August 30th Ups & Downs
The collaborative effort of a newsroom holding Harrisburg accountable is announced, a Congressman and county party unfairly accuse a local paper of being a fake news corporation, and a trending GOP county fails to field a candidate for Coroner. All of that and more are in this week’s Ups and Downs.
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Harrisburg Accountability. Do you think our elected officials in Harrisburg aren’t often held accountable? If so, we have some good news for you. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and PennLive/Patriot-News have joined forces to create Spotlight PA. The news outlets describe this new venture as an “unprecedented collaboration” that is “an ambitious, statewide and donor-funded newsroom launching in September with the mission of holding the powerful in Pennsylvania to account through hard-hitting investigative journalism.” The team of a dozen journalists will work from a new office just two blocks away from the Capitol that include Pennsylvania’s journalists Angela Couloumbis, Liz Navratil, and Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, and more.
Lloyd Smucker and Lancaster County GOP. What should a Congressman and local party do when they really wants an op-ed written by a constituent critiquing a local progressive organization and defending the member of Congress posted in the local paper? That Party and Congressman could wait and understand that the subject was not as time-sensitive, or you can accuse your local paper of barring conservative viewpoints in the outlet and deem them a “Fake News corporation.” Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) and the Lancaster County Republican Party chose the latter. The Lancaster County GOP shot out a press release on July 31 asking this op-ed written by John Koons, an Elizabethtown College graduate student and outreach director for the Pennsylvania Federation of College Republicans, be published “immediately” and accused the local paper of sweeping conservative viewpoints “under the rug” according to LNP | LancasterOnline. Just a few days later, Smucker’s campaign sent out a fundraising email on the matter, titled, “Fake News right here in Lancaster”. The issue with the claim that the paper was barring conservative voice? Well, it’s just not true. Two days prior, an op-ed written by Smucker was the lead, “above-the-fold column” in the Sunday LNP Perspective section. One week after the Smucker fundraising email was sent out calling the LNP | LancasterOnline “Fake News”, the paper posted the op-ed written by Koons. Another issue with claiming they censor conservative viewpoints? Since June, the paper has included columns from Smucker, House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, and state Sen. Scott Martin, among other conservative voices.
Pennsylvania House Prayer Rule. It was a story that garnered headlines in NBC News, The Hill, Huffington Post, and other various non-Pennsylvania centric outlets that is a victory for those who support the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ prayer policy. A federal appeals court reversed a lower court decision and ruled that the PA House’s policy of barring atheists from delivering invocations does not violate the U.S. Constitution. Those who argue that the policy was unconstitutional believe it is descrimination based on religion against people who don’t believe in a god, while those who support the policy believe it is not discriminatory since people of different faiths are allowed to provide the invocation.
Bob Casey, Madeleine Dean, and Guy Reschenthaler. These three received recognition from news outlets in the state for their legislative work during this session of Congress. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star highlighted a Quorum report that shows Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) is among the most bipartisan Democratic members of this Congressional class, with 28% of her bills being co-sponsored for the opposing party. They add that she is the only Pennsylvania House Freshman with that high of a total. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star also recognized Sen. Bob Casey for putting his name on the third most bills in the US Senate. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette credited GOP freshman Rep. Guy Reschenthaler for working across the aisle, pointing to his work with Dean on passing the Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis (STOIC) Act, and supporting the Clean Slate Act with Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE).
Allegheny County Progressives. Progressives in Allegheny County were pushing an ordinance to create a county-wide civilian police review board, which would have investigated allegations of misconduct by Allegheny County Police, but this was voted down this week. All 4 Republican Council Members voted against the proposal, while five Democrats joined them in voting no. 6 Democrats ultimately voted to support the proposal. The final vote for the bill was 9-6 against the proposal.
Cambria County GOP. A county that voted for President Donald Trump over Sec. Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election by nearly 40 points shouldn’t have problems fielding a candidate for Coroner. But the traditionally Democratic county that has now shifted towards the GOP will not have a candidate for Coroner in November. The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat details that Cambria County Coroner Jeff Lees will not face a Republican challenger after Frank Duca, who was going to seek the seat, withdrew from the race on Aug. 9. Duca defeated Gregory Jones for the nomination in the May primary, but the deadline to nominate a candidate has now passed.
Marisa Crispell. The Luzerne County Election Director resigned from her post this week amid a controversy over her “vendor-funded advisory board trips.” The state and county ethics commissions were asked to review her advisory board trips to Las Vegas, Nevada and Omaha, Nebraska funded by the company that sold the county its electronic poll books, while the investigation is still underway, according to The Times Leader. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who is investigating how counties obtain voting equipment, called her trip to Las Vegas a “junket” and a “disgrace” according to the Citizens Voice.
Bernie Sanders. The 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful has held various campaign related events in the state this summer, but this trip he was able to walk away with a Pennsylvania union based endorsement. During a 45 minute address in Pittsburgh at the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America’s annual convention, he received their endorsement. Sanders lauds the union as “one of the most progressive unions in this country.”
TWEET OF THE WEEK
The Pennsylvania Capital-Star’s Stephen Caruso provides the tweet of the week.
Best part about beer runs with out of state friends is explaining PA liquor laws to them.
— Stephen Caruso (@StephenJ_Caruso) August 24, 2019