Wednesday, May 24, 2006

West Branch Manufacturers: Swann fumbled

Williamsport Sun-Gazette: "West Branch Manufacturers: Swann fumbled

Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann canceled a keynote speech to the West Branch Manufacturers’ Association 11 days before its annual dinner, citing a conflicting campaign stop in Erie with former Gov. Tom Ridge.

The group canceled Tuesday’s event and will plan a dinner in the fall with a different speaker, according to Executive Director Michael J. Sharbaugh.

“His chief scheduler contacted William J. Metzger Sr. and said Swann was cancelling to go to Erie,” Sharbaugh said, adding Metzger was contacted Friday.

With more than 270 reservations for the event and more coming in Tuesday morning — another company called requesting a table for 10 — many were disappointed to hear the news, Sharbaugh said.

“I was going to vote for him but now I won’t,” Sharbaugh quoted several people as saying.

“It’s hard to understand,” he said. “It makes you wonder, if he were going to be governor, would he keep his commitments?”

Sharbaugh said the association would have understood if Swann had had to cancel for “a legitimate reason — like he had to have emergency surgery — but not just because he got a better offer.”

Meanwhile, plans must be canceled for a long-planned event.

“The Genetti has graciously agreed to let us out of our contract. We really do appreciate that. Bill Metzger is refunding funds raised,” he added.

Metzger, a member of the group’s board and this year’s dinner chairman, explained the process of coordinating a speaker with a dinner date.

“We started discussions with Mr. Swann’s chief scheduler Jan. 25. We sent a letter putting the request in writing. We left it open to two months for them to pick the date,” Metzger said.

“The dinner is generally held in May or June of each year. We float the date according to the keynote speaker. His camp picked the date.”

To get Swann as a speaker, the group had to agree to raise funds for his political campaign, Metzger said.

“Politicians running for office have a significant need to raise money for campaigns,” he said. “One way to get them to speak at events is to hold a fundraiser,” he said.

The campaign manager will usually suggest a figure that should be met by the fundraiser, Metzger said. In this case, the amount was $10,000.

“We raised in excess of $15,000,” he said.

Funds raised specifically for Swann’s campaign were made out to “Swann for Governor.”

“I returned those checks to each of the donors. It’s the donor’s choice now” whether to give the money to Swann’s campaign, he said.

The funds raised were through “a VIP reception in support of Lynn Swann,” which also was going to be Tuesday.

As of May 1, Swann reportedly raised $3.3 million statewide, compared with the $17.2 million raised by Gov. Ed Rendell.

Swann had other commitments in Pittsburgh in the morning on Tuesday, but “we had arranged for a private, two-engine plane to pick him up in Pittsburgh and bring him to Williamsport. We had arranged for a suite at the Genetti for him to freshen up,” Metzger said.

The VIP reception would be at the Ross Club, followed immediately by the group’s reception and dinner.

“He had asked and we had agreed that he would speak before the dinner so he could get home not too late,” he added.

Metzger said he was particularly angry that Swann had canceled not only so close to the deadline, but also that the association had already re-arranged its plans several times to accommodate Swann’s schedule.

“Originally, he had committed for May 30, he’d leave Pittsburgh mid-morning and we’d have a luncheon reception at the Williamsport Country Club. Then his campaign called and said that was not feasible. The real point is that we re-arranged several times to suit his needs, to be as conciliatory as we can reasonably be,” Metzger said.

When Swann’s campaign contacted Metzger, they offered an alternate speaker in the form of Swann’s running mate Jim Matthews, he said.

“I advised her that people had committed to this event to hear Lynn Swann speak on his opinions on the office he was running for, not Jim Matthews’. The only options were to rearrange or that he bring Ridge,” he continued.

“I was told that was not possible,” he said.

“The facts are the facts and people can draw their own conclusions,” Metzger said, regarding Swann’s receipt of a better campaigning offer.

“We regret the campaign’s need to postpone our long-awaited appearance before the association to a later date. We appreciate their understanding and we look forward to sharing our vision of change and reform for Williamsport as soon as possible,” Melissa Winters, spokeswoman for Swann’s campaign, said to the Sun-Gazette."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Voters Send Mike Long's Cronies Packing - Jubelier Brightbill and Zug bite the big one - Yahoo! News

Voters Send Incumbents Packing - Yahoo! News: "Voters Send Incumbents Packing Wed May 17, 1:11 AM ET

Voters sent a very clear message to their lawmakers Tuesday, one that left incumbents tasting bitter defeat in a historic day at the polls.

It appears the pay raise of 2005 played a role in the defeat of major state Senate leaders, including Senate majority leader David Brightbill and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer.

Pay Raise Payback

In the Susquehanna Valley, only one lawmaker who voted for the pay raise survived the primary election, Rep. Adam Harris, of Adams County.

Sen. Brightbill, of Lebanon County, Rep. Stephen Maitland, of Adams and Franklin counties, Rep. Roy Baldwin, of Lancaster County, Rep. Pete Zug, of Lebanon County and Rep. Patrick Fleagle, of Franklin County all voted for the pay raise, and all were defeated Tuesday.

Rep. Gibson Armstrong of Lancaster County was also defeated. Although he didn't vote for the pay raise, critics pointed out that he did vote for the rules change that allowed the vote to happen." Mike Long Screwed Chip Brightbill and then covered Capitol Ideas with John L. Micek : Dateline: Altoona.: "March 31, 2006
Dateline: Altoona.
Total People in Discussion: 0
Categories: Current Affairs

We're Just Back ...
... from two days of campaign travel in the wilds of Western Pennsylvania. It's always good to get out of the office for a while to find out what actual people who actually work for a living think about the goings-on here in the seat of power.
The only downside to leaving is the towering pile of paperwork and the dozen or so phone messages we had to wade through when we arrived at Capitol Ideas World Headquarters this morning

There's more on our trip after the jump.

We Started Our Swing ...
... in scenic Pittsburgh on Wednesday, where we attended the annual conference of the National Society of Black Engineers.
The group bills itself as the largest student-run organization of its kind in the country, and is specifically designed to encourage more black students to pursue careers in math and science.
To drop the cynical facade for a moment, it was pretty inspiring to see all these kids (from all over the country, no less) so jazzed up. That's doubly true when you consider that all this excitement was over math and science.
We have enough trouble balancing our checkbooks. Can't even imagine spending a week debating the finer points on the structural integrity of bridges and stuff..
But in the midst of all this hoopla, Gov. Ed had his own little Bush43/NAACP moment.
Either by accident or design, the Rendellies decided to give the conference's opening ceremonies a pass.
Carl Mack, NSBE's executive director (and a very tall man who we wouldn't want to have mad at us) wasted little time ripping the current occupant of the governor's office.
"For the governor of the state not to have an interest in 10,000 African-American students (in Pittsburgh) ... don't give me rhetoric about education reform. For him to skip was an insult."
This is also the place where we point out that Rendell's Republican rival, Lynn Swann, did manage to find his way over to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where NSBE held its conclave.
Bad move, Gov. We've seen your poll numbers out West.

Thursday Found Us ...
... in Altoona, where we (along with Capitolwire's Pete DeCoursey) spent the day tagging along with state Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Jubelirer, R-Blair.
We spent the best part of the day in Hollidaysburg, Blair County, where Jubelirer spent about two hours knocking on doors in his first spring primary since 1974.
For those of you not in the know, Jubelirer faces a particularly tough primary challenge from Blair County Commissioner John Eichelberger, who is kind of the Joker/Riddler/Penguin to Jubelirer's Batman. There's not a lot in the way of lost love between these two guys.
Anyway, the reaction from voters was fairly genial, except for the one guy who decided to rip Jubelirer's face off over last year's legislative pay raise.
The guy wasn't much interested in explanations -- not even when Jubelirer tried to tell him that he'd voted to repeal the hated raises.
On Thursday night, former Gov. Tom Ridge swung in for a fund-raiser at a baquet hall in the shadows of the Altoona Curve's ballpark.
There, the former Commissar for Homeland Security offered his unqualified endorsement for his "good friend, Bob Jubelirer."
We've got to hand it to Ridge. He was looking about as tanned and rested as we've ever seen him,
Then again, if the biggest security threat you had to think about these days was how to handle a particularly difficult Par 4 at the Lake Shore Country Club in Erie, you'd probably look that good, too.
During a press conference before the fund-raiser, Ridge initially tripped over a question on whether he intended to offer an equally enthusiastic endorsement for another Senate GOP leader who's having some trouble these days: Senate Majority Leader David J.Brightbill, R-Lebanon.
"I haven't talked to Sen. Brightbill yet," Ridge said. "I'm here for Bob Jubelirer."
Later that evening, Ridge, at the urging of Senate GOP campaign czar/Brightbill brother-in-law Mike Long, clarified his remarks:
"I'll work with Chip, if I'm asked," Ridge said, likely to the relief of Long, who was no doubt contemplating six months worth of awkward Sunday dinners if he failed to deliver the former Guv for Brightbill.
"We just had so much trouble scheduling this. The people who helped me, I'm obligated to support. And he's one of them," Ridge concluded, thus also saving Long from the kids table at Thanksgiving.

One More Note On That Ridge Press Conference ...
After dealing with stunned silence from the local press when he asked if there were any questions, Ridge fielded one or two queries about his feelings on the ... er ... immigration reform fever that's sweeping Washington these days.
In short, he's not a fan.
"Right now, the decibel level is not conducive to a thoughtful approach," he said. "We have every right to defend our borders ... But the notion that you can send 11 million people back, these legislators have got to get a grip."
Instead, Ridge advocated a more sensible guest worker program to help accomodate the Mexicans and Central Americans who want to "lay asphalt in Phoenix in 120-degree weather," and do other jobs that most Gringos try hard (and shouldn't) to avoid.
And when he was asked about the lightly armed couch potatoes who now consider it their patriotic duty to play cop along the border, Ridge said, "I appreciate their interest, but if they really want to help, they can volunteer to do clerical and back office work so that customs and immigrations officers can do the enforcement."

Of Course, There Was Other Stuff ...
... going on whilst we were gallivanting across the state. Here's a quick look at what's left:

We Wish We Knew This Yesterday Dept.
The Tribune Review's Brad Bumsted and Deb Erdley hit one out of the park this morning, revealing that a political action committee controlled by the famously anti-gambling Jubelirer, and run by aide Long, was largely financed by a leading contender for a slots license in Scranton.

State Rep. Mike Diven, R-Pittsburgh ...
... has spoken out on the forged signatures that forced him to withdraw fromf the spring ballot this week.
Diven said he didn't circulate the bad petition, and that "we believe someone sat down and wrote (the petition) out from a street list."
Diven won't say who in his camp ciruclated the document. He also apologized for including dead people on his petitions.
We used to live in Chicago.
Just because they're dead doesn't mean they can't vote, Mike.

Hordes of Young Conservatives ...
... descend on a Hilton in suburban Harrisburg this afternoon for the annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann gets things started at 2 p.m. Our Rick is the dinner speaker at 6 p.m. MSNBC screeching head Joe Scarborough is also slated to speak.

In The Blogosphere:
Keystone Politics on the red-hot 6th Congressional District race; GrassrootsPA is all over that Jubelirer/PAC story; Young Philly Politics reminds readers that the state House is slated to vote next week on the gay marriage amendment; A Smoke-Filled Room has a daily media round-up; Above Average Jane has some things to do; What is the sound of one mouth talking? Bill Bostic interviews Gene Stilp; Tony Phyrillas says Berks County is scraping the bottom of the legislative barrel; PennPatriot isn't a big fan of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board; If you look hard enough for media bias, you'll find it anywhere (sigh), and we wrap up with Wonkette's daily briefing.

On The Capitol Ideas iPod This Morning:
To help combat the lingering fatigue we're feeling from all that PA Turnpike travel, we've got The Replacements' messy, but still tons of fun, 1982 EP Stink blasting at a paralyzingly loud volume right now.

Friday's Final Gratuitous Soccer Link:
In which we close out the week with The Guardian confirming what the rest of the world knows already: the comically behind-schedule Wembley Stadium will not open until 2007.
And more good news for fans in the Bernabeu, David Beckham has decided he wants to stay at Real Madrid.

That's it for this week. See you all on Monday."

Philadelphia Inquirer | 02/07/2006 | Mike Long Cost Jubelirer His Seat with O'Berry's Help

Philadelphia Inquirer | 02/07/2006 | Group alleges legislature, court colluded: "Posted on Tue, Feb. 07, 2006email thisprint thisreprint or license thisGroup alleges legislature, court colludedBy Mario F. Cattabiani and Angela Couloumbis
Inquirer Staff Writers
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's leading watchdog group alleged in a lawsuit yesterday that the highest ranks of the legislature traded millions in state aid to the courts for favorable decisions dating to 1999 - and possibly culminating last summer in generous pay raises for more than 1,000 judges.

A state Supreme Court spokesman called the accusations "preposterous."

The allegations were laid out in a revised federal court challenge in Harrisburg to last summer's legislative pay raise, in which Common Cause of Pennsylvania contends that there has been political "back scratching" between top House and Senate members and the state Supreme Court for years.

At the heart of the new allegations is the contention that, seven years ago, legislative leaders negotiated with the high court to fund the state's judiciary, fearing that if they did not, the justices would rule against them on two suits involving constitutional challenges.

Given that history, Common Cause alleges it is more than likely that last summer's unpopular pay raises were the result of a similar deal between Chief Justice Ralph Cappy and legislative leaders.

"What we are telling the court is that this may not be a unique instance, that this may have been going on at various levels for quite a few years," said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause. "We are asking the [federal] court to get to the bottom of it. If it is going on, it needs to be stopped and the federal courts need to put the hammer down."

Speaking on behalf of Cappy, Tom Darr, deputy court administrator of Pennsylvania, said: "It is regrettable that an organization like Common Cause, which has always stood for the principles of good government, would file such a frivolous lawsuit."

He added: "A preliminary reading shows the allegations to be preposterous, baseless and reckless and the relief sought ridiculous."

The suit provides as evidence conversations held behind closed doors between Republican members of the House in June 1999.

During that internal caucus meeting, then-Majority Leader John M. Perzel (R., Phila.), now speaker of the House, allegedly told colleagues that they were moving ahead with the court funding because "we cannot afford to have the courts rule against us" on the two suits. One suit involved workers compensation, the other an increase in the state tax on gasoline for highway-improvement projects.

Perzel's comments came after members of the caucus complained that the legislature should not give in to "blackmail" by the court, the suit contends.

Former Rep. Ed Krebs, who was at the meeting, attested to the allegation in an affidavit filed with the amended suit. In it, he also alleges that then-Speaker Matt Ryan told fellow Republicans that another member, J. Scot Chadwick, had acted as a negotiator with the Supreme Court on the matter.

In an interview yesterday from his Lebanon County home, Krebs said, "To me, it meant that if we didn't give them the money for the courts, we would lose the cases. It was a quid pro quo."

Krebs retired from the House in 2002 after serving 12 years.

Chadwick, a former Republican representative from Bradford County, told the Associated Press that he did consult with court officials over the 1999 legislation, but that the meeting was informational, not a quid pro quo negotiation.

"I think that would be very wrong," he said. "I am an attorney by training and that would raise a red flag with me immediately."

The high court wound up ruling in favor of the legislature in both cases.

That wasn't the only instance of possible collusion, according to the suit.

Last summer, the suit alleges, Cappy lobbied the legislature hard to implement the pay raise, which increased legislative salaries as well as those for judges and other state officials. It was rescinded in November by a contrite legislature that had been whipped in public-opinion polls.

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to both the pay raise and the legislature's move to overturn it. Cappy has recused himself from hearing the case.

That lawsuit quotes an August e-mail about the pay raise that was allegedly written by Republican Senate employee Suzanne O'Berry to Matthew Brouillette, head of the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think tank.

"I watched the formulation of all this up close with my 'special connections' to certain offices, and it was much more unsavory than a lot know," O'Berry wrote, according to the suit. "... I will say that family dining debate has become much more exciting."

O'Berry is married to Mike Long, a top aide to Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Jubelirer (R., Blair). Jubelirer is among the defendants named in Common Cause's suit.

O'Berry told the Associated Press that she does not recall the e-mail and had no other immediate comment.

Just last week, Perzel asked Cappy and the court for guidance in crafting a lobbying disclosure bill that would withstand legal scrutiny.

Attempts to reach Perzel and Jubelirer were unsuccessful yesterday.

The Common Cause lawsuit asks the federal court to declare unconstitutional private conversations between judges and members of the executive or legislative branches about legislation that might come before them.

Joining in the lawsuit with Common Cause are the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and state Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware) among others. The defendants include top legislative leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, as well as Gov. Rendell and state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr.

Contact staff writer Mario F. Cattabiani at 717-787-5990 or"