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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tom Severson's Profitable World of Sleaze Politics

He may be a political genius.

But he's also the king of sleazeball politics.

That's Tom Severson, whose Precision Marketing Inc., is just one of the companies he uses to launch smear campaigns. His company motto - "It's time to play hardball. Precision Marketing Inc. -- when you want to play to win."

Severson is the first person locally to overlay US Census and other available data sources with voter files and phone records to create some very good targeted voter lists. He maximizes the impact of mailings and call centers. He simply destroys those without these abilities.

He didn't do this on his own. He's a logo watch salesman. But someone who understood computers partnered with Severson. And life was good. By 1991, Severson and partner Jim Corsa were grossing $750,000. Then Tom got sneaky and greedy. He accepted clients behind his partner's back, including a three-year deal with state senate republicans, valued at $627,000. Corsa sued, and Severson eventually settled the claim.

Another tactic Severson introduced to the Lehigh Valley was push polling, the use of anonymous phone calls to cast a candidate in a bad light. That's what he did to Jerry Seyfried in 1989.

Those tactics are criticized by former Norco Councilman Jim Hemstreet. "If telephone calls are being made ... you have a right to know who you're talking to, what they're paid ... .That is really deceptive campaigning. It's like turning your campaign over to a hired gun."

Another Severson trait is a total lack of allegiance. He sells out to the highest bidder. He has big state republican contracts, and when he polls, he'll drop in a question for one of his local candidates, who gets a discount. Since his inhouse call center and mailing house are funded by the state republicans, local republicans get upset when he runs campaigns against them.

He'll poll to pick winners, and then works for those already ahead. His favorite tactic is to bash his opponent with a smear campaign. Here's a few examples of Severson patterns over the years.

1989 - L. Jack Bradt was far behind Jerry Seyfried in the polls. But the week before the election, anonymous telephone calls rang through the Lehigh Valley, painting Seyfried as a Chrin lackey. Jerry still managed to win, but by fewer than fewer than 700 votes. Bradt paid Precision Marketing over $61,000. Cha ching.

1991 - John Morganelli spent $32,169 with Severson to oust three-term incumbent Don Corriere. During that campaign, Corriere charged that Severson used phone solicitors posing as reps of the state ethics commission.

1992 - After Congressman Don Ritter inceremoniously dumps Severson as a campaign consultant, Severson goes to work for challenger Paul McHale.

1993 - Jerry Seyfried uses Severson for his re-election bid, even though Severson worked against him in the last campaign. This time, Jerry loses.

1998 - Mudslinging is rampant in a GOP primary for a state house seat between Dave Bausch and Rima Fahl. That Severson name pops up.

2006 - In a primary race for state rep., Joe Brennan is viciously slammed in a postcard attack as a "criminal who can't be trusted." Brennan blames Severson for the slime campaign. Opponent Rybak admits using Severson, but no payments are ever listed on Rybak's campaign finance reports.

2006 - Severson's Precision Marketing rakes in a whopping $1,397,868.88 from candidates seeking state office. Much of this comes from the state republican committee. Amazingly, this figure does not include local or out-of-state races, or payments made to Severson's other companies.

2007 - Severson's Precision Marketing paid $67,000 by Bucks County taxpayers for a mailing from Bucks County commissioners right before the election.

So what do local pols think of this guy? I'll tell you later this week.

Bloggers note: Factual averments not directly linked were obtained from Morning Call archives.

55 comments:

Anonymous said...

and yet this is the guy who somehow didn't go negative on stoffa in the last exec race. truly confounding.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:54, Unless Stoffa had something on Nyce, and Nyce & Severson both knew it?

Anonymous said...

Severson is doing his job. He is a political hack from way back and he does whatever it takes to get his candidates elected. That is his job and he is good at it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Not if it involves violations of the Elections Code. And I don';t have a very high opinion of candidates who use this guy, knowing what he's like. That says something about them, doesn't it? Doesn't it say the ends justify the means?

J. Spike said...

Nice pic!!!!

It looks like severson is some morbidly obese sumo baby with a gas problem.

He is amazing being so little and yet so able to pull it off.

I wonder what he takes for the gas?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Quarters.

Anonymous said...

the really untold story is 1993 seyfried relection in which grand central pays severson directly--in excess of 60K--to blow seyfried's relection. Messrs, Morganelli, Leeson all participate. Hard ball is acceptable, grossly illegal contributions give one pause.

Larry Kisslinger said...

"Money" isn't the only thing that counts in life! Ever hear of "character and integrity"? Too bad Severson, and some of his friends, only have one of the three "words"! My Mom always said, "every dog has their day"! I qoute the Bible once in a while, "The more you know, the more you worry"! Both sayings fit here, is my opinion. Stay tuned. larry@kisslinger.com

Bernie O'Hare said...

Larry,

He definitely has one of those three.

Anonymous said...

Larry, after reading all of these things about Severson, my first thought was that the guy may have money, but what about self-respect and integrity? That's worth a whole lot more, if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

in politics its about wins and nothing else. until democrats begin to realize this we will continue to loose to people like severson and rove over and over again. we need to play like they play until the rules are changed.

Anonymous said...

B.

Severson will squash you. He is miserable bastard who just does not give a $hit. Again i will stress protective coustody.

I don't respect mudslinging in campaigns but i would respect a candidate who chooses to use just so his oppents doesn't.

Severson doesn't only do negative campaigning. And he started other companies so he can tie up more candidates without them even knowing that he owns the company.

For example, He can and does represent both candidates that are running each other. Both the D and the R. That's why i say. If you find out his other companies you will be in blog fuckn heaven.

Anonymous said...

And that is the only way you can truely hurt his company and he does. Find out the other companies and do some digging.

Then get protective custody.

Anonymous said...

Bernie.

And so it continues....your ugly mug on ET web page. Leave BK alone and stand up to Severson. You could make national news with this guy.
You have to respect the candidates who use him and don't go negative. I'm sure there has been some good people who use. Doesn't Boscola use him?
I don't really care about Severson and i wouldn't dare travel in the path you are going. Annon 7:02 is right. Protective Custody.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 4:41,

Politics should promote democracy, not detract from it. That's what bothers me most about Severson. "It's time to play hardball. Precision Marketing Inc. -- when you want to play to win." Just that motto bothers me.

Democracy isn't a game. People who want to win elections at all costs are the very people I don't want in government. They believe the ends justify the means. They are bad for democracy.

The answer is not to reduce ourselves to that level, as you suggest. The answer is to call these bastards on what they are doing, and to demand that elections laws be enforced.

Anonymous said...

ICAM with what Bernie said!!!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon,

I have heard from several reliable sources that Lisa Boscola used Severson in 2006. Those poll figures that BTNP was bragging about were actually done by Severson.

The outfits she paid are Political Strategies, Inc., from Sanat Monica and MJR Services, Inc., from P-burg, NJ.

I googled MJR Services and it comes up at 2906 William Penn Highway.

Guess what also comes up at 2906 William Penn Highway?

Prescision Marketing.

Oopsie!

NewsOverCoffee said...

It is always easier to tear someone down than to build someone up, Severson is very good at tearing people down.

If you are running you either want him on your side or not in the race, the problem is if he is on your side to what extent can you keep him from going beyond what you would find acceptable? And if he does what can you do about it? If you publicly state he went too far, as has been noted, he'll come after you ala McHale vs. Ritter.

It seems he's played the R's on the card that if they don't keep him on he'll go exclusively D, which has obviously upset those R's running against their own party's money.

Going to the beginning comment and in a way pulling all of this together - in the Nyce vs. Stoffa race, it almost seems that the bigger issue was with Severson and Ferraro.

She was bashed in the primary and those against Severson/Nyce's tactics sided with Stoffa. When coupled with Stoffa's own supporters the deficit was insurmountable and maybe Severson simply cut his losses choosing not to drop money on a losing campaign and a candidate he deemed did not have a position of benefit to him, especially when the one he really didn't like was already out of the race.

At the end of the day, the worst part of all of this is that Severson's tactics work and he is laughing all the way to the bank.

Anonymous said...

What's the reason for different names?

Anonymous said...

I would never do a negative campaign but i would hire him to keep him on my side.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It enables him to operate under the radar. By using companies other than Precision Marketing, his influence is much harder to trace. It enables him to work for Dems and Reps at the same time.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 11:46,

That's a tactic he uses w/ potential candidates. He can easily point out how useful he'd be to the other side. There's a name for this tactic. It's called extortion.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Bernie. Who is working for on a local level? Does he do smaller races or just state races?

Anonymous said...

I guess i'm asking...Who should be shitting their pants.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 11:50,

I'm working on a post about Severson's clients. He does both local and state races.

Anonymous said...

When can we expect to see it?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I expect to have something out by week's end or early next week.

Anonymous said...

Newsovercoffee
From ground level I can tell you Severson had the file on Stoffa. It was a very winable race. Reibman could have won but for an incompetent campaign. Stoffa had a few zealots and the anybody but Reibman group but that was about it. There are alot of rumors as to why Severnson eased up. Most have to do with the wishes of Nyce, and some info the Stoffa camp had on the repub. Who knows, but it would be interesting to find out.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Isn't this a wonderful way to run a campaign? Forget the issues. Let's see who's got the dirt on whom? It's sickening, and it's why people don't vote.

Anonymous said...

True, Bernie.

Unfortunately, it is also why some really well-qualified people in this Valley refuse to run.

Anon 1.02. I can assure you that the details of how Stoffa's team "caponized" Severson will never be known authoritatively except to a well-trusted few.

Anon 7.02, At least one of the Dems on Council had Severson's aid during their campaign in '05 - if I'm not mistaken, some of that information made it to the state GOP and resulted in Severson losing his tasty contract with them.

What bothers me the most is that many of the prime politicians in this Valley do not seem to mind being associated with Severson. Morganelli, whom I had once respected, will not only never get my vote, but I will also assist anybody who decides to run aginst him. Wayne Grube (what a way to destroy a legacy), Lamont McClure, Lisa Boscola, Julie Harhart.....
I am almost afraid to look at the other names that Bernie will unveil.

Bernie, my friend, PLEASE watch your back. You are the best thing to happen to LV politics in a long time and we cannot afford to lose you.

Anonymous said...

B.

Where is this list of Severson Clients? Are you blowing smoke? Do you have a clue? We want to see.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:07,

I'm working on that post, dude.

You'll be seeing that next week. There are many layers to this onion.

Good things come to those who wait.

Anonymous said...

Bernie.

What do you intend to get out of posting Seversons Clients?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:11,

I don't intend to get anything out of it. This guy is known to have no ethics, to engage in gutter politics, and you saw his motto about winning at all costs. The people who hire this guy know this going in. That says something about them. If pewople are willing to slam their opponents unfairly to get into office, what will they do to keep that office? It's a fair question. Severson is an ends justifies the means kind of guy, and his people know that. I, for one, am not thrilled with any public servant who believes that. So it's important to get that info out there, whether it's judges like Roscioli or Panella, or candidates like Morganelli or Harhart or Boscola.

Individually, they may not be that way, but it's an important factor to consider in evaluating a candidate.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it.....How can you blame them for using him if they don't go negative? I don't understand. And again it's probably better to have him on your side rather than against you. Right? I don't get it. Sorry. McDonalds greasy shit burgers actually kill people but i still eat there. I just don't understand your rationale. It would be interesting to see just how many of his campaigns go negative.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:39,

I see your point and will make it when I post about who uses Severson and who does not. But those who do use him most definitely know what he is like. So I think it's a factor you should consider in evaluating a candidate. I especially think it is important when Severson goes under the radar with goofy california corporations for work in local races. That just smells all over.

Anonymous said...

Ok. But what if someone uses him and doesn't realize it? Is that a possibility. If i were running for office i would use him just to scare the shit out of my opponent.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

You should be careful....Severson is one of those guys that will throw a stick in your spokes one morning when you are riding into the courthouse. Try to avoid high speeds.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Then what does that say about you as a candidate? Why not instead run a clean campaign on the issues?

Anonymous said...

I'm not a candidate and if i was i wouldn't ever, ever, ever run a negative campaign. My point is that using Severson could make your opponent think twice about attacking you. No?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Agreed. I think your point is you'd rather have him inside your tent pissing out than the other way around.

And there are some good people who have used Severson. But it's something that will always send up red flags. One you make the decision to use this mudslinger, I think it';s fair for someone to at least question your motives and how far ytou're willing to go, just to win.

Anonymous said...

Those who have run positive campaigns in the past will probably continue to do so. Those that are new comers may stray. But hey, if Severson doesn't like your opponent he may just mail it out on his own. I'm curious to see your list. And again. Watch out for sticks in the spokes.

Anonymous said...

interesting bernie, u utilize first ammendment rights but when info you do not want posted--u delete it. Barratta didnt use severson. And again, the insidious, corruptable act is significant cash flowing directly to PMI ala seyfried relection flop in 93.

Bernie O'Hare said...

First, I rarely delete comments. I've deleted Billy Givens a few times. And I once deleted a comment that was being posted, word for word, every day. So I don't know what you're talking about.

Second, I never claimed Baratta used Severson. Where did you get that idea?

Third, the claim that Severson deliberastely tanked Seyfired's re-election campaign is one I asked Jerry himself. He said he seriously doubts it and has no one to blame but himself.

Anonymous said...

I was correcting someone who stated Roscioli (yes used Severson) and barrata(he did not). Furthermore, I never suggested and do not believe Jerry's moronic campaign (a final mailer that Brackbill smacked a kid)tanked his campaign. I said the sleazy and indeed illegal act was Grand Central emmisaries directly donating cash to PMI to pay for Jerry's Severson produced mail and calls. Moreover, the brain trust of that campaign included Morganelli and Leeson the elder. If u did not delete that posting, I apologize. I am new to the blog universe.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:55,

1) Apology accepted.

2) I remember the post, but actually thought it had suggested that Grand Central had paid Severson to tank the campaign. I obviously did not read it closely, but didn't delete it. I've had several Severson posts recentlly, and it's in there somewhere.

3) What I asked then, and I repeat this question, is where is your proof? It may not be enough for a criminal investigation, but tell me why you feel that Morganellie, Leeson, Severson & Seyfried would conspire to violate elections laws. What facts do you have to support that? And if it's true, why was there no criminal investigation? Did you complain to the state AG?

4) Back in those days, Jerry could use Severson, Michael Solomon or himself. He was used to running his own shows, and probably would have been better off had he stuck with that tactic instead of going with spinmeisters.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:55, Look at the 7th comment. That might be you.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
When you do your Severson Clients list, would you please include any Bucks County clients?
Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Someone should ask Severson about the 2 wives and 4 kids he abandoned and has kept as a secret for years. A few of the kids he has never even met. The political stuff pails in comparison.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Details, please. Throw me a frickin bone.

Anonymous said...

He has an ex wife he married at 18 and had a child with her. Never saw this child after it was a few yeas old. Remarried to another woman and had 3 more children. Left this wife with 3 young kids after having an affair with his current wife on the job and was fired. Hasn't seen any of these children since the were babies. Has acted as if these children never existed and has turned his back an all of these children. Now these children are adults and have had kids and he also has not seen any of his grandchildren. Basically left a train wreck in his wake with 4 children and 2 ex-wives holding the bag. Hard to imagine? Pretty sure he has failed to share these accomplishments with anyone. I am a friend of all of the children he left behind and they have helped each other and are close despite this guys lack of involvement. I actually introduced them to one another. They all have struggled and my guess is he had a little to do with it and really doesn't care one way or another. Great human being and its hard to imagine turning your back on 4 little kids. If you are a parent you know what I am talking about.

Chris said...

Bernie
I have had the opportunity to work with Tom Severson and let me say that I call him friend. He does a great job and contrary to your statements, he runs his plans by his candidates and he listens to them.
I find it hard to believe that you would attempt to crucify someone who believes that one plays hardball because one plays to win. I'll just bet you that General Grant would have enjoyed Tom's motto. Why do you think people run for office? Do they run so that they can say "look I spent 2 zillion dollars on this campaign and I lost and that is what I intended to do" Tom draws clients because he has proven successful in, yes, this game we call politics.

Now because he is a winner, you are going to "expose" him. Did he break a law? If he did I would suggest you take him to court. But then you disparaged yourself by asking that ever present Anon. to throw you a bone and he responded by tossing out Tom's life. Great start and just what I would expect from the current Progressives who like to throw dirt instead of talk about the issues. Good old ANON kinda tossed you right into the sty you claim Tom is in. I think this is known as being two-faced.

As to negative campaiging, you and I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is negative campaigning. I am no fan of said type of campaigning but putting someone's record out there is not negative campaigning unless you are a Progressive being critisized by a mean old Conservative.

It was nice to see you in Court the other day.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Chris,

It was nice to see you, too. I wish we could have had a chance to talk, but I try not to speak too much to someone when he's wearing a juror sticker.

I believe Severson did break election lawa in the last primary. I am putting together a package for the AG to review. Incidentally, the person he slimed in May is a conservative Republican - Brain Monahan.

Chris said...

Bernie
I don't know that I would necessarily consider Monahan to be a conservative Republican maybe by your standards he is. I also truly doubt that Tom would knowingly or unknowingly break the election laws. He has been in business for two decades and I personally believe him to be one of the best at what he does.

Anonymous said...

Bernie you were on to this guys scent some time ago, and now he is helping with the Zach Mako campaign in the 183rd.