Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Republicans Wrong on Dairy Program - Santorum Weak Where It Counts

Republicans Battle Over Dairy Program - Yahoo! News: "Republicans Battle Over Dairy Program By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer
Wed Nov 30, 3:00 AM ET

WASHINGTON - For a few Republican lawmakers, perhaps the biggest battle facing House-Senate negotiators on a huge budget bill isn't a high-profile issue like cutting food stamps and Medicaid or opening a stretch of pristine Alaskan coast to oil drilling. It's milk.


Specifically, it's the Milk Income Loss Contract program that pays dairy farmers when prices drop.

For some, like Rep. Mark Green (news, bio, voting record) of Wisconsin and Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record) of Pennsylvania, their political lives could be at stake. Green and Santorum represent states dotted by family dairy farms. Their battle is with Republican colleagues from Western states with much larger dairy operations.

Compared with hot-button issues, the internal GOP battle over the Milk Income Loss Contract program seems pretty obscure. The program expired Sept. 30. Extending it for two more years would cost taxpayers $1 billion.

Green and Santorum are among the few Republicans facing challenging statewide campaigns in states won by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004. Both are pulling out all the stops as they try to revive the milk program.

Green is running to unseat Wisconsin's Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle; Santorum is lagging in the polls in his bid for re-election. Then there's Rep. Mark Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), R-Minn., running for the Senate. Two weeks ago, he cast the decisive vote in the House to pass a $50 billion deficit reduction bill after receiving assurances that the milk program would get new life.

Their opponents in the milk battle aren't Democrats. The tricky politics of dairy policy pits region against region rather than one party against another. Republicans from states like California, Arizona, New Mexico and Idaho — whose farmers don't really benefit from the program — are leading the opposition, creating the GOP family feud.

Farmers from states where dairy herds tend to be smaller — such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania — benefit more from the milk program since it pays farmers only on the amount of milk produced by about 120 cows in a year. Western states with their generally larger herds benefit far less.

"Dairy policy isn't partisan," says Green. "As a Republican in the majority, I'd love it to be partisan. It's not. It's geographic, so getting the support for it is much harder."

Most lawmakers, in fact, don't have a strong opinion about milk policy. That means that those from states where milk is important often must play hardball to get party leaders' attention.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., discovered this two weeks ago in trying to round up the last few votes he needed to pass the budget bill, a pillar of the GOP's agenda this fall.

The House version of the bill didn't contain the milk program extension. Renewing it for two years would have forced the Agriculture Committee to cover the $1 billion cost by cutting an equal amount from other farm programs or food stamps, a nonstarter for Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va.

Scrambling for votes, Hastert wrote a letter to Green promising "to maintain a strong safety net for your dairy producers." That helped cement support for the budget from moderate Republicans from states such as New York and Pennsylvania. Green says he would have supported the budget even without Hastert's promise.

The Senate version of the budget extends the milk program, but only over stout objections from Western senators like Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who opposed it because of the resulting cuts in payments to other farmers.

Hastert's letter signaling that the House would bow to the Senate would seem to put the issue to rest. But Sen. Pete Domenici (news, bio, voting record), R-N.M., one of the Senate's powerful "old bulls," is leading a battle against extending the milk program. And since he'll be an official negotiator for the Senate in talks on the budget, Domenici's objections can't be dismissed.

Domenici's state is home to huge dairy farms that produce lots of milk but receive relatively little benefit from the subsidy program. He says the program encourages overproduction in places like Wisconsin and Minnesota, which lowers prices for everybody else.

An Agriculture Department study issued last year found that not only do states with large farms not benefit as much from the milk program, they "may be disadvantaged by the program altogether" because it encourages oversupply.

"Extending MILC in its current form is unacceptable," Domenici said, "and I will oppose it vigorously.""

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Philadelphia Daily News | 11/29/2005 | John Baer | Arlen Says Bush Was Deluded and Santorum Still Has A Chance

Philadelphia Daily News 11/29/2005 John Baer Arlen sticks to the points, etc.: " Posted on Tue, Nov. 29, 2005

John Baer Arlen sticks to the points, etc.
AND NOW an Arlen update. Or, how the senator just keeps going.

Says his health is "excellent," says the president was misled on the run-up to war and further investigation is warranted. Says Roe v. Wade stands, so does Santorum, but no casinos should stand in Gettysburg.


His comments came during an hour-long session yesterday with journalists, live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

The 75-year-old senior senator, 25 years in Congress, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, remains outspoken and controversial - though, in some cases, without specifics.

A Republican known for not parroting his party, Specter says he doesn't believe President Bush misled America in going to war in Iraq, but "I think he probably was misled by some" - unnamed - "in the intelligence community."

(And the withdrawal call made by U.S. Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa.? "I don't agree with him, but I think we ought to listen to him.")

Also, as Specter prepares to lead confirmation hearings in early January for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, he acknowledges abortion is "the dominant issue."

Asked if Roe might be overturned with Alito on the bench, Specter (who supports a woman's right to choose) notes the nearly 33-year-old decision guaranteeing abortion rights has been reviewed by the high court in 38 cases. It is, he says, "fairly well-established principle."

Asked directly if he thinks it stands, he says, "I'll give you a head-on answer. I think it will." He, of course, won't say how he votes on Alito.

On his health: A little more than nine months after he announced having Hodgkin's lymphoma, he says he is not under treatment, that his chemotherapy ended, "July 22 at 11:22 a.m." He gets periodic checkups, but "they say I'm in the clear."

He notes President Nixon started a war on cancer (in 1971) and says if the nation spent on it what it spends on "other wars," he might never have had cancer.

His hair is back, now short and darkish gray, not the odd frizzy reddish it once was. His energy level seems good, actually visibly higher the longer the interview goes. And his command of issues, including dates and details, remains impressive.

Oh, and he still plays squash, daily. And sticks to his predictions.

On Sen. Rick Santorum: He says reports that Santorum's in trouble (a Rasmussen Reports poll this month says he trails Democrat Bob Casey Jr. by 20 points, 54-34) are "vastly overblown." Says Santorum's only "in midstream," does lots for the state, is a hard worker and, "I still think Rick is going to win."

Specter reiterated that Santorum's re-election is his "top priority." Santorum was key in getting Specter past a challenge from the right by then-U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey in last year's GOP Senate primary.

Specter says he'll speak for Santorum early and often, continue to raise money for him and even put Santorum's name first on joint press releases announcing goodies for the state. (One has to understand Arlen's love of publicity to fully appreciate this gesture.)

After the broadcast, asked about anti-incumbent sentiment, Santorum's abysmal (for an incumbent) polling numbers, and pressed as to whether Santorum's in trouble, Specter just says, "No."

Actually he says, "No, no, no."

We'll see.

Gambling in Gettysburg? It's suggested a good venue for a slots casino. "I'm against gambling," he says. Opposed it since he was Philly D.A. (in the 1960s): "It breeds organized crime... infects a community." Says that in '72 he even tried to talk then-Gov. Milton Shapp out of starting a state lottery.

So there you have it. An update. And further proof, if any is needed, that the senator just keeps going."

Casey hints of campaign during appearance -

Casey hints of campaign during appearance - "Casey hints of campaign during appearance

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By Paul Peirce
Monday, October 31, 2005

Although the 2006 general election is more than a year away, Westmoreland County Democrats on Sunday got an advance taste of the much-anticipated U.S. Senate race ahead.
State Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr., who is expected to challenge U.S. Republican Sen. Rick Santorum next year, lambasted the two-term incumbent as an "arrogant" politician who has grown out of touch with the concerns of average Pennsylvanians.

"What the other guy (Santorum) has done is push his own narrow ideology over the everyday concerns of Pennsylvanians. I intend to focus on issues important to Pennsylvanians ... not promote an ideology ... fueled by arrogance, and political partisanship," Casey said.

Casey told more than 300 county Democrats attending the local committee's fall banquet at Four Points Hotel by Sheraton in Hempfield Township that they can send a message to the nation next year that citizens are "sick and tired of partisan political extremism" by supporting his campaign for Senate.

The race is expected to be among the most closely watched in the nation and that was evident yesterday. A handful of protesters along the driveway leading up to the hotel held placards promoting Santorum's candidacy even though the election is more than 365 days away.

Casey pointed to his nine-year record in state office, first as state auditor general and most recently as treasurer, as an indication that he will focus on matters important to state residents. He said voters are ready to elect a senator who holds himself "personally responsible" for decisions and not afraid to ask the tough questions.

Among his first priorities, Casey said, will be curbing the rising cost of health care. He said staggering increases in health care are stifling business development statewide and throughout the country.

He also complained that the Republican administration has turned "record surpluses" under the Clinton administration into deficits.

Casey complained that despite the enormous amount of spending for hurricane relief and the war in Iraq, Republicans, including Santorum, "are unwilling to roll back the tax cuts they enacted for the top 1 percent" to help pay those costs.

He said it is time that Washington Republicans take a lesson "from the American soldiers fighting in Iraq with valor, and all of us roll up our sleeves ... working together ... we have an obligation."

Casey also pledged to "stand up for people who don't have a voice."

He complained that Santorum refuses to question the administration, even about the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response after Hurricane Katrina.

"Here's hundreds of thousands of our own people ... helpless, abandoned by their own federal government, and we hear nothing from our senator. Rick Santorum had a chance to say something, but the only thing he bothered to say is maybe there should be tougher penalties for those who choose to ride out the storms," Casey said.

After speaking in Hempfield, Casey, the son of the late Gov. Robert P. Casey, traveled to speak at the Washington County Democrats' fall banquet.

Paul Peirce can be reached at or (724) 850-2860."

Kansas City Star | 11/28/2005 | Santorum's Questionable Ethics - Same as Tom Delay

Kansas City Star | 11/28/2005 | The Buzz: OK, now we're scared: "Birds of a feather

The Center for Public Integrity says at least 13 Democrats and 18 Republicans in Congress used corporate campaign funds in recent years in the same way that Rep. Tom DeLay in hot water.

The list included former Sen. Tom Daschle, Sen. Rick Santorum, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Rep Roy Blunt of Missouri.

Compiled from news services by Darryl Levings. You can reach him at"

Monday, November 28, 2005

President Bush All But Endorses Lynn Swann for Governor -

ACLU may challenge panhandling rules - "Pittsburgh
Swann to dine at White House with prince, wife

Former Pittsburgh Steelers football star Lynn Swann planned to attend a dinner at the White House hosted by President Bush tonight for Britain's Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla.

Swann, of Sewickley Heights, until recently was chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, but he stepped down from the post in advance of his anticipated announcement that he will be a Republican candidate for governor in 2006. Swann was active in Bush's re-election campaign last year.

Former Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton, Swann's chief rival for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, is scheduled to be in Pittsburgh Thursday for a campaign money-raising dinner.

The prince of Wales and duchess of Cornwall began an eight-day U.S. trip in New York Tuesday."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Deficit cracking GOP's solidarity / Santorum refused to appear with Bush at campaign events.

Deficit cracking GOP's solidarity / Party-line votes no longer assured: "In the two months since Republicans pulled their tax cut bills, the atmosphere has only gotten worse. Republicans lost two important off-year gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey. Bush's popularity has hit new lows, with the public now decidedly opposing the Iraq war. Leading GOP candidates, including Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative member of the Senate leadership who faces a tough re-election fight in Pennsylvania, have refused to appear with Bush at campaign events. "

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Montgomery Newspapers - The Globe - 11/23/2005 - James R. Matthews as a GOP candidate for lieutenant governor - Hey Why Not?

Montgomery Newspapers - The Globe - 11/23/2005 - Matthews interested in state position: "Matthews interested in state position
By: Margaret Gibbons, For The Globe

The name of Montgomery County Commissioners Chairman James R. Matthews has again surfaced as a potential candidate for higher office.

County Republican Chairman Ken Davis this week said he and Matthews, 56, of Lower Gwynedd, recently discussed Matthews' potential as a GOP candidate for lieutenant governor in next year's elections.
"He is clearly intrigued and interested but has not made a final decision," said Davis, adding Matthews will have to make a decision within the next several weeks to be a viable candidate. "We will stand by him in whatever decision he makes."
The only other prospective GOP lieutenant governor candidate currently mentioned is state Sen. John Pippy of Allegheny-Washington counties.
In Pennsylvania, a gubernatorial candidate does not select a lieutenant governor candidate. Instead, candidates for each office run in independent elections in their party's primary election and then are paired as a team in the November general election.
To date, neither Matthews nor the county GOP have expressed a preference among the three GOP gubernatorial candidates, former Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton, former Pittsburgh Steeler and sports commentator Lynn Swann and state Sen. Jeff Piccola, who represents parts of Dauphin and York counties.
The Keystone Poll, conducted by Franklin and Marshall College, this week gave Scranton a slight edge over Swann, 27 percent to 24 percent, with Piccola trailing a distant third with 3 percent. However, 46 percent of the registered Republican voters contacted for the poll said they are undecided at this time.
Matthews, who heads a mortgage company, is serving his second four-year term as county commissioner. This is the second year of Matthews' reign as commissioners chairman.
Matthews could not be reached for comment this week.
Matthews' interest in running for lieutenant governor first surfaced earlier this month when, during a roundtable discussion on ABC Channel 6's "Inside Story," lawyer Gregg Melinson was preparing to take his prospective candidacy "on the road" throughout the state to determine the GOP's interest in him as a candidate.
Matthews has toyed in the past with the idea of running for higher office. He considered running for lieutenant governor four years ago and also weighed a possible bid for U.S. Congress. He never seriously pursued either of those two posts.

©Montgomery Newspapers 2005"

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Swann Explores Running for Pa. Governor - Yahoo! News - Looks Like A Winner!

Swann Explores Running for Pa. Governor - Yahoo! News: "Swann Explores Running for Pa. Governor By PETER JACKSON, Associated Press Writer
Mon Nov 21, 8:58 PM ET

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann told a crowd of business leaders, lobbyists and journalists Monday that Pennsylvania would be a better place if he were governor, but said he has not yet declared his candidacy and eluded some questions the way he once dodged tacklers.

"I am still in the process of exploring" a candidacy, Swann said when asked about his political status at a downtown Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon. "But some people say if it walks like a swan, looks like a swan ... ."

Swann has been raising money for a prospective campaign since he formed a political committee in February. Independent polls show him running neck-and-neck with former Lt. Gov. William Scranton III and ahead of two other prospective candidates for the 2006 Republican nomination, but trailing first-term Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell by more than 10 percentage points.

Swann left open, if only slightly, the possibility that he would compete in next spring's GOP primary even if he loses the endorsement of the Republican State Committee in February. Scranton has also refused to rule out running without the committee's endorsement.

"I'd like to take a look at the process and see how it goes," Swann said, then added, "It is not my inclination to do anything that would be divisive to the party."

Swann, 53, a former star wide receiver for the Steelers who now works as a college football analyst for ABC, appeared self-assured as he fielded questions from the audience of about 200 people, but was often short on specifics other than calling for a rollback in the corporate net income tax and some other business levies.

For example, he advocated abolishing property taxes in Pennsylvania without shifting the burden of financing public schools onto another tax, such as the sales tax, as some Republican legislators are proposing. Asked how he would make up the more than $8 billion generated by property taxes, however, he declined to reveal his plan, saying it is still being refined.

"I'm not going to give it to you only because I want to see if it's going to work first," he said. "We want new thinking that's outside the box."

Swann also declined to take a stand on alternatives to public schools, saying only that state officials must constantly strive to ensure that taxpayers are getting the most out of their investment in education.

Asked if he was avoiding addressing issues because "as a sideline reporter, you've learned that a few cliches are all that make it on the TV anyway," he steered the focus toward Rendell, who moonlights as a Philadelphia Eagles post-game analyst for Comcast SportsNet.

"Let me consult with Ed Rendell after the post-game show for the Eagles," he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Swann, who lives in the Pittsburgh suburbs with his wife and two sons and who would be Pennsylvania's first black governor, said he expects to declare his candidacy early next year and played down speculation that his timing is driven by the end of the college football season.

"It's a time slot that I think will be better," he said. "There are other obligations I have and, while I can continue to do those even as a declared candidate, I'm choosing to wait."

In addition to Scranton, Swann faces likely opposition in the GOP primary from state Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin, and Jim Panyard, the former director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association."

AP Wire | 11/21/2005 | Secret Right-Wing Group's ads try to make Santorum Look Competent - Not an easy job!

AP Wire | 11/21/2005 | Group's ad touts Santorum's record on tax relief: " Posted on Mon, Nov. 21, 2005

Group's ad touts Santorum's record on tax relief
Associated Press
WASHINGTON - A group called Americans for Job Security is spending more than $450,000 to run an ad in support of Sen. Rick Santorum's 2006 re-election bid.

The ad, showing a family playing together in the park, credits Santorum, R-Pa., with helping to provide $300 billion in tax relief, eliminate the marriage penalty and increase the per-child tax credit.

"Pennsylvania families relax a little more these days because Rick Santorum is getting things done every day," the ad says.

The campaign manager for Santorum's leading prospective Democratic challenger, Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey Jr., on Monday criticized the group, saying it has not revealed the identity of donors.

"We think the voters of Pennsylvania deserve to know who's backing Rick Santorum," said Jay Reiff, Casey's campaign manager. "They shouldn't be hiding behind these shadowy organizations. We need to have full disclosure."

Americans for Job Security, based in Alexandria, Va., is registered under 501(c) of the federal tax code, a classification that allows groups to engage in political activity without revealing contributors as long as that is not their main activity. The president, Michael Dubke, said the organization does not reveal donors because that would distract from their message.

Dubke said the ad is a kickoff to a national campaign to promote tax cuts and other issues the group backs. He said there would be a heated political and policy debate during the Pennsylvania race and "we want to be part of that debate."

The ad started running Friday and will be aired for about two weeks in all Pennsylvania markets except Philadelphia, he said.

Craig Holman, campaign finance lobbyist with Public Citizen, a liberal-leaning advocacy group, alleged that Americans for Job Security is a political front group backing conservative causes.

"From everything I've seen, they do absolutely nothing except electioneering," Holman said.

Santorum is lagging behind Casey in the polls, and Holman said the group's decision to run an ad nearly a year before the election indicates how close the race is perceived to be.

Virginia Davis, Santorum's campaign spokeswoman, said the campaign was not aware of the ad until it ran on television.

"We can't control what message third party groups choose to highlight, but Sen. Santorum has been a champion for cutting taxes of Pennsylvanians and all Americans, and that record is well-known," Davis said."

The New York Review of Books: Santorum and the Abuse of Power - The K Street Project

The New York Review of Books: Selling Washington: "Volume 52, Number 11 · June 23, 2005

Selling Washington
By Elizabeth Drew
As the criminal investigation of the Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff was underway this spring, a spokesman for the law firm representing him issued a statement saying that Abramoff was "being singled out by the media for actions that are commonplace in Washington and are totally proper." Abramoff has since said much the same thing. The lawyer was half right. Like many other lobbyists, Abramoff often arranged for private organizations, particularly nonprofit groups, to sponsor pleasant, even luxurious, trips for members of Congress, with lobbyists like himself tagging along and enjoying the unparalleled "access" that such a setting provides; i.e., they get to know congressmen and sell them on legislation. They take over skyboxes at sporting events, inviting members of Congress and their staffs.

But Abramoff has differed from other lobbyists in his flamboyance (he owned two Washington restaurants, at which he entertained), and in the egregiously high fees he charged clients, in particular, Indian tribes in the casino business. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee, headed by John McCain, found last year that Abramoff and an associate, Michael Scanlon, a political consultant and former communications director for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, received at least $66 million from six tribes over three years. Abramoff also instructed the tribes to make donations to certain members of Congress and conservative causes he was allied with. And he was careless—for example in putting on his credit card charges for DeLay's golfing trip to the St. Andrews golf course in Scotland in 2000, with a stop in London for a bit of semi-serious business to make the trip seem legitimate. It's illegal for a lobbyist to pay for congressional travel, but Abramoff is reported to have paid for three of DeLay's trips abroad. A prominent Republican lobbyist told me that the difference between what Abramoff did and what many other lobbyists do was simply "a matter of degree and blatancy."

Abramoff's behavior is symptomatic of the unprecedented corruption—the intensified buying and selling of influence over legislation and federal policy —that has become endemic in Washington under a Republican Congress and White House. Corruption has always been present in Washington, but in recent years it has become more sophisticated, pervasive, and blatant than ever. A friend of mine who works closely with lobbyists says, "There are no restraints now; business groups and lobbyists are going crazy—they're in every room on Capitol Hill writing the legislation. You can't move on the Hill without giving money."

This remark is only slightly exaggerated. For over ten years, but particularly since George W. Bush took office, powerful Republicans, among them Tom DeLay and Senator Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, have been carrying out what they call the "K Street Project," an effort to place more Republicans and get rid of Democrats in the trade associations and major national lobbying organizations that have offices on K Street in downtown Washington (although, of course, some have offices elsewhere).

The Republican purge of K Street is a more thorough, ruthless, vindictive, and effective attack on Democratic lobbyists and other Democrats who represent businesses and other organizations than anything Washington has seen before. The Republicans don't simply want to take care of their friends and former aides by getting them high-paying jobs: they want the lobbyists they helped place in these jobs and other corporate representatives to arrange lavish trips for themselves and their wives; to invite them to watch sports events from skyboxes; and, most important, to provide a steady flow of campaign contributions. The former aides become part of their previous employers' power networks. Republican leaders also want to have like-minded people on K Street who can further their ideological goals by helping to formulate their legislative programs, get them passed, and generally circulate their ideas. When I suggested to Grover Norquist, the influential right-wing leader and the leading enforcer of the K Street Project outside Congress, that numerous Democrats on K Street were not particularly ideological and were happy to serve corporate interests, he replied, "We don't want nonideological people on K Street, we want conservative activist Republicans on K Street."

The K Street Project has become critical to the Republicans' efforts to control all the power centers in Washington: the White House, Congress, the courts—and now, at least, an influential part of the corporate world, the one that raises most of the political money. It's another way for Republicans to try to impose their programs on the country. The Washington Post reported recently that House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, of Missouri, has established "a formal, institutionalized alliance" with K Street lobbyists. They have become an integral part of the legislative process by helping to get bills written and passed—and they are rewarded for their help by the fees paid by their clients. Among the results are legislation that serves powerful private interests all the more openly—as will be seen, the energy bill recently passed by the House is a prime example —and a climate of fear that is new. The conservative commentator David Brooks said on PBS's NewsHour earlier this year, "The biggest threat to the Republican majority is the relationship on K Street with corporate lobbyists and the corruption that is entailed in that." But if the Republicans are running a risk of being seen as overreaching in their takeover of K Street, there are few signs that they are concerned about it.

When the Republicans first announced the K Street Project after they won a majority in Congress in the 1994 election, they warned Washington lobbying and law firms that if they wanted to have appointments with Republican legislators they had better hire more Republicans. This was seen as unprecedentedly heavy-handed, but their deeper purposes weren't yet understood. Since the Democrats had been in power on Capitol Hill for a long time, many of the K Street firms then had more Democrats than Republicans or else they were evenly balanced. But the Democrats had been hired because they were well connected with prominent Democrats on Capitol Hill, not because Democratic Congresses demanded it. Moreover, it makes sense for lobbying firms that want access to members of Congress to hire people with good contacts in the majority party—especially former members or aides of the current leaders. But the bullying tactics of Republicans in the late 1990s were new.

DeLay, Santorum, and their associates organized a systematic campaign, closely monitored by Republicans on Capitol Hill and by Grover Norquist and the Republican National Committee, to put pressure on firms not just to hire Republicans but also to fire Democrats. With the election of Bush, this pressure became stronger. A Republican lobbyist told me, "Having the White House" has made it more possible for DeLay and Santorum "to enforce the K Street Project." Several Democratic lobbyists have been pushed out of their jobs as a result; business associations who hire Democrats for prominent positions have been subject to retribution. They are told that they won't be able to see the people on Capitol Hill they want to see. Sometimes the retribution is more tangible. The Republican lobbyist I spoke to said, "There's a high state of sensitivity to the partisanship of the person you hire for these jobs that did not exist five, six years ago—you hire a Democrat at your peril."

In one instance well known among lobbyists, the Ohio Republican Michael Oxley, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, put pressure on the Investment Company Institute, a consortium of mutual fund companies, to fire its top lobbyist, a Democrat, and hire a Republican to replace her. According to a Washington Post story on February 15, 2003, six sources, both Democratic and Republican, said that members of Oxley's staff told the institute that a pending congressional investigation of mutual fund companies "might ease up if the mutual fund trade group complies with their wishes." It apparently didn't matter to them that House ethics rules prohibit congressmen or their staff "from bestowing benefits on the basis of the recipient's status as a supporter or contributor, or partisan affiliation." A Republican now holds the top job at the Investment Company Institute.

Last year retribution was taken against the Motion Picture Association of America, which—after first approaching without success a Republican congressman about to retire— hired as its new head Dan Glickman, a former Democratic representative from Kansas and secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration. Republicans had warned the MPAA not to hire a Democrat for the job. After Glickman was hired, House Republicans removed from a pending bill some $1.5 billion in tax relief for the motion picture industry. Norquist told me, "No other industry is interested in taking a $1.5 billion hit to hire a Clinton friend." After Glickman was selected, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported last year, "Santorum has begun discussing what the consequences are for the movie industry." Norquist said publicly that the appointment of Glickman was "a studied insult" and the motion picture industry's "ability to work with the House and the Senate is greatly reduced." Glickman responded by hiring prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert's former spokesman, for major MPAA jobs.

Norquist's organization, Americans for Tax Reform, keeps watch on other K Street firms and calls attention on its Web site to the ones that are out of line.[1] According to a report in The Washington Post in 2003, an official of the Republican National Committee told a group of Republican lobbyists that thirty-three of the top thirty-six top-level K Street positions had gone to Republicans.

Despite its effectiveness, "the K Street Project is far from complete," according to Norquist, who says, "There should be as many Democrats working on K Street representing corporate America as there are Republicans working in organized labor—and that number is close to zero." He wants the project to include not just the top jobs in K Street firms, but "all of them—including secretaries."

A prominent Democratic Party fund-raiser believes that in 2001, after nineteen years as head of a trade association, he was fired because he was not a Republican. Another Democratic lobbyist told me that one of his major clients was put under pressure to drop him because he was a Democrat. A staff member in DeLay's office called the second of the two men and told him that he was "in DeLay's crosshairs," and warned him that if he attempted to work with any committees on Capitol Hill, he would get nowhere because of his political leanings.

Episodes of this kind have created a new atmosphere of fear in Washington. (Because of that atmosphere, these people as well as several others insisted on talking "on background," to protect themselves against retribution.) The Democratic lobbyist whose client was pressured by Republicans to drop him remarked, "It's a dangerous world out there," a world where, he said, "You'd better watch what you say. People in the Republican party, in the agencies, will say, 'I hear you were badmouthing X.' You know that you're being watched; you know that it's taken into account in your ability to do public policy things—[like] get a meeting with a government agency." Another lobbyist says, "It's scary now. People are afraid to say what they feel. It's had a chilling effect on debate." According to the head of a public policy group who frequently deals with lobbyists and corporations, "They don't have to say it," but he finds them now "intimidated by the atmosphere in this town—you hire Republicans."

Business groups are under heightened pressure to support the administration's policies—even those that are of no particular interest to them. A recent article in Business Week told of business organizations, including the Business Roundtable—an association of CEOs of major corporations—being summoned to meetings with Mike Meece, a special assistant to the President, various cabinet officers concerned with business affairs, and Karl Rove. They anticipated a friendly give-and-take about economic legislation but instead they were told to get behind the President's plan to privatize Social Security. As a result, these organizations have spent millions of dollars promoting Bush's new program, particularly through ads. Business groups have been notably reticent about criticizing administration policies—even ones they deeply dislike, such as the huge budget deficit. In the past, when they differed from administration policies, for example on trade or tax issues, they spoke out. An adviser to business groups says, "They're scared of payback, of not getting their own agenda through."

The connections between those who make policy and those who seek to influence it have become much stronger in recent years because of lobbyists' increasing use of nonprofit groups to sponsor trips that give them access to lawmakers, as with DeLay's trip to Scotland and England. Jack Abramoff arranged for the trips of DeLay and other members of Congress to be officially sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, of which he is a member of the board. According to the congressional ethics rules a lobbyist cannot repay the cost of a free trip for a congressman by reimbursing the nonprofit group that organized the trip. But there's nothing to prevent him from giving large contributions to the organization or encouraging his clients to do so. Abramoff urged the Indian tribes he represents to contribute to the National Center, which paid for DeLay's trips. Owing to a major loophole in the ethics rules, nonprofit groups do not have to disclose their contributors. "It's a real abuse," the Republican lobbyist told me. Such trips are also a way of getting around the ban on gifts of more than $50 to members of Congress.

For the Washington lobbyist, the most-sought-after access is to someone who writes the nation's laws and appropriates federal money. Trips offer the best opportunity for the lobbyist to make an impression on a congressman. Since congressmen can no longer make use of soft money under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms, they are increasingly using golfing weekends and hunting trips for fund-raising. The politicians in effect charge the lobbyists to play golf or hunt with them. (Members of the middle class and the poor have scant opportunity to play golf with members of Congress.)

Many congressional trips have a serious purpose; some members restrict their travel to hazardous places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Such trips can be paid for out of congressional committees' funds—but they are usually less glamorous, harder to explain to the voters since the public pays for them, and they don't include lobbyists. The rules for privately funded trips, for example that they must be "in connection with official duties," have been interpreted quite loosely. Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that studies money in politics and its influence on public policy, says, "Even where they touch base with the rules, they don't take them seriously."

According to a study of congressional travel over the past five years paid for by nonprofit institutions, the Aspen Institute, a think tank based in Aspen, Colorado, and Washington, has spent the most on congressional travel; but Aspen is a serious organization that conducts seminars in the US and abroad, and lobbying isn't involved.[2] More interesting is the nonprofit that spends the next highest amount: the Ripon Society, actually the Ripon Educational Fund, an offshoot of the Ripon Society, which was founded in the 1960s by liberal Republicans as a serious organization concerned with public policy. Now that liberal Republicans are virtually extinct, Ripon has become an organization for relatively moderate Republicans.

Like other policy groups that also lobby, Ripon has set up an ostensi-bly separate "educational" group, or 501(c)(3), to which contributors can make tax-deductible donations. The Ripon Educational Fund sponsors a large annual "Transatlantic Conference," held in such pleasant places as Rome, London, and Budapest, to which it invites between 150 and 200 US citizens. These are vaguely described in the filings by the members of Congress who participated in them as "listening tour," or "fact finding."

The Ripon trips are famous among lobbyists for the opportunities they present for pressing their cases with members of Congress. A Republican lobbyist says that a Ripon Fund excursion has "become the trip to go on, because of the luxury and the access." The Washington Post reported that a Ripon Educational Fund trip to London in 2003 was attended by more than a hundred lobbyists, including representatives from American Express, AOL/Time Warner, and General Motors. They pay the Ripon Fund an annual membership fee of $9,500, and in addition finance their own trips abroad to Fund meetings.

Both the Ripon Society and the Ripon Educational Fund are headed by lobbyists. Former Representative Susan Molinari, of Staten Island, New York, a lobbyist whose clients now include Exxon, the Association of American Railroads, and Freddie Mac, is the chair of the Educational Fund. The president of the society itself is Richard Kessler, whose lobbying firm's clients include drug and cigarette companies. According to The Hill, the other Capitol Hill newspaper, Kessler's firm paid for a trip by five members of Congress to Ireland in August 2003, including four days at Ashford Castle, where the elegant grounds include a golf course. Of the members of Congress who went on Ripon Educational Fund trips, almost all took along their wives, an additional perk that contributes to the holiday atmosphere of the excursions. While lobbyists are prohibited from paying directly for congressional trips, trade associations and private corporations are allowed to do so—not much of an ethical distinction, since practically all of them engage in lobbying.

A recently released Congressional Quarterly study said that the disclosure forms filed by members of Congress "frequently show a direct correlation between a member's legislative interests and the sponsors of his or her trips." For example, Representative Michael Oxley, who is particularly concerned with corporate finance, took several trips underwritten by companies such as MCI. A political observer who closely studied congressional trips concluded that the Republicans are invited so they can be "worked on" to pass pending legislation, while the Democrats are there largely for "maintenance," in case they take power in the future. Moderate, "swing" Democrats who can affect the outcome of legislation come in for special attention.

The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill in 2002 didn't stop powerful companies and members of Congress from buying and selling influence. Representative Barney Frank, a major backer of the reform bill, says, "It works about the same as it did before." But, he adds, because the new law banned large soft money contributions by individuals, corporations, and labor unions to campaigns for federal office, and maintained overall limits on how much a person can contribute to federal elections—doubling them from $2,000 to $4,000 per election cycle—everyone has to work harder to raise the money.[3] Still, congressmen are seldom heard to complain that they can't raise enough money and in fact, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics,[4] both the political par-ties and individual candidates are raising more money than ever. Lobbyists still manage to deliver large amounts to legislators by "bundling" smaller contributions.

They contribute most of the money they raise to incumbents who can be depended on to do favors—a major reason (in addition to gerrymandering) why there is serious competition in only 10 percent of House races, and only about five seats change hands in each congressional election. Members of Congress expect to receive contributions from local industries (and their workers)—say, the coal industry in West Virginia—and they back legislation to help them out as a matter of doing constituent work. It's illegal for a firm to compensate employees for their political contributions, but, a Republican lobbyist says, a job applicant is often told that he or she is expected to make contributions, and salaries are adjusted accordingly.

It's virtually impossible to show that a particular campaign contribution resulted in a specific vote—such quid pro quo is illegal. Fred Wertheimer, of the public advocacy group Democracy 21, told me, "The system's designed so that you don't see who gets what for their money. It's designed for me to give money to you and you do something for me in the Congress—without either of us saying a word about it. But if I give money, I know it and the candidate knows it. It's an investment, and down the road you collect on it." While much of the money buys access to a member of Congress, or key staff members, that is only the entry point to making one's case. As John McCain puts it, "You give money, you get an ear." Still, one can sometimes even trace what Larry Noble carefully calls "correlations" between contributions and legislative successes.

The energy bill passed by the House in April is a striking case in point. The oil-and-gas industry, a top contributor of campaign money—80 percent of it to Republicans—benefited from several of its new provisions. A study by the staff of Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, shows that perhaps the most indefensible provision gave a waiver against lawsuits to manufacturers of MTBE, or methyl tertiary-butyl ether, a gasoline additive that's a pollutant and suspected carcinogen. According to Waxman's staff, this waiver is worth billions to energy companies; the major beneficiaries would be Exxon, which, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributed $942,717 to candidates in the last election cycle; Valero Energy, $841,375; Lyondell Chemical, $342,775; and Halliburton, $243,946. The bill also exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act the practice of hydraulic fracturing, which is used to make natural gas wells more productive and can also have an adverse effect on drinking water. Halliburton would benefit from this provision as well.

Another provision provided compensation to oil companies that bought leases, supposedly a speculative venture, on offshore sites where there is a moratorium on drilling. The compensation is worth billions of dollars to the oil industry. The bill also provided for the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR) to oil drilling—an invasion of the refuge that environmental groups have long tried to prevent. (Now that it contains more Republicans, the Senate passed a similar provision as part of its budget bill earlier this year.) The Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee were effectively shut out of the drafting of the energy bill. House Democrat Edward Markey, a member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, told me, "The energy companies got everything they wanted. Eight billion dollars in subsidies go to the energy companies, but to say that the conservation measures in it are modest would be a generous description."

An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that pharmaceutical manufacturers, who received a windfall from the new prescription drug program in the 2003 Medicare bill—including a provision prohibiting the federal government from negotiating with drug companies on prices— contributed more than three times as much to those who voted for the legislation as those who voted against it. A bill passed this year in the Senate and the House to tighten the rules for filing bankruptcy had long been sought by finance, insurance, and real estate interests, and particularly by credit card companies. Taken together, they all contributed $306 million to congressional campaigns, 60 percent of it to Republicans, during 2003 and 2004. The richest interests also spend the largest amounts of money on lobbying. According to a recent study by the Center for Public Integrity,[5] the makers of pharmaceuticals and health products spent the most—$759 million —on lobbying between 1998 and mid-2004, when the last lobbying reports were filed. Next came insurance companies. Oil and gas companies were seventh on the list.

The effects of the new, higher level of corruption on the way the country is governed are profound. Not only is legislation increasingly skewed to benefit the richest interests, but Congress itself has been changed. The head of a public policy strategy group told me, "It's not about governing anymore. The Congress is now a transactional institution. They don't take risks. So when a great moral issue comes up— like war—they can't deal with it." The theory that ours is a system of one-person-one-vote, or even that it's a representative democracy, is challenged by the reality of power and who really wields it. Barney Frank argues that "the political system was supposed to overcome the financial advantage of the capitalists, but as money becomes more and more influential, it doesn't work that way."

Two House Democrats, Rahm Emanuel, of Illinois, and Martin Meehan, of Massachusetts, have introduced legislation to tighten the rules on privately funded travel, strengthen the lobbying disclosure rules, and slow down the revolving door by which former members of Congress take jobs with the trade associations and, after a year, can lobby their former colleagues. Some Republicans are talking about placing more restrictive rules on trips. But the record shows that new regulations can often be evaded.

Perhaps the greatest deterrent to ethical transgression is that members of Congress don't want to read unfavorable stories about themselves. A Republican lobbyist says that the biggest factor in the growth of corruption has been "the expectation that all this goes undetected and unenforced." He added, "If Jack Abramoff goes to jail, that will be a big message to this town." Since the scandal broke over Abramoff's payments on behalf of DeLay, members of Congress have been scrambling to amend their travel reports, in some cases listing previously unreported trips, or filling in missing details. Public outrage can also have an inhibiting effect: after the Republicans changed the ethics rules earlier this year to protect DeLay, the adverse reaction in the press and from constituents was strong enough to make the Republican leadership back down.

But the public can't become outraged about something that isn't brought to its attention. The press tends to pounce on the big scandals but usually fails to cover the more common ones that take place every day. Some of the politicians I talked to hoped that the scandal over DeLay and Abramoff might lead to real changes, including more prosecutions and stricter disclosure requirements. But even they admit that, like so many other scandals, it may simply blow over.

[1] See

[2] See

[3] In the 2004 presidential election such money was paid to so-called "527 groups," which spent $500 million in the 2003–2004 election cycle. This wasn't, as widely thought, the result of a loophole in the McCain-Feingold bill but of the failure of the feckless Federal Election Committee to enforce a section of a 1974 campaign finance law.

[4] See

[5] See

Subscribe today and save! Click here to order online, or call toll-free 800-354-0050 (601-354-9263)."

Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/15/2005 | Casey assails Santorum's tie to lobbyists

Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/15/2005 | Casey assails Santorum's tie to lobbyists: "Posted on Tue, Nov. 15, 2005

Casey assails Santorum's tie to lobbyists
Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Democratic challenger Robert P. Casey Jr. lashed out yesterday at Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) for leading meetings that he said pressure lobbying firms and trade associations to hire more Republicans.

"At best, what happens at those meetings is of questionable ethics," Casey said.

Casey, the Pennsylvania state treasurer, was in Washington to announce an ethics reform plan that he said would correct what he called abuses of power by lobbyists and lawmakers. One provision is a same-day disclosure requirement for lobbyists who have "substantive" conversations with lawmakers.

Casey accused Santorum of saying little about this "culture of corruption." He said the senator "has more power than I do, right now," to introduce reforms.

A spokesman for Santorum, Robert Traynham, declined to respond to the specifics of Casey's plan but said the senator was ready to debate it and other issues "in a public way."

Casey spoke at a Washington restaurant, called Signatures, that until recently was owned by GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is under investigation by the Justice Department. Abramoff is an ally of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R., Texas), who has been indicted in an alleged Texas campaign-finance scheme.

DeLay, Santorum and other GOP activists have been involved in a longtime effort known as the "K Street Project" to ensure that Republicans are considered for openings with lobbying firms and trade associations.

K Street is a Washington address traditionally favored by lobbyists.

Santorum has been holding a regular Tuesday morning meeting as part of this effort.

"These aren't just casual, chance meetings," Casey said. He said there was "enormous pressure" and "undue influence" by congressional leaders on hiring practices by lobbyists and trade associations.

"I think it could amount to coercion," Casey said. "What are you going to do, skip the meeting? Unfortunately, if you want to be a successful lobbyist, a lot of them are going to say, 'Yes, sir.' "

Casey said the K Street Project was "an abuse of power" and should be closed. He also proposed doubling the lobbying ban for former members of Congress to two years and requiring members to reimburse corporations for the full cost of accepting a ride on a chartered flight.

At present, members are required to reimburse corporations for the price of a first-class commercial ticket.

The Democrat said that this year he had accepted a chartered flight to Texas from a law firm, which he intended to reimburse.

Much of what Casey proposed is contained in pending Senate and House legislation. The new wrinkle was the same-day disclosure, which a lobbyist would file to an Internet site.

Traynham, Santorum's spokesman, defended the K Street Project as "a program to make sure that issues important to Pennsylvanians are discussed with large organizations."

He said that Santorum "has spent all of his congressional career making sure there is transparency in government."

Traynham declined to directly address Casey's ethics plan, but challenged the leading Democratic contender for Santorum's seat to public debates on all the issues.

"What's more important is to talk about the issues that are important to Pennsylvanians - jobs and the economy, taxes and the like," he said.

In a statement issued by Santorum's reelection campaign, the senator proposed 10 debates, with eight of them devoted to a single issue. The Casey campaign had no immediate response.

Casey's Washington schedule yesterday included three fund-raising meetings, including an evening event at a private home in McLean, Va., at which outgoing Virginia Gov. Mark Warner was scheduled to appear.

Contact staff writer Steve Goldstein at 202-383-6048 or"

Monday, November 21, 2005

Santorum Mails Pics of Leesburg Va Family to Pa. Contributers: The Morning Call Online

"Politics As Usual: November 20


Karen Santorum wants your family snapshots. Really.

The wife of U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum included a color photo of the couple and their six children in a recent fundraising letter that invited recipients to return the favor — along with an appropriate-sized check.

''Just include your picture in the pre-addressed envelope I've prepared,'' she wrote, ''along with your contribution of $25, $35, $50, $100 or even $1,000 to Santorum 2006 and return both to me today.''

She said the campaign needed to raise $22 million ''because we cannot afford to have our message filtered and distorted by the liberal media.''

The senator is running behind in the polls to Democrat Bob Casey Jr., so he's got to be pretty busy. But Santorum said she would make sure that ''Rick sees your photo and adds it to the pictures of other friends and families we've received over the years.''"

The Patriot-News: Incumbency no help to Santorum

Incumbency no help to Santorum
Monday, November 21, 2005
Of Our Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - After 11 years in the Senate, Rick Santorum has become one of the most powerful and influential leaders in state and national politics.

He boasts a close relationship with President Bush, he's the No. 3 GOP leader in the Senate, and he is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for the White House.

An incumbent running for re-election with such credentials normally would scare off most challengers and have few political worries.

Yet low public approval ratings, a well-liked opponent, an increasingly unpopular president mired in an equally unpopular war, an unhappy electorate, public perceptions of ethics lapses by Republicans and Santorum's own miscues have turned next year's Senate election upside down.

Advisers to Santorum concede they are growing increasingly frustrated by his weak support and the tactics of state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr., his likely Democratic opponent.

Some analysts and party officials say Santorum's campaign tactics, such as calling for 10 debates a year before the election, are bordering on desperate, particularly for a two-term incumbent.

"I think there is a certain frustration on my level," said John Brabender, Santorum's longtime adviser and media consultant.

"Every day I have to hear Bobby Casey's criticizing without saying what alternative he would offer," he said. "At least be man enough to offer solutions as well or stand on the same stages."

With Santorum trailing Casey by 15 to 20 percentage points in independent polling, Republicans maintain that Pennsylvania voters would be less enamored with Casey, the son of the former governor, if he were less reluctant to tell them his positions on many of the issues that Santorum votes on.

Casey, who last week released an ethics reform plan while rebuking Santorum for his ethics, has criticized Bush and Santorum's proposal for private Social Security accounts and spending cuts for popular programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

He has unveiled an economic plan and advocated eliminating some of the tax cuts for the wealthiest that Bush is seeking to extend. Casey has said he would like to use that money for programs and relief for the middle class and poor.

He's also voiced concerns about how the Bush administration has managed the Iraq war, which he said he would have supported based on the intelligence that was provided to Congress.

But Santorum and GOP aides have mounted an aggressive campaign that accuses Casey of running a stealth campaign and refusing to say how he would vote on the same issues as Santorum.

Last week, Santorum challenged Casey to 10 debates before the general election. Political experts say that might be unprecedented for an incumbent.

Casey plans to debate Santorum after the primary, according to aides.

"Casey has a significant polling advantage which allows him to act like an incumbent, and incumbents debate few times and minimize exposing themselves to criticism," said G. Terry Madonna, a pollster and political analyst at Franklin & Marshall College.

Sen. Arlen Specter, for example, agreed to only a handful of debates with his primary opponent, Rep. Pat Toomey, after much stalling last year.

"Politics is a game of strategy and tactics, and at the moment, Casey can play a little rope-a-dope and at the moment a year from the election doesn't have to campaign like he's behind or needs name recognition," Madonna said.

He added: "At the moment, Casey's best strategy might be to go to the Caribbean and stay away."

Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College, said he doesn't fault Santorum for pressing for debates but said only political insiders and journalists are paying attention to the early jousting in what is expected to be the premier race of next year's midterm elections.

"It's by any count incredibly early to be talking about that," he said.

Brabender claims Santorum has always called for debates with his opponents. But it wasn't until former Rep. Ron Klink clinched the Democratic nomination in 2000 that Santorum agreed to debates.

Santorum's record has become both an advantage and his biggest vulnerability in the race with Casey, who has never had to vote on similar legislation in the row offices he's held.

While Santorum can boast a record of fiscal discipline or promotion of conservative causes, Democrats and Casey have found a trove of votes against higher spending for popular programs such as those that benefit veterans and the poor.

Besides trying to create the impression that Casey is hiding, Santorum and his advisers think debating Casey might be their best bet to provide a contrast they believe will showcase the incumbent's strengths.

"They don't want to be seen on the same stage as Rick Santorum because they are concerned they won't have the same command of the issues," Brabender said.

BRETT LIEBERMAN: (202) 383-7833 or

Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/20/2005 | Scranton Shows Weakness in Key Areas. Old Guard Not Rushing To Back Him. Chester Goes to Swann

Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/20/2005 | Whom to run against Rendell?: "Posted on Sun, Nov. 20, 2005

Whom to run against Rendell?
By Angela Couloumbis and Carrie Budoff
Inquirer Staff Writers
He's got to have style, charisma, and the gift of gab. He should be able to command the issues, kiss the babies, and in the next breath, raise millions of dollars. Star power is a must.

That is what state Republicans say they are looking for in the person they want to run next year against Gov. Rendell, a champion campaigner and fund-raiser in his own right.

What they have so far is a field of four potential and declared candidates - and a party that can't seem to agree on whom to back.

Even in the powerful Southeast, which commands roughly one-third of the state's votes and which historically has been unified behind a single candidate, there is a significant split among Republicans about whom to endorse.

For instance, Chester County Republicans recently endorsed former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann, despite strong signs from the others in the Southeast that the best candidate to take on Rendell is former Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton.

The division and uncertainty raise tough questions for state Republicans as they prepare to formally endorse a candidate early next year. Chief among them: whether a party this torn over candidates can unite behind one person and avoid a primary fight that would siphon precious dollars away from the race against Rendell. And, even if that does happen, whether those who don't get the party nod will pull out of the race and not run a renegade campaign.

Republican state committee members are scheduled to vote on whom to endorse in early February.

"We've got outstanding candidates, all widely accomplished, all passionate about their vision for Pennsylvania," said GOP party chair Eileen Melvin. Still, she said, "my goal is to get an endorsement, and avoid a primary... so we can all work together to beat Ed Rendell."

Republican political analyst William J. Green put it this way: "Unity is something that doesn't come easily to Republicans. We don't unify as well as Democrats. They kiss and make up and then they like each other. Republicans are like a bunch of first cousins - they kiss and make up, but then they hate the other person."

Scranton, a lieutenant governor from 1979 to 1987, announced his candidacy during a swing across the state last month. The only abortion-rights supporter in the GOP field, he is portraying himself as an outsider fed up with the way Rendell has run Harrisburg. He lives outside Scranton.

Swann, an ABC sports broadcaster who lives in the Pittsburgh suburbs, has yet to formally announce, yet he has been behaving like a committed candidate, traveling across the state to meet with Republicans whose support he will need if he wants the party nod.

Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola, a conservative from Dauphin County and a staunch critic of Rendell's, has not formally announced, but he has made no secret of his interest in running.

And Jim Panyard, a conservative former businessman from Palmyra, Lebanon County, announced his candidacy in September, but he is not seeking the party's endorsement.

For many party leaders, the contest increasingly appears to be coming down to a decision between Scranton and Swann, who consistently run neck-and-neck in polls as the strongest Rendell challengers. There is even speculation in GOP circles that Piccola will be exiting the race, possibly before next month's Pennsylvania Society bash, the annual social gathering in New York of politicians, lawyers, lobbyists, and others who fuel campaign efforts.

Piccola campaign spokesman Dean Ouelette said the senator was very much in the running and would be asking for the endorsement in February.

Although the state's six Republican regional caucuses have yet to poll their members on whom they back, their leaders have already started aligning themselves with candidates.

Matthew Brann, who chairs the party's Northeast caucus, said he believes Scranton is best positioned to beat Rendell. Ditto for Tom Judge, head of the Southeast caucus. Northeast/Central caucus chair Bob Ames said he's leaning toward Scranton, too.

But Southwest caucus chairwoman Jan Rea said she is a Swann devotee, as are Ash Khare, caucus chair in the Northwest, and Joyce Haas, cochair on the Central caucus.

Dick Stewart, the other cochair in the Central caucus, is standing by Piccola.

"I'm going to operate under the assumption that there will be a primary," Ames said last week. "But I would much rather we try to resolve our differences... Primaries can be very costly, and given that fact that Gov. Rendell has an ability to raise vast sums of money, I'd rather we not have to go through that."

Political observers say any Republican challenger would have to raise about $30 million to compete with Rendell, who spent more than $40 million during his 2002 gubernatorial bid.

A primary could cost from several million dollars to upward of $10 million, they said.

Piccola spokesman Ouelette said the senator would not run a primary if the party does not endorse him. Swann and Scranton's campaigns would not say definitively what they would do.

Though some party members believe a primary wouldn't signal a death knell - after all, Rendell ran a primary in 2002 - they acknowledge that it has the potential to bruise feelings and unnecessarily rough up reputations.

Already, the camps within the party are quietly vetting Swann and Scranton.

Swann, who reports on college football, has been criticized for being politically inexperienced. Case in point: He had been invited to a recent event by Republicans in Lawrence County but bagged it to attend a White House state dinner for Prince Charles.

Swann has also been knocked for holding back on formalizing his plans for 2006. The speculation is that he will announce in January after the college football season ends.

"When you don't announce, people don't take you seriously," said Renee Amoore, the state GOP deputy chair who has urged Swann to formalize his candidacy soon. "Not announcing is an issue to me. How can you market someone if they haven't announced?"

Scranton, on the other hand, has been singled out for being part of the political establishment as well as someone who has already tried his hand at the governorship - and lost.

Melvin, the state party chair, said she believes the machinations behind choosing a candidate will help to determine the strongest candidate - and make the party stronger.

"I think the debate is healthy."

Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or"

Santorum Plays Politics With Thomas McGough's Judgeship -

On his climb to the summit, councilman loses his footing - "DEEP-SIXED FOR THE 3RD CIRCUIT? Apparently a move is afoot to derail Reed Smith attorney W. Thomas McGough's chances of being named to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, headquartered in Philadelphia.

McGough, of Shadyside, has been mentioned as a candidate to replace Richard Nygaard of Erie, who was named a senior judge on the 3rd Circuit in July.

E-mails floating around in the political corner of cyberspace indicate Republican Sen. Rick Santorum has been lobbied hard to lobby President George Bush not to appoint McGough to the 3rd Circuit bench.

The correspondences don't fault McGough's legal acumen, but are critical of him for donating money to Santorum's Democrat opponent in 2000, former U.S. Rep. Ron Klink of Murrysville. McGough also was faulted for not being sufficiently conservative."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/15/2005 | Santorum's Abuse of Power and Association with Indicted Criminals -Jack Abramoff and the K St. Project

Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/15/2005 | Casey assails Santorum's tie to lobbyists: "Posted on Tue, Nov. 15, 2005

Casey assails Santorum's tie to lobbyists
Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Democratic challenger Robert P. Casey Jr. lashed out yesterday at Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) for leading meetings that he said pressure lobbying firms and trade associations to hire more Republicans.

"At best, what happens at those meetings is of questionable ethics," Casey said.

Casey, the Pennsylvania state treasurer, was in Washington to announce an ethics reform plan that he said would correct what he called abuses of power by lobbyists and lawmakers. One provision is a same-day disclosure requirement for lobbyists who have "substantive" conversations with lawmakers.

Casey accused Santorum of saying little about this "culture of corruption." He said the senator "has more power than I do, right now," to introduce reforms.

A spokesman for Santorum, Robert Traynham, declined to respond to the specifics of Casey's plan but said the senator was ready to debate it and other issues "in a public way."

Casey spoke at a Washington restaurant, called Signatures, that until recently was owned by GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is under investigation by the Justice Department. Abramoff is an ally of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R., Texas), who has been indicted in an alleged Texas campaign-finance scheme.

DeLay, Santorum and other GOP activists have been involved in a longtime effort known as the "K Street Project" to ensure that Republicans are considered for openings with lobbying firms and trade associations.

K Street is a Washington address traditionally favored by lobbyists.

Santorum has been holding a regular Tuesday morning meeting as part of this effort.

"These aren't just casual, chance meetings," Casey said. He said there was "enormous pressure" and "undue influence" by congressional leaders on hiring practices by lobbyists and trade associations.

"I think it could amount to coercion," Casey said. "What are you going to do, skip the meeting? Unfortunately, if you want to be a successful lobbyist, a lot of them are going to say, 'Yes, sir.' "

Casey said the K Street Project was "an abuse of power" and should be closed. He also proposed doubling the lobbying ban for former members of Congress to two years and requiring members to reimburse corporations for the full cost of accepting a ride on a chartered flight.

At present, members are required to reimburse corporations for the price of a first-class commercial ticket.

The Democrat said that this year he had accepted a chartered flight to Texas from a law firm, which he intended to reimburse.

Much of what Casey proposed is contained in pending Senate and House legislation. The new wrinkle was the same-day disclosure, which a lobbyist would file to an Internet site.

Traynham, Santorum's spokesman, defended the K Street Project as "a program to make sure that issues important to Pennsylvanians are discussed with large organizations."

He said that Santorum "has spent all of his congressional career making sure there is transparency in government."

Traynham declined to directly address Casey's ethics plan, but challenged the leading Democratic contender for Santorum's seat to public debates on all the issues.

"What's more important is to talk about the issues that are important to Pennsylvanians - jobs and the economy, taxes and the like," he said.

In a statement issued by Santorum's reelection campaign, the senator proposed 10 debates, with eight of them devoted to a single issue. The Casey campaign had no immediate response.

Casey's Washington schedule yesterday included three fund-raising meetings, including an evening event at a private home in McLean, Va., at which outgoing Virginia Gov. Mark Warner was scheduled to appear.

Contact staff writer Steve Goldstein at 202-383-6048 or"

Friday, November 18, 2005

ABC News: Senate Passes $60 Billion Tax Bill - Santorum Raises Taxes For the Working Man - Cuts for the Rich

ABC News: Senate Passes $60 Billion Tax Bill: "Senate Passes $60 Billion Tax BillSenate Passes $60 Billion Tax Bill Extending Tax Cuts, Raises Taxes on Oil Companies
Sen. Rick Santorum R-Pa., delivers the keynote speech at the annual American Legion Veterans Day luncheon at the Union League of Philadelphia Friday, Nov. 11, 2005, This prior commitment is keeping Santorum, the Senate's No. 3 Republican, from joining President Bush's visit to northeastern Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr)
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON Nov 18, 2005 — The Senate passed a $60 billion bill early Friday that would extend expiring tax cuts and prevent roughly 14 million families from paying higher taxes through the alternative minimum tax.

It drew a presidential veto threat for raising taxes on oil companies.

Much of the bill, passed 64-33 after midnight, preserves tax cuts approved in previous years that are set to expire unless lawmakers keep them alive. "I call this bill the 'Tax Increase Prevention Act,'" said Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.

Senate GOP leaders pledged that when the bill returns to the Senate for final approval, it will also extend the life of reduced tax rates for capital gains and dividends, scheduled to end when the calendar flips to 2009.

"Millions of Americans have benefited from these important tax policies either directly through lower taxes or indirectly through new and better jobs and greater economic security for families," said Treasury Secretary John Snow.

Democrats roundly oppose extending tax cuts for investment income. Senate leaders dropped an extension from their bill because a key moderate Republican balked at its inclusion.

The bill would stop a tax increase on about 14 million families in line to pay the alternative minimum tax next year. Originally a levy to prevent the wealthy from avoiding taxation, inflation causes the alternative minimum tax to reach into the pockets of more families every year. Lawmakers regularly enact walls to hold it back.

Senate Republicans beat back Democratic attempts to use the bill to pinch oil and energy companies that have been reporting record profits while consumers pay high gasoline prices, efforts that reflected sensitivity on Capitol Hill to high gasoline prices and fears of skyrocketing home heating costs this winter.

The largest oil companies, nevertheless, would be hit with about $4.3 billion in taxes through a change in accounting methods. That provision drew a veto threat from the White House and upset some Western Republicans, who deemed it an unfair and political attack on the energy industry."

::.Angus Reid Consultants.:: Casey Keeps BIG Lead Over Santorum in Pennsylvania

::.Angus Reid Consultants.::: "November 18, 2005
Casey Keeps Lead Over Santorum in Pennsylvania

(Angus Reid Global Scan) – Democrat Bob Casey could win next year’s election to the United States Senate in Pennsylvania, according to a poll by Strategic Vision. 51 per cent of respondents in the Keystone State would support Casey in a head-to-head contest against Republican incumbent Rick Santorum.

Casey has been Pennsylvania’s state treasurer since January 2005, and previously served as the state auditor general for eight years. Casey is the son of former Pennsylvania governor Robert P. Casey, and lost the 2002 Democratic primary to current governor Ed Rendell.

Support for Santorum is at 36 per cent. Three per cent of respondents would vote for other contenders, and 10 per cent are undecided. The election is scheduled for November 2006.

Santorum was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994, and earned a second term in 2000, defeating Democrat Ron Klink with 53 per cent of all cast ballots. He had previously served for two consecutive terms in the House of Representatives.

Although the election is still a year away, it is widely expected to be among the most competitive senatorial races in the country. Speaking in a joint public appearance this week, Santorum asked voters to focus on his experience, saying, "I’m probably known most by the work I do in Washington on the big issues of the day, and I’m criticized sometimes for taking on the big issues of the day like Social Security."

Polling Data

If the election for United States Senate were held today, and the choice was between Bob Casey, Jr., the Democrat and Rick Santorum, the Republican, whom would you vote for?

Nov. 2005
Oct. 2005
Sept. 2005

Bob Casey, Jr. (D)

Rick Santorum (R)



Source: Strategic Vision
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,200 registered Pennsylvania voters, conducted from Nov. 11 to Nov. 13, 2005. Margin of error is 3 per cent."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Grassroots PA: Jerry Morgan, U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood's right-hand man

Grassroots PA: December 2004: "Saturday, December 11, 2004

Scranton Times Spotlights PA Politcal Society

A good read

Scranton Times:

The $250-a-person dinner is the crescendo of four days of parties, luncheons and receptions sponsored by lobbyists, large corporations and political candidates.

Members and their guests can attend the dinner, but you don't have to be in the society to take part in the side events."There'll be a lot of deals made here," said Jerry Morgan, U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood's right-hand man. "It's a great place to come to make a deal."

Rarely do you get so many of Pennsylvania's elite business, government and political movers and shakers in one place together. So they aren't there just to renew days of auld lang syne.

"This is the Supreme Council of politicking," said Michael Clark of Pittston, who worked as an aide to the late U.S. Rep. Daniel J. Flood."

Scranton Shoves Glen T. Meakem out of the way for Leslie Gromis Baker "Former Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton has officially landed a big-name political strategist and fundraiser for his campaign. Last week, he named Leslie Gromis Baker as his campaign co-chairwoman. She was instrumental in Gov. Tom Ridge’s re-election campaign and ran his political action committee. His other co-chairman is Glen T. Meakem, the founder and former chief executive officer of FreeMarkets, an Internet auction company that catered to businesses before merging with another company last year.

Choosing sides

Mr. Scranton also picked up the endorsements of Republican U.S. Reps. Don Sherwood, Phil English and John Peterson and former state Rep. Jeff Coleman. Mr. Peterson represents the congressional district west of Mr. Sherwood’s; Mr. English represents north of Allegheny County, including Erie.

Former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver and current ABC college football sideline reporter Lynn Swann has picked up the support of former state Republican Party chairman Alan Novak, Pennsylvania’s Republican national committeewoman Christine Toretti Olson and U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, whose district includes Lancaster."

Lambro Preforms Journalistic Fellatio on Pa Govenor's Race - The Washington Times, Rev. Moon's Newspaper

Democrats slip in some races�-�Commentary�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper:

What a hack! Lambro is underestimating Casey's edge over Ricky Santorum and over estimating Bill Scranton. People have forgotten William Worthless Scranton’s negatives. As the race heats up so will the questions about Scranton’s drug use, lack of meaningful job experience and involvement in a cult. Maybe the cult part is why Lambro is kneeling before Bill Scranton with his mouth open. Lanny Budd

"Democrats slip in some races
By Donald Lambro
November 17, 2005

Conventional wisdom among most of the political pundits and prophets here is that the Republican brand isn't selling so hot because of President Bush's decline in the polls.
But the conventional wisdom often turns out wrong in politics, and that may well be the case in 2006.
The White House and the Republicans are going through some tough times politically, no question about that. But so are the Democrats, even in the Northeast blue states where you would expect them to do well.
Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania is Exhibit A. Everyone knows Republican Sen. Rick Santorum is running behind his Democratic rival, state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr., who is 10 points ahead in most polls. But did you know Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, up for re-election next year, is also in trouble?
In a survey that produced what independent pollster John Zogby called "stunning numbers," Mr. Rendell "is in a pitched battle, endangered by candidacies from either Bill Scranton, a former lieutenant governor and scion of a powerful political family, or Lynn Swann, the great Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver turned conservative novice political candidate."
Mr. Rendell, the tough-talking Keystone state governor who apparently is not well liked by Pennsylvanians, is in a statistical dead heat with Mr. Scranton, who just 3 points behind -- 44 to 41 percent. Mr. Swann is 4 points behind, 47 to 43 percent.
These are astonishing numbers at this early stage in the election cycle, suggesting a prominent Democratic governor from a major electoral state is in danger of being knocked off by the Republicans. Apparently, the GOP's brand is selling better in some states than pundits would have us believe and the Democratic brand is losing market share.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Scranton Demands Rendell Do Something That Scranton Would Never do Himself

Gov. candidate Scranton favors 'independent' for Pa. high court: "Gov. candidate Scranton favors 'independent' for Pa. high court
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG -- The battle over state officials' pay raises entered the governor's race yesterday, as Republican Bill Scranton urged Gov. Ed Rendell to name a "politically independent" person to replace Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro.

By unseating Democratic Justice Nigro in last week's retention election, state voters "spoke with clarity and conviction about the need for honest reform" in state government, Mr. Scranton said.

Mr. Scranton is one of four GOP hopefuls now competing to run against Democrat Rendell in 2006.

By denying Justice Nigro a second term, "citizens expressed their outrage over the unprecedented pay raise that you signed into law" in early July, Mr. Scranton told the governor.

Mr. Rendell had defended the raises for the first three months after they were enacted, saying judges and his own Cabinet members in particular deserved higher salaries. But recently he reversed course, urging legislators to repeal the raises for all three branches -- legislative, judicial and executive -- and set the pay back to what it was on July 6. He said the issue has become a serious distraction to conducting state business.

Justice Nigro will leave the seven-member high court in early January when his current 10-year term expires. He failed to win another term last week, with most observers blaming his defeat on voter anger over the pay raises. Justice Nigro received a raise in July but didn't actually vote on the bill. Another Supreme Court justice, Sandra Schultz Newman, narrowly won a second term on the court last week.

Mr. Rendell must name a replacement for Justice Nigro to serve through the end of 2007. A person to serve a full 10-year term on the court will be chosen in the 2007 elections.

Some legislators expect Mr. Rendell to name a Democrat to the court.

Mr. Scranton said "citizens will not tolerate a selection pulled from a short list of politically active supporters or friends. We expect a new justice that demonstrates political independence, the highest degree of competence and experience and a commitment to upholding the spirit and plain meaning of the constitution."

He also said a legislative committee should hold hearings on Mr. Rendell's selection before he or she joins the court. The nominee will need confirmation by the state Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, but it isn't known yet if committee hearings will be held.

Kate Philips, press secretary for Mr. Rendell, has said it's too early to speculate on who Mr. Rendell might choose to fill the seat.

In another pay raise matter yesterday, a Republican state committeeman from Butler County said new blood is needed on the GOP panel.

While newspapers and other media across the state have repeatedly talked about the pay raise story, the state GOP panel has been silent about it, said Butler GOP Chairman Jim Powers.

"This is symptomatic of a larger leadership problem at the Republican State Committee," he said.

Last month, he mailed "Repeal the Pay" petitions to all 355 state panel members, but only 20 percent agreed to sign.

(Harrisburg Bureau chief Tom Barnes can be reached at or 1-717-787-4254.)"

Monday, November 14, 2005

AP Wire | 11/14/2005 | Casey Exposes Santorum's Secret Shame - The K Street Scandal - Ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff

AP Wire | 11/14/2005 | Casey unveils ethics plan; Santorum calls for debates: "Posted on Mon, Nov. 14, 2005

Casey unveils ethics plan; Santorum calls for debates
Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. on Monday criticized Sen. Rick Santorum's involvement with lobbyists and unveiled a plan to require lobbyists to report every substantive conversation with federal lawmakers.

Casey, a likely Democratic challenger to Santorum in 2006, said the two-term senator is a leader of the "K Street Project," a GOP effort to pressure lobbying firms to hire Republicans and keep money flowing to the party.

"What happens at those meetings and as a result of those meetings, is at best of questionable ethics," said Casey, whose plan would bar members of Congress from "using threats or coercion" to influence hiring decisions of lobbying firms.

Former House Majority leader Tom DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff also have ties to the project, which is named after the street where many lobbyists work. Both have been indicted on charges unrelated to the project and have denied any wrongdoing. Casey's press briefing was held at Signatures restaurant in Washington, which used to be owned by Abramoff.

Robert Traynham, a spokesman for Santorum, R-Pa., called Casey's plan a "desperate attempt" to draw attention away from the fact that he had not taken a stand on whether he supports Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Traynham, who showed up at Casey's news conference and waited in the restaurant while reporters met with Casey in a private room, also distributed a letter written by Santorum challenging Casey to 10 debates.

He said Santorum participates in K Street meetings regularly, but "I'm not in those meetings, so I'm not going to comment on them." He said Democrats hold meetings similar to the K Street meetings.

Traynham said issues such as ethics should be discussed in a debate rather than in a "clandestine" meeting with reporters. "Let's talk about these issues in a very public way, i.e. in front of the audience in a debate," he said.

Casey's campaign manager, Jay Reiff, said Casey would be happy to debate Santorum after candidates win their respective party nomination, but accused Santorum of trying to "distract attention away from his involvement with the K Street Project."

Casey said he is waiting to learn more about Alito before deciding on whether he supports the nomination to the Supreme Court. Traynham said Santorum is leaning toward voting to confirm Alito.

Santorum, the No. 3 Senate Republican, was 16 points behind Casey in the Keystone Poll released last week. The race is already one of the closest watched Senate races in the country.

Casey's plan would require lobbyists to disclose on the Internet details about conversations with members of Congress on the same day they occur. It also would require former members to wait two years to lobby on Capitol Hill, and require politicians to reimburse corporations who fly them on private jets for the price of a private jet flight - not just for the price of a first-class ticket.

Casey acknowledged that he had flown on a jet paid for by a law firm to an event in Texas, but he said he would not be doing that again. He said his plan would help abolish the "culture of corruption" in Washington and called on Santorum to join the reform effort because Pennsylvanians are looking for a "fresh approach and substantial change."

"Last time I checked one party had all the marbles. They've got the presidency, they've got the House and the Senate, and Sen. Santorum is ... a very influential leader with this White House ... he should be a leader in implementing these kinds of changes," Casey said.

Traynham said Santorum in 1992 was in the "Gang of Seven," which he said was responsible for closing the controversial House bank, and has always been transparent with voters about where he stands on issues.

The Keystone Poll also showed Casey with a sizable lead over Chuck Pennacchio, a Philadelphia college professor. It did not mention another likely candidate, Philadelphia pension lawyer Alan Sandals."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Scranton's Involvement With CULT Worries Conservatives and Christians -

Yogi could be a bear for Scranton - "Yogi could be a bear for Scranton

By Dimitri Vassilaros
Sunday, November 13, 2005

Is Bill Scranton's campaign as aggressive as it needs to be about his Achilles' heel? A campaign consultant says yes. Influential social conservatives say no. Team Scranton needs damage control for the guru thing.
Scranton's long association with Transcendental Meditation and proponent Maharishi Mahesh Yogi might be why Pennsylvania's former lieutenant governor lost the gubernatorial election to Bob Casey in 1986. Just before the election, Mr. Casey's hatchet man, James Carville, ran a TV spot mocking Scranton as a dope-smoking hippie follower of the TM guru.

Could dabbling with TM, the Maharishi, and the Natural Law Party -- a defunct political party inspired by the Maharishi -- still hurt him?

"The issue has been fully vetted," said Jeff Coleman, a Scranton campaign consultant. "It does not have the kind of legs it had 20 years ago."

It likely would have some effect, said Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. "Some would wonder what is behind that and what impact does that have in Scranton's personal life and decision-making."

The guru-thing might win social conservatives away from Scranton, said Matthew J. Brouillette, president of The Commonwealth Foundation. "If his opponents make that message stick, he will have a tough time getting their support. But this is more a meditation practice than religion."

That might be all Don Thomson, chairman of the Westmoreland County Christian Coalition, needs to know.

"All they would have to do is hear he is this or that in his beliefs and some people would say he is a kook," Mr. Thomson said. "It conjures up strange beliefs and aberrations. I don't see how it could have any positive effect. If he's still practicing (TM), I would have even less desire to vote for him."

Is Scranton, an Episcopalian, embarrassed about the guru thing? "Why would I be embarrassed? I still meditate," he told this column.

Internet sites claim Scranton endorsed fellow TM practitioner Dr. John S. Hagelin, the Pittsburgh-born Natural Law Party presidential candidate in 1992, 1996 and 2000. The party disbanded in 2004.

Some reference a liberal blogger who used guilt by association to smear Scranton. But most mention the entry in Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that claimed he supported Dr. Hagelin in '92 and 2000.

Other than donating $1,000 to his friend's campaign in '92, Scranton says he supported only Republicans.

When I e-mailed his answer to Wikipedia, the entry was corrected.

And what does the Natural Law Party say?

"I checked the accuracy of my recollections with Dr. John Hagelin, and Kingsley Brooks, the party chairman," said Bob Roth, former party press secretary who has known Scranton for 30 years.

"Bill Scranton never officially or unofficially, publicly or privately, supported the Natural Law Party."

Scranton did participate in a few nonpartisan roundtable discussions and was inaccurately listed on a Web site as endorsing Hagelin, Roth said. "We invited Bill to take a more public official role in the party. In every case he declined.

"Your inquiry is the first time any of us can recall a reporter actually calling us to ask about the facts concerning Bill Scranton's involvement with the Natural Law Party."

Correcting the sites still using the old Wikipedia entry would be a start in Team Scranton damage control.

Dimitri Vassilaros is a Trib editorial page columnist. His column appears Sundays, Mondays and Fridays. Call him at 412-380-5637. E-mail him at"

Saturday, November 12, 2005

National Review Online: Santorum Down But Not Out... Yet

John J. Miller on Election 2006 & Senate on National Review Online: "PENNSYLVANIA: Democrats are drooling over this one — they think they’ve got Republican senator Rick Santorum in their crosshairs. A poll last month showed Democratic state treasurer Bob Casey Jr. leading the incumbent among likely voters, 52 percent to 36 percent. This race probably represents the Democrats’ best pickup opportunity. But before it’s over, it will look very close and conservative standard-bearer Santorum may yet prevail. TOSS UP"

Friday, November 11, 2005

WFMZ-TV Online 2 Swann leads Scranton in Latest Poll - Is Bill Scranton's religion An Issue

WFMZ-TV Online 2: "Poll Released on Santorum and Rendell Races
Story posted on 2005-11-10 18:07:00