Progressive Summit Sells Out

Keystone Progress held its sixth annual Progressive Summit Friday and Saturday and this year they sold it out.  800 people gathered at the Harrisburg Hilton for two days of speakers, workshops and parties.   The highlight on Friday was a speech by Cecile Richards of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.  She brought down the house by reminding the audience that although the Koch Brothers want to spend close to a billion dollars in the 2016 elections progressives can counter that with millions of people.

Cecile Richards:

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The Koch Brothers were also the object of a speech Saturday morning by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  The Independent socialist empowered the full house in a talk about the dangers of income inequality, how we got into the mess and how the Koch Brothers want to make things far worse.  Jim Dean of Democracy For America, based in Vermont, introduced the Senator.

Cecile Richards with Kate Michelman:

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Michael Morrill, Executive Director of Keystone Progress, reminded the progressives that we have to be the conscience of the Commonwealth and hold our elected officials accountable for their corruption even when they are on our side (or so we thought).  That comment only got sparse applause but I salute Mike’s courage in saying it.  It was something, in light of the Rob McCord case, which needed to be said.

44 workshops filled much of Saturday and topics ranged the entire spectrum of progressive issues.  Sen. Daylin Leach hosted a party Friday evening and Manan Trivedi hosted a karaoke party into the wee hours.

Jim Dean’s introduction of Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Casey Supporting Nomination of Tea Partier For Federal Bench

Sen. Bob Casey is supporting the nomination of a radical Tea Party member for the federal bench in a secret deal with Sen. Pat Toomey.  David J. Porter is in the mold of a Samuel Alito and has extreme ties to right wing organizations such as The Federalist Society and the Center For Visions and Values.  The nomination would have to be approved and made by President Obama.  This can only be stopped by contacting both the White House and Senator Casey’s office.  The nomination could be announced as early as Thursday.

Keystone Progress has a petition page set up where you can also express your shock at this move.  For some reason the President has been nominating Republicans to the federal bench here in Pennsylvania.  Do you think George W. Bush nominated any liberals?  No.

Why Casey would accede to Toomey’s extreme ideological leanings is a question only he can answer.  Normally federal judicial nominations go through a state’s U.S. Senators for approval before being announced by the White House.  Casey can stop this move.

Porter has written an op ed for the Post Gazette calling for the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act which just provided almost 15 million Americans with health care.  The Center calls for the Supreme Court to find for Hobby Lobby in the recent religious discrimination case.  Such a far reaching decision would allow companies to deny you any health care they considered offensive according to their personal religious beliefs.  In fact if you worked for a Christian Scientist you could be denied health care for any conditions at all.

The views expressed on the Center For Vision and Values are far right extremism at its worst.  David J. Porter is an extreme ideologue who isn’t fit to sit on a federal bench.

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

Lt. Governor Debate

Six candidates for Lt. Governor debated Saturday at the 2014 Pennsylvania Progressive Summit.  There was little public disagreement except on the issue of fracking.  Brenda Alton and Brad Koplinski were vocal in their opposition and Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith was out of his element in his strong support of the practice.  Bradford County is on the state’s Northern Tier and is the most drilled county in the Commonwealth.  Alton was very good n the issues but no one knows who she is and she has no traction in the race.  She acknowledged there are some economic benefits but asked “At what cost?” which is the heart of the issue.  Koplinski mentioned New York’s moratorium then cited Pennsylvania’s many mistakes and said perhaps New York is waiting to learn from how we are screwing it all up.

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Brad Koplinski

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Jay Paterno

Jay Paterno, a recent entry into the race showed up and was very knowledgeable on the issues.  I didn’t agree with everything he said but he surprised me with his breadth of information.  State Sen. Mike Stack was impressive though he did mis speak about spending more on prisons than education.  We’re spending more on prisons than we are on HIGHER education, not education in total.  The straw poll came out with Koplinski on top with 59.7%, Mike Stack at 22.7%, Brenda Alton 10.4%, Mark Critz 4.5%, Mark Smith with a paltry 1.3% and Jay Paterno 0.6%.

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Sen. Mike Stack

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Mark Smith

Here’s a chunk of the debate before my battery ran out:

Jim Hightower a Hit At Summit

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Radio host Jim Hightower was the keynote speaker Saturday morning at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit.  Mixing wit, humor and a progressive take on things he stood at the podium in his Texas cowboy hat and wooed the 700+ people in attendance.  His radio show is based in Austin, Texas and he has also written several books along with publishing a monthly newsletter.  I began taping as he was talking about Tom Corbett and reviewing some of his most clueless remarks:

Keystone Progress: Corbett Killed Four People Today

Gov. Corbett has thus far refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare.  Because of that Pennsylvanians are dying, every day, because they lack access to health care.  Add to that the 200,000 state residents he’s kicked off other health care programs like Adult Basic in his three years in office and we have ourselves a crisis.  Keystone Progress is focusing on this with its headline that “Tom Corbett Killed Four People Today.”  He may as well have done it with his own hands since it happened by his own hand signing legislation cutting people off from health care and by NOT signing legislation expanding Medicaid.

Nationwide 6 million Americans have gained coverage under Medicaid expansions in the 25 states taking advantage of the opportunity.  25 states, all with Republican Governors, have refused to expand the health care program and this failure, permitted by the Supreme Court, is costing lives and making ObamaCare less effective.

Tomorrow Tom Corbett will kill four more Pennsylvanians.

Pennsylvania Progressive Summit 2013

Six hundred people from 42 counties and 17 states converged on the Harrisburg Hilton Friday and Saturday for the fourth Pennsylvania Progressive Summit (not affiliated with this blog).  It kicked off with a session Friday afternoon with David Cobb of Move to Amend.  He leads the effort to overturn Citizens United and repeal corporate personhood.  He also gave a rousing speech Saturday at lunch telling the crowd that righteous anger is not only justified but necessary.

Scott Paul:

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Jim Dean:

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The morning session on Friday had a welcome speech from Eileen Connelly Chair of Keystone Progress.  Mike Morrill, the Executive Director, also spoke.

Keynote speaker David Cobb:

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AJ Marin of Lancaster introduced four of the Hershey guest workers whom Keystone Progress aided last year.  These foreign students came to Hershey as part of a J1 visa cultural program and then were subjected to enormous exploitation by Hershey Foods.  They were housed in a basement room with no more than curtains separating each person and males and females weren’t given separate accomodations.  They worked double and triple shifts at a packaging plant for low wages when they had supposedly been brought for a cultural program.  The only culture provided by Hershey was the opportunity to see how American grassroots advocacy comes to the aid of the oppressed.

Jim Dean of Democracy For America and Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing also spoke.  Kate Michelman received the Anna Burger Award for lifetime achievement.  She led NARAL Pro Choice America for years and worked for the Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates.

Kate Michelman:

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The lunchtime event was scheduled to have the three Democratic Row Officers Attorney General Kathleen Kane, Treasurer Rob McCord and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  Eugene had a family event get in the way and had to cancel and Kane simply didn’t show up leaving McCord with the audience all to himself along with moderator Sen. Daylin Leach.  Both men are known for their senses of humor and they provided a spirited exchange including questions of whether either one had a big formal announcement to make.  McCord is rumored to be running for Governor and Leach will be running for Congress when Allyson Schwartz declares her campaign for Governor.  With Daylin supporting Allyson sharing the podium with McCord could have been awkward but these are two very nice men who don’t have it in their bones for that nonsense.

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The first workshop I attended was a legislative update with reporter and columnist Will Bunch moderating.  Rep. Jesse White was very good reviewing the state of the legislature along with the Chiefs of Staff for both Sen. Leach and Sen. Jim Ferlo.My second workshop was called “The Fourth Estate:  Cracking the Code on the Role of Journalsim in Government and Politics.  This is what I do so the session was very interesting.  It was moderated by reporter John Micek and included Bunch, Eric Boehm of PA Independent, Chris Comisak of CapitolWire and Tara Leo Auchey of Roxbury News.

The legislative panel:

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The media panel:

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Since I work with the White House Office of Public Engagement I wanted to attend their session but it was canceled.  Maybe sequestration hit their travel budget.  Instead I went to the AFL-CIO’s panel on Right to Work For Less.  Frank Snyder, Secretary-Treasurer gave a great, humorous Powerpoint.  On the issue of lottery privatization (also called crony capitalism)  he showed this slide of the House chamber turned into a giant keno casino.  

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The day wrapped up with Beth Becker’s Social Media 101.  Beth worked for Lois Herr’s Congressional campaigns in Lancaster County and now resides in DC where she does consulting on using social media.  She represents the Congressional Progressive Caucus among other clients.  I always learn new secrets about using social media at her workshops.  The only downside to the Summit is only being able to attend five workshops.  Each session has four or five you’d want to attend.  I try and hit the ones where I can learn the most.

Saturday ended with a film about ALEC and then a salsa dance party.  In future years the Summit is going to remain in Harrisburg where it is best attended due to its central proximity.  Last year it was in Philadelphia where few people came from western Pennsylvania and the year before that we were in Pittsburgh where most attendees were from the western part of the Commonwealth.

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.

Tom Smith Equates Rape With Getting Knocked Up

Tom Smith told an Associated Press interviewer that getting impregnated by rape is comparable to getting pregnant out of wedlock.  The Pennsylvania U.S. candidate running for Bob Casey Jr’s seat was asked how he’d tell a woman who was raped that she must keep and raise that child.  He replied that he’d gone through the same thing when a family member got pregnant through pre-marital sex.

Getting laid isn’t the same as getting raped Mr. Smith.

Lehigh Valley Pride

Pride in the Park was held yesterday in Allentown and the Lehigh Valley LGBT community came out on a cool, overcast day to celebrate.  Several State House candidates attended and reinforced their support for equality.  These included Mike Schlossberg, Kevin Deely, Leslie Altieri and Joe Haas.

Joe Haas:



Jerame Davis, Executive Director of the National Stonewall Democrats spoke about the gains made under President Obama and urged support for the Respect For Marriage Act and ENDA Employment Non-Discrimination Act).  His partner Bill Browning of The Bilerico Project also spoke.  They made the four hour trip from DC to lend their support for the Obama campaign and LGBT rights.  Adrian Shanker, President of the Board of Directors of Equality Pennsylvania invited them and did the introductions.




Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress was there along with son Noah:

Liz Bradbury and Trish Johnson were working for Pennsylvania Diversity Network:

It turned out to be a bit cool for the dunk tank: