The Official Version
Mike D'Amore, Mike Schlossberg and Ray O'Connell are three Democrat candidates for Allentown city council. The Morning Call has just linked them to the anonymous anti-Hershman robo-call campaign. Although the newspaper did talk to O'Connell and D'Amore while those calls were going out, neither admitted any involvement.
Now, in a joint statement, these three blind mice have circled the wagons and publicly plead ignorance. They they had absolutely no idea that evil Democratic operative Rob Hopkins would use their campaign funds to go after Lou.
They're shocked! Really!
I'm shocked, too. Do they think we're really that stupid?
The Private Version
Privately, there's another story. Insiders tell me the three blind mice are furious at the big rat behind this operation - Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. He orchestrated the entire operation, but they're taking the fall. They've leaked news of their resentment, and it's found its way to me. They also forced Pawlowski henchman Rob Hopkins to resign from one of his many positions in the local Democratic party.
These independent voices are too "loyal" or, more likely, afraid to blow the whistle on Pawlowski over an anonymous smear campaign. Can they really be trusted to be watch dogs when Pawlowski cooks the books and presents false revenue projections?
The Hopkins Version (It's a long one)
The final version comes from Rob Hopkins himself, who was willing to speak to me on the record. He falls on the sword, taking complete responsibility. His message also reveals his personal disdain for Hershman. He spends a lot of time explaining things, never a good sign in politics.
"As we approached the primary election earlier this spring several members of the Executive Board of the Lehigh County Democratic Committee discussed at a meeting the fact that Lou Hershman was running for Allentown City Council again in the Democratic Primary. We were joined at that meeting by several other candidates for council and Mayor Pawlowski. Several people had expressed, among other concerns, the fact that Mr. Hershman had endorsed Republican candidates in the past, including the current Republican candidate for Allentown Mayor. Some of the guests at the meeting asked if there was anything the County Committee could do to inform Democratic voters of these facts. There was a spirited debate on the matter, but ultimately it came down to the fact that Lehigh County Democratic Committee does not make primary endorsements and there was little we could do to help.
"Having always been frustrated with the County Committee 'hands-off' approach to primaries (even against 'bad' Democrats), I set out to help in a different way.
"Shortly after the aforementioned meetings, I began to discuss quite openly the idea of creating an independent political action committee (PAC). Ultimately, I created the PAC as Voters for a Better Lehigh Valley, with the intention of helping to elect better candidates to office and to help defeat the bad candidates. Many people in Democratic circles were well aware of this move, and many were also aware that Mr. Hershman was a likely target.
"In early May I resigned as Communications Chair for the Lehigh County Democratic Committee, based largely on other time commitments, but also to separate my PAC activities from the party. Nobody requested this separation, but I personally feel it is appropriate. I will retain a seat on the Executive Board and will continue other Democratic activities, but will no longer be involved actively with county party affairs.
"Anyone who knows me knows me also knows that I take politics very seriously, which is the reason that I am no longer doing any paid political consulting. My passion is more about specific issues and having a better representation in our government.
"Regardless of my past affiliation with Mayor Pawlowski’s original campaign for office (I was his campaign manager for the 2005 primary), I am not involved in his reelection campaign. The allegation that Pawlowski was 'pulling the strings' or that he was the 'ring leader' doesn’t hold water in light of my personal involvement in this PAC and my passion in regards to the dangers in reelecting Mr. Hershman.
"While I have no need to defend the calls that were made on behalf of Voters for a Better Lehigh Valley, I would like to convey my thoughts on the matter for the enlightenment of those interested.
"First of all, I know that voice communication is exempt from any disclosure requirements. This fact has been confirmed by many experts in the legal profession. Voice communication is explicitly protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This right to “freedom of speech” has been upheld many times by the U.S. Supreme Court, and is precisely what separates our country from the less free countries of the world.
"Second, I do agree with many others that our commonwealth has a poor requirement for financial disclosure related to campaign expenses. I have long advocated for campaign finance reform on the state and federal level, and I will continue to advocate for such reform. Our state’s requirements for timely disclosure are greatly lacking, but in a competitive political world it is unrealistic to expect any candidate or committee to go beyond the legal requirements set forth by our governing bodies. The committee I represent has complied completely with the relevant Pennsylvania campaign finance laws; to go beyond those requirements would place the committee at competitive disadvantage compared to other political efforts.
"Third, nobody has challenged the accuracy of the statements made in the telephone calls made by the committee I represent. When I spoke to a Morning Call reporter the day after the calls were delivered to acknowledge that Voters for a Better Lehigh Valley was responsible for the calls, the reporter affirmed that in all of the communication he had made related to the story (including an interview with Mr. Hershman), nobody had voiced any disagreement with the statements made in the calls. I wholeheartedly stand behind the statements made by a voter in the call. A transcript of the 30-second calls made on behalf of Voters for a Better Lehigh Valley is provided below for your reference.
'Hello. As a voter, I feel there is one candidate who we cannot allow back on City Council. Lou Hershman has done many things to hurt our city. Lou Hershman’s votes are exactly why Allentown is in financial trouble. Lou Hershman voted to give away your money and allow young police officers to retire early. I urge you to keep Lou Hershman out of City Council so he doesn’t hurt Allentown anymore. We can vote to make Allentown a better place to live, by voting against Lou Hershman on Tuesday.'
"Fourth, the political action committee I represent operated independent from any other campaign or political committee. I approached several people in regards to the future of Allentown and my concerns related to Mr. Hershman. I expressed my intent to raise funds sufficient to send a direct-mail piece to Allentown voters addressing the divisive and detrimental activities that Mr. Hershman has been party to while serving on City Council in the past. I received some contributions for the political action committee from a few interested parties, but the fund did not raise sufficient funds to produce and mail the document I had envisioned. With days left until the primary election, I made the unilateral decision to spend PAC funds on telephone calls to Allentown voters. While I would have preferred to send a direct mail piece, I felt that the telephone call might suffice to remind voters of Mr. Hershman’s record. I was unwilling and unable to consult with the PAC’s donors about the vehicle or message of this campaign, since they were candidates in this election. Voters for a Better Lehigh Valley operated as an autonomous campaign, without consultation with any candidate or candidates committee; consultation about the campaign’s message or mode of the campaign with the candidates involved would have been inconsistent with my responsibility to keep this PAC independent.
"Finally, while Mr. Hershman may like to practice revisionist history, I stand firmly by the accuracy of this campaign and the right to of this committee to voice our concerns in any method we so chose. Mr. Hershman, as a city council member and council representative on the city pension board was complacent in failing to recognize the problems of the pension contacts. He continues to promote ideas that I feel are harmful to the city.
"While I enthusiastically recognize some of the positive contributions Mr. Hershman has made to the city, I would be remiss to not weigh these contributions against the harm he has done. Mr. Hershman has been involved in politics for over thirty years and is no stranger to the rough and tumble world it is; over the years he has thrown many political punches at his opponents. Not only in his municipal races in Allentown, but also during his 1986 campaign for the State House, Mr. Hershman has exercised his right to free speech with great vigor. I stand behind his right to express his opinions, even if I do disagree with them.
"I have and will continue to oppose Mr. Hershman’s political agenda. From his promoting of discriminatory legislation to his efforts to stall progress, Mr. Hershman stands contrary to what I feel is right for the Allentown and Lehigh Valley. Mr. Hershman has demonstrated to me his disregard for the public by circulating petitions in 2002 related to a proposed city referendum. Enough signatures were later deemed to be fraudulently obtained that the referendum failed to reach voters. Overall, during the course of his political career, Mr. Hershman has on many occasions voiced potentially deceptive messages to voters and left me wondering about his motives."
No matter which of these versions is accurate, it is clear these three blind mice contributed to a PAC designed for the sole purpose of trashing Lou Hershman. By his own admission, Hopkins was very clear about his intentions. It is equally clear that Mayor Pawlowski knew exactly what was happening, but was smart enough to be able to maintain deniability.