Ed Rendell’s Frack Attack

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

Former Governor Ed Rendell got into some hot water last week with an op-ed in the New York Daily News touting the economic benefits of hydrofracking. ProPublica quickly outed the Governor for his ties to the drilling industry, and Rendell owned up to the fact that he is a consultant to Element Partners, which has investments in the gas industry. The Daily News has added a note to its web site disclosing the financial arrangement.

Rendell’s piece touts the industry’s economic benefits, repeating the claims of an IHS/U.S. Chamber of Commerce analysis that the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center critiqued back in December for overstating the employment and tax benefits of shale. 

The natural gas industry in Pennsylvania is like a new baby: it’s tiny but gets all the attention. Through a coordinated and well-financed public relations effort (remember My Range Resources?) and a legion of lobbyists, the industry has given an impression of its importance that just doesn’t square with the facts.

In 2012, the natural gas industry provided one-half of one percent of all jobs in Pennsylvania. The IHS report claims the industry contributed $900 million in state and local corporate tax revenue, one-third of all corporate taxes collected by the state in 2012, but the Department of Revenue puts the number at less than one-fifth of that amount (see Table 2).

Don Gilliland of The Patriot-News made a similar point in a column after a Chamber of Commerce event in Harrisburg in July, announcing a multi-million dollar “Shale Works for Us” public relations campaign. Gilliland ripped into the industry for stating — in a promotional effort the sponsors claimed was designed to “get out the facts” — that shale created 140,000 jobs in 2010 alone, while the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry reported just 23,618 shale jobs since 2008. (The Chamber numbers came from the infamous “Penn State” study that Penn State subsequently disowned — see here and here).

So why does this matter? The industry cleverly uses this economic promise to beat back regulation or any other attempt to limit or manage natural gas development. Gilliland cleverly gets the chamber spokeswoman Karen Harbert on record about its strategy, to use its PR effort to “ensure no hindrance or regulatory barriers” to natural gas drillers.

Rendell urges New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to seize the opportunity that gas drilling provides, but Cuomo should use Pennsylvania as a cautionary tale rather than a guide. The economic benefits of gas development in Pennsylvania have been routinely overstated, while its costs have been minimized or ignored. The hype has only served to undermine reasonable environmental and land use restrictions necessary to blunt the short-term impacts and limit long-term harm.

Arlen Specter Succumbs to Cancer

Former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter couldn’t beat cancer the third time around.   He passed earlier today at age 82.  One of the last moderates serving in Washington he was challenged by Tea Party favorite Pat Toomey until it forced him to switch parties in an effort to retain his seat in 2010.  He wound up losing that primary to Congressman Joe Sestak.

The Senator began his career as Philadelphia District Attorney as a Democrat before switching parties and serving for thirty years as a Republican Senator.

I disagreed with many of his votes, particularly Supreme Court Justices (among his legacies are Scalia, Thomas, et al).  After he returned to the Democratic Party the State Committee meeting in Pittsburgh was, essentially, a welcoming back celebration.  He posed with his wife Joan in the donkey tie given him by then Gov. Ed Rendell:

The Friday evening of that State Committee meeting I was at the hotel reception taking pictures and getting stories when Brad Koplinski, the Senator’s campaign political director, saw me and offered to introduce me to the Senator.  Now recall that I hadn’t been particularly kind to the Senator over years of blogging so I winced at the coming onslaught of criticism (an occupational hazard when you write about politically powerful people) from the Senator.  Instead he was polite and gracious.  Not all politicians are when face to face with a blogger for whom they’ve been a regular target.  That’s my lasting impression of Sen. Specter:  above all he was a gentleman.

The President released this statement this afternoon:

Arlen Specter was always a fighter.  From his days stamping out corruption as a prosecutor in Philadelphia to his three decades of service in the Senate, Arlen was fiercely independent – never putting party or ideology ahead of the people he was chosen to serve.  He brought that same toughness and determination to his personal struggles, using his own story to inspire others.  When he announced that his cancer had returned in 2005, Arlen said, “I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents and I’m going to beat this, too.”  Arlen fought that battle for seven more years with the same resolve he used to fight for stem-cell research funding, veterans health, and countless other issues that will continue to change lives for years to come.  Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Joan and the rest of the Specter family.

State Charged With Violating Federal Voter Law

Two groups have joined the legions suing Pennsylvania.  This time the Black Political Empowerment Project and the Pennsylvania Communities Organizing for Change are citing violations of the National Voter Registration Act.  The law stipulates that voter registration forms be made available to the public at state offices.  Pennsylvania, under both Ed Rendell and Tom Corbett, has not been complying with the law.

During the years 1995 and 1996, the complaint said, the state’s public assistance offices registered 59,462 voters, but during 2009 and 2010 — the end of Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration — they logged just 4,179 new voters.

Spot checks conducted by the organizations this year suggest the departments’ efforts aren’t improving under Gov. Tom Corbett, said the complaint. The organizations visited Philadelphia and Allegheny County assistance offices, among others, and found “no voter registration applications on site at all,” it said.


News & Notes June 18, 2012

Rumor has it that Ed Rendell is quickly writing an update for the second edition of his book “A Nation of Wusses” to add Mitt Romney.  How big a wuss is Mitt that he snuck off to a different Wawa to avoid the former Governor and his posse of 250 demonstrators?

Jerry Sandusky’s lawyers commenced their defense this morning.  How do you counter eight young men who testified about eerily similar progressions by the coach whose best move turns out to be tickling?  A psychologist will say he suffers from something called hystrionic personality disorder.  I’m betting the jury sacks him with a hysteric-ectomy, removing him from the public arean and off to state prison.  I still think there isn’t enough evidence to convict on the counts on two boys who have yet to be identified.

Former Sen. Bob Mellow, already a convicted felon, lost his huge state pension last week.  taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for lush retirement packages for those who robbed them.

Randy Vulakovich, a State Representative, is the GOP choice to run for Sen. Jane Orie’s vacant seat.  One more corrupt lawmaker spending time in prison, Orie may soon be joined by her sisters.  Melissa Hart lost the nomination and Vulakovich will face Democrat Dr. Sharon Brown.

Romney is now talking tough about Israel after billionaire Sheldon Adelson has vowed to spend $100 million to get him elected.  Welcome to the Amerika of Citizens United where the USA is now owned, lock, stock and barrel, by the likes of Adelson, the Koch Brothers and a handful of other billionaires.  Kiss democracy good-bye.

These young people were in Quakertown Saturday with their RomneyMobile:

Raging Chicken Press has a good take on Saturday’s event.

The Democratic candidates continued on to Cornwall Terrace in Lebanon County where they spoke again:

The state is rejuvenating HEMAP (finally!!) with cash from the national mortgage fraud settlement.  This was one of th emost successful mortgage help programs in the nation until Tom Corbett killed it.

Allegheny County is suing the state over Voter ID.  The county says it is too expensive and there is not sufficient time to implement it before November.  The ACLU, in partnership with several other organizations is already suing on civil rights grounds.  Pennsylvania will spend $10 million to fix a non-existent problem while critically needed programs go unfunded.  These are Republican priorities in action.

In fracking news a Greene County businessman dumped waste water illegally.  This is why businesses must be regulated:  if they can make a buck by poisoning you they will.

In Susquehanna County a family is suing driller WPX for poisoning their water.  Get ready for thousands of these across Pennsylvania due to fracking.

Have you seen those BP propaganda commercials claiming everything in the Gulf is fine?  Well, except for all the deformed fish…  Here’s a counter ad:

Karma is a funny thing.  Former Arizona lawmaker Russell Pearce, author of that state’s infamous “papers” law, was kicked out of two Mexican restaurants where he wanted to hold fundraisers.  I think he got the big burrito instead…

In yet another show of a total lack of civility by conservatives Neil Munroe interrupted the President twice on Friday. He works for the radical website The Daily Caller.

Romney Leaves Supporters in Quakertown, Goes Elsewhere to Avoid Dems

Mitt Romney left hundreds of his supporters waiting in the heat at a Quakertown Wawa today as he went elsewhere to avoid about 100 Democrats who also showed up.  Ed Rendell headlined a counter Democratic event beforehand and could now write a book about the wuss Romney.  Ironically a Republican walked over to the Dem event with a sign calling the former Governor “a big, fat wuss.”  It didn’t faze the Governor nor any of the other Democratic leaders there to speak about the Romney record.  I did notice the man, along with an apparently drunken guy with a Santa hat on, leave as Rendell recited actual facts about tax cuts and jobs.  It was as if they couldn’t absorb actual facts.

Congressional candidate Kathryn Boockvar, Auditor General candidate Eugene DePasquale, Treasurer Rob McCord and former Congressman Patrick Murphy spoke.  A local teacher also spoke about cuts to education.  I interviewed both Boockvar and Murphy following the event.

The Wawa convenience store by the Turnpike entrance was host to hundreds as folks began descending on it around 10 AM.  When I arrived at 10:40 I secured one of the last open parking spaces and the managers inside were surprised to discover they would be hosting dueling events.  A bit overwhelmed the asked the Dems to move next door to an empty produce stand.  As I covered that I could see more and more conservatives packing into the Wawa lot.  A man with a large Romney sign put flags on his truck and drove around the parking lot.  State Police showed up, I believe at the store’s request and blocked off the entrances.

Word spread through the press early that the Romney bus would bypass this venue and go elsewhere because of the Democratic turnout.  About 100 protesters were there to “greet” the presumptive GOP nominee.  While the Dems had no issue with the Republicans who crashed and tried to disrupt their event Mitt obviously was so intimidated he went to another Wawa in Quakertown.  As I watched all the TV crews leave I mentioned to some in the crowd that their guy wasn’t coming.  When they doubted me I pointed out that all of the television trucks had gone.  They were still standing in the heat, an hour after the event was scheduled, waiting for the bus.  The Romney bus ran over its own supporters today because he couldn’t stand up to a little dissent.  How will he stand up to President Putin?

More pictures and interviews are below if you click on “there’s more.”

Bill Brosius and Det Ansinn, both from Bucks County:

Kathy Boockvar:

Patrick Murphy:

Pictures:  The hillside you see by the Wawa was completely filled with people awaiting a Romney bus which never arrived.

PA Dems Endorse Marriage Equality, Women’s Rights

I got a tingling sensation all over as Pennsylvania Democrats overwhelmingly approved a resolution endorsing marriage equality today.  In an emotionally charged meeting with impassioned speeches for women’s rights and gay rights the State Committee, meeting in Valley Forge in a hotel infamously built by non union labor, voted to enter the 21st century.  Marybeth Kuznick wrote and introduced the resolution for women, condemning the conservative war on women.  She noted in one of the caucus sessions that there is only one Democratic woman west of Harrisburg serving there in the legislature.  I met Sharon Brown who is running for Jane Orie’s vacant Senate seat to double that number.  Kuznick got a standing ovation from the women as embarrassed me then stood up to join them.

The marriage equality resolution is something I heard about several weeks ago on an “off the record” basis so I couldn’t write about until now.  Inspired by the President’s position Adams County Chair Roger Lund, married to his partner in DC, introduced a motion to waive the rules and pass the resolution.  There was much discussion in every caucus about support for the measure.  As Party Chair Jim Burn said they didn’t want it to fall short of the 2/3 vote needed to suspend the rules.  Because State Committee people weren’t provided a copy of it in their 30 day packets the rules had to be suspended for a vote on the actual resolution.  Afraid of headlines saying they refused to support the President they wanted to be the votes were there.

I went to the Southwestern Caucus thinking it would have the most vocal opposition (the Northwest Caucus actually voted against it) and I wanted to gauge the level of opposition.  Caucus Chair Jack Hanna escorted me out of the meeting and said I couldn’t attend and report on its discussions.  This is the second time in a year I’ve been tossed out of a Pennsylvania Democratic Party meeting.  The first is why I refused to attend and cover its January meeting when Berks Chair Tom Herman said I couldn’t cover his County Committee meeting.  It is against the DNC Charter to bar the public from Party meetings.  It appears I’ll have to call DNC headquarters in DC again and file yet another complaint.

A committeeman from Cambria County got very vocal at that caucus meeting invoking Biblical passages.  Of course this is a legal matter not a religious one.  The Bible also allows slavery, condemns people who eat pork and shellfish and says you shouldn’t cut your hair.  So much for ancient abominations.  The caucus voted 11-7 in support of the bill.  So, so much for throwing me out of your meeting Mr. Hanna…

Other points of contention today centered around procedures for dismissing elected committee people, a subject near and dear to my heart.  The progressive caucus wants set rules and procedures for such actions.  Also, a slate of people to represent the state on the DNC was issued and voted upon by the Chair.  This top down procedure was objected to by progressives who want and open election where anyone can run for the seats.  Burn promised reform and proposed a resolution which passed to set up a committee to devise such a system for the future.  Vice Chair Penny Gerber, off the reservation on the issue, then bemoaned the fact it would lead to floor fights.  Well, elections aren’t always pretty but that’s called democracy.  A Party which calls itself Democratic should be.

Josh Shapiro and Ed Rendell spoke to the gathering.  Montgomery County was hosting the event at the Valley Forge Radisson Hotel and Casino and Josh is now Chair of the MontCo Commissioners.  Democrats control that county for the first time in 130 years.  The former Governor spoke strongly for President Obama but refrained from any mention of his successor.  I’d love to hear his opinions on Tom Corbett.

I touched base with candidates Rob McCord, Eugene DePasquale, Missa Eaton and Rick Daugherty.  I hope to do interviews with all of them soon.

Gov. Gasbag Delivers Budget Address

Tom Corbett addressed Pennsylvania’s General Assembly this morning with his annual budget address and illustrated, again, that he isn’t the sharpest tack in the box.  Let’s face it, he’s one of the dullest tacks in the box.  he’s too stupid, for example, to understand that government spending creates economic activity ($1.42 for every $1 spent), that not everyone sitting on a local school board is an intelligent person (many can’t even spell themselves), that state officials can manage welfare programs quite well, or even that FDR delivered more than four State of the Union speeches.

The Governor, wholly owned by the natural gas industry (hence his nickname), promised more painful cuts to both education and welfare.  He claims he didn’t cut funding for basic education and lambasted those of us who said he did.  Last year his budget cut $1 billion from K12 education.  He blamed those cuts on Ed Rendell who, he says, used stimulus money for education (instead of shovel ready projects).  

His cuts to public welfare have resulted in 200,000 Pennsylvanians losing medical coverage.  He promised more pain.  He stood again and said he refuses to raise taxes.  Thus far that adamant stand has cost the Commonwealth $300 million in gas extraction funds, money desperately needed to feed poor Pennsylvanians.  He said he will merge welfare programs and turn them into block grants to counties.  This means, as Sen. Hughes said on PCN, he is passing the buck from the state to counties.  That means your county property taxes will rise to cover the cost of these programs.

He also pledged to continue cutting the state workforce, cutting jobs instead of creating them as he promised during his campaign.

He will find money for a new cadet class for the Keystone Kops.  115 more Troopers will also see a merging of the PSP with the state’s homeland security operation.  Let’s hope this isn’t more militarization of law enforcement.

He quoted many people from FDR to Barack Obama in attempting to justify his austerity measures.  I notice he neglected to include some others such as this:

“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. ” ~ Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

He also announced a new task force to study higher education.  He keeps creating these bodies because he’s to dumb to figure things out for himself.  He said tuitions are out of control but doesn’t seem to comprehend the link between constant cuts in state aid to higher education and rising tuition rates.

When it comes to Tom Corbett  I’m reminded of a quote from a movie:  “stupid is as stupid does.”

News & Notes February 5, 2012

Gov. Corbett will reveal his new budget Tuesday and we’ll see what new austerity measures are in store for us.

Meanwhile former Governor Ed Rendell has been busy assembling an investment group to buy the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.  Saving these newspapers would be great and return them to a more liberal ownership.

Mitt Romney cruised in the Nevada caucuses but is still nowhere near getting enough delegates to be even significant.  What remains to be seen is if the Santorum and Gingrich pimps decide to keep sinking good money after bad and continue contesting the nomination.

There have been a number of updates on the Penn State/Sandusky scandal.  First of all the University announced it will pick up all the costs of the Paterno memorial service held on campus.  No public or tuition funds are being used and the monies will come from the athletic department.

Prosecutors are asking for a change in venue which seem smart.  There’s no way a Center County jury will ever convict the former football coach.

Meanwhile Sen. Mike Stack is proposing a new law barring Penn State from using any public funds for legal expenses or settlements.

Following the seeming capitulation of the Susan G. Komen Foundation there are credible reports it was simply a PR position and that the non profit will cease to fund breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics.  Until we see actual money granted the Komen Foundation has little to no credibility.  The outrage and examination of the group has been revealing startling information about the management and purpose of the Komen Foundation.

While conservatives rail about supposed voter fraud they keep getting convicted for election fraud.  Every allegation of voter fraud this year (dead people voting) has been revealed as mularky.  Republicans keep truing to rig the process however and its even caught the Gingrich presidential campaign cheating.  The Indiana Secretary of State has been convicted.

NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued three huge banks Friday for mortgage fraud.  The action against Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase alleges their use of MERS (I’ve written about this extensively in the past) is illegal.

The banks created the MERS system as an end-run around the property recording system, to facilitate the rapid securitization and sale of mortgages. Once the mortgages went sour, these same banks brought foreclosure proceedings en masse based on deceptive and fraudulent court submissions, seeking to take homes away from people with little regard for basic legal requirements or the rule of law,” said Schneiderman in the Friday press release.

A Canadian study which examined 15,000 subjects has definitively determined that conservatives are stupid.  Why not tell us something we don’t already know?  All you have to do is try and have an intelligent conversation with a conservative to know that.  Liberals tend to have higher childhood intelligence than conservatives who grow up to be racist and anti-gay.  I suppose now the excuse of a conservative that “I’m simply too dumb to understand” is something we can’t argue.

Congressional Republicans arrested Josh Fox, director of Gasland, at a hearing last week.  I suppose they didn’t want to be the latest idiots exposed in a documentary film.  That’s OK, we already know who you are and how stupid you are folks.  People do have the right to attend and record public hearings, even on Capitol Hill.

News & Notes May 23, 2011

My heart goes out this morning to Joplin, Missouri where a large tornado killed 89 people last night.  I drive through Joplin on my way to Santa Fe.  I normally stay in nearby Springfield on my second night and pass by Joplin going down I-44 to Tulsa and Oklahoma City.  When will people begin demanding we do something about extreme weather?

Tim Pawlenty announced his candidacy for 2012.  T-Paw as he is known has several flaws:  he’s boring, he’s dull and he puts people to sleep.  Still he’s one of the few major candidates in the Republican field.  Along with the two Mormons john Huntsman and Mitt Romney no one else is a serious candidate.

Imagine the ease of defining someone called T-Paw, the unknown beast from the North Woods come to rip apart your Social Security, eviscerate Medicare, kill jobs, slash public education and claw through your rights to organize.  A symbol of a big, bad bear tearing down from Minnesota, the man called TPaw, here to destroy what’s left of the middle class…

Meanwhile Newt is trying to identify as someone from outside DC.  he WAS Speaker of the House before his career got slammed by ethics issues wasn’t he?

“I’m not a Washington figure, despite the years I’ve been here,” Gingrich said. “I’m essentially an American whose ties are across the country and is interested in how you change Washington, not how you make Washington happy.”

Newt knows exactly how to keep Washington happy:  tons and tons of lobbyist cash.

The PA Department of Public Welfare has distributed a dress code for women.  Perhaps the new DPW Secretary should be more concerned how he will help the masses of poor people amidst drastic budget cuts to DPW instead of worrying about tights and panty hose.  The Corbett Administration has become The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  They aren’t capable of doing anything right.

As the Pennsylvania legislature votes today to further restrict women’s reproductive freedom  this video reminds us that teens do, indeed, have sex:

In ten years Republicans have gone from No Child Left Behind to No Child Matters.

State House Speaker to Capitol Ideas the $4 billion budget deficit is Ed Rendell’s legacy.  So he’s the one responsible for the Bush Recession?

Glenn Beck who has been spewing Doomsday threats for years decried his competition for getting it wrong.  The only difference between Harold Camping and Beck is that one is on radio and one on that and TV.

Yet another NBA star has been caught making a homophobic slur during a game.  Chicago Bulls player Joakim Noah yelled “fag” at a fan during yesterday’s game against the Miami Heat.  He claims he was “caught in the moment.”  That’s no excuse you bigot.

News & Notes February 8, 2011

Ed and Midge Rendell are ending their marriage.  Rumors of the former Guv’s extramarital exploits were plenty so this is of no surprise.

Two trials begin this week.  The Luzerne County “kids for Cash” trial of former Judge Mark Ciavarella got underway yesterday with jury selection.  Six women and six men will sit in judgment of a man who allegedly sold teens down the river in return for money.  This case is exhibit #1 for why not to privatize government.

Sen. Jane Orie goes to court today in her corruption trial in Allegheny County.  She is accused of using her state offices, staff and resources to run both her and her sister’s campaigns.  Sister Janine is also on trial.  They are accused of managing another sister’s, Joan Orie Melvin, Supreme Court campaign.  Justice Melvin is not charged…yet.

Republicans ran last year on jobs right?  Why aren’t they focusing on issue #1 then?  Whether Harrisburg or Washington they have zeroed in on social issues bound to return them to minority status.  The state House Health Committee voted 14-9 yesterday to opt the Commonwealth out of a key part of the Affordable Care Act.  It would prevent the federal government from forcing people to buy health insurance.  In the past this would have been considered a major GOP position:  forcing the public to buy something from a private corporation for profit.

Meanwhile immigration is also a matter being pushed, mostly by extremist Rep. Daryl Metcalfe.  He, Lou Barletta, Sam Rohrer and others will be in Berks County the 19th for a “Patriots” anti-immigration, racist, white supremacist extravaganza.  No news yet on whether they’ll roast any Mexicans over an open pit.