a heck of a race.

Handicapping the Governor’s Race

With just a Superior Court contest on the ballot this year political action around the Commonwealth is focused on next year’s race for Governor.  Tom Corbett’s inability to govern has created a wide open race and may even have him facing a formidable primary challenger.  Latest numbers on Gov. gasbag have him at a 26% approval rating and prompted Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz to jump into the race.  Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce castor launched a website recently around his probable challenge.  The conundrum for the GOP is how to keep control of the Governor’s Mansion after the Corbett debacle and against a strong field of Democratic contenders.  They also include Treasurer Rob McCord, businessman Tom Wolf, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and possible Admiral Joe Sestak.  John Hanger is a hanger-on and Max Myers’ candidacy is clouded by his involvement in a fringe religious organization (more about that in the future).

Bruce Castor is someone I’ve known for some years dating back to his time as Assistant District Attorney.  He oversaw the prosecution when a nephew’s wife was murdered.  Every year we see each other at a candlelight vigil in MontCo for families of homicide victims.  That was strained for a few years following an infamous series of emails he sent me while running for re-election as Commissioner.  His ticket mate Jim Matthews was accepting large campaign contributions from convicted felon Bob Asher and Castor had condemned Corbett for taking that dirty money when he ran against him for Attorney General (Castor and Corbett have a long history).  I asked where Bruce’s outrage was about Matthews taking Asher’s money and he responded with an email trashing Matthews.  That story wound up on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Still, I greatly respect Castor and his response to my question illustrated he still had his strong ethics and morals.  He would be a vast improvement over Corbett.

Still, Bruce Castor is a Republican with conservative ideology.  I respect the man but would support a real progressive with ethics and high morals.  For me there are three men I wouldn’t hesitate endorsing for Governor:  Sestak, Wolf and McCord.  I don’t know if Joe is prepared to enter the race but he sure sounded like a candidate while stumping for other candidates last year.  With this strong field he’s better off keeping his powder dry and waiting to challenge Sen. Toomey in a few years.

Tom Wolf is someone I met at the recent Democratic State Committee meeting.  He served as Revenue Secretary for Gov. Rendell and runs the family business in York.  Wolf ranges and stoves are the class of their field but the company hit hard times when the Bush Recession hit in 2008.  He briefly sparred with running to succeed Rendell then pulled out to save the company which he did.  He is known as a real progressive.  I hope to sit down with him in the near future and review issues and hear his vision for Pennsylvania.

I’d love to do the same with Treasurer McCord.  We had brief conversations in both Hershey and Harrisburg and his progressive credentials are well known.  He is the only Democratic candidate to have run statewide and won (twice).  He is popular and, like Wolf, able to raise the large sums needed to win a race for Governor.  He was a venture capitalist on Wall Street and has access to deep pockets.  His distinct advantage over Allyson Schwartz is he has attended both State Committee and the Progressive Summit while the Congresswoman chose to stay home.  The Party endorsement vote next January will be important and he has wined, dined and spoken with those delegates while Schwartz chose to ignore them.  I’ve covered many of their meetings and those state committee persons have long memories about who solicited their support and who did not.  He had the entire lunchtime podium and an audience of 600 progressives from 42 counties at his feet yesterday.  He was able to give his argument for being the nominee to them while all Schwartz had were some surrogates who left “Draft Allyson” flyers on the tables.  These were huge mistakes for the Congresswoman.

I’ve covered Allyson Schwartz for some years.  She last ran statewide in 2000 in the primary to run against Sen. Rick Santorum.  She came in second in a large field which was split east/west.  Ron Klink, the only western Pennsylvania candidate, swept to that nomination and proceeded to fail miserable in the general election running as an anti-choice Democrat.  Allyson Schwartz is known as a strong pro-choice, women’s rights candidate and as a champion of SCHIP.  Many progressives criticize her Wall Street money ties and consider her a corporate Democrat.  She is against single payer health care for example.

Jack Wagner may be a dark horse who enters the race if he sees an opportunity to exploit the east/west divide.  A former Auditor General, he could defeat a field composed of eastern candidates because western Pennsylvanians have been known to be extremely provincial.  They hate Philadelphians with a passion and have voted for bad candidates in the past just because they’re from the west (Dan Onorato for example).  This mentality has really hurt Democrats in the past and another anti-choice Democrat (Wagner) running statewide would mean a second Corbett term.

All in all this will be an extremely interesting race.  There is much at stake and progressives need to determine who is really a progressive and get behind that person fully to defeat Gov. Gasbag.

Democratic State Committee Wrap-Up

Pennsylvania Democrats met today in Hershey and narrowly endorsed Philadelphia Judge Joe Waters for Superior Court.  They also passed a resolution supporting President Obama’s common sense gun safety measures and sent one supporting a fracking moratorium back for revisions.  A proposed by laws change requiring all 67 county committees to adopt a uniform procedure for removing elected Committee persons is advancing.  I was told to leave the By Laws Committee meeting where it was discussed.  That, again, was a violation of the DNC Charter.

Numerous candidates held receptions last night.  Max Myers and John Hanger, both announced candidates for Governor next year, spoke with various State Committee persons for their long shot efforts.  Both Judicial candidates wined and dined the crowd and Lt. Governor candidate Brad Koplinski joined with the Young Dems for a late party in the lobby.

Former Congressman Tim Holden showed up today but wouldn’t say why.  When someone like that suddenly shows up it normally means they’re contemplating a run for some office.

Gubernatorial A-list candidates Rob McCord, Tom Wolf and Ed Pawlowski all milled around the hallways talking about their candidacies.  Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, while not availing herself of the chance to begin gaining valuable endorsement votes for next year, announced she is a candidate.  She hired State Party staffer Aubrey Montgomery immediately for her campaign.  Joe Sestak didn’t make an appearance.  If you’re a serious candidate you needed to be in Hershey this weekend.  The last two years there were only two meetings a year due to circumstances and a golden opportunity to begin talking to those who will be casting the endorsement votes in a year was critical.

Should Schwartz capture the nomination in what appears to be a strong field she wouldn’t run for re-election to Congress.  While legally able to do so from a practical standpoint she really can’t.  That’ll open that seat for State Sen. Daylin Leach.  While wholly supportive of Allyson Schwartz whatever she decides he is poised to succeed her if the opportunity arises.  Obviously it would be premature for him to come out and say so publicly.  Rep. Tim Briggs might be the obvious successor for his seat.  

When the Party went through its list of recently deceased members I half expected them to memorialize the current Governor’s deathly approval ratings (now 26%) and his chances for re-election.  Of course that’s why there’s such a strong field of contenders lusting for his position.

I was disappointed in Judge Waters.  He spent Friday telling people his opponent was anti-labor because some members of his law firm are.  In a large law firm you’ll have that.  What Waters did was guilt by association and showed me flaws in his character.  That would be akin to Mr. Wozcik saying that since Philadelphia Traffic Court Judges were indicted last week therefore Waters is also corrupt.  

Mayor Ed Pawlowski chatting with fellow Gubernatorial hopeful Tom Wolf:

Pawlowski and Wolf photo DSCN2521_zpsa47df23a.jpg