In 2012, I told you that democracy is dead in Allentown. Sure, people still vote, but turn out is so bad that a scant minority makes decisions for everyone else. A scant five per cent of Allentown elected Edwin Pawlowski. Most people believe it does not matter anyway. Newspapers fail to inform, devoting far more attention to proms and restaurant reviews than in actually telling you what is happening. So over the years, democracy has been replaced by an urban growth regime in which politicians, select members of the business community and even the newspapers have co-opted each other. They might sincerely believe that they are working for the greater good. In reality, they are advancing their own business interests. They have even tried to expand control into Northampton County and Whitehall Township.
The chief architects of this urban growth regime are J.B. Reilly and Joe Topper, who are smart and successful businessmen. But when they contribute directly to candidates, that draws eyebrows and resentment. They've learned to hide their donations by funneling them through political parties and political action committees.
They did that during John Brown's Northampton County Executive campaign in 2013. His opponent, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, had angered the regime by making some remarks that were mildly critical of the NIZ. So they decided to prop up an unknown Bangor Mayor who they thought would do as he's told. Reilly and Topper contributed $50,000 to the state Republican party ($25,000 each), which in turn contributed $41,217.12 to Brown and $1,000 to Peg Ferraro. Because some reporter might write about a direct contribution and Northampton County residents would resent Lehigh County developers coming in and taking over, So they laundered the money via the state party.
But that's a problem, too. The party will always keep some of the money, depriving the money boys of the biggest bang for their buck. So being the astute businessmen they are, Reilly and Topper set up their own political action a=committee to make sure every penny they contribute goes directly to the candidate. They call it Citizens for Urban Renewal, though the only citizens involved are Reilly, Topper and Jeff Vaughn, who handles their communications. The initial $200 came from Vaughn, but Reilly and Topper have handled the rest. They have contributed $103,000 to this PAC since late 2013.
Who are they attempting to enlist as members of the urban growth regime? They give to Democrats and Republicans alike. To them, money is more important than party. Below are local Democratic legislative and executive candidates who have accepted donations from a two millionaires whose views might be called more of Ronald Reagan's trickle down economics.
Allentown Future Fund - $15,000. (This is a Pawlowski PAC).
Dan McCarthy - $4,000 (McCarthy, a Pawlowski ally, was running for judge).
Pete Schweyer - $4,000. (Pawlowski Democrat)
Ed Pawlowski - $15,000.
Mark Aurand - $1,000 (Pawlowski Democrat, was running for the state senate)
Mike Schlossberg - $2,500 (Pawlowski Democrat running unopposed)
Lisa Boscola - $1,000 (NIZ Democrat running unopposed).
Tom Wolf - $2,000 (reportedly unhappy about corporate handouts)
Tom Muller - $4,000 (NIZ Democrat)
Dan McNeill - $500 (Democrat).
Jeff Glazier - $3,000 (Pawlowski Dem).
Jerry Palagonia - $500 (Whitehall takeover)
Charlie Thiel - $1,000 (Pawlowski Dem)
John Brown, a Republican was given $5,000 in addition to the $41,217.12 that was laundered through state Republicans. He is now Northampton County's Executive. But the attempt to take over Whitehall Township failed.
But is this really trickle down economics? No. It's crony capitalism.
An economist explains the difference.
"Reagan's presumption was that the private sector was a better and more efficient allocator of wealth than the government. Indeed, the idea was to make government smaller and the private sector larger by reducing tax rates and eliminating government red tape, among other means. Reagan was deeply opposed to the government picking and choosing economic "winners" and "losers."
"The NIZ concept is antithetical to that belief system. The NIZ concept wants government to pick winners and losers. And, of course, the winners are those with the money, power and influence to steer government largesse their way. Reilly, et al, are "crony capitalists" - relying on their wealth, power and influence to suck as much money from government coffers (meaning, less wealthy, less powerful, and less influential taxpayers) as they possibly can."