Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Senator Pat Browne Denies Lobbyist Wife Is Conflict of Interest

In 2009, Governor Ed Rendell was up against a 101-day long budget stalemate, the longest in state history. The price for Senator Pat Browne's cooperation? Hockey. He inserted what he called a "funding mechanism" in the Fiscal Code, and the Guv' signed it.

That's how the NIZ was born.

Soon after brokering that deal, Browne's wife, Heather, became a registered lobbyist. She's affiliated with lobbying firm Pugliese Associates. In November, Pugliese welcomed J.B. Reilly's East Penn Realty and Joe Topper's Lehigh Gas as new clients.

Reilly, who is also landlord to both Pugliese and Browne's Senate Office, is the moving force behind Allentown's NIZ, which diverts state taxes and even EIT for other municipalities, including other "urban cores." Topper's Lehigh Gas was the NIZ's first tenant. Topper also just happens to be Senator Browne's 11th largest contributor in his 2010 re-election campaign.

After both J.B Reilly and Joe Topper hired Heather Browne to do their lobbying, Senator Browne - along with Mayor Ed Pawlowski and State Rep. Jennifer Mann - made nine recommendations for the new NIZ board. They're scheduled for confirmation by Allentown City Council on Wednesday night.

I believe the entire board is tainted by Browne's continued involvement in the NIZ because he has a conflict of interest, as defined in the state Ethics Act:

"No public official or public employee shall engage in conduct that constitutes a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest is defined as use by a public official or public employee of the authority of his office or employment or any confidential information received through his holding public office or employment for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family, or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated."

Isn't Browne clearly using the authority of his office for the private pecuniary gain of his wife or Pugliese Associates, a business with which she is associated?

According to Senator Browne, No. In an email he was kind enough to send late yesterday, he explains.

"Thanks for the inquiry pertaining to your recent blog posts about the relationship of NIZ participants JB Reilly and Joe Topper with my spouse’s lobbying firm. As I had stated in the past, I do not participant [sic] in any of my spouse’s professional practice in government affairs. In compliance with the ethics code, she performs her professional duties separate and independent from my role as a state elected official. Any details regarding their business relationship must be provided to you by the lobbying firm and/or their clients. Thank you."

Gee, if I know about J.B. Reilly and Joe Topper's involvement in the NIZ, it's a safe bet Heather Browne does, too. After both Reilly and Topper signed on with Heather's firm, Senator Browne used the authority of his office to make NIZ board nominations, which will be to the financial benefit of Reilly, Topper and Heather.

This is a conflict of interest.

Now the Morning Call has picked up on this story. In a troubling report, the newspaper adds that Heather Browne also happens to be the lobbyist for Vaughn Communications, which is doing all the propaganda for the NIZ.

I missed that one.

I suspect that a frequent commenter on this and other Internet sites, "Future Downtown Arena Attendee," is a Vaughn plant.

Of course, all the players deny any impropriety and claim I'm "archaic," whatever the Hell that means. But as Democracy Rising's Tim Potts tells The Morning Call, "It looks like one hand is washing the other. Legislators ought to have an arm's-length relationship with anyone receiving public money. Why should citizens have to worry about whether a line has been crossed or not?"

I believe that line has already been crossed.

46 comments:

FutureDowntownArenaAttendee said...

Hahaha swing and a miss again Bernie... matter of fact I have never heard of Vaughn Communications before the mcall story. Your post provides me humor the same way that the Daily Show and the Colbert Report does... please continue humoring us with your posts. Between you and your cohort Molovinsky, provide the rest of us with plenty of material to laugh at daily. The two of you are so out of touch of what Allentown/LV is going to be.

Bill said...

If as FutureDowntownArenaAttendee says, if everything is on the up and up and there is nothing to this story, then what is the harm in Council voting "no" on the Board members until everything can be considered. As a regular citizen, I do not like the speed at which names have been announced and how quickly this is coming up for a vote. This smells bad on first whiff, let it air out a bit and see what we have.

Anonymous said...

Browne may end up the most disliked person in town. Who is he kidding. This is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Bernie
Absolutely agree with your thought about that arena guy. Too sickening for words.

Anonymous said...

The family lobbyist needs to go. How do we do get this done? Who do we contact to voice our concerns?

Anonymous said...

Bernie, Does Mayor Pawlowsi have ties with Pugliesse,since he has a consulting firm and I believe so does his wife.

Anonymous said...

Call's top story reads like your old news. If only one legislator would step forward to get Browne's wife removed.

Anonymous said...

Remember this line. "I am not a crook"! Hmmm....

Anonymous said...

Wonder what Browne's saying today. Keep up the investigation.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Hahaha swing and a miss again Bernie... matter of fact I have never heard of Vaughn Communications before the mcall story."

That's funny, and for someone who pretends to be so knowledgeable about everything associated with the NIZ, it stretches credulity. Anytime the NIZ is mentioned anywhere on the Internet, you deposit a litany of paid comments. You'll come back days later and do it. These are the telltale signs of a paid propagandist. That's what I believe. If I am wrng, out yourself.

Anonymous said...

Browne needs to resign today. He's harming local office holders.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have nothing against the guy. I believe I even supported him against Rick Orloski, as much as I like Rick. But Browne has crossed the line. Once his wife started lobbying for three businesses directly involved with the NIZ, he may not use the authority of is office to have anything to do with the NIZ. Yet he helped select the board.

Anonymous said...

Anyone want to guess who Vaughn's brother-in-law is?

1) J.B. Reilly
2) Pat Browne
3) Ed Pawlowski

Anonymous said...

I'm totally disgusted by the Brownes conduct here. Pat Browne's comments indicate that he thinks his constituents are a bunch of idiots. Any public servent honestly perforning his job would TALK to his or her spouse and avoid even the appearance of ethical misconduct. I guess they live their lives as total strangers to one another. Very sad day for local Republicans.

politial parasite said...

This unethical political parasitism will never be proven because in Allentown LLC=LOL Esq.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Anyone want to guess who Vaughn's brother-in-law is?"

It's Reilly.

Anonymous said...

Blogger Bernie O'Hare said...

"Anyone want to guess who Vaughn's brother-in-law is?"

It's Reilly.

8:05 AM

This is outrageous. This scandal will harm good honest office holders. Browne needs to quit.

FutureDowntownArenaAttendee said...

Seriously drop the "I am a paid consultant" rhetoric... it is old. Look at many people who post under anonymous... at least I use a name. And if I was a paid consultant would it not make more sense to post under many names including anonymous to create an illusion of more people.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Oh, I believe you do that as well. As for this being "old," I just made the connection between you and Vaughn over the weekend. Methinks you protest too much. The only way you clear this up is by outing yourself. We all know that Vaughn Associates is doing PR work, and that certainly includes orchestrating a public message at venues like these.

FutureDowntownArenaAttendee said...

Bernie... you know why I wont reveal who I am? It is because you are known to attack people who disagree with you. And quite frankly I am not going to subject myself to that. That is what is great about the internet, the ability to be anonymous. If you dont like that option, than take the "anonymous" option down from the "choose an identity" portion.

I am not a public official, consultant, city employee, relative, etc.. Like I have said before just an Allentown homeowner who obviously disagrees with you. Here is a good question that I dont have the answer to, but you may. When was Vaughn Communications hired to do this PR? I would be interested in seeing if it was before or after I started posting under this name.

As for me posting under "Anonymous" You and I both know that you can see my IP address... when has my IP address been used for "Anonymous"? Never unless by accident once or twice.. I always post under FDAA.. that part is not anonymous unlike the hundreds of comments that are left signed by "Anonymous"

Bernie O'Hare said...

The above comment was brought to you by Vaughn Associates. You have commented on this matter here, at MM's blog, at Geeting's blog, on the MCall and the ET. You have done so since the beginning, and after Vaughn was hired. You have been commenting long before I started writing about it, so it's disingenuous to say you fear me.

Anonymous said...

I recommend to all that you no longer buy gas at any Top Star gas station.

Let Joe Topper know that sleazy behavior has repercussions.

FutureDowntownArenaAttendee said...

You are correct. This is not the only place I post... and all of the other places I post under FDAA as well. So what is your point?

I just reread the morning call article... Vaughn Communications is the PR firm for City Center Lehigh Valley, JP Reilly's company. Why in the hell would my comments on this blog, or any other blog help JP Reilly? Do you really thing that people who Reilly is trying to lure to his properties would come to Molovinsky on Allentown, Lehigh Valley Ramblings, Jon Geeting, Inclusion by Michael Donovan, etc... for advice or opinion on the NIZ? If you believe so than you are giving the blogospher way to much credit that what it is.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I think I made my point. You are a paid shill, an astroturf blogger. I have seen them before, and in fact outed AT&T a few years ago. Reilly would use a whore like you to bend public opinion, but you're too much of a pom pom waiver to be very influential.

FutureDowntownArenaAttendee said...

Looks like I have won... you started with the name calling. Name calling is always a sign of defeat.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, a paid shill is a whore. It's an apt description of what you do. Perhaps a better word is prostitute. If the shoe fits ...

Center City Resident said...

Let's call this what it is for Browne: damning. The layers of knots in this story are amazing.

For what it is worth, FDAA's identity/association with anything/employer has nothing to do with any of this abuse of the public.

Sadly, nobody was willing to envision a situation in which a state senator's spouse working for a lobbyist could turn into something like this. I'm not sure how ethics rules could be amended to prevent this kind of problem in the future, but I'm not confident such a solution exists (except for the one where a senator and spouse decide that in order for the spouse to take such a job, the senator might need to resign... but that's just common sense)

For what it's worth, I am excited about the arena and the changes in Allentown. What disappoints me is Pat Browne's behavior.

FutureDowntownArenaAttendee said...

You are now resorting to calling me, a female, a whore and a prostitute? Nice Bernie, you are a class act all around.

Anonymous said...

ACTUALLY, "FDAA and FRIENDS", (anonymous opinionated bloggers with opinions) the blogosphere DOES have alot more power than YOU believe or you wouldn't be posting comments in as many relevant locations as possible. I am not like Bernie O' Hare of the blog, Lehigh Valley Ramblings, because in my mind, it really doesn't matter who you are because your propaganda is becoming more and more transparent. I really kinda feel bad for all the "powers that be" involved because although the arena WILL be built and projects WILL be completed, reputations ARE tarnished and trust HAS been lost. In the beginning FDAA led the rallying call and recruited others into thinking this arena project was the savior for A-town. Now, I see less enthusiastic posts. In fact, many have become silent; maybe their and having second thoughts. It's funny, because for something that is supposed to be for the good of the CITY, it definitely is leaving a bad taste in alot of people's mouths. Whether paid or unpaid "FDAA and Friends", you all are entitled to your opinion and continue to preach how we are just crazy bloggers who hate progress and want that old A-town back, when in fact, with developing sinkholes, deadly gas explosions, shootings, business loss, small town politics, and poverty, we would just be glad to have a DECENT A-town to live in...

Alfonso Todd

www.5minutes2shine.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Browne has nothing to worry about. We can't even stop the conflicts of interest involving a United States Justice of the Supreme Court! His wife is a registered lobbyist and involved in matters that come before her husband's court. The Browne's are just following the example set by our illustrious leaders!

michael molovinsky said...

i would like to inject my two cents into this discussion, since future attendee referred to me as a "cohort" in the first comment. although i posted on my blog today about the Morning Call's habit of not giving proper attribution, and also noted browne's ironic comment that the NIZ law isn't confusing, bernie and I are on somewhat different pages at this point. for me, the arena controversy pretty much ended when the merchants were displaced. now that the buildings have been torn down, it becomes even more of a moot issue. personally, i'm not concerned about heather browne's role. i wish that pat browne had told the merchants that private investors were allowed to participate in the NIZ benefits. he apparently felt that they were not NIZ worthy as they sat in his office during a meeting. as to future attendee's identity and motive; in addition to pro arena comments on my blog, she also scanned the mcall full time to counter any negative comment. she said that she attended the public relations meeting presented by pawlowski and consultants, after the fact. why someone would attend more than one such meeting without having a vested interest seems very strange indeed.

FutureDowntownArenaAttendee said...

Easy answer to that one MM. The first night I went by myself... the second night I took my grandfather who doesn't drive. Not everything has to be shady.

Anonymous said...

FDAA is Heather Browne. Duh ...

Bernie O'Hare said...

If we weren't so close to the truth, then the comments wouldn't continue. There is way too much denial of the Vaughan / Reilly connections to be believable. As MM Points out, this is no ordinary "housewife" sitting at home on her computer, writing with the insight and information that FDAA has at her fingertips. I've just had to counter a Pugliese claim to the ET that this whole thing is being blown out of proportion by the blogosphere, namely, me. It seems like they do pay attention after all.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"You are now resorting to calling me, a female, a whore and a prostitute?"

I apologize. It's not intended to attack your sexual proclivity, but the fact that yo are a sell out. nevertheless, I should have put it another way and you are right to take me to task.

Anonymous said...

I love the smell of Crony Capitalism.

It smells like ... VICTORY!

Shaibu!

VIKTOR TIKHONOV

Anonymous said...

Methinks the moral of the story is that we need to have term limits for politicians at all levels of government and taxpayer funded elections to take the $$ out of the political system. Until that happens, this sort of thing will continue to happen.

Anonymous said...

I hate term limits.

Absolute power does not corrupt absolutely.

That is a myth.

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT

Anonymous said...

Love IPP's quotes and authors. Take a minute to really read them (and in some cases look up the authors), you'll see the man is sheer brilliance.

Billy Tinman said...

Future is no different than other, but perhaps more crudely disposed bloggers of questionable repute, from the past.

To a degree, I find him much more irksome since it is obvious he is playing to an audience that is not in his own head. It is his work, I suppose, that pays him, I hope, at lest minimal wage.

And he is not unlike the bully friends of his who have engineered this whole arena fiasco which looks increasingly like the economic melt down of Allentown.

Future represents, at least to me, the epitome of bottom feeders on the political hierarchy of the internet.

Anonymous said...

Unapologetic Palace of Sport dissidents such as O'HARE and MOLOVINSKY standing in the way of Progress should be rounded up immediately (in the dark of night) and detained in an Internment Camp.

Chairman Pawlowski still has much to learn.

So do his Propagandists.

FDR

Anonymous said...

Bernie -

The Browne issue is the obvious one.

You can bet if anyone is getting something out of this, Pawlowski is at the top of the list.

ironpigpen said...

"if anyone is getting something out of this, Pawlowski is at the top of the list."

Yes, I call it a Scapegoat.

But, what would I know?

Shaibu!

Issac Touro said...

Pat and Heather Browne - King and Queen of the LV whores.

Making the callahan sluts look meek

Anonymous said...

Browne is also running to be a delegate to the National Convention. The attitude of his supporters is that he is entitled to have this honor. He'll likely win one of the 3 spots due to his name recognition and this will be another example of what is wrong with the Republican Party establishment.

Anonymous said...

Pat Browne ain't no Conservative.

RINO, maybe.

Actually, make that definitely.

I don't care how many shills he has on the payroll.