Monday, June 22, 2009

A Voice of Protest Loudly Heard

Russ Diamond. Tip of the Spear. Annville, Pa.: Raintree, 2007.

The author is a sharp and thoughtful critic of Pennsylvania politicians. He is upset when he hears candidates represent the views of their opponents or when politicians exploit issues. He has the courage to challenge what was said and point out inconsistencies and when the truth has been stretched.

Diamond has been both vocal on issues and has run for office. He ran as an independent against an incumbent state legislator and received 17% of the vote. He ran for School Board and called foul on election day when he spotted his opponent violating the law by giving out an item of value, in this case rulers, to voters at the polls.

These are things that happen in the legislature that upset Diamond. He criticizes legislation requiring seat belts for dogs. He was very vocal on the pay raise to state legislators, and noted how previously, in 1995, Rep. John Perzel had declared another pay raise bill would never again be necessary. In particular, he saw hypocrisy in Medicaid benefits being cuts while legislators were getting higher salaries.

He also noted the hypocrisy of a school child asking guest speaker, Rep. Perzel, is he arrived in a limousine. Perzel answered he arrived in a car, which proved embarrassing when he his town car with limousine plates was parked aside. Caught, he sent the limo on its way and he left in an SUV.

Russ Diamond became a one person movement. He obtained the email addresses of as many reporters as he could find and he began sending them his press releases. He advises the way to get the press to pay attention is to construct the press release in the form of news writing. This will appeal to reporters, he believes.

Diamond open a website Operations Clean Sweep. It received over 13,000 different people who visited the site. As Diamond describes it, “politics is a full contact sport” and one needs to be ready to respond to current news.

The author helped organize a rally at the Capitol that was purely grassroots with all homemade signs. The attendance spelled into the street in front of the Capitol. Diamond claims that working as an unpaid organizer became a full time job.

The approval rating for the legislature was at 26%, and in southwest Pennsylvania the approval rating was 19%. Senate Majority Leader Chip Brightbill’s personal approval rating was 17%. Issues as those raised by Diamond and others, such as the pay raise, were among the factors for these low approval ratings. The outrage helped led to the defeat of several legislators for reelection: 17 incumbents lost in the primaries. Among them were President Pro Tem Bob Jubelirer and Senator Brightbill, although these two losses were not to candidates affiliated with the “Clean Sweep” movement.

The Clean Sweep movement grew large enough that it divided into two camps that resulted in litigation against the factions. The corporate entity of the movement was legally dissolved. Diamond though was allowed to keep his website.


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