Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Who's Trying to Buy Northampton County Council?

It's legal bribery.

Pennsylvania imposes no limits on how much a person can donate to political candidates. As a result, powerful special interests will always try to buy elections, even in a Northampton County council race.

Yesterday, I listed links to campaign finance reports for each candidate. In this limited period between May and October, you can still see a pattern in which certain interests are obviously trying to buy council. Let me list the top three.

#1. Developers. - $9,500. These include the Pa. Future Fund and local developers Ramzi Haddad and Lou Pektor. They don't think twice about giving money to candidates in both parties, and tend to back incumbents. Angle did return a Pektor contribution, but accepted money from Haddad.

#2. Realtors. - $4,000. LV realtors have spread this money to five different candidates from both parties. Every council candidate condemns rampant overdevelopment and talks about the need for countywide zoning. But each is quick to accept a few bucks from a group interested in continued jousing growth in the Lehigh valley.

#3. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. - $3,500. Council member Charles Dertinger belongs to that union, and is trying to build a power base.


Anonymous said...

I thought our "reform" legislature was going to change all of this!

Anonymous said...

The anonymous smear robo-calls continued last evening and there's not been a word of disassociation from the NorCo Democrat Party.

Individual sleazy candidates have been taken to task by this blog, and asked to renounce them. How about the Northampton Democrat Party?

Its silence on these vicious calls indicates its tacit approval, at minimum.

It's easy to blog-smash the individuals (Branco, Maher) who are hoping to benefit by the smears. What about the party that approved the sleaze?

It's an arrogance of nearly unchecked power, with the compliance of watchdog bloggers who don't wish to watch everything.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:31,

Whoa! Hold on there!

1) The anonymous robocalls are coming from Severson, a monster who was actually created by the R party.

2) Both Branco and Maher admit they use Severson, although his name has yet to appear on their finance reports in any significant way.

3) I have slammed both Branco and Maher because they have refused to rid themselves of Severson. In fact, I warned Maher this would happen.

4) What frickin' evidence do you have that this smear campaign is being engineered by the Dem machine? I'm listening. I'm no fan of Joe Long, and anyone who reads this blog knows I've taken him to task on his autocratic style and machine politics. But I'm not going to slam him about this without some evidence that he is behind it.

5) You talk about slamming the Dem party for being silent about these vicious calls. How about the R party? Where the hell are they? They scheduled a press conference and then abruptly canceled it. Presumably, they need more evidence before they can point the finger in any one direction. You weant the Dem party to condemn these tactics when the R party has said nothing. Does that make any sense at all?

6) You want me to slam the Dem machine? Throw me a frickin' bone! You just want me to point my finger with no evidence. Democrats bad. Republicans good. Is that it? In case you haven't noticed, a lot of the people who comment here are pretty bright. If I were to hurl a baseless accusation like that, I'd be torn apart. If I can establish a connection, I'll definitely point it out. But you want me to reach conclusions with no evidence other than your own suspicions.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:31, You say the calls continued last night. Which candidate? What is the substance of the smear? Where were the calls directed? Do have any tapes of the call? This is the kind of thing needed. So get me details, and you can get them to me at if you're reluctant to do so on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Often I hear, "There Ought To Be A Law Against That." Here however receiving money from groups like LVAR really isn't. I imagine it's like a restaurant that serves bad tasting food. No law against it, and there really shouldn't be. Just take your business else where.

So are voters going to vote based on principle? Just vote incumbents? Or waste time and vote for who they think will win, not should win. So they boost their failing ego and say inside they are on the winning team.

Truth is, candidates get PAC money not because they SHOULD win, it's because they will win; since WE will vote them regardless of the PAC money, and the PAC's have an IOU now from the candidates we elected.

So are we going to get up? Make another candidate choice and shut down the process? You'll see on Nov 6th. Don't hold our breaths.

Anonymous said...

Last night's call anonymously slammed Angle. It was received at 7:08 PM from 484-548-6400. I regret that I received the call live, and have no recording to forward.

It's the same number from which we've all seen the anti-Angle and anti-Ferraro calls originate.

While tying Severson to both parties is a valid criticism, it's immaterial to the current campaign in which only one party's candidates are being attacked by these gutless calls.

I do not have proof (e.g. a canceled check from Joe Long), but common sense coupled with experience tells me that when only one side is being attacked, the other side is likely responsible.

You've got me on the legal technicalities, Bernie. It's akin to parsing the meaning of "is", I guess. Realistically, however, it seems that one side is responsible and the other is being targeted.

Rs and Ds should both denounce these cowardly tactics. Democrats, however, are the ones currently attempting to benefit from these calls in this election. I'm curious as to why NorCo Republicans (who could screw up sleeves on a vest) must denounce/distance/apologize first before this blog begins a rigorous discussion about Democrat Party tactics.

Perhaps Severson's prior association with Rs is considered sufficient inoculation to protect against any investigation onto his current work for Ds.

A.J. Cordi said...

Has anyone received a call to a cell phone, or just land lines?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:54,

Thanks for the details.

WindGapper said...

Why are certain candidates only stating expenditures for "postage." Who is paying for the actual mailers. I know the mailers are not cheap to produce, so who is paying for them.

Why don't the ones using political consultant Severinson have his name listed on there. I know political consultants don't work for free. I see Cheryl's name on Ron Angle's report.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Severson operates under several corporate blankets. The most well known of these is Precision Marketing, "when you want to play to win." He also uses Political Strategies, Inc., a supposed California corp., as a corporate shell to cover his work for Dems. He also uses a corp. in Phillipsburg, NJ. You'll see Political Strategies in McClure's report.

But although both Branco & Maher have both admitted to me that they're using Severson, you don't see his name anywhere. it will propoably appear in the post-election report.

Anonymous said...

Will just one NorCo Democrat official denounce the anonymous snipe calls? Just one? I'm not disputing the content of the calls. I'm no fan of Peg Ferraro and can't stand Ron Angle, but to countenance such calls made anonymously? Anonymously? What kind of gutless cowards would stand idly by while this crap goes on each night? Where's Panto, Stoffa, Cunningham, Freeman et. al. - the purported decent guys in local politics - while these calls are being made for their party's benefit?

I guess they really want to play to win too.

Anonymous said...

How iromic Republicans crying because a Republican consultant is using a Republican tactic he used for years to now help Democrats. This was going on for years in the other direction and that was fine. I don't recall the Republican outrage when Severnson did this for R candidates for years. No sympathy here.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It was not fine when it went on years ago. I know many decent pols, on both sides of the fence, weho have complained about Severson's sleaze. R party chairs Charlie Roberts and Larry Kisslinger are two Republicans who complained, among others.

Larry Kisslinger said...

Bernie said: 1) The anonymous robocalls are coming from Severson, a monster who was actually created by the R

I plead guilty as R chairman '86-'88 hiring and falling for sleazy severson actions... BUT I fired severson shortly after I found out of his sleazeball actions. Big story can be found on Sunday mcall front page article back then. Don't blame me or R's since that article appeared. I've never been involved with sleazeball since
that time, neither have any who have ever asked me. call me anytime for full details is fine 610-691-5338

Anonymous said...

all these comments and NO one has made a peep mention about the pattern of contributions Bernie's noted from Developers?

Gee - Ashley Development donating to the cause. How poignant.

Let's see, we've got Riverwalk in contention, Bethlehem Steel casinos snappin the rust off the crumbling nostalgia (money coming from ....??? WHERE? for this?), fingers in the pie in countless boroughs, not to mention endless slap 'em up houses in Upper Nazareth, Forks and WIlliams Township.

And we're only giving this consistent money-under-the-table a cursory glance?

He's tried to bribe councils in countless towns blatantly - sometimes with thousands ...sometimes not: one of the more amusing attempts? Offering over $100 bucks to a firehouse/disaster response team post-flood - just days before a proposal for building a dozen houses in a flood-plain was up for a vote.

Gee, Lou - $100 smackers. And just to make up for all that "unfortunate" storm wipeout.

Who knew the guy's pockets were so deep?

on a serious note:
I smell TROUBLE, friends. Trouble ...with a Capital "T".
(and we're gettin NO help from any Marion the Librarian on this one!)

Anonymous said...

What is the limit that can PAC donate, before it's seen as 'buying a candidate?'
$100? 250?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:06,

I understand your point. I don't think it's the amount of money.

When a PAC or, for that matter, an individual, makes large contributions primarily to incumbents, and has matters likely to come up before the board, it's safe to say they are trying to buy influence. After all, they're in business to make money.

Atiyeh gives $1,000 to McClure and Branco. His business associate, Haddad, throws in another $1,000 to each. And they just happen to like his proposal to but the Reda property. He even has other publicly elected officials, to whom he contributes, lobbying for that project.

He also has contributions funnelled thru business associate Ramzi Haddad.

We need campaign ffinance reform to curb the "pay to play" culture. The two most meaningful reforms are (1) clean elections laws and (2) a cap on spending for a given race.

Perhaps funding for a race should be limited to the annual salary paid for that positon.

Tom Dietrich said...

Perhaps funding for a race should be limited to the annual salary paid for that positon.

That can be a double edge sword. Our elected officials might just give themselves massive pay raises. I'm not happy with the latest 35% county council raise in the works(and powerless to change it), imagine what else they could do.

I personally know people who have a more positive impact on our lives, and ask for not even a time. They work 3 days a week, not just twice a month.