The Rozzi Party

I made it from Upper Merion to Temple just in time to catch Mark Rozzi entering his party after receiving the concession call from rival Frank Denbowski.  The pizza place was filled with family and friends and all were celebrating the win.  Rozzi came from nowhere, a political novice with a young campaign manager with no experience and they soundly defeated a seasoned pro with serious backing and a well known consulting group.  Rozzi won because he was better on the issues, had the backing of Dante Santoni Jr. and ran a positive campaign.

At Planned Parenthood we saw an opportunity to switch a seat which had been anti-choice and a remarkable young talent in Rozzi.  Now women in Pennsylvania will have a strong new ally in Harrisburg as this heavily Democratic seat in and around Reading will be an automatic pick-up come November.  This was one of those races where the primary was the real election.

I’ve known Frank Denbowski for years and he’s a good man.  Unfortunately he surrounded himself with negative people who ran a negative race.  Yesterday they sent a bizarre mail piece to voters accusing Rozzi of midnight pay raises and saying he’d destroy the middle class.  No class.

Mark Rozzi entering Margherita’s:

With Dante Santoni Jr:

With his beautiful wife Jackie:

Two excited men, Mark Rozzi and his campaign manager Chad Schlanger:

Denbowski House Campaign Wasn’t Legal Until April 13th

Friends of Frank Denbowski was not registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State until April 13, 2012.  He told me he’d registered it in February which, obviously, was a lie.  Though the document is dated February 17, 2012 it was not filed until April 13, 2012.

Pennsylvania election law, as little of it as there is, requires all candidates for state office who spend over $250 to form a Committee with a treasurer and register with the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation (BCEL), part of the Department of State.  Then then must file periodic campaign finance reports.

Jonathon Marks, Commissioner of BCEL told me in an email today that Friends of Frank Denbowski was registered with them on April 13, 2012.  The papers were filed along with its campaign finance report.  They were not able to provide me with the documents Friday because they had not been processed.  That’s all a separate issue.

Typically, the bureau’s process works and interim requests for campaign expense information can be filled because the bureau’s staff is able to efficiently locate reports utilizing the candidate and committee information maintained in our database. In the case of the Friends of Frank Denbowsky, it appears that the committee’s registration statement was filed at the same time the 2nd Friday report was filed. I have attached copies of the committee registration statement and 2nd Friday report for your reference.

Denbowski failed to comply with election law and until he registered his committee was limited to expenditures of $250.  According to his current report he exceeded that on February 3 when he bought yard signs.  Therefore any expenditures since that date have been illegal.

His report also has some serious issues.  The cover page lists $2,000 of in kind donations but none are disclosed.  He hired Fleck Consulting to run his campaign but there are no payments to them.  He paid $12,000 for a television ad buy but it isn’t listed meaning it happened after April 13th.  His report shows cash in hand on that date of $6,471.73 so where did the remainder of that money come from?  Having raised $21,797, mostly from political action committees (only eight individuals contributed money), in the previous several months suddenly $5500 comes in to pay for TV…

It appears that Friends of Frank Denbowski is hiding expenditures.  Mike Fleck doesn’t come cheaply.  He charged Archie Follweiler $21,000 to run his State House campaign several years ago.  Where are those expenses?

PA BCEL: “Friends of Frank Denbowski” Doesn’t Exist

The Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation (BCEL) told me this morning they have no record of Frank Denbowski’s campaign committee.  He is running for the State House in District 126, a seat currently held by Dante Santoni Jr.  State election law requires that any candidate spending more than $250 form a campaign committee and register it with the state.  They are then required to file periodic campaign finance reports with BCEL.  I have been searching the BCEL database for Denbowski’s reports for a week and finally drove to Harrisburg this morning to get them.  I was told no reports exist and that they have no record of “Friends of Frank Denbowski” being a legally registered campaign committee.

I spoke with Mr. Denbowski and he insists he has filed the appropriate paperwork and has time and date stamped receipts.  If he registered his Committee in February as he claims then BCEL should have a record of it.  Mike Fleck, consultant to the Denbowski campaign called me and stated “we confirmed they have our reports.  I don’t know why they couldn’t give them to you.”

Gov. Corbett’s budget cuts have cut the BCEL staff from 31 people to 20, a third of its previous size.  Considering the importance of election integrity if they are unable to process crucial paperwork in a timely manner all elections are suspect.  Voters have the right to examine all campaign finance reports prior to an election.  We are on the Friday before a Tuesday election day and BCEL is unable to provide me with documents the candidate claims to have submitted.  Of course had Denbowski done so electronically none of this would be an issue.  Mark Rozzi’s electronically filed campaign finance report has been online at the BCEL website for a week.  In 2012 it is inexcusable for a candidate to not be able to use basic technology.

Fleck told me he would scan their documents and send them to me via email.

I called the Department of State and asked why they are unable to produce documents when citizens drive there and request them.  They have no answer for me yet either.

Meanwhile I have been attempting to obtain these documents since 8:30 this morning and by 1:30 PM have nothing.  I’ll update the story as events unfold.

Update:  Three and a half hours after they were promised I still haven’t received copies of the documents from the Denbowski campaign.  I did get a copy of them from another campaign which managed to go to the Berks County Elections Services, obtain a copy (without state time stamps), scan them and email them to me. At this point I’m not sure I’d even trust them, too much time has elapsed to use Photoshop.  Until I get something from the PA Dept. of State I’m not saying the campaign committee was properly registered.

Update II:  The Department of State has sent the Denbowski campaign a letter stating their campaign finance report was filed on time.  Thus far no one has provided proof the Committee was registered.  I have been seeking this information all day.

State House District 126 Endorsement: Mark Rozzi

I met with Mark Rozzi this afternoon for an interview.  The small business owner is running for Dante Santoni Jr.’s open seat in House District 126.  This includes much of Reading along with Muhlenberg, Temple and Mt. Penn.  This is my House District and I was very interested in who was considering making a run and was hoping a pro choice candidate would emerge whom I could support.  Mark Rozzi is that candidate.

Two other Democrats are running, Jerry Delcollo and Frank Denbowski.  Delcollo isn’t a factor.  Frank is someone I’ve known for eight years and I’ve always thought he was a good man.  He served in several capacities with the City of Reading most recently as Chief of Staff to former Mayor Tom McMahon.  There was a lot wrong with that City Hall, scandals about mismanagement and inefficiencies.  Checks sent in to City Hall couldn’t even get cashed before they expired.  Entire shoe boxes full of checks would intermittently be found sitting in someone’s office while the City bled money and laid off workers.  Through that all I could support Denbowski if he were truly pro choice and pro marriage equality.  He is not.

Mark Rozzi is and brings a breath of fresh air to Berks County politics.  While many of those around Denbowski are spreading vague rumors and lies about Rozzi he has maintained a positive, focused campaign.  I think it says something about a candidate when his campaign runs a gutter effort.  The candidate is always ultimately responsible for the campaign run of his/her behalf and this has reflected badly on Frank Denbowski.  If someone can’t run an honest campaign how can we expect them to be an honest legislator?

Here is my interview with Mark Rozzi:

News & Notes April 10, 2012

State Representative Dante Santoni Jr. has endorsed Democrat Mark Rozzi to succeed him in the 126th (my) District.  This is significant not only because Dante is the incumbent but because it is a clear break from his mentor Tom Caltagirone who is supporting Frank Denbowski.  I see far more Rozzi signs in yards in the District, maybe 10-1.  This is a safe Democratic seat with a tea bagger running on the GOP side so the primary will determine the winner.

The interesting 22nd District is also seeing a clear front runner in Erin Molchany.  Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus is her latest endorsement.  Mark Schotzer, anointed by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party in the special election, admittedly stole $50,000 from Allegheny County taxpayers and failed to pay $25,000 to the IRS the last time he was in public office.

David Axelrod was home in Philadelphia to endorse Patrick Murphy for Attorney General.  The former Congressman knows President Obama well and worked with him while in Washington.  Murphy also secured the endorsement of the Pennsylvania National Organization for Women,  significant because his primary opponent is Kathleen Kane.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden will be at Penn tomorrow on their Joining Forces Anniversary Tour.

Mark Critz and Jason Altmire held a debate in Johnstown illustrating why neither is a progressive.  They argued over balanced budget amendments, illegal immigration and funding for Planned Parenthood.  Meanwhile a woman has launched an attack website against Critz foe refusing to support her against her allegations of women being raped while serving in the military.  Critz sits on the Armed Services Committee.

Rick Santorum has an event today at the Gettysburg Hotel at 2 PM.  He then travels to Lancaster Bible College where he will appear with his wife and James Dobson at 7:15 PM.  Mitt Romney will be on the PA-Delaware state line at the Mendenhall Inn with Chester County Republicans at 7:30 PM.  The Inn is on Route 52 south of Chadds Ford.

News & Notes January 12, 2012

There’s a lot going on as candidates vye for endorsements, others announce and some decide it’s time to retire from public service.  I had a breakfast meeting yesterday with a potential candidate to succeed Dante Santoni Jr. in Berks County then drove to Delaware and met up with my Democratic Talk Radio compadre Steve Crockett.  Dante decided not to run for re-election and it was all the talk at Mayor Spencer’s gala Saturday night.  The open seat is drawing considerable interest.

John Rafferty pulled out of the GOP race for Attorney General following Dave Freed’s endorsement by the Republican State Committee and Gov. Gasbag’s endorsement of Freed.  On the Democratic side Dan McCaffery’s attacks on Patrick Murphy have drawn a response:

It’s a time-honored tradition. We gain momentum, then our opponents Swiftboat.

Recently, my opponent had a press conference where a speaker called my time in Iraq “kindergarten experience.”

I let it go. I can handle a few dirty smears. But enough is enough.

When I entered the JAG Corps, the Army advised me to take the bar exam outside of Pennsylvania. So I did. When I came home from Iraq, the Bar Association looked at my prosecutorial record and waived the test. My opponent’s brother swore me in, and I’ve been licensed in PA ever since.

That’s the story. But the truth isn’t very interesting. So my opponent started a blatantly false whisper campaign. The press caught him saying that because I followed the Army’s advice, I wasn’t a lawyer.

So he spun. And he searched. Finally he got an article to quote his campaign manager actually saying that the Army’s advice was a “fatal flaw” that “automatically disqualifies” me. That’s completely false, and he knows it. He’s just hoping others don’t.

Within hours of the post, a Brigadier General, former JAG Officers, the DA of Philadelphia, and lawyers and legal experts from across the state and country joined together to denounce this ridiculous attack.

Another Bucks Countian Kathryn Boockvar, just announced she is running for Congress in PA-08.  Mike Fitzpatrick rewon the seat from Murphy in 2010.  Democrats were wooing Boockvar and Det Ansinn after their impressive campaigns last year and Ansinn wound up getting behind the Doylestown civil rights attorney who ran for Commonwealth Court.

I’ll be in Doylestown tomorrow (Friday) to cover Vice President Biden’s appearance.

Debra Anderson, the producer of the anti-fracking film “Split Estate” is working on her new production “Switch.”  She’s raising money for the movie which offers solutions by showing how people can switch to renewable energy sources so natural gas wouldn’t be needed to such large quantities.  With all of the fracking controversy here in Pennsylvania let’s help Debra with her latest venture.  Watch the trailer here.

As more fracking fluid spill, Dimock residents go without potable water and drilling rigs continue causing problems why is it we have so many of these issues here in Pennsylvania?  When I was in New Mexico last August meeting with state officials there they were incredulous to hear we have rigs exploding.  New Mexico has been fracking for thirty years with some problems but nothing on the scale we are experiencing.  The difference seems to be other states tax the energy companies and use the funds to inspect, regulate and guarantee as much safety as seems possible.  Considering how utterly dangerous fracking is we must insist Gov. Gasbag get in line and begin protecting US instead of the gas drillers.

As a disabled person I find this conservative Congressman’s remarks about us revolting.  He’d ship us all off to Siberia?  How about doing that to the corrupt businessmen whose actions caused our injuries?

The only people seemingly trying to commit voter fraud by pretending to be dead people work for James O’Keefe.  He actually filmed people he sent into New Hampshire polling places who were impersonating dead people and obtaining ballots.  Those are crimes of election fraud in NH.  Oops, James, you seem to have caught yourself committing crimes again.

Yesterday was the deadline for appeals of the redistricting plan.  Numerous ones were filed with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, currently controlled by Republicans 5-4.  Justice Joan Orie Melvin, a Republican, is under investigation by an Allegheny County grand jury and has been notified as such.  She is supposed to be suspended under the rules of the Court but continues to sit.  No one under such a black cloud of corruption should be allowed to sit in judgment of others until vindicated or convicted and driven from her seat.

Schwank Announces for O’Pake Seat

Former Berks County Commissioner Judy Schwank has sent a letter to Democratic committee persons in the 11th State Senate district announcing her intention to seek the Party nomination tomorrow.  A special election will be held on March 15th to fill the unexpired term of the late Mike O’Pake who died December 27th.

State Representative Dante Santoni Jr. is also running and I’ve heard rumors of several other names.  I saw Manan Trivedi Monday and asked him but he wouldn’t declare either way.  He did seem interested though Schwank’s decision might persuade some to drop out.  Kirk will be covering the meeting tomorrow morning because I’m in  Pittsburgh for the PA Progressive Summit.

News & Notes January 18, 2011

I attended Berks County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt’s re-election announcement yesterday in West Reading.  GNA Pizza was filled to capacity with local big wigs.  The only county wide elected officials not in attendance were fellow Commish Mark Scott and Register of Wills Larry Medaglia.  Other than that it was a love fest as people ate off dirty plates listening to Kevin announce there would be both a tax increase and a reassessment in the next four years.

There was a lot of talk about the selection processes for the 11th Senate special election.  Both Judy Schwank and Dante Santoni Jr. seem to want the nomination for Democrats.  Scuttlebut seems to be that either Medaglia or Michael Rivera of the Chamber of Commerce will get the GOP nod.   I’ll be in Pittsburgh this weekend so Kirk will at the Democratic meeting Saturday with a copy of the DNC Charter and my Flip camera to record whatever happens.  If he is not allowed in there will be a formal complaint filed with the Democratic National Committee.

Tom Corbett gets sworn in today as Pennsylvania’s new Governor.  He certainly didn’t get good weather for his big day.  This should ensure me great blogging topics for the next four years.

Meanwhile Republicans in Washington are set to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the House.  It will go nowhere when it dies in either the Senate or the President’s desk but political theater is the real agenda here.  Repealing health care reform would mean 5,500,000 Pennsylvania residents would lose protection because they have pre-existing conditions.  Mike Huckabee doesn’t think anyone with a pre-existing condition should ever be covered.  He equates it with covering the barn with fire insurance after it burns down.  Isn’t it comforting to equate a child born with a heart defect with someone’s barn?  That’s what I call compassionate conservatism!

Dick Cheney was on TV this morning with his new mechanical heart.  I hope he’s enjoying his government health care because he’d be dead without it.

Berks Chair Confirms Back Room Deal in Special Election

In a letter sent to Berks County Democratic Committee members yesterday Chair Tom Herman revealed the back room deal making happening to select a single candidate for approval next Saturday.  A special election will be held March 15th to elect someone to fill the remaining two years of the late Sen. Michael O’Pake who died from internal bleeding after cardiac surgery at Reading Hospital.  Sent from his personal email account the official letter reveals the closed process going on in Berks.  This is what I’ve been warning about since news of O’Pake’s death.  Ironically Herman makes this statement:

There are no “back room” deals being made.

Everything else in the email contradicts that claim:

It is pretty much common knowledge that the two presumptive front runners are Judy  Schwank and Dante Santoni. Both are seriously interested. Both are good friends with each other and good friends of mine as well. This is a quandary  for both of them and for the party. We as the Democratic Committee must allow them the time to work it out between them for the good of both of them, the party and the district.

The goal of Saturday’s meeting is to present to you the strongest possible candidate(s) for your consideration. My sincere hope is to present to you the candidate for your unanimous acclamation so we can immediate present to the press that kind of momentum going into the race. Our party rules provide that the County Committee people in the 11th Senate District present a recommendation for consideration by the State Democratic Committee’s Executive Committee. The State Democratic Executive Committee will then vote on a candidate and our hope is the only candidate for their consideration is our selection. In my experience and the experience of others, the State Committee has always supported the County’s recommendation and I would think it would be no different. What that means is that we have the obligation to select the strongest candidate.

He even has the unmitigated gall to include this:

It is imperative that we be fair to everyone in this process.

Fair?  I know one serious candidate has been totally shut out of the process.  There will be NO public forum for Democrats in the 11th Senatorial District to question candidates, the selection process is being closed to all but County Committee persons and even they are being denied any chance to question the candidates.

Why?  Because Herman and the power brokers in Berks are going to decide on one candidate and present that person for approval:

The goal of Saturday’s meeting is to present to you the strongest possible candidate(s) for your consideration. My sincere hope is to present to you the candidate for your unanimous acclamation so we can immediate present to the press that kind of momentum going into the race.

So there will be a back room deal made with one person offered, and only one, for consideration Saturday morning.  This is why the Berks and Pennsylvania Democratic Parties are violating this section of the national charter:

Section 12. All meetings of the Democratic National Committee, the Executive Committee, and all

other official Party committees, commissions and bodies shall be open to the public, and votes shall not be

taken by secret ballot.

A closed meeting Saturday is a violation of the Democratic Party Charter.

The above was copied directly from the website of the Berks County Democratic Committee so they are well aware they breaking the rules.  News that this will be a closed meeting have been publicized three times by The Reading Eagle quoting Tom Herman.

In another unsavory move today’s Eagle quotes him as seemingly trying to shake down the O’Pake campaign committee for money.

Here is the entire text of the Herman email which I obtained anonymously:

> From: []

> Sent: Saturday, January 15, 2011 3:13 PM

> To:

> Subject: 11th Senatorial District Special Election



> Dear County Committee:


> I understand a whole lot of discussion is going on concerning the filling of Mike O’Pake’s vacant Senate Seat. Let me assure everyone that there is no “back room” deals being made nor is the County Committee being excluded from the process.


> This seat is to (sic) important to our Democratic Party and to Berks County to not do a great deal of work to present to the Committee the strongest candidate for consideration. I can tell you that all our Principals from the National level on down are doing everything they believe necessary to persuade the strongest candidate to come forward for consideration to keep this district in Democrats (sic) hands. I have had numerous discussions with potential candidates and State Party leadership on these issues.


> I was able to persuade the State Senate Campaign Committee to do professional polling on the most likely choices in the 11th at their cost. It was their poll and I did not have ability to tell them how to do their poll. The results are proprietary to the SSCC and I’m not permitted to release the entire document. However, I am permitted to release this from the memorandum,


>  “when all the factors are evaluated, including favorable ratings, head-to-head match-ups against Madaglia and potential comparative attacks, Judy Schwank emerges as the candidate with the best chance to keep the 11th State Senate district in the Democratic column.” *


> I wish I was permitted to provide more of the report but, I am not.


> Factors that are foremost in leadership’s minds are support of the electorate, the supportive institutions and the Democratic financial community. It is supposed that this Special Race will cost well over a half million dollars, probably closer to three-quarter’s of a million. I have been working with the party to insure (sic) that the funds will be there but, I’ve been told the big money contributors are adamant that the candidate be the strongest possible to gain their full financial backing. Who knows what that really means. (sic) Will they back out if it is not the strongest possible candidate, in their eyes? I hope not and am working diligently to keep everyone moving forward to winning this seat. (sic) We need the strongest person to run.


> It is pretty much common knowledge that the two presumptive front runners are Judy  Schwank and Dante Santoni. Both are seriously interested. Both are good friends with each other and good friends of mine as well. This is a quandary  for both of them and for the party. We as the Democratic Committee must allow them the time to work it out between them for the good of both of them, the party and the district.


> The goal of Saturday’s meeting is to present to you the strongest possible candidate(s) for your consideration. My sincere hope is to present to you the candidate for your unanimous acclamation so we can immediate present to the press that kind of momentum going into the race. Our party rules provide that the County Committee people in the 11th Senate District present a recommendation for consideration by the State Democratic Committee’s Executive Committee. The State Democratic Executive Committee will then vote on a candidate and our hope is the only candidate for their consideration is our selection. In my experience and the experience of others, the State Committee has always supported the County’s recommendation and I would think it would be no different. What that means is that we have the obligation to select the strongest candidate.


> At this point, the candidate(s) will be nominated by County Committee members who reside in the 11th and the vote will be from those who reside in the 11th. It is imperative that we be fair to everyone in this process. Each Candidate will have a three minute period to present themselves to the Committee. I have heard some folks want to ask the candidates questions. This cannot be fair unless every candidate is permitted to respond to every question. That is a laborious process that provides ability to lengthen the time as well as potentially give one candidate unfair advantage over another by being able to address a response. We will not do that. The Candidates will be at the meeting and folks should ask specific questions directly to the candidates prior to the start of our meeting. That is the only fair way to proceed. Once the vote is taken, the candidate will be announced and presented to the press. The State Democratic Party leadership will also be present to provide any expertise necessary.


> This has been a difficult time for all of us. Losing Senator O’Pake was a tragedy that will be felt for years to come. We all mourn his untimely loss. Moving forward, we cannot permit the Republican’s (who smell blood) to take this seat away from us. I trust you all understand the seriousness of this issue within the Democratic Community.


> In closing, let me reiterate that we are the ones who will make the recommendation to the State Democratic Committee Executive Committee. Work is being done to find and field the strongest possible candidate to present to you for your consideration. There are no “back room” deals being made. Because of our process, I do not have that kind of authority or power. None of you are naive; you all know there are conversations occurring to find the best candidate and I am working closely with the potentials mentioned to make this the easiest possible process for all of us. I constantly am asking myself, what would Mike do? I am constantly questioning the potentials, the leadership and mostly myself that we are doing the best possible decisions on behalf of the district and the Democratic party. Let’s let the potentials have the necessary discussions so we can make the best decisions.


> I can let you know, I find solace in the belief that a higher power provides me and us guidance in this process. Sorry for the lengthy email but, you deserve to know what I can share at this point. Thank you for your considerations and your understanding.


> Warmest Regards,


> Tom Herman, Chairman


> P.S. This email is sent to the Committee people who have provided us with their email address.


> * excerpt from  Thrity-Ninth Street Strategies, 3511 39th St, NW D-490, Washington, DC 20016

I also have questions concerning the poll mentioned above.  First of all who was polled?  Unless only those voters with a very strong voting history (8 of 8, meaning they voted in all eight elections the past four years) the responses are irrelevant.  In a winter special election they are the only likely voters.  Secondly I understand only three candidates were mentioned one of whom has expressed no interest in the race, DA John Adams.  This means only Dante Santoni Jr and Judy Schwank’s numbers were polled.  Did the poll ask voters how they would react if Republicans campaigned heavily against Schwank on the 34% tax increase?  That was enacted when she was Chair of the County Commissioners.  I suspect this would be their majoe issue were she the candidate.  Do you think that would be relevant information on which to poll?  I do.

Why were no other potential candidates included?  At least one is being systematically shut out of the process by Mr. Herman according to my information.

As to the explanation as to why committee people will be denied a chance to ask questions Saturday I think this is pure BS.  It would be very easy to incorporate an hour where questions can be presented and each candidate given 3 minutes to respond.  Questions could be written down on cards as Committee persons enter Sinking Spring Fire Company then an organized response session held.  Candidate forums do this all the time.

So why refuse to do this?  Because the powers that be are busy behind the scenes in their back room sorting things out between Santoni and Schwank.  They want to present one candidate as a done deal for unanimous acclamation just as Herman presents in his email.  No one else will have any effect on the process or selection.  If you’re a committee person you’re nothing more than a mushroom.

Democrats have already lost the press war in this race.  While the area news organizations have widely reported on the open process being used by Republicans they have also widely reported this closed process of the Democrats.  If the press is kept out of a closed meeting Saturday they won’t be happy and the Democratic candidate will be greeted out of the gate by a hostile media corps.  If someone shut out of the process takes that opportunity to hold a session with the press outside the event outlining the crooked ways seemingly used in the selection process this race will be over at the outset.

Update:  Let’s be clear about one thing:  state and local by laws do NOT trump national by laws and the national charter.  Simply because the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has a clause which is in violation of the DNC National Charter doesn’t mean it is legal for Tom Herman to close Saturday’s meeting.  Anyone who is kept out of this meeting has the right to challenge both Berks and Pennsylvania by laws with the DNC.  Ask that their statuses as Party organizations be revoked for willfull violations.