Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Jeff Warren, Easton's Magnet for Special Interests

On Friday, I told you about expense reports filed by Easton's three mayoral hopefuls - Republican Gary Bertsch and Democrats Sal Panto and Mike Fleck. But there's a candidate in Easton who makes them look like pikers. He's Jeff Warren, and he's running for Easton city council.

Jeff, who currently serves as State Senator Lisa Boscola's chief legislative assistant, has been very responsive whenever I've had a question. When I first heard he was running for city council, I thought he'd be a shot in the arm. And his initiative to eliminate health care and pension benefits for city council members is long overdue for a financially distressed city.

But when I spoke to a long-time Easton observer about Jeff, she picked him to finish either last or second last of the Dem candidates. After paging through Warren's expense reports and finally listening to his interview at Easton Undressed, I hope she's right.

Warren's interview reveals he likes to use the words "plethora" and "proactive," but has the same answers for all of Easton's problems. Community police is one answer. The other is cutting healthcare and pension benefits for city council. He's unfamiliar with Act 47, the Municipal Financial Recovery Act, and was unable to name three blighted properties. But he wants to do all he can to help businesses relocate to Easton. After reading his campaign finance report, I know why.

Jeff raised $12,385 between the beginning of the year and the end of April. That's a lot more than mayoral candidates Fleck($8,424) or Panto($7,365). He picked up $3,300 from representatives of Ashley Development, and another $2,000 from other developers. He reports $4,450 in donations between $50 and $250, but only $300 of this sum actually comes from Easton residents. Outsiders and developers just don't give this kind of money unless they're looking for something.

Other Easton city council candidates have been much more grass roots oriented. Incumbent Ken Brown only raised $75. Peter Melan has raised $5,760, but $3,225 of that amount comes from small contributions of $50 or less.

I'm sorry, but a vote for Jeff is nothing more than a vote for the Pennsylvania Builders Association. His candidacy is a magnet for special interests.
Update: The Express Times has a thorough account of Warren's campaign warchest. Warren calls his report a testament to the support friends, family and colleagues have shown for him and his platform. Yep, Friends like Ashley Development must be very nice. But not so many Easton friends.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

why must we tear down candidates who are successful? the sad fact is, in politics you have to be able to raise money. absent a showing the contributions are directly tied to a quid pro quo, the demonstrated ability should be considered a good thing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon,

why must we tear down candidates who are successful? This is your idea of success? A candidate who sucks off the teats of major developers? A candidate whose money is nearly completely nonlocal? A candidate who calls into question his independence in his first financial report? This is not my idea of a successful candidate, unless you consider politics a whore's game played by pimps. Give me a break. If I could show a quid pro quo, it would be called something else - bribery. Right now, it's just legal bribery. Ashley Development can't give money directly, so they funnell $3,000 over two months through three different corporate officers. This is disgusting, and I would only call this a "good thing" if I myself were part of that corporate welfare food chain in which outfits like Ashley get big grants promoted by pols to whom they give big campaign contributions.

Anonymous said...

Bernie you are correct. Special interest money is wha is corrupting our system. Wouldnt it be really great to see a candidate limit donations to no more then say $20 per contributor and not allowed themselves to be owned by special interest groups? Easton needs a mayor who can stand up to the big guys and simply say "No, it is no longer business as usual....the City of Easton now comes first"

Anonymous said...

Did anyone ever consider the fact that developers have a stake in the success of the city in which they choose to develop? Just because a developer chooses to endorse a candidate does it mean they expect something in return other than an efficient government that provides a safe environment for their buyers. Residents have a stake in the future of their city and so do people who invest millions of dollars. Sorry but I think any person doing business in the city has a right and a responsibility to support efficient and effective government. Ashley, in addition to developing some key projects for our downtown is also doing a nice residential project on the south side tearing down an old delapidated building is also VOLUNTARILY giving more than $200,000 toward recreation. And if he is successful there maybe a candidate he supports can convince him to do the huge eyesore on Lincoln Street. These should be considered as well as the potential problems associated with an unethical candidate.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon,

You insult Easton residents by equating them with corporate developers. How many millions did Ashley get from the state to redevelop Pomeroy's? Do you think the state or city would do a favor like that for small mom and pops who lose even more business as a result of parking meters?

And unlike Easton residents, all an outfit like Asley cares about is its bottom line. They're in business to make money, not give it away. They're not in Easton to give away recreational areas. It's just a cost of doing business, chump change as they draw in more money from grants, tax breaks and favorable zoning decision. When they've finished milking Easton, r main man Lou Pektor will fly off in his helicopter with his latest trophy woman.

It's obscene, and it's indefensible to all except those who are on the take themselves.

Anonymous said...

El Warner is running for council Bernie. How many major developers does she get cash from for her campaign? (I understand her magazine does get ads from them.)

NONE, I suspect. El has ethics, integrity, and above all a pair of balls to do whats right for the city not whats right for donors.

I wish you would just put the campaing numbers for all EASTON candidates up to see.

Anonymous said...

And keep in mind. Panto said he's not taking big developers cash "right now" as in he will for the general election.

And I heard most of the "little people" whom gave to panto were from outside the city limits.

So you have listed Fleck's big money interest, Warren, kinda panto, who else?

No Cherry picking lad, lay it all out to see.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:50 & 6:52,

I wrote about Panto bc I was shocked at the lack of specail interests. True, many of his supporters are not Easton residents, but they are in the immediate area. With Warren, they are mostly nonlocal.

In Elinor Warner's case, she raised $805 qand sepnt $673.39. $205 of her money came in contributions of $50 or less. Peter Koehler kicked in $100. I didn't think anything was unusual about her report. That's why I didn't write about it.

Of the city counmcil candidates, the only one that is obscene is the one I wrote about.

I'll talk to a friend tomorrow about getting thesde reports scanned. It would be good to have them online for everyone to view. I only have one set of eyes, and am probably missing a lot of good information.

Anonymous said...

BO, Easton is flooded with campaign signs and a lot of candidates are duking it out. I always thought that the special interest money came in during the general so thats when you should waste the efforts scanning. I must say Warren has a lot of signs on yards....and so does Panto. We should just call College Hill "Panto Hill" and South Side "Panto Side". It's incredible but yet the press isn't covering much.

Anonymous said...

Bernie!

It's an easy, lazy assumption on your part to unfairly attack Jeff's character by attaching "evil intentions" to those people who support him because of his ability, his platform, and his vision for Easton.

Quite frankly, it's beneath you, because it's not based on a shred of fact, it's nothing more than your subjective (and obviously biased) opinion because you're supporting another candidate, and it's a typical "guilt-by-association" attack that I would expect from your right-wing, Neanderthal counterparts, but not from you.

I have worked with Jeff Warren for almost 10 years. Jeff is the brightest, most dedicated, and most talented person I have EVER worked with in my 26-year career in the State Senate. Senator Boscola is blessed to have someone of Jeff's caliber on her staff.

Those individuals who recognize his ability to get things done, his vast knowledge of federal, state and local government, and his vision for moving Easton forward should not be slandered for supporting him with more than just their votes.

Since when did it become "bad" for people who have a real stake in the Valley to support "The Good Guy," the candidate who REALLY wants to make a difference and move Easton forward?

Unless you're willing to question and criticize the "motivation" behind every single contributor to every single candidate's campaign and judge every dollar donated as either "good" or "evil," I think you'd serve your readers better by sticking to the real issues that matter most to us.

Trample the wounded, hurdle the dead,

Bernie Takes NO Prisoners

Bernie O'Hare said...

BTNP!

1) I know damn well who Jeff Warren works for and fully expected you would rise to his defense.

2) I was actually leaning towards Jeff because of his connection to you until I saw his expense report and heard his interview at EU.

3) I don't really support or oppose anyone in that race. I'm fairly neutral. I could give a shit whether Nadine Loan or Ken Brown or Eli Warner wins. Sorry dude, but you've got it wrong. Some folks are more interested in good government than politics. Warren does not stand for good government - he stands for legal bribery.

4) Please don't try to tell me this is nothing less than a grotesque manipulation of the voter by special interests. $5500 in money just from developers! In a city council race?? In Easton??? Where the sole incumbent has only raised $75???? And all that nonlocal money, too????? It's disgusting. Don't try playing that crap about people just recognizing quality. Try that somewhere else, but not here. Warren should have just put a "for sale" sign around his neck.

5) The influence of money in elections really sets me off, and I don't give a damn whether it's a D or an R. I understand it's necessary in a race for the state senate or Congress, but this is overkill in a city council primary in Easton.

6) This is not just a real issue, but is one of the biggest problems in local politics. It's a clear demonstration of the need for electoral reform. It's why I like guys like Stoffa. It's why I don't like Harrisburg. You boys out there in the land of midnight paytraises need to get your heads out of your asses and start working for the people instead of selling yourselves to the highest bidder. People have not forgotten. And what Warren is doing is obscene.

Why not try running on the issues for once??? Is that so frickin' hard???? There must be something in the water in H-burg that makes people who work there think they can pull this kind of shit. They can't, and Warren will find that out.

Money means shit in Easton.

Trample developers, hurdle Jeff Warren!

Anonymous said...

WOW! take a breath Bernardo! Again with the Stoffa pitch. Just for the sake of argument or debate lets say there is always something behind a big check. Didn't Mr Stoffa get a $3000 check from L. Jack Bradt. One of the first appointments of Mr. S was someone who was surely going to lose a job in a failed Republican U.S. Senators office. Also some payback to the former repub. chairs perceived enemies from the old admin. This of course is just supposition and may be all coincidence. Still no one, the media, you or anyone ever really mentioned it. Just a thought. B-man please don't say L. Jack is local or he just loves good govt. even your friend Ron A. would get a laugh out of that.

Anonymous said...

wow. yeah, developers and special interests are BAD. Warren is clearly an imbecile for raising more money in this race than the others. and associating with Pektor...good god, what was he thinking? just look at the wasteland that Pektor developments have turned downtown Bethlehem into.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yeah, yeah, I know. I get worked up when it comes to all these specaial interests ruining our democracy. I have to remember my place and realize these folks know best.

Look at all the good Pektor did in Bethlehem. Yeah, that's right. He zipped in with his little helicopter and trophy woman, took a nice big check from the Guv, took even more money from the county, and then drove the price of real estate in the LV right into the stratosphere by selling condos with no windows at ridiculously high prices to Jersey and NYC commuters trying to escape high taxes and car insurance.

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird --it's a plane! It's Super Pektor!, with his little helicopter and latest trophy woman. And he knows best.

Now, thanks to fellows like Pektor and Abe Atiyeh, the real estater market is artificially saturated, we've become a NYC suburb, and our real estate taxes go up every year. Yeah, they do lots of good. What could I be thinking?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:04,

Let me get this straight. Stoffa accepted $3k from L Jack Bradst, who has not been offered a job in his admin. But Stoffa did offer a job to Mary Ensslin, who had to resign council to accept it. And the relation between Ensslin and Bradt is what? She's his daughter? His niece? No relation at all. She just happens to be from the same political party, and was only paid around $40k for her cabinet level job. In fact, she left after a few months. I don't see any connection at all. You're stretching.

House of Crayons said...

Bernie,

I am glad you are paying attention to the interviews.

We sometimes toy with the idea of giving endorsements on EU, but we really don't want to go down that road for a couple of reasons. What I think I will do is offer to reveal my votes and reasons by email.

As for El Warner, she and Peter Koehler are friends. She also is a tennant (her business) in his building. Just to explain her sole developer donation.

El is also a friend of mine. Bernie, did I clear up my interview disclaimer yet?

Bernie O'Hare said...

H/C,

I'll accept that offer. Please email your picks and your reasons. You've interviewed most of the candidates and follow Easton closely, I'd really like to know what you think. You can email me at BOHare5948@aol.com.

I don't think a $100 contribution from an Easton businessman is that big a deal.

But $5500 from non-Easton developers in a primary finance report that only spans a few months, is outrageous. Warren is obviously for sale. I've heard all the other arguments before, and that's what people who sell out always say to justify themselves.

Anonymous said...

My point exactly. $3000 can either raise red flags or be seen as a gesture of peace love and harmony, its all how you paint it. Warren gets big checks to get out his message-bad. Stoffa gets three grand-good. In the eye of the beholder.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, you're comparing apples and oranges here. You are comparing all contributions in an entire election for county executive with only part of the primary contributions in a city council primary in Easton spanning only two or three months.

In one case, $3,000 came from a person who is basically retired and asked for nothing. In the other, we're talking about $5,550 from very active developers who have taken handouts.

You're way off. Had Stoffa taken money from county contractors or people who wanted jobs, I'd be slamming him, too. But Stoffa is not for sale, unlike most pols. And it must drive you nuts.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You have to remember this is a lot of money from special interests in a very short time in a very small race. That should set off all kinds of alarms.

Anonymous said...

Go back and look at Warren's petions for the primary Ballot. A few signatures may not look the same as they do on other ballots.


He got all his signatures at first on ballots for a office (Like Boscola's) and then discovered at the last second he needed the yellow ones not white.

Suddenly he still had all the same signatures, but they signed them diffrently.

No one caught this in time to keep him off the ballot.

- Secret Agent Deep Throat

Anonymous said...

Not really, everything is mellow. If you can't show a direct 'quid pro quo' (am I an old lawyer)Warren is no worse for taking the money than Stoffa. I realize you have pitched a tent up his behind but numerous county employees who had promises broken will tell you he is like most pols. You know as I do that after Nyce beat Ferraro, The Ferraro ground troops Helped Stoffa beat the Nyce/Severnson connection. Mary was a big part of that as was former Repub chair L. Jack. Now the admin is overflowing with Repub's. Only $40K wow. A stretch? You will always see a stretch with him. But as someone who cares less about Stoffa or Warren, I can't vote for either guy, I just feel you are sliming a guy based on a personal gripe and protecting another based on a personal blindspot.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:42,

I have no "personal gripe" with Warren. I actually liked his idea of cutting the health care and pensions for city council. It sends the right message. I was looking forward to supporting him. And I know where he works. All that changed when I saw the campaign finance report. You say I must show a "quid pro quo" before expressing outrage but I disagree. If I waited until then, then Warren would be guilty of bribery now. The purpose of campaign finance disclosure is to enable us to follow the money, and when we see obscene sums from one group going in a certain direction, we have the right, if not the obligation, to point it out. I feel strongly about this, and believe that all the money being thrown at pols has corrupted our system. I think we need clean election laws and would settle for a spending cap, too. Based on how readily Warren accepted this money, I won't support him and will work against him. He apparently does not understand the message delivered by voters to those in H-burg.

I have a "personal blindspot" for Stoffa. Agreed. I like his rejection of special interests and can forgive many flaws for that reason alone. I believe your assessment of the Stoffa campaign is accurate. Peg F and Mary E did work to defeat Nyce. I am unsure about Bradt but what you say sounds very plausible. A lot of Rs supported Stoffa, although most of them did so very quietly. And their motivation was almost definitely "payback" as opposed to advancing the cause of good goverenment. So they worked his campaign in some capacity, and some of them may have made small contributions. I sure don't think Peg gave a dime. She's $17k in the hole. I doubt Ensslin gave anything either. Peg got no job, Nether did Bradt, and he's the only one who gave any money that I know of. Ensslin did get a low-paying job that she considered beneath her considerable talents, but you establish nothing here. I will say this. It helped Dems seize control of council because Ensslin had to resign. And Ensslin was Stoffa's worse appointment by far. I criticized her heavily. And when Stoffa did appoint her, I thought it came from the judges. I freaked out and set a very nasty email. Stoffa actually answered my letter, something no county exec ever did before. He explained why he was hiring her. Politics had nothing to do with it. Stoffa likes to surround himself with people he feels comfortable with. I believe E was a mistake, but know it was never political, and your argument about it is a lot more tenuous than my very real argument about Warren. If , let's say, Stoffa accepted $5,300 from Butz, I'd be questioning it just like I did with Warren.

I believe I've been consistent and you're just being a very good lawyer who can make a great argument, even when he has nothing to work with.

Please leave the dark side. Remember the Force.

Getting chilly.

Anonymous said...

Bernie!

Don't you feel better now? I'm so happy I gave you the opportunity to vent and lower your blood pressure.

1) I know this is personal for you because your inflatable girlfriend is voting FOR Jeff Warren;

2) Despite the fact that she is your Plastic Princess, I give her credit for having SOME taste and better judgment than you seem to have at the moment;

3) Campaign contributions have been made public for the past 30 years, because the public has the right to know who gives what to which candidate;

4) Voters DO care about (and want to know about) campaign contributions, especially if those same contributions may have also influenced a candidate's actions/position/philosophy toward important issues after he or she has been elected (the "Smoking Gun," in effect);

5) BUT, despite your personal attacks and unfounded accusations, everything you said amounts to just another one of those wild "conspiracy theories" that lacks just one thing: PROOF;

6) It's VERY easy to accuse someone of unethical behavior, but it's another thing to PROVE it. You used to be a lawyer (until you were disbarred) and should know that! Save your passionate, biased arguments for Ron Angle's dimwitted audience, just show me ANY evidence whatsoever that Jeff did anything illegal or unethical;

7) When you finally come to your senses and realize that you unfairly accused and trashed the reputation of a "good candidate" based SOLELY on public information that's already been printed in the papers, you owe him an apology;

8) If you get the chance to ever leave your fantasy world, you really should talk to normal, average, regular voters. Tell them about some candidate's list of contributors and TRY to convince them to cast their votes SOLELY based on that information; because

9) While they will listen to you (voters really do want to be informed), they will tell you that CHARACTER, ABILITY, EXPERIENCE, and VISION matter a lot more to them.

Love the sinner, hate the sin.
Bernie Takes NO Prisoners

Bernie O'Hare said...

BTNP!

The influence of money in plitics sets me off like nothing else. And I know that, if this were not someone working in your own office, you'd be banging the drums with me.

1) My inflatable girlfriend lives in Harrisburg now. She moved there for some reason.

2) Whatever gave you the idea that I had any taste or class.

3) I'm so thrilled you agree the public has a right to know who is giving to whom. Whoopee!

4) The expression is "follow the money," and that's what I'm doing with Jeff FOR SALE Warren. His adoration of developers that have raped and pillaged the LV sheds all kinds of light on his "economic development" platform.

5) I'm not accusing him of bribery. I'm accusing him of leagal bribery, and the PROOF of that is in a) his finance report and b) his city council platform.

6) You're right. It is very easy to accuse people of unethical behavior. Look at how often you do it. And I was never disbarred: I was suspended, damn it. Get it right, you bastard. As far as the "evidence" concerning Jeff FOR SALE Warren is concerned, I refer you to #5.

7) Jeff FOR SALE Warren owes the voters and people of Easton an apology for pretending he cares about them instead of being a Pektor puppet. Did he ever get a ride in the little helicopter? How about you? He does live in Easton, right? Must be a tough daily commute, eh? Can I have a ride in the helicopter?

8) You boys in H-burg better be careful when you start talking about "normal, average, regular voters" because your heads are so far up your asses you don't see right. There is nothing normal or average in your strange little world. Believe me, I know what normal and average voters are like, and I know they hate the way developers are buying pols. But I'll tell you what. Wait until May 15, and see how good Jeff FOR SALE Warren's blood money works for him. As well as Fleck's money worked in the last election would be my guess. The more that people learn about this finance report, the less they'll be inclined to vote for him. That's why spinmeisters like you are out there doing damage control. But as good as you are, you can't shine shit.

9) I actually agree with your last point. Let's look at it.
CHARACTER - the finance report sheds light on that;
ABILITY - based on the interview, very poor. Knew nothing about Act 47, and couldn't name 3 blighted buildings in Easton. Actually, he couldn't name one. Same answers to nearly every question.
EXPERIENCE - none.
VISION - Very limited. Couldn't go beyond repeating the "community police" mantra over and over. But he did say "proactive" and "plethora" a lot. He's probably good at crossword puzzles.

Since Jeff FOR SALE Warren is the the "brightest, most dedicated, and most talented person" you have ever worked with, I'll do my best to keep him there with you. It's the least we can do.

Anonymous said...

Bernie boy, we may disagree about the new courthouse mafia but I'm sure we all, including B.T.N.P. want you to relax. Go to Harrisburg get the doll, buy some booze , rent a cheap room and do your blood pressure a favor. In the end we are all going to the same place

Anonymous said...

dude,

it didn't get chilly in here till just now. i've been out of town for a few days. must be some other asshole. but this whole thread peaks my interest. i've noted over several years
-you opposed the bond, in particular money going to commerce center boulevard. this land is slated to become industrial land.
-you don't like pektor-style developments, who does primarily commercial and residential developments (in this instance, downtown). you complained that we're becoming a suburb of NYC (something that commerce center blvd was supposed to prevent.)
-i know you can't be in favor of greenfield development, given your stance on open space.

given the facts that a) greenfield developments are MUCH cheaper, with a higher ROI than brownfield/urban redevelopment, and b) virtually every brownfield/urban redevelopment in the country requires some level of government assistance to be economically viable, what kind of development ARE you in favor of?

might be a good subject for a seperate column. i'd love to see other inputs as well. this is really the biggest issue facing local governments and the commonwealth today.

Bernie O'Hare said...

BTNP does not want me to relax. he stole my doll.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Boy, It's chilly!

I don't support government assistance for any economic development anywhere. I can tolerate it it for a blighted downtown area or brownfied, but only if it is structured in such a way that any public investment is returned in the event the project fails to result in jobs or increased tax revenue.

I don't support any economic development at all that results in the destruction of green space. The bond also financed the development of green space. I heard one miserable bastyard say, "The only park I like is an industrial park."

Frankly, I bel;ieve local government gets away from its core responsibilities when it immerses itself in ecvonomic development. We should leave that to business. They make the profit. Let them take the risk.

Anonymous said...

Not only is it a concern for Candidate Jeff Warren, it is also a concern for Zoning Hearing Board Member Jeff Warren

Anonymous said...

As a Zoning Hearing Board member it seems like an ethical conflict for Mr Warren to accept money from Developers who will appear before him asking for variances for their projects, Who's hardships will be given priority, the Developers or the citizens of Easton

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:42 and 6:45!

You've got it!

True, we can't establish a quid pro quo. But if we could, Jeff would be making his zoning decisions in the slammer. Itr creates an appearance. And too often, local municipal officials do the bidding of these folks. I believe this money influences them. They say no, but I think they're only fooling themselves.