Democratic State Committee

I arrived in Somerset around 2:30 this afternoon, checked into my fleabag by the Turnpike exit then came west another 40 minutes on beautiful back roads to Seven Mountains Resort.  The sprawling complex is tough to find but gorgeous.  Unfortunately the internet access in the media room is too slow to work and my Verizon MiFi has no signal.  I finally found access in the coffee shop.

I teased Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski about forgetting to bring my Linda Thompson mask and I think he enjoyed the joke.  Of course Hayor Thompson is the real joke.  Marcel Groen then walked up and asked Brad how he could tell the difference between me and Thompson.  Ouch, huge insult.

The promised Progressive Caucus still remains nothing but a promise a year out from its formation.  Now they’re being jerked around about by laws.  The State Committee will never allow this caucus even after taking a bath the past two elections because liberals and progressives aren’t voting.  They’ve already lost control of state government and countless counties and municipalities but somehow Dems think they can simply toss progressives overboard.  They’ll be doomed to be a minority party in Pennsylvania for a long time with this attitude.

I sat in on a Deminar about drop off voters but no one mentioned the above phenomena.  Interesting…  Maybe I missed it.

I also sat in on a very interesting meeting of the proposed progressive caucus.  Tom Herman spent all their time on his resolution prohibiting county committees from endorsing statewide candidates if they are endorsed by State Committee.  He wants to enforce discipline on Democrats statewide as he has done in Berks County (which has driven tons of them out of the Party).  Asked if the State Committee sanctions Counties which violate the by laws I immediately thought of my personal experience with Herman.  He’s the reason I left the Party.

Democrats should be free to support whichever Democrat they wish.  This entire idea of endorsing in primaries does nothing but divide the Party and drive voters away.  Their history of nominating losers is long and tired.  Herman actually called himself a progressive even though he never personally endorses the progressive candidate (Specter and Onorato anyone?)  He did admit “we are those back room, smoke filled room people.”  It was the only true statement he made.  At one point he told someone from MontCo “I loved Joe Hoeffel.”  He endorsed Dan Onorato though…

This is an anti-democratic authoritarian resolution intended to punish anyone who steps out of bounds.  Chairs like Herman ignore by laws anyhow and do whatever they please to whomever supports a candidate they don’t so the potential for lawsuits and discord from this is monumental.

A few referrals for those unfamiliar with Herman:





The fact of State Committee endorsements is this:  whoever has the best reception (clue:  best open bar) gets the votes.

Maybe the best part of the day so far was the bird which flew into the Snowflake Room during the progressive caucus.  If it goes into the Southwest room it will probably get shot.

MontCo Dems Charge Corbett With Political Interference

Montgomery County Democrats are charging Gov. Corbett with violating his campaign pledge to not engage in the same old Harrisburg politics.  A press release from the Governor’s Office today, coinciding with one from the Montgomery County Republican Committee, endorses Eileen Behr for Sheriff in next month’s GOP primary for Sheriff.  John Durante died in office last year and an election this year will replace him.  There are two Republicans vying for the position and Behr is one of them.  Corbett’s nomination of her as interim Sheriff is “disappointing” as MontCo Dems Chair Marcel Groen put it today.

News & Notes January 31, 2011

Joe Hoeffel announced this morning that he will not run for re-election as Montgomery County Commissioner.  He astutely allied with fellow Commish Jim Matthews to be in the majority following Bruce Castor’s implosion four years ago.  That began when he ran Matthews under the bus for accepting campaign contributions from convicted felon Bob Asher.  That story broke here on The Pennsylvania Progressive.  Hoeffel had gotten into some hot water when it was revealed that he and Matthews routinely met for breakfasts.  That was an apparent violation of the sunshine law because they formed a quorum of the County Commissioners by meeting.

Josh Shapiro, Hoeffel’s former Chief of Staff when he served as a Congressman, announced he will run to succeed Hoeffel.  Josh is a State Representative and a leading reformer in Harrisburg.  He is a brilliant young man who impresses everyone.  He has a great future and will make a fantastic Commissioner.

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Tucson gun sales there continue unabated.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent undercover agents to a recent gun show in Phoenix where they were able to purchase firearms in spite of telling dealers they wouldn’t pass a background check.  New York, like many other cities, is wrought with gun violence perpetrated by criminals able to buy guns and extended magazines at gun shows and from unscrupulous dealers.  Yes, guns kill people.  Countries which severely restrict gun sales and ownership have a fraction of the gun deaths we do.  That’s proof that it isn’t the people but the guns.  Let’s begin taxing ammunition heavily and we’ll cut the number of senseless deaths substantially.  I like Chris Rock’s idea:  if bullets cost $5,000 apiece these fools will think twice before pulling the trigger.  Nothing in the constitution says anyone has a right to ammunition.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided to decide on the role judges play in determining whether minor girls can obtain permission for abortions from the courts.  The state’s Abortion Control Act, one of the most restrictive in the nation, requires such permission if a young woman cannot obtain parental permission.  The issue of parental consent is a hot button issue.  Responsible parents understandably want to be involved but in too many cases they are the problem.  Until we live in a perfect world where incest doesn’t occur this is a serious issue.  Young women should not be forced to obtain permission from an abusive and incestuous parent for an abortion.

A federal judge in Florida ruled the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.  So far some judges have agreed and others disagreed.  Until this is ruled upon by the Supreme Court nothing will be settled.  While I feel the Interstate Commerce Clause provides sufficient legal basis for the law I’ve never felt comfortable with the Act forcing Americans to buy insurance from private corporations with no public option alternative.  This amounts to a giant governmental underwriting of private business at taxpayer’s expense.  That is a purely Republican position and it mystifies me why they’d oppose such legislation.  The mandate is the part of the health insurance bill I dislike so this thrills me.

Demonstrations continue throughout Egypt today while the government successfully shut down Al Jazeera.  The Arab network had been broadcasting video of the revolution sweeping the country against President Hosni Mubarack.  Here is a picture Tweeted from Cairo today:

a href=”” title=”Cairo Demonstration by morgan_2408, on Flickr”>Cairo Demonstration

I wonder where Fox News sent their correspondents?  Back in 2009 they broadcast this map of the Middle East:

Fox's Egypt

President Obama will speak at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State Wednesday at noon.  I have White House press credentials but a major winter storm set to hit us tomorrow night may make that impossible.  Didn’t anyone in Washington check the forecast first?

The Koch brothers, major financiers of the Tea Party and the Heritage Foundation held their annual Billionaire’s Caucus in Rancho Mirage, California to be met by hundreds of protesters.  They were met by police in riot gear.  Isn’t it nice to know the Koch brothers billions are going for a good cause???

House Republicans in Harrisburg backed off a vote today stripping Democrats of a member on each committee.  Protests over the weekend and a press conference by good government groups in the Rotunda this morning may have given them pause.  They got tons of bad publicity over the weekend.  Democrats robo called for support yesterday.

The Deal Is Made

Pennsylvania Democrats will elect Jim Burn their next State Chair in a few minutes following another back room deal.  Groen, citing his need for “psychiatric” care (jokingly) after four years as MontCo County Chair and sitting on the DNC said he is supporting Burn.  Pascal got settled for a seat at the table representing progressive issues.  The only good news coming from today’s meeting is the establishment of a Progressive Caucus.  This year’s election brought quite a few new progressive voices to a conservative body.  Meanwhile the same old, same old is going on.  How the Party leadership will motivate rank and file Dems whose attitude right now is “a pox on both your houses” is the big question.  I don’t see another back room deal changing anything.  

Update:  Burn was just elected by acclamation.  The Democratic State Committee has been reduced to the status of the old Soviet Duma, a rubber stamp for the insiders who negotiate back room deals and make all the decisions.  I’m surprised at how readily these people roll over and take it.  Progressives get a caucus and some money in the Party budget but how long will it last before they’re frozen out of the process?  Too many of these Democrats say they wish the liberal wing of the Party would just go away.  One day it will.

Joe Sestak told the press here he’s OK with the new Chair and will support the Party.  We’ll see.

Pascal Calls For Secret Ballot for Chair Election

The very reasons the Pennsylvania Democratic Party desperately needs new leadership are evident again today as candidate Chuck Pascal called for a secret vote in light of intimidation of Committee people by other candidates for the office.  heavy handedness is rampant by Party leadership when it comes to certain votes, proce4dures and endorsements.  Pascal wrote a letter to outgoing Chair TJ Rooney:

“Pascal said that the election should be taken by secret ballot so that “no member of state committee should feel that he or she is putting a job, a contract, or their future political standing on the line as they cast a vote of conscience for what they believe to be in the best interest of the party, and that “voting by secret ballot will do much to improve the image of the party with rank-and file Democratic voters, who are interested in a Party which is responsive to them, not to power-brokers and ‘insiders,’ who, it seems, are intent upon applying some last minute pressure to the process.”

It sounds to me as if the same old tactics which have turned off the rank and file Democratic voter are again at play.  Turnout by Democratic voters in recent elections has been abysmal.  The state of the Commonwealth and the country are dependent upon rank and file Democrats restoring their faith in their Party, its candidates and its leadership to support and elect Democratic candidates in November.  Dems have been taking baths at the polls because their rank and file are staying home on election day.  Something must be done to motivate them for November and performing the same old back room, smoke filled shenanigans which have turned them off is not the solution to this mess.  Several Congressional seats, a U.S. Senator, the next Governor and the next State House are incumbent upon those people voting.  When they see one more ugly process happening after witnessing too many similar ugly processes happen within the Democratic Party these people are going to stay home again.  Its time for Democrats to become democrats because they are undermining everything they purport to stand for otherwise.

Maneuvering For Next State Party Chair Continues

Pete DeCoursey is reporting today that Joe Sestak is vetoing the selection of either Marcel Groen or Jim Burn as the next Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.  The Sestak campaign is denying the report but it makes sense following a hard fought primary where TJ Rooney, doing Gov. Rendell’s bidding for Arlen Specter, took numerous potshots and personal attacks at the Congressman.  The Governor has admitted making three calls to President Obama trying to force Sestak out of the race.  Gee, and the Party wonders why so many Democrats don’t trust them, are quite angry and very disgusted with the state of things.  Now they have a victorious Senate candidate willing to hold them accountable.

According to DeCoursey Sestak says he will not raise any funds for the Party if either Burn or Groen is the next Chair.  That’s a serious threat and one state committee delegates had better keep in mind.  This is exactly the sort of mess which happens when Party officials take sides, get personal and antagonize fellow Dems.  Then they wonder why I write articles holding them accountable.  Gov. Rendell, and I love the guy, did all sorts of backroom deals while Governor and titular head of the Party.  All kinds of shit went on and, yes, I know a lot of it.  I know how and who they used to try and get other candidates out of other races.  I know how Congressman Tim Holden got someone fired from his job for supporting Sheila Dow-Ford this year.  I know all kinds of stuff so going and calling me a liar when I’m not is only going to illustrate how bad this Party is and how badly it needs to be cleaned up.  If Joe is using his new clout to do so more power to him.  The State Party needs to wake up and realize he IS the top of the ticket this year and they screwed up big time.  They made a huge mistake backing a Republican instead of a real Democrat and now they have to be accountable for the mistake.  Its one of many.

Chuck Pascal Running for State Chair

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party will elect a new Chair a week from today when it meets in Harrisburg.  Three candidates are vying for the position:  Allegheny County Chair Jim Burn, Montgomery County Chair Marcel Groen and Chuck Pascal from Armstrong County.  Burn and Groen are “inside” power brokers vying to succeed TJ Rooney who was Ed Rendell’s choice to lead the Party while he sat as Governor.  Though Burn is telling people he has Dan Onorato’s support the Gubernatorial candidate says he remains neutral in this process.

The PA Dems have been dysfunctional for a long time.  I cover their meetings and they tend to be older and more conservative with little tolerance for progressive members, progressive candidates or progressive ideas.  They like doing things the old fashioned way:  making decisions behind closed doors in a way which reminds one of those old smoke filled rooms.  Their low point came earlier this year when the Governor decided Mark Critz would succeed the late John Murtha in Congress.  A selection process was devised to make it appear the members of the Party in the 12 CD would actually have a say in who their nominee would be.  Unfortunately Critz spilled the beans that a fix was in.  It was.  Critz bragged to a reporter he already had enough votes lined up to secure the nomination.  The problem was that the delegates had yet to be selected.  Oops, you can’t get commitments for votes before knowing who will be voting can you?

This was typical of the Rendell years and long before.  There have been numerous serious missteps observed by me just in the past four years I’ve written this blog.  The Critz debacle was simply an example of them getting caught.  Democrats seem to hate primaries.  They do everything possible to avoid them and that means coming down hard on their own people to try and force them out of races.  Primaries are good, they force candidates to get out there, raise money, meet voters, establish their stances on issues and hone their message before the fall.  They are better general election candidates for going through a primary.  The cost is well worth it especially for first time candidates.

We witnessed a spectacle this year in the U.S. Senate primary.  Joe Sestak decided the Party leaders couldn’t simply annoint a Republican as a Democrat and shove him down our throats.  This has happened far too frequently and Joe said enough.  He ran and was put under enormous pressure to withdraw.  President Obama got involved after numerous please from the Governor who seems to have forgotten he was the outsider candidate himself challenging the establishment.  Joe Sestak won that race with no help or support from the Party.  How he would ever trust them to get involved now and win in November stretches the bounds of rationality.  There’s an old saying:  screw me once its your fault, screw me twice and its  mine.  The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has screwed so many of its own candidates no one trusts it any longer.

Its time for new leadership, a new approach to these issues and problems.  Jim Burn and Marcel Groen are insiders used to the old ways, accustomed to doing things the way in which good Democrats got screwed and either left or refused to help any longer.

There are other issues also.  When one peruses campaign finance reports one sees where the money goes.  One bad habit of the PA Dems was taking on salaries and benefits for campaign staffers.  They wound up paying many of Lois Murphy’s people in 2006 while her campaign manager took home $10,000/month.  That effort raised $6 million yet they couldn’t pay their own staffers.  The PA Dems did.  This was repeated for many of the Obama people in 2008 and when they couldn’t find new jobs after the election due to the financial meltdown the Pennsylvania Democratic Party got stuck paying their COBRA benefits.  This cash drain has severely eroded the Party’s ability to perform and support candidates.  It hasn’t stopped them from turning on primary challengers however.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is in critical condition, something largely self inflicted.  It needs help.  I’m not sure either Groen or Burn is the answer.  Chuck Pascal seems the only one willing to confront these problems, say they pose a challenge and to propose reforms.  I’ve heard nothing from either Burn or Groen, no communications whatsoever while Mr. Pascal has been in frequent touch.  That tells me he is the person to lead the Pennsylvania Democratic Party out of the wilderness.  At least I hope so.

News & Notes June 9, 2010

The battle to be the next Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party is raging as TJ Rooney officially announced his retirement from the post.  Traditionally the Gubernatorial candidate gets to choose the Chair but Dan Onorato seems to be remaining neutral.  Montgomery County Chair (and DNC member) Marcel Groen is challenging Allegheny County Chair Jim Burn for the spot and both are working the newly elected State Committee persons.  Chuck Pascal, a progressive bent on reforming the Party is also running for Chair.  I’ve known Chuck since ’05/’06 and he’s a good man whom I support for the position.  The messes we’ve witnessed of back room rigging of processes and nominations cries out for someone who will run a Party which is open and fair to everyone.

HHS sent a mail piece to Medicare recipients this week highlighting how health insurance reform didn’t cut their Medicare benefits as claimed by the opposition.  It does explain that the additional $1000/person cost for the privatized (thanks George W. Bush!) Medicare Advantage plans was eliminated.  The President also did a health care town hall with seniors to reinforce the message.

I’ll be taking a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico in a couple weeks.  I’m driving out and flying back after spending several days enjoying the Land of Enchantment.  Its a tough job but someone has to do it.

The state budget crises hammering various states are a business opportunity for some.  One company sees profit where others see losses.  Unfortunately many of the debts being scooped up because Illinois (gee I’ll be driving through there!) belong to non profit organizations.  Its a very tough environment for non profits right now and not getting paid by the state of Illinois means they are selling their debts to a broker in Georgia.

While we’re wondering why are chillen ain’t larnin’ this article in today’s Inquirer gives us a clue:  a teacher was fired for criticizing a student online.  Isn’t it  ateacher’s job to criticize students so they learn from their mistakes?  How did we wind up in a world where kids can’t be criticized without it being an “attack?”  I’m sorry but if children have to grow up never being criticized, never being told anything but how great they are I worry for our future.  This only raises a bunch of spoiled, arrogant losers who aren’t accountable and don’t learn anything.

All but three members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation have signed a letter advocating for Comcast’s merger with NBC.  The letter was written by a Comcast lobbyist according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Comcast’s buying of NBC is a serious anti-trust issue because the company already has monopolies in most cable markets, is fiercely anti-union, abuses its customers and its owners (the Roberts family) extremely generous contributors to right wing organizations.  Control of NBC on top of its power in the cable industry threatens freedom of the media.  We have to stop these giant media companies from gaining more power over our lives.  Comcast controls enormous amounts of access to the internet and allowing it to grow exponentially is dangerous to democracy.  Only Mike Doyle, Paul Kanjorski and Joe Sestak stood up and refused to sign the letter.  Kudos to them for standing up for us and shame on the others.

In a bit of sports news Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg (no relation to the Lancaster County town) made his “major league” debut against the Pirates yesterday.  The young phenom struck out 14 Pittsburgh players in a 5-2 win.  We’ll see how well he does against a real major league team next time out.  This was the Pirates after all.

The gas well which exploded in Moundsville, West Virginia is still on fire and is expected to burn for three or four more days.  So far nothing is being done to prosecute EOG Resources (Enron) people who threatened Mike Morrill last weekend and expect explosions like this one to begin right here in our back yards soon.  Pennsylvania still isn’t even taxing these wells and DEP is till a joke.  No progress on this front folks, please move on, there’s nothing to see here.