Friday, March 31, 2006

47: “We Endorse Katherine Harris in Florida Senate Race”

One of our favorite people over the past few years has been a woman of great personal integrity, as was evidenced by her work as the Florida Secretary of State during the 2000 presidential elections. Her calm devotion to duty under the most trying circumstances has lead to her vilification and public ridicule by the liberal press, which continues today, six years later.

We hereby endorse Congresswoman Katherine Harris for the US Senate to replace the ineffective and ineffectual Ben Nelson, the current Democratic incumbent. Katherine Harris has the guts and integrity so dearly needed in our nation’s capital, and its capitol. Few on the recent political scene bring as much of both to the table as does Katherine Harris.

THE CENTRIST’s first line of judgment when sizing a person up is to determine what level of trust the person engenders. Immediately, Ms. Harris comes to the top of the list.

Despite the manipulative polls, and the biased press, Ms. Harris remains particularly popular at the grassroots level, not only in Florida, but throughout the country. The CENTRIST wishes she would move to Pennsylvania and join Rick Santorum in representing this great Commonwealth in the United States Senate.

Katherine Harris is right (in more ways than one!) on all the important issues:

She is sound on Social Security, with a strong desire to protect the income and Medicare benefits of the aged and disabled.

She has a high priority on preserving promises to our nation’s veterans, an issue very important to THE CENTRIST.

She has an expansive approach to economic security that focuses on the family, a value dear to the heartland.

She is determined on defense, strongly for national security and the War on Terror, espousing President Bush’s policy of fighting that war on the terrorists’ turf, and not here in America.

She wants to see higher quality education for Florida’s children, and affordable housing for all Americans, while keeping a sharp eye on the environment so we do not short circuit our future on this planet.

These are all values THE CENTRIST espouses.

We not only encourage all Floridians to get out and vote for Katherine Harris for Senator, we encourage everyone who can to visit her website at
Katherine Harris For US Senate. Look it over, see in more detail exactly what this principled woman stands for, and decide for yourself.

Ms. Harris is fighting an uphill fight due to the liberally-biased press. She needs all the support she can get. Please contribute, as THE CENTRIST has, to Katherine Harris’s campaign, and encourage others to do so. If you have friends or family in Florida, please encourage them to do the same.

Washington D.C. needs many more people with the stature, character and integrity that Katherine Harris has demonstrated. Start by sending this deserving person to the US Senate!


“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
Copyright © 2006:THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

46: “Extra! Extra! Read All About It!”

Well, things are really moving at a very fast pace now, as efforts underway to clean up state politics continue, in spite of the new gambling bill passed in 2004. As it turns out there have been three recent articles posted online, one from the Online Edition of the Reporter, one from the Allentown Morning Call, and the other at the conservative blog Keystone Review. We’ll get to them in a moment. First, however, a comment. If the two main political parties in Pennsylvania think life continues on under the aura of “business as usual” they need to learn a very hard lesson in humility and reality.

Come the May primary, and later the November election, what you are about to read is going to go into the booth with the voters of this state, which both parties have demonstrably abandoned, in principle and in effect. How is this information going into the voting booths? The same way it is reaching you now, by unbiased reporting in the many fearless small daily newspapers around the state, and by unbiased bloggers like Keystone Review who have been abandoned by their party leaders. Those leaders have abandoned reason, principle, and their oaths of office for greed. They no longer work for the people, but only for themselves, and have lost all touch with the will of the people.

I salute the Keystone Review for its principled stand against the ongoing graft and corruption of our state and local government. I salute the smaller, area newspapers across the state, like the Record Online, who are sending reporters out to gather real news and track real problems outside the state capital. Oh, the big city newspapers, such as the Morning Call, are doing their job, too, primarily because these same politicians threatened them with a special tax which would seriously dent their revenues, and partially because they still retain that crusading spirit, even after decades of political bias and political friendships.

The people of Pennsylvania are fortunate to have the bloggers, the newspapers, and the grassroots groups like the people who sent these three stories to me, friend Dianne Berlin from the
Pennsylvania Family Institute and its sister Organization Pennsylvanians Against Legalized Gambling, and friend Russ Diamond of Operation Clean Sweep, and the friends over at Stop the Casinos in Limerick who sent us the third article.

Operation Clean Sweep sent out this note to alert us to the Keystone Review article on Brightbill and Jubelirer the top two Republicans in the State Senate. Please note that Keystone Review is a conservative blog which is, with this story, outing two Republicans for financial campaign misdeeds. If this story doesn’t make you angry, the next one will.

More Capitol $henanigans
can things get much worse for Team Incumbent? Apparently so...

Brightbill Relation, Jubelirer Aide Bought Off Pro-Life, Tax Groups?
We wanted to let you know about an interesting story from our friends at the Keystone Review blog. While the Keystone Review blog is a "conservative" outlet and PACleanSweep is a non-partisan organization, we believe all Pennsylvanians should take note of their discovery regarding the flow of money and power in Harrisburg.

Click the link below to read the story. If it makes you angry, forward it on to all your associates.

Armstrong accused
of using staff, office for campaigning In yet another story of Team Incumbent using YOUR tax dollars to campaign for office, The Lancaster Intelligencer Journal is reporting that Rep. Gib Armstrong, Jr. is under fire for allegedly ordering district staffers to conduct campaign operations while on the taxpayers' timeclock.
Now, Russ threw in the article on Gib Armstrong just for an extra treat. Thanks Russ!

Next we find the shenanigans of the Democrats, particularly one Robert Mellow, Brightbill’s Counterpart as floor leader for the Democrats in the Senate. It seems Mr. Mellow has the option to appoint one of the five members of the Gambling Control Board. His initial selection, a fellow named Conoboy, resigned late last week, and moving swiftly, Mellow replaced him with another person, with the same conflicting ties to an individual mentioned in the Keystone Review article, one Louis DeNaples, a Scranton resident and head of a group applying for a license to open a casino at Mt. Airy Lodge in the Poconos. You will find this hard to believe. Please visit the Allentown Morning Call and read the article [link below]:
Replacement appointee to gaming board raises eyebrows
Ray Angeli also has ties to slots license hopeful. Senator defends pick.
By Matt Birkbeck
Of The Morning Call
March 30, 2006

When Sen. Robert Mellow made his latest appointment to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, it was supposed to be conflict-free. But on Wednesday, Mellow found himself once again defending an appointee: this time, Ray Angeli and his ties to an applicant for a slots license in the Poconos.

Angeli, appointed Monday to replace William Conaboy on the gaming board, is president of Lackawanna College. The college's board has ties to Scranton businessman Louis DeNaples, who is vying for a license for Mount Airy Lodge. The college board chairman is DeNaples' brother, Dominick.

Two other associates of Louis DeNaples — Conaboy, who resigned from the gaming board a week ago, and Al Magnotta of CICO Associates, DeNaples' chief engineer on the Mount Airy project — also serve on the Lackawanna College board. Louis DeNaples is seeking a Category 2, or stand-alone, slots license for his $350 million hotel-casino at Mount Airy Lodge in Paradise Township.

Mellow, through a spokeswoman, scoffed at any conflict between Angeli and DeNaples, Conaboy, and Magnotta. ''Dominick DeNaples doesn't have anything to do with the gaming application and Sen. Mellow is satisfied there is no conflict,'' said Teresa Candori, Mellow's spokeswoman.

Read the rest of the article: click here
Who needs Tony Soprano when we have Louis DeNaples!?

Finally, we have this from The Reporter Online, in Montgomery County, that will show you the graft on a smaller scale. This gets as confusing as the first two.

Casino opposition spurs scrutiny
If state regulators allow Boyd Gaming Corp. to build a 3‚000-slot-machine casino in Limerick‚ township supervisor Frank Kotch will serve as a liaison between the company and the local government during the rezoning process. Kotch knows a thing or two about gambling. His resume includes more than six years in the casino and gambling industry in Nevada.

“I started as a dealer and eventually got up to a floor supervisor‚” Kotch said. None of the casinos he worked at were owned by Boyd‚ he said.

Kotch said his work experience would aid his understanding of the proposal‚ but not make him more likely to support it.

“I do have an insight‚ but is it biased? I don’t think so‚” said Kotch‚ who was first elected in 2005.

Kotch said that he has not been offered a job at Boyd if the casino goes through – but he couldn’t rule out the possibility of working at a Limerick casino if it were built. It would be‚ he pointed out‚ the largest local employer.

Local officials in municipalities where casinos are proposed face heightened scrutiny of their potential links to gambling backers.

Although public attention has focused most heavily on the competitive state process for awarding casino licenses‚ state politicians who were worried about Philadelphia corruption passed legislation this month to curb city politicians’ participation in casino zoning decisions.

Bucks County state Rep. Paul Clymer‚ R-145th District‚ has been a consistent critic of gambling.

“In looking at other states that have legalized gambling‚ we know that public corruption and organized crime will surely follow the industry’s formation in Pennsylvania‚” Clymer said in a press release touting the formation of a new unit in the state attorney general’s office devoted to public corruption.

Posters to sites like have speculated at length about possible misdeeds surrounding the plan. A site representative would not comment for this article.

Heading up Limerick’s board of township supervisors is Skippack developer and newly elected board chairman David Kane.

Questions about possible links between his firm‚ Limerick Township‚ and a real estate group that would benefit from the casino are unwarranted‚ Kane said.

“I resent the implication‚” Kane said. “We’re transparent about everything.”

Limerick‚ Kane said‚ is the only municipality not to have provided casino zoning so far.

And Kane’s expertise in development means the public can expect a more knowledgeable review process‚ he said.

“Nobody ever reports the good stuff‚” he said‚ adding that he volunteered long hours of his time to insure that Limerick got the best representation possible.

By day‚ Kane works as a developer for the Skippack firm he founded‚ Kane Core Inc.

The firm drew attention for a proposal to build a 17-story tower in Ambler‚ though that plan was withdrawn after considerable public outcry.

Attorney Michael Clement has represented Kane Core in Lower Providence and has litigated for the firm in a dispute with Franconia Township.

Clement also represents Boyd’s in Limerick.

Clement‚ of the Blue Bell firm Wisler‚ Pearlstine‚ Talone‚ Craig‚ Garrity & Potash‚ said he saw no problem presenting Boyd’s case to a board chaired by a member of a firm he’d represented.

Clement said the key point was that he didn’t represent the township.

“Obviously there is a limited pool of attorneys in the area who do development work and many of us represent interests which will come into play with each other but I don’t represent Limerick Township and never have represented Limerick Township‚” he said.

Beyond state guidelines‚ Clement said he examines any job for its potential appearance as well.
“The second consideration is whether there is an appearance of impropriety and I don’t think there is‚” he said.
Kane Core also has several government ties.

Kane’s co-founder‚ according to the firm’s Web site‚ is Mark Marino‚ who is chairman of the Skippack Township Board of Supervisors.

Marino recently became chairman of the Area 4 Republican Committee‚ a district that includes Limerick‚ Collegeville‚ Lower Providence‚ Perkiomen‚ Royersford‚ Skippack‚ Trappe‚ Upper Providence and Worcester.

Marino’s father is former District Attorney and former County Commissioners Chairman Michael Marino‚ who was recently appointed county solicitor.

Michael Marino also keeps an office at Kane Core and does occasional legal work for the group. “It’s a loose association‚” he said.

When Michael Marino was appointed county solicitor‚ Carolyn Carluccio was named to the newly created position of chief deputy solicitor. The promotion increased her salary from $68‚321 a year to $91‚773.

Carluccio’s father is Charles J. Tornetta‚ president of Tornetta Realty Corp.

Providence Properties‚ a related company that state records list as being headed by Lawrence F. Tornetta‚ made more than $31 million selling 125 acres to Boyd’s for the casino.

A project summary prepared by Boyd notes that “Tornetta Realty Corporation will retain 57 acres of the site for retail and commercial development.”

Charles Tornetta has served on the county planning commission since 1966 and chaired it from 1968 to 1991. He also serves on the board of Continental Bank with Clement.

Realty executives at Tornetta’s firm did not return calls for comment on the proposal.

Tornetta’s daughter Carluccio was appointed chief public defender about five years ago under Marino’s administration.

“I appointed her because she’s highly competent‚” Marino said. He said he’d known Charles Tornetta “forever.”

The idea that Carluccio’s employment had any bearing on the Limerick proposal was “the most absurd‚ ridiculous possibility in the world‚” Marino said. He described the association as a meaningless link. “You string ’em all together and you end up with nothing‚” he said.

County Commissioner Ruth Damsker‚ the lone Democrat on the county’s three-person governing board‚ said that Carluccio’s promotion came about because both she and County Commissioners Chairman Tom Ellis were pleased with her performance. “Michael did not choose to have her as a deputy‚” Damsker said.

“This is really a local issue and we really have no oversight whatsoever‚” said Damsker‚ adding that local issues like traffic would be much more important.

The traffic analysis included with Boyd’s local impact report was conducted by Pottstown-based Traffic Planning & Design and dated Dec. 16‚ 2005.

On Jan. 3‚ 2006‚ Traffic Planning & Design was named the new traffic consultant in both Skippack and Limerick townships.

Kane said the firm was the most qualified.

“As a board in Limerick Township we did tremendous research and did tremendous interviews to become educated” about professional consultants before hiring them‚ he said.

Read the article at
the ReporterOnline.
I love it when someone says, "Conflict of interest? No Conflict of interest here." It is so....unctuous. Just look at all the money being spread around in the name of development!

Our thanks to reporter Jeff Fenton for allowing us to reproduce his story. As you can see, this one has implications that ripple across the eastern part of the state. When you read about Mr. Kotch, take a look back as the other essay posted here today, THE CENTRIST # 45: “Why Pennsylvania is the Laughingstock of the Nation”.

Folks, one final set of groups to recommend to you. Pennsylvania Common Cause has been at the front of this fight since day one, as have our friends at Rock the Capitol, Bob Durgin at WHP, and our great friend Tim Potts at Democracy Rising: please visit his site to see what ideas exist for a State Constitutional Convention to fix these ethical problems we have in Harrisburg and locally throughout the state. Visit all of these sites, and get involved. Stay informed, and stay involved. It is the only way out of the mess these hubris-filled politicians have gotten us into. You owe it to yourselves, and you owe it to future generations of Pennsylvanians, for after all, we voted these folks in, and we voted in the people who selected these folks. This happened on our watch. Let’s fix it on our watch.


“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

Copyright © 2006:
THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

45: “Why Pennsylvania is the Laughingstock of the Nation”

(reposted from GettysBLOG)

It is a process not unlike the way vultures circle while selecting which carcass they will carve up among themselves. They come into an area far in advance of any development. They look around and see who is pro-development. After getting to know some people, they pick several out, as worthy candidates. They encourage them to run for township supervisor. They pay for their campaigns. They instruct them on what to do to get elected. Eventually, the hand-picked ones get elected. They are usually small business owners or construction contractors. They may have a direct connection to development, or they may not. If not, they do once they are elected. The candidate may even be a farmer who wants to retire and has a developer waiting for a rezoning of the property so it can be sold for five times the value of the actual farm. The farmer wins. The developer wins, and the community loses.

Welcome to the Third Political Party. They are king makers, for those who shine at the township level get the group blessing for a run at County Commissioner, or even State Representative if they show real talent. Their capital is not political, it is financial. Need $10,000 to run for State Rep? “No problem, why don’t we make it $12,000?” Need $25,000 to run for State Senate? “No problem, I’ll write you a check for $15,000 right now, and introduce you to my good friend from XYZ Bank, who has a 2% second mortgage for you for $20,000 more. Take your wife on a cruise.”

Third Party. It’s a cartel of developers and investors, and they have more political clout than the governor of the state. Their money and influence will back any party. That is, as long as they continue to vote pro-development. These people don’t even care what you say…as long as you vote right. Hence the supervisors who sit in a public meeting and decry the devastation of development, and then vote to change a zoning ordinance to allow development. Anyone who has ever been to a Straban Township Supervisor’s meeting and seen the now retired Roy Thomas at work knows exactly what I mean. “Oh, this is just a terrible thing, but I was forced to vote for it.” Sound familiar? They call it progress, economic development. Well, a little of that goes a long way. It is not needed in the amount they want to do. This will destroy Pennsylvania if left to go on unchecked.

There is a fourth party that is a coalition of groups that are fighting the casinos, from preservationists, to anti-gambling organizations, to community concerned citizen groups, to religious groups, to people who simply do not want to see runaway development (for those around Gettysburg, when you mention runaway development, think Bob Monahan, Dave Sites). The casinos proposed around the state have generated a number of these groups. Their problem is they remain fragmented, and thus they expend too much energy on their local fights, and not enough on the root cause. Coalesce into a statewide organization and you will have the power to defeat this monster called gambling. And if you defeat gambling you can defeat anything.

Last fall, a State Supreme Court Justice suffered the unheard of result of being voted out of office, with a second justice barely being retained. This was a clear and unequivocal message from the taxpayers and voters of the Commonwealth. The message was to the state legislature: repeal the pay raise! Enough of them got the message that they repealed it several days after the election.

Voter anger is still high. Many who accepted money early are keeping it despite the repeal, thus providing instant vulnerability on the campaign trail for themselves. (Thank you Steve Maitland!). Operation Clean Sweep is in full stride, with a slate of candidates that will put an enormous dent in the legislature if elected. And many of them will be elected.

The climate is right for those who are fighting the casinos to climb on board the Operation Clean Sweep campaign and help out, and thus gain a statewide voice for the repeal of Act 71 legislation that enables gambling In Pennsylvania.

We have pressed for the joining of the various anti-casino groups into a statewide grassroots organization several times here publicly, and have done so privately directly to a number of those groups. The fate of your communities is better served by a statewide effort to repeal the gambling act than by fighting the local fight. No Casino Gettysburg seems to have chosen to put its eggs in the basket of Steve Maitland, who has collected their hearts and minds by writing a piece of legislation prohibiting a casino in a county the size of Adams. The legislation, attached as an amendment to a large package of gambling related revisions, and additions, is currently gathering dust in the Senate after passing unanimously in the House. The Senate is allowing the Gambling Lobby to spread more money around while it searches for a poison pill to place in the legislation that will require the governor to veto the whole package. That would be the last anyone hears of Mr. Maitland’s bill. And he won’t be around after November to submit any more after he committed political suicide by keeping the raise money that was repealed.

Repeal. It is the only hope for all these grassroots organizations fighting proposed casinos in their back yards. Give back the $50 million collected as application fees, and tell the investors to write off any expenses as a tax loss. Dismantle the new Gambling Control Board agency, with 30 day pink slips. Tell Pittsburgh that if they can’t drum up their own support for an ice hockey team, they deserve to see the Penguins go to another city.

Then you can begin the business of reestablishing control over your state and local government. More than anything else, there need to be immediate changes made to the structure and rules of the State Legislature. No one should occupy a position of leadership for more than four years – total. No benefit or gain from financial expenditures by lobbyists, and that means, no dinners, no golf outings or hunting trips, no vacations, no Broadway shows, no personal loans, or gifts of cash, or any other thing of any value at all…not even a ball point pen! It also means no deposits in a legislator’s kid’s college fund account, no payments made to your bank for a legislator’s mortgage, and no sweetheart contracts for a legislator’s cousin, or for a staff member of any legislator. If you want something passed in the legislature, you make an appointment with your legislator and sit down and explain to him or her why it should happen. Then move on to the next legislator. All who lobby the legislature must file a complete detailed accounting of their financial dealings weekly, reviewed by the Attorney General’s office. Any lobbyist in violation will be barred from future lobbying, fined a minimum of $5,000, and charged with attempted bribery. Any legislator caught in violation will be removed from office on conviction of accepting bribes, and fined a value of ten times the amount received, not to be less than $5,000.

Another important change would be full public declaration of all campaign funds, none of which may be collected past a date three weeks prior to an election. Full declaration means a complete detailed list of all donations and their source, the occupation and employer of the source, and any direct or indirect relationship either by blood or by employment between the source and the candidate. The time schedule may not be amended, nor are corrections allowed at a later date. Failure to comply results in removal from the ballot for that election. This would apply to any elected office in the state, including down to district justices, township supervisors, zoning board members, municipal council members and the like, all the way up to and including governor. Everybody has the same rules. Want to run for office? Comply.

Still more, such as a recall petition process for every elected office in the state, reversion to part time legislature, reducing by half the number of representatives in the House, eliminating for all time, the travel allowances, meal allowances, and per diems for the legislature, and the courts. Allow legislators to ride any public ground transport for a token charge of $1. Redraw the legislative districts to conform to county lines, with a minimum of one, and a maximum of three house members from each county. In the cases of first class cities which correspond to a single county, the number shall be six. Each county shall decide, and be responsible for transportation costs incurred by the representative on transport between his home office and Harrisburg only.

Graft in our government will never be cleaned up, but only get worse, unless you take the problem seriously, and take direct action to get it out of government. With the combined efforts of all the anti-casino groups in the state and Operation Clean Sweep, Pennsylvania can start lifting itself from the bottom of the pile where it stands in effective, honest, open, graft-free government, where it has been the laughing stock of the nation for the past three years.

Our fourth President, James Madison, once said,

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."

He is referring to graft and corruption. It is rampant in Harrisburg, it is rampant in many counties, and in many townships, boroughs, and cities. And it is bleeding you, the taxpayer dry. You pay for it.

Draw the line, and stand your ground. Gather together statewide to make massive changes in the legislature. It all starts there. Let this “Third Party” know their money is no good here any more.


“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

Copyright © 2006:THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

44: “Pennsylvania, the Land of Graft”

(Reposted from GettysBLOG)
Our good friend Tim Potts over at Democracy Rising has sent his latest news piece along, with a scorecard for the (non)performance of Governor Ed “Fast Eddie” Rendell on the issue of lobbyist control. As you will see, it is pretty damning. Apparently “Fast Eddie”, who was in one heck of a hurry to get the Gambling bill passed in mid-2004, but is in no particular hurry to get a lobbyist disclosure and control bill signed into law.

Here is the latest issue of Democracy Rising News:


In this issue:
· Citizens’ Constitutional Convention (C3) Update
· Rendell’s Lobbyist Control Order – Three Years for This?

C3 Update
Thanks to all of you who have sent us ideas for debate and decision at a Citizens’ Constitutional Convention in 2007. DR Fans from across Pennsylvania have submitted dozens of good ideas on subjects from the legislature to elections to local governments to the judicial branch. We are now researching facts about your issues, including how other states treat them. As we finish our research, we will begin posting detailed information on our web site for additional comment.

In the meantime, interest in a constitutional convention continues to run strong. Here’s a timely editorial from the March 22nd
Pocono Record:

Rendell’s Lobbyist Control Order – Three Years for This? Let’s set the stage:

August 2002 – After 16 months of consideration, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared Pennsylvania’s lobbyist disclosure act unconstitutional, making Pennsylvania the only state in the nation with no law to control lobbyists.

January 2003 -- Ed Rendell becomes governor.

January 2004 – Pennsylvania is still the only state in the nation with no law to control lobbyists.

January 2005 – Pennsylvania is still the only state in the nation with no law to control lobbyists.

January 2006 – Pennsylvania is still the only state in the nation with no law to control lobbyists.

March 2006 – Gov. Rendell issues an executive order to require some disclosure of lobbyist activities with respect to the executive branch of state government.

In other words, for more than three years Rendell had an open field. On any day he could have issued an executive order giving the executive branch of our state government the highest standards of public integrity in America. No lawmakers could block him. No courts could overrule him unless he violated a previous court decision.

Instead, last week Rendell gave Pennsylvania citizens a campaign brochure disguised as
Executive Order 1980-18 Revision No. 4.

The True Cost of Lobbying. How does it hurt citizens and taxpayers when lobbyists take public officials on golf outings, to gambling parlors, to conferences in exotic locations, to championship sporting events, or “just” to dinner?

The hours and days a public official spends in the company of a lobbyist are hours and days that no one else has such access, and there are still just 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week. So the current system rewards wealthy lobbyists by letting them buy a public official’s time – in private and off the record. Meanwhile others with equally valid perspectives but who can’t afford such largess find it hard to get a 15-minute meeting.

Monopolizing the time that taxpayers have already paid for is what makes gifts and entertainment for public officials so hostile to the thorough, informed, balanced and public debate of public issues.

Timing is everything. Rendell said that he issued the executive order because he didn't think the legislature was going to enact a new law. Yet the Senate has had a rule about lobbyists (weak and not very informative, but there nonetheless) for years while Rendell dawdled. Plus, there is now reason to believe the House will act, despite years of claiming that no law is necessary. Speaker John Perzel recently formed a commission to prepare at least part of a new proposal. Contrary to Rendell’s statement, the legislature is more likely to do something now than at any time since Rendell took office.

Making Sense. Rendell said it doesn't make sense to ban gifts from lobbyists to public officials. Yet several other states think it makes sense. Florida in December became the most recent state to ban gifts. Even the U.S. Congress, never a leader in matters of public integrity, is now considering its own ban in the wake of the Abramoff scandal.

What doesn't make sense is to allow private interests to influence public officials in ways that personally benefit the public official. What doesn't make sense is the assumption that private interests would spend millions of dollars a year and not believe they were getting anything in return. What doesn’t make sense is the idea that these personal gifts and perks have any public purpose at all.

Not Peanuts. So Rendell’s order allows $250 worth of gifts per year that lobbyists don’t have to report. It also allows $650 per year in “travel expenditure reimbursements" that lobbyists don’t have to report. That’s $900 a year, per lobbyist, per public official.

Imagine an issue that has a few key decision-makers but several groups that would be affected. If just 20 well-heeled lobbyists provided the maximum unreported gifts and entertainment to a state official, it could equal $18,000 worth of influence spending that personally benefit the state official and that lobbyists never have to report. There are estimated to be 800-900 lobbyists in Harrisburg.

EXCEPT, the Governor’s Office points out, that executive branch employees are required to report gifts of $100 or more and “any payments for services, including any travel reimbursements.”
Q&A on Lobbying.)

In other words, lobbyists don’t have to report a lot of things that employees have to report. Skeptics can just hear a lobbyist saying to a public official, “I don’t have to report this $900. Why should you?” At the very least, having two different reporting requirements makes it harder to reconcile reports and arrive at a clear picture of the influence of lobbyists.

Bureaucracy. Here’s another reason to ban gifts that makes sense: A ban would eliminate the bureaucracy needed to track all that self-reported gift-giving and to make sure that reports are timely filed, placed on the Internet, etc. Ban gifts, and all of that bureaucracy disappears.

Enforcement. A ban also would allow more resources to go toward enforcement, which the governor admits is beyond the power of an executive order.

So Rendell’s order says, in effect, "We'll put some information out there and it's up to the citizens to catch us breaking the rules, although there are no real penalties for lobbyists who break the rules anyway."

Any time government pushes enforcement of the laws and rules onto the citizens, government will not take the laws and rules seriously. It knows that citizens have other things to do – and that citizens believe they’re already paying for enforcement.

Transparency? While the governor’s order requires some information to be put on the Internet, even that doesn’t go far enough. Reports will be searchable by lobbyist and by whoever hired the lobbyist, but not by public official.

Citizen-enforcers need to see the information by public official – the public decision maker that lobbyists attempt to influence. It will be exceedingly valuable to see how often and by whom any individual public official deals with lobbyists on the whole array of public policy decisions. Rendell’s executive order makes that crucial information next to impossible to find.

It also would be helpful if reports could be filed daily and placed online immediately. Waiting months for these reports could make the difference between citizens having the chance to participate in their government or being shut out once again.

Questions for Rendell
What took you so long? Did it have anything to do with slots?

Why doesn’t it make sense to ban gifts and entertainment to public officials? Which public officials deserve to receive gifts and entertainment from lobbyists who can afford to provide them? How does such preferential treatment help public officials to make decisions that benefit ordinary citizens?

Are you concerned about the appearance of impropriety?

Why doesn’t your order require lobbyists to use the same reporting rules -- $100 for gifts and “any travel reimbursements” – that employees must follow? Would the number of gifts between $100 and $250 and a full accounting of entertainment expenditures be too much of a burden for lobbyists to report? Is the purpose to inform the public or to make reporting convenient for lobbyists?

Why isn’t the database of lobbying activities under the executive order searchable by public official? Why isn’t information made available to citizens in as close to real time as technology allows?

Why aren’t you leading the effort to give Pennsylvania the highest standards of public integrity in America when it comes to controlling the activities of lobbyists, among many other things?


Thanks, Tim. I suspect that the answer to that last question is because so many people would lose their jobs, and perhaps go to jail if a lobbyist disclosure law were enacted. Now that our great governor has brought us legalized gambling it is safe to say that not only is Pennsylvania government the laughingstock of the nation, it is also the most corrupt. All the more reason for outfits such as Democracy Rising and Operation Clean Sweep, and Common Cause of Pennsylvania to exist. Bless you all, friends, for the great work you do on the front lines of Democracy in Pennsylvania. What a pity that in the state where our nation was formed on the principles of Democracy, Liberty, and Justice, we now have little of any of those qualities to our life.


“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

Copyright © 2006: “THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

43: “More on Pay Raise Suit, Gambling Board Connections”

Folks, this is very serious business. Thanks to a couple of very sharp and able citizen watchdogs and watchdog groups, the ludicrously stupid and blatantly illegal actions of our State Supreme Court and our State Legislature in their conspiracy to steal from the tax payers last year was exposed for all the world to see, and the process mostly reversed. Now, it is time to hold accountable those who would run rampant over your rights as a citizen of Pennsylvania, and of the United States, and then blithely, and arrogantly attempt to dismiss your concerns.

Here is news by way of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
[link to Inquirer Story - click here.]

Group asks U.S. court to take over
pay-raise challenges It says state high court justices have conflicts of interest because their pay hinges on the outcome.
By Peter Jackson, Associated Press
Sat, Mar. 25, 2006

HARRISBURG - A government watchdog group asked a federal judge yesterday to seize jurisdiction over lawsuits that challenge a now-repealed law that increased the pay of top state officials.

Common Cause of Pennsylvania said the justices on the state Supreme Court, which is poised to consider several such suits, have conflicts of interest because the level of their own salaries hinges on the outcome.

Common Cause filed its own lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg last fall. Its latest filing seeks a court order barring the state's highest court from acting on related state lawsuits until 60 days after the federal case is resolved.

"It is the only way citizens of Pennsylvania can attain any confidence in the potential outcome of this high-profile case," said Barry Kauffman, the group's executive director.

Federal intervention is warranted because, among other things, all the Supreme Court justices have a financial stake in the outcome of the case, the group said.

The law, which legislators repealed last fall amid a public outcry over their own raises, included salary increases of as much as 15 percent for the state's more than 1,000 judges.

The state Supreme Court has scheduled an April 4 hearing in Philadelphia for oral arguments on several related cases, according to the court prothonotary's office.

One is citizen activist Gene Stilp's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the pay-raise law that lawmakers approved without debate or hearings early in the morning of July 7.

Also to be argued that day are lawsuits filed by two judges seeking to resurrect the judicial raises.

Chief Justice Ralph Cappy has recused himself from those cases.

Common Cause argues in its brief that, while federal courts' authority to interfere with state courts is limited, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld their role as "guardians of the people's federal rights" in the event that state actions jeopardize those rights.

Common Cause reprised its allegations that state legislative leaders and state Supreme Court justices may have improperly swapped financial support for the court system in exchange for a favorable court ruling. State court system officials have called the charges baseless and reckless.

As evidence of possible bias, the group also noted the chairman of the state Judicial Conduct Board, Mark C. Schultz, is the brother of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Schultz Newman. The board investigates complaints of ethical misconduct by judges.

Contacted at his Philadelphia law office, Schultz acknowledged that the Supreme Court appointed him to the board. Schultz also said he joined in the board's unanimous vote last month to dismiss a complaint, filed by Stilp, that alleged Cappy violated ethical rules by pushing for higher judicial wages among members of the legislature.

Like all complaints the board receives, this one was independently investigated by the board's staff, and the board voted on the staff's recommendation, he said.

"Obviously, if I felt I was compromised, I wouldn't have participated," Schultz said.

Of course you wouldn't have, Bubby! Well, if this isn’t a perfect example of why nepotism is proscribed in public office, I don’t know what is.

Our Judges should know better. Our legislators should know better than to conspire with the Judges on an unconstitutional pay raise. Watch out for the cover-up, folks, and don’t be surprised when you find out that there is money from that pay raise still going out to the judges. There were deals cut even on the repeal! The judges threatened the legislature if they tried to take away the raise from them, and several judges have sued in Commonwealth Court (there’s a fair venue, eh?) to keep the pay raise, citing a Constitutional Amendment restricting the legislature from reducing judicial pay unless all high officials of the Commonwealth also have their pay reduced.

THE CENTRIST will be frank with you, this whole thing has taken on a shape that seems to suggest that the Judges, specifically Supreme Court Justice Ralph Cappy, conned the entire state legislature by waving a whopping 16-34% raise under their noses, and the greedy buggers bit like a hungry bass after a grasshopper on an August evening.

Cappy played legislative leadership (read: Fumo, Brightbill, DeWeese, Jubelirer, Mellow, O’Pake, Piccola, Wenger, Conti, Costa, Smith, Veon, Argall, Taylor, Cohen, Evens, Feese, and our greatest legislator, the man who doesn’t know the difference between a car and a limo, Speaker of the House John Perzel) into passing by stealth (in the wee hours of the morning during last minute back and forth between the house and the Senate over the budget) the enormous pay raise, figuring they wouldn’t get caught, and the electorate didn’t care, and even if they did, they’d forget by election day. The level of hubris in Harrisburg has long since risen above flood stage.


In another Inquirer story, related only by its sense of corruption and cronyism in Harrisburg, a member of the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board resigned yesterday declaring he wanted to spend more time with his family, and his day-job with a health care firm. William Conoboy, who’s wife’s young cousin was hired by the Gambling Control Board in January as a press aid, cited family as the reason he was leaving. The young man was recently arrested in the death of his girlfriend, who dropped 23 stories to her death after the drunken young man let go of her.

But that’s not the story here. Here is the real story. Conoboy works for a healthcare firm in the Lehigh Valley. The Chairman of that firm is Louis DeNaples. Conoboy himself sits on the board of a local bank, along with DeNaples, who chairs that board as well. The bank holds the mortgage to Conoboy’s home. Sounds like friends helping friends, right? No harm here, right? Conoboy even made $95,000 last year by exercising his stock options with the bank. All clean and legit, right?

Louis DeNaples has a pending application before the Gambling Control Board for a license to operate a 3,000 machine slots parlor at Mt. Airy Lodge in the Poconos.

There is nothing in the state Gambling law that would protect you by preventing situations like this. Read what the Inquirer has to say about pending amendments to the Gambling bill that deal with conflicts of interest.

[Link to Inquirer Story - Click here.]

Oh, and one last tidbit about Mr. Conoboy, who is a lawyer [what did you expect?]. He has drawn $145,000 in salary from his seat on the Gambling Control Board. I guess he just now found out about his buddy DeNaples’ license application. Do ya think?!


“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --

"It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs." -- Albert Einstein

Copyright © 2006: “
THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 24, 2006

42: “The Further Decline of Steve Maitland”

As if it weren’t bad enough that Maitland refuses to return the ill-gotten money he took in the form of an “unvouchered expense” last summer, now he stoops to new lows with his bogus Public Service Announcements (PSAs).

Oh, he is not the only one.

Members of the General Assembly have funding available to them to promulgate information by way of PSAs. Any legislator can send out info, or make a TV commercial like PSA, and pay for it with tax payer money.

The problem arises with the approach to elections and the increased occurrence of such PSAs. An ad for Senior Citizens, the latest a guide for services available for senior citizens in Pennsylvania, prominently featuring Maitland on one side – very prominently - arrived in the mail today, just a few short weeks before a primary election that has Maitland facing a serious primary challenger for the first time in Dan Moul, and in trouble as an incumbent thanks to his record with the notorious pay raise last summer.

Maitland has worked very hard to overcome the negatives of his behavior over keeping the money, in particular the lame excuse of using it to pay for law school so he can be a better legislator! Hello?!?! You will never be a better legislator if your ethics and moral rectitude are in question because you don’t know right from wrong! But hard work alone does nothing to atone for the wrongs committed by Maitland, and the wrong he continues to commit and to attempt to justify. He is to be congratulated on his attempt to forestall a casino in Adams County, but it is an effort that would have been better suited to 2004 when the state’s gambling bill was passed (in the same, sneaky, nefarious way that last year’s pay raise was passed!). But he had just been elected then, and now it is before the election. In light of his actions over the pay raise money, and now sneaking the campaign ads out as PSAs, one is correct in questioning his motives. Some people will do anything to stay in office.

Not only is he keeping money that belongs rightly to the tax-payers of Pennsylvania, he is also attempting to maximize his positive exposure with these PSAs touting great programs for seniors, none of which he had a whole lot to do with, and that he is putting before you using money from your pocket!

Do not be fooled by the PSAs shown on your local TV stations, and on cable channels in the Adams County area (Adelphia), or by the ones that come in your mail. These are nothing more than slick, subtle campaign ads designed to make your representative or senator look good, and socially responsible.

Frankly, it is long past time for the concept of career politicians to come to an end. Time for term limits, and Maitland has already gone way past his promised 12 years and out. He is running for years fifteen and sixteen now.

Its time to send a message to Maitland and the General Assembly, that misconduct, bad ethics, and bad moral choices will not be tolerated. Pay for law school on your own hook! Get a real job and not one that amounts to political welfare.

Things in Pennsylvania politics are about to change drastically. Operation Clean Sweep and other grassroots organizations are in full swing backing slates of candidates facing incumbents in the primary election. Many members of the legislature, seeing what was coming, already decided not to run, and did so in record numbers. That’s fine, as it means fewer incumbents to defeat.

It is a great pity that someone would wreck his entire legislative record over a series of stupidly greedy, selfish decisions involving a few thousand dollars. But apparently that is the value of integrity in Harrisburg these days.

The behavior of the General Assembly over the past two years is nothing short of contemptible.

Do something about it. Spread the word. Kick them all out of office and let God sort them out!


“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

Copyright © 2006:THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

41: “Operation Clean Sweep Amends Lawsuit”

This just in from friend Russ Diamond at Operation Clean Sweep, the organization behind around 100 candidates for election to the General Assembly in an effort to unseat the incumbents:

PACleanSweep Moves to Amend Federal Suit
filing includes evidence of activity inside the Capitol

ANNVILLE, PA [03.23.06] - Legal counsel for PACleanSweep and its founder Russ Diamond today filed an Motion to Amend and a First Amended Complaint in their ongoing federal suit against House Republican staffer Bob Nye and others. The First Amended Complaint includes evidence of computer activity within the Capitol in Harrisburg in connection with Nye’s anti-PACleanSweep website.

An email notice regarding the website, carrying a domain name registered by Nye on February 8, was distributed to PACleanSweep supporters, candidates and coordinators in the early morning hours of February 11 and grabbed headlines across the state just before candidates for state office were to begin gathering signatures to get their names on the May 16 primary ballot.

The Amended Complaint includes evidence from logs provided in response to a federal subpoena which indicates that at least one computer with an IP number assigned inside the Capitol logged activity on the anti-PaCleansweep website on February 9-10, before the information was disseminated to the general public. Also included is evidence of subsequent activity from at least five other IP numbers within the Capitol, from both the state House and the Senate.

Nye submitted a declaration to the Federal Court claiming he worked alone constructing the website, using only a personal computer located at his home in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County.
Keep at them Russ. To misquote in the Latin, “Non Illegitimi carborundum est.” And let’s do get a good sweep out of the General Assembly, starting by reducing the field of incumbents as a result of the May Primary.

While we’re at it, we thought you might enjoy this little tidbit, courtesy of our good friends at Operation Clean Sweep:

Hopefully, this will not only reach some of the knuckle-heads keeping the money, but will show them how ludicrous their behavior is.


“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

Copyright © 2006: “THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

40: “In the Name of Christianity?”

How pleasant to open up’s website this morning and see the headline story about three hostages that were rescued by our wonderful Special Forces folks over in Iraq. Up front, let me say that the rescue was accomplished while the hostages were not being guarded. I assume they were locked up, however.

THE CENTRIST has always been of the opinion that anyone who voluntarily goes to a place like Iraq or Afghanistan in their current climate of unrest, does so on their own hook. They are not there at the request of the government, not our government, nor the governments of Iraq or Afghanistan. Nevertheless, our military, and the agents of other countries risk their lives trying to rescue journalists, and missionaries who have been abducted, particularly in Iraq.

Connect the dots: their presence in Iraq invites hostage-taking. The Missionaries in particular do so because they are proselytizing for Christianity in a Islamic world. Islam is the foundation for the antipathy toward anyone from the west. At present, there is an Afghani who converted to Christianity many years ago, and held that fact a secret until recently, and is now on trial under Sharia (Islamic) law in Afghanistan, and faces the possibility of execution for rejecting Islam! All this while our Christian and non-Christian soldiers are still there fighting to help keep their country a Democracy, after having thrown out the Taliban, perhaps the most brutal and repressive, and oppressive regime since Adolf Hitler, or Joseph Stalin.

As a Christian, I rejoiced at the freeing of those three men. The men, one Brit, and two Canadians, were all members of a Christian Peacemaker Teams unit, As I read the article, however, I became at first nauseated, and then outraged by the comments from their organization. Here is a significant portion of their statement:

Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.

Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained their spirits over the past months. We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace.

Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. That support continues to come to us day after day. We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq.

Read their statement at their website: , or not.

Well, excuse me. THE CENTRIST is a Christian, and like the Christian Peacemaker Teams, the first thing I did was thank God for their safe deliverance, but unlike the Christian Peacemaker Teams I then thanked God for the Special Forces team that rescued them, and I thanked God that those Special Forces and their Iraqi counterparts involved in the rescue were not harmed, either.

If the Christian Peacemaker Teams thinks the presence of U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq to provide a semblance of order and stability to the country until the Iraqis can do it themselves is illegal, then why don’t they go to the World Court at The Hague, and file charges? Because they know it is an absurd concept. Instead, they put themselves and our forces in harm’s way to serve their political agenda.

Nobody from Christian Peacemaker Teams risked their lives to rescue the men. But they chose this time to politicize the event, and slam the U.S. How very Christian of them. Those men had no business there in the first place; yet they placed the lives of American and Coalition forces at risk.

These people are no different than the Islamic fanatics who blow themselves up. Like those Islamic fanatics, they are zealots, and do not represent their respective religions. Like all zealots, they justify their extremism by pointing to historical predecessors. In the case of the Christian zealots, they point back to the time of Christ when zealotry abounded in the Holy Land. And zealotry existed because the Roman Empire was vulnerable, fading already less than a century after it was declared. It was truly a time of near anarchy when Jesus walked the Earth, and there was rebellion in the air. Jesus himself was persecuted and prosecuted by more than one political entity because he threatened their power, and they feared him. Jesus is the model zealot, who gave his life for his beliefs. But there any similarities end. Jesus was gentle, peaceful, non-violent, and tolerant. Rarely did he push an issue of disagreement: at the Temple with the money-changers. He did what he did out of love – love for mankind.

The Christian Peacemaker Teams act from political agendas, and from religious sophistry. They talk a good game, but under it all is a political agenda from the extreme left. To extend out their philosophy to its logical end, the [evil] U.S. [warmongers] should free Saddam Hussein and return the keys to Iraq to him, then haul ass outta there. Then Saddam can go back to killing Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, and Iranians, and Kuwaitis to his heart’s content.

Frankly, we ought to hang on to those three we just rescued until the ingrates from the Christian Peacemaker Teams reimburses the Iraqi and U.S. governments for the cost of their rescue. And the per diem until they pay up!


“Stamp out intolerance!” -- 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

Copyright © 2006:
THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Alert: IRS to Allow Your Data to be Sold!

The IRS is going to allow tax preparers to sell your personal and business tax data. Yes, you read that right. The IRS is issuing a rules change (without benefit of Congress!) that will allow tax preparers like H&R Block, and Jackson-Hewitt, or Pete, the guy down the block from you who “does everybody’s returns for them”, to sell your tax information to marketers, credit bureaus, and the like, which means it will fall into the hands of those who will use it against you.

Your tax information is the deepest intrusion into your personal life the law allows any government agency to make. It surpasses the data given to the census, which is (supposedly) not linked to your identity. Your personal income, investments, marital status, prior marital status if paying or receiving alimony, Social Security Number, size of your family, who’s a student, who’s disabled, who had high medical expenses and if they were high enough to gain a deduction, what those expenses were for is there, too.

The IRS is doing this by stealth. They have recently published notice that they are making changes to IRS Regulations and Rules. “…Not a significant regulatory action", they say.

“Not a significant regulatory action?" Are they nuts? Obviously, some companies have lobbied the IRS to make these changes simply so they can gain increased income from the sale of the data, and so other companies not bound by confidentiality can store the data for later sales to market research firms, credit bureaus, or just plain no-goodniks.

The IRS says it is only trying to give more control to the taxpayer’s data by requiring preparers to get a signed release! Do you read every word you sign under at Block’s?

This is a pitiful attempt at diminishing personal identity, and exposing the taxpayer to identity theft, or unscrupulous use of their data. Further, in the case of families, it gives the permission of the one or two persons (if filing jointly) to sell the personal data of everyone on that return – including kids.

Imagine the eventual onslaught: you will be inundated by demographically matched sales people, calling you, sending you emails, and snail-mails, and even camped out on your doorstep waiting your arrival home from work, with sales pitches tuned to your family’s data. Have a nasty neighbor you don’t get along with? Watch out they don’t go to the online XYZ Data Repository and buy your tax data to look for things to use against you.

Specifically, by requiring the tax preparer to obtain your authorization for the release of your data, the IRS is saying to the preparer that they can do whatever they want with your data – as long as they get your release.

It is not too late to stop this. There is a 30 day public comment period after the prospective rules are published. While it is too late to post comment at the IRS website, there is still time to register your outrage by snail-mail at:

CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-137243-02)
Room 5203
Internal Revenue Service, Box 7604
Ben Franklin Station, Washington, D.C. 20044

You know what to do. And, while you are writing them, you should call your Congressman and Senator and get them to move on this. It’s an election year, so they should be responsive.

See an expansive article about this at the Philadelphia Inquirer, titled
IRS plans to allow preparers to sell data.

This is reprehensible. Let’s get it stopped now.


“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

Copyright © 2006: “THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

39: “And So It Begins…”

An article from the Harrisburg Patriot News on Friday, March 17, 2006 reports the Liquor Control Board has been conducting a large number of raids on social and veterans’ clubs in the midstate area to crack down on illegal small games of chance.

Read the entire article at

Chances of gaming raid rise at midstate clubs
Friday, March 17, 2006
Of The Patriot-News
The state has fined dozens of veterans posts, social clubs and fire companies in the midstate as part of a statewide crackdown of organizations offering small games of chance, such as bingo, punch cards and raffles.

For the past year or so, agents of the state police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement have been inspecting clubs in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon and York counties to ensure that they are obeying the state's law regulating games of chance.

Many club operators said they are being fined based on an outdated law that was passed in the late 1980s. They said restrictions on the size of prizes and use of the games' proceeds have not kept up with inflation or clubs' needs.

Some club operators said they fear the crackdown could force their clubs to close. It also has fueled theories that the state wants to make future slot-machine parlors, such as the one planned for Penn National Race Course in Grantville, the only gambling venues around. While the bureau has stepped up inspections the crackdown has nothing to do with the planned slots parlors, said Lt. Doug Martin, a spokesman for the Liquor Control Enforcement Bureau.

"There's no correlation between that whatsoever," Martin said yesterday. "We have not changed the manner of enforcement because of the slots law that was passed. Personally, I think [the increase in inspections] is because we've had recent training on it, so the officers are better educated about what clubs are allowed to do."

Sure, Doug. Whatever you say.

This gambling thing is going to ruin an awful lot of the things people in the Commonwealth do to raise money for non-profit organizations. They say they won’t but they will. They say they’ll pull their customers from as far away as 140 miles, but less than 10% will come from that far away – 80% of their gambling customers will be local. That’s taking an awful lot of money out of the communities local to the gambling establishments. Much more than will ever come back in through the apportioned contributions built into the legislation enabling gambling in the Commonwealth.

This is a very ugly thing your governor and your General Assemblymen and women have done to you.


“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

Copyright © 2006:
THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

38: “Gettysburg Casino Blocked by PA House”

A minor step was taken last night in Pennsylvania’s road to recovery from governmental hubris, incompetence, and outright greed. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a legislative package including an amendment that would prohibit construction of a casino in Adams County under its current designation as a sixth class county, based on six year old census statistics. The amendment, sponsored by local representative Steve Maitland, passed in the chamber by a 199-0 voted.

The House unanimously declared that no such operation belonged near a heritage tourist area. The explanation why placing a casino in Limerick, Montgomery County and only 7 miles from historic Valley Forge National Military Park was not also considered for such exclusion is that there is no way found yet by the House to formulate a bill that would do so, that would not also affect proposed casinos in Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh because of the location of National Historic Parks in those two cities.

The house also eliminated the right of legislators to own percentages of casinos, but inserted language restoring the right of the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board to override local zoning laws when granting licenses. The zoning override portion of the original enabling legislation was struck down by the State Supreme Court last fall. Like the rest of the package (the Gambling Ethics Bill), there is no guarantee of the future of any of the legislative package as it must now go to the Senate, and perhaps a committee to work out a format acceptable to both chambers. Then, of course, it must go to the governor.

What Rendell may do is totally a mystery. While he has gone on record as saying a casino in Gettysburg is a bad idea, he may find something in the legislation to warrant a veto of the whole bill. In other words, there may be a poison pill in the bill now, or it may be inserted later by the Senate. Nevertheless it is cause for some restrained celebration locally as this is a major step in eliminating the threat of a casino from the Gettysburg area. Still to come are the hurdles of the Pennsylvania Senate and the governor’s signature. There is also the threat of some potential litigation if David LeVan and company “do not go gentle into that good night.”

Also, the jury is still out on what happens if Adams County no longer meets the criteria of “sixth class county”. With the development juggernaut at full steam ahead in Straban Township, and other areas of Adams County, the next census will not have Adams placed that low. It is one of the fasted growing counties in the state.

As this blogger has made clear repeatedly, the casino, while anathema to the historical aura and name of Gettysburg, is not the biggest threat to the county. The run-away development in Straban, Cumberland, Mount Joy, and other townships, and in the boroughs and surrounds of Biglerville, and Fairfield, threaten to forever change the nature of Adams County and Adams County tourism, and very soon. What the casino symbolized the developers will accomplish over the next five years unless Adams County citizens start making demands of their township and county elected officials to stop it.

Finally, we will be the first to congratulate Mr. Maitland on his work if the bill goes through and if it contains no loopholes allowing a casino back in after Adams experiences its expected growth rate in the next few years. But even that is soured by his record last year. Much to his great shame and discredit, Mr. Maitland still refuses to return money received unconstitutionally and illegally from the Pay Raise of last July, even after it was repealed. Not only will Mr. Maitland keep the money illegally, he attempts to justify it by claiming he is using it to pay for his law school tuition so he can better serve his constituents. Mr. Maitland will not only benefit from retaining these illegal funds, but they will count toward increasing his retirement, and no one knows how long that will pay out. We would still like to see those who have not returned the money arrested and charged with felony theft. They should also be stripped from the legislature immediately with a loss of all rights, privileges and benefits, including retirement. No one should benefit from a crime.

Apparently Mr. Maitland has not yet passed his ethics and logic courses in law school.

In the meantime, we remain committed to Mr. Maitland’s removal from office by the electorate, along with all the other incumbents in the legislature and the governor’s mansion. We have endorsed Maitland’s Democratic challenger, Alan Henry, an Operation Clean Sweep candidate.

Along those lines, we are pleased to note that Operation Clean Sweep has fielded candidates for Governor [Russ Diamond], and for Lieutenant Governor [Gene Stilp]. More about them in an upcoming essay.


“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

Copyright © 2006: “THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

37: News and Views – March 13, 2006

News and views from around the state, around the nation, and around the world!

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Do your part, lose on slots
Sunday, March 12, 2006
By Brian O'Neill:

…Those seeking slots licenses had contributed $330,000 to political candidates and causes by last October, in the first 14 months following slots parlors approval. More than half that money went to Gov. Ed Rendell and the state's four top legislative leaders, two from each party, and the political action committees they control. Gov. Rendell also went out to Las Vegas last year to seek contributions from casino operators and slots manufacturers for the Democratic National Committee.

America's Largest and Most Expensive Full-Time State Legislature is now considering reform. (Pause for laughter.) Dozens of changes in the 20-month old casino law are possible. The state might even prohibit elected officials from having a stake in a casino, rather than owning up to 1 percent of the gold mine, as any hack can under current law…

Read it all at:

Frankly, I’d refer to them as America’s Largest and Most Expensive and Greediest Full time State Legislature!


From the Pottstown Mercury:

Limerick residents question pay of gaming consultant
Mike Castiglione,

LIMERICK -- Township residents are questioning the exact role and salary of a politically connected consultant the supervisors hired as their liaison with Boyd Gaming Corp.

The Board of Supervisors hired Michael Pincus as the township’s economic development and community outreach consultant last month.

Pincus’ duties and his $150 an hour fee were the main topics for discussion at a Thursday supervisors’ meeting.

At the request of members from the Spring-Ford Area Chamber of Commerce, Pincus had arranged a meeting Tuesday with officials from Boyd Gaming, the company proposing a casino in the township. A few residents were curious about the nature of that meeting and who else knew about it. At least one resident showed up at the township building inquiring if the meeting was open to the public.

"There was no one from Limerick Township in any official capacity at this meeting," Pincus said Thursday, adding that Township Manager Dan Kerr briefly sat in on the meeting at the township building. "It was basically the information that you saw in (Sunday’s edition of) The Mercury. There was no information given that (residents) don’t already know about."

Resident John Holsey took issue with Pincus’ comment.

"I would think that an employee would not have the minutes published in The Mercury by a reporter," Holsey said. "Having it go through a reporter and get reported to me is not acceptable.

"I would think it would only be good business practice to record minutes of the items discussed, and that certainly should be public record to keep a paper trail of what was discussed. I know that if I had a $150-an-hour consultant, I would certainly want some feedback."

Kerr said that many meetings are held in the township building for information gathering purposes, and that minutes are not recorded for all of those meetings…

Read it all at:

Boy, does this ever sound familiar?!! That’s the same stunt Chance Enterprises pulled in Adams County.


From proposed Federal legislation:

Check proposed regulations restricting Indian Tribes from operating in states besides the ones in which they are located.

Read it all at:

Soooo, why are there so many Indian Tribes vying for licenses in Pennsylvania?


From the Times of London!

The Times March 13, 2006
Secret plan to open a thousand casinos
By Sam Coates

PLANS to allow more than 1,000 new casinos to open within a decade have been uncovered by The Times. Months after Parliament agreed a limit of one super-casino and 16 smaller ones, a government report reveals that hundreds could be built every year.

The report, written by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, also reveals that there are nearly twice as many gambling addicts as the Government first claimed.

Read it all at:,,17129-2083553,00.html

Wow! This is loaded. But it couldn’t happen here! Could it?


“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

Copyright © 2006: “
THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 06, 2006

36: "Testimony"

In CENTRIST 34: “This is Very Important”, we passed on information about a hearing to be conducted today in Harrisburg. Stalwart friend Tim Potts from Democracy Rising has sent us his comments. Without further ado, here are Tim’s comments from today’s hearing:

Statement by Tim Potts, Co-Founder
Democracy Rising PA
On the passage of Act 71 of 2004
March 6, 2006

Good morning. I’m Tim Potts, co-founder of Democracy Rising PA, a coalition of organizations working to give Pennsylvania the best state government in America.

Democracy Rising PA has never taken a position on the merits of gambling. While we may care deeply about certain aspects of Act 71 – or about Act 71 in its entirety – that’s not what brings our organizations together.

The founding organizations of Democracy Rising PA are the League of Women Voters of PA, The Commonwealth Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, Common Cause/PA, and Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania. During the campaign to repeal the pay raise, we affiliated with even more organizations including Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania, Rock the Capital, Pennsylvania Citizens for Legislator Accountability, and PA Clean Sweep.

These organizations are new and old; large and small; left, right and center.

What brings us together is our belief that Act 71 was enacted in an unconstitutional manner, an idea that is conspicuous to most Pennsylvanians but invisible to our Supreme Court justices. They saw nothing wrong with the way Act 71 became law, despite a process of lawmaking that we believe violated at least four separate provisions of our Constitution. These include provisions that most people recognize as a requirement for laws to be considered on at least three different days in the House and three different days in the Senate.

Here is what happened.

This is the original House Bill 2330, which ultimately became Act 71. It’s a page and a half. It was considered for 47 days without amendment in the House and 100 days without amendment in the Senate – 147 days total.

Then, on a holiday weekend, House Bill 2330 was amended with 146 pages of language the public had never seen before. In a matter of hours, lawmakers passed it to a governor who was proud and eager to sign it.

And this (a blank sheet) is every word that the original bill and the final law have in common. This is every word that actually got three days consideration in the House and three days consideration in the Senate.

On issues as important as this – on all issues, frankly – there is no excuse for excluding citizens from the chance to participate in their own government’s decision-making. This is not national defense. No one’s life was in jeopardy had they taken the time to follow the unambiguous language of the Constitution and show a little respect for their constituents.

This is the age of the Internet, when finding out what constituents think is easy and convenient. There is no excuse for conducting the people’s business in a way that makes it impossible for citizens to do their duty.

And the governor and lawmakers know it. The reason they passed this law as they did was that they knew people would want to express their opinion about it, and our political leaders just didn’t want to hear it.

The only people they wanted to hear from were the lobbyists, who were and are effectively unregulated in this state to our national shame.

This is no way to enact laws that 12.8 million people have to live with and pay for. This is no exercise in representative democracy. This is no display of fealty to the Constitution they swore to obey. This is no way to treat people.

But thanks to our Supreme Court’s rulings, this is the way any law on any subject could be enacted in Pennsylvania. What’s the worst thing state government could do to you, your family, and your community? Whatever it is, it can be enacted overnight before you have any chance to object because of the way the Supreme Court has misinterpreted our Constitution.

In fact, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Act 71 gave the “all clear” for last year’s pay raise. Just two weeks after the court ruled on Act 71, lawmakers and the governor used exactly the same process to give officials in all three branches substantial pay raises without public knowledge, without public hearing and without public debate.

At Democracy Rising PA, we recognize that without such bad behavior, we wouldn’t have much to complain about. To which we say, “Go ahead. Put Democracy Rising PA out of business by giving Pennsylvania citizens the highest standards of public integrity in America.” We’ll take that deal any day.

Until then, we can take strength from the growing engagement of people around gambling and other state government issues. Pennsylvanians are learning that state government doesn’t have to be as bad as it is here. In fact, just about every other state practices representative democracy better than we do.

The integrity of a democracy is measured by how it controls lobbyists, opens government budgets and records to public view, holds lawmakers accountable for their complete voting record on Election Day, prohibits “ghost voting” by lawmakers, makes it easy for citizens to participate in their government, whether as candidates or as voters, controls the illicit influence of money on elections, and many other things.

As people learn how awful Pennsylvania is, they’re starting to re-assert their power in the voting booth and reclaim a democracy worthy of the name. Last year 806,000 fellow citizens removed a sitting Supreme Court justice for the first time in our history.

This could be the start of something good. This year and next, voters will have many opportunities to reward deserving public officials and to remove those who just don’t get it. People are becoming committed to integrity.

With regard to Act 71, if we are committed to integrity, we could repeal Act 71 and start over, making the people of Pennsylvania the first partner in knowing and guiding what any new law will contain. We could have statewide discussions about who decides where slots parlors are located. We could find out how much taxpayers could receive if licenses were sold at auction. We could find out how much gambling companies will save if they don’t have to buy machines through a state-based broker. We could learn what can go wrong for children and families and communities in time to prevent it instead of just clean up after it.

Or we can amend Act 71 to ensure Pennsylvania citizens that their law is the best of its kind in America, providing the clearest transparency, upholding the highest ethical standards, and guaranteeing help for both the compulsive gamblers and he inevitable innocent victims that always accompany gambling on a large scale.

We citizens can do it. All of our public officials were elected, so we have already exercised our power. It is our hope at Democracy Rising PA that more citizens will exercise and increase their power by choosing public servants who work to ensure we have the best government in America.

If we’d had enough public servants of that kind in 2004, we wouldn’t be here today. We might still have slots gambling, but at least we would have confidence that a majority of our fellow citizens made an informed choice about such a monumental change in public policy. And most likely, we would have a better law that the one we have.

We wish you well as you continue to shine a light on what’s wrong and lead the way to what’s right.

Thank you.

No. Thank you, Tim Potts. Your eloquent statement has put so much in perspective. We finally see the connection between Act 71 and the Midnight Pay Raise. We finally see that the hubris in Harrisburg is so thick one can hardly breathe. We finally see that it isn’t just the legislators, but the governor and the supreme court that are all complicit in this insult to the Pennsylvania Constitution, and the citizenry of Pennsylvania.

Please visit Democracy Rising to see what you can do to put ethics and integrity back into state government.

And before you vote, GettysBLOG!


“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

Copyright © 2006: “THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.