THE CENTRIST has been torn all winter over the Republican endorsement for Pennsylvania's next governor. We were at odds over the three main choices, Scranton, Swann and Panyard. When the Scranton campaign fumbled it reduced the field to two. We had already reviewed Panyard back in December in THE CENTRIST #4: "Anti-Gambling Republican for Governor". Jim Panyard came out in favor of repealing the virulently unethical legislation enabling gaming in Pennsylvania, Act 71 of 2004. We were thrilled to have a candidate who promised to sign, not veto, a repeal of that legislation.
We queried Lynn Swann's campaign about it by email. No response. We sent another query. This got a response from "Receptionist" (apparently someone who screens Swann's email), and promised that THE CENTRIST would hear back shortly from David Alexander, Deputy Political Director. After another week, we sent a follow up message pointing out that political candidates really should not treat friends this way. Still nothing. After several more days, we sent a final email to "Receptionist", informing them that not only would there be no endorsement of Mr. Swann from THE CENTRIST, there would indeed be a non-endorsement posting. This is it.
We believe the Republican Party of Pennsylvania has made a terrible mistake. Frankly, except for a select few, no one in the state knows exactly what Lynn Swann stands for, besides less government, lower taxes, restricting abortion, and educating our children. In other words, 'boiler-plate' Republican issues.
"So what?", you ask. We are glad you asked that question.
The greatest threat to Pennsylvanians today is not more or less government, it is not abortion, it is not the state of our educational system, it is not high taxes. All of these ARE issues. But the greatest issue in Pennsylvania today is the massive corruption of our body politic. By that, I mean, not just the elected officials from Governor to dog-catcher, but the people who back them politically...the party committees, the ward leaders, the local and county and statewide organizations that now rely on voters to walk into a booth and pull the party lever.
Who are these people? Many of them are your friends, relatives, and neighbors. Many are not. Many of them are committed to political ideals, while others are committed to backing candidates who will thank them by passing legislation that will make them money. The higher you go in the hierarchy of politics in the state, the greater the number of those seeking wealth and power, and the fewer who are idealistically motivated. There are few idealists in politics at the state level.
The proof is in the pudding. Look at our state legislature and our governor. Last year they tried to sneak an enormous pay raise through in the dead of night, hoping no one was watching. 16-34%. And it was done at the bidding of the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The governor, who's wife is a sitting Federal judge, signed the legislation into law. All parties tried to defend it when the news hit the streets. It created enough voter anger that an organized, grass roots campaign got a sitting state Supreme Court justice ousted from office, and only a last minute flurry of campaign ads by former governor Ridge, saved a second justice from a similar fate.
The legislature repealed the raise in November, AFTER the election. There was no admission of wrong doing, or even of 'errors of judgment'. To this day, there are still legislators who have kept the money they took by way of a highly unethical, probably illegal "unvouchered expense" under the raise. Rendell refuses to press the issue.
In 2004, in the very same underhanded and furtive manner, the legislature passed Act 71, which enabled gaming in Pennsylvania. There is so much wrong with this legislation that we would need a few more essays to lay it all out. Suffice to say that it is replete with unethical, unconstitutional, and perhaps illegal sections which allow, among other things, the legislators to secretly own investments in casinos, even while being the appointing body to the Gaming Control Board (GCB); the right for the GCB to allow a casino to be built anywhere, regardless of local opposition, or zoning laws; the right of the GCB to act in secret, to limit public comment, and to meet in private.
Perhaps the biggest threat to Pennsylvania is the harm that will be done by the presence of gaming to its citizens. The gaming industry has been shown to prey on addictive persons, primarily gambling addicts and alcoholics. In many cases, persons who had no idea they were addictive wind up being addicted to both gambling and alcohol. Both are destructive of the individual, the family, and social and economic network surrounding them, and the community social framework.
There are not a lot of people who will get rich from this industry. A handful of investors, a large number of out of state investors and partners, and a bunch of politicians. The odds against Joe Citizen striking it rich in a casino in Pennsylvania are astronomically high. And odds mean very little to the addicted gambler. A recent story on the news told of a woman who gambled daily on her way to work, and stole from her son to support it. At one point, she lost all her money, and on the way out of the casino, was searching the floor for one more nickel to get it all back. This is typical of the desperation created by gambling addiction.
Clearly, Pennsylvania government is in the hands of ‘developers’ – the somewhat nebulous group of investors, builders and some realtors, who are guilty of imposing runaway development on some parts of the state that need little development, while ignoring the large portions of the state that are in need of economic and physical development. This group includes those who would build casinos. Because there are several state agencies that oversee how land is used in Pennsylvania, there is no clear strategy to control development. It is going strictly where it will provide the biggest payoff for the ‘developers’. The worst culprit is the state Department of Community and Economic Development, with its very powerful Commonwealth Financing Authority. They finance the local, County Economic Development Corporations who have totally lost sight of their purpose. They build wherever there is green – space to build on, and money to make.
The laws must be rewritten to correct this as there is simply no protection any more for the rights of the citizen to own property.
Article One of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania states in its Declaration of Rights:
Inherent Rights of Mankind
All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
Reservation of Powers in People
To guard against the transgressions of the high powers which we have delegated, we declare that everything in this article is excepted out of the general powers of government and shall forever remain inviolate.
Natural Resources and the Public Estate
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
Lynn Swann takes no position on any of these issues – not gambling, or political corruption, or runaway development. For all the voters of Pennsylvania know Swann may be an investor in a casino, and therefore unwilling to commit to the repeal of gaming in Pennsylvania. So this same man who cares so much for your youth that he wants to see them properly educated, and cares so much for the unborn of Pennsylvania, who wants to reduce your taxes by reducing your government, may very well care less about the adults in this Commonwealth being seduced by alcohol and gambling into addictions requiring greater government, and more taxes to handle the growing treatment of problem addicts fostered by the gaming industry in Pennsylvania.
We do not know if Lynn Swann feels that way or not, but we cannot afford to take the risk in not knowing. There is too much at stake.
We had great hopes for Mr. Swann – an outsider with charm, name and face recognition, and a clean background. He seemed to have a message, but when we looked for it, it wasn’t there. Indeed, his own voting record casts a shadow on his fitness to run for elected office, having not participated in many of the elections over the past decade. If he was not interested in Pennsylvania politics then, how can we be sure he is interested now? The fact is, even as an outsider, Swann's endorsement last weekend by the Republican State Committee smacked of politics as usual, and lacked any indicators of the required reforms as demonstrated by the voters last November.
We cannot, and will not, under any circumstances, advocate voting for Ed Rendell. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Not only has he practically destroyed many of the departments in state government, he is the principle architect of gaming in Pennsylvania. That is a hideous affront to the people of this Commonwealth.
We cannot back Lynn Swann. He is an empty candidate, who charmed his way to the state committee endorsement, gaining it by default more than anything else.
We don’t need a schmooze artist as governor, as we have now. We need a man of character, ethics, and strong moral fiber.
There is one man that fits that bill, but he has withdrawn from the race for financial reasons. That is Jim Panyard.
Come the May Primary Election, I am writing Jim Panyard’s name in as my choice for Republican gubernatorial candidate. If necessary, I will do the same in November.
I encourage you to do the same.
“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” -- THE CENTRIST
"It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs. " -- Albert Einstein
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