New State Chair, Same Old Crap

When TJ Rooney stepped down as Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party I supported a reform minded successor.  Last spring we here at TPP exposed a sham process for selecting a candidate to run for Jack Murtha’s Congressional seat after his death.  The State Party rigged the process and we caught them red handed.  Interestingly, now that another Democratic lawmaker dies at the hands of a surgeon (conspiracy theories anyone???) we’re seeing the same old crap from the new Chair.  Jim Burn is supporting Tom Herman’s violation of the DNC Charter by agreeing to close Saturday’s meeting.  Berks County Committee people in the 11th State Senate District will vote on a nominee to succeed the late Michael O’Pake.  Burn and Herman want a completely closed process where they can present but one candidate for unanimous approval.  No questions for the candidate or candidates will be allowed and no press is being allowed.

What are they trying to hide?  Republicans held an open forum for the public last night where several hundred people turned out to ask questions of six men interested in the seat.  It appears anyone interested was allowed by GOP Chair Andrew Fick to step forward and see what support they can raise.  The Democrats, by contrast have been doing everything in the background.  Committee people in the 11th have no idea what is going on and no one knows who might be expressing interest.

It is the job of the Chairs to insure a fair and open process for everyone.  It is not up to them to determine who they think is the best or strongest candidate.  That is up to all the Democrats of the district.  Each of them has a right to express their support and ask questions of ALL interested in running so THEY can determine, for themselves, who they want representing them in Harrisburg.  Its a simple concept, its called democracy.

Jim Burn promised he’d be better and that the nonsense of the past would end under his leadership.  he has failed his first test in that regard.  State and local by laws cannot violate the national Charter of the Democratic Party.  If Burn’s legal adviser cannot determine that to be the case they need a competent new lawyer.

The Democratic Party is being shamed and embarrassed by this entire back room wheeling and dealing.  As for the committee people, I warned you…

News & Notes June 21, 2010

Today is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year.  Enjoy the sunlight.  Wednesday morning I kick off my trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  There won’t be a lot of blogging for four days as I drive across the country this time.

Former Democratic Party Chair summed up his eight years of leadership Saturday when he asked for a vote for Jim Burn by acclamation and said “all those for stand up and applaud and all those opposed go to hell.”  That certainly was his attitude:  submit to our directives or go to hell.  The sheep all stood and clapped.

The Southwest caucus had a bit of drama however.  As I passed by it in the hallway I heard quite a commotion.  It turns out some of those from the 12th Congressional District are still upset at the way TJ Rooney and the Party rigged the selection process for Jack Murtha’s successor.  There should be an established process for such eventualities but Democrats don’t seem to want any, if there were they wouldn’t be able to fix things behind closed doors.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says it is outrageous that the feds are suing her state over its “show me your papers” law.  No, what is outrageous is your law imposing a racist police state.

Have you seen those commercials for high fructose corn syrup?  They always pose someone appearing “smart” versus some jock or goon complaining about the product which seems to be in every processed food out there.  Then they claim its perfectly safe in moderation.  The problem is its impossible to consume in moderation when its in everything.

Detroit iron is back.  GM has decided not to do its annual summer vacation furloughs because it needs to build cars and trucks to sell.  Meanwhile American cars are now topping the Japanese when it comes to quality.  Detroit is back.

The lawsuits against Tom Corbett for being an incompetent Attorney General continue making their way through federal court and the depositions are interesting for what they show about Mr. Corbett.  His Office is hugely mismanaged and why would he think he can manage the entire state if he cannot even manage his Office?  Huge amounts of taxpayer money have been wasted or squandered, partly to privatization, partly to incompetence as he prosecutes legislators for what amounts to peanuts in comparison.  Corbett needs to clean up his own office and come clean about his failures.  Heck, he can’t even comply with Open Records requests.

Roy Halladay lost again yesterday.  After obsessively pursuing the best pitcher in baseball the Doc isn’t even the best pitcher on the Phillies.  He may only be the third best starter on that staff.  He keeps getting outpitched lately.

BP CEO Tony Hayward went sailing on his 52 foot yacht yesterday.  Shouldn’t he be on the Gulf getting it totally soiled by oil if its anywhere?  I’d like to see him on the bow, getting his lungs filled with that sweet, oily sea air, claiming he’s the king of that world.  Easy since he’s killed everything else in it.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a big blowhard who doesn’t think the BP catastrophe is a big deal even as it soils his state’s beaches, will be in Harrisburg Wednesday for a fund raiser.  he was formerly the head of the RNC and frequently blows his BS on television.  Show up in your best hazmat suit chanting spill, baby spill.

Former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich, ousted from the Governor’s mansion like a cockroach, got an earful during his radio show this weekend.  Callers harassed him on his ties to Big Oil and one told him to “kiss my butt.”   An ad from current Gov. Martin O’Malley tied him to those contributions and aired during the show.  How embarrassing is that, to have your opponent airing ads during your own radio show?  Maybe Bob needs to call BP and get them to buy that too.

Pascal Calls For Secret Ballot for Chair Election

The very reasons the Pennsylvania Democratic Party desperately needs new leadership are evident again today as candidate Chuck Pascal called for a secret vote in light of intimidation of Committee people by other candidates for the office.  heavy handedness is rampant by Party leadership when it comes to certain votes, proce4dures and endorsements.  Pascal wrote a letter to outgoing Chair TJ Rooney:

“Pascal said that the election should be taken by secret ballot so that “no member of state committee should feel that he or she is putting a job, a contract, or their future political standing on the line as they cast a vote of conscience for what they believe to be in the best interest of the party, and that “voting by secret ballot will do much to improve the image of the party with rank-and file Democratic voters, who are interested in a Party which is responsive to them, not to power-brokers and ‘insiders,’ who, it seems, are intent upon applying some last minute pressure to the process.”

It sounds to me as if the same old tactics which have turned off the rank and file Democratic voter are again at play.  Turnout by Democratic voters in recent elections has been abysmal.  The state of the Commonwealth and the country are dependent upon rank and file Democrats restoring their faith in their Party, its candidates and its leadership to support and elect Democratic candidates in November.  Dems have been taking baths at the polls because their rank and file are staying home on election day.  Something must be done to motivate them for November and performing the same old back room, smoke filled shenanigans which have turned them off is not the solution to this mess.  Several Congressional seats, a U.S. Senator, the next Governor and the next State House are incumbent upon those people voting.  When they see one more ugly process happening after witnessing too many similar ugly processes happen within the Democratic Party these people are going to stay home again.  Its time for Democrats to become democrats because they are undermining everything they purport to stand for otherwise.

PA Dems: Covering Up Their Backroom Shenanigans

Someone needs to remind the Pennsylvania Democratic Party that the cover up is worse than the crime.  The crime here was their exposed attempt to rig the selection process last March to replace the late John Murtha in Congress.  We here at The Pennsylvania Progressive exposed the shenanigans which forced the Party to open up the process to a bit of sunlight.  Not enough to be fair an dopen but enough for them to try and claim they didn’t get caught with their pants down.  Unfortunately for the PA Dems its hard to run away with your pants around your ankles.

Since I wrote an article reminding Pennsylvania Democrats of this pungent process rigging an employee of the Party has engaged in lies, personal attacks, revisionist history and shame trying to cover up what they did.  Shannon Bilger, IT Manager of the State Party, has attempted to keep digging the Party a deeper and deeper hole.  This illustrates all that is wrong with the PA Democratic Party;  it tries to bypass by laws, ethics, rules, laws and common sense to do whatever it wishes to do.  It ignores people’s civil rights to support whatever Democrat they wish in unendorsed races and then threatens to sue them.  Then someone like Shannon comes here and attempts to lie about it all.  Shame.

This cover up of what happened in the 12th CD is especially horrid because they tried to blame it on Jack Hanna, Chair of the Party’s Rules Committee.  I’ve had some disagreements with Mr. Hanna but he was not the person responsible for this debacle.  In fact, according to credible news reports based on a memo he sent to the Party, he was outraged by the rigged process and set out to make it right.  I can’t imagine how outraged he is after being run under the bus on this blog by an employee of the Party, registering with his PADEMS email address and on Party time.  I assume since he continues to comment he is speaking officially for the Party.  That’s a shame because he is full of crap and we keep exposing his lies.  The Party keeps digging itself a deeper hole by covering up what they did.  The first rule of damage control is simple:  stop digging.  Now the cover up is threatening to be worse than the original sin.  More and more state committee people are becoming aware of what transpired and of this futile attempt at revisionist history  on the part of the Party.

If there was a better argument for change and reform I know of none other than Mr. Bilger’s personal and unfounded attacks and his lies and distortions.  He is a shame to the Party and must be dismissed post haste.  His conduct trying to obfuscate the facts makes him a cancer on the body public and a disgrace to Democrats everywhere.

Its time to clean up the mess which has become of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and it begins this Friday and Saturday by electing new leadership.

Maneuvering For Next State Party Chair Continues

Pete DeCoursey is reporting today that Joe Sestak is vetoing the selection of either Marcel Groen or Jim Burn as the next Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.  The Sestak campaign is denying the report but it makes sense following a hard fought primary where TJ Rooney, doing Gov. Rendell’s bidding for Arlen Specter, took numerous potshots and personal attacks at the Congressman.  The Governor has admitted making three calls to President Obama trying to force Sestak out of the race.  Gee, and the Party wonders why so many Democrats don’t trust them, are quite angry and very disgusted with the state of things.  Now they have a victorious Senate candidate willing to hold them accountable.

According to DeCoursey Sestak says he will not raise any funds for the Party if either Burn or Groen is the next Chair.  That’s a serious threat and one state committee delegates had better keep in mind.  This is exactly the sort of mess which happens when Party officials take sides, get personal and antagonize fellow Dems.  Then they wonder why I write articles holding them accountable.  Gov. Rendell, and I love the guy, did all sorts of backroom deals while Governor and titular head of the Party.  All kinds of shit went on and, yes, I know a lot of it.  I know how and who they used to try and get other candidates out of other races.  I know how Congressman Tim Holden got someone fired from his job for supporting Sheila Dow-Ford this year.  I know all kinds of stuff so going and calling me a liar when I’m not is only going to illustrate how bad this Party is and how badly it needs to be cleaned up.  If Joe is using his new clout to do so more power to him.  The State Party needs to wake up and realize he IS the top of the ticket this year and they screwed up big time.  They made a huge mistake backing a Republican instead of a real Democrat and now they have to be accountable for the mistake.  Its one of many.

News & Notes June 9, 2010

The battle to be the next Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party is raging as TJ Rooney officially announced his retirement from the post.  Traditionally the Gubernatorial candidate gets to choose the Chair but Dan Onorato seems to be remaining neutral.  Montgomery County Chair (and DNC member) Marcel Groen is challenging Allegheny County Chair Jim Burn for the spot and both are working the newly elected State Committee persons.  Chuck Pascal, a progressive bent on reforming the Party is also running for Chair.  I’ve known Chuck since ’05/’06 and he’s a good man whom I support for the position.  The messes we’ve witnessed of back room rigging of processes and nominations cries out for someone who will run a Party which is open and fair to everyone.

HHS sent a mail piece to Medicare recipients this week highlighting how health insurance reform didn’t cut their Medicare benefits as claimed by the opposition.  It does explain that the additional $1000/person cost for the privatized (thanks George W. Bush!) Medicare Advantage plans was eliminated.  The President also did a health care town hall with seniors to reinforce the message.

I’ll be taking a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico in a couple weeks.  I’m driving out and flying back after spending several days enjoying the Land of Enchantment.  Its a tough job but someone has to do it.

The state budget crises hammering various states are a business opportunity for some.  One company sees profit where others see losses.  Unfortunately many of the debts being scooped up because Illinois (gee I’ll be driving through there!) belong to non profit organizations.  Its a very tough environment for non profits right now and not getting paid by the state of Illinois means they are selling their debts to a broker in Georgia.

While we’re wondering why are chillen ain’t larnin’ this article in today’s Inquirer gives us a clue:  a teacher was fired for criticizing a student online.  Isn’t it  ateacher’s job to criticize students so they learn from their mistakes?  How did we wind up in a world where kids can’t be criticized without it being an “attack?”  I’m sorry but if children have to grow up never being criticized, never being told anything but how great they are I worry for our future.  This only raises a bunch of spoiled, arrogant losers who aren’t accountable and don’t learn anything.

All but three members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation have signed a letter advocating for Comcast’s merger with NBC.  The letter was written by a Comcast lobbyist according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Comcast’s buying of NBC is a serious anti-trust issue because the company already has monopolies in most cable markets, is fiercely anti-union, abuses its customers and its owners (the Roberts family) extremely generous contributors to right wing organizations.  Control of NBC on top of its power in the cable industry threatens freedom of the media.  We have to stop these giant media companies from gaining more power over our lives.  Comcast controls enormous amounts of access to the internet and allowing it to grow exponentially is dangerous to democracy.  Only Mike Doyle, Paul Kanjorski and Joe Sestak stood up and refused to sign the letter.  Kudos to them for standing up for us and shame on the others.

In a bit of sports news Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg (no relation to the Lancaster County town) made his “major league” debut against the Pirates yesterday.  The young phenom struck out 14 Pittsburgh players in a 5-2 win.  We’ll see how well he does against a real major league team next time out.  This was the Pirates after all.

The gas well which exploded in Moundsville, West Virginia is still on fire and is expected to burn for three or four more days.  So far nothing is being done to prosecute EOG Resources (Enron) people who threatened Mike Morrill last weekend and expect explosions like this one to begin right here in our back yards soon.  Pennsylvania still isn’t even taxing these wells and DEP is till a joke.  No progress on this front folks, please move on, there’s nothing to see here.

News & Notes June 4, 2010

Between a short week and two Board meetings I haven’t had time to catch up so we’ll see about this morning.  Things are a bit slow this time of year any way with the lull after the primary and before the fall campaigns launch.

Democratic county parties will be electing leaders soon and then State Committee meets June 18-19 to elect a new Chair.  Traditionally the nominee for Governor gets his choice and the State Chair reports to him/her.  TJ Rooney was Ed Rendell’s guy and did the Governor’s bidding.  Dan Onorato is selecting Allegheny County Chair Jim Burns and Bob Brady has already lined Philadelphia County behind that selection.  Expect a reform minded challenge to Burns at the meeting.  Some Democrats, especially in western Pennsylvania which just saw a rigged selection process in the 12th CD, are fed up with the back room politics as usual and will attempt to elect someone else.

The fallout from news the Obama White House offered positions to two Senate primary challengers isn’t really news and there’s nothing wrong with it, these things happen all the time with both parties.  Some Republicans are still trying to make hay out of the Sestak offer but as they say in Pennsyltucky that dog won’t hunt.  What has people disapppointed is that Barack Obama promised to change how things were done but is doing the same old things.  I think I recall criticizing him for pandering to the voters that way.

BP continues trying to cap its gushing oil well and some experts say it might be December until the pollution is stopped.

Is it a requirement that to be a Republican you have to be stupid?  I suppose, at the least, it helps.  A South Carolinian Senator called President Obama a “raghead.”  Too many of the folks are stupid, ignorant racists but then, this is South Carolina.  

In New Mexico the successor to Bill Richardson will become the Land of Enchantment’s first woman Governor.  Both Parties have nominated women.

A recent poll has Congressman Joe “He’s the” Pitts ahead of challenger Lois Herr by only 9 points in a heavily GOP Congressional District.  Why is Pitts still running when he promised to abide by self imposed term limits when he first ran?  Is Joe Pitts a liar?

Israel claimed its military commandos were acting in self defense when they attacked six relief ships and killed ten humanitarian workers on the high seas this week.  How is it attackers can act in self defense?  Isn’t that reserved for those being attacked?

The Phillies continue in a bad funk where they can’t hit and score runs.  In light of the umpiring fiasco the other night where a Detroit pitcher was deprived of a perfect game the Phils will go to Detroit so Mr. Gallaragga can throw another one.  The only way a Phillies pitcher can win these days is by throwing a perfect game.

The Supreme Court gutted our rights again this week by watering down Miranda rights.  Why are conservatives so caught up in preserving the constitution then gutting its rights?  I’m thinking the only parts they like are the Second and Tenth Amendments because they are doing all they can to ignore the rest of the document.  This reminds me of their actions with the Bible also:  they are very selective about the parts they like and ignore the rest.  I say we begin executing all brides who aren’t virgins.  Has it occurred to Pat Robertson yet that the BP oil spill was god’s way of preventing sinners from eating shellfish?

AT&T (my Blackberry service provider) is changing its data plan to charge more to those who use lots of data.  Don’t you actually have to be able to use your phone that way to use lots of data?  Mine hardly works anywhere except for voice and SMS.  After having one break down a few months ago and not work at all the replacement is now doing the same thing (trackball won’t work).  If this is their idea of customer service these companies need more competition.

Protests around the state are calling on Tom Corbett to resign.  The AG has been making a sham out of his office by wasting tax dollars trying to make himself look good to the voters.  Wasting tax dollars in a tight economy is no way to convince Pennsylvanians you should be the next Governor.

TJ Rooney’s Repugnance: Apologize or Resign

Amidst the rigged process and sequence of events revealed on this blog, including the extremely distasteful comment that PA Democratic Chairman TJ Rooney made about former two term Auditor General and State Treasurer Barbara Hafer, it might be best for Mr. Rooney to exit stage left sooner rather than later as he and the Executive Board have just led the cows towards the slaughter house in the 12th District for 2010 with a radioactive candidate.  

Rooney’s distasteful comment was highly inappropriate for a PA State Party Chairman, particularly when he interjected himself into the race such as he did. Hafer’s procedural inquiry soon became a personal attack by Rooney, when the former State Treasurer, Hafer questioned the procedural transparency and integrity of the process for both the Recommendation Committee and the Executive Board vote.

Hafer Stated: “I’d like to see the votes, I’d like to see the ballots, I’d like to see how they recorded it,” Hafer said. “I’d like to see who voted for whom.”

Rooney’s offensive outburst was… quite frankly an embarrassment to the PA Democratic Party, and as John mentioned, a public apology should be in order from Mr. Rooney to Ms. Hafer.  We first broke light on the rigged Recommendation Committee last week, where county chairs were able to choose at-large choices to overwhelm the state committee delegates.  County chairs essentially selected these “at large” delegates based on the pre-condition that they would support Critz.

Funny enough, the confession that the process was rigged came from Critz himself.  Hafer had every right to ask for a review of the procedures that were followed and if they, in fact were. In fact, an independent panel should be set up to evaluate and investigate the conduct of the State Party Chairman, the County Chairs, and the procedural guidelines so that this type of disingenuous behavior never happens again.  

Mr. Critz blurted out he already had 50 votes wrapped up before they were even selected.  He stated this on a Saturday… when the Recommendation Committee delegates were not to be submitted until the following Thursday for all candidates to have “an equal opportunity to contact the delegates” according to PA Democratic Party spokesman Patrick McKenna. So much for fair and representative. Just a week later we caught Critz lying to voters and the Post Gazette.

Rooney felt it compelled to take a personal dig in response to a procedural inquiry.  A responsible leader should have responded to the request with transparent proof and an explanantion to all candidates as to what the rules were and how they were or were not followed.  That did not happen… Im beginning to think because TJ was incapable of producing those results.  This fiasco has created a severe black eye for the Democratic Party in Western Pennsylvania and the entire state.

Does God send natural disasters as punishment?

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Rooney’s Poor Choice of Words

State Democratic Chair TJ Rooney said some unfortunate things yesterday when Barbara Hafer challenged the lack of transparency in the process of naming a candidate for the May 18th Special Election.

“I find it repugnant and patently offensive that Ms. Hafer would attack the ability of the members of the executive committee to read and write,” he said. “It’s time she get over it, because it’s been decided, it’s done, and it’s time to move on. I would encourage all Democrats to get behind this candidate, because the Republican Party is going to make this special election a national election.”

“Repugnant” was a poor choice for someone overseeing a process which, as we here at The Pennsylvania Progressive, revealed, was rigged from the beginning.  Mark Critz, the Governor’s choice, told Alex Roarty of PoliticsPA he had fifty of the hundred votes sewn up in a local straw poll which would influence the State Committee vote (and did according to many).  The problem was the delegates slated to vote in that process had yet to be determined.  The fix was in.

I cannot fault Mrs. Hafer for complaining about the process since it was rigged.  The Democratic Party in Pennsylvania has a long record of such shenanigans under the leadership of Ed Rendell.  I don’t fault Rooney, he’s a good man and a friend, but he’s also Rendell’s man as Mary Isenhour is Rendell’s Executive Director and Don Morabito before her.  As sitting Governor Rendell runs the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and he has done so with an iron fist for eight years.  He forced Hafer out of the 2006 Senatorial race to clear the field for Bob Casey Jr.  Others have been endorsed or pressured by the Party and the situation in the 12th CD is characteristic of goings on in the Party.  I left the Democratic Party over similar shenanigans.

Calling Barbara Hafer, who served for 16 years as Auditor General and Treasurer “repugnant” for accurately questioning the lack of transparency was a very poor choice of words.  I’m sure TJ Rooney, a classy guy, will apologize to her shortly.  

DemFest Still On

Tomorrow and Saturday’s Democratic State Committee meeting is still on in spite of dire weather forecasts.  A major winter storm described as “paralyzing” is set to hit the region tomorrow and, from what I hear, well into Saturday.  Workshops are scheduled to commence at noon tomorrow and House Speaker Nancy Pelsoi says she is still on for the Roast and Toast of outgoing Gov. Ed Rendell.  Saturday Democrats are set to vote on endorsements for U.S. Senator and Governor.  Endorsements require a quorum and a 2/3 vote.  Should weather force many Committee person to cancel their plans to attend this may go by the wayside.  TJ Rooney just sent this email:

Dear Friends,

For those of you wondering – DEMFEST 2010 has NOT been canceled.  On Friday evening, Speaker Nancy Pelosi still intends to be with us for the Roast and Toast.  Mary has been at the Lancaster Host all day working with her staff in preparation for her visit.   The Speaker has sent a message that she is very much looking forward to being with us tomorrow night.  I also talked to the Governor this morning and he told me that snow would not keep him away from this event!

The endorsement meeting on Saturday is one of the most important meetings we hold and we are moving forward with it.

The forecast calls for snow in Lancaster beginning late Friday evening and ending Saturday afternoon – by the time our meeting concludes.  The Lancaster Host is located on a major thoroughfare and we fully expect the roads to be cleared by the time you depart.  For those of you who elect to stay over on Saturday night, the Lancaster Host has extended our group rate for Saturday night as well.

I look forward to seeing you for what promises to be an exciting weekend! Please travel safely!


T.J. Rooney