Rendell in 2002 said a return to Ballard would be 'wrong'

As former Gov. Rendell was preparing for his first big night as a professional TV news analyst yesterday, Capitolwire's bureau chief Pete DeCoursey was digging into Rendell's treasure trove of campaign quotes, all the way back to his first gubernatorial campaign in 2002,

In it he found Rendell said of his then-law-firm, Ballard Spahr, "I think it is wrong for a governor to sever connections from a firm, be governor, apply the law and then go back to that firm."

This week he returned to Ballard Spahr, which won at least $22 million in state business during his two terms.

In 2002, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Rendell said it would be "wrong," if elected, to return to the law firm he worked at before becoming governor.

Rendell defended his reversal to DeCoursey this week, saying if he stuck to the pledge he could not work for any law firm.

While campaigning for governor in 2002, Rendell was attacked by his Democratic primary rival, then-Auditor General Bob Casey Jr., for working at Ballard that year, raking in $252k,  and in Rendell's words "for very little work."

During an April 21 primary election debate in Pittsburgh, Casey pressed Rendell to release the names of his clients and raised the question about whether Ballard Spahr would get state government work if Rendell was elected.

Rendell responded to the attacks at an April Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon. Mario Cattabiani of The Morning Call of Allentown reported that Rendell said: “It's just a wonderful law firm and to not return to it would be hard for me. But I think it is wrong for a governor to sever connections from a firm, be governor, apply the law and then go back to that firm."

Rendell now says he changed his view that returning to Ballard - which got at least $22 million in state work during his two terms - would be ‘wrong.’

Rendell said: “We gave out so much business to law firms that I could not have gone anywhere.”

Asked why that was so, since the only firm ruled out by the statement was Ballard Spahr, not other firms that did state business, Rendell said the principle related to not going with a firm that benefited from state business.

When he made the pledge, Rendell said, “I thought there would be some firms I had not dealt with, then I realized I didn’t give out the business, [general counsel] Barbara Adams chose everyone.”

One GOP strategist was chomping at the bit to go after Rendell.

Ray Zaborney, who was research director for Republican gubernatorial nominee Mike Fisher in 2002, told Capitolwire that Rendell’s ties to Ballard Spahr came up in the general, but that Rendell defused it by ruling out going back to the law firm.

“I think it would have been a potent issue for us or Casey if he had not ruled it out. But he did, and now he is clearly not sticking to it. I think it matters because the voters’ feeling about Rendell was that he was a little shady, but they were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

"Ballard could have been a very effective issue and he just shut it down by saying he would not go back. And Ballard did pretty well getting state business the last eight years. And now he is back. So what does that tell you about what he said?”



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