A New Progressive Governor Takes Office

I spent yesterday roaming around the Capitol building as Tom Wolf took the oath of office as Pennsylvania’s 47th Governor.  Because of my recent Achilles tendon injury I hadn’t gotten a ticket or press credentials because I didn’t know if I’d be healthy enough to attend.  As it was I limped around using a cane and paid for it by the time I returned to Reading with a very painful ankle.  I applied some medication for the swelling though and all is well this morning.  Being on my feet remains a challenge until it fully heals.

Still it was great to be back in Harrisburg and chat and visit with many friends and legislators.  I got some interesting information, met new Chief of Staff Katie McGinty, congratulated consultant and now Director of Legislative Affairs Mary Isenhour on a spectacular job and watched the inauguration on one of several large screen televisions mounted inside the Capitol.  I remained warm on this grey, cold afternoon though it meant missing out on being able to get many good pictures.  

The former Governors in attendance were clustered in a corner outside the cafe and I got a few pictures of them.

Former Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge:

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Outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett:

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I met several of the candidates for state judgeships, chatted briefly with Dan Onorato, the Democratic candidate for Governor four years ago and many others.

Wolf campaigned on the premise that he’d give Pennsylvania a “fresh start” and that he would be “a different kind of Governor.”  He already has set that tone by not residing in the Governor’s Mansion but commuting from his home in nearby York County.  He will also continue using his own vehicle, the famous Jeep.  He has dictated that no one on his staff accept gifts, heresy in the cesspool of corruption which is our state capital.

He faces a Republican led legislature which increased its majorities in both the House and Senate all the while the progressive Democrat was waltzing away with the Gubernatorial race.  As such he said “We have to respect each other’s ideas, each other’s values” as his approach to building some sort of consensus with the other Party.

Wolf’s two biggest goals are to enact a 5% extraction tax on natural gas to fund education and to change the state constitution to allow progressive taxation.   Both are poison to the many Teapublicans in the legislature.  Sen. Jake Corman dethroned longtime Senate leader Dominic Pilleggi (who may be plotting revenge) to take a harder ideological stance against Democrats.  The outlook for Wolf isn’t good under these circumstances and he faces a $2.3 billion state budget deficit left over from Tom Corbett’s failed administration.

Something has to get done and the way it does will set the tone for Tom Wolf’s success or failure.  A dramatic success might lead him on a path to higher office.  

The Corrupt Hershey Trust: Stop Eating Kisses

Milton S. Hershey not only built a multinational confection company but left his entire fortune to at risk children.  Creating The Hershey Trust to educate and care for orphans was the legacy he left.  The Milton Hershey School owns a controlling interest in the candy company and earnings from sales of Hershey bars, Kisses, York Peppermint Patties and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups fueled the school for decades until a small elite group of Republicans saw it as a cash cow for their politics.  

Former Attorney General Leroy Zimmerman, father-in-law of current AG candidate David Freed, gained access to the Board of Directors and eventually became its Chair.  In that capacity he hugely increased the compensation of Board members and stocked the Board with GOP heavyweights with no expertise in early child development or education.  Zimmerman eventually racked his pay up to $500,000/year.  Other Board members were also unjustly compensated.  Much of that money turned up in campaign contributions to Republican candidates.  Pennsylvania, infamously, has no limits on campaign contributions to non-federal candidates.

The Hershey Trust became a slush fund for the Pennsylvania GOP.  Worse, its mission to provide for and educate orphans was liberalized to the point where it became just another prep school where disadvantaged kids were left out in the cold.

The Hershey Trust Board then began engaging in criminal fraud.  They bought a local golf course in severe financial trouble at triple its value.  One of the beneficiaries of their largesse was the CEO of Hershey Foods, a clear conflict of interest.  After blowing $13 million on something with no connection to education they burned another $5 million on a Scottish style clubhouse.  Why did the Board overpay for a failing business venture?  Its local owners were prominent Republicans who, we assume, used some of their newfound funds for campaign contributions.

This was a sweet deal:  churning money supposedly for educating poor children to their political allies and further cementing their status as major players.  Prominent Republicans such as Tom Ridge and Tom Corbett have benefited.  Lynn Swann, a defeated candidate for Governor wound up a Board member.

This is an important issue today because the state Attorney General’s office has been investigating the Trust.  This investigation is similar to that of Jerry Sandusky in that its taking far too long to complete.  It also involves the welfare of children.  David Freed, the GOP candidate for Attorney General, is the son-in-law of Leroy Zimmerman the chief target of the investigation.  It would be a clear conflict of interest.

What can you do?  Don’t vote for Freed and stop buying Hershey products until this slush fund is stopped.

News & Notes August 3, 2010

Former Governor and DHS Secretary Tom Ridge has sold out to the gas drillers.  He is the new lobbyist for the Marcellus Shale Coalition to rape and pillage his former state.  I have an idea:  every time these energy people come to Harrisburg to testify we should offer them abundant drinking water, the same water they claim is safe.  Let’s take their “processed water” (its easy to find since they’re dumping it directly into our rivers) and put it into plastic bottles and serve it to them at these hearings.  If it truly is safe they won’t have any problem imbibing the fluid.

A prison guard in Camp Hill killed another to seize his AR-15 to use in a plot to overthrow the federal government.  Raymond Peake won’t say which group he is involved with but I bet it goes by Tea Party something, 9/12 Committee something or Patriot something.

Rep. Maxine Waters in in ethics trouble for arranging a cozy meeting from which she would benefit.  Too bad she’s a Democrat since this is SOP for Republicans in Congress and elsewhere.

Its amazing how gullible some folks are as we witness the power of brainwashing through mass media.  Fox News and Rush feed a steady diet of conspiracy theories as “facts” as if they were red meat to people who should know better.  Barack Obama is as much a tool of corporate America and the most powerful interests in this country as there is.  You don’t get to be President otherwise absent a bloody revolution.

Here are some interesting facts:  corporate profits are skyrocketing as evidenced by rising stock prices the past year.  During the downturn when the GDP shrank by 2.4% companies got rid of 6% of their workforce.  They are still refusing to hire as the economy begins expanding once more deciding instead to squeeze more productivity from current employees and fatten their bottom lines.  This is suffocating the recovery.

Mike Malloy on the myth of high taxes:

Ridge Bows Out

Former Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced he will NOT seek the U.S. Senate seat held by Arlen Specter.  The Washington, D.C. resident has had some personal problems in recent years as Bill George referred to them this morning on Democratic Talk Radio.  George also wondered why Pennsylvania Republicans would nominate another moderate after driving one from their ranks.  Good points.  

In today’s GOP there is no room for moderates like Specter and Ridge.

The Case For a Specter Challenge

While moderate Republicans and former moderate Republicans are ecstatic that Arlen Specter has changed parties rank and file Democrats are livid.  Arlen Specter is not a Democrat because that requires more than checking a box on a voter registration form.  Being a Democrat means, at the minimum, representing the interests of the average working person.  It means supporting labor, equal, civil rights for all, diplomacy, justice, fair wages, safe working conditions, fair trade, and Supreme Court Justices who also support and uphold these principles.

Arlen Specter has been in the U.S. Senate for 29 years.  He has not distinguished himself as an advocate for anyone but himself.  His statement upon changing his party affiliation last week spoke volumes:

“I am not prepared to have my 29 year record decided by the Pennsylvania Republican electorate.”

In other words, Sen. Specter has no respect for the democratic process where the voters of a party determine who will be their nominee.  He also has no regard for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party voters because he supposedly arranged a deal where Gov. Rendell promised to clear the primary field.  Well, we’ll see who really runs the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, Ed Rendell or rank and file Democrats.  In fact rank and file Democrats are outraged and livid over the thought of Arlen Specter being their Senate nominee.

Does Ed Rendell want to cast his political legacy in the hands of someone who had a key role in  putting Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court?  Someone who supported the Iraq War, the Bush tax cuts, shredding the Fourth Amendment, played a key role in firing eight U.S. Attorneys, voted for torture and other horrendous, anti-Democratic votes?  Sen. Specter personally killed the Employee Free Choice Act.

How can a Democrat expect to win in Pennsylvania without the left wing of the party and without labor?  They cannot.

As voters are reminded of exactly whom Arlen Specter is and his 29 year record in the Senate they will abandon him for a real Democrat.  Health is another serious issue.  At age 80 next year Specter will be running for another six year term following two serious bouts with Hodgkins Disease since his last election.  With the strong field of GOP Gubernatorial candidates and Pennsylvania’s penchant for changing our Governor’s Party every eight years, the odds are very high that electing Specter will mean this seat returning to the GOP.  It is time to take the long view and consider someone who can keep the seat.

Gov. Rendell and President Obama have promised publically to support Sen. Specter.  His first two votes as a Democrat however may sabotage that support.  He voted against the President twice so far.  If he refuses to support the President’s agenda how can he expect the President or the Governor to support him?  I suspect they’ll offer tepid, one time only appearances simply to fulfill their publicly expressed support then work behind the scenes for a real Democrat.

Rendell controls substantial pursestrings but so do the netroots.  A real Democratic challenger can rely on the Obama organization for support as Specter continues to sabotage his agenda.  This grassroots organization is not something the President can also risk losing prior to 2012.  It can be harnessed along with the fundraising capacity of the online community across the country to finance a serious challenge.  Liberals and progressives loath Arlen Specter and thirst for someone to support.  Working the major blogs can be highly effective financially for the right candidate.

Rank and file Democrats are not happy having yet another Senate candidate rammed down their throats, someone whose 29 year record undermines all of which they’ve believed for years, worked to achieve, and finally accomplished.  Specter himself said he would not be a reliable 60th vote for Democrats.  It is time to insure that Pennsylvania provides that reliable 60th vote to break the Republican filibuster machine.  Healthcare, worker’s rights, civil rights, peace and justice demand a Senator we can count on, change we can count on.

Combine the liberal wing of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party (the Obama machine) and the forces of labor behind the AFL-CIO and a credible, serious challenger can beat Snarlin’ Arlen and insure this seat become reliably Democratic for years.