Kane Launches First Television Ad (Video)

Former Lackawanna County prosecutor Kathleen Kane has launched her first television ad in support of her campaign for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General.

The spot, a thirty-second introductory ad that emphasizes Kane’s prosecutorial experience, is expected to air in most of the Commonwealth’s major media markets.

The ad’s voiceover begins by noting that Kane is the first woman in Pennsylvania history to run for Attorney General, then pivots to offer a brief summation the candidate’s experience mopping floors to pay for law school, prosecuting thousands of cases, and working to protect senior citizens.  The spot closes with mention of President Bill Clinton’s endorsement before circling back to reinforce Kane as “the Democrat with the most experience – 3,000 cases.”

“I am excited to announce that our campaign’s first television commercial is currently airing across Pennsylvania!”  Kane wrote in an email introducing the spot.  “With just under four weeks remaining until the primary election, I am thrilled by the support I have received from Pennsylvanians like you, smart citizens who demand that the state’s next Attorney General be a career prosecutor, not a career politician.”

Both Kane and her rival for the Democratic nod, former Congressman Patrick Murphy, have now dipped into their respective campaign war chests for media buys.  Murphy’s camp went up on air in the Pittsburgh market earlier this week with its own thirty-second introductory spot focusing on his experience as the son of a Philadelphia police officer and as a JAG attorney with the 82nd Airborne Division.


Corbett Expected to Sign Marcellus Shale Impact Fee Legislation Today

By Ben Hulac, Contributing Writer

A bill to create impact fees for companies drilling for natural gas in Marcellus Shale wells has been passed by both state legislative bodies and now moves on to Governor Corbett for his final approval.

During his speech on Tuesday to unveil the proposed new state budget, the governor also said that passing and finalizing this Marcellus Shale legislation represented a strong commitment to safely developing oil and gas practices within Pennsylvania. Corbett is expected to sign the bill into law on Thursday.

The Pennsylvania House and Senate both gave their nods of approval on Wednesday, a significant step forward from years of back-and-forth between both parties over Marcellus Shale issues.

The legislation includes a county-option and is designed to provide revenue for environmental programs across the state. The bill also will trigger a review of zoning codes and their relation to drilling for the natural gas trapped below the earth’s crust —a process called “hydraulic fracturing” in which chemicals and water are pumped into the ground to extract bubbles of natural gas.

Described as an “impact fee bill,” this legislation will allow counties with active wells of Marcellus Shale to tax drilling companies in hopes of offsetting the cost incurred by private drilling companies in their respective counties.

Experts project that, assuming Corbett signs this bill into law today, Pa. counties would enforce  a range of impact fees, allowing for a sliding scale of taxes against drillers and ranging from $40,000 to $60,000. The size of the tax would depend on the damage done by drilling.

While this bill is being touted as a step in the right direction by many, not everyone is pleased.

The bill has received criticism from House and Senate members who believe that the impact fee does not accurately represent the damage done due to Marcellus Shale drilling. Others argue that Pennsylvania simply deserves more revenue.

According to The Times-Tribune, Pa. Senator John Blake, D-22, told his colleagues, “Lackawanna County residents experience the impact of drilling in the region on their roads, drinking water, housing costs and property taxes” but that the bill “only provides a fragment of the impact fee revenue that Pennsylvania deserves.”

While Blake and others feel that this bill does not do enough to offset the total impact of drilling for natural gas, other say it undermines the role of local municipal leaders.

In a story published in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Brian Coppola, a supervisor in Washington County said that the bill goes too far. “When you remove zoning and land at the local level, there’s really nothing else for a municipal government to do,” he said. “You’ve turned the whole system upside down, not just the drilling.”

Democrats and Republicans Line Up to Replace Earll in the 49th

By Danielle Ardner, Contributing Writer

As expected, Democrats and Republicans are already lining up for what will surely be a competitive race to replace Jane Earll in Pennsylvania’s 49th Senatorial District.

Democratic hopefuls plan to officially announce their plans this week.

Among them is Sean Wiley, the Director of Foundation at St. Vincent Health System. Wiley, who also serves as Director of Governmental Affairs and Advocacy at St. Vincent, was formerly employed as a staffer for Erie County Executive Mark Divecchio.  

“Erie needs a tested advocate in the Senate with a history of working for our communities, and I am ready, willing, and able to be that advocate,” Wiley said in a press release from the PA Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.

Sources with knowledge of the race say Wiley has the blessing of current Erie County Executive Barry Grossman, who challenged and beat Divecchio in the 2009 Democratic primary.

Wiley said he believes “we need to bring jobs back to our region, provide our next generation with a top-tier education, and protect our natural resources – and the only way we will get there is with an unprecedented level of cooperation with all of our elected officials and community leaders.”

State Senator Daylin Leach, the chairman  of the PA Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, has publicly praised Wiley. “Sean is a top-tier candidate with real experience working for the people of Erie. Our Commonwealth is at a tipping point and Erie needs someone like Sean who won’t be afraid to make tough decisions and get our state back on track,” he said.

All Aboard Erie executive director Brian Pitzer is also considering a run.  Pitzer has been involved in the area of higher education throughout his career, serving as Director of Public Relations at Edinboro University and Chicago State University.  He also has ties to the University of Pittsburgh.

Terry Scutella has officially announced his bid for the 49th District seat, according to WICU12 of Erie. Scutella is the Millcreek School Director. His 11 years of experience on the school board, he believes, will aid him in this election.

WICU12 quoted Scutella as saying, “Public education is big to me. And I just believe we have to find something that takes the burden off the taxpayer.”

On the GOP side, Janet Anderson, a former Earll staffer currently serving as Executive Director of the Northwest Regional Planning and Development Commission, is expected to vie for the seat.

Jason Owen — an attorney, the former Executive Director of the Erie County Republican Party, and a previous candidate for the 3rd Congressional District in PA in 2008 — is also rumored to be mulling a run.

After Serious Consideration, Turzai Declines to Run in 12th District

Just days after reports indicating that House Majority Leader Mike Turzai was “seriously considering” a run for Congress in the new 12th District, state GOP sources have told Roll Call that Turzai has decided not to jump into the race.

“Two Keystone State GOP sources confirmed Turzai would not run for the southwestern Pennsylvania House seat,” writes Shira Toeplitz.   “A phone message left with Turzai’s official spokesman in the state House was not immediately returned.”

Turzai had previously mulled a run against Democrat Jason Altmire in 2010, but ultimately decided against it.  This latest decision forces Keystone State GOP officials to resume their efforts to recruit a top-tier candidate to run against Altmire and congressional colleague Mark Critz in the Keystone State’s reconstituted 12st District.  Both Democrats, Altmire and Critz were forced into a primary matchup after state Republicans merged their respective districts during the once-a-decade redistricting process.

United Mine Workers Endorse Critz in New 12th District

Congressman Mark Critz followed the example of his former boss, the late Congressman John Murtha, and announced the early endorsement of the United Mine Workers of America in the newly reconfigured 12th Congressional District on Friday.

“Mark has been a steadfast friend of the United Mine Workers and all working men and women, and he merits the opportunity to continue that work,” Edward Yankovich, the UMW International District 2 vice president, said in a statement released by Critz’s campaign. “We’ll do everything we can to help Mark win the primary and then the general election.”

A source close to Critz told the National Journal’s Scott Bland that more union endorsements are forthcoming, as the Johnstown Democrat seeks to introduce himself to new 12th District voters more familiar with Congressman Jason Altmire, whose 4th District was merged with Critz’s during last year’s once-a-decade redistricting process.

“I am proud to receive the endorsement of the United Mine Workers of America,” Critz said in the statement. “Creating and protecting jobs is my number one priority and that will always remain the case. This endorsement shows that I am the only candidate willing to stand up to the Tea Party and fight for workers regardless of what the polls say.”

Union backing – and more specifically, the Election Day logistical boost it can afford – will likely play a key role in the election.  More than two-thirds of constituents in the new 12th District hail from Altmire’s former district, though Critz has maintained a stronger relationship with organized labor in the past. 

Last week, Altmire released a list of more than 70 Democratic officials who had endorsed his campaign.  Critz released his own list of nearly three dozen endorsements last month.

Prospects Dim for Electoral College Plan

By Sari Heidenreich, Contributing Writer

After Gov. Tom Corbett made it clear yesterday that he won’t be pushing for movement on a plan to reform Pennsylvania’s electoral college, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi responded via Facebook saying,  he does “not believe there will be sufficient time to advance [the plan] this year.”

Pileggi said he won’t revisit the bill until the legislature completes their work on education reform, the Marcellus Shale industry and transportation funding.

Corbett’s comments about the plan came at a Press Club Luncheon Monday where he said, “I see no movement on it. I’m not going to push for movement.” However, Corbett said he still supports the bill and believes “it is a fair representation to the people of Pennsylvania, and to all the states across our States.”

Corbett came out in support of Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi’s plan shortly after it was made public in September. The plan would change the state’s current winner-takes-all system and divide up the state’s electoral college votes by congressional district and give an additional two votes to the statewide winner.

If the plan had been in effect in 2008, President Barack Obama would have won the state 11-10 rather than 21-0.

G. Terry Madonna, professor of Political Science at Franklin and Marshall College, said if the legislature does not vote the bill this year “it’s really going to be tough to get it done” by March, when Pileggi has said he thinks the legislation should be completed.

Capitolwire reported earlier today: “Montgomery Democratic Sen. Daylin Leach said the bill ‘is essentially dead’ if its delayed until next year.”

In addition to a crowded legislative agenda, Madonna added, a lack of support in the state legislature and from the GOP’s congressional delegation will hinder the plan.

Charlie Gerow, spokesman for the All Votes Matters, the most prominent group supporting Pileggi’s plan, said Madonna’s views are flat out wrong.

“We disagree with them … I think Sen Pileggi thinks that as well,” he said, “I also don’t view the world in static terms, I think … there’s some members of the congressional delegation that are warming up to it.”

In his Facebook post Pileggi added that “advancing this legislation will require a concerted and sustained effort involving the Senate, the House and the Governor.”

Gerow said it was important that both Corbett and Pileggi affirmed their support for the plan yesterday but said, “Obviously we would prefer to see it done sooner rather than later but we don’t have a deaf ear to the legislative process.”

Gerow said his group is sill optimistic that this reform will passed the the General Assembly this session and in time for the presidential election.

Days After Election, Bucks GOPers Plead Guilty

By Ali Carey, Contributing Writer

They say timing is everything. Just days after this year’s county elections, several high-profile Republican officials in Bucks County plead guilty to charges of corruption.

On Friday, Register of Wills Barbara Reilly, who ran the office for more than three decades, and her second deputy Rebecca Kiefer pleaded guilty to forcing employees to do political work while having tax payers foot the bill.

The so-called atmosphere of corruption was one of the Democratic slate’s major campaign issues in the fall. Nevertheless, incumbent Commissioners Charley Martin and Rob Loughery, both Republicans, were re-elected by a wide margin earlier this month. Incumbent Democrat Diane Marseglia kept her seat as well, leaving Doylestown Borough President Det Ansinn on the outside looking in.

The pleas by Reily and Kiefer came two months after Candace Quinn, a former top administrator in the office, offered her own guilty plea to a range of charges that included felony theft and conspiracy, official oppression and obstructing law enforcement.

After an eight-month investigation, a Grand Jury alleged that Reilly forced county employees to do Election Day work on behalf of Republican candidates  in exchange for under-the-table compensatory time.  Upon learning of the investigation, prosecutors say, Reilly and her team actively attempted to destroy pertinent evidence, including the “pink book” used to record the Election Day hours.

Keifer did not contest the charges that she and Quinn used money that residents paid for copies of records to pay for lunches and sodas.

After working in the Register’s office since 1985, Keifer retired in August.  

Quinn also retired but was able to negotiate a separate agreement shortly before the charges were filed in March.  

For more details on the allegations check out Matt Coughlin’s article in the Intelligencer.

GOP Race for 2012 Heats Up; Casey Keeps Cool

By Ali Carey and Keegan Gibson

The GOP primary for U.S. Senate is heating up, but Senator Bob Casey is doing what he does best: keeping cool.

The first-term Democratic incumbent has the luxury of watching a crowded Republican primary from the sidelines. Meanwhile, he’s avoided the pitfalls of his predecessor Rick Santorum.

“Bob Casey doesn’t pick fights,” said one Republican operative with over a decade of statewide campaign experience. “He isn’t making enemies. It’s not ‘love him or hate him’ with Casey as it was [with Santorum], it’s ‘love him or don’t notice him.’”

Casey boasts over $3.75 million in cash on hand of the most recent campaign finance report, and according to Roll Call last Monday, he has a safe seat.

“Senator Casey is focused on his work in the Senate to create jobs, grow the economy and cut government spending. He is also preparing to run a strong campaign that will allow him to communicate his record of fighting for Pennsylvania jobs and standing up for Pennsylvanians,” says spokesman Larry Smar, whenever his office is asked for comment about the race. Casey says his campaign doesn’t have immediately plans to hire non-fundraising staff.

Dr. Chris Borick, Director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, agrees Casey is in a secure position going into the election.

“It’s not surprising that Casey has tried to avoid controversy during this year.  One of his great strengths is that he is not a polarizing figure and by staying out of the fray on controversial matters he can maintain that standing heading into an election year,” said Borick.

But Borick says it’s too soon to call his seat safe.

“The volatility of economic and political conditions nationally and in Pennsylvania pose opportunities for the eventual GOP candidate.  Casey is not an easy target, but he has enough liabilities to make his reelection bid a done deal.”

His poll numbers have been less than stellar, hovering around 40 percent job approval and 30 percent disapproval — better than President Obama’s ratings in the state, but far from safe.  Republicans are previewing what seems likely to be a central strategy next year: linking Casey to President Obama.  The latest web video from Steve Welch, a Chester County entrepreneur who twice ran for Congress last year, ticks off the issues:

“He voted for ObamaCare.  He voted for the stimulus.  He voted for every government regulation that is interfering with job creation,” Welch lists in the spot.

Indeed, on the big votes, there has been little daylight between Casey and the President. But it’s how Casey spends his floor time and his time in the state that defines his style. He generally keeps clear of politics and focuses on uncontroversial, wonky issues.

For fun, we took a look at the press releases his office has sent out in the past month. Here are their subject headings, in no particular order:

  • JEC Hearing on the Manufacturing Sector and Improvements in the Nation’s Infrastructure
  • Casey and Bipartisan Group of Senators Urge Strong Resolution on Iran at Tomorrow’s IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
  • Casey Introduces Bill to Strengthen Child Protection Laws
  • Casey Files Amendment to Must-Pass Bill That Would Restore Small Business HUBZone Status to 16 Rural PA Counties
  • Casey Urges VA to Speed Implementation of Successful Program Helping Western PA Vets Recover from Strokes
  • Casey, Toomey and Critz Oppose Closure of NDIC
  • Casey Announces $3 Million for LANTA
  • Casey Calls for Hearing to Examine Federal Reporting Laws on Sexual Abuse of Children
  • Casey Urges Google to Host Small Business Technology Event to Get SWPA Businesses Online
  • Casey To Unveil Bipartisan Bill to Help Individuals with Disabilities Save Money for Care
  • Casey Announces $6.44 Million for SEPTA
  • Casey Urges Administration to Investigate Companies Allegedly Aiding Syrian Regime
  • Casey Introduces Bill to Help Entrepreneurs Start Small Businesses
  • Casey Statement on Arab League’s Vote to Suspend Syria
  • Casey on Senate Vote to Hire Veterans
  • Casey Calls on Army Secretary to Finally Award Hard-Earned Medals to Pre-9/11 Veterans
  • Casey: Syrian Regime Must be Held Accountable for Violence
  • Casey Pushes Legislation to Hire Our Heroes – Nearly 100,000 PA Veterans are Out of Work
  • Casey Introduces Bipartisan Resolution Honoring Life of Philadelphia Boxing Legend Joe Frazier
  • Casey to Chair Hearing on U.S. Policy in Syria
  • Casey: Cuts to Law Enforcement Programs Will Make Neighborhoods Less Safe
  • Casey: Fannie and Freddie Bonuses Are an Outrage
  • With 15,000 Pennsylvanians Still Without Power, Casey Calls for Investigation into Delays in Turning Power Back On
  • Casey Calls on Columbia Gas for Answers After Pipeline Explosion
  • Following Casey Urging, Impact Study of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Moves Ahead
  • Casey: Compromise Needed to Rebuild PA Roads and Bridges
  • Casey Urges SeaWolves Ownership Group to Keep Team in Erie
  • Casey Co-chairs Hearing on Women and the Arab Spring
  • Casey to Lead Bipartisan Meeting in U.S. Capitol on Bloomsburg Flood Relief Project
  • Casey Introduces Legislation to Hold Pakistan Accountable for Roadside Bombs
  • Casey Urges Quick Answers, Open and Transparent Investigation from UGI After Millersville Gas Explosion
  • Casey Makes Major Push for Congress to Adequately Fund Federal Program that Provides Critical Funding for TCMC
  • Casey to Chinese Officials: Unfair Trade Practices Will Not Be Tolerated
  • Casey, Toomey and Coons File Amendment that Would Increase Chances for Delaware River Dredging
  • Casey Announces Grants for Affordable Housing in Philadelphia
  • Casey Introduces Bill to Support Agriculture Jobs and Local Farms
  • Federal Government Should ‘Buy Pennsylvania’
  • Casey Urges Tax Reform to Level Playing Field for U.S. Manufacturing Companies
  • Casey Calls on Obama Administration to Use Upcoming Trade Summit to Crack Down on China’s Unfair Trade Practices
  • Following Casey Request Senate HELP Committee Announces Hearing On Protecting Children From Abuse and Neglect
  • Casey Calls on FTC to Prevent Supermarkets, Retailers from Selling Seniors’ Private Information
  • Casey Calls on BNY Mellon to Commit to Keeping Jobs in Pittsburgh

And here are the other candidates for Senate:

  • Tim Burns, Washington County businessmen and former Congressional candidate
  • David Christian, Bucks County veterans’ advocate David Christian.
  • Laureen Cummings, a Scranton-area tea party activist.
  • John Kensigner, Bedford pharmacist and one-time 2010 candidate.
  • Marc Scaringi, Harrisburg-area attorney and former Santorum staffer
  • Tom Smith, coal industry veteran
  • Sam Rohrer, Former State Rep. and gubernatorial candidate of Berks County.
  • John Vernon, retired U.S. Army colonel from Tioga County
  • Steve Welch, businessman and former Congressional candidate of Chester County
  • Brian Kelly (Democrat), retired software engineer and former congressional candidate


Wash Post Political Gossip Blog: Toomey Pats Out Fire in Guest’s Hair During Remarks

Known to some as a conservative firebrand, United States Senator Pat Toomey proved to be more firefighter during his Wednesday night birthday celebration.

Pittsburgh native and political consultant Michael Brody was among the guests – along with U.S. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina – attending the soiree.

Reports the Washington Post’s Reliable Source political gossip blog:

“As Toomey was delivering his insights from the debt supercommittee, the senator’s wife, Kris, leapt forward and shouted: Brody’s hair was on fire!”

“Wait — how? Brody, who stands about 6-foot-4, had backed up against a row of decorative tea lights, and ‘it’s a full head of hair,’ he acknowledged. ‘It was smoking and [on] fire before I even felt it.’

“The victim said the senator sprang into action, patting out the flames on the back of his head, though Toomey’s office says it was mostly Kris Toomey who did the fire-smothering, with her hands.  Neither of the Toomeys was injured — and Brody, also okay, says his hair looks fine, too.”

Capitol Ideas: Occupy Harrisburg Protesters Disrupt Redistricting Meeting

For more than a half hour, Friday’s meeting of the Legislative Reapportionment Committee was diverted by members of Occupy Harrisburg, according to post on John Micek’s Capitol Ideas blog

Micek reports:

“One after the other, several protesters took up a repeating demand for ‘redress of government,’ as they reminded the panel that voters “pick the government” and not the other way round.”

“The protesters also repeatedly charged that the noontime session had shut out working people who might have wanted to attend but could not because they had to work.”

Click here for video of the meeting.

The vocal protest – driven by chants of “mic check!” and employing “human microphone” technique used by Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and others – took place as Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson ordered local police to evict the Occupy Harrisburg contingent from their gathering place at Riverfront Park along the Susquehanna River.  

The City maintained that the protesters were in violation of at least four local ordinances, most significantly Section 10-301.15: “No person shall camp in any park in other than permanent areas for organized camping provided by the Department and used by groups of persons under adequate supervision.”