Wolf to unveil new PAC to push his agenda

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

Gov. Wolf knows how to place a bet.

The York County businessman, who made a bundle on his family's kitchen cabinets company, sunk $10 million into his campaign for governor last year.

He went from unknown to unstoppable, easily winning the Democratic primary and then defeating incumbent Tom Corbett.

As politicians go, he looked pretty savvy.

But the first five months of Wolf's first year as governor has been altogether different, as if the political side of running the government has been set aside.

And it shows.

Wolf's pick for State Police commissioner was washed out by a cooked-up controversy. His attempt to block a Corbett appointee to head the Office of Open Records was just overturned by a judge.

Wolf is a Democrat. The General Assembly is ruled by Republicans. The state budget deadline is just eight days away and negotiations so far have not been smooth sailing.

The first year of a governor's term is the most important, setting the tone for what is to come.

When he was governor, Ed Rendell vetoed part of his first budget and fought with Republicans until reaching a budget deal in late December. It wouldn't be the last deadline that Rendell missed.

Corbett's approach to education funding in his first budget, which was completed before deadline, did more than anything else to prevent him from winning a second term.

So June is the most important month in a governor's first year.

And suddenly, Wolf has rediscovered politics.

He will unveil on Monday a new political action committee - Rebuild Pennsylvania - to sell his agenda to the state's voters and support candidates for public office.

PACs run on money. And Wolf may now have even more of it to spend.

A spokesman for the governor confirmed earlier this month that Wolf sold his shares in the family business. Wolf's investments are held in a blind trust so it was unclear what that deal was worth.

But we know he is about to write another political check. Mike Mikus, the Pittsburgh political consultant who will helm Wolf's new PAC, said the governor will make the first donation but declined to say for how much.

"He's writing a personal check to get it off the ground," Mikus said. "We expect some contributions to come in, as well."

Mikus also declined to say what political moves the new PAC will make.

"I don't want to give it away yet," he said. "It's safe to say you'll be hearing from us very soon."

Chances are, Republican legislators are not going to enjoy that.

So far, Wolf's political overtures have been limited to occasional, long-winded e-mails from his campaign committee seeking support for his budget plans and donations.

Here's how a June 2 e-mail from Wolf - coming in at 608 words - started: "I know I can be a bit of a policy wonk and be a bit long-winded - but the details of my budget proposal are important, so I wanted to take a moment to talk you through it."

Not exactly hot stuff.

Rebuild Pennsylvania will probably have a bit more political pizzazz.

Mikus ran the campaign for Katie McGinty, one of the three Democrats Wolf defeated in last year's primary. Wolf then put McGinty in charge of a new political action committee, Campaign for a Fresh Start. Mikus came along for the ride.

Wolf took the high road on the way to defeating Corbett while his Fresh Start PAC hounded the incumbent in a classic good cop/bad cop routine.

McGinty, now Wolf's chief of staff, said on Friday she has "not been active on the political side of the governor's overall efforts."

But McGinty still has political skills. She deftly dodged when asked if anyone has been active on Wolf's "political side."

McGinty said Wolf's PAC last year helped to "amplify a message" in the campaign. It looks as if he plans to once again turn up the volume.


brennac@phillynews.com

215-854-5973

@ByChrisBrennan