Thursday, December 12, 2013
How J.B. Reilly and Joe Topper Bought the NorCo Exec Seat
Allentown's controversial Neighborhood Improvement Zone is Senator Pat Browne's gift to his childhood chum, J.B. Reilly. Thanks to that state law, millionaire Reilly and his millionaire partner, Joe Topper, have a good shot at becoming billionaires. In Allentown, they are using state tax revenues to fund improvements within a 130-acre special tax zone created just for them. They will benefit immensely. The rest of us? Not so much. You'll be happy to know that Reilly has expanded his claws beyond Allentown to the center of Northampton County government. He just bought the Executive seat. Let me tell you the story.
The original draft of the NIZ law, which really was overlooked by most state legislators, was so broad that Reilly could even use the tax revenues owed to other municipalities to erect his pyramids. He already has lured other Lehigh Valley businesses with subsidized rents subsidized with revenues that should be spent on Allentown's failing schools.
Some townships sued. Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan did not, but did complain about its size and its adverse impact on his own City. Callahan's empty Martin Tower is just a stone's throw away. Who the Hell would go there when Reilly is robbing education funds for subsidized tenants in his buildings?
Callahan's criticism, mild as it was, angered Allentown Mayor Edwin "call me Guv'" Pawlowski. More importantly, it angered Reilly's urban growth regime and the unelected aristocrats in the Lehigh Valley who rule through tools like Pawlowski.
Reilly and Topper needed to take Callahan out. They used the one weapon they have - money. In the closing days of the NorCo Exec race between Callahan and John Brown, they funneled $50,000 into Brown's coffers. They made sure to wait until the final reporting period so that the rest of us would have no clue that the Executive seat was being bought. But now that the reports are out, I have finally connected the dots.
In the closing days of the Executive race, while most of us were paying attention to the Scott Ott v. Tom Muller campaign, mischief was afoot in Northampton County. Suddenly, Callahan was ambushed out of the blue with TV ads and mailers featuring John Brown. Where did this money come from? Brown's pre-election report made him appear like a David facing Goliath. The money was already there and being spent. It just wasn't in Brown's coffers.
According to campaign finance reports filed by the Republican State Committee of Pa., Reilly donated $25,000 to the Republican party on October 14. That same day, Reilly partner Joe Topper kicked in another $25,000. Interestingly, on a report for the entire state party, Reilly and Topper are the only individuals listed in this reporting period. Obviously, they weren't supporting Philadelphia candidates. Their money was intended for Brown. The rest of the state party's money comes from PACs and candidate campaigns.
And guess what? John Brown's post-election report, filed last week, discloses $41,217.12 in last-minute, in-kind contributions from the Republican Party of Pa.
Reilly and Topper could not risk giving it to Brown directly. That would be too obvious and Northampton County residents would resent Lehigh County developers coming in and taking over. So they laundered the money via the state party. This is perfectly legal. Both parties do it. But it's no way to claim transparency.
Brown has been reluctant to identify his transition team or name his new cabinet. Now you know why. Reilly is obviously involved. He's in the shadows, but he's there.
The state party also gave Council candidate Peg Ferraro $1,000.
So there you have it. The Northampton County Executive seat is firmly in the grasp of Lehigh County developers who are already sucking state tax dollars out of Allentown. I'm sure we have no reason to worry.