State budget cut-backs that started in the closing days of Gov. Rendell's second term are resulting in fewer campaign finance reports being posted on the Department of State's web site. And that has Common Cause, a good government watchdog group, worried that a new loophole is being created that can be exploited to avoid scrutiny of political contributions.
The problem: candidates and political action committees [PAC] can file their campaign finance reports -- there are seven reports required by state law due during 2011 -- electronically or on paper. The Department of State has outsourced the data entry work needed to put some of the paper reports available on-line and uses in-house staff for some of the work.
As a result of the budget cut-backs, which started in September, the posting on-line of PAC reports is slowing down, according to Kevin Murphy, a spokesman for the Department of State. "However, the department is working on inputting the reports as available resources permit," Murphy added.
Here's why that worries James Browning over at Common Cause: A savvy PAC could realize that filing reports on paper will mean less scrutiny. Browning says his group is sympathetic about the budget cuts causing the problem. But he also worries that the Department of State web site doesn't say that some reports are not being posted.
"So you don't know if you're missing a big piece of the puzzle," Browning said.
The web site does note that anyone wishing to view campaign finance reports can visit the Department of State in the North Office Building next to the Capitol in Harrisburg. That's about 100 miles west of Philadelphia. Safe travels.
Pennsylvania's new governor, Tom Corbett, was sworn into office today calling for civility in the pursuit of public policy. Citing William Penn and the country's founding fathers, Corbett said those "noble leaders stood true to the belief that civility stands at the core of fair and peaceful governance."
"As we open this new chapter in Pennsylvania’s history, let us also step forward firmly dedicated to a civil discourse," Corbett continued. "Let us not confuse acrimony with passion or partisanship with principle. Rather, let us take this opportunity to begin a new kind of debate – one that honors our shared history and unites us as citizens in common purpose. In doing so, I have great faith that we will unleash a new common prosperity to benefit all Pennsylvanians."
After the jump, you can read Corbett's complete innaugural address.
Gov.-elect Tom Corbett just announced that Kenya Mann Faulkner, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia who helped convict former City Councilman Rick Mariano on federal corruption charges and then went on to serve of the city's Board of Ethics, will lead the state's Office of Inspector General.
Faulkner, 45, of Ambler, a partner at the Ballard Spahr law firm, is serving on the criminal justice committee of Corbett's transistion team. The state OIG web site says the office has about 400 employees who "prevent or find fraud, waste, and abuse in the Commonwealth’s programs, operations, and contracts."
After the jump, you can read what Corbett's team has to say about Faulkner.
File this under bad timing: The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board just announced that it is taking its 30 self-service "wine kiosks" off-line at 9 p.m. tonight to deal with service problems. This comes as Gov.-elect Tom Corbett is pushing to sell off the state-controlled system to sell wine and alcohol.
Here's what LCB Chairman Patrick J. "PJ" Stapleton had to say, via a news release just sent out by e-mail: "While customer satisfaction with the six-month old kiosk program remains high, recent problems -- such as product not dispensing -- require us to take immediate action while we wait for the manufacturer to correct all of the identified issues. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our customers and supermarket partners, but felt this temporary closure was critical to the future success of the program."
The kiosks, along with wine boutique stores, were put into play by the LCB in a continuing effort to move away from the old "state store" mentality that seemed designed to prevent consumers from finding the beverages they wanted to buy. You can read the LCB's news release after the jump.
For Gov. Rendell, post-election is apparently also a post-partisanship period. Rendell, speaking at last week's Pennsylvania Society in New York City, told Scott Detrow of WITF in Harrisburg that state Democratic Party political attacks on Gov.-Elect Tom Corbett are going over the line. [We first saw this on the Newsworks Off Mic blog by Dave Davies]
"Let's give him some breathing space," Rendell told WITF. "To attack him at this point comes with ill grace."
Was it really just six weeks ago, while helping Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato in the closing days of the general election, that Rendell accused Corbett of trying to get people to break the law? Here's what we reported on Oct. 30:
Onorato and Rendell yesterday accused Corbett of trying to foster voter suppression in the city. Rendell went so far as to say Corbett, the top law-enforcement officer in the state, should not be running for governor.
"He urged people to break the law," Rendell said after Onorato was endorsed by the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity. "Voter suppression is against the law. And he clearly urged them to break the law. Now does he have a plan? How would we know?"
A Quinnipiac University Poll released this morning shows that two out of three Pennsylvania voters (66-26 percent) support the plan by Gov.-Elect Tom Corbett to sell the state's liquor store business. Half of the voters polled (51-41 percent) were OK with laying off state workers to balance the budget. You can read the poll here.
Corbett enters office with the confidence of voters, as 59 percent said they feel optomisitic about the next four years. But voters are not so sure about his campaign pledge to not raise state taxes. Fifty-three percent said they don't think he can balance the budget that way while 65 percent oppose any tax increases.
The poll of 1,584 registered voters, conducted from Dec. 6-13, has a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percent.
Our man in Harrisburg, John Baer, reports that Gov. Rendell yesterday said at a capitol press conference that there’s only one answer to the Legislature’s inability to get things done: “Monarchy.” He then offered to serve his last year in office as a “benevolent dictator.”
You think there's something to the idea?
Brendan Boyle, the Democrat running for the 170th state House seat, obtained a restraining order today from a Common Pleas Court judge to prevent his Republican opponent, Matt Taubenberger, from continuing to run campaign ads calling Boyle a tax cheat. Judge Gary Di Vito ordered that Taubenberger stop running the ads or distributing any campaign materials making the claim. He also wants Taubenberger, state Rep. John Perzel [who financed the ads] and the state GOP to collect any campaign material making the claim and deliver them to the court by 8 a.m. tomorrow.
Anyone passing out the campaign material is subject to a $500 fine while Taubenberger, Perzel and the state GOP could be fined $1,000 for each piece of material distributed after the order that continues to make the claim.
Taubenberger based his claim on city records that listed Boyle and his wife as owing property taxes on a rental property they purchased last year. Those records were incorrect, the city Revenue Commissioner said in a letter to Boyle last week. Taubenberger last week told the Daily News he found the city's explanation "highly questionable and suspect."