Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Good Republican Press Secretary Goes Into Journalism

John M. Baer. In The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-five Years of Keystone Reporting. Charleston: History Press, 2012.

One of the key observation of this book is that Pennsylvania places no limits on campaign contributions to political candidates. Special interests are more influential in selecting Pennsylvania elected offices, including judges, compared to other states.

Among the observations in the book on Pennsylvania politics over the past quarter century is that many Pennsylvania state legislators won re-election with over 90% of the vote. There is a lack of competitive democracy in many of these elections. It is also relatively difficult for third party candidates to get on the ballot compared to easier requirements found in most other states

The author was Press Secretary to Lt. Gov William Scranton. An admission by Scranton that he had used recreational drug during his youth was publicized enough to hurt his campaign for Governor amongst socially conservative voters in Pennsylvania.   Scranton’s association with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi probably tilted the election away from Scranton to the winner, Bob Casey.

Governor Bob Casey hired a Philadelphia Daily News reporter as his Press Secretary. Baer believes he was hired as the new Daily News reporter to send a message to Governor Casey that the Daily News would be diligent in its reporting on the administration.

Bear had his difficulties getting along with Governor Casey and some other politicians explained to him by House Speaker Robert O’Donnell. O’Donnell stated “ “There are two kinds of Irish: Those that breed the poets, the drunks, and the politicians; and those that breed the priests. We are mostly the former I’m afraid, lad, are the latter.”

Among the many astute observations in the book as that mandatory sentencing passes during the administration of Governor Tom Ridge. The prison population increased Yet the crime rate, which declined nationally, did not decrease in Pennsylvania. Longer sentences did not reduce crime.

Tom Ridge later became head of Homeland Security, It was an embarrassment to Ridge when the press discovered Ridge owned stock in some companies seeking homeland security contracts.

 Baer writes how Ed Rendell, before being elected Governor, received $250,000 from a law fir as well as $300,000 in stock options from a business leader who also contributed over $500,000 to Rendell’s campaign in addition to receiving $90,000 for teaching two hours a week at the University of Pennsylvania. A number of people sought to befriend the future Governor. The book relates who Rendell was rumored to have dated the wife House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese. DeWeese blamed Rendell for his divorce.

The state legislature approved a pay increased for elected state officials in 2005. This was met with unprecedented public outfly. Leader DeWeese removed 15 Democratic legislators who had voted against the pay increase from their key committee positions. The pay raise issue remains controversial to this day.


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