Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Truth about the Leader of Democrats for Nixon: Frank Rizzo

A “tell-all” book by a Rizzo political operative and a former State Senate Chief of Staff employee is a fascinating learn that the goon mentality existed within the Rizzo campaign. It is good that the author has had a change of heart, decades later, and hopes that exposure of these past misdeeds will help anger citizens to demand greater honesty of their public servants. Much of the writing, though, comes off with the same bravado that the Rizzo crowd often expressed, yet so long as it is now examples of what not to do, the events depicted are quite enlightening.

Frank Rizzo, was Mayor of Philadelphia from 1972 to 1980. As many of us suspected, the author confirms that cash flowed from associates of organized crime to the Rizzo camp. Reporters who covered the Rizzo campaign ultimately wound up receiving jobs with Rizzo, and while the author cannot confirm if there was any advance knowledge that those writing favorable stories of Rizzo would later be rewarded, he confirms that he knew while he was working for a radio station that a reward was forthcoming. The author writes how he only found research for his radio station that was helpful to the Rizzo campaign. In addition, he admits writing the questions to be posed for Rizzo’s debate with his opponent, Thatcher Longstreth, and how he even supplied Rizzo with advance knowledge of what the questions would be. Before the debate, the book states Rizzo thought a “fiscal year” was a “physical year”, and Rizzo did not know how that differed from a calendar year. Knowing the questions in advance, Rizzo stunned everyone with his sudden brilliance on city issues.

The author tells of meeting a labor leader by holding a gun to his head, spying on campaign opponents by placing workers in their campaigns, stealing all of Longstreth’s prepaid, preaddressed reply cards, tearing down opponent’s posters, disrupting opponents’ rallies, “bushwhacking” people who attempted to disrupt Rizzo rallies, printing counterfeit campaign materials to trick the supporters of an opposition slate to vote for the Rizzo slate instead, paying off ward leaders to support Rizzo and his candidates, promising approval of a development proposal in return for the owner cancelling a fund raiser for a candidate Rizzo didn’t like, and assisting an opponent who could siphon off votes from Rizzo’s main opponent.

When Rizzo was in office, the author was Mayor Rizzo’s Executive Assistant, Area Manpower Planning Council Chairman, and member and secretary of numerous city boards and commission, to which the author admits “I was not qualified for any of the positions, let alone all of them.” Yet, he was capable of doing the job Rizzo wanted, which mostly was getting patronage jobs in the various board and commissions where the author worked for whom Rizzo wanted jobs.

After leaving the Mayor’s office, the author became the District Office Chief of Staff to State Sen. Buddy Cianfrani. Cianfrani, as Appropriations Committee, had the ability to get law and graduate schools, who received state funds as allocated by the legislature, to accept students who otherwise would not be accepted. The author claims that two of these unqualified students today are sitting Judges. Unfortunately, this practice that Senator Cianfrani developed was also illegal, and Senator Cianfrani went to jail. The author also discussed how people were illegally put onto the State Senate payroll. These employees did no state work, including the Senator’s mistress, who then turned on the Senator when she learned he had still another mistress (not counting the mistress the author claims she didn’t know about.) The author even discusses the possibility that there were discussions of “eliminating” the Speaker’s Executive Assistant who was a prime witness in the prosecution’s case against Senator Cianfrani.

The author admits he was “personally responsible for some reprehensible and possibly criminal activities”. Hopefully many of the tactics he describes have disappeared, or only rarely, remain in politics and government. The author is now on a campaign for more ethical government and elections, which is a good thing. It is just too bad he once thought his methods were the way to go. The Rizzo years were among the most corrupt years in our state’s history. Fortunately, many were aware that what was going on back then was wrong, and we appreciate that those doing these things now realize the same. With an ADA reformer Michael Nutter about to become the next Philadelphia Mayor, we hope to see further advances towards integrity in Philadelphia politics.


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