Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Last Minute" Post Premature

As a rule, I do not take down posts. A newspaper can't take it back, so why should I? I will acknowledge the error in an update. Sometimes, I will also prepare an additional post.

Today, I posted a blog about some last minute finances in the Lehigh County Comm'rs race. It was up for no more than ten minutes when I thankfully received a call, telling me I had something dead wrong. Because the blog was only up a few minutes, and this is the weekend, I took the post down for revisions. I will re-posting a corrected blog later today or tomorrow.

My thanks to the person who called me, who shall remain nameless.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The 5,678,946th Coming Of Buddy Christ

An Archangel just flew by to tell me I'm in deep doo doo. Slamming the religious right is no biggie, I'm told. That might even help my eternal salvation. But nobody messes with Mennonites.

So I've been warned to prepare for the 5,678,946th Coming of Buddy Christ on Monday. He'll be taking over and making his Election Day picks.

Here's a list of Buddy's requirements:

* Extra soft toilet paper.

* Kitty litter.

* 24 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

* six televisions pretuned to ESPN.

* last six issues of Juggs magazine.

NorCo Rs Eat One of Their Own

If Northampton County Democrats manage to sweep all five at-large Council seats on Tuesday, I hope they remember to send a Thank You note and flowers to Bob Kilbanks. He may be former Chair of the Northampton County Republican Committee, but he's just pulled the most idiotic move I've seen this election cycle.

Now I'm sure most of you have bumped into hardcore right to lifers at some point in your life. The most extreme are those who think nothing of exposing children to gory billboards of aborted fetuses, picket abortion clinics and sometimes kill the people who work there. All in the name of Almighty God, of course. There are also those who feel very passionately, but express themselves at the ballot box.

Now, abortion and stem cell research have nothing to do with County government, and Kilbanks must know that. But over the years, he's collected a list of about 2,500 hard-core right-to-lifers, and likes to sell it to unwitting candidates. All in the name of the Almighty Dollar, of course.

He's managed to con four of the five Republicans seeking a Council seat to give him money for a post card to the Deliverance crowd, assuming they can read, portraying them as avid anti-abortion advocates. But he's omitted candidate Peg Ferraro from this list because her views are just a little too ambivalent.

What Kilbanks just did is marginalize Republican candidates in the eyes of Democrats like me, who might otherwise be inclined to vote for some of them. What's really pathetic is that he's done it on a very divisive issue that's totally unrelated to County government. Worst of all, his actions have hurt a very popular person who very likely will still be the lead vote getter.

"We need to look out for ourselves," is how one of the candidates explained their stupidity. Really? The best way for them to have done that would be by attaching themselves to Peg Ferraro's coat tails and hanging on. Instead, they have needlessly attached themselves to a divisive issue while Kilbanks lines his pockets.

Mennonites Planning Lehigh County Coup

This week, we learned that Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham, a Democrat, is indirectly funding two county races. He's come under attack for trying to stack the Commission with rubber stamps. We also learned that Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning has done pretty much the same thing, forming his very own "Victory" PAC in an evil plan to consolidate Republican control, filling the board with naysayers. While Cunningham and Browning were sending dueling news releases, a third group has been silently plotting their own, insidious Lehigh County coup.

Mennonites.

This became clear during a televised debate between Cunningham and challenger Scott Ott (R) yesterday, which was taped before a live audience at the la-de-da Brookside Country Club. Believe it or not, it cost $25 a pop just to get in the joint.

That fee was obviously designed to keep the riff raff away, and it worked, too. I missed it. But never fear, it will air on Monday night, 8 PM, on Channel 69 WFMZ-TV's Business Matters, hosted by Tony Iannelli.

I'm getting this second and third hand, but understand that Ott made his usual claim that Cunningham is a "career politician." Cunningham responded by asking Ott whether he'd hire someone with no plumbing experience to fix his bathroom.

I can see that politician-plumber comparison. They both deal with shit.

While they were on the subject of jobs, Cunningham began to wonder how Ott pays the bills. Sure, he has a twice-weekly column at The Washington Examiner and publishes Scrappleface. But what about that job as Executive Director at Zionsville's Victory Valley Camp for kids? Ott mysteriously resigned right around the time he decided to run for Exec. But guess what? He's apparently still living rent free at one of their homes. And guess who owns that home?

Mennonites.

That's right, folks. While Cunningham and Browning were busy sending out mailers and forming PACs, those Mennonites are secretly funding Scrappleface's run for County Exec, intent.

Cunningham campaign manager Dan Kelly immediately fired off this letter.

"Today in the Chamber of Commerce candidate’s forum, Mr. Scott Ott stated that his compensation from the Victory Valley Camp included free rent at a property you own.

"Mr. Ott went on to say that he no longer works for the organization, starting around the time that he chose to run for office. Since Mr. Ott continues to live at this residence, thus receiving compensation in the form of housing, it is clear your organization is providing him support for his political activities.

"I am writing to ask a few questions about your involvement in Scott Ott’s political campaign.


1) Does your organization’s tax status enable your organization to engage in political work?
2) Does your organization’s tax exempt status enable you to provide candidate Ott with free housing as an in-kind donation, and have you communicated with Mr. Ott on when this will be reported?
3) What other political activity is your organization involved with on Mr. Ott’s behalf?

"Voters have a right to know this information in a timely manner, as it affects Tuesday’s election. We would like a response by the close of business on Friday."


Late last night, someone in a horse and buggy threw a rock at Dan Kelly's window, shattering the glass. As the driver rode off laughing maniacally at about 3 mph, Kelly saw this attached note. "Hey Hoof Tee, Stop Being So Shussly. You write so fancy ferhecht like we can't make you out." Dean Browning has also been getting threatening calls. Apparently, they plan on replacing his air charter business with one of their own, which you can see pictured on the left.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Charlie Dent to Appear on C-Span Tomorrow

If you're a wonk like me, you start every day with C-SPAN’s Washington Journal . I livestream the show.

I've just learned that LV congressman Charlie Dent will be a guest tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 30) morning from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. He'll be discussing his efforts to improve Congress’ accountability and transparency to the American people, as well as current health care reform proposals.

Here are the Call-In Numbers: Republicans - (202) 737-0001; Democrats - (202) 737-0002; Independents -
(202) 628-0205; and Outside U.S. - (202) 628-0184.

You can also send questions to this Email address: journal@c-span.org .

Lieb Write-in Campaign Gaining Momentum

While tooling into the courthouse today, I saw something unusual - Dennis Lieb yard signs. Interestingly, I saw them planted in people's yards, too, instead of plastered all over telephione poles a la Fleck. I'm certainly no expert, but it looks like his campaign is gaining momentum in a hurry.

At Neighbors of Easton, former city council Prez Tim Pickel, blogger Noel Jones, David Caines, Timothy Hare and Laureston have all announced their support. Easton's Republican Committee also issued this endorsement:

"We decided Easton needs someone who is committed to the city, not just playing politics. Dennis has proven his commitment to all residents of the city, whether they be Democrat, Republican, Independent, or those who have become completely disenfranchised from our local political process in Easton over the years. Anybody who has seen him, or heard Dennis's ideas would be behind him. Dennis would provide a sound fiscal conservative voice for our community, which we need to navigate the tough decisions facing Easton."

Even Lehigh County blogger Chris Casey has weighed in on this race.

"So why do I care about a candidate in a city 30 miles away from me? I care because I was witness to a good man being used by Fleck. Arch Follweiler of Kutztown paid Mike Fleck over $20,000 dollars to work on Arch's campaign for State Representative, and within a week of receiving a $4500 advance, Fleck quit on Arch and left him high and dry. Fleck hadn't even ordered the campaign signs he had promised.

I'm not saying Arch lost because of Fleck, but I will say that Fleck did not help the cause, and in my observation, to quote the rock band Dire Straits, received "money for nuthin".

"I care because Pennsylvania has far too many useless would be Flecks sucking at the public teat and enriching themselves on the taxpayers dime. I don't know Easton West Ward activist Dennis Lieb, but if the guy makes the time to get involved enough to decide to mount a write in campaign, it shows me he cares. Dennis Lieb just received the Republican party endorsement, and the people who live in the neighborhood are the ones who inspired him to run.

"So here is the choice in the West Ward, Mike Fleck, a political hack wannabe who is the only name on the ballot and can't show up in his own neighborhood to campaign. Or Dennis Lieb, a guy with a grass roots initiative who actually knows the people in his community by name."


Of course, waging a write-in campaign is an uphill battle, but this is a district race for Easton City Council. Dennie has a shot.

Guess Who the Prison Guards Like?

Northampton County corrections officers had a little reception at the Hecktown Fire Hall last night. Can you guess the identity of the featured speaker?

Here's a hint. He's unconcerned about our growing pension fund deficit, calling it a mere "paper problem," even though it's the reason for half of the county's proposed tax increase.

Here's another hint. He thinks you, the taxpayer, should pay for free health care for every retired Northampton County worker, even the ones being hired right now. When County Exec John Stoffa suggested eliminating retirement health care for new hires at a Monday budget hearing, this mystery guest said that's a "nonstarter," whatever that means.

You see, he things the private sector exists to take care of the public sector, at least that portion of the public sector in the union.

I'm sure most of you know this person is Charles Dertinger. He's not at all concerned about overtime abuse at the county jail. You can pay for it.

Ten Reasons Why You Should Dump Dertinger

Yesterday, The Express Times' editorial board endorsed five of the ten candidates seeking a seat on Northampton County Council, recommending three Republicans - Peg Ferraro, John Cusick and Tom Dietrich, as well as Democrats Deb Hunter and Bill Wallace. Far more interesting than the actual endorsement was their decision to pan incumbent Charles Dertinger.

"Incumbent Charles Dertinger ... has given voters all the evidence they need to end his council career. He's been a divisive force on council, thwarting Stoffa's plans to expand the county juvenile center and build an inmate center without suggesting credible alternatives. The council needs more consensus-building and less obstructionism."

Whether you are Democrat or Republican, you'd be nUtZ to vote for this guy. A vote for Charles Dertinger is a vote for bad government. Let me give you ten reasons why Dertinger is bad for Northampton County.

1. He refuses to level with the voters about his dates with a statewide grand jury. - Dertinger has been hauled before a statewide grand jury ... twice ... to answer questions about deceptive campaign practices in Northampton County. When I asked him about it, during a debate before a slate belt audience, he responded by attacking me. Shouldn't he come clean with the voters?

2. He's a liar. - Four years ago, County Council candidate Charles Dertinger solemnly pledged he would vote to kill the funding for a $3 million road benefiting an industrial development owned by famous campaign contributor Nolan Perin. Perin wanted a Wal-Mart. Once elected, Dertinger went back on his word, repeatedly voting against killing the project. In the meantime the county wasted $440,000 in engineering studies.

Asked about his broken promise during a debate, he lied again, claiming he supported the road only because Wal-Mart was no longer part of the picture. Here's how he put it, in his exact words. "I voted not to withdraw the money for the industrial drive after the Wal-Mart was out. You know that, and you're trying to conflate something otherwise."

County council minutes tell a different tale. On June 15, 2006, when Wal-Mart was very much under consideration, Dertinger voted to support the road. On February 15, 2007, after Wal-Mart had already given hope, Dertinger still voted for the road.

3) He has been a divisive force on Council. = Northampton County Council is the laughing stock of local legislatures, largely because of him. Want some examples?

* In 2006, he launched an obscenity laced tirade as Ron Angle tried to leave council chambers. He cornered the more diminutive Angle, pointing fingers in his face, getting closer, louder and redder. I had to insert myself between the two of them.

* In 2007, he tried to have Angle barred from voting on a matter in his own district, which prompted the late Wayne Grube to accuse Dertinger of having an "agenda." "This is nothng more than vindictive stuff."

* In 2008. while numerous nominees to various boards were forced to stand in front of Council like schoolchildren, Dertinger directed a lengthy hissy fit at County Exec John Stoffa, insisting on calling him "Stoff-er" after being corrected.

* In 2008, blasted Stoffa administration for its cautious approach to expensive capital projects. "We have an administration that can't build a birdhouse."

* In 2008, he engineered a votes expelling Exec John Stoff-er from the Higher Education Authority. Stoff-er smiled at me and said, "Crushing defeat."

* If you want to hear how petty and divisive he can get during a council meeting, listen to the clip below. (Note: If you have an old dial up modem, click here, look for the 64Kbps M3U (Lo-Fi) at the left sidebar and you can stream the audio).


4) He's lazy. - In my annual review of Council attendance, Dertinger ties for last place in 2006, is third from the bottom in 2007 and is tied for last place in 2008.

5) He's a one-man tax increase. - His broken promises concerning the Wind Gap road to nowhere cost the County $440,000. Because it's borrowed money, his lie will actually l cost you twice that amount. But that's only part of a pattern over the last three years.

* He tried to shove an IT contract down the County's throat that was $1.8 million more than the one Stoff-er eventually negotiated. He even refused to accept Solicitor Zito's advice to resolve the matter because it might "set a precedent."

* He supported wasting $650 thousand for renovations to Council's star chamber, which includes his very own laptop, but completely failed to include a nickel to videotape or webcast council meetings.

* He called the County's $70 million and growing pension deficit, the main reason for the tax increase, a mere "paper problem."

6) Ruins Morale Among County Workers. -

* He voted to demand the resignation of the county's personnel director, without even giving her an opportunity to be heard, to placate a green T-shirted lynch mob of county union workers, his real constituents.

* Called the county's relatively flawless presidential election a "screw up of epic proportions," resulting in the resignation of the Voting Registrar.

7) Too Union Friendly. - Believes county should just cave in on union grievances because fighting them is too costly.

8) Too Partisan. - He routinely votes against cabinet level officials who belong to the "wrong" party, ignoring the bipartisan approach to government suggested by President Barack Obama. He helped eject a Democratic council candidate from a party meeting for complaining about primary endorsements.

9) Opposes Transparency. - He's claimed he does he best work "outside of committee hearings," behind closed doors. He opposes campaign finance reform because some "little citizen group" might actually get together and challenge his reports. Despite the clear language of the Home Rule Charter, which he calls "yellow cake uranium," he believes citizens who own no real estate have no right to be heard.

10) Opposes Open Space. - Despite his claims to the contrary, Dertinger actually voted against John Stoff-er's "pay as you go" open space program.

Browning: Kwiatek & McNeill Fail Independence Test

Don Cunningham campaign manager Dan Kelly, responding to claims that the Lehigh County Executive is the sugar daddy for Comm'r candidates Hillary Kwiatek and Jeanne McNeill, has decided to turn tables on Republicans. In a news release published yesterday, LC Comm'r Dean Browning is portrayed as the "spearhead and leader of a GOP coordinated campaign targeting Lehigh County Commissioner Districts 1 and 5." He adds that Dean "is spending more time lately running the day to day fundraising and financial operations of this coordinated campaign than he is watching the books of New World Aviation."

So there.

Arch-villian Dean Browning took some time out from sticking needles into Cunningham voodoo dolls yesterday to forward this reply to Dan Kelly's jeremiad.

The purpose of the campaign finance reports filed this past Friday was to report campaign donations made to and expense made by and for candidates for the period from June 9, 2009 through October 19, 2009. With that in mind, it is important to review what the voters know today that they did not know when the reports were initially filed. Thanks to the reporting by Lehigh Valley Ramblings, the Examiner.com and The Morning Call, voters now know the following:

* The Friends of Donald Cunningham, Jr. (FDCJ) committee sent $72,000 to the PA Democratic Committee.
* This money was then used to produce three mailers for Hillary Kwiatek and three mailers for Jeanne McNeill. (see their reports
here).
* All six mailers were either delivered or in the mail on or before October 19.
* The combined cost of these mailers was $34,861.23 with $17,058.53 for Kwiatek and $17,802.70 for McNeill.

* Dan Kelly (Cunningham’s campaign manager) reports on October 27th that this is the total spent “to date”. But a fourth McNeill mailer, paid for by the PA Democrat Committee, arrived on or around October 24th. So it is unclear if the $34,861.23 is actually the total spent “to date”.
* Neither Kwiatek nor McNeill reported this large expense in their initial reports, claiming instead that the total money spent on their campaigns was $3,589.58 and $3,895.76, respectively.

Both Kwiatek and McNeill are first time candidates. It is possible they were unclear about the reporting requirements (although that doesn’t speak highly of their future ability to review and monitor a $400 million County budget). Their sensible response was acknowledging their error, filing an amended report and then moving on. Rather than let them do that, the local Democrat party and the Cunningham campaign chose to engage in several attempts at misdirection.


Their initial attempt was a news release claiming that the Lehigh County Republican Committee (LCRC) and the Lehigh County Victory PAC (LCVP) had “FAILED to file a financial report with the County, State, or any regulatory body at all”. [Blogger's note: I never published that news release]

When this accusation was quickly shown to be false [Blogger's note: That's why I never published that news release], they moved on to the most recent approach. Now, Kelly is claiming that financial reports filed by the LCRC [Lehigh County Republican Committee] and LCVP [Lehigh County Victory PAC] are incorrect. Of course, the release which trumpets this claim also includes the standard personal attacks.

Leaving those gratuitous comments aside, the fact is that these financial reports are correct. Through October 19, 2009 the LCVP spent $6,801.00 on four commissioner candidates and this was reported as an in-kind contribution on each of their finance reports. Any additional money spent by the LCVP was for its own operations and on GOTV efforts to benefit all Lehigh County candidates on November 3rd. Through October 19, 2009, the LCRC did not have any expenses related to the Republican candidates for County Commissioner. That can easily be determined by a cursory review of the online report.

This Cunningham campaign news release also tries to argue that the Executive's contributions to Commissioner Candidates are really no different from donations by the LCRC or the LCVP. That's wrong for two reasons.


First, neither the LCRC, LCVP (nor I) develop the annual operating budget submitted to the Board of Commissioners for approval. That is the responsibility of the County Executive.

Second, neither the LCRC, LCVP (nor I) negotiate contracts with the Collective Bargaining Units that represent the County’s employees and submit them to the Board of Commissioners for review and approval. That is the responsibility of the County Executive.

The Board of Commissioners has a responsibility as a separate and distinct body of County government to act as an appropriate check and balance on the County Executive and his Administration. The question for voters to decide is whether a Commissioner whose election was made possible by donations from the County Executive can exercise independence, question and say no, if necessary, to that same County Executive.

The main question in all of this is whether Kwiatek and McNeill, if elected, will be able to function independently from Don and stand up to him when required. That is a vital role for any Commissioner. I’m sure if you ask them that question they will say, “Yes, absolutely, we will be independent.” However, in my opinion, they missed the opportunity to demonstrate that when they failed to say no when Don offered to fund their campaigns. In other words, they have already failed the “independent” test. I don’t think they should be given a second chance.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Phillies Draw First Blood!

In the bottom of the first, Phillies ace pitcher Cliff Lee blew Derek Jeter away with just three pitches, an omen of things to come.

The Bronx Bombers were a bunch of duds last night. Pitching a complete game, Lee sent ten Yankees back to the dug out, shaking their heads and grumbling. He walked no one and allowed no runs until the bottom of the 9th, when he began to tire.

In the meantime, the Phillies made it a point to grind out every at-bat, easily scoring six runs against a team whose fans are already wondering who they'll be playing in next year's World Series. Chase Utley blasted a HR in the 2d that just landed here in Nazareth.

Final score? 6-1 Phils. Go Phillies!

Former Easton City Council Prez Endorses Dennis Lieb

Earlier today, I told you Easton smart growth advocate Dennis Lieb is mounting a write-in campaign against Mike Fleck for Easton City Council. Since the Fleckster spends most of his time in Allentown picking up paychecks as King Edwin's campaign manager, he may have forgotten where Easton is located.

Neighbors of Easton is all over this story. Breathing a sigh of relief, blogger Noel Jones tells us all about absentee candidate Fleck. "[H]e met with me after the primary to find out what all our neighborhood meetings (that he had not attended) had been about, and then said he'd circle back around in August to reconnect. Well, it's late October, and I haven't heard a word. I have seen hide nor hair of him, with the exception of one meeting at the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership ... ."

Noel, you can reach the Fleckster at the Allentown Brew Works.

But the big news is that Lieb has already picked up an important endorsement from former Easton City Council President Tim Pickel. Calling Fleck a "train wreck," he is urging one and all to vote, several times if possible, for Lieb.

"As the last West Ward representative on city council, I urge all of my friends and neighbors to vote for Dennis Lieb. I have worked closely with Dennis over the years and am continually impressed with his knowledge of city issues. He constantly educates himself on the issues that will impact our neighborhoods. I would feel proud to have him represent me as a part of Easton City Council."

Update: Easton Republican Committee endorses Lieb, too! That's the word I just received from blogger Noel Jones. Considering that Dennis captured 46% of the vote in the Democratic primary, this is beginning to look like a real race. It's a fleckin' miracle!

And Now For a Few Words From Don Cunningham

Did you know Don Cunningham works for Superior Court Judge and Supreme Court candidate Jack Panella? It's true.

I'm not talking about the person who'd like to remain in office as Lehigh County Executive for the next four years, but his dad. The Cunningham and Panella families have been close for years.

Why do I mention this? Because that's one of the chief reasons for two contributions that Don Cunningham the Exec made to the Pennsylvania Democratic party on October 5 ($22,000) and October 9 ($50,000), totalling $72,000.00. As Don explained in a conversation yesterday, it was never his intention to see that vast sum spent on two Commissioner candidates. And it's not what happened, either. In fact, only about half that sum is funding those local races.

Some of the remaining funds went to Don's own campaign, and the rest is intended to help the Lehigh Valley's Jack Panella, who is in a very tight Supreme Court race against Judge Joan Orie Melvin. A recent poll shows they are in a dead heat.

"I'd love to see a Supreme Court justice from the Lehigh Valley," Cunningham told me, but is very concerned. Melvin is a western Pennsylvania native, and is expected to win big there. Ordinarily, that would be offset by the huge Democratic edge in Philadelphia, but not this year. The City of Brotherly Love is expected to have a very low turnout. "There are no hot races, no mayor's race, and everyone there will be talking about the World Series," Cunningham noted. So if Panella hopes to become one of the Supremes, he needs a big win in the Lehigh Valley. He needs both a huge margin and a big turn out.

"I'll be honest, I intend to donate even more money to the state Democratic party." Even if some of the money goes to local candidates here or elsewhere, that will ultimately help Panella, Cunningham reasons. It makes sense. This is not so much about seizing control of the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners. That would be nice, but Cunningham's primary focus is electing Judge Panella to the Supreme Court.

Using the state party also gives him the biggest bang for his buck. In addition to cheaper mailing rates, they can "do things in bulk, and that enables you to do more for less."

Cunningham Camp Slams Dean Browning's Victory PAC

For the past two days, Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham has been taking it on the chin for using some of his very sizable campaign warchest to finance the campaign of Commissioner candidates Hillary Kwiatek and Jeanne McNeill. According to a news release from Cunningham campaign manager Dan Kelly, Republicans are actually outspending Democrats to keep control of the Lehigh Valley's largest legislative body. I'll let Dan speak for himself.

In an interesting attempt to “have their cake and eat it too,” Lehigh County Republican Commissioner Dean Browning and Party Chairman Bill Platt, Jr., conveniently forgot to mention their orchestrated effort to fund Republican Commissioner candidates while providing erroneous information about County Executive Don Cunningham and the State Democratic Party.

In fact, their effort to support two Commissioner candidates currently outstrips the current support of the State Democratic Committee’s in-kind contributions to Lehigh County Commissioner candidates -- which to date is a total of $34,861.23.

In addition, there are multiple discrepancies between what the Republican Party and its Victory Fund report as expenditures and the reporting of its two chosen candidates: commissioner candidates Glenn Eckhart and Tom Creighton.

Here are the facts:

§ Republicans, funded in large part by Commissioner Dean Browning, his family members and co-workers at New World Aviation, along with Congressman Charlie Dent, have raised $54, 495 and have reported spending more than $36,000 on Lehigh County Commissioner races this year.

§ The support has come from two groups, The Lehigh County Republican Committee and the Victory PAC, which have delivered all the advertising to date for Commissioner candidates Glenn Eckhart and Tom Creighton.

§ Eckhart and Creighton don’t report receiving as much from either Republican group as the groups report spending on Eckhart and Creighton. And, let’s remember, these are so-called fiscal conservatives who want to manage our money.

Here are the numbers (from their filings):

A. Lehigh County Republican Committee - Summary

§ Total Raised- $30,465.30

§ Total Expenditures- $18,043.91

§ Cash on Hand- $12,421.39

Key Contributions

$8,500- Charlie Dent
$200- Lawrence Hilliard
$500- Samuel Sexton
$2,000- Charles Snelling
$5,000- Roland Sigal
$500- John Lovett
$5,000- Robert Hammel
$7,500- PA Future Fund *(see mission statement below)

B. Victory PAC

§ Total Contributions: $24,030.77

§ Total Expenditures: $18,696.37

§ Cash on Hand: $5,334.40

PAC Officers

§ Dean Browning, chief financial officer of New World Aviation, is chairman of the Victory PAC

§ Peter J Csongradi, controller of New World Aviation, is treasurer of the Victory PAC

Key Contributors

$1,000- Dent for Congress
$5,000-Charles Browning, relative of Dean Browning
$5,000- Randolph Croschwartz, president of New World Aviation
$2,500- Peter Csongradi, controller of New World Aviation
$250-Air Products
$250-Friends of Community Colleges
$250- William Young
$5,000- PA Future Fund *(see mission statement below)
$1,000-Dexter Baker
$500- Sam Saxton
$1,000- William Grube
$1,000- John Lovett
$1,000- Robert Johnson

C. Dean Browning’s PAC and Personal Contributions

Dean Browning’s campaign committee has contributed $9,310 to four of the Republican commissioner candidates in in-kind services, most of which no one says what it is on their reports.

Browning gave an equal – and specific -- $2,327.50 to Eckhart, Creighton, Bob Smith and Mike Welsh.

Unfortunately, for Board Chairman Republican Percy Dougherty, Browning only skipped him with his benevolence

And here is the Problem:

§ Creative accounting has helped these groups hide activity, particularly regarding direct mail.

§ When you compare a low average for mail costs (design, consulting, production) with the amount of postage paid, over 40,000 pieces of mail are unaccounted for.

§ Negative mail pieces have been paid by the Lehigh County Republican party, but this information is not disclosed on those reports.

§ Creighton and Eckhart report receiving some in-kind support from the Victory PAC but don’t disclose what it is for.

Despite all of this, Commissioner Browning and Republican Party Chairman Bill Platt, Jr, decided to launch a media campaign regarding County Executive Don Cunningham’s contribution to the State Democratic Committee, which has been regularly misrepresented as a “$70,000 contribution” to Commissioner candidates.

While we see nothing wrong with Republicans helping Republicans and Democrats helping Democrats, we do think the Republican hypocrisy and lack of accurate reporting is evidence of a shady and sloppy approach that doesn’t belie the fiscal responsibility mantra they would like us to believe.

And, in the end, we have seen the uncovering of Commissioner Dean Browning as the spearhead and leader of a GOP coordinated campaign targeting Lehigh County Commissioner Districts 1 and 5.

There is no doubt that he is spending more time lately running the day to day fundraising and financial operations of this coordinated campaign than he is watching the books of New World Aviation. One has to wonder why?

* Mission Statement of the PA Future Fund from its website: In 2009, the Pennsylvania Future Fund is dedicated to the following objectives:
Elect a Supreme court Justice to ensure a fair redistricting plan for Pennsylvania. The court is presently divided with three Republicans and three Democrats; so a fourth Republican will tip the balance.
Invest funds in local and county organizations to rebuild the Republican Party at the grassroots level. We have a plan to improve the use of political technology that we wish to make available statewide.
Recruiting quality pro-growth candidates for Congress, State Senate and State House for the 2010 cycle.


Asked for comment, Dean Browning tells me he'll have a more complete answer today, but wanted you to know "they are mixing apples and oranges and then making erroneous comparisons."

"The money from Lehigh County Victory PAC spent for County Commissioner candidates went to 5 different candidates not just Eckhart and Creighton.

"Not all the money spent by Lehigh County Victory PAC was for the commissioner candidates. Some was for the PAC itself and a significant portion was for GOTV efforts to benefit all Republicans in Lehigh County.

"I can say that any money spent by the PAC before the Oct. 19 cutoff that to the direct benefit of a candidate was reported to them and included on their campaign finance report."

Norco Council Campaign Finance Reports Are Proof There's a Recession

Money and mailers may be flowing like manna from heaven in the Lehigh County Commissioner races, but things are a lot different here in the People's Republic of Northampton County. So far, I've received no mailers from any of the ten county council candidates. I have received two robocalls, one of them anonymous, about Charles Dertinger.

On Friday, all ten candidates filed their pre-election campaign finance reports. They explain why this has been such a low-key race. There's no money. The biggest fundraiser is union lover Charles Dertinger, and that's only $7,325.00.

Dertinger likes to tell us he's been blessed, but it's not by God. It's the unions. From Parsippany, NJ, to Flushing, NY, they open their wallets for him. Maybe they still think he's running for Congress. Maybe it's because Dertinger is the only Council member dragging his feet during hard financial times about the county paying retirement health care for new hires. Everyone else is ready to end this expensive perk, but Dertinger thinks of it as some sort of entitlement that taxpayers owe the public sector.

I will be scanning and linking to these reports, but want you to have this summary.

John Cusick: 6/9/09 to 10/19/09.

* $500 cash on hand to start.
* $6,500 in contributions, including $5,000 from himself and $1,000 from LV Ass'n of Realtors.
* Spent $501, mostly on signs.
* Left with $5,999.

Charles Dertinger: 6/9/09 to 10/19/09.

* $9,654.11 cash on hand to start.
* $7,325.00 in contributions, mostly from nonlocal PACs and unions, as well as $1,000 from Rodney Applegate.
* spent $4000.92, including $2,278 for signs and $848 for flyers.
* Left with $12,978.19.

Tom Dietrich: 6/9/09 to 10/19/09.

* $81.72 cash on hand to start.
* $875 in contributions, including $500 from auto dealer L. Anderson Daub.
* Spent $931.20, including $661.43 for signs.
* Left with $25.52.

Peg Ferraro: 6/9/09 to 10/19/09.

* $15,589.22 cash on hand to start.
* $1,025 in contributions, including $500 from Donald & Carol Keller.
* Spent $2,618.04, most to Capitol Promotions,
* Left with $13,996.18.

Walter Garvin: 6/8/09 to 10/19/09.

* $1,376.00 cash on hand to start.
* $3,975.00 in contributions, including $1,000 from LV Ass'n of Realtors and $500 from IUPAT. * Spent $3,015.20, including $1,441 for signs and $360 for a party mailer.
* Left with $2,335.80.

Bruce Gilbert: (does not include a reporting period)

* $0 cash on hand to start.
* $1,350 in contributions, most from local businessmen.
* Spent $1,090, mostly for 600 signs.
* Left with $260.00

Deb Hunter: 6/9/09 to 10/19/09

* $1,500 cash on hand to start.
* $850 in contributions, including $500 from the PSEA.
* Spent $1,673.01, including $805.57 for yard signs.
* Left with $676.99.

Lorraine Pasquali: 6/9/09 to 10/19/09.

* $1,160.39 cash on hand to start.
* $590.00 in contributions, including $240 in $50 and under contributions.
* Spent $1,281.84, including $363.84 for yard signs.
* Left with $209.06.

Barb Thierry: 6/9/09 to 10/19/09.

* $72.35 cash on hand to start.
* $300 in contributions, including $250 from Ron Angle.
* Spent $35.38.
* Left with $336.97.

Bill Wallace: 6/13/09 to 10/19/09.

* $1,734.12 cash on hand to start.
* $6,574.00 in contributions. $3,074 is in $50 and under amounts. $1,800 is union money.
* Spent $6,129.27, including $1,310 for a party mailer and $2,323.40 for yard signs.
* Left with $2,178.85.

During this same period, the Northampton County Democratic Party raked in $6,274.76, and is obviously preparing for a joint mailer. Northampton County Republicans' report, if any, is unavailable on the state campaign finance site.

Here's a few interesting tidbits:

1) Ann McHale snubbed Deb Hunter. She gave $100 to each of the Dems running, excepting Hunter. That alone makes me want to vote for Deb.

2) Bill Wallace has a lot of grass roots support. He raked in $3,074 in "$5o or less" contributions.

3) All Democratic candidates chipped in to the county party, suggesting that a joint mailer is in the works.

4) Cusick is largely self-funded, suggesting his independence.

5) Congressman Charlie Dent must like Bruce Gilbert ($250).

Dennis Lieb Has a Fleckin' Surprise

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy!

Easton mayoral candidate and Pawlowski campaign manager Mike Fleck has been cruising along, collecting "pay to play" paychecks from King Edwin, without a care in the world. Life is good.

Few people could be worse for Easton than Mike Fleck. In his first unsuccessful Easton mayoral bid, he claimed to be both a Moravian College grad and a business administrator at some used car dealer. He lied. After going down in flames, Fleck suddenly became a political consultant who fleeced state house candidate Archie Follweiler out of an obscene $21,000 over just 11 weeks. Most western Lehigh County Dems now run when they see him, hands on their wallets.

Fleck then decided to be a politician again and ran for mayor a second time, this time against Sal Panto. Despite plastering signs on everything, from telephone poles to shad swimming up the Delaware, Fleck flamed out again. In that election, he was sued by an ex-girlfriend over money she had borrowed for him. He was also charged with theft of services when he dumped a bunch of Fleck signs and old gym trunks in an Autozone trash bin. Those charges were ultimately dismissed, but not before The Express Times snapped the lovely picture you see above. Editor Jim Deegan's caption? "You won't Fleckin' Believe This!"

These days, Fleck is perfecting his fleecing techniques at the feet af King Edwin. He can pretty much ignore Easton, and has, because he has no opponent. In the primary, 90% of Easton's registered Democrats forgot all about the election, and the Fleckster squeaked by with a 182 to 141 win over Easton activist Dennis Lieb.

Lieb has decided to mount a write-in campaign while Fleck is busy in Allentown. While Fleck has pretty much ignored Easton's West Ward, Lieb has been a tireless advocate. His reservations about Riverwalk, first published on this very blog, proved to be correct. He was the first to notice that Easton's Properties of Merit program was being perverted by elitists who were merely interested in driving up property values so they could sell.

If turnout remains low, and Lieb can garner some support from Republicans and disaffected Dems, Easton is in for a Fleckin' surprise.

Trexler Nature Preserve to Open Friday

Lehigh County’s Trexler Nature Preserve will officially open at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 30 at the ford of the Jordan Creek.

Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham will detail the $2.75 million upgrade, which includes dramatically improved public access, 19 miles of expanded trails, better wheelchair accessibility and an emphasis on passive recreation such as hike, biking and horseback riding.

The 1,100 acre preserve was established by the late Gen. Harry C. Trexler in the early 1900s to save the American bison from extinction.

Bison burgers will be served right after the news conference followed by a wagon tour of the new trails and North Range.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

King Edwin Adds $89,790 to Coffers in Four Months

Between June 9th and October 19th, Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski has added another $89,790.26 to his campaign coffers. Hey, he needs the dough According Valley 610's Jarrett Renshaw, Hizzoner has already spent over $220,000 since January. I'll have more details tomorrow.

Northampton County Sheriffs Sitting on 2000 Firearms

During yesterday's budget hearing, it became very clear that the Sheriff's office has a lot of firepower. They're sitting on somewhere around 2,000 firearms seized over the years. Sandy Templeton, a deputy who has been employed there for twenty years, told Northampton County Council they've never sold any and she's not really sure what happens to them.

"You've managed to pile up 2,000 weapons and have done nothing?" asked an incredulous Ron Angle.

The Sheriff's office is scheduled to undergo an audit of its seized firearms. The sooner the better.

The Browning Connection

Yesterday, I told you that Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham is financing the campaigns of Democratic Commissioner candidates Hillary Kwiatek and Jeanne McNeill, to the tune of approximately $72,000. Well, it looks like Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning is doing much the same thing, although on a much smaller scale. Campaign finance reports filed by Tom Creighton, Glenn Eckhart, Mike Welsh and Bob Smith reveal that each has received $4,027.25 in in-kind services from Browning's committee as well as his Lehigh County Victory PAC. (You can see their reports here).

For those of you unfamiliar with this evil arch-villian, Browning is the Commish who wanted to pull the plug on county funding to poor Pip the Mouse, which resulted in squeaky death threats and little car bombs. Relentless, you can see Dean above, hatching his latest fiendish plot. Thanks in large part to Dean's efforts, Republican candidates have sent out a few negative mailers of their own, as you can see from a Creighton piece directed at Jeanne McNeill..
Back of Creighton Mail Piece[1]



I called Browning for comment late last night and to learn if he drew that cartoon, but his wife told me he was out stealing signs.

Did LC Comm'r Andy Roman Just Slam Candidate Jeanne McNeill?

Andy Roman is an at-large Lehigh County Commissioner, but is nothing like most politicians. Instead of being gregarious, he's a bit on the shy and retiring side. Reserved. He expresses strong opinions that often make sense, as he did in support of webcasting public meetings, and I've never witnessed him launch a personal attack against anyone.

That's why I have to question whether the "Andy Roman" who commented on Ken Petrini's blog yesterday is the Lehigh County Comm'r or someone else. If this is actually Andy Roman the Commish, he needs to move and run for Northampton County Council, where mean-spirited and childish remarks are expected. Get a lot of this unnecessary swipe.

"Daniel McNeil who was thrown out of office as a Whitehall Township Executive in 2006 because of an ethical cloud surrounding his appointment in violation of the Whitehall Home Rule charter is now hoping to have his wife Jeanne do his bidding for him at the County level and have Don pay for it.

"Daniel McNeil, who was subsequently appointed to a cushy County position is now hoping to bring his brand of "political hack" politics to the County level through his wife, who has no government experience and has never attended a Commissioner meeting.

"By the way,isn't it a bit unsavory to have hubby calling the shots while being on the County pay-roll? Conflict of interest maybe??

"If Daniel McNeil wants to be a political player at the County level, why doesn't he run himself instead of making his poor wife do his bidding?"


Tacky. Maybe Andy should try blogging. Speaking of unsavory, is it appropriate for a Lehigh County elected official to speak this way about a County employee?

Charlie Dent: Isn't It Time for Cameras in the Rules Committee?

The powerful U.S. House Rules Committee is responsible for reporting measures to be considered by the Full House and establishing the terms under which the House will debate, amend and vote. LV Congressman Charlie Dent thinks it's time for a little transparency, and has introduced a resolution calling for cameras to record and broadcast proceedings.

“As Congress considers some of the most pivotal policy of our time, the American people deserve full transparency in all legislative proceedings, particularly those of the powerful Rules Committee,” Congressman Dent said. “There has been unprecedented civic engagement since the 2008 election. Americans understand the importance of the policy that Congress is considering and they are watching the process closely. It is unacceptable that they are shut out of the Rules Committee’s critical proceedings. In the past year, we have seen 300-page amendments offered to the Rules Committee in the middle of the night and key policy proposals rejected on a straight party-line vote without thorough consideration. Sunlight will be a powerful disinfectant against these practices.”

According to a spokesperson for Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, cameras are always welcome. "We invite TV cameras to every single meeting we have. We can't dictate what the press decides to cover but cameras are always welcome at our meetings. Like all Americans, we love C-SPAN. And it's worth noting that Rules is far more open under us than it ever was under Republicans. We meet earlier, post more information online and we do it faster than ever before so the public knows exactly what happens at each of our meetings."

But the Rules Committee hearing room is among the smallest on Capitol Hill and one of the last without cameras to record the work of the committee. Congressman Dent’s resolution would call for installation of cameras during the next long district work period, and facilitation of live audio and video webcasting of all proceedings. The expense would be minimal since most of the architectural work required to install cameras was completed during the last renovation of the hearing room.

Though not a member of the Rules Committee, Congressman Dent has had significant experience with the silent influence this Committee can wield. He has gone to the Rules Committee on numerous occasions to offer substantive amendments. For instance, he offered an amendment during consideration of the major FY2009 Appropriations bill to hold spending at an inflationary increase, and in deliberations on the TARP legislation he offered an amendment to cap funding at $250 billion and require another vote of authorization before allocating additional money. Both amendments were rejected by the Committee and consequently, not allowed to be considered by the full House.

“This committee can prevent the opportunity for serious debate, but the American people don’t have the opportunity to hear its members explain their own actions,” Congressman Dent said. “One thing I hear consistently from my constituents, regardless of their views on policies, is that they feel like Congress is out of touch. More transparency is demanded, and I think that letting the American people in on the important proceedings of the Rules Committee is a logical place to start.”

Congressman Dent’s resolution was introduced Friday with 61 original cosponsors, including four members of the Rules Committee: Ranking Member David Dreier of California, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, and Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.

Kwiatek & McNeill Amend Reports, Note Cunningham Connection


Well, that didn't take long. Yesterday morning, Ken Petrini and I both told you that Lehigh County Commissioner candidates Hillary Kwiatek (running in District 5 against incumbent Glenn Eckhart) and Jeanne McNeill (running in District 1 against Tom Creighton) had both filed their pre-election campaign finance reports (see them here). That's a good thing. But in those reports, they fail to note $72,000 that Executive Don Cunningham had set aside so they could do three mailers each. That's a bad thing.

By late yesterday afternoon, both McNeill and Kwiatek had amended their reports to note Cunningham's generous assistance. Kwiatek and McNeill both tell me they never received the necessary invoices until Friday, the deadline for filing. McNeill's report had already been filed two days earlier, and Kwiatek's was already finished when she got the news.

Kwiatek has already stated she "would never intentionally deceive or mis-report information on these reports." For her part, McNeill tells me "I have always worked hard to maintain openness and honesty. I received the info on Friday and my report had been finished and turned in by Wednesday. I did not realise that I could amend it to reflect the change. I thought I had to wait until the next report to do so. Thanks to your column, I was made aware of this. I was unable to add it to my first report because I did not have the figures in hand and did not want to guess at something so important. If you ask anyone that knows me, they will tell you that I am an upstanding decent person who always does what is right. I apologize to anyone that felt it was not handled in the correct way."

I believe them both. If they were interested in playing games, they would have simply waited until the next filing period.

Their reports, as amended, reveal that Executive Don Cunningham is their chief benefactor. Some of you may feel this makes them rubber stamps incapable of independent oversight. Others may think that all this means is that Cunningham recognizes two good people who understand and will help his agenda over the next four years.

What's important, from my perspective, is that you know the county exec is financing these candidates. You can draw your own conclusions.

Monday, October 26, 2009

LV Religious Leaders to Conduct Health Care Hearing Today

Top leaders of the Lehigh Valley’s religious community will conduct a public hearing on weaknesses in our health care system today at 4 PM, at Wesley United Methodist Church, 2540 Center Street, Bethlehem. Nine Lehigh Valley residents who have had tragic experiences will tell their stories, followed by a panel of medical professionals with their own explanations about the need for reform.

Taking testimony will be the Right Reverend Paul Marshall, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, the Reverend Samuel Zeiser, Bishop of the Northeast Pennsylvania Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Reverend David Bennett, President, Moravian Church Eastern District, the Reverend Steven Shusett, Teaching Presbyter, Lehigh Presbytery, Presbyterian Church USA, the Reverend Alan Miller, Conference Minister, Pennsylvania Northeast Conference, United Church of Christ, and Rabbi Jonathan Gerard, representing the region’s Jewish community.

The moral imperative to take care of the sick has largely been overlooked in the current debate surrounding health care reform. Following the testimony, these religious leaders will issue statements, speaking from their theological and moral authority as leaders of their respective faith traditions.

The event is being organized by Health Care for America Now, a broad national coalition of organizations that are working to promote quality, affordable health care for all Americans.  HCAN Lehigh Valley is a local chapter of the group.

Comm'r Candidates Kwiatek & McNeill Hide Cunningham's $70k Contribution

Not very long ago, a candidate would never dream of asking an elected official or other candidate to dig into his own campaign fund for money. In these different times, office seekers felt they had an obligation to those financing their campaigns to restrict those funds only for their own political quests. In recent years, all that has changed, and it's now rather routine for candidates to give each other this monopoly money. Most of the time, it's pretty innocent. But when an elected official uses donated money to solidify and expand his power base, it's time to pay attention.


Campaign finance reports filed Friday reveal that Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham is using his healthy, $700 thousand, campaign warchest to build his powerbase, stacking the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners. It's a political power play, although I'm sure he'd justify it as an attempt to make government more efficient. The downside is that, instead of an independent legislative body that asks questions and provides oversight, you end up with rubber stamps.

This year's rubber stamps are candidates Hillary Kwiatek, running against incumbent Glenn Eckhart in District 5; and Jeanne McNeill, running against Tom Creighton in District 1. They've been so excited to take Cunningham's money and help that they can't be bothered to follow election disclosure laws. Instead of informing the public, their filed campaign reports actually mislead them. Let me explain what happened.

This month, Kwiatek and McNeill sent out four, professionally prepared, 8 x 11 mailers each. One of Kwiatek's missives is a hit job against incumbent Glenn Eckhart, complete with grainy black and white photo. Take a gander.
Hillary Kwiatek Campaign Flyer



Sure, Kwitek's slam is inaccurate. Rather than being against police, Eckhart actually voted to increase the size of Salisbury's force 40% when he was a township supervisor. But hey, I admire the quality of the work.

Now two of these mailers for each candidate arrived before the Monday, October 19th cutoff for reporting campaign expenses. The third must have been in the mail because those pieces arrived on the 20th. The cost of all three mailers was obviously incurred before the cutoff date.

Where did Kwiatek and McNeill get the money? Campaign finance reports filed Friday, which covers the period between June 8 and October 19th, not only fail to answer that question, but are downright misleading.

McNeill reports receiving $8,900 and spending just $2,900, leaving her with approximately $6,000. Kwiatek is a mirror image. She pulled in $6,800 and spent only $3,000. They both report only one $250 donation from the Cunningham camp. (Their reports can be downloaded here). The cost of these mailers is reflected nowhere.

So who paid for these mailers? Cunningham. Let me tell you how I know.

Cunningham's campaign committee made two contributions to the Pennsylvania Democratic party on October 5 ($22,000) and October 9 ($50,000), totalling $72,000.00. The state party took that money and spent it for the following:

* Postage for Kwiatek mailing (10/16/09) $1,170.70.
* Postage for MacNeill mailing (10/16/09) $1,179.54.
* Payment to Gumbinner & Davies for Design, Print, Mail House for unspecified "Lehigh County Candidates" (10/16/09) $52,447.49.
* Postage-mailing for Don Conningham (10/15/09) $4,670.51.
* Postage-mailing for unspecified "Lehigh County Candidates" (10/13/09) $5,074.75.
* Postage-mailing for unspecified "Lehigh County Candidates" (10/6/09) $4,767.52
By October 19th, Cunningham had paid nearly $70,000 to promote Kwiatek and MacNeill.

Hillary Kwiatek was actually an active participant in this Cunningham-financed mail campaign. On her Facebook page, in a post entitled The Impact of Mail, Kwiatek muses "A candidate pores over her mail pieces making sure everything is accurate and reflects who she is as a candidate and then hopes for the best." She is very excited by how her "first mail piece" was received, noticing it has increrased traffic n the Internet. But she's not excited enough to tell her readers that Cunningham is paying for those mailers. She's not excited enough to include its cost on her finance report, as required by our election laws. Neither McNeill nor Kwiatek bother to tell you that County Executive Don Cunningham is trying to buy their election, to the tune of nearly $70,000 so far. Both attempt to mislead you into thinking he's only given them $250 apiece. If Kwiatek and MacNeill are this deceptive as candidates, what will happen when they're elected?

Summary:

* In early Oct. Don Cunningham’s campaign transferred $72,000 to the PA Democrat Committee.
* Through Oct. 24th, Kwiatek and McNeill have sent out 4 mailers each with a total combined cost of approximately $25,000.
* Two of the mailers for each candidate arrived before the Monday, October 19th cutoff for reporting campaign expenses and 1 for each candidate was in the mail at that point, arriving on Oct. 20th.
* Three of Kwiatek’s mailers and three of McNeill’s mailers list them as being paid for by the PA Democrat Committee.
* The three Kwiatek mailers that arrived (or were in the mail) before the 19th were all paid for by the PA Democrat Committee.
* The three McNeill mailers that arrived (or were in the mail) before the 19th were all paid for by the PA Democrat Committee.
* Kwiatek wrote on her Facebook page on Oct. 15th about reviewing the mailers and that the first had arrived, so she knew that they had been sent.
* The PA Democrat Committee reports spending $52,447.49 on Oct. 16th for “design, print and mail house” for “Lehigh County candidates”
* The PA Democrat Committee reports spending $1,170.70 (enough for 10,000 to 12,000 mailers) on Oct. 16th for postage on Kwiatek.
* The PA Democrat Committee reports spending $1,179.54 (enough for 10,000 to 12,000 mailers) on Oct. 16th for postage on McNeill.
* Neither Kwiatek nor McNeill reported any direct expenses or in-kind contributions on their campaign finance reports that reflect the money spent (design, production and postage) for their mailers that went out before the Oct. 19th cutoff. At a bare minimum the postage needed to be reported. Kwiatek, in particular, can not claim ignorance of the fact that the mailers had gone out since she talked about them at her Facebook site.

Update: Kwiatek Amends Report! In an email, Hillary Kwiatek announces that she has amended her report to reflect the state party's in-kind contributions. She claims she received that documentation on Friday, after her report had already been prepared, and opted to amend it today rather than wait for the next reporting period "in the interest of greater transparency."

Kwiatek adds, "I want to say in the strongest terms possible that I would never intentionally deceive or mis-report information on these reports. I take the oath my signature represents on those forms very seriously, and my integrity means a great deal to me. The fact of the matter is, I simply didn't have the documentation of these contributions when my treasurer and I completed my report. As you realize, you cannot document an in-kind contribution without the necessary information. Once I received the information, the report was amended in as quick a manner as I could manage, given my treasurer's work schedule and the like."

Morning Call's Renshaw: Only Hershman Has a Clue

Morning Call reporter Jarrett Renshaw could really use a little help. He's been awful busy. Renshaw first exposed Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski's "pay to play" campaign finances, chronicling a culture of corruption in which contributors are rewarded with cushy jobs and city contracts. He followed that up with the revelation that, by the end of this year, Allentown's deficit may exceed $10 million. This, of course, is completely contrary to Mayor Pawlowski's insistence that he had restored the Queen City's fiscal stability. Most recently, Renshaw has cast a spot light on sick time abuse in the fire department, which has cost $1.54 million in overtime costs since January 2007.

Now Renshaw is a journalist, not a member of Allentown city council. What have they been doing? How has that seven-member city council reacted to these reports of abuse? Investigations? Audits?

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Last week's regular meeting, scheduled to consider twelve different ordinances, had to be canceled because of lack of interest. Council was unable to establish a quorum. No effort has been made to reschedule that meeting this week despite a Home Rule Charter provision clearly mandating that it shall meet twice every month.

I've emailed Council Prez Michael D'Amore to ask when this meeting will be rescheduled. No reply.

The City is in obvious crisis, but the body created to provide oversight can't be bothered to meet, let alone provide direction. Is it any wonder City Council candidate Lou Hershman calls this litter a collection of Pawlowski lap dogs?

In Sunday's Morning Call, Jarrett Renshaw makes very clear that of all six candidates, only Hershman has responded to the report of a Peanutville blue ribbon panel, calling for dramatic changes.
"Republican candidate Lou Hershman, 73, has laid out a plan that seems closest to the committee's spirit of reform.

Allentown should consider dissolving the parking authority, Hershman said, and use any surplus revenue from violations to help pay the city's operating expenses."
Hershman also wants to audit landlords so all tenants pay earned income and business privilege taxes.

He has specific ideas. He is also the only candidate running who will decline to accept a salary.

Perhaps you'd prefer pious platitudes. Julio "I speak two languages" Guridy proposes looking at "all expenses, line-by-line." Silly me, but aren't they supposed to be doing that already? What the hell has Guridy been doing the last eight years? Energetic Mike Schlossberg proposes buying supplies like paper clips in bulk. Last time I checked, the city already makes most of its purchases through the state at a discounted rate.

D'Amore and Guridy take the cake for most ridiculous idea. The want to restructure the debt that they've already just restructured. In other words, they want to shackle the city with thirty years of debt to pay for their mismanagement.

During this campaign, Hershman has already been disparaged with anonymous sleaze robcalls engineered by Pawlowski. Candidates Sclossberg, D'Amore and O'Connell - the three blind mice - paid for that smear job. But they've all been too timid to lay the blame at the mayor's door mat publicly, where it properly belongs. Is this independence? Of the three, only Ray O'Connell has been decent enough to acknowledge an error and apologize like a man.

After sliming Lou, Council Prez D'Amore and VP Michael Donovan tried muzzling him, preventing him from speaking out at city council meetings during public comment segments, a clear violation of both Allentown's Home Rule Charter as well as the The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act. Michael "I'm still learning" Donovan was unwilling to listen to someone who has long served Allentown, as both Council member (8 years) and Controller (24 years). D'Amore and Donovan, in trying to silence Hershman, undermined public confidence in the democratic process and sent a chilling message to anyone interested in getting involved.

It's an insiders' club.

Lou stood up to the insiders, and thanks to the eloquence of Council members like Jeannette Eichenwald, Council eventually backed down.

Amazingly, Hershman is still fighting for the city he loves, even if it is an uphill battle against money and partisan politics. A good man, he sticks to issues, and never slams people personally, not even in retaliation. If you are an Allentown voter, don't you think you deserve at least one more watchdog on city council?

Jeanette Eichenwald is beginning to ask hard questions, but she needs help. So does Jarrett Renshaw.

So does Allentown.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Allentown Human Relations Comm'n is Sorry

Yesterday, I told you that Allentown's Human Relations Commission snubbed Tony Phillips, the city's first black elected official, at a dinner earlier this week. You'll be pleased to know that Vice Chair Allyson Diane Hamm did send Tony an "apology" yesterday. She took a break from a Meet'nGreet with Mayor Ed to tell Tony he was introduced after he left, and that if he had stayed, he would know that and that he should have given them the courtesy of letting them snub him a little longer and he was too late and they are nonpartisan and it was a lovely evening anyway, so there.

She also asked him to pay for his dinners.

John Callahan Sure Likes to Spend Your Money

Congressman John Callahan.

Do you like the way that sounds? But what does it mean? Callahan has so far ducked taking a position on health care, our most pressing national issue. I have no idea where he stands on Speaker Pelosi's cap-and-trade energy bill, which will cost about 60,000 jobs here in Pennsylvania. What's his position on important foreign policy questions, like the recent proposal to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan?

Beats me.

Callahan plays it safe, hiding in his throne room with his finger in the air, trying to tell which way the wind is blowing. In contrast, LV Congressman Charlie Dent has reached out to his community. This year alone, he's conducted 17 town halls all over the Lehigh Valley. This is in addition to numerous Q&A sessions with senior center residents.

Dent leads from the front while Callahan is still in the rear, stocking up on supplies that include $1,000 contributions from developers like Nolan Perin, who is still looking for public money to fund his Wind Gap road to nowhere.

So tell what type of Congressman John Callahan would be, we need to look at his record as Bethlehem Mayor. That record shows he likes to spend taxpayers' money. Local news media has reported an audit showing a $2.7 million deficit in Bethlehem’s 2008 Budget. Even the Democrat Chairman of Bethlehem City Council’s Finance Committee said that Callahan’s overspending the budget was “unacceptable.” Maybe Callahan should think twice about running for two offices at the same time.

Did Mayor Callahan consider for a moment that this nearly $3 million deficit was the result of overspending? No. His Administration instead blamed the deficit on their inability to continue his longstanding practice of raiding other city funds (like the Water Authority) to cover holes in the City’s General Fund Budget. In other words, Callahan uses non-recurring revenue to pay for recurring expenditures.

Mayor Callahan wants voters to believe that things are looking better for Bethlehem’s finances in the coming year. In fact, Bethlehem will receive millions, just for hosting a casino. So can city residents expect the tax relief they were promised in exchange for opening their community to gambling? No.

“Mayor Callahan has built up such a mountain of debt that it is highly unlikely he’ll be able to offer property tax relief at a time when people could certainly use it,” said Shawn Millan, Dent’s campaign manager.

Instead of property tax relief, Callahan has a better idea - a $1.5 million skateboarding park. As a councilman, he opposed that idea, bit I think what sold him is the idea of putting a few slots there and in the dog park.

“These are the same misguided priorities and out-of-control spending that Mayor Callahan supported by saying he backed the failed Stimulus Bill. We’re in the middle of tough economic times, but you would never know it from the way the Mayor spends taxpayers’ money,” Congressman Charlie Dent said.

As Mayor of Bethlehem John Callahan has raised property taxes, imposed a $52 municipal services tax for people working in Bethlehem, fought to increase the sales tax, ran up a $2.7 million budget deficit, sank the City’s Water Authority with debt and thinks that $1.5 million of taxpayer money for a skate park is prudent spending as opposed to giving the people of Bethlehem tax relief.

Congressman Dent has a different view. “This is the record that Washington Democrats think qualifies John Callahan to serve in Congress. If you want to know what kind of Congressman Callahan would be, here’s your answer: he’ll be the sort of Congressman that Speaker Nancy Pelosi just gave $4,000 to elect.”

Blogger's Note: Ken Petrini has the text of the Dent campaign's news release here.