The Progressive Summit 2014 Style

Keystone Progress, with its partners, put on the fifth annual Pennsylvania Progressive Summit (not affiliated with this blog) Friday and Saturday in Harrisburg.  This is the final year of the organization’s Board Chair Eileen Connelly who is relocating to our eastern suburbs of New Jersey for family reasons.  Mike Morrill continues as Executive Director and Berks County’s own Jane Palmer organized the event once again.

Friday the Progressive Change Campaign Committee held a day long field training for candidates, campaign workers and interested parties.  PSEA kindly provided the space and President Mike Crossley made an appearance to talk with the 25 or so participants.  Kayla Wingbermuehle did the training which consisted of a pretty thorough (for one day) run through of determining win numbers, targeting precincts and voters, analyzing how many voter contacts to do to win and calculating the number of volunteers needed to do that.  She then went into a session about recruiting and training volunteers and how best to use them and keep them happy.  The final segment was about training the group in actual voter contact.  There were a lot of “do’s and don’ts” and considerable role playing mixed with exercises.

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Kayla Wingbermuehle

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State Rep. Erin Molchany, Keystone Progress PAC’s first ever endorsement, held an event Friday before the Gubernatorial debate.  Following the debate Keystone Progress held its annual event fund raiser.  Only two f the candidates for Governor attended that and I heard quite a few people in attendance wonder why the others weren’t there.

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Rep. Erin Mulchany

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Jim Hightower

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Jim Dean of Democracy For America

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John Hanger

More pictures are under the fold…

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Manan Trivedi

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Treasurer Rob McCord and Rep. Dan Frankel

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Jim Dean, Adams County Chair Roger Lund and Rob McCord

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Sen. Daylin Leach

Toeing The Cliff

The House will adjourn tonight with no vote on the fiscal cliff crisis.  The President said this afternoon that an agreement is near.  Word is Democrats have compromised on tax cuts by agreeing not to raise taxes for anyone earning $450,000/year or less.  This cuts potential revenues by 40% making it harder to balance the budget.

No House votes means the country will go over the fiscal cliff at midnight.  Because January 1st is a federal holiday nothing will happen tomorrow either.

Keystone Progress had a bit of fun this morning holding its “Fiscal Cliff Bowl” on a field in the 16th Congressional District in Reading.  Mike Morrill did the announcing while Dan Sauder played the part of Jim Gerlach who rigged the game for the millionaires.

PA-15 Congressional Debate Eaton and Daugherty

Jackson Eaton and Rick Daugherty held another debate last night, this time in Kutztown at the Kutztown Area Democratic Club.  Last Thursday they met in Annville at Lebanon Valley College.  This time the questions and answers were somewhat similar but there were some new ones.  Eaton keeps mentioning that he supports the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission on deficit reduction.  That Commission issued no recommendations because they couldn’t muster enough votes supporting cutting Social Security cuts.  Embracing Simpson-Bowles means cutting Social Security.

Social Security did not cause or add tot he deficit and doesn’t need to be cut.  Daugherty advocates eliminating the wage cap which makes the program solvent for the entire future.  In fact it could increase benefits if that were done, something seniors really need.

Deficit reduction during lean economic times isn’t smart economics.  The lavish spending on tax cuts for the rich, borrowed money for wars of choice and deregulation of markets which crashed them is what created the deficits.  With the crash of markets in 2008 deficit spending is critical to recovering our economic mess.

Eaton, on the other hand, is 100% pro choice while Daugherty is not.  Rick describes himself as a Casey Democrat on women’s issues.  Sen. Casey, of course, is no friend to women’s reproductive rights.  Daugherty does support the Employee Free Choice Act.  I ran out of battery power towards the end but those questions were the same as last week.

Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress moderated the debate.

Supreme Court Nullifies Residency Requirement For Petitions

The state Supreme Court unanimously struck residency requirements for nominating petition circulators today.  The move follows a 2002 federal case Morrill v Weaver where Mike Morrill challenged the law successfully in federal court.  State and federal law now agree that any resident of the Commonwealth can circulate petitions regardless of the location of their abode.  This means if you want to circulate nominating petitions for a House or Senate candidate outside your District you may.  Many activists live in areas where there is no challenger or they may know someone running elsewhere and wish to help them get on the ballot. This will also save many candidates from getting bounced from the ballot and save many expensive lawyer’s fees.

Corbett Again Refuses to Comply With Open Records Law

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General continues to refuse to comply with the Open Records Law by continuing to refuse to provide requested documents about his quixotic quest to waste taxpayer money trying to fight health insurance reform.  Keystone Progress has obtained email communications through partner organizations in other states establishing that Corbett’s office has been in communication with a Republican political operation to plan and organize this effort.  This establishes, beyond a doubt, that this is a political effort and not a legal one.  That means he is not covered by exceptions to the law.

We reported how the AG’s office refused even to accept the most recent request made by KP’s Mike Morrill and insisted he sen it by mail i order to buy time.  Their time is up and they must comply.  They have no legal or rational basis for refusing to do so.  The people of Pennsylvania have as much right to know how their money is being spent on this political operation as they do about the state legislature’s misuse of funds for similar efforts (something called BonusGate).  If Tom Corbett thinks hid prosecutions of state legislators and staff exposes a misuse of funds why is so adamant that his office not be held to the same standard?  Keystone Progress is asking “what is Tom Corbett hiding?”  We know what:  his hypocrisy because at the same time he is sending other people to jail he’s committing the same crimes.  They now have a website up asking the question with a clock running the days, hours and minutes for which he has violated the law.

The Republican State Leadership Conference (RSLC) organized the effort by numerous Attorneys General to challenge the law and they are a political operation whose objective is electing Republican state officials (including Attorney General).  This establishes this as a political operation.  The Open Records Law wasn’t designed to conceal political operations conducted with state money or Corbett wouldn’t have anyone to prosecute in Harrisburg.  Its time for the Attorney General to come clean.

Corbett’s AG Office Refuses Acceptance of Right to Know Request

Pennsylvania’s Open Records Act is pretty simple:  you file a request with whatever person or agency from which you seek records and they have five days to comply.  If they don’t comply they must at least respond and explain why and the reasons must be within legal guidelines.  Everything is presumed to be public except for the logical stuff:  litigation, personnel files, security issues and so forth.  Keystone Progress has been attempting to gain access to eligible documents related to the Attorney General’s political lawsuit against health insurance reform.  Because the Commonwealth doesn’t even yet have legal standing for such a suit and the communications requested have to do with planning and organization of a political nature this clearly falls under the prerogatives of the law.

Corbett refused to comply already and today Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress again attempted to file a follow up request.  This time it was a much narrower filing due to all those states which have complied with similar open records requests and Keystone Progress knows whose records to request.  Mike went to the AG’s office in Strawberry Square to hand deliver the request and was treated rudely by Corbett’s personnel before being denied the right to deliver his request.  Since when does a state agency have the power to refuse to accept an Open Records Request? What is Tom Corbett hiding that he is desperate to stall every possible action attempting to provide insight into what is a very political operation within his office?

From Keystone Progress today:

Corbett’s Office refuses to accept Right to Know Request from Keystone Progress

(HARRISBURG, PA)-Keystone Progress attempted to deliver a Right to Know Request to the Office of Attorney General, but after a 40 minute wait at 1:30 in the afternoon, was told “Everyone is at lunch.  Mail it in.”

“Once again, Tom Corbett’s Office is showing its disdain for the public and for the rule of law,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress.  “The Office of Attorney General cannot arbitrarily refuse to accept the legitimate requests of Pennsylvania citizens because its entire staff is at lunch at 1:30 in the afternoon.”

Here is the chronology of the OAG’s refusal to accept a Right to Know Request, by Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress.

1:15 PM          I arrived at Office of Attorney General’s reception area on the first floor of Strawberry Square in Harrisburg.  I was asked to call upstairs to the OAG’s office on the 15th floor to get permission to go upstairs.  I told the woman who answered the phone who I was and that I wanted to come upstairs to submit a Right to Know request.  At first, she said I could come right up.  I asked her to talk to Capitol Police officer on duty to let him know it was alright.  When the officer got off the phone, he told me that she could not allow me to come up and that I should wait a few minutes until she got an answer.   She told him that she would call back in a few minutes.

1:25 PM          The officer on duty apologized for the delay and called the OAG asking whether they would allow me upstairs.  He was told “everyone was at lunch.”  The person on the phone said they would not allow me upstairs, but I could wait.

1:44 PM          The first floor receptionist was called by OAG.  They said again that everyone was at lunch and that I would have to mail in my request.

(The following is the original news release that we filed in anticipation of being able to submit our request.)

Keystone Progress re-files Right to Know Request concerning Corbett’s suit to overturn healthcare reform

First request was denied.  Keystone Progress seeking more specific information after

Corbett’s office tried to hide correspondence with his major political funder.

(HARRISBURG)-Keystone Progress (KP) has filed a detailed and specific Right to Know Request with Tom Corbett’s Office of Attorney General, seeking information on correspondence concerning Corbett’s politically motivated suit to overturn the federal healthcare reform legislation.

The request seeks all correspondence concerning that suit between the OAG and numerous political operatives and organizations. This is KP’s second request for this information.  The first was turned down by Corbett’s office.

Keystone Progress recently uncovered emails that revealed Corbett’s office has been working with a Republican campaign organization to plan to overturn the recently enacted federal healthcare reform law.  KP uncovered the relationship in a series of emails released by the State of Wisconsin Department of Justice under a similar request by One Wisconsin Now.

Fourteen state attorneys general have filed suit to overturn the Affordable Healthcare for America Act, the federal healthcare reform law.  Corbett has repeatedly denied that his efforts are political, despite the fact that he agreed to join the suit even before he had read the healthcare reform law.  The lawsuit was filed just seven minutes after President Obama signed the bill into law.

The staff of the attorneys general have been working with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC).  RSLC describes itself as “the only national organization whose mission is electing Republicans to the office of Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State and State Legislator.”1  RSLC is organized as a 527 organization which has contributed over $58 million to elect Republicans at the state level.  RSLC was Corbett’s largest contributor during his race for reelection as attorney general, giving him $691,000, according to the PA Department of State.2


“At the risk of getting subpoenaed or being subjected to retaliation by Attorney General Corbett, we are filing another request for this correspondence,” said Michael Morrill, Keystone Progress’ executive director.  “The Wisconsin emails reveal what we believe is the tip of the iceberg concerning the involvement of the OAG and political operatives in this suit.  Corbett’s office should comply with this request as the AG’s office in Wisconsin did.”

The request seeks all correspondence between OAG and the following:

   * Republican State Leadership Committee

   * Republican Attorneys General Association

   * Republican Party of Pennsylvania

   * Republican National Committee

   * American Justice Partnership

   * Caleb Consulting

   * Tom Corbett for Governor

   * Tim Barnes, Chairman, Republican State Leadership Committee

   * Scott Ward, President, Republican State Leadership Committee

   * Ben Cannatti, Political Director, Republican State Leadership Committee

   * Erin Berry, Associate General Counsel, Republican State Leadership Committee

   * Casey Phillips, Regional Political Director, Republican State Leadership Committee

   * Michael Luethy, Regional Political Director, Republican State Leadership Committee

   * Adam Temple, Press Secretary, Republican State Leadership Committee

   * Robert Sechrist, Director of New Media, Republican State Leadership Committee

   * Michael Steele, Chairman, Republican National Committee

   * Karl Rove

   * Chirag Shah, Campaign Manager for JB Van Hollen WI Attorney General

   * Rob Gleason, Chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania

   * Joyce Haas, Vice-Chair of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania

   * Christine J. Toretti, Republican National Committeewoman

   * Robert Asher, Republican National Committeeman

1 Republican State Leadership Committee website

2Pennsylvania Department of State http://www.campaignfinance.sta…

Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive network with over 200,000 subscribers.  Keystone Progress is also a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.

Emails Prove Corbett Suit Is All Political

Emails obtained from Wisconsin through Keystone Progress’ partners prove Attorney General Tom Corbett is conducting the same kind of misuse of taxpayer funds for his own political campaign as those officials he is prosecuting in BonusGate.  He has been indicting and prosecuting legislators and staffers for misallocating tax money to run campaigns and use state offices and resources to do so.  Now we know Corbett is doing exactly the same thing in his frivolous lawsuit contesting the legality of health insurance reform.  The AG has publicly denied such misconduct and now has egg all over his face.  He violated Pennsylvania’s Open Records Law by refusing to comply with requests for these communications and we now understand why he was willing to take that risk.  Unfortunately for Corbett other state AG’s did turn over some documents which include his staffers and office in conversations planning the legal action.

The entire affair seems to have been initiated by Ed Gillespie, former RNC Chair and now head of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC).  Their political director, responsible for helping elect Republicans to state level seats such as Attorney General, initiated the emails in which 14 state AG’s filed legal action only seven minutes after President Obama signed the bill into law.  The effort was begun before the bill even got passed by Congress so Tom Corbett didn’t even know what was in the bill before he agreed to join the lawsuit.  He is spending state money and resources for an effort which is entirely political in nature and which is being overseen and managed by the RSLC’s Political Director.  He is using this issue to run for Governor so he is doing the exact same thing in which he has charged Mike Veon, Bill DeWeese, John Perzel and others.  How can he go into court and prosecute these people while engaging in the same activity with public monies himself?

The emails prove Corbett’s complicity and he must release all communications he and his staff sent and received about this matter.  First of all this, we now know, a political operation and not legitimate litigation.  Secondly the emails have nothing to do with the actual litigation.  They were his marching orders from the organization which gave him $691,000 in his last election for Attorney General.  The RSLC owns Tom Corbett and he obviously felt he had to say “how high” when Ed Gillespie told him to jump.

How embarrassing is it to have a state Attorney General who is so beholden to his Party’s political operations he cannot use good judgment when it comes to expending tax money?  How embarrassing is it to have an AG who is currently prosecuting legislators for the same misdeeds he himself is committing?  How embarrassing is it to have an AG who is violating our Open Records Law?  How embarrassing is it to have the prospect this man could be our next Governor?

Gubernatorial Debate

I finally got all the 17 video clips downloaded from my Flip camera, edited and uploaded to YouTube.  In between phone calls chasing down the story on the Senate forum it took some time.  When Joe Hoeffel makes references to his long time, consistent record on women’s reproductive rights it is because of another candidates, at least perceived, past record, or lack of a record.  That candidate is Chris Doherty.  Jack Wagner artfully didged that question.  Two of the candidates stated they would support marriage equality.  We are making progress in Pennsylvania.

I thought Joe Hoeffel was the clear progressive winner on issues with Chris Doherty close behind.  Dan Onorato and Jack Wagner have never been progressive and didn’t pretend they were except for Onorato’s repeated use of the word.  I Tweeted that everyone should take a drink every time he said the word “progressive.”  Jack Wagner kept going back to his record as a State Senator so I also Tweeted that as part of the drinking game.  We may as well have some fun too!

It was a good debate, Four good men are running for Governor.  Kudos to the Summit organizers for a great event.  Sen. Specter’s bizarre behavior Saturday should not be what people take away from this weekend.  Watch these videos and enjoy what was a very good debate Friday night.  The moderator is Eileen Connelly of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.  Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress is at the computer monitoring Twitter for questions and taking questions from the audience on file cards.  That is his son Ben bringing them to the stage.  I asked Ben about his pay rate and working conditions and I’m trying to organize him to get some payment for his work, lol.  In actuality Ben was anxious to help somehow and he did a masterful job collecting the question cards and delivering them to his father.

The candidates, from left to right are Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, Montgomery County Commissioner and former Congressman Joe Hoeffel and Chris Doherty the Mayor of Scranton.  I’ll post just the first video above the fold since I already have a lot of video on the blog’s front page.  Click on “There’s more” for the remainder.  My Flip camera ran out of memory in clip 17 so it ends rather abruptly.  That was just before the closing statements so I wasn’t able to record those and I skipped the opening statements because I knew I would have memory issues.

Sen Eichelberger Refuses to Apologize

Echoes of the holocaust resounded around the state Capitol this afternoon as Sen. John Eichelberger refused to recant, apologize for or explain his recent statement about gays and lesbians:  “we’re allowing them to exist.”

Sen. John “Himmler” Eichelberger met briefly with gay and straight protesters after ducking them twice as a group of twenty people asked for an apology for his horrific statements recently about GLBT people.  The Senator steadfastly refused to apologize or make any explanation for saying “we’re allowing them to exist” in a WHYY debate with Sen. Daylin Leach about gay and lesbian issues.

I asked the Senator if he meant he has the right to deny my existence and he refused to respond while ducking into the Senate chamber and leaving security to bar me.

I’ve heard few more explosive statements from legislators than this one.  It implies the state, especially since this bigot is a State Senator, can deny us our right to exist.  This harkens back to the days of the holocaust and various campaigns of genocide by majority populations against minorities.  Sen. Eichelberger has introduced legislation legalizing discrimination against GLBT people in Pennsylvania and it is a slippery slope to go from there to denying certain people their right to exist.  

Any state legislator co-sponsoring or voting with Sen. Eichelberger stands with him in his statements. Anyone supporting his extremism will be considered as supporting his statements and positions.

I found it incredible that the Senator would offer no explanation for his comments.  The fact he knew we would be at his office at noon and chose not to be there showed his cowardice.  It was not until we waited an hour and returned that his receptionist allowed us a few minutes with the Senator in an additional hour.  Then he refused to spend more than a moment and refused to answer simple questions hiding behind Capitol security.

John Eichelberger has shown his true colors and his true agenda:  he only allows allows gays and lesbians to exist and can revoke that right with legislation.  The fact he is a Senator is frightening because he can introduce such legislation at any time.  Perhaps it is time for every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered person in Pennsylvania to stand up and insist they be allowed to exist.  Perhaps it is time for all GLBT people in America to boycott Pennsylvania.  Why would anyone come here or do business here in this climate of hatred, bigotry and fear?

Update:  Sen. Himmler again showed what a coward he is by not showing up for a second radio debate with Sen. Daylin Leach this evening.  Maybe he was afraid what else he might say…

More video:

This is Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress speaking to reporters including me.

Newspaper Ad Calls For Obama Assassination

A classified advertisement in the Warren Times-Observer call for the assassination of President Barack Obama.  The Pennsylvania newspaper claims it did not understand the meaning of the ad when it accepted, received payment and ran the outrageous statement:

May Obama follow in the steps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy!

All those Presidents, of course, were assassinated.

It is inexcusable for any newspaper to accept payment to run a plea for someone to kill the President.  Not knowing history is no excuse.  This is an example of why knowing history is important.  A simple Google search would have informed the employee or editor of the advertisement’s significance.

“Unfortunately, the attitude of the person who placed the ad is too prevalent in Pennsylvania,” said Michael Morrill, the executive director of Keystone Progress.  “In the last few days we’ve gotten emails calling the president ‘chimp’ and the n-word after he nominated Judge Sotomayor.  It makes it very difficult to organize around issues when the opposition to the president’s policies is so racially charged. “