I've set up a small Act Blue donor form on the left sidebar of this blog for two interesting newcomers trying to make a difference in the land of midnight payraises. Today I'll focus on Russ Shade, Democratic candidate for the 183rd legislative district in the Northampton area. He's trying to usurp Julie Harhart, an unresponsive state rep. who has forgotten her promise to "serve" only four terms.
To retake control of the state house, Democrats need just eight seats. They're getting a lot of help from Republican House Speaker John Perzel, who defended an obscene state lawmaker payraise by incredulously claiming farmers and tattoo artists get more dough, and that some poor legislators have trouble getting credit.
Russ Shade, who managed John Stoffa's astonishingly successful county executive campaign without a dime of special interest money and against party bosses, thinks campaign money should come mostly from residents that actually live in the local community, and not PACs located in Toodeloo. But what about Harrisburg?
Harrisburg! We have a problem.
In Russ's own words,
Our legislators have made it legal for themselves to be away from the Capitol but still vote on important issues.
They vote to suspend rules so they can ram through bills in the middle of the night and nobody will notice what is going on (e. g. the pay raise).
They've exempted their expense reporting from the Pennsylvania Open Records Law.
Their approach to business taxes has driven away thousands of potential jobs.
They've failed over and over to reform the tax structure in this state, preferring instead to debate taxing candy and garter belts.
They use taxpayer-provided slush funds to fund projects in their districts (which helps them get re-elected).
They get a $650 car allowance (what? you mean if I'm a legislator I actually have to spend time in Harrisburg? Shouldn't the taxpayers have to pay for my traveling there in style?)
Instead of being reimbursed for actual expenses, they can take a per diem payment to use as they wish - without having to account for it..
They average 77 session days a year.
They get to vote themselves a pay raise whenever they think they can get away with it.
They insert amendments into bills for the benefit of "special interests" (a.k.a. campaign contributors).
If they fail at their job (failing to deliver real tax reform, not adhering to the PA Constitution) they get paid anyway.
Harhart can piously claim she voted against the midnight payraise, but she also voted to suspend rules that required that bill to be considered for three separate days before enactment. And all but five percent of her campaign dough is from special interests well outside her district. They take care of her, and she's taking care of them, not ordinary schleps like you and me.
If you want to take back your government, give Russ a hand and send a little dough with the Act Blue pledge from on the left sidebar. Small contributions from enough of us, even $5, will make a big difference in an important race. I've kicked in as much as I can spare, and will try each week. We can complain about Bush and Cheney all we want, but it's in the small races like these where the battle is being fought. And so the battle rages.