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Harrisburg’s Smartest Staffers: Senate Republicans

Lawmakers are great, but staffers are the people who make government happen. Over the coming days, we will introduce you to the best and brightest in each of the four caucuses in Harrisburg. First up: the Senate Republicans.

A quick note on criteria. The smartest staffers are those whose savvy, institutional knowledge and work product make them indispensable to their caucus. Our list is based on submissions, interviews and conversations with lawmakers, lobbyists, reporters and other staffers. With apologies to talented district staff, this list contains those who do their work in Harrisburg.

Editor’s note: this project started back in November, but redistricting and the primary intervened. Thanks to all for patience.

We begin with the Senate Republicans. There is relatively little turnover among this group – arguably the smartest caucus. Because they’ve been in the majority so long, jobs are stable. As a result, staffers stay around for years and institutional knowledge is plentiful.

Erik Arneson, Communications & Policy Director, Dominic Pileggi

A Temple grad, former reporter and once Chief of Staff to Chip Brightbill, Arneson has been around the caucus for years. He writes a blog about board and card games, but unlike most strategy gamers had the chance to put his skill set into action.  He directed Republican redistricting strategy for Congress and the Senate – in each case, making it far more likely for the GOP to maintain dominance for a decade. He’s very intelligent, well-respected by members, good with the press and influential on a host of legislative issues.

Fran Cleaver, Executive Director, Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee

Few staffers in the Senate are as influential and skilled in their subject area as Cleaver. A 17-year veteran of Harrisburg, she’s an extremely bright, talented lawyer who understands PUC matters better than anyone. She has her boss’s and the caucus’s ear on every topic she works on, including gaming and utility issues.

Kristin Crawford, Chief of Staff and Legislative Director, Mike Brubaker

A no-nonsense, capable workhorse, this former Department of Ag staffer is one of the sharpest minds in Harrisburg on agriculture issues. That comes in handy since her boss represents one of the biggest farming districts in PA. Crawford grew up on a farm – we hear she showed her share of champion cattle – and never really left. She can still get members of the legislature from the parking area to any exhibit in the farm show in five minutes. Without a map. She knows donkeys, too; she’s married to former Rendell COS Steve Crawford.

Drew Crompton, Chief of Staff and Chief Counsel, Joe Scarnati

Meet the man behind the sweeping Marcellus shale law. Crompton is one of the key staffers in the caucus who also knows health care and tax policy in and out. A Dickinson grad, he’s bright and very focused – probably why he was among the most-nominated people for this list. He also has a reputation as the brightest attorney in the room when dealing with outside counsel.

Greg Jordan, Executive Director, Appropriations Committee

If you can think of a job that’s more pressure than being the point person for the PA budget – which originates in Senate Approps – we’d like to hear it. Lots of staffers work on the budget, but Jordan knows it better than probably anyone. When it isn’t budget time, he’s a key resource for the caucus because he knows the numbers. He’s been on Approps for years and has a great working relationship with Senators.

Casey Long, Legislative Director, Joe Scarnati

Long is the conservative pulse of the caucus. He knows grassroots leaders by name, he knows what the party base wants and expects from Republicans in Harrisburg and he works – successfully – to advance their cause. He has been the lead staff person for Scarnati on issues such as abortion and clinic regulation, welfare and immigration reform, voter ID, and more. The Senate GOP runs in his family; his dad is Mike Long, the caucus’s go-to political consultant.

Mark Meyer, Chief of Staff, Jake Corman

Lawmakers we talked to described Meyer as approachable, diligent, trustworthy, friendly and straightforward. He’s a resource for members and staff alike; a first stop on the road to Corman or Approps (the process or the the committee itself). He understands the ins and outs of Senate operations like few others, and is one of the best thought-of staffers in the chamber.

Carol Milligan, Director, Senate Republican Communications

Organized, sharp, and good with the press, Milligan is a long-time veteran of the caucus and she hasn’t lost her edge. When she came on board, the Senate Rs were still an old boys club. She challenged that by standing up to some of the top members of the Senate, and cleared the way for women who followed – on staff, and in office.

Joe Pittman, Chief of Staff, Don White

Joe is one of the most well-liked staffers in the Senate and an effective consensus-builder. He came up through Bob Jubelirer’s shop over a decade ago and represents his current boss incredibly well. He knows banking and insurance issues forwards and backwards, and is often charged with hammering out compromises in that field. He’s also a talented politico and has occasionally taken leave to manage campaign efforts in different Senate races in the state.

Dave Woods, Chief of Staff, Dominic Pileggi

A wealthy businessman running for office? Practically a dime a dozen. But one who becomes a staffer? Now that’s something. Woods is a former executive of Exelon and his energy background helps inform policy. But his real strength is strategy. He has a strong sense of what’s possible, and what’s not. He’s more of a strategic thinker than someone who dots the i’s and crosses the t’s, but his role is vital to the caucus.

11 Responses

  1. @ LycoGirl & DavidD

    The right to vote is not an absolute right, but rather a qualified right (as opposed to a privilege) . The qualifications include that one be a citizen, they must meet age requirements, that they meet residency requirements, that they must vote at a specific location, that they must register prior to an election and that they may only vote at their specified location on election day ( to name a few).

    Those who can not make it to the polling place on that date have an option of two different types of absentee ballots, but both of these require that they know that they file those documents in advance by a required date. They also must be postmarked and received by a specific date.

    Then there are military ballots, which must be postmarked by a specific date and received by a specific date for their vote to count.

    One could also cite the loss of voting privileges to all of the citizens who just happen to be in the hospital on election day and have no way to meet the absentee requirements.

    You could also add the number of people who had a family emergency, death on the family, or had to go out of town for work, all with minimal notice, who end up not being able to come back and vote in their precinct on election day.

    Election laws are put into place to give at least a semblance of ensuring that those who vote are qualified to not only vote, but also to vote at their specified location, and that the person casting that vote is the person who is registered, as we do not allow proxy voting.

    Is the system antiquated? Of course it is, as the system has technological limitations at the precinct/ward level which has to be balanced against having convenient, accessible voting locations that are equipped to process the number of votes casts by registered voters. If we would limit the number of locations many more would be disenfranchised.

    I would disagree with many of your presumptions and conclusions, yet I am sure you disagree with mine as well.

    Having registered voters on campuses, in senior housing projects, in long term care facilities and at booths, like I will do this weekend, we register anyone and everyone that comes to our registration clinics and booths, regardless of party affiliation.

    Neither the democrats or republicans have exclusive voting blocks of senior citizens, disabled, poor, veterans or the well to do/”rich” and these blocks are also not confined to urban areas nor race specific.

    The challenge now comes that those who advocate for citizens to actually exercise their right to vote now understand we may have to assist specific targeted demographics who may be challenged in meeting the new requirements. Then we must also be prepared to assist those who we fail to reach and then must cast a provisional ballot to comply within the time frame required to get a new id (for those who slipped through the cracks).

    I believe we are all for one person having the right to cast one vote in each election and that the truth of the matter is that our major problem lies in getting those who are in fact truly eligible to vote out to the polls on election day to support the candidate of their choice. As particular advocates, the onus of motivation falls upon us to help facilitate that.

    Best Regards, John

  2. While I’m sure all of the folks on this list are deserving, the omission of Gregg Warner from the Senate Judiciary Committee is glaring. Gregg has been with Senator Greenleaf throughout his evolution from “tough on crime” to “smart on crime” and knows th criminal code inside and out. He’ll also talk with anyone who walks into his office- DAs and ACLU, attorney general and Prison Society. The caucus couldn’t ask for a better staffer in that committee.

  3. They were smart enough not to get themselves indicted, we’ll give them that, despite (some of them) engaging in activity Tom Corbett considers felonious. Most of them even were smart enough not to get their bosses indicted.

  4. Nice try, John.

    “The qualified citizens must be registered to vote prior to the election. So there had to be some type of identification to even register.”

    So why can’t voters use this same identification to vote? Explain the 85+ year-old veterans who were denied the same right to vote I have. Why am I more entitled to vote than they are?

    “Asking that you prove you are the person who is registered and requiring the same proof from everyone is in no way discriminatory or denying someone a right a vote”

    It is also not necessary. Your chance of finding voter fraud (of the type to be “eliminated” by Voter ID laws) is higher than your chance of getting struck by lightening (Fordham University of Law). The law is simply not worth the hassle, expense, and limitations that it creates.

    We should not be standing in front of people who want to vote. Period. And David is right: we all know what the true intent of the law is – and it is wrong.

  5. John-
    The problem is that they have changed the standard of proof in a way that specifically targets the seniors, the poor, students, and city dwellers: all of whom are less likely to have a PA driver’s license and more likely to vote Democratic.

    Even ID’s from Penn State don’t count, even though it’s a state school, because they put in a requirement about an expiration date on the ID. Schools stopped putting expiration stickers on ID’s when they went more digital using the magnetic strip smart chips.

    Old people who’ve stopped driving, but have voted in the same place for years, shouldn’t have to keep showing an ID that they no longer have/need. Getting an non-drivers-license photo-id from the state is a complete hassle, especially for the elderly who don’t drive.

    Phone bills, electric bills, water bills, social security card, etc. have been sufficient in the past for the first time voting at a new precinct. No one is going around with fake phone bills so they can vote as someone else. There are plenty of forms of ID, including credit cards (and also your signature) to sufficiently establish your identity for the purposes of voting.

    The forms chosen by this bill were specifically picked to disenfranchise citizens likely to be part of the Democratic base.

  6. @ Lycos
    “Until there’s proof of a lack of integrity and ethics on the part of Pennsylvania voters, no one should stand in the way of a citizen wanting to exercise his or her constitutional right to vote.”

    The right to vote is a qualified right. Not every citizen has a right to vote. A citizen first must meet the qualifications of citizenship, residence and age and provide proof of said. (There are many citizens who do not qualify on point two and three.)

    The qualified citizens must be registered to vote prior to the election. So there had to be some type of identification to even register.

    Therefore, all the qualifications to cast a ballot on election day by a registered voter has already been met. (Or should have been, as there are bogus registrations)

    Asking that you prove you are the person who is registered and requiring the same proof from everyone is in no way discriminatory or denying someone a right a vote. Voters are still allowed to use a provisional ballot to cast a vote and then return and provide proof later. Inconvenient? Perhaps, but it secures that right if in fact they are the person who registered.

    Guarding ones right to vote includes ensuring that the person is the person whose vote they are casting.


  7. Joe Pittman? He’s a key player in the corruption the exudes from White’s office. He’s no better than Randy Cloak who was White’s whipping boy before him. Will someone do a right-to-know on all communications between Mr. Pittman and Randy Cloak or anyone else concerning Armstrong School District school board elections or stopping of renovation projects? We taxpayers haven’t forgot we lost $8 million for nothing do Cloak and Whites wealthy supporters force their expensive new high school on us.

    It makes me sick that someone like Pittman or anyone associated with Don White would make such a list.

    And good luck with the right-to-know. While legislators like White and his puppet Rep Jeff Pyle tout they’ve made this law to provide more transparency, the only thing you’ll get back is a form letter saying they can only provide what’s done as public action! Say what?? No matter there’s so much Backdoor corruption

  8. Attending an event and voting are very different. Until there’s proof of a lack of integrity and ethics on the part of Pennsylvania voters, no one should stand in the way of a citizen wanting to exercise his or her constitutional right to vote. No one has a constitutional right to attend a campaign event. Not attending a campaign event will have no consequence on representation in government. Failure to attend a campaign event will have no effect on laws governing our society. I’m guessing you’re probably a Republican staffer.

  9. The importance of staff members can not be understated.

    In reference to voter id, the integrity of elections and the electoral process itself is based in ethics and standards. Many of the same politicians and political parties who decry VoterID, require identification from attendees at their own events.

  10. Considering the efforts by the GOP to disenfranchise voters with the VoterID bill and redistricting, I guess “intelligent” and “ethical” are two different standards.


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