Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama Can Do No Wrong

The American Thinker Blog wrote this piece in 2007. It describes how Barack Obama made a pledge that he would complete his term in the U.S. Senate and not seek a higher office. Ruthless ambition on his part and political expediency on Arlen Specter's part.

But that is not the reason for this column. The media villified George Bush for increasing spending and increasing the size of government. The same media pushed for Obama who is doing the same damn thing. During the election I said you could buy Obama on QVC; he was a package being sold by the DNCC and the Dems. Nothing has changed.

Specter In 2001 Against Party Switching

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

PA Legislature Budgetary Malpractice Charge

Captial Ideas guru John Micek writes about Pennsylvania's budgetary woes. His notes include Senator Jake Corman who is quoted as stating if lawmakers adopt Rendell's budget plan as it's been presented to them "The Legislature would be guilty of budgetary malpratice."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Obama's First 100 Days!!

According to Barack Obama has the best job approval ratings in 20 years. He has half the country thinking he is headed in the right direction. The problem is that the other half, that by the way didn't vote for him, don't believe in his direction.

If you have hope I don't want to be the grim reaper but sit back and think about it. The government has throw BILLIONS at a problem with more money needed. Althought the residential real estate debacle has surfaced the commercial real estate catastrophe has yet to make it to night time news in a significant way. Folks, it is coming. We are seeing a false economy propped up by government money. No wonder everyone thinks Obama is doing well. I will give you billions. See how your economy fairs out.

I spent this evening with a member of the Blackwater Group. He has been a friend for about five years. May 7th they are done in Iraq. We talked about the media and its reporting of the interrogation techniques used by the United States. ABCnews also has a piece about a former Bush administration official who was against the techniques used on Gitmo detainees. Does anyone remember Nick Berg or U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl?? Nick Berg was an American citizen not associated with any military contract unlike my friend. He was murdered while it was being videotaped. He was executed by decapitation while fully alive. I posted his picture to remind everyone about the atroicity a live killing must feel everytime the media talks about Gitmo detainees who are still alive.

If you want to see torture read this article by ABCnews about the involvement of Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, brother of the United Arab Emirates crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed.

The government statement said its review found "all rules, policies and procedures were followed correctly by the Police Department."

When you deal with animals you must treat them according to the rules they live by. Lions show no mercy. Alligators show no mercy. Sharks show no mercy. Getting beaten with a board with exposed nails, having sand shoved in your mouth while a police officer holds you down, having salt poured into your wounds, having an electric cattle prod used against your testicles. And the liberals are worried about waterboarding.. Pleeaasseee...

Read Tony Phyrilla's column about Obama's 100 mistakes in 100 Days..

Bonusgate-Bonuses And Political Contributions

Tracie Mauriello of the Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau writes an interesting piece about bonuses that are part of the Bonusgate investigation and political contributions made by those charged in that scheme.

When Bill DeWeese was House Democratic leader in 2002, he gave his Harrisburg aides $1,000 or $2,000 bonuses.

Six of the recipients contributed identical or nearly identical amounts to Mr. DeWeese's re-election and the House Democratic Campaign Committee that year or in 2003, records show.

Nine other recipients that year made lesser contributions to the two committees.

The bonuses and contributions came to light in the discovery phase of a criminal investigation into allegations that the House Democratic caucus used tax dollars to subsidize campaigns.

You will read vehement denials about a link between the bonuses awarded and campaign contributions in the article but this about sums it all up.

One recipient of a 2002 bonus, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said the House Democratic Campaign Committee sent mailings to employees' homes with lists of staffers who had contributed to various campaigns.

"I'd see the list and say, 'My name's not on it. I'd better give in case DeWeese or Veon is looking," the recipient said. "I made sure I gave at least something to Veon, DeWeese and the campaign committee, even if it was just $50, just to be on the list."

What strikes me odd is the audacity of those involved still feel their behaviors was/are acceptable and normal. People in Harrisburg better start "getting it." Notice I don't say Democrats or Republicans. Both parties are complicit in the culture that flourishes in our state Capitol. It is the way our constitution allows the majority party to control everything that happens. There should be no majority or minority. There should be a union of people who work for the greater good of this Commonwealth. I guess I better stay on my medication to quell these common sense thoughts. Forgot that's the other blog.

PA State Pension Grab- Taxpayers Bear The Burden

Pennsylvania taxpayers will soon be facing a tax burden of insurmontable proportions. Mark Scolforo of the Associated Press writes a column about the great pension grab of 2001 and its impending impact on all of us in the very near future.

Depending on what happens in the stock market, taxpayers could soon find themselves stuck paying more than $5 billion in additional annual payments.

The figure is a moving target. But in a March presentation to a state House panel, the state's two large public-sector pension plans estimated that the $821 million a year they currently get in "employer contributions" _ the vast majority of it from taxpayers _ will need to grow to $5.7 billion a year by 2012.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this potential slow-motion train wreck, not the least being state lawmakers' unwillingness to face up to the consequences of their 2001 vote to increase their own pensions by 50 percent.

It was part of legislation that also increased pensions for about 300,000 teachers and state government workers by 25 percent. And in the following year, lawmakers pushed through a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees.

All those fresh obligations triggered a sudden need for massive taxpayer support, so in 2003 the Legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell _ then in his first year _ struck a deal to rejigger the financial structure of the pensions to delay the problem for a decade.

The Legislature and Rendell could have eased the pain by making larger contributions into the pension systems, but chose not to.

As recently as last June, then-Budget Secretary Michael Masch called for higher payments into the systems, warning that failing to act would likely result in a crisis in 2012-13. The budget that passed a few weeks later did not address the pension shortfalls, and the current budget debate centers on how to fill a $2.3 billion hole _ not on spending that might make it larger.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Let's Educate The Hazleton Area School Board

If any member of the Hazleton Area School Board had to apply for their job they would not get hired. They lack the proper credentials to run a school district, let alone one the size of Hazleton Area at $105 million. Let's discuss their ridiculous dress code. What you see above is called cotton spandex leggins. It is meant to be a "layered" piece as in worn with other clothing like this.

Girls are being called out on wearing this clothing. So let me get this straight. A girl wants to be modest about the dress she wears so she puts on leggins underneath. It earns her a trip to the office. Some of you older members remember tights. Tell me the fundamental difference.

Not only is the student sent to the office, the student must remain in the office NOT GETTING EDUCATED until, if or when, a new set of clothes arrives. In the Hazleton Area School District this situation only happens in some of the buildings. West Hazleton ignores the codes, Freeland ignores the code, and the High School ignores the code. If the child is lucky enough to end up in those institutions the child WILL GET EDUCATED.

The policy is not applied "uniform", pun intended, across all buildings in the district. Board Members, are you worried about looks or is educating the student more important? Do all of you wear collared shirts ALL the time? Quit your social experiment on inflicting ridiculous rules and get down to the duties and responsibilities of your elected office. If you want a uniform look go to uniforms. If not, abandon the policy. After graduation the children are going to express themselves in the manner they believe fits their personality. You are not going to prevent that from happening.

Bob Sypniewski for Controller-the interview- Gman

Read The Gort-man's interviewZ with Bob Sypniewski running for Luzerne County Controller.

Pat Toomey, Arlen Specter, Barack Obama, And Conservatism

Joe Collins writes an opinion column over at that addresses whether Pat Toomey is too conservative to win Arlen Specter's seat. You can click on the link to read his very interesting observation.

Something happened in the Presidential election that almost goes unnoticed. The media, the Democrats, and all of the "jump-on-the-bandwagoners" pounded Bush and the Republicans for doing a terrible job. They claimed it was time to try a new strategy. Yet, at the same time they claimed Bush and the Republicans abandoned their conservative principles to government, spent too much money, threw fiscal restraint out the window, allowed sub-prime mortgages so people who could not afford homes got them, signed a Medicare prescription drug program that expanded that massive social program, and passed budgets packed with pork that ballooned the national debt. Folks, that is the Democratic program. It didn't work, yet Barack Obama will have us believe that more of it is what this country needs.

Tom DeWeese(not to be confused with Bill DeWeese) wrote a prophetic column in 2004 about Bush abandoning the Republican mantra against Big Government and Big Spending.

Still, the White House argues that the economy is on the rebound and, if one looks at events on Wall Street, housing sales, and other economic indicators, such a case can be made, but what is being ignored is (1) the huge debt Americans, old and young, have individually as they struggle to pay rising property taxes, (2) meet the demands of an income tax that takes more than forty percent of their earnings, and (3) pay the countless hidden taxes on everything that affects their daily lives.

As (4) jobs disappear to nations where wages are so much lower than ours, (5) as our manufacturing base decreases, as (6) our agricultural interests reap more government financial support, as (7) more and more jobs in America become “service”, i.e., low-pay Mac-jobs, and (8) as the most important segment of our economy, entrepreneurs and small retailers, are strangled with endless mandates, ordinary people who vote are asking themselves if this White House understands or cares about their problems.

Are there differences between the Republican and Democrat Parties? Yes, but the line has been so blurred by the policies and actions of the White House, a rising tide of distress is being expressed from within the Party... As my Democratic friends stand behind Barack Obama's policies keep in mind that George Bush wasn't any different. It is only perception that fools the untrained eye. And not supporting Obama's policies is not a stand against America, it is a stand for America.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Corruption In Pennsylvania- Who Knew

Did you know that the Texas legislature which is 150 members strong meets for 140 days every two years to complete its work? Thank Karl Rove for that statistic. Did you know that the Texas Senate, unlike other state legislatures, does not include majority or minority leaders? Did you know that both Representatives and Senators in Texas are paid $7,200.00 annually? In addition, they are paid a "per diem" of $128 for every day of the legislative session, making their total just over $25,000 per year.

What is "Political Culture"? Let's take a look at this link from the University of Texas.

Simply put, political culture is a people's shared framework of values, beliefs, and habits of behavior related to government and politics. These ideals and patterns of behavior develop over time and affect the political life of a state, region or country.

More specifically, the concept of political culture refers to how we view the following four aspects of politics, government and society:

the relationship between government and the people

rights and responsibility of the people

obligations of government

limits on governmental authority

Political culture is important because it establishes the backdrop against which politics unfolds. It establishes the outer limits of what is possible, or even probable, in the political realm.

An interesting article, Corruption: No Longer an Iffy Proposition in Pennsylvania, from Franklin and Marshall inspired this post. I think their analysis is right on the mark.

The question is no longer a speculative one. No longer can we ask "if" corruption, widespread and systematic, is returning full bloom to Pennsylvania. Instead, it is now time to ask "why" - why after an absence of a quarter of a century, the blight of public corruption has returned to the Keystone State.

4. Pennsylvania's Zero-Sum Legislative Politics - Driving this feverish push for campaign cash is Pennsylvania's not well understood "zero-sum" legislative politics. In the General Assembly power is concentrated in the hands of the majority caucus. The party that holds a numerical majority in each chamber gets to decide almost anything and everything that matters in state government. In the instant case, that means control over the $29 billion Pennsylvania budget and virtually every major policy decision made by state government, such as Governor Rendell's health care, energy, and education recommendations and most certainly how the state closes the $2.3 to $2.9 billion deficit it faces.

Control of the agenda allows the majority to wield virtually dictatorial power, all of which reduces the minority to mere bystander status. Aggravating this is the current closeness of House control - with one party holding a majority by only a few seats - rendering competition fierce. This situation helps to create a legislature where winning is everything, setting in place an inexorable set of dynamics that explain in part the activities that led to the recent "bonusgate" indictments.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

State probing Hazleton for its resale of untaxed gas- Who's Probing The Reporting?

There was a movie which starred Paul Newman and Sally Field called "Absence of Malice". It was great drama depicting corruption in the Justice Department intending, on the surface, to solve a crime, but, beneath the waters, to further political careers.

James Wells (played by actor Wilford Brimley) had some great lines that made the famous quote section. "Now we'll talk all day if you want to. But, come sundown, there's gonna be two things true that ain't true now. One is that the United States Department of Justice is goin' to know what in the good Christ - e'scuse me, Angie - is goin' on around here. And the other's I'm gonna have somebody's ass in muh briefcase."

The New York Times published a movie review by Janet Maslin. Here are some excerpts from that article. "Its heroine, Megan Carter, violates so many basic rules of journalism—from neglecting to check her story to sleeping with the man it is about—that it becomes impossible to view her behavior as representative. And yet, through Megan, the movie is able to raise a number of questions about reportorial tactics and the difference between what is accurate and what is true."

Megan (Sally Field) erroneously reports that Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman), a Florida liquor wholesaler whose father was a gangster, is implicated in the disappearance of a local labor leader. She has been tricked into doing this by a too-eager Government investigator (Bob Balaban) who knows that Gallagher is innocent but would like to pressure him into naming names.

So what does that movie have to do with the headline? Steve Mocarsky wrote an article in the Times Leader yesterday without fully checking the facts, misreporting the facts he did have, adding flare to the description of his source, and overall violation of the basic rules of journalism.

He reports that the Department of Revenue is "investigating" the City of Hazleton "sale of untaxed gasoline and diesel fuel to for-profit companies". That fact is almost true. There is no investigation. The Department asked for information from the City which fully cooperated in providing that information to help the Department determine whether a practice that has been ongoing since at least 1999 was according to its rules. Had Mocarsky checked the facts he would have realized this practice by the City of Hazleton was occurring way before Lou Barletta took office.

In 1999 under former Mayor Michael Marsicano the City of Hazleton was supplying Operation Overcome, a non-profit, with fuel from its purchasing contract without collecting any taxes owed on the sale. The Administrator for the City allowed the non-profit to purchase the fuel. The Admininstrator was not the same person who is administrator under Lou Barletta's terms as Mayor.

As part of a continuing practice the Hazleton Community Ambulance Association was allowed to purchase fuel under the City of Hazleton's fuel agreement during Barletta's administration. The ambulance association lost the right to be first responder under the Barletta administration. Members of the association were not happy with the Mayor, opposed him at election time, yet the City allowed the sale of fuel to continue as before. That fact should dispell any notion that the sale of fuel was based on political considerations although Mr. Mocarsky wants his readers to believe it was.

He describes his source this way. "City watchdog Dee Deakos said she believes the two private companies received an unfair advantage over their competitors." Dee Deakos ran against Lou Barletta for Mayor and garnered a whooping 84 votes. Folks, it takes a hundred signatures to get on the ballot.

A more correct description of Dee Deakos might be "political operative", "political opponent", or "political detractor" but certainly not a watchdog. Dee, are you violating Hazleton law by renting to a church in a zoning district that does not permit that type of rental? Dee, did you allow political signs in the last election to be posted in front of your Broad Street property in violation of a Hazleton Ordinance? Mocarsky why don't you check those situations out? Some watchdog, political opportunist is more like it or political pendejo.

In response to charges by Dee Deakos that political contributions were the motive for the fuel purchase Dr. William Pavlick, current president of APTS, said that if Deakos “bothered to get her facts straight,” she would have found that APTS was first responder for basic and advanced life support “long before we bought the company.” He issued a written statement stressing that APTS will no longer buy fuel from the city. Mocarsky, why did you print her comment when it was plain wrong? It gives a slant to the article that is totally inaccurate.

In another inaccurate statement Deakos said former city administrator Sam Monticello “should have known it was illegal.” Go back to my paragraph where I describe the Administrator before Monticello who started the practice. Why would Monticello question it when there seemed to be no problem for a previous administration?

Mascaro was the only bidder for the 2008-2012 contract. The city received a letter from competitor Waste Management of Pennsylvania declining to bid for the contract. Mocarsky, did you ever see the scope of the Hazleton contract? Do you know that its size prevents many companies from bidding because they do not have the bond capacity or the manpower to meet the terms of the contract? Did you bother to see if Mascaro donated to Barletta? Here, I did it for you. Why slant the story otherwise??

Deakos said the companies were “cheating the state” and “cheating us because we get part of the gasoline tax for highway aid. When it’s not collected, there’s less money for pothole repairs,” Deakos said. Since the investigation has not concluded and no determination has been made how does Deakos know her statement that the companies CHEATED is true? Mocarsky how can you print such a statement that is not factual? Are you innocent until proven guilty in this country or does that rule not apply to Republicans?

Luzerne County Commissioner Steve Urban said the county was also “being short-changed” because the county receives liquid fuels money from the state based partly on fuel sales. Both companies have agreed to pay any monies owed plus penalties. In the end no one is going to be short-changed or cheated.

Finally, Mr. Mocarsky answer these questions? If you purchase an item out of the state of Pennsylvania and fail to pay the sales tax due is it up to the retailer to collect the sales tax due or do you have to voluntarily submit the tax to the state? Have you ever heard of the Use Tax Volutnary Program or the Voluntary Disclosure Program? Some of the laziest reporting I ever saw, slanted for a political purpose is my opinion.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Clinton: Piracy Is Funny

No explanation necessary

Al Roker Recieves Eggplant From The White House

Did anyone see this video today? Al Roker gets an official "eggplant" from the White House pastry chef. Mulunyan or Melanzana are Italian for eggplant and used as racial slurs to denote black persons(African-American). I wonder why this presentation wasn't more closely scrutinized by the White House.

Tick, Tick, Tick, Booooom!

Hank Grezlak, editor-in-chief of The Legal Intelligencer writes a great opinion piece titled "Lokuta's Case Is a Potential Bomb for the Supreme Court." It is too volumunous to highlight here so click on the link; it's a superb article.

Tensions Are Rising In And Around The Luzerne County Courthouse

The Legal Intelligencer's Peter Hall wrote an article that can be found here concerning the rising tensions inside the Luzerne County Courthouse over the expanded investigation into uninsured and under insured motorist cases(UM/UIM).

The FBI subpoenaed about 80 case files April 2 from the Luzerne County Courthouse as part of the agency's investigation into allegations regarding a possible scheme to inflate uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist arbitration awards by having plaintiff-friendly neutral arbitrators assigned to their cases.

Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. handled 12 of the neutral arbitrator appointments -- more than any of the other nine judges on the list except Conahan and Toole.

Of the remaining 27 cases, nine were handled by former judge Ann H. Lokuta, who was removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline last year for reasons unrelated to any criminal investigation; seven were handled by Judge Hugh F. Mundy; six by Judge Joseph M. Augello; two by Judge David Lupas; and one each by Judge Thomas F. Burke and President Judge Chester B. Muroski. One case on the list did not include the name of a judge assigned to handle it.

The Law Weekly first reported rumors that federal authorities were investigating alleged case fixing in UM/UIM arbitration cases in February. In the wake of that story, Muroski launched a review of the court's procedures to appoint neutral arbitrators.

Sources later confirmed the FBI's investigation was ongoing.

Well, you know you can click on the link to read the entire article. However let me highlight the following:

According to court records examined by the Law Weekly involving a selected group of 10 major auto insurance companies, plaintiffs lawyers filed petitions to appoint neutral arbitrators on 43 occasions between 1995 and 2008.

In 29 of those cases, the same six law firms represented the plaintiffs. In 13 of the 43 cases, attorneys from the same six firms, all of which market themselves as plaintiffs firms, were also appointed as neutral arbitrators. Twice, there were no records for plaintiffs attorneys. The names of the appointed arbitrators were not recorded in seven cases.

In 22 of the 43 cases, the judge was either Conahan or Ciavarella. There was no record of a judge in two of those cases.

The outcome of arbitration in which the lawyers named participated is not a public record. There is no evidence to suggest that the result of arbitration in the cases examined was improper. Nor is there anything to suggest plaintiffs law firms did anything improper to be appointed neutral arbitrators. Ciavarella and Conahan have not been charged with anything related to allegations of fixing UM/UIM cases.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

When Will We See Our Full Time Legislators Earn Their Pay

Go to the Pennsylvania Democratic Appropriations Committee website. You will see the following:

Budget Crisis: click here for the latest information or to ask a question.

Welcome to the House Appropriations Committee (D)

Subcommittee Hearing Schedule
Please watch this space for future developments

Dwight Evans is chairman of the Democratic Committee on Appropriations. Mr. Evans, how can you cite a budget crisis but then state-"Please watch this space for future developments"? Shouldn't the schedule be full if you're working on it?

Folks it gets even better. Go to the Budget button and click on it. Then click on the link Budget Briefing: Fiscal Crisis - January 29, 2009. The page cannot be found. The same thing happens when you click on Forum on the Economy(Power Point Presentation). Dwight, pay attention.

Todd Eachus, when does Hazleton get some money?? Here is his latest press release. Exactly how much money from gaming have you earmarked for Hazleton? Time to stop playing partisan politics and time to prove your worth to the biggest voting base in your district. What serious money have you ever brought to Hazleton? You were elected to represent your district, not do Governor Rendell's bidding for him.

More Property Assessment Values vs. Sales Price

In an article that appeared in yesterday's Times Leader a property owned by Robert Mericle and his wife, Kim went on the market for $399,000.00. He successfully argued to the Luzerne County Assessment Appeals Board that the house was only worth $235,200.

Today another article appears in the Times Leader written by Jennifer Learn-Andes discussing a different property that seemed to receive the same treatment.

Former Luzerne County commissioner Todd Vonderheid’s property was in the sample group, with a sales price 56.7 percent higher than the assessment.

Vonderheid and his wife sold their century-old restored brick home on West River Street in Wilkes-Barre last month for $520,000.

The assessment: $331,900.

21st Century originally valued the property at $427,500.

Vonderheid said the appeal board granted the reduction because his appraiser valued the property around $331,900 based on the assessments of similar-sized homes in the same neighborhood, the “riverside historic” district.

The mantra of the reassessment was that property values were supposed to be uniform with others in the same neighborhood, Vonderheid said. He estimated school, county and city taxes on the property will increase from $4,500 to about $7,600 with the $331,900 assessment.

More interesting stuff.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mericles Trying To Sell Home in Wilkes-Barre

An article that appears in today's Times Leader by Jennifer Learn-Andes discusses the sale of a residence owned by Robert Mericle and his wife, Kim. It appears they placed the Wilkes-Barre property on the market for $399,000 only months after he successfully argued the value was $235,200.

21st Century representative Tim Barr reviewed records Friday and said the value was reduced 38 percent, in large part, because Mericle argued at a September informal review that the house was built in 1974 and had no remodeling since.

Barr checked old assessor’s office property cards on Friday and said they indicate that Ciavarella built the home in 1981 and expanded it in 1991.

Mericle also maintained during the informal review that the basement was unfinished, Barr said. The property sales listing says the house has a 783-square-foot finished basement.

Barr reviewed the property sale listing at on Friday and said photographs clearly show the basement is finished.

Six to seven bedrooms are also noted in the sales listing, but the property owner only acknowledged five, Barr said. The sale listing says the property has five baths, but the owner indicated that there were three.

Some interesting discrepancies. No one is alleging any wrongdoings at this point.

Kanjorski Like Soup Nazi to Hazleton- No Money For You

As part of Barack Obama's pledge to bring transparency to government an online database has been created where Joe Taxpayer can search for earmark requests by his Congressman. Here are Paul Kanjorski's requests.

There are 74 projects in all totaling $142 million according to Josh Drobnyk at the Morning Call. He has requested $700,000.00 for the Castle Auditorium project. There is another $162,127.00 request for a Breast Coil and Biopsy package for the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine located at the Hazleton Health and Wellness Center. However the Health and Wellness Center is located in Hazle Township.

Out of $142 million the City of Hazleton receives nothing, nada, not a dime. Keep in mind that the Castle project belongs to the Hazleton Area School district. That request only represents four tenth's of one percent of the total amount.

He is seeking $3 million for the New Jersey Transit under the guise of the Lackawanna Cut-Off Passenger Rail Restoration Project.

Rendell Defends Another Big Donor

While not being quite as arrogant as Blagojevich he certainly resembles him in some ways. Brad Bumsted at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes another story about a donor to Ed Rendell's campaign that received a no-bid contract. Is it me or was(is) there a hugh fury about no-bid contracts in Luzerne County? The amount of no-bid contracts by Rendell is evoking crys of "pay-to-play."

Rendell on Thursday strongly denied the allegations, saying the contract had nothing to do with campaign contributions.

F. Kenneth Bailey of the Texas law firm Bailey Perrin Bailey LLP donated $59,200 in cash and airfare to Rendell in the seven months before the contract award and $31,900 after the agreement was signed, records show. He gave $25,000 to the Democratic Governors Association.

Bailey did not return phone calls for comment.

"Ken Bailey would have gotten the case whether I knew him, or whether or not he had ever contributed to me," Rendell said.

On that note Governor does Pennsylvania lack qualified lawyers to defend the state?? Does the state of Texas get the tax dollars or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?

"This is huge pay-to-play. That's all it is," said Mark Schwartz, a former staffer for the late House Speaker K. Leroy Irvis, D-Oakland. A potential judgment or settlement in a pharmaceutical case could be worth "hundreds of millions of dollars," said Schwartz, a Bryn Mawr lawyer.

Bailey Perrin would get 15 percent of any award, but nothing if it loses the case.

Rendell and most of Harrisburg still don't get it. The public wants more accountability and integrity from its government. If it looks like a dog and smells like a dog we don't care that it was groomed. We expect and should be able to read that the values demonstrated by our leaders inspire us to act in the same way. What this lesson teaches us is money leads to an abuse of power and privilege.

Brad Bumsted can be reached at or 717-787-1405.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ohhh Pleasssseeee!!! Would We Have To Look At His Face? ran this story.

Commissioner Eddie?

Gov. Rendell's press secretary, Chuck Ardo, says that when Ed leaves office in January 2011, he'd like to become commissioner of the NFL or Major League Baseball.

Ardo tells the Harrisburg Patriot-News that "Ed Rendell is not going to run for any office, and Ed Rendell is not the kind of man who is going to sit on the beach. . . . If he were offered the opportunity to be commissioner of baseball or football he would be interested."

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is scheduled to retire in 2012. Time to start lobbying team owners? (Note to Ed: Selig's reported compensation in 2007 was $18.5 million in salary and benefits; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell just took a 20 percent pay cut from his reported $11 million annual package. So, you know, sa-wing, battah!)

Rendell Received $3.8 million in Donations From Casino Investors

Pennsylvania's 12th slot casino operation will be located at the Valley Forge Convention Center. According to Chris Friend at The Bulletin the Philadelphia investment group collectively donated $3.8 million to Governor Rendell.

The Valley Forge casino’s investor group is headed by Ira Lubert, chairman of GF Management and a co-founder of Lubert-Adler, a real estate private equity firm. Mr Lubert has contributed $141,000 to Gov. Rendell’s campaigns.

He is also a partner in a money management company in which more than $1 billion from the state’s two largest pension funds has been committed. Those pension funds paid Mr. Lubert’s firm $8 million in fees last year. Mr. Lubert has been associated with numerous other businesses that have made significant contributions to Mr. Rendell.

According to the Lubert-Adler corporate Web site, Mr. Lubert was the principal and founder of TL Ventures, whose employee and business donations totaled $62,000.

Mr. Lubert is listed as a co-founder of LLR Partners and Rubenstein Partners. Employees of both firms contributed $109,400 to Mr. Rendell.

The investors are represented by the Ballard Spahr law firm, which has a long history of intimate relationships and high dollar donations to Mr. Rendell.

Ballard is the Democratic governor’s former firm. Brothers-in-law John Estey and Adrian King Jr., both partners at Ballard, served as chief of staff and deputy chief of staff to Mr. Rendell, respectively, and have contributed $35,000 to his campaigns.

If you read the rest of the article all the donations he highlights total $3.8 million.

More Corruption Allegations In Luzerne County: Plains Township

It seems to some that the FBI has spawned an era of cleansing in Northeastern Pennsylvania. First it was the Luzerne County Courthouse, then it moved onto the Wilkes Barre School District, and now its Plains Township. According to Andy Mehalshick, lead I-Team investigator, Pennsylvania State Police are looking into allegations of use or misuse of taxpayer-funded equipment and township employees with particular focus on the Department of Public Works.

The township is now conducting an internal investigation. Steven Menn of Plains Township says, “As I understand it the board is going to do an internal investigation to find out what is going on. That information has to be looked into, and who’s making that complaint and what actual allegations are, I don't believe we have all the information of those involved or who is making the complaint."

One Township Commissioner, Ron Fillipini, stated he supported an independent investigation by an agency such as the State Police.

Rendell Violates Own Hiring Freeze....Again

Do you know how many people Fast Eddy has hired since announcing his hiring freeze? According to Tony Phyrillas the number is 110. He has his own stimulus package going despite a $2.3 billion dollar deficit.

Tony writes:

The latest case of "do as I say, not as I do" is a familiar one. The hire is a politically-connected friend or colleague of Rendell and the pay is at least $100,000.

It's the four time Rendell has done this since he imposed a hiring freeze in light of the $2.3 billion budget deficit he put the state into by years of uncontrolled spending.

All total, 110 people have been hired by the Rendell administration since the governor ordered the "hiring freeze."

You see why it's so hard to take this guy seriously.

You Can't "Pick" Your Friends And You Can't "Pick" Your Relatives

The FBI investigating the Wilkes Barre Area School district hiring practices discovered the "pick system." In today's Times Leader Jennifer Learn-Andes writes about the "pick system" employed(no pun intended,not)when looking at applicants for elementary teaching positions in that district.

As part of a federal investigation, Wilkes-Barre Area School Board members were asked to review a list of elementary teachers hired since 2004 and put their initials by the ones they recommended for interviews, according to board members Joe Moran and Jim Height.

Namey supplied board members with a list of teachers with check marks by all the ones hired for elementary school positions, the board members said. He asked board members to review the check-marked names and initial the ones they had recommended for interviews, they said.

The focus was on elementary positions because there’s little competition and sometimes a shortage of applicants for more specialized secondary education and special education positions, the board members said.

A recommendation to interview an applicant is important in the Wilkes-Barre Area School District because of the way the district’s unwritten hiring process is set up, said School Board member Lynn Evans. Hundreds of applicants apply for elementary teaching positions, so the administration relies primarily on recommendations from board members to decide who is interviewed, Evans said. It’s nicknamed the “pick system,” she said.

No one has been charged with any crime in this investigation.

Rendell Questioned On Open Records Requests By Own Appointee

The executive director of Pennsylvania's Office of Public Records, Terry Mutchler, has written to Governor Rendell about requests for access to records of his administration accordingto Angela Coulombis of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Pa.'s public-records czar faults Rendell on openness

In the three-page letter, obtained by The Inquirer, Mutchler revealed a list of her concerns over how the administration has dealt with her and her staff - as well as individual records requests - since she was tapped to lead the open-records office in June.

According to her letter, the situation has gotten so bad that lawyers in Rendell's office have put representatives of every state agency on notice not to even take her calls. Everything has to be in writing, the lawyers insist.

"At a maximum, these examples demonstrate an anti-open-government spirit," Mutchler, a reporter turned lawyer, lamented in her letter to Rendell, written late last month.

She continued: "Some agencies . . . are using the Right-to-Know law as a shield with which to block information rather than a tool with which to open records of government."

Rendell spokespersons deny the allegation and state the differences are only "procedural and not substantive," Mutchler responded by stating let the letter speak for itself. It is amazing that Tom Corbett is breathing down Harrisburg's back and they still won't pay attention.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Update On James P Lake Investigation

The I-Team at WBRE and Andy Mehalshick are reporting that the U.S. Postal Service has taken jurisdiction in the investigation into J.P.L. Financial and its owner James P. Lake. Andy reported that Lake has talked to federal investigators.

My sources tell me that the whereabouts of Mr. Lake are well known inside Scranton. One of his alleged victims I personally interviewed called an insurance company about a policy that he purchased through James Lake. The insurance company stated they had no record of the policy and the document appeared to be a fake.

I am sure more information will be forthcoming as possible victims step forward. Click on the link to watch the I-Team's report.

From the Citizens Voice

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered an evidentiary hearing into an alleged case-fixing allegation involving disgraced Judges Conahan and Ciavarella. Dave Janoski writes the story in today's Citizens Voice.

The Citizens’ Voice will get a hearing on evidence of alleged case-fixing in a $3.5 million defamation verdict against the newspaper handed down by former Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The court named Lehigh County President Judge William H. Platt to hold a hearing “as soon as practically possible” and ordered him to recommend whether the newspaper should be granted relief, possibly including a new trial.

D’Elia associate Robert J. Kulick, a convicted felon awaiting sentencing on a federal firearms charge, gave a sworn declaration to attorneys for the newspaper in February alleging that he, D’Elia and Conahan met twice a month in an unnamed Wilkes-Barre restaurant to discuss pending court cases for nearly eight years. Kulick said Conahan acted on his requests to give a “fair shake” to plaintiffs Kulick supported in cases handled by Conahan and other, unnamed judges.

Read the Order
Read Kulick's declaration

Grand Jury Looks At Wilkes Barre School District

Wilkes-Barre Area School District Superintendent Jeff Namey went before a grand jury yesterday looking into the hiring practices of the Wilkes-Barre Area School District. According to Jerry Lynott at the Times Leader Namey entered with a folder under his arm and left empty handed.

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, Namey said he “went in and had to provide some information and that’s exactly what I did.” He estimated he was before the panel for 25 to 30 minutes.

He was seen outside the grand jury room around 9:35 a.m. and again in the hallway near the room’s entrances at approximately 11:25 a.m.

Two men left the room about an hour before Namey, but would not answer questions or identify themselves.

When reached later in the afternoon, Namey said no one else from the district went before the grand jury Tuesday.

As he left the courthouse, Namey spoke to reporters and shed light on other matters related and unrelated to his appearance.

Within the past two weeks, FBI agents interviewed district employees, Namey said. “It’s common knowledge that they spoke to a couple of teachers.”

Federal investigators are conducting a separate investigation into the Wilkes-Barre Area Vocational Technical School, according to Namey. “I have some knowledge, but I can’t comment,” he said.

Dave Janoski at the Citizen's Voice who is doing a yeoman's job covering the Luzerne County Courthouse investigation and prosecution recorded this comment in his article today.

Namey, who appeared in federal court in Scranton without an attorney, said it was his first time testifying before a grand jury. “It was not pleasant,” he told news reporters afterward.

“I was asked to provide some information and that’s exactly what I did,” Namey said. “If anything inappropriate occurred, there needs to be a consequence.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Power Does Not Mean Privilege In The PA Legislature


The apparent political culture in Harrisburg transcends the expectations of the average voter who not only expects integrity and honor, but more importantly, deserves no less from a representative or senator. Because one attains power does not mean that privilege can be abused, nor should it be abused. The arrogance towards the oath of office is offset by words of patriotism. They call their critics subversive to the good of society. Dwight Eisenhower once opined that "The opportunist thinks of me and today; the statesman thinks of us and tomorrow." Harrisburg has been infected with an accepted culture of indiffernce to the electorate.

Mark Twain once wrote "The true statesman does not despise any wisdom, however lowly its origin. discusses Bill DeWeeses's increasing credibility dilemma regarding his denial of knowledge that state employees were performing campaign duties on state time.

As The Inquirer reported yesterday, documents in a wide-ranging criminal probe appear to indicate that DeWeese headed a caucus in which erasing the boundary between legislative and political duties was second nature.

DeWeese still insists that he didn't know Democratic state employees were being paid cash bonuses with tax dollars for campaign work, an allegation at the core of Attorney General Tom Corbett's investigation. And Corbett hasn't charged DeWeese with wrongdoing in his two-year-old probe.

But the criminal-probe documents highlight an arrogant culture in the legislature in which the line between political and legislative work is all but ignored - a lesson former State Sen. Vince Fumo learned the hard way.

It is amazing that the culture in Harrisburg not only believes it is acceptable to routinely allow employees to campaign on the taxpayers' dime but fosters the notion that 94 days into 2009 it is more than reasonable not to have passed on law for the governor's signature this year. Dennis Owens of ABC27 out of Pittsburgh did a segment titled "Legislative Session Off to Slow Start".

"This is one of the problems of a full-time legislature. There's always tomorrow," said Tim Potts of the watchdog group Democracy Rising PA. "There is no deadline for getting anything done except the state budget."

"It's shameful for us to be sitting here in session passing little House resolutions of whatever day of the week we're declaring it and not taking action that effects working men and women of this state," said Rep. Stan Saylor, R-York.

Here is the last paragraph of their article.

One week from today, Maryland's part-time legislature will be done for the year. They are in session for 90 days. By next Monday they'll have a completed budget and hundreds of laws awaiting the governor's signature; proof, some critics insist, that Marylander's pay less for their legislature and get more out of them.

Call your legislator and ask him or her when we will see real work for the Commonwealth. If they have time to get their picture in the newspaper and television then they have time to get to work.

Interesting Exchange In Judge Ann Lokuta's Application For Supersedas, Stay, And Extraordinary Relief

The following statements were contained in Judge Ann Lokuta's Motion for Supersedas, Stay, And Extraoridary Relief before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found on the Citizen's Voice website.

4. Lokuta testified at her Trial before the Court of Judicial Discipline that she initiated contact with the United States Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning irregularities that she witnessed with respect to the Judicial operations and functions taking place in the 11th Judicial District. [N.T., 1-14-08, pp. 2861-2862].

A. In fact, during her deposition taken on August 25, 2006, by Deputy
Counsel for the Judicial Conduct Board, Lokuta specifically informed
Atty. Puskas, through her then Counsel, the areas that she was looking at
concerning the interrelationship between Judge Conahan, Judge
Ciavarella, and other Courthouse employees, and the impact it had over
Lokuta’s ability to function as a Judge in the 11th Judicial District:
The following exchange took place:
MR. STRETTON: I can tell you, having served as the solicitor for the
Prothonotary up there and as the solicitor for the Controller, I see
the control that Conahan has and I’ve seen what he’s done up
And I was there when lawyers called Steve Flood and said,
“Judge Conahan called us and said, ‘If you give him one penny in
his campaign, you will not win another case in this county’”
MR. STRETTON: So I want you to understand that this is not the
normal County.
MR. PUSKAS: I understand that.
MR. STRETTON: This is a county where I issued subpoenas for the
Controller to get evidence on Conahan and Ciavarella on the
judicial–the Juvenile Justice Center and problems there. We had a
hearing with Judge Toole, Jr., and he never acted on it, and it sat
there for a whole nine months until Flood went out of office.
[Deposition of Lokuta, August 25, 2006, at p. 167, lines 2-25].
B. Later in Lokuta’s Deposition of August 25, 2006, in an attempt to explain
how her Judicial role was being marginalized to the point that she was not
able to function based upon the control and actions of then President Judge
Conahan, another exchange relative to what was being reviewed by
Lokuta’s Counsel took place:
“...LOKUTA: So when you say you can’t understand this, let me suggest
to you sir, that it’s pretty apparent what goes on in this district.
MR. STRETTON: And I just want–
MR. PUSKAS: I appreciate –
MR. STRETTON: – to add, before we go any further, – because I know
this summer, last summer, Judge Muroski approached me through
Steve Flood and asked to testify at the Controller’s hearing. He
asked me to give him a Controller’s subpoena. We had set the
hearings up and he was going to testify about the problems with
the Juvenile Justice Center, which is the baby of Ciavarella and
MR. STRETTON: A week before that I get a call from Taylor Williams, a
very close friend of mine from the Court–AOPC’s counsel’s office.
She said, “Sam, Judge Muroski has retained me. He’s extremely
upset that you issued this subpoena. We’re going to move to quash
I told Taylor, I said, “Taylor, I’ll withdraw the subpoena.
He asked me to give it to him.” I said, “What’s going on?”
And Judge Conahan gave Judge Muroski his chambers, allotted
$30,000 of repairs, and Judge Muroski won’t talk to us anymore.
I want you to see what’s happening to people up there,
‘cause your whole tone here has been, well, you say this, but all
these other people say that.
I’m going to tell you–and if we get to trial on this, I know
where the bodies are buried up there, and you’re gonna see the
same thing is happening to each person, I suspect.
And that’s why people are giving versions, because they’re
offered things like Susan Weber is, even though she’s totally not
competent to do her job.
I want you to see that though. You’ve got to live through it
to appreciate it.
MR. PUSKAS: I understand that, Sam. I understand what you’re saying,
and I understand what Judge Lokuta’s saying.
MR. PUSKAS: My point is this, is that what you’re describing is an
atmosphere in this county that’s making it difficult–this is your
perspective–to function as a judge.
MR. STRETTON: It makes people lie.
MR. PUSKAS: And what I’m saying here is, these are complaints we are
investigating, and the complaints we are investigating by and large
deal with Judge Lokuta’s behavior against other people.
MR. STRETTON: But every one of them have benefitted.
[Deposition of Lokuta, August 25, 2006, at pp. 178, lines16-25, p. 179,
lines 1-25, p. 180, lines 1-18]. [Lokuta’s Deposition are attached hereto as
Exhibit “B” and incorporated herein by reference]

Pennsylvania Property Tax Relief Not A Sure Bet

Rob Hopkins over at Keytone Politics wrote this commentary last month about property tax relief in Pennsylvania.

Next month, the state must certify whether the fund has enough money to provide property tax cuts. Gov. Ed Rendell's administration said that there will be money for tax cuts.

But with a month to go, the fund hasn't reached the threshold to ensure that homeowners receive tax cuts, according to the administration.

The account had a balance of $456 million as of March 16, according to the Governor's Office of the Budget. Under state law, the fund must contain at least $570 million for the state to distribute money to reduce homeowners' property taxes.

It's not clear what will happen if that threshold isn't met by April 15, the date of certification.

It would be easy for the legislature to pass a law redefining the target for property tax relief. But then again refer to my post where this legislature has yet to pass any law this year which was sent on to the Governor for a signature.

Altoona Decision May Have Implications For Luzerne County Judges

A story that appeared in today's Altoona Mirror by Phil Ray may have implications regarding the juvenile court cases filed against the disgraced judges in Luzerne County.

State office:?Man can’t sue Drug Court judge

HOLLIDAYSBURG - The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts said an Altoona man cannot sue the administrative judge in charge of Blair County Drug Court over a decision to fund an abortion for a program participant.

The state court's office replied by asking that Bowers' petition be dismissed because of the concept of "sovereign immunity."

It is also contended that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the only entity that has the power to investigate "the practice, procedure and the conduct of all courts."

Bowers also filed a right-to-know request to view the minutes of the review team. That request was denied because judicial records are not subject to the new state law, Sullivan said.

I thought there was a lesson learned in Luzerne County with regards to secrecy and the courts. The Supreme Court should not hold itself higher than the people it represents.

In today's Allentown Morning Call Chief Justice Ron Castille opines about the Luzerne County judges' situation.

As leader of the Pennsylvania court system, my top goal is for the citizens of this commonwealth to trust their judges, and for judges at every level to deserve that trust.

The Supreme Court also is gravely concerned about broad damage to the court system and is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to restore public confidence in the judicial system in Luzerne County.

Your honor, respectfully, don't hide your records. It would be a start towards regaining trust. Next, explain how Richard Sprague can be the President Judge of the Court of Judicial Discipline, be an attorney in private practice who may have to go up against judges he may have to face when brought before him in that capacity and represent lawyers charged with crimes. Why didn't he need to recuse himself during Judge Ann Lokuta's trial when it was alleged he represented PA ChildCare and Robert Powell? It may be entirely within the parameters of the system but you need to explain it to the non-legal professionals so that it makes sense.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sallie Mae Announces 600 Jobs, Formerly Overseas, For NEPA-

Call me synical but what the hell was Sallie Mae doing sending 2,000 jobs overseas in the first place. The dog and pony show by Paul Kanjorski and Bob Casey today detracted from asking that question which is germane to any discussion about "BRINGING BACK JOBS". You don't mean to tell me that Sallie Mae was exploiting the cheap labor overseas. Nahh...that would never happen. Kanjo and Casey should have thought this one through a little more. Why did they let the jobs go overseas?

Let's take a few highlights from the SEC filings for SLM-stock ticker symbol for the private firm, Sallie Mae.

Our primary business is to originate, service and collect student loans. We provide funding, delivery and servicing support for education loans in the United States through our participation in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (“FFELP”) and through our non-federally guaranteed Private Education Loan programs.

At December 31, 2008, we had approximately 8,000 employees.
(Note-According to their Form 10-K filings for years 2005 through 2007 they had 11,000 employees.)

Our primary marketing point-of-contact is the school’s financial aid office.

To sum up ,although all of their business is derived in the United States one quarter of their work force is overseas and will continue to be for the near future.

If you look here you will find the principal facilities owned and leased by Sallie Mae. Are any of those facilities overseas? I don't see a one.

I went down their corporate structure and clicked on every entity. Not one listed an overseas address.

In 2004 their Form 10-K listed 9,000 employees. As previously stated the number was increased from 9,000 to 11,000 in 2005 and remained there through 2007. In the 2008 filing the number was decreased to 8,000 employees.

So basically they fired 3,000 employees in the U.S. Evidently they replaced them with 2,000 people overseas in India etc. Now they want to bring them back. Magnanimous of them isn't it? Instead of hailing them for gesture they should be chided for the first act because all of their loans originate in the U.S. according to their filings.

Pennsylvania Goverment Reform-Restoring Public Trust

One would think that with Bonusgate the Democrats would lead the charge for reform to give the public the appearance they care about what happens in Harrisburg. One would think, anyway. Don't get me wrong. I know it is only a matter of time before the hammer falls on the Republicans. I have it on more than just rumor that the Republican emails have been and are being scrutinized as we, well,.. read.

The Post-Gazette(did you take notice how much information from Harrisburg comes out of this newspaper) features an article by Tim Barnes highlighting Republican Sam Smith's announcement on his 15 point proposal to restore faith in those governing us in Harrisburg.

"The vast majority of General Assembly members have the right intentions in mind,'' he told reporters today.

But he said something must be done in the wake of former Sen. Vincent Fumo's conviction on 137 corruption charges; dozens of theft charges being filed against former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon; and the firing of former Turnpike Commission Chairman Mitchell Rubin, who was accused of getting $150,000 from Mr. Fumo for a no-work job.

"Public trust has been diminished,'' he said. "We need to tighten things down and weed out areas where people have taken advantage of existing law.''

Public office is a public trust, the authority and opportunities of which must be used as absolutely as the public moneys for the public benefit, and not for the purposes of any individual or party.- Dorman Eaton

But on the issue of reform we should head George Bernard Shaw's words- Reformers have the idea that change can be achieved by brute sanity.

Wonder when Todd the Legislative Leader is going to put forth his plan? One thing legislators have not learned from private life. When someone screws you it can mess you up for life. You may never trust others again no matter what. If there is going to be meaningful reform Republicans and Democrats alike need to take their respective hats off and worry about what Pennsylvanians want. After all without the voters who needs them.

Arlen Specter- Don't Live In A Glass House

Specter takes campaign money from firms he bailed out. Not only did he take money he accused Toomey, his 2004 opponent, of supporting deregulation in 1999. (It is rumored, well more than a rumor that Toomey will oppose him in 2010.)

From on March 23, 2009:

"I see the front page headline in The Philadelphia Inquirer that he's going to run against me because of my single vote on the stimulus package," said Specter. "Well, I've voted 10,000 times, I don't expect people to agree with me on every vote."

"And when it comes to votes, my 2004 opponent has a lot of explaining to do himself," he said. "He was on Wall Street with these derivates and credit swaps, and helped to create the problem. Then he went to the Congress and voted for deregulation.

Even in this article he states he is going to highlight Toomey's vote on deregulation. you remeber how you voted on deregulation? Let me remind you from the U.S. Senate site. Specter (R-PA), Yea Right now Jeff Foxworthy be sayin "Here's your sign."

The PA Turnpike Family Tree

Over at the site you will find an interesting graphic. It highlights the "Turnpike Family Tree". The site is dedicated to the facts and fiction of leasing the PA Turnpike. It's worth a look. If you click on the link you can zoom in on the graphic

More Bad News For Bill DeWeese

On March 16, 2009 I wrote this post E-mail May Tie Bill DeWeese To Bonusgate Scandal. Prosecutors provided e-mails(as part of discovery) to defense attorney Bryan Walk, who represents former House Democrat staffer Brett Cott on charges of theft and conflict of interest. (Do we call the first twelve indicted "The Dirty Dozen"?) Back to the story.

It appears Walk had time to review the emails and is now leaking them to the press. Mario F. Cattabiani and Angela Couloumbis, Inquirer Staff Writers, authored a piece, Bonusgate records contradict DeWeese in the Philadelphia Inquirer today.

Since the Bonusgate corruption probe was launched two years ago, Rep. Bill DeWeese has adamantly and repeatedly denied knowing that taxpayer money secretly had been used to underwrite political campaigns.

But records turned over to defendants in the case by Attorney General Tom Corbett appear to paint a different picture of the onetime House Democratic leader, who has not been charged in the ongoing investigation.

Documents show that in 2006, facing a stiff challenge in an election that DeWeese nearly lost, his campaign tapped a state-paid computer consultant - a key figure in the Bonusgate probe - to perform a long list of political tasks.

Among other duties, that consultant crafted fund-raising invitations and sent out blast e-mails to constituents in DeWeese's district in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania.

The documents, provided to The Inquirer by a defendant, also indicate that the Greene County Democrat exchanged campaign-related messages with his legislative staffers on state e-mail accounts.

The documents - more than 100 in all - were given to The Inquirer by Brett Cott, a former top aide to House Democrats who faces 42 corruption counts. As required by law, state prosecutors provided the documents to Cott and the other defendants as part of the discovery phase of the case.

Brett Cott was mentioned in my post back in March.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Alleged Mob Associate- The Feds Are Taking A Peak

Who said Al Capone died? Well, we know he did but his style, his legend still live on. In another twist of irony an alleged mobster is tied to the recent case files subpoened by the Feds investigation the shenanigans at the Luzerne County courthouse.
Read Dave Janoski's piece from the website detailing how alleged mob associate Robert Kulick's name appears in one of the 79 cases seized by the Feds.

Eric Heyl's Take On The Casablanca Blog

Eric Heyl over at TribLive has an interesting piece on the Casablanca blog. He tries to make the case that Mike Veon, or those very close to him, may well be the authors of the blog.

It is worth a look.

This Just In!

Colin McNickle does not like Arlen Specter.

Mike Veon Has More To Worry About

Brad Bumsted at the Tribune-Review highlights an obscure piece in the grand jury presentment against Mike Veon.

A little-noticed aspect of the March 25 state grand jury presentment against former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon is that his top aide has "flipped."

The new presentment suggests Foreman likely has cut a deal that might include immunity. That gives Attorney General Tom Corbett two key insiders -- Foreman and former Democratic Caucus Chief of Staff Mike Manzo -- who are prepared to testify. Manzo has agreed to plead guilty.

Stay tuned. It ain't over yet.

PA Legislature- When Do We Get Our Money's Worth?

The better question to ask is "Did we ever get our money's worth?"

The Times Leader features an articlePa.’s newest lawmakers find cupboard bare in Harrisburg - COMMENTARY.

Remember my post Pennsylvania's Do Nothing Legislature.

Here is a relevant excerpt from the Commentary:

The pace of activity has not exactly been breakneck.

“I would have fired myself six times by now by how fast things get done — the wheels of government turn slowly if they turn at all,” said Rep. Will Tallman, R-Adams. “We should be working on the budget and we are not.”

Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, had a similar impression.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the budget, and I’m hoping that soon we’ll start actually moving on an agenda,” Briggs said. “We’ve voted on a lot of resolutions.”

Here's more:

Two years ago, with the poisonous fallout from the July 2005 pay-raise vote fresh in their minds, lawmakers made some changes in how the House and Senate operate. The state’s open records law was revamped, but the overall “reform agenda” ended the two-year session in November with, at best, a mixed verdict.

Many of the newcomers say they hope to resume those efforts.

“The reform probably has moved to the back burner, but there’s still so much work to be done that I hope it comes to the forefront over the next couple of months,” said Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver.

Don't count on legislative reform any time soon. Todd Eachus is about to be the point person on healthcare reform. Another Wag The Dog scenario.

Todd, can you explain to the public your educational background in healthcare?? Can you explain your expertise in this area, classes you took, degrees you have, positions you have held in the healthcare field???

Let me do it for you. From your PA House website: Coughlin High School, 1980 Pitzer College-The Claremont Colleges, Political Science, 1984

Yet it will be proffered that you have the right, or is that Rendell's health plan for 12 million people. I highly doubt it.

Analysis: Rules Ignored In Picking Arbitrators

The Citizen's Voice features an article today written by Michael Sisak and Dave Janoski highlighting the process, or lack thereof, for picking arbitrators in the Luzerne County court system, past not present.

The Luzerne County court records subpoenaed last week by federal investigators contain evidence that some attorneys and judges skirted customary court procedures when it came to naming arbitrators in certain insurance cases, President Judge Chester B. Muroski said.

In some of the cases, judges presented with petitions to name neutral arbitrators issued orders setting up hearings on the petitions in their own courtrooms rather than in miscellaneous court, a court that decides motions in cases that have not been assigned to a particular judge for trial, Muroski said.

“There are instances in which (the notices) were changed, in that the line that usually appears listing the case with miscellaneous court was changed to allow the case to go to the judge who signed the (notice),” Muroski said.

Muroski said that in his discussions with the FBI, agents did not divulge information about “any judges under scrutiny or not under scrutiny.”

Pennsylvania Casinos Hurting Lottery- Not?

Here's the headline in the Post-Gazette"

Casinos not hurting Pa. lottery sales
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
By Tom Barnes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Here's the headline in Hazleton's Standard Speaker:

Study: Casinos may be affecting lottery
Published: Sunday, April 5, 2009 4:14 AM EDT

Is it me or what??

Bush- Rendell Please Answer These Questions

The Democrats are getting a free ride in Pennsylvania. So much hullabaloo was made over George Bush's econony. Forget that the Democrats had control of Congress the last two years and the laws enacted in the 1990's under Clinton led to this mess.

The Post-Gazette tells us that Pennsylvania is $1.6 billion short on revenue estimates for the year. The article goes on to state Gov. Ed Rendell has previously forecast that the state will face about $2.3 billion in red ink by June 30, the end of fiscal 2008-09, and the new report seems in line with that projection. But some Republican legislators fear the deficit could be even worse than Mr. Rendell estimates, perhaps as much as $2.6 billion.

Where is the furor over what is happening in Pennsylvania? What is being done to bridge the gap?

Here's one move Rendell did to bridge the gap- transferring $175 million from legislative leaders' budget surplus. What the hell were the legislative leaders, not the entire legislature, doing with an $175 million dollar surplus????

That's our money folks. I think Eachus and McCall should explain it to commoners like us. To put this into perspective. I know of a company that does $100 million in revenue that employs almost 1,000 people. Do you realize how many people are not employed because the legislative leaders kept a surplus?

I know the argument back so save it because they wouldn't have used the money to save Pennsylvania employees' jobs if it weren't for the downturn. The real question to ask is if they would have used the money to create 1750 new jobs if there was no downturn. So much for the economic geniuses in Harrisburg.

Cut the legislature by 40% would save $100 million. Back to those 1000 jobs I was talking about. Imagine the pension savings that would occur. But the Harrisburg solution was to toll I-80. Take care of business in Harrisburg first before coming after the electorate. You may not like the consequence if you don't.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Five Headlines You Should Pay Attention To!!!

Fed 'Extremely Uncomfortable' About Bailouts

Unemployment Rate Hits Highest Level Since 1983

Agency Says Bailout Will Cost Taxpayers More Congressional estimate finds financial sector bailout will cost taxpayers $167B more

Fannie, Freddie Worker Bonuses Total $210M

Former AIG CEO criticizes sucessors, bailout

Murtha Goes After Earmarks When Effort To Investigate Is Thwarted

President Obama, is really the change you said you were going to bring to Washington?

On March 11, 2009 Obama signed the $410 Billion Congressional earmark spending bill in hiding. From the Star Tribune out of Minneapolis- President Obama said on Wednesday that he will sign an "imperfect" spending bill packed with special projects in order to keep government running, but he vowed that it will be the last one and proposed ways to curb lawmakers from abusing the process in the future.

Evidently nobody told John Murtha. According to Murtha wants another $134 million in earmarks for his district. He posted the requests on his website.

From Four of the earmark requests from Murtha’s office are for current or former clients of a lobbying firm, the PMA Group, that is currently under federal investigation for connection to possible "straw" donations to Murtha and other Democratic members of the House.

PMA Group clients include: Advanced Acoustic Concepts ($5 million request), Argon ST ($8 million request), MTS Technologies, Inc. ($5 million request) and Planning Systems Inc. ($2.3 million request).

Two requests totaling $3.7 million are for Pennsylvania State University, but the Murtha's office says they are not intended for the Electro Optic Center (EOC) in Freeport, Pa. which has received millions in defense contracts and has been the subject of recent scrutiny by the FBI.

Please refer to my previous post where Kanjo and Carney voted to table a motion to investigate (1) the source and timing of past campaign contributions to Members of the House related to the raided prominent defense-lobbying firm; and (2) earmark requests made by Members on behalf of the firm's clients.

While a number of entities with connections to Murtha are under federal law enforcement scrutiny, Murtha himself has not been named as the target of the investigation.

President Obama, what was that about proposing ways to prevent lawmakers from abusing the process. Kanjorski and ethics is like oil and water. And Carney should know better.

Oh, one other minor detail. Murtha missed a deadline to start disclosing his ties to political action committees(PACs) as required by law. From CQ Politics: Some senior congressional appropriators are among those with known connections to committees that did not register as leadership PACs, until after being asked about missing the deadline. They include: Reps. John P. Murtha , D-Pa.,

Do you recall when Murtha called his constituents "rednecks" and "racists" last fall?


Here is a summary of House Resolution 312.

Requires the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, or a designated investigative subcommittee, to begin immediately an investigation and report to the House on the relationship between: (1) the source and timing of past campaign contributions to Members of the House related to the raided prominent defense-lobbying firm; and (2) earmark requests made by Members on behalf of the firm's clients.

Partial Text of House Resolution 312

Whereas The Hill reported that a prominent lobbying firm, founded by Mr. Paul Magliocchetti and the subject of a `federal investigation into potentially corrupt political contributions', has given $3.4 million in political donations to no less than 284 Members of Congress;

Whereas the New York Times noted that Mr. Magliocchetti `set up shop at the busy intersection between political fund-raising and taxpayer spending, directing tens of millions of dollars in contributions to lawmakers while steering hundreds of millions of dollars in earmark contracts back to his clients.';

Resolved, That--

(1) the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, or a subcommittee of the committee designated by the committee and its members appointed by the chairman and ranking member, shall immediately begin an investigation into the relationship between the source and timing of past campaign contributions to Members of the House related to the raided firm and earmark requests made by Members of the House on behalf of clients of the raided firm; and

(2) the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct shall submit a report of its findings to the House of Representatives within 2 months after the date of adoption of the resolution.

Lobbying as usual.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Baker, Yudichak "Halt That Pension Request"

Area legislators want to halt Ciavarella's pension request. Bill O'Boyle of the Times Leader wrote a story today about the efforts of Senator Lisa Baker and Representative John Yudichak.

State Sen. Lisa Baker and state Rep. John Yudichak have asked the State Employees’ Retirement System to “use all of its powers” to freeze former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella’s pension request.

In a letter dated April 2 to Nicholas J. Maiale, chairman of the state agency, Baker and Yudichak said they “respectfully urge in the strongest possible terms” that Ciavarella’s request be denied.

“This disgraced judge is arrogant and continues to show contemptible behavior,” Baker said Thursday. “He doesn’t get it.”

Now let's count. 5, 4, 3, 2, yep in keeping with history it will probably be about two days when Todd Eachus announces a request to halt the pension. His silence and being two steps behind on this matter is deafening to the conscience. Of course, he was more concerned with partisan politics in asking Attorney Tom Corbett to step down in the midst of one of the biggest public corruption investigations in the history of Pennsylvania. Probably makes sense to someone, just not me.

Senate Chief Joe Scarnati Aims To Restore Public Trust is reporting that Senate Leader and Lt. Governor Joe Scarnati wants to restore public confidence in Harrisburg after reeling from a series of scandals.

"Without out doubt, there is no issue more important today. The No. 1 issue we have is restoring respect and trust back into the Legislature that we once had," said Scarnati, who is the Senate's president pro tempore and the state's lieutenant governor.

Speaking at a fundraiser here on Wednesday night, the Jefferson County Republican also touched on the GOP's role in budget negotiations. He said the lawmakers in his party should view the looming $2.3 billion budget deficit as an opportunity to take a stand.

"The party of Lincoln and Reagan — some of these people have forgotten their roots," Scarnati said. "This budget deficit we're in, this can be our shining moment. Taxing and spending are the Republican rally. We have to keep them under control.

"As we move forward through this process, let me tell you one thing: There will not be a broad-based tax increase coming out of anybody's pocket," said Scarnati, drawing applause at a GOP fundraiser.

New York Times Gives Nancy Pelosi Some Sage Advice About Murtha

An edtiorial which appears in today's New York Times advises Nancy Pelosi to investigate Rep. John Murtha and his shenanigans with the PMA lobbyist group.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi should listen to the wise Democrats who are pushing for an ethics inquiry into the far-too-cozy relationship between lawmakers and the PMA Group of superlobbyists.

The Justice Department is investigating whether PMA used illegal straw donors to lard the campaign kitties of cooperative lawmakers. The firm — which shut itself down after being raided by federal agents — fed and fed richly off the defense appropriations subcommittee led by Representative John Murtha, the House baron of Pentagon spending.

Beyond the criminal investigation, the House needs to look into any violations of its own ethics rules. And the Democrats need to deliver on their party’s ethics promises — and more and more of them know it. As Representative Ron Kind told The Hill newspaper, “As long as this is not dealt with in the right manner, it’s just going to be a cloud hanging over us.”

Lt. Governor Race- Barletta Has High Name Recognition has the results of a poll performed by Susquehanna Polling and Research which concludes Mayor Lou Barletta of Hazleton has the strongest name ID among both GOP voters (a ratio of 29% favorable to 6% unfavorable, including total name ID of 48%), and also the highest positive name ID among voters in your region of Northeastern PA (49% favorable to 17% unfavorable, including total name ID of 77%) when compared with the regional name ID of other candidates in their respective areas (see page 2 for a county listing within each region).

Bill O"Boyle of the Times Leader writes"Barletta has political footprint

Thursday, April 2, 2009


According to the I-Team at WBRE federal investigators are looking into complaints of the J.P.L. investment group in Kingston.

The U.S. secret service which handles these kinds of investigations told the I-Team they have received at least five complaints from J.P.L. customers involving tens of thousands of dollars. The owner, James P. Lake, has been unavailable. One woman told us, she cannot account for some $70,000 dollars that she claims she gave to J.P.L. to invest.

The secret service says they are working with the Securities and Exchange Commission and are urging J.P.L. customers to call their Scranton office if they have complaints. That number is (570) 346-5781.

I personally know of one person who was contacted by investigators from Questar Capital. Let's stress that to this point James P. Lake has not been charged with any crime.


Times Leader Photo

Times Leader's Terry Morgan-Besecker is breaking news that the FBI took 87 cases involving abritration awards in Luzerne County for a new federal grand jury that will be empaneled April 7th in Scranton.

The subpoena sought all files or records relating to underinsured motorists from Jan. 1, 2002 to the present.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation took 79 case files dealing with the appointment of neutral arbitrators in uninsured motorist insurance cases from Luzerne County President Judge Chester Muroski's office this afternoon, Muroski said.

Muroski said the agents learned he had been collecting the files as part of the court's own review of the arbitration cases. Two agents visited him today with a subpoena requesting the documents and he complied.

In a related story the Times Leader is reporting:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, already probing corruption at the Luzerne County Courthouse, is now investigating the Wilkes-Barre Area School District and Wilkes-Barre Area Vocational-Technical School.

The FBI on Thursday requested a list of the Wilkes-Barre Area Vocational-Technical Joint Operating Committee board members since 2005, said attorney Jack Dean, who provides legal assistance for the school.

Dean said the information was supplied, and he stressed that the request was not in the form of a subpoena.

A well-placed source said the FBI also requested Wilkes-Barre Area School Board meeting minutes from 2004 to the present and district’s teacher hiring policy.

The summer hasn't arrived but it sure is getting hot in Luzerne County.

A Lampoon For Ciavarella's Pension Grab

I tried to embed this video over at Gort's blog but the blogger comment doesn't permit it. He may look like Woodie Allen but the O'Jays definitely would be the theme song.

Pennsylvania's Do Nothing Legislature

If you look at my "Headline" section to the right you will see a news item where State Sen. Elder Vogel Jr introduced legislation to reduce the size of the Pennsylvania legislature by 40% to save approximately $100 million per year. It has now been 92 days into 2009 and do you know how many bills have been passed by the PA legislature? Well, almost none. How many became law? Well that answer is none.

Read this piece by John Baer of the Philly Daily News to get the full facts. Here's are some highlight of what he had to say.

How about legislation making it a crime to install or reinstall "fraudulent airbags"? Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery County, has that in the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.

This actually sounds like a good idea that should have been law years ago. It's just, I thought that installing or reinstalling "fraudulent airbags" was a reference to legislative elections and re-elections.

The State Government Committee also has a bill sponsored by Rep. Tina Pickett, R-Sullivan County, naming celestite (a vitreous crystal) as the state's official mineral.

My, what a busy committee that must be.

(So busy that last year it couldn't get around to moving a redistricting reform bill to make legislative campaigns competitive - in a year that 98 incumbents or candidates faced no opposition in the General Election. The committee's chaired by Philly Democrat Babette Josephs.)

And while U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter's Web site says that the chocolate chip is the state cookie, the official designation hasn't happened.

Oh, and no other legislation has passed this year, either. Not one bill. The Senate passed some anti-drug and mortgage reform measures. The House passed some bills, too. But you'll just have to wait for both chambers to agree on any new laws.

Bada bing, bada boom. Back to the reason and need for Elder Vogel's legislation. I do agree about "fradulent airbags".

Office Humour: How To Be Lazy In The Office And Get Away With It