Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pennsylvania Corruption Begs For Election Reform

In the ongoing federal probe it has been reported that an aide to Senator Mellow had his home searched. The Philadelphia Inquirer carried the story yesterday but newspapers in Northeastern PA are just catching up.

FBI and IRS agents investigating Pennsylvania's highest-ranking state Senate Democrat, Robert J. Mellow of Lackawanna County, have searched the home of a longtime aide tied to a property the senator co-owned and rented to himself, sources close to the investigation said.

Federal agents, the sources said, are scrutinizing a deal in which Mellow located his district office in the building owned at various times by aide Gabriel J. Giordano; the aide's wife, Celestine P. Giordano; the senator's wife; and ultimately the senator himself.

The Senate spent more than $200,000 in taxpayer dollars in rent, The Inquirer revealed last year.

In 1990, the Giordanos bought a two-story property on Main Street in Peckville for $90,000. Months later, Mellow moved his district office there.

In 2001, Celeste Giordano and Mellow's then-wife, Diane, formed a corporation called Brad Inc. that purchased the Main Street property for $1.

Diane Mellow, who has since been interviewed by the FBI, has said that Brad Inc. and the Main Street property purchase were something of a mystery to her. "I just signed what [the senator] put in front of me," the former wife told The Inquirer last year.

The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission has been investigating the sweetheart deal regarding the rent but has yet to render a decision. Mellow has been maintaining innocence through both ordeals.

Brad Bumsted over at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review penned this article about the rash of arrests and convictions among Pennsylvania legislators and staffers.

"We're among the top four or five states, certainly, in public corruption," said G. Terry Madonna, political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College. Illinois, Louisiana and Tennessee are frequent competitors for the top spot, according to surveys and analyses over the past two years.

What needs to be changed "is how business is done in Harrisburg," said Montgomery County lawyer Mark Schwartz, a former aide to the late House Speaker Leroy Irvis. "I don't see any leadership in Harrisburg," he said.
His comment reflects poorly on House Majority Leader Todd Eachus who keeps telling his constituents he is the best thing since apple pie.

Speaking of election reform look at this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer concerning the campaign of Senator Anthony Williams who ran for the Democratic nomination for governor.

No one had ever donated anywhere close to this much cash for a political campaign in Pennsylvania.
Previous reports showed that a trio of executives at Susquehanna International Group in Bala Cynwyd already had ventured far into historic territory by giving at least $3 million to support State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams' Democratic primary race for governor.

Postprimary reports are now in, and they reveal that the number was actually higher. A lot higher: $5,385,000.

Joel Greenberg gave $2.07 million. Jeffrey Yass contributed $1.86 million. Arthur Dantchik chipped in $1.45 million.

Not counting a few cases in which a wealthy candidate has financed his own campaign - Philadelphia mayoral contender Tom Knox spent $11 million on his primary in 2007 - these sums far exceeded all Pennsylvania benchmarks, veteran analysts said.

Not even Gov. Rendell, the most prolific fund-raiser in state history, ever had million-dollar donors.

There has never been a greater time in this century for election reform. The problem is that our legisaltors are self-serving. In a recent confrontationt between Todd Eachus and one of his constituents he was attacked over per diems. His response was that the money he took was legal. What Mr Eachus is not being honest with his constituents in his answer is the fact that he and his Harrisburg cronies made the rules up to make it legal. The taxpayers had no say in the practice. Is it ethical to stand behind the "legal" label without letting the public know your own role in making the rules? Stock analysts must disclose their holdings if they talk about stocks they own. Eachus and the rest of the legislature should have to disclose each and every time they talk on this subject that they were the ones who made the rules.

1 comment:

GlobalPublic said...

Perhaps we should start asking questions about the really big picture...

Do we need a Referendum For A New Democracy?

Are you concerned about the future of democracy? Do you feel democracy is under attack by extreme greed in countries around the world? Are you sick and tired of: living in fear, corporate greed, growing police state, government for the rich, working more but having less?

Can we use both elections and random selection (in the way we select government officials) to rid democracy of undue influence by extreme wealth and wealth-dominated mass media campaigns?

The world's first democracy (Athenian democracy, 600 B.C.) used both elections and random selection. Even Aristotle (the cofounder of Western thought) promoted the use random selection as the best way to protect democracy. The idea of randomly selecting (after screening) juries remains from Athenian democracy, but not randomly selecting (after screening) government officials. Why is it used only for individual justice and not also for social justice? Who wins from that? ...the extremely wealthy?

What is the best way to combine elections and random selection to protect democracy in today's world? Can we use elections as the way to screen candidates, and random selection as the way to do the final selection? Who wins from that? ...the people?