Thursday, June 17, 2010

Meet Representative Jim Marshall Who Defeated Michael Veon

Rep. Jim Marshall 14th Legislative District- PA

In 2005 the midnight legislative pay raise scandal was born in Harrisburg. Ralph R. Reiland writes an interesting story on Human about this violation of taxpayer trust.

Insiders: Leaders promised "walking around money" to legislators who "cooperated."

"Harrisburg is one of the sleaziest state capitals in the country," said Jake Tapper, Washington correspondent for Salon, and that was before he saw the sleaze that oozed from under the closed doors of the state Legislature at 2 a.m. one recent night after the politicians voted themselves an illegal pay hike.

The pay increase is illegal because, by allowing legislators to pocket the new money in the form of "unvouchered expenses," it violates Article 2, Section 8 of the state constitution, which specifically forbids legislators to collect new pay raises until they've been re-elected.

"It's illegal to give yourself a raise now," says Temple University Law School professor David Kairys. "If you want to give yourself the raise and call it lunch money, that's not going to make it legal."

As explained to me by a couple of insiders in the process, legislative leaders lined up the votes for the unlawful pay grab by promising special so-called WAMS (walking around money) to legislators who "cooperated." Once more than enough votes were secured, other incumbents, less secure in their districts, were given the green light to vote against the pay hike in order to strengthen their chances of re-election.

In addition the legislative compensation our elected state officials also receive the cost of free cars, $10,000 no-receipt expense accounts, free health care, fully paid vision and dental coverage, free prescriptions, fully paid life insurance and long-term care insurance, the 50% increase in pension benefits the legislators awarded themselves NINE years ago, and the extra $163 per diem they pocket on every session day just for showing up.

It's no wonder Jim Marshall decided to run against Michael Veon despite the odds of winning. Veon pulled out all the stops the ultimately led to his conviction for using state employees, resources, and funds in his re-election bid.

Tracey Mauriello writes the story- Cheating increases incumbent home-court advantage- about Marshall's political battle against Michael Veon in 2006. The story is quite lengthy so you will have to click to read it but these comments sums it up.

"Even when you're a kid, you don't like to play a game with somebody that cheats," Mr. Marshall said.

"It's unfair for candidates to have to run against incumbents using taxpayer equipment and state employees to run their races. There is harm there. Challengers are shut out, and that's not good for the taxpayers, for the state workers, for the voters, for anyone."

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