Gerlach Anounces Retirement From Congress

Congressman Jim Gerlach announced he will not seek re-election to Congress this year.  The former State Senator and Congressman cited time away from his family, the grind of running every two years and Washington gridlock (for which he is largely responsible) for his decision.  The open seat is garnering national attention as a possible pick-up for Democrats.

I expect State Sen. Rafferty to make  amove on the GOP side.  Rumors also are speculating about Sam Rohrer, Curt Schroder and others.  On the Democratic side I’ve seen names such as Sen. Judy Schwank and Doug Pike.  I spoke briefly with Schwank about the seat two months ago on behalf of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee which approached her about running.  At that time she declined to run.

Pike ran in the Democratic primary four years ago and is a fixture at Democratic Party functions.  He padded his resume back then claiming health care management experience he really didn’t have and lost a close race to Manan Trivedi.  I’m not sure he’s currently living in the 6th District as borders changed with redistricting.  One possible entrant I would get excited about is State Rep. Mark Rozzi of Berks County.

Caltagirone At It Again: Helping Republicans Against Democrats

Rep. Thomas Caltagirone has had a checkered past aiding Republican candidates running against Democratic opposition.  He recently said Gov. Corbett is doing a wonderful job.  In 2007 I exposed a $500 contribution he gave to Tom Corbett’s initial run for Attorney General.  Since then he’s also given campaign contributions to Republicans such as Berks County Sheriff Eric Weaknecht.  He has given tot he Sheriff repeatedly including in his latest 2012 cycle 5 campaign finance report.

Maybe his greatest sin though came last month when he provided email letters sent to him by House District 126 candidate Mark Rozzi.  Caltagirone gave the letters to Tea Party Republican candidate James Billman who posted them on an attack website called “The Real Mark Rozzi.”  Rozzi was the Democratic candidate for the 126th State House seat and Billman the GOP candidate.  Rozzi won last week with 70% of the vote to replace retiring Representative Dante Santoni Jr.

The letters were sent by Rozzi to Rep. Caltagirone regarding sexual abuse of minor children.  As a victim himself of a catholic priest as a child Rozzi was seeking Caltagirone’s support for legislation which would have extended the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse and strengthen reporting laws.  As Democratic Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Caltagirone killed the bills on behalf of the Church.

Following the Jerry Sandusky scandal these bills and Rep. Caltagirone’s conduct in stifling them became news.  The fact that Mr. Rozzi had sent him well written pleas on behalf of those victims of molestation in support of the reforms was hardly what most of us would consider “attack” material.  It tells us much about both Rep. Caltagirone and Mr. Billman that they thought so and used it at as part of Billman’s website to attack Rozzi.

So why did Tom Caltagirone give confidential communications to a Tea Party Republican against a fellow Democrat?  The answer is simple:  his real constituency is the Roman Catholic Church, not residents of the City of Reading or the public.  His purpose in killing legislation designed to protect children from sexual molestation was to protect Catholic priests as part of the extensive efforts by the Church to conceal such conduct and protect itself from liability.  As a victim of such molestation himself Mr. Rozzi campaigned on passing such reforms in Harrisburg and holding the Church accountable.

The question now is what will House Democrats do and react to this series of events?  Will they continue allowing Rep. Caltagirone, second in seniority among House Dems, to keep his powerful position where he can continue to harm children?  What will Berks Dems do?  They have repeatedly allowed Caltagirone to keep his position as a County Committee man in spite of constantly violating their by laws about aiding Republicans running against fellow Democrats.

Jim Billman Violated Campaign Finance Law

Tea Party State House candidate Jim Billman violated Pennsylvania campaign finance law in his recent cycle 5 filing.  I drove to Harrisburg this afternoon to obtain a copy of his report because it is now impossible to access these online.  So much for Gov. Gasbag’s promise of transparency.  In this report Bilman’s campaign treasurer reports $2556.11 in a single in-kind contribution.  She neglects to mention its source.  The two pages in which she is legally required to disclose the source of the contribution are blank.  This is a significant violation of state law.  The treasurer would be personally responsible for a $250 fine.  Where did the contribution come from and what was its purpose (that also was not disclosed)?

Jim Billman Is Proud to be A Bigot

It’s bad enough to be a bigot but how many are so proud of the distinction they want everyone to know?  Jim Billman, head of the Berks County Patriots (Tea Party) and Republican candidate in the 126th House District is such a man.  He began running this ad on local TV this week criticizing Mark Rozzi for his support of marriage equality:

Then he sent a direct mail piece saying he supported drug testing for welfare recipients and, yet again, hitting Rozzi for supporting constitutionally mandated equal rights.  I emailed Billman and asked him why he should have rights I don’t.  He didn’t respond.  I also sent him several links to sites where the Florida drug testing found so few drug addicts among welfare recipients (like you can afford drugs while on welfare, lol) that the cost of the testing was a waste of tax dollars.

Then today I found a flyer on our front door with the badly photoshopped gay marriage photo he used in his TV ad and, yet again, attacking Rozzi for supporting gay marriage.  I understand the Rozzi campaign is being swamped with calls and emails from undecided voters saying this and Billman’s position on “life at conception” has swayed them to vote for Rozzi.

Jim Billman is a fool.  The fact he’s head of the local Tea Party group proves the point but running ads boasting of your bigotry is beyond the pale.  Most Americans support marriage equality because they understand the concept of “equal justice under law.”  Once upon a time tea baggers embraced the constitution.  How quickly men like Jim Billman have now trashed it.

Billman, Rozzi Spar Over Marriage Equality, Planned Parenthood

Tea bagger Jim Billman is attacking Mark Rozzi for supporting the constitution:

I thought the Tea Party ilk revered the constitution?  Aren’t these the morons who went around all summer in 2010 waving it at us and insisting we follow it?

Why then is he running this commercial?  The constitution guarantees equal justice for all.  The 14th Amendment provides for equal protection under the law.  That means we cannot have one law for straight people and something else for LGBT citizens.  That’s why Rozzi supports marriage equality, it’s the American thing to do.

Perhaps Billman wants to revert to times when “traditional marriage” meant you could sell your daughter, marry multiple women (as Mitt Romney’s grandfather did) or have to marry your sister-in-law if your brother died (even if you were already wed).

I have a question for Mr. Billman:  why should you have a right I don’t have?  That’s Unamerican.

I won’t comment on the Planned Parenthood part of the attack ad that’s for our staff to do.

Billman ran a commercial for a short while wherein he waved a wad of municipal citations and claimed he was being targeted by the City of Reading for running.  He seems to own a number of investment properties for which he can’t pay his mortgages (they’re for sale on a short sale basis) or keep up.  Many of these citations predate his running.  He’s a typical tea bagger:  the perpetual victim.

Here’s Mark Rozzi’s response:

As State Representative I will represent each and every member of my District, whether they are a man or women, gay or straight, Republican or Democrat. I am a strong supporter of individual rights. I also understand that millions of American women rely on organizations like Planned Parenthood for health care services including regular checkups, breast cancer screenings and reproductive screenings. Women have the right to affordable and quality health care. What we can’t do is listen to the extreme Tea Party voices like my opponent who make outrageous claims that there is such a thing as “legitimate rape” or that pregnancy from rape is something “God intended to happen”.

Update:  From Adrian Shanker, President of Equality Pennsylvania:

“Jim Billman’s offensive and frankly, ignorant, ad makes it abundantly clear that he is out of touch with a majority of Pennsylvanians who support marriage equality. There could not be a clearer choice in this election. Mark Rozzi believes in equality, while his opponent wants to ensure inequality for generations to come.” – Adrian Shanker, President, Equality Pennsylvania

News & Notes May 5, 2012

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  Go out and have a burrito and margherita.  Yesterday was Star Wars Day:  May 4th.  May the Fourth be with you…

I went to a fundraiser last night for State House candidate Erik Saar.  The consultant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff has a great resume for a heavily GOP district in western Berks.  Incumbent Jim Cox was Chief of Staff to Tea Party fave Sam Rohrer before winning this seat when Sheila Miller retired.  He is known for being a puppy hater.  Not only has he voted to support puppy mills this week he voted against a tax cut for people who adopt rescue animals.  Why does Jim Cox hate pets?

Mark and Jackie Rozzi (126th House) were also in attendance along with Tim Seip who is running for Dave Argall’s State Senate seat.

Disabled Pennsylvanians descended on Gov. Corbett’s office again this week to protest his cuts to their programs.  This marks the second consecutive Corbett budget to cut services tot he disabled.  The test of a civilization is how we treat those among us who need help most.  Cutting off disabled people is immoral.

A new generation of Romneys is set to threaten prosperity into the future.  Tagg announced yesterday he, his wife and their surrogate mother gave birth to twin sons.  I thought radical conservatives were against any procreation which uses in vitro fertilization?  Did Rick Santorum consider this before meeting Mitt yesterday?  What happens to the rest of the Tagg Romney fertilized eggs?  According tot he “personhood” nuts these are living beings with full human rights.

What’s more ridiculous, giving full rights to fertilized eggs or to corporations?

Senate candidate Tom Smith is a Tea bagger:

Fact based sex education is especially important for gay students who have few reliable sources for factual, age appropriate information.  Missouri not only wants to stifle such real educational curriculums but wishes to muzzle gay students completely.  This prompted a lawmaker to come out of the closet himself.

Congressional Republicans don’t think you deserve protection from domestic abuse if you’re illegal, a Native American or LGBT.  As if this weren’t bad enough if you’re illegal they want to be able to tell your abuser you sought help.  It’s time we abused them at the polls.

More corruption at Wal-Mart hits the news.  Why anyone would patronize these stores is a mystery to me.  Now the Department of Labor has determined they stole $4.8 million in wages from employees.  Maybe they used it to bribe Mexican officials…

Gov. Corbett toured a box plant which is illegally firing workers for union activity.

The state Senate isn’t happy just with destroying democracy in the City of Harrisburg now they also want to take over its school district.  Why do Pennsylvania Republicans hate democracy?

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.