Thursday, July 31, 2008

Conference Call on Obama's Middle East Trip

Instead of having lunch today I sat in on conference call for the Jewish Community Leadership Committee. I had some trepidation in doing so for two reasons. First, if I were any WASP-ier I would have wings and fly. Second, there is only so much room in the old memory banks and when I started paying a lot more attention to the state house something had to go and the Middle East shifted over to Mr. J's side of the "things to keep track of" list. So this is a topic I am not well versed on at all.

Thus these notes are extremely rough. There were a few minute or two stretches that I missed entirely. Those interested should seek out more detailed analysis elsewhere. My apologies in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Dennis Ross and Dan Shapiro accompanied Sen. Obama on his trip to the Middle East.

Ambassador Dennis Ross (DR), former U.S. Special Middle East Coordinator & Senior Middle East Policy Advisor to Senator Barack Obama

Dan Shapiro (DS), who worked at the United States National Security Council during the Clinton administration and is a Middle East specialist, was also on the trip and also spoke on the call.

Eric L (host, not sure of his last name)

DS: Briefly recount highlights of Obama’s visit in Israel. This was part of an 8 country trip, the first three as part of senatorial duties. It then switched to campaign mode and was funded by the campaign. He had several purposes in mind as he set out to do this. The first is to allow him to continue to build personal relationships or begin to build personal relationships with key leaders. Second he was very much in a listening mode, about the challenges we face and share together. Especially in Israel the security issues. He made it clear he did not come to negotiate or make policy. He was not seeking to usurp the role of the president.
He shared sense of urgency at the thought of a nuclear Iran. Very much a commonality of view on the gravity of that. There was a discussion of his potential tactics on that. Strong view of his interest as a potential president of seeing Palestinians and Israelis meet mutual goals in Middle East. Talk about how that process can be preserved.

He packed a lot into one day, meetings with many leaders and government officials. Iran was topic A in most of those meetings. Meetings warm and friendly. Went to Sderot, an area that has seen rocket attacks, to demonstrate solidarity. Israel’s right to defend itself. Went to Hall of Remembrance and Western Wall. Went to Ramallah. Give Palestinians a stronger hand against Hamas and extremists. Reached out to 3 families sitting shiva after bodies returned home from Lebanon.

DR: Dan has provided a really excellent overview of the trip. I’d like to give you a little bit more flavor of what went on. What was striking in these meetings with a very clear presumption that you only have one administration at a time and he wasn’t there to make policy. While many leaders, govt and opposition groups, might be expected to have differing views, there was agreement on Iran. Uniform message that Sen. Obama heard. Value of trying to win Syria away from Iran. Israelis needed to hear from him how important the Iran issue was to him. Not only to Israel but to international community. Obama expressed this. Explained his approach, the more your own intentions are clear the easier it is to engage. Purpose he had in mind for engagement was not to let Iran play for time or allow them leverage. Shouldn’t have an all or nothing approach, trying to make progress where one can, build on progress already underway. People struck by Obama’s grasp of the issues, not only the specifics but a clear strategic concept.

43% of Iranian gas comes from outside because they don’t have the refinery capacity. There are literally 5 companies that provide insurance to Iranian companies that work on the outside. Talked with European leaders about how to persuade or leverage Iranians. Calling on Europeans to assume responsibility in rebuilding Iraq, working with Afghanistan and also working with Iran. Created a space for Europeans to take steps on this.

Q: [could not catch]

DR: Learned one thing in particular on the Palestinian side, no willingness on their part to give in to Hamas. Problem is publics on each side are unbelieving. Fair amount of discussion about what needs to be done on the ground. You cannot peace when peace is only an abstraction. Must create a change in realities on the ground. Work on economic, security and political fronts.

Q: Does the Islamic Republic of Iran really mean to destroy Israel or it is just a proxy?

DR: Across the Iranian leadership the hostility against Israel is unrelenting. Fundamental rejection of Israel’s legitimacy. There is a segment of the Iranian regime to daily carry out terror. They want some recognition that they play a part in the region. You don’t get to have a position of respect in the region if you try to subvert your neighbors. It is possible that there are ways to change Iranian behaviors. We need a much stronger carrot and a much stronger stick.

Q: Many are concerned about Obama’s position on Jerusalem.

DR: If you follow what he said on Jerusalem there has been a continuity of fact. Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. Cities should never be divided again. Final status of Jerusalem needs to be resolved through negotiation. Those three elements make up his position.

DS: This position was not raised by any of the Israeli leaders.

Q: For a growing number of American Jews there is a perception that the GOP is the true friend of Israel.

DR: Israel is always better off when America has great standing in the world. If you look around now there are all sorts of things happening in the region with the US as a bystander. The best friend of Israel is not only their friend but someone who makes the US credible in the region and when the US has a higher standing in the world.

New Obama Site and Susan Eisenhower

The McCain campaign has begun airing an aid called "Celeb" which says Barack Obama is the biggest celebrity in the world (and flashes images of Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton along with Obama) and then questions his ability to lead.

The Obama campaign has responded by launching a new website (, that has quotes from traditional news sources questioning the accuracy of the ad's presentation of Obama's views.

The new site was announced on a conference call featuring Obama for America campaign manager David Plouffe, and also Susan Eisenhower, President of the Eisenhower
Group, Inc., the granddaughter of the former president. Eisenhower said she was a lifelong Republican and thought that many people had expected better of John McCain.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

And the Bad News Keeps on Coming

Another newspaper chain has decided to close its DC bureau which will leave Pennsylvania with something like two reporters in the nation's capitol. Were this not bad enough, the Harrisburg Patriot-News report in Washingon, Brett Lieberman, also wrote the Pennsyltucky Politics political blog.

Read the full story on Pennsylvania Avenue. Hobbyist blogs cannot fill the gaps, people, they just can't. We will have less news, less transparency, fewer ways to gauge what our elected officials are doing. This is NOT good.

PA Shifts in Rothenberg Report

The latest Rothenberg Political Report is out and there are some changes in the ranking of PA races.

The only PA pure toss up is PA-10, incumbent Democrat Chris Carney, and Republican challenger Chris Hackett

Toss up / Tilt Democratic, is PA-11, incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski, and Republican challenger Lou Barletta.

Lean Republican, is PA-03, incumbent Republican Phil English, and Democratic challenger Kathy Dahlkemper.

Lean Democratic, is PA-04 incumbent Jason Altmire in a re-match with Republican Melissa Hart.

Republican favored, is PA-06 with incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach and Democratic challenger Bob Roggio.

Any race not appearing is considered safe for the incumbent. PA-08, with incumbent Democrat Patrick Murphy facing Republican challenger Tom Manion, has been dropped from the list.

The Wheels on the Bus...

From the inbox:

All across the nation, more individuals, businesses, and city governments are taking steps to fight climate change and choose clean energy solutions. In the Philadelphia region, the Sierra Club is devoting an entire day to highlight local action against global warming.

On Saturday, August 2, the Sierra Club is hosting two clean energy bus tours in Philadelphia and Bucks County . There will be local examples of clean energy solutions at work creating green jobs, slashing energy costs, and curbing global warming.

In Philadelphia the tour will highlight the Friends Center , Cusano Environmental Education Center , Project NEAT, Philly Car Share, and a Solar-Thermal Heating Demonstration. In Bucks County the tour will highlight Newtown Elementary, Bucks County Community College-Bristol, Exelon-Epuron Solar Energy Center , and the Gamesa wind turbine manufacturing facility.

Clean Energy Bus Tours with Special Guests Councilman Bill Greenlee in Philadelphia
Commissioners Jim Cawley & Diane Marseglia, State Representative Tony Melio in Bucks County

Philadelphia : Energy Coordinating Agency
1924 Arch Street , Philadelphia PA 19103

Bucks County : Newtown Elementary School
1 Wrights Road, Newtown , PA 18940

WHEN: Saturday, August 2, 2008
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Philadelphia
9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Bucks County

Monday, July 28, 2008

News Update II: 151st House District

State Rep. Rick Taylor is running for re-election in the 151st house district. His opponent is Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Todd Stephens. Unlike other areas, Montco doesn't have any rules against ADAs running for office while still working as a prosecutor. This has led to some back and forth accusations in the campaign. From "Criminal defense attorneys filling war chest," by Rich Pietras (Intelligencer 7/26):

The Democrats cited several cases Stephens prosecuted, including a case heard Tuesday against Norman Brooks, who was arrested for allegedly molesting a 13-year-old girl. Democrats point out Michael F. Dunn, the defense attorney representing Brooks, has contributed to Stephens' campaign.

The article also references the same issue in regard to judicial elections. Stephens' campaign responds with some questions of its own for the Taylor campaign. All in good fun!

News Update I: Redistricting

State Rep. Steve Samuelson, who took a serious tilt at the redistricting windmill earlier this year, is back with another effort. I salute his efforts. State Rep. Babette Josephs is helping him draft this legislation. Details from "Democrats seek redistricting reforms," by John Micek, Morning Call 7/24:

The two lawmakers now are drafting a bill giving additional ''transparency'' to the redistricting process while imposing ''specific guidelines'' for the existing five-member Legislative Redistricting Commission to follow when it's drawing new districts. They hope to introduce it in September.

Proposed guidelines include making districts ''contiguous and compact'' and keeping counties and municipalities intact.

Regular readers may recall that Josephs co-sponsored Samuelson's previous bill and then wouldn't let it out of the committee she chairs.

It is too late to make any changes to the redistricting policy in time to affect the redistricting done for the 2010 census. What we are talking about here are, essentially, changes that won't make any difference until 2020.

Again, kudos to Samuelson for his continuing efforts. Unfortunately I've been writing about state politics long enough not to hold out a lot of hope.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

DNC Phone Poll

Late last week I was asked to take part in a telephone survey from the DNC. There were three questions: 1) how closely did I follow the presidential elections (very), 2) who did I plan to vote for (Obama), and 3) how certain was I of that vote, would I possibly change my mind (very certain and no).

No idea what the geographic area polled was or what demographic they were looking for.

More Reports of Smaller Papers

Lehigh Valley Ramblings is reporting that the news staff at the Morning Call is being cut. The Morning Call has great coverage of state politics and is home to two of my favorite political newspaper blogs, Capitol Ideas and Pennsylvania Avenue. I hope those blogs continue. Stories like these are becoming far too common. A robust press is necessary in a democracy and hobbyist blogs just can't fill the gaps.

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

Nope, all our folks managed to stay out of the papers this week.

However, there was some mention of politics in Pennsylvania.

A town hall meeting in Wilkes Barre for Sen. McCain is mentioned in “Obama courts the Jewish vote,” by Jay Solomon (7/24)

PA Businesses

John Surma, CEO of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel is quoted in “On-the-job deaths vex steel industry,” by Kris Maher and Robert Guy Matthews (7/25)

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange is the subject of a short article, “A new name in Philadelphia,” (7/26)

The Philadelphia Inquirer is among the newspapers mentioned in “Journal Register in pact to delay loan payments,” by Shira Ovide (7/26). I wish the newspaper situation would improve. This is just awful to watch.

“Hershey posts higher profit as costs rise,” by Julie Jargon (7/24) focuses on our favorite chocolate company.

“Tokio Marine to buy Philadelphia insurer,” by Alison Tudor (7/24) is on the purchase of Philadelphia Consolidated Holdings Corp.

Toll Brothers gets a few mentions in “The custom McMansion,” by June Fletcher (7/24)

Comcast gets two articles on 7/22, “Comcast unit cuts web deals,” by Nick Wingifled and Vishesh Kumar and “Cuomo pressures Comcast to sign child porn code,” by Chad Bray.

The post-football business life of former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris is the subject of “Harris thrives after 13-year NFL detour,” by Dennis Nishi (7/22)

Their improved service at the Philadelphia airport gets several mentions in “How US Airways vaulted to first place,” by Scott McCartney (7/22)

Other PA

According to the chart accompanying “States slammed by tax shortfalls,” by Conor Dougherty, Amy Merrick and Anton Troianovski (7/24), unlike many other state, Pennsylvania won’t have a shortfall this year.

This week’s Mark Zandi (of Moody’s quote is in “Housing bill will extend federal role in markets,” by Damien Paletta and James R. Hagerty (7/24)

Uh oh, Pennsylvania saw a 3.6% increase, as noted in “Auto-insurance rates look set to rise again,” by M. P. McQueen (7/21)

Other Interesting Tidbits

Not really

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bryan Lentz Wants to Let the Dogs Out

Last night State Rep. Bryan Lentz (D-161) held a townhall meeting on three bills relating to dog cruelty:

The first bill, H.B. 2525, would double the minimum floor space for dog enclosures and require solid flooring, as well as access to an outdoor exercise area twice the size of the dog’s primary enclosure. The legislation also would mandate annual veterinary care, and eliminate the stacking of cages for adult dogs.

A second measure, H.B. 2532, would allow only veterinarians to perform debarking, the practice of cutting or destroying a dog’s vocal cords. Tail docking would be allowed by individual owners until a dog is 3 days old, after which point it would have to be done by a veterinarian.

Under a third measure, H.B. 499, fines would be increased for cruelty to animals. It would also require owners of dogs seized for cruelty to pay reasonable expenses for the care and keep of a dog while it is held at a humane society or animal shelter – or surrender ownership of the dog.

3 More Obama Offices Open

Yesterday, three more Obama offices in Montgomery County opened:

Norristown Office
1790 Markley Street , Norristown , PA

Ardmore Office
6 Greenfield Ave , Ardmore PA

Jenkintown Office
1647 The Fairway, Jenkintown , PA

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The House Armed Services Committee, and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Yesterday, the House Armed Services Committee heard testimony on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they don't tell anyone they are gays and lesbians or engage in sexual activity. Four Pennsylvania congressional representatives serve on this committee, Democrats Bob Brady, Patrick Murphy, and Joe Sestak, and Republican Bill Shuster.

One of the witnesses, Elaine Donnelly, caused some controversy by saying that the HIV infection rate would go up if gays were allowed to serve openly in the military, and that openly gay or lesbian soldiers would disrupt unit cohesion.

Joe Sestak's reaction is given on The Hill Blog. Here is an excerpt:

Without any question, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be overturned in the not-too-distant future. And it should be. I’ve found in working with the military in my district that this isn’t an issue for them.

Bob Brady is also on records as opposing DADT. See "Pa. rep challenges "don't ask, don't tell," by Casey Bell in the Philadelphia Gay News (2007). Brady and several other PA reps co-sponsored a bill to overturn the policy.

Patrick Murphy, the only Iraq War veteran in Congress, took exception to Ms. Donnelly's testimony. There are two you tube videos of his response (you tube 1, you tube 2).

The Hill also took note of the exchange "Lawmakers grill critic of gays in the military," by Roxana Tiron, 7/23):
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) a freshman who served in the Army, was visibly enraged, assailing Donnelly over her statements that allowing openly gay people to serve in the military would hurt unit cohesion. He charged that Donnelly implied that the straight men and women in the military “are not professional enough” to be able to maintain unit cohesion.

“This is an insult to me and many of the soldiers,” said Murphy, who served in the Iraq war.

Murphy pointed out that 24 other countries allow openly gay people to serve in the military.

Murphy also wrote about the DADT policy in his book, Taking the Hill (pp. 55):
Today, the policy has become not only unjust but dangerously counterproductive: Since 9/11, it has resulted in the dismissal of more than fifty Arab-language interpreters and 3,500 much-needed troops at the very time when they're needed most. Sexual misconduct should be punished. But these wrongful dismissals were about sexual orientation, breaching our constitutional principle of equality for all.

It would be interesting to ask those in the service, whose terms have been extended time and again, or those without translators, if they would accept openly gay soldiers in exchange for shorter tours of duty and a better ability to communicate with the locals, or to have relevant documents translated.

Taylor Website Re-launched

Rick Taylor, running for re-election in the 151st state house district, has relaunched his campaign website,

Custer in the News

Frank Custer, Democratic candidate for the 61st state house district, is in the news for his call for legislative reforms. From "Custer seeking statehouse reforms," by Margaret Gibbons," The Reporter 7/22/08:

Another reform measure would require full transparency of all caucus accounts, including leadership accounts. It is from these accounts that the bonus money came, according to investigators.

Other reforms supported by Custer and 15 other Democratic state House challengers include:

t Eliminating the "perk lifestyle" of state lawmakers by reducing their monthly expense allowances, eliminating state-funded vehicle insurance and reimbursement for rental cars and cutting the travel allowance in half.

t Removing the influence of special-interest lobbyists by requiring all employees of businesses who receive no-bid state contracts to report all political contributions they made in the preceding year, issuing a no-exception ban on all gifts, trips and the like from lobbyists and requiring all professional lobbyists to register with a public data base and report all expenses online.

t Providing more transparent campaign finance information by the posting of office expense reports and budgets online, requiring lawmakers to declare whether any immediate family member is associated with a gambling entity or publicly funded charity and requiring that the transfer of money between political committees be reported within 24 hours

(h/t Writemarsh)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Casey / Obama Conference Call

Yesterday I was able to sit in on a media conference call with Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. in response to a new television ad from Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. The Obama campaign hosted the call with Senator Bob Casey to respond to Senator McCain’s latest round of false, negative advertisements in which Senator McCain makes the widely debunked claim that Barack Obama is responsible for rising gas prices. While Senator McCain has consistently failed to address the energy crisis during his decades in Washington, Senator Obama has offered a strong agenda to end our dependence on foreign oil and provide real relief to consumers.

The McCain ad can be viewed here.

Dan Lisenko? Of Obama

Casey and Heather Zikel?, Obama’s Energy Advisor

A number of newspaper rebuttals to the ad (from Congressional Quarterly and the New York Times, among other), using words like “misleading” were read.

Casey: I’m glad you read some of those adjectives. This ad is not only misleading but has gross misstatements of fact. A word you didn’t hear is pathetic, McCain should ask for his money back from media company. Ridiculous to blame Obama. This is the kind of desperation you usually don’t see until late October and things are going badly. How can someone who has been in Washington for over 20 years blame Obama for gas prices? Obama has a plan. 2nd round of stimulus, money to jumpstart renewable energy technology, reduce consumption, increase natural gas production and a long list of others. His strategy makes sense for America. McCain’s energy plan is the same tired policy of George Bush and now we’re facing the kind of economic trauma people haven’t seen in a generation. I don’t think people are going to vote for that kind of vote for the same policy. What he’s left with is a fear and smear campaign. This ad in particular was particularly pathetic.


Q: Obama in the Middle East. You were there a year ago. What advice would you give him?

BC: I’m don’t propose to give him advice. I think it is right for him and the country for him to focus as he has on a number of priorities. Challenge of Afghanistan, a forgotten struggle. As president he will devote the time and resources needed there. Important that he spend time literally on the ground in these areas and focus on the challenge in these areas.

Q: Also in Iraq. Can you speak about your request for a review of the electrical work? [referencing soldiers who have been electrocuted because of faulty wiring in base showers, etc.]

BC: Awaiting a response from Sec. Gates. Having a meeting with KBR. Gates must give families closure and peace of mind. Many families concerned with what is happening right now if problems fixed. DoD has to prove that problems is fixed.

Q: You called this ad not effective but you are spending time reacting to it? Worried about constituents duped?

BC: Too bad we have to spend time on something this pathetic. I don’t think very many people are going to accept that $4 price at pump is the fault of one senator. But we all know if you say something long enough and loud enough so you have to be able to rebut it. One of the challenges of the Obama campaign and his supporters is getting his ideas out. Create green collar jobs, PA has been debating some of these issues for a while but you have to rebut.

Heather Z: Wants Pennsylvanians to have all the facts. Obama green jobs, 2nd stimulus, crack down on oil spectators, use it or lose it, $150 billion plan to invest in renewables. McCain has not offered real leadership on energy policy.

Q: renewable energy, Al Gore’s call to really dive into that.

BC: Just speaking for myself, one of the many examples of how Gore has shows great leadership on this. When I was campaigning he was very supportive of my energy ideas. What Obama has been talking about is along the same path.

Heather Z: Gore’s ideas are exactly what an Obama administration would pursue.

Q: You’ve opposed more drilling in the past but there has been a softening in the recent weeks. Are you ruling out new drilling?

BC: I think if the Rep Party is going to insist on kind of drilling approach they have been talking about I won’t support it. Americans consume 25% of the world’s oil and have 3% of the world’s reserves. We cannot drill our way out. They’re trying to mislead people. Oil companies only drilling in 20% of the leases they have. Need to do more before they ask for help.

2nd Quarter 2008 FEC Report Round Up

Okay, here we go again. First off, you can browse these reports yourself at As always I apologize in advance for any errors or misinterpretations. I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant, just an interested observer and these thoughts should be taken as such.

This quarter covers April – June of 2008. [Update: Drat! Forgot to say that where there are two numbers the first is for this quarter and the second is for the election cycle as a whole.]

Itemized donations are those that accumulate to over $200. Unitemized donations are from people like me, who make smaller donations. Itemized donations show the donor’s name occupation, employer, and the amount of the donation plus the total the person has donated in this election cycle. Unitemized donations are just recorded as a number.

Keep your eye on individual donations vs. PAC’s

At this point in the campaign counting the number of maxed out donors is tricky. Individuals can donate up to $2300 per election. The primary and the general count as two elections so before the primary an individual can donate up to $4600, but after the primary only $2300. Are you still with me? Okay, so if someone donated $1000 on 4/21, before the primary, and $2300 on 4/23 they are maxed out because you can’t donate retroactively and they have donated the maximum amount for the general. But if someone donated $2300 on 4/21 and $1000 on 4/23 they can still donate another $1300. Does that make sense? If it does you are probably someone who files FEC reports or represents people who do.

Some candidates, such as Allyson Schwartz and Patrick Murphy, leave their reports in alphabetical order. That makes it easy to see who donated what when. Others, most of the other candidates listed here, scramble their reports so the names are not in alphabetical order and that makes it darn difficult to keep track of them. Transparency, folks, a little more transparency please. Yes, this thwarts your opponent but it thwarts your constituents too.

A few oddities. How much is a Sierra Club endorsement worth? According to Joe Sestak’s campaign it has it listed with an in-kind value of $4K; Allyson Schwartz lists it for $10. But maybe they were counting it differently.

6th Congressional District

Jim Gerlach, Republican incumbent

Individual, unitemized: 13,342.00
Individual, total: 155,198.00 / 879,982.05
Political Party committees: 0.00 / 1,662.82
PACs: 187,950.00 / 938,170.97
Total: 343,148.00 / 1,819,815.84
Transfers: 7,019.50 / 41,298.41
Refunds: 1,118.67 / 5,803.97
Other Receipts: 4,420.60 / 19,171.69
Total Receipts: 355,706.77 / 1,886,089.91

Operating Expenditures: 286,725.45 / 1,201,366.93
Refunds: 0.00 / 4,850.00
Other: 21,950.00 / 24,300.00
Total: 308,675.45 / 1,230,516.93

Beginning Cash on hand: 714,579.79
Contributions: 355,706.77 / 1,886,089.91
Disbursements: 308,675.45 / 1,230,516.93
Ending cash on hand: 761,611.11

Personal Observations: Few out of state individual contributions. Twelve newly maxed out donors. Several donations from people work at Bentley Systems (before being elected to the state senate Rob Wonderling worked at Bentley). In PACs, a lot of money from medical, construction, and banking organizations; also over $7K from funeral directors PAC. Four paid staff in addition to a bookkeeper. One printer in Tennessee (others in PA), DC webhost, NJ media firm (total of around $60K), DC fundraiser, TX direct mail, VA polling firm, postage costs paid to FL firm

Bob Roggio, Democratic challenger

Individual, itemized: 128,421.36
Individual, unitemized: 21,266.06
Individual, total: 149,687.42 / 290,787.41
PACs: 30,300.00 / 33,900.00
Total: 179,987.42 / 324,687.41
Loans: 20,000.00 / 80,500.00
Refunds: 30.32 / 30.32
Total Receipts: 200,017.74 / 405,217.73

Operating Expenditures: 108,330.01 / 145,271.08
Total: 108,330.01 / 145,271.08

Beginning Cash on hand: 168,258.92
Contributions: 200,017.74 / 405,217.73
Disbursements: 108,330.01 / 145,271.08
Ending cash on hand: 259,946.65

Personal Observations: Only 6 out of state donors. 14 newly maxed out donors. 7 paid staff. Loans from the candidate total $80,500. Seven paid employees (1 named Roggio), health insurance payments. DC media consultant $10K; PA media consultant $6K, NC campaign strategy $2500, DC fundraiser $12K. One of my favorite names showed up in the donor list, not someone political but a name that frequently appears here, sometimes weekly. Ten points to anyone who can spot it.

7th Congressional District

Joe Sestak, Incumbent Democrat (elected 2006)

Individual, itemized: 282,959.00
Individual, unitemized: 45,249.49
Individual, total: 328,208.49 / 2,023,068.31
Political Party committees: 146.40 / 2,383.09
PACs: 107,860.00 / 792,086.89
The Candidate: 0.00 / 4,600.00
Total: 436,214.89 / 2,822,138.29
Transfers: 0.00 / 35,154.46
Refunds: 480.83 / 3,452.40
Other Receipts: 19,731.46 / 35,059.56
Total Receipts: 456,427.18 / 2,895,804.71

Operating Expenditures: 128,016.08 / 600,904.79
Refunds: 25.60 / 8,259.76
Total: 128,041.68 / 609,164.55

Beginning Cash on hand: 2,262,730.60
Contributions: 456,427.18 / 2,895,804.71
Disbursements: 128,041.68 / 609,164.55
Ending cash on hand: 2,591,116.10

Personal observations: This report is scrambled so numbers provided may be faulty. In among the usual executives and lawyers there are several academics and people in the public sector. There also a notable number of people who list their employer as retired or none. For people with no job they have a lot to spend on political donations. There is a good percentage of out of state donors, especially in the online donations. Note the contribution from Gail Zappa. I count around 45 newly maxed out contributors. I see a lot of union money in the PAC donations list. Also, an in-kind website endorsement from the Sierra Club valued at $4K. 6 paid staff, 2 named Sestak (note to George: Is Phil the Turtle still around?) Most vendors are local, $3K to PA Democratic Party for a voter file, less than $50 paid to DCCC for fundraising (other small amounts listed as in-kind donations for fundraising). No mention of health insurance. For the amount of money he raises, Sestak spends very little on fundraising, other than the salaries of his campaign workers.

Craig Williams, Republican

Individual, itemized: 227,054.34
Individual, unitemized: 16,698.81
Individual, total: 243,753.15 / 363,215.89
Political Party committees: 5,000.00 / 6,250.00
PACs: 31,400.00 / 44,250.00
Total: 318.82 / 1,379.82
Total Receipts: 280,471.97 / 415,095.71

Operating Expenditures: 52,988.13 / 54,972.48
Total: 52,988.13 / 54,972.48

Beginning Cash on hand: 132,639.39
Contributions: 280,471.97 / 415,095.71
Disbursements: 52,988.13 / 54,972.48
Ending cash on hand: 360,123.23

Personal observations: I count 40 newly maxed out contributors but there are some oddities. Three people with the same last name and address, two of whom list their occupation as student each donated $2300. Two women homemakers with the same name (including middle initial) but with different street addresses also maxed out. Six people named Hooper maxed out. A homemaker and a student living at the same address both maxed out; another student with the same surname but at another address donated $2000. That must have been some fundraiser at Exelon; I counted around 22 donors who worked at there Very very few out of state donations. Over $30K in debt to assorted vendors. 2 paid staffers, no mention of health insurance.

8th Congressional District

Patrick Murphy, Incumbent Democrat (elected 2006)

Individual, itemized: 473,991.61
Individual, untemized: 46,076.16
Individual, total: 520,067.77 / 1,964,387.72
Political Party committees: 0.00 / 7,095.13
PACs: 195,230.61 / 969,350.94
Total: 715,298.38 / 2,940,833.79
Transfers: 0.00 / 35,620.48
Other Receipts: 22,865.05 / 67,990.27
Total Receipts: 738,163.43 / 3,044,444.54

Operating Expenditures: 157,213.25 / 847,886.77
Refunds: 1,513.81 / 16,490.81
Other: 0.00 / 5,350.00
Total: 158,727.06 / 869,727.58

Beginning Cash on hand: 1,659,350.85
Contributions: 738,163.43 / 3,044,444.54
Disbursements: 158,727.06 / 869,727.58
Ending cash on hand: 2,238,787.22

Personal observations: Eight PMA Group employees donated a total of $7,250. THE Craig of Craig’s List made a donation. 80 newly maxed out contributors. I see a lot of money from people in finance, the law, but balanced by donations from people in the public sector and other occupations including a handyman. There are also a notable number of donors from the literary arts, publishers, editors, grant writers, and so on. Donations from two Obama staff people. Donations from 2 people whose occupational group don’t normally make political donations. Donations from 18 candidate committees from state and federal level, in state and out of state. $12K in-kind donation from Council for a Livable World for mailing, contribution processing or internet communication. A total of $4K from the Johnson and Johnson PAC, $1000 in this quarter, which must annoy his opponent who worked for J&J for many years. I see a fair amount of union money. Seven paid employees, though some were on the staff for a short time. Over $10K to a DC fundraising firm. Murphy bought a number of Palm pilots, presumably for his staff. $2500 to a DC form for precinct targeting. $5K to the Friends of John Cordisco. $2500 to the 145th Democratic Committee. $2750 to Council for a Livable World for a mailing list. Payment for health insurance. Murphy also includes costs of airfare, parking, gas, and office supplies. $1K debt for a copy machine lease.

Tom Manion, Republican

Individual, itemized: 145,184.71
Individual, untemized: 15,016.00
Individual, total: 160,200.71 / 516,019.64
Political Party committees: 5,300.00 / 5,300.00
PACs: 76,250.00 / 143,010.00
Total: 241,750.71 / 664,329.64
Refunds: 14.16 / 14/16
Other Receipts: 433.46 / 474.09
Total Receipts: 242,198.33 / 664,817.89

Operating Expenditures: 153,974.55 / 153,974.55
Total: 153,974.55 / 153,974.55

Beginning Cash on hand: 416,736.56
Contributions: 242,198.33 / 664,817.89
Disbursements: 153,974.55 / 159,857.55
Ending cash on hand: 504,960.34

Personal observations: Most donors are from in state. Nine newly maxed out contributors. Five large donors named Hooper (did not check to see if these were the same Hoopers donating to Craig Williams). It is hard to tell much about where the money came from as there is a relatively high percentage of “Information requested” notes in the occupation and employer fields. Fifteen campaign funds for other campaigns or officials donated. $7,500 came from Every Republican is Crucial (ERIC PAC). Almost 2/3 of the PAC money came in during June. Mr. Manion is burning through a lot of money. He paid a Maryland firm over $8K for bookkeeping. He paid over $12K to a DC group for fundraising consulting. Pathfinder Communications in PA received over $9K for web work, consulting, and printing. Another firm was paid $5K for website development. Another fundraising firm $3K. $4K to a PA business for catering. Over $56K to Paychex. There were only 3 paid employees. Jerry Morgan, Manion’s campaign manager since February, was finally paid. There were two identical checks on 4/30 and another for the same amount on 5/29. There are two other paid staff people (one named Manion).

13th Congressional District

Allyson Schwartz, Incumbent District (elected 2004)

Individual, itemized: 255,425.00
Individual, unitemized: 16,565.00
Individual, total: 271,990.00 / 1,571,341.59
Political Party committees: 506.19 / 998.06
PACs: 218,710.00 / 824,660.00
Total: 491,206.19 / 2,396,999.65
Refunds: 0.00/ / 20,455.88
Other Receipts: 11,065.44 / 38,458.23
Total Receipts: 502,271.63 / 2,455,913.76

Operating Expenditures: 108,442.76 / 607,578.05
Refunds: 0.00 / 7,300.00
Other: 635.00 / 226,450.00
Total: 109,077.76 / 841,328.05

Beginning Cash on hand: 1,872,812.93
Contributions: 502,271.63 / 2,455,913.76
Disbursements: 109,077.76 / 841,328.05
Ending cash on hand: 2,266,006.80

Personal observations: In the individual donors I see a lot of biotech money as well as health care workers, in with the usual lawyers and CEOs. Interesting that there are two big name and some smaller publishers listed, and there is a PAC donation from Reed Elsevir. There are also a notable number of educators, nonprofits and public sector occupations and employers listed. She has a donation from the president of the Philadelphia Eagles AND the Phillies (someone from the NBA, too). What, no love from the hockey people? I count 18 newly maxed out donors. There is a lot of health care and medical money, including doctors and other health care workers, in the PAC list, including a donation from the Johnson & Johnson PAC. She also has a donation from Ebay PAC (that’s not what it’s called but that’s what it is). Think on this next time you are having a donut or bon bon – there is a Bakery, Confectionary and Tobacco Workers PAC . Interesting note, she includes a $10 in kind donation for a website endorsement from the Sierra Club. Payments to 10 ward committees and two individuals for election day services. They are still paying off the car the campaign is buying. The campaign bought a nice camera at Best Buy. This seems like a sensible purchase and may have been the camera I was dodging at a recent event. There are three paid staff. She uses Comcast for cable and Internet. Internet hosting is done by a firm in Delaware. She pays health insurance. A legislative staffer was paid $5K for consulting services. $6k to a DC fundraising consultant, $13K to a California research firm.

Marina Kats, Republican

Individual, itemized: 72,050.00
Individual, untemized: 6,420.00
Individual, total: 78,470.00 / 83,070.00
Political Party committees: 1,000.00 / 1,000.00
PACs: 7,800.00 / 8,800.00
Total: 87,270.00 / 92,870.00
Total Receipts: 87,270.00 / 92,870.00

Operating Expenditures: 42,202.05 / 42,326.05
Total: 42,202.05 / 42,326.05

Beginning Cash on hand: 5,476.00
Contributions: 87,270.00 / 92,870.00
Disbursements: 42,202.05 / 42,326.05
Ending cash on hand: 50,543.95

Personal observations: Eight newly maxed out donors. Six donors from Klehr Harrison, seven from Anapol Schwartz, law firms. Almost all money from in state. No paid staff, but burning through money. Over $13K to a Maryland firm for bookkeeping consulting. Nearly $20K in printing costs to various firms. Over $7K to a firm that has the same address as someone paid for printing costs, for strategic campaign consulting. I’m not sure this is a wise spending plan for someone going up against a well-funded incumbent, and without a lot of money in the bank herself.

15th Congressional District

Charlie Dent, Incumbent Republican

Individual, itemized: 124,650.00
Individual, unitemized: 9,922.00
Individual, total: 134,572.00 / 664,694.44
Political Party committees: 0.00 / 294.00
PACs: 96,567.13 / 496,404.46
Total: 231,139.13 / 1,161,392.90
Transfers: 9,948.81 / 43,982.53
Refunds: 0.00/ 2,857.00
Other Receipts: 2,925.36 / 10,373.98
Total Receipts: 244,013.30 / 1,218,606.41

Operating Expenditures: 172,460.93 / 775,418.90
Refunds: 400.00 / 850.00
Other: 0.00 / 29,675.00
Total: 172,860.93 / 805,943.90

Beginning Cash on hand: 615,534.15
Contributions: 244,013.30 / 1,218,606.41
Disbursements: 172,860.93 / 805,943.90
Ending cash on hand: 686,686.52

Personal observations: There are very few out of state donors. I see PAC money from health care, railroads and the building industry. There is a donation from the Johnson & Johnson PAC. If you are taking Charlie out for dinner, take note that he held a PA fundraiser at Fiesta Ole Mexican Restaurant and a DC one at Tortilla Coast. $35K to Wavelength Communications in Philly for invitations, yard signs and marketing. Over $12K one consultant for what appears to be fundraising, $10K to another, $6575 to a third, $5700 to a fourth. Sometime blogger Julian Stoltz received $1600 in consulting fees. Three paid staff. One unidentified check for insurance. I hope Shawn isn’t doing without health insurance again.

Sam Bennett, Democratic challenger

Individual, itemized: 154,054.18
Individual, unitemized: 18,080.54
Individual, total: 172,134.72 / 383,651.39
PACs: 54,397.50 / 154,107.50
Total: 226,532.22 / 537,758.89
Other Receipts: 0.00 / 1,582.44
Total Receipts: 226,532.22 / 539,341.33

Operating Expenditures: 55,411.93 / 185,551.93
Refunds: 0.00 / 100.00
Other: 100.00 / 410.00
Total: 55,511.93 / 186,061.93

Beginning Cash on hand: 182,754.61
Contributions: 226,532.22 / 539,341.33
Disbursements: 55,511.93 / 186,061.93
Ending cash on hand: 353,774.90

Personal observations: I count 30 newly maxed out donors and contributions from 6 other candidate campaign funds. There are 3 paid staff. Bennett paid around $3K to the state party for a voters’s list, $1500 to a consult, and $9K to Third Coast Research (no idea what that was about).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pittsburgh to be Invaded by Bloggers in 2009

Mark your calendars!

Netroots National (formerly Yearly Kos) will be held in our fair Commonwealth next year.

Netroots Nation '09
Thursday, August 13, 2009 - Sunday, August 16, 2009

David L. Lawrence Convention Center
1000 Ft. Duquesne Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
United States

In Fast Company

The quarterly FEC report is taking longer than expected. In the interim I offer this for your enjoyment:

I’ve mentioned this before but Fast Company is among the periodicals I read regularly; it is the general business title in the mix. Before the stack of recent issues goes into the recycle bin, here are a few of the really good articles they’ve had in the past few months:

May 2008

Get laziness on your side," by Dan Heath and Chip Heath. More on the Nudge theory of manipulating social behavior. Example, in Germany you have to opt in to organ donation (12% do). In Austria you have to opt out (1% do). So if you want people to donate organs or save for retirement make it the default and you have to actually check a box or fill out a form to not participate

Why Americans are going abroad for health care,” by Greg Lindsay. Interesting concept but I have a lot of qualms. At present some people voluntarily go overseas for surgery and other treatments, where health costs are lower. It’s the thought of it becoming mandatory that scares me.

June 2008

There are a number of articles on this issue on China and Africa (or China in Africa) by Richard Behar that are a must read for anyone interested in foreign policy. In print they are all put together but online they are listed as separate. Fascinating.

July 2008

I haven’t finished with this issue yet, but there is a good article on Gettysburg.
Gettysburg battle site revamps to attract tourists,” by Evan West

Saturday, July 19, 2008

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

Our folks were quiet last week. There was just a short article on the Governor’s Conference (“Governors talk of moving past corn-based ethanol”) on 7/14)

PA Businesses

Lynn Laverty Elsenhans, formerly of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, has been named CEO of Sunoco, based in Philadelphia. See “Sunoco picks Shell veteran Elsenhans for CEO job,” by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Joann S. Lublin (7/17)

Culligan Properties of Canonsburg has delayed the opening of a shopping mall. See “Too many malls swamp developers,” by Kris Hudson (7/17)

Definitely something for us to worry about. “Deregulation jolts Texas electric bills,” by Rebecca Smith (7/17). We deregulate in 2010. It’s coming up quick. Kfein Lowery of Alcoa in Pittsburgh is quoted.

Mark Zandi alert! The economist is quoted in “Continuing vicious cycle of pain in housing and finance ensnares market,” by Michael Corker and James R. Hagerty (7/14)

Brief mentions: Erie Indemnity of Erie (7/18)
Pep Boys (7/17)
W. Atlee Burpee of Warminster (7/15)

Other PA

We learn that musical prodigy Lang Lang attended the Curtis Institute of Music, in “A prodigy’s progress,” by James Penrose (7/19)

An Athens, Pa resident is one of the examples given in “How changes in medicare affect patients,” by Anna Wilde Mathews and Jane Zhang (7/17)

Other Interesting Tidbits

In “In Afghanistan, getting to know the neighbors is half the battle,” by Michael M. Phillips (7/18) discusses the learning curve when one squadron leaves and another replaces it. Soldiers on the ground have learned the local social networks, whose family is feuding with whose, and so on, difficult information to pass on to replacements. The Army has a Wiki-Afghan (mostly classified) which is kept updated by anyone with an authorization to do so.

I don’t know what to make of this situation. “Congress relaxes new rules on lobbyist disclosure,” by Elizabeth Williamson (7/18).

This I found very alarming. “Iraq case sheds light on secret contractors,” by Siobhan Gorman and August Cole (7/17). It just doesn’t sound like a good idea to subcontract all this out to people we clearly aren’t vetting well.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Obama Office Openings

A variety of messages in the inbox today regarding Obama for President offices in the area.

Two are holding open houses this week:

Chester Office Open House

Saturday July 19, 2008
401 Avenue of the States, Chester
(at the corner of 4th and Avenue of the States,
right across from City Hall.)

Delaware County Headquarters Open House

Tuesday, July 22, 2008
5:00 PM
362 E. Baltimore Avenue, Media

I don't like to post phone numbers so if anyone has any questions about these openings email me (janeaboveaverage[at] and I'll put you in touch with the correct person.

Three offices have opened in Montgomery Count but won't be having official openings until later. They are in Jenkintown, Norristown, and Ardmore. Same caveat as above on contact info.

Offices planned for the future are in: Hatboro, Ambler, Conshohocken, Lansdale, Collegeville, Pottstown. I have no contact info or further information on these.

Murphy Hosts Foreclosure Prevention Workshop

From the inbox:

On Saturday, July 19, just days after RealtyTrac released a report showing Pennsylvania foreclosures in June up 80 percent over 2007, Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) will hold a Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Workshop. The workshop will aim to help families struggling with or worried about home foreclosure. The workshop will include organizations from Bucks County as well as other elected leaders. There will be presentations from experts who can speak on the foreclosure process, predatory lending and financial management issues as well as provide information on bankruptcy procedures. Those in attendance will also be able to meet with organizations who are actively working to assist those facing mortgage issues. Murphy will also discuss legislation he helped pass that will spur home buying and help homeowners get away from risky subprime mortgages.

2006: Over 1,100 Foreclosures in Bucks County
2007: Nearly 1,500 Foreclosures in Bucks County – 52,000 in Pennsylvania
2008: Already 600+ Foreclosures in Bucks County – 76,000 Projected in Pennsylvania

WHO: Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA)
State Rep. Chris King (D-142)
Bucks County Housing Group
Bucks County Consumer Protection
United Way of Bucks County
Community Impact Legal Services
Bucks County Opportunity Council
Consumer Credit Counseling
Southeastern Pennsylvania Legal Aid

WHAT: Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Workshop

WHEN: Saturday, July 19, 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: Maple Point Middle School / 2250 Langhorne-Yardley Road / Langhorne 19047

Presidential Candidates, Economic Behavioral Manipulation and a Gratuitous Reference to Allyson Schwartz

The August issue of Money Magazine has an article, "The Campaign to Make You Behave," by Stephen Gandel. It is not freely available online. The article review some interesting new economic theories and how public policy could implement them, with a comparison of McCain's and Obama's plans in this regard.

One example is the theory that we should have opt out instead of opt in retirement policy. Implementing this would mean companies can automatically enroll new employees into a retirement plan for a set percentage of their salary. Something similar to smart meters are mentioned in regards to persuading people to voluntarily change their energy usage patterns. There is another section on using this strategy for health care. It is interesting.

As one might expect Obama scores higher in the comparison. Many of our tax policies are designed to reward behaviors we judge to be for the greater good. Home ownership for example, is rewarded with tax deductions for mortgages. We now discourage smoking. And so on. (Those are my examples, not necessarily from the article.)

For more info read Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler.

How does Congresswomen Allyson Schwartz (D-13) fit in? At then end of June she co-authored a resolution honoring National Save for Retirement Week.

This week Congress passed National Save for Retirement Week, a resolution authored by U.S. Representatives Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa) and Sam Johnson (R-Texas). Prior to the vote, Schwartz spoke on the House floor to encourage her colleagues to support this important measure recognizing the vital need for American families to plan for retirement, especially given the current economic uncertainty.

Schwartz’s statement follows.

“The resolution before us supports the goals and ideals of National Save for Retirement Week, which this year falls between October 19 and October 25, 2008. I want to thank my colleague, Mr. Johnson of Texas, for working with me to bring attention to the importance of retirement planning for American families.

“We are living in a time when workers are being asked to shoulder an increasing share of the cost of saving for retirement. Even with an employee-sponsored retirement plan and the promise of Social Security benefits, Americans need to put additional money aside to ensure a financially secure retirement.

“For many Americans, saving is becoming an increasingly difficult task as they struggle to meet their everyday obligations. Even in solidly middle-income families, financial resources are stretched thin as parents work to meet other pressing needs, whether it's purchasing health care coverage, paying for college, buying a tank of gas, or simply paying monthly bills on time.

“Over the past several years, we have seen a dramatic shift in our retirement system. Most workers are no longer eligible for traditional pensions, which provide a predictable monthly benefit throughout retirement. Instead, workers are bearing more of the costs and investment risks of saving adequately for their retirement through workplace defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s or through IRAs.

“As a result, the value of most Americans' retirement benefits, and the security of their retirement, is now directly linked to their own decisions and the amount of dollars that they save over the years and the balance held in their accounts when they retire.

“The dramatic shift towards individual defined contribution plans is clear. According to Employee Benefits Research Institute, only 10 percent of workers are currently covered by defined benefit plans, compared to 63 percent of workers who are currently covered by 401(k) plans. This stands in stark contrast to the reality of 30 years ago when it was just the opposite, when coverage rates were 62 percent for defined benefits plans and 16 percent for 401(k)s.

“While this shift is empowering American workers to make more of their own financial decisions, many families are finding it difficult to save significantly to meet their retirement needs. It is particularly difficult during a time of economic uncertainty, as we are experiencing today.

“It may be difficult but continues to be vitally important for Americans to prepare for retirement, to think about savings, especially given that half of all workers have less than 25 percent in total savings, whether for retirement or to help them in periods of financial difficulty.

“As our country shifts towards an increasing reliance on individual savings and as families are tempted to dip into their retirement accounts to meet current everyday expenses during this time of high gas and food prices, it is more important than ever that we educate Americans about the pressing need to save even small amounts every year that they possibly can.

“In my district, I have partnered with banks and credit unions and other financial institutions to host seminars to help provide information on how to make educated, financially responsible decisions about personal and family budgets and to help establish a habit of saving for the future.

“I have even visited with schools in my district to help reach out to young people in order to emphasize the importance of saving for the future. It is never too early to learn that every little bit we save now will help in the long run.

“So whether you're a 16-year-old receiving your first paycheck, or a 25-year-old getting your first real raise, or a 45-year-old with a mortgage and two kids, the habit of putting a little bit away every month in regular savings can, with the help of compound interest, add up to a more secure retirement.

“The resolution before us supports and encourages educational opportunities on a national scale and creates a collaborative effort to emphasize the importance of making savings for retirement a priority for all Americans.”

2,000th Post

I hadn't paid close enough attention and the official 2000th entry to this blog was actually posted yesterday. That seems like quite a few in a hobbyist blog that's been around for about 3 1/2 years. Clearly I need to get out more.

Camp Wellstone Correction

In a previous blog post I said that Camp Wellstone was for Democrats only. This was an error; I went on assumption and did not do the requisite fact checking. My apologies to Camp Wellstone for any problems this may have created for them.

Camp Wellstone is open to all participants, not just Democrats. Wellstone Action, the sponsoring organization, is a non-partisan organization.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Round of Reform

A group of Democratic challengers in state house races have joined forces to recommend new reform measures. The signatories to the Pennsylvania Candidates Platform for Reform (PA-CPR) are:

name / district
Paul Drucker / 157
Phyllis Bennett / 106
Brendan Boyle / 170
Matt Bradford / 70
Tim Briggs / 149
Kelbin Carolina / 150
Steve Connelly / 85
Frank Custer / 61
John DeFrancisco / 162
Paddy Garcia / 104
Tom Houghton / 105
Ayanna Lee / 44
Kevin Lee / 163
Bill Mackey / 124
Carol Palmaccio / 167
Lisa Romaniello / 152
Steve Rovner / 178
Steve Santarsiero / 31
Nancy Schott / 109
Samy Elmasry / 66
Tom Quinn / 165

John Micek had a description of the press conference to announce the reformist agenda. It is also the subject of an article by Charles Thompson, "So, we're still talking reform..." in today's Patriot News.

PA Has 1 in 100

Money Magazine has released it's annual list of 100 Best Places to Live. One one of those 100 places is in Pennsylvania. Coming in at #21 is Abington, a Montgomery County township just north of Philadelphia.

Rating the Walkablility fo Philly Neighborhoods

This is interesting. Walkscore rates Philadelphia as the nation's 5th most walkable city, and the divided it down and ranked the city's neighborhoods. Check it out.

Two Options for Campaign School

In a recent Morning Call article, ("Whack-ipedia: no campaigning allowed at site candidate finds," by Josh Drobnyk 7/10), Marina Kats, Republican candiate for the 13th congressional distrct, is quoted as saying:

''If I ever did anything all over again before I would choose to run for Congress, I would work as a volunteer on someone's campaign,'' Kats said. ''You really don't know.''

This is great advice. For those wishing to follow it there are two upcoming options.

The first is open to everyone. Campaigns & Elections is hosting Winning: Your Crash Course in Campaigning on September 12th in Washington.

The second is for Democrats only everyone also. Camp Wellstone will be held in Philadelphia on July 25-27. There are three tracks:
* Citizen activist track. For people interested in citizen lobbying, issue advocacy, and community organizing, this track provides skills in how to win on issues.
* Campaign track. This track focuses on how to be an effective staff or volunteer member of a winning progressive campaign.
* Candidate track. This is for people who have made the decision to run for office.

There are a number of opportunities in the area and a few hours away by train. These are just two that I know of happening in the near future. Volunteering on a campaign is another good way to see how the process works.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Let's Put Shapiro on the Short List

The title isn't a crack about Deputy Speaker Josh Shapiro's height, it's a reference to a list that many many people are compiling and updating. State Rep. William DeWeese is under some (read: considerable) pressure to step down as the House Democratic Leader. (Full disclosure: I think it is past time for him to find another outlet for his talents. He might enjoy teaching or writing a few books, something he could probably do while staying in the legislature, but not while serving as Leader.)

So, should there be an opening in the party leadership, there will need to be a short list for people to pick from. We need a reformer with integrity and a spotless reputation. I've always liked State Rep. Greg Vitali but am not sure of his skills at compromising, which is a definite "must have" for the job. There are other names that should be on the list as well.

Something in last Sunday's Inky jumped out at me. In the editorial, "Harrisburg's Slush Fund: A Little Something for a Rainy Day," on the legislative slush funds (the Inky's words not mine). Shapiro is quoted as saying:

"We could have done more to help mental health/mental retardation services, more for public education," said Deputy Speaker Josh Shapiro (D., Montgomery). "We could have done something to reduce the cost of health insurance."

Those are priorities in correct order. And I'm probably not the only person who has him on their wish list.

Schwartz Teletown Hall Meeting

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz held a townhall meeting this evening. It differed from her previous teletownhall meetings in that instead of constituents having to call in, this time the phone system called them and people merely had to stay on the line. Though I am told that the calls were not all timed right and some people came in late. This new system also allowed her to ask listeners to voice their opinion via touchtone (If you thing we should drill in ANWR press one, if you don't press two) and give her immediate feedback. Just under 7,000 (yes, that is seven thousand) people listened in on at least part of the call.

More Wikipedia Fun

It seems Marina Kats is not the only local congressional candidate to have Wikipedia problems. (Kats is the Republican challenging Allyson Schwartz for the 13th congressional district.) Tom Manion's entry has also been deleted. Manion is challenging 8th district Congressman Patrick Murphy. See "WikiDiss," by Annie Trasker on Phillyburbs. It starts:

Republican congressional candidates Tom Manion and Marina Kats have had their Wikipedia pages deleted after editors for the Web encyclopedia determined they weren’t important enough to have their own entries.

This does not appear to be an entry for Craig Williams, the Republican who is challenging 7th district Congressman Joe Sestak.

Report on Philadelphia Maritime Commerce Released

From our friends at the Economy League:

The Economy League is pleased to release Maritime Commerce in Greater Philadelphia: Assessing Industry Trends and Growth Opportunities for Delaware River Ports, an evaluation of existing port conditions along the Delaware River and market-driven opportunities for expansion. The report includes an economic impact analysis, Delaware River port descriptions, global trends, and recommended strategies for ports growth. Key findings include:

* Region-wide port activity generates $69 million in tax revenues for state governments across Greater Philadelphia and more than $11 million in Philadelphia Wage Tax revenues.
* Each on-site port job supports two jobs from port activity and employee spending. Total regional port-related employment is 12,000+ jobs.
* Delaware River ports import nearly 1/2 of the nation's cocoa beans, almost 1/3 of the bananas, and a 1/4 of all fruit and nuts.
* Growing maritime commerce in Greater Philadelphia will require collaboration among Delaware River ports to leverage existing strengths and strategically invest in regional infrastructure improvements.

The full report is available online.

Fresh Air Fund Needs Host Families

From the inbox:

# The Fresh Air Fund has provided free summer vacations to New York City children from disadvantaged communities since 1877. This is your summer to help!

# The end of July is growing closer and we still have 200 children who need to be placed with host families for this August

# Unless all prospective host families are screened and vetted by the end of July these 200 children may miss out on an invaluable experience

# Please host a child or help us get the word out that we need folks who can welcome a child from the city into their homes next month

# One last thing that is actually very important. We are looking for families who want to extend an invitation to a 9-12 year old. We really need more families who want older children and boys

Families are needed in various parts of Pennsylvania. Check their website for details.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

PolitickerPA's 50 Most Influential

The website has posted it's 2008 Power List of the 50 most politically influential people in the state. It's actually down to 49 now as #35 Dr. John Templeton died a week ago (condolences to the family). [Update: Dr. John Templeton is the son of the recently deceased Sir John Templeton. I did not pay enough attention to the honorific, Dr. / Sir. However, the photo used was of Sir Templeton and this added to my confusion. I am told the phot will be changed to one of Dr. Templeton.] They have good criteria, no one currently in office or on the judiciary, no one who has previously served in state or national office. In their words:

We looked at policy makers, party leaders, fundraisers, lobbyists, labor unions, businesses, and associations and have assembled the ultimate list of Pennslyvanians with clout, with an impact on politics and government in the Keystone state.

I took note of how many women were on the list. There are nine. Here they are in numerical order:

#24 Kathleen McGinty (She has resigned her cabinet post so we'll have to wait and see if she is on next year's list.)
#30 Christine Toretti, business owner
#31 Mary Isenhour, with the PA Democratic Party and former statewide Clinton coordinator
#36 Michelle Singer, Rendell's finance director
#37 Holly Kinser, lobbyist
#40 Tricia Enright, Democratic political consultant
#41 Leslie Gromis Baker, Republican political consultant
#44 Jill McCormack, lobbyist
#46 Laura Kuller, lobbyist

Only one woman is in the top half of the list, and almost half of the women are in the bottom ten, another four are in the 30's. While I recognized the names of some of the men as being former state legislators, none of the women appear to be, though I did not do a thorough search on their names to be sure. Some of the men are in the powerful CEO / lawyer category, none of the women, and other than Singer, none are legislative staffers, which some of the men are. Nor are any of the women associated with the media, though Michael Smerconish, John Brabender and Terry Madonna are listed. None of the women are from associations, such a labor unions, though the #1 man on the list is. So either there are no women visibly exercising their political muscle in those areas or they haven't risen to the top 50 yet.

Certainly there are few enough women in the legislature that it is not surprising female former legislators aren't on the list. One wonders what retiring State Senator Connie Williams will do with her time when she is out of office. While the director of the Pew Foundation is a woman and the Foundation's work certainly affects politics the nature of her work keeps her, at least at present, non-political. The president of the William Penn Foundation and many of the senior staff are women but the same caveats apply here as for the Pew. Carol Fitzgerald has been the executive director of the Pennsylvania Society for many years but may chose not to exercise her political muscle.

Three of the women on the list are lobbyists; I'm not positive but I think that is a higher percentage than for the men. So for women looking to carve out political territory that may be a way to go. Two of the women are political consultants; that may be another pathway. It will be interesting to see what next year's list brings.

No one is ever completely happy with these lists but they make for great conversation. My only real complaint is about the images used if no photo was available. For me it was a gray head shot, but for women it was a gray upper body shot in a casual pose that did not look particularly female to me. I think an identifiably female head shot is out there somewhere.

Allyson Amid the BlogHers

At this weekend's national BlogHer conference (aimed a women bloggers across the board, mommy bloggers, political bloggers, craft bloggers, you name it) in San Francisco, our own Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz will be making an appearance:

The McCain and Obama campaigns are each sending a representative to do a Q&A with you on Who Better Serves Women Like You? Moderated by our own Lisa Stone and featuring RNC Online Communications Director Liz Mair, and Obama supporter Pennsylvania Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz.

Schwartz had supported Clinton in the primary but is helping stitch the party together behind the presumed nominee. The "Who Better Serves Women Like You" session will be held Saturday at 11:30.

Pennsylvania Media Guide

There's another new kid on the block. The Pennsylvania Media Guide has links to Pennsylvania newspapers, TV stations, political columnists and blogs, and other media outlets. This is part of a national network of media guide sites.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Three Governors

While the Governors Conference was in town, three women governors took the time to hold a local event Sunday in support of Sen. Obama. It was originally going to be five governors but Delaware’s Ruth Ann Minner and Washington’s Christine Gregoire weren’t able to attend. This was the advance notice:

As the nation’s governors gather in Philadelphia this weekend, five of America’s leading governors will host a Town Hall Meeting on the Economy. They will hear from Pennsylvania middle class families about the economic challenges they face, and discuss Senator Obama’s agenda to ensure all Americans can find affordable health care, lower gas prices, and a good paying job to support their families.

The event will be moderated by Margi Casey McGrath, whose brother Bob Casey, Jr., is Pennsylvania’s junior senator.

About 200 people attended the event, held at UFCW Local 1776 in Plymouth Meeting.

Gov. Janet Napolitano (Arizona), Gov. Kathleen Sibelius (Kansas), and Gov. Jennifer Granholm (Michigan)

These are my rough notes. As always I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

JG: former Clinton supporter. Michigan has lost 400,000 jobs since George Bush took office. We need to negotiate fair trade deals and level the playing field. Obama is a fighter. It is important to replace jobs with growing sectors, like renewable and clean energies. Last year more cars were built in Ontario than in Michigan. Canada has similar regulations and labor. The reason the jobs went to Canada is health care. This is an economic as well as moral issue.

KS: Spending time with Ed Rendell is fun. Early supporter of Obama, whose mother was from Kansas. We need to get a handle on health care. Pay equity. Obama is a fighter for women’s issues. Illinois has six times the amount of child care money as federally mandated. Obama understands child care needs. Affordable college and training. [pitch for us to work and volunteer to get Obama elected, must win PA]

JN: Can get public funding for gubernatorial elections if you get 4,000 $5.00 donations. Lived in PA as a child, learned to read here. Knows something about John McCain. McC voted with George Bush 95% of the time, McC is a tireless campaigner. Arizona is in the top group of home foreclosures, McC has no plan on this. Obama will make a huge investment in renewable energy. Barry Goldwater, Mo Udall, and Bruce Babbitt all Arizonans who ran for president and lost. Let’s continue with that trend.

There were several questions afterwards. Here are just a few:

Q: Will McC’s plan make things worse for governors?

JN: McCain says he will cut spending, usually cut funding for things that must be funded, leaving it to the states, like homeland security.
JG: Look at for how much the war is costing Pennsylvania.
KS: states picking up more and more and more. McCain vetoed CHIP (children’s health care program)

Q: What incentives will Obama use to encourage industry to use renewable energy?
JG: Obama will invest $150 billion in renewable energy [mentions ethanol made of wood waste not corn]
KS: In the Bush administration $1.4 billion invested in alternative energy research and development. To put that in perspective, last year Americans spent over $5 billion on Halloween. Green jobs are good jobs.

Granholm had the last word of the event:

JG: to Clinton supporters – there is no time to waste. The daylight between Clinton and Obama is nothing compared to the different between Obama and McCain.

Personal observations: This was a fun event to attend. The three governors were all great speakers. Granholm was a little fiery. Sibelius was a little quieter but spoke with authority. Napolitano was the most casual speaker. It was really interesting to watch the interplay between them. Moderator McGrath had very little to do as they were very collegial about sharing the microphone and building on /complementing each other's comments. I had a blast.

(Wardrobe notes: I've read that there isn't a neutral clothing or hair choice for women which is why so much attention is paid to what women wear. A standard may be emerging, all three governors work black pants and a monotone jacket -- red for Granhom, pink for Sibelius, and blue for Napolitano. All three sported a similar hair length, between shoulder and ear.)

Dahlkemper Leads English in New Poll

According to an article in today's Roll Call ("Democratic poll has Rep. English trailing narrowly," by Shira Toeplitz), Democratic challenger Kathy Dahlkemper is ahead of incumbent Republican Phil English in the 3rd congressional district. It is 41% to 40%, with 19% undecided.

Roggio Endorsement

From the inbox, regarding the 6th congressional district race:

Bob Roggio, (D) today received the endorsement of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), the fastest growing union for nurses and health professionals in Pennsylvania.

“We are thrilled to endorse Bob Roggio’s candidacy for Congress in the 6th District,” said Patricia Eakin, RN, and President of PASNAP. “We believe Bob is an outstanding candidate and appreciate his support for healthcare reform and for legislative priorities, including safe staffing for nurses and banning mandatory overtime for healthcare professionals. We believe our healthcare system is in ‘critical condition’ and know that Bob Roggio will be a champion to improve it for the sake of our patients and our profession.”

Bob Roggio has a proven record of prioritizing healthcare coverage. Throughout his 30-year business career at Zenith Products Corporation, Bob helped to create over 600 new jobs as he rose to the position of Senior Vice President and principal partner. He worked to ensure that all of his employees were eligible for quality and affordable healthcare coverage.

“Healthcare issues are a priority in my campaign,” said Roggio. “I believe that we have a responsibility to make healthcare affordable for everyone. We need to find a way to cover the 47 million Americans – including almost 9 million children – who are currently uninsured.”

“Bob understands the costs and the struggles that rising healthcare costs pose to families and businesses,” said Campaign Manager Liz Conroy. “He believes that our country has an obligation to fight for full coverage and will bring that fight to Washington.”

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Paging Yogi and Boo Boo

It was pic-a-nic day in Montgomery County yesterday, with an Obama related event (more on this tomorrow) in between.

State Rep. Rick Taylor (D-151) hosted a well-attended lunch time picnic at the Ft. Washington State Park. Music and good times abounded and parking was at a premium. (ActBlue page)

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-08) also hosted a picnic around the dinner hour. Around 70 people stopped by between starting and ending times.

Someone at the Taylor event mentioned the Obama event and someone there mentioned the Schwartz event so a sort of wagon train evolved.

A Note on Patrick Murphy

Congressman Patrick Murphy held his 40th "Congress on Your Corner" event this past weekend. That's an average of one every 2 weeks since he took office in January 2007. He has been on corners throughout the 8th district, Quakertown, Silverdale, Lower Makefield, Bristol, his small section of Montgomery County, among many others. At these events Murphy is talking one on one with constituents. He does not shy away from tough topics. I've lurked in the background at one or more of these and listened to some lively discussions. Not everyone agrees with Murphy but he hears them out and explains his stand on the issue. Constituents are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities to go out and meet their congressman, or, if they've already met him, say hello.

The Big Canvas

[blogger's note: This is cross-posted at the Big Canvas site I was compensated for attending the event and appreciate organizers for their willingness to jump through hoops to respect my anonymity.]

Last year the Inquirer and the University of Pennsylvania’s Project for Civic Engagement sponsored a series of meetings called Great Expectations, to find out what the residents of Philadelphia wanted for their city. The final document from those meetings, representing an agenda set by people who came to the meetings, and not policymakers, has been embraced by Mayor Nutter. One of the frequently heard comments in those discussions was the availability and diversity of things to do in the area.

Building on the success of last year’s meetings, this year, with funding from the William Penn Foundation and the Lenfest Foundation, another series of discussions are taking place. The Big Canvas is a regional look at arts & culture in Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.

There are five forums planned; the first one was held on July 8 at the Michener Museum in Doylestown and I was invited to be the community blogger on hand. Over 50 people attended, which is a good draw on a July evening. Most were residents of Bucks County but a few from Montco and the city were also there.

Chris Satullo of the Inquirer and Harris Sokoloff from Penn gave brief introductions and set some ground rules (listen, don’t dominate the conversation, encourage others to talk, and it’s okay to disagree). While there is a wealth of artistic and cultural resources in the area, those who work in the field are stressed by annual funding worries. Bucks County helps with this somewhat by having a hotel tax that supports arts and culture. A Rand study of arts and culture in the region found that there was a high level of public support but relatively low levels of government and private (philanthropic) support.

The Big Canvas meetings are not designed to try to solve financial problems but to create a framework and strategies for dealing with challenges, and help set priorities. After the five initial forums there will be another series in September and October with a final distillation in November.

After the initial overview we broke into four groups of ten or more, with a moderator and a recorder. One of the more practical things I learned is that you can buy easel tablets that are giant post-its. After a page is full the recorder simply pulled it off and stuck the top edge to the wall; no more rolls of masking tape, rumpled paper from the taping process, and tape residue on the walls. Ingenious. Each group had a different dynamic and those who are interested in studying verbal and nonverbal communication would find these groups fascinating. The group I was in had a number of people involved in artwork, primarily painting, and that showed in the ideas brought forth. Some were artists themselves, some were involved in the business aspects of art, galleries or simply businesses that got a great deal of collateral business from arts tourism. Some were quiet, some were not. Some used expansive body languages and gestures, some did not. Some had a specific point they wanted to make, some came without an agenda.

As a group we were asked to think about several topics relating to who uses the arts, how and why or why not, and what that says about us as a population. We broke into smaller groups of 4 to 6 and did some brainstorming and then came back together to discuss priorities.

We then had some time to do a “gallery walk” where you can go around the room and see other groups’ pages on the wall. Reading those sheets and talking with other people there it was obvious that while we often came to the same conclusions there were differences that stood out. Libraries and museums were more visible in the work of some groups; others had more mention of music. I did not see much about literature although Pearl Buck was spoken of and we were meeting in a museum devoted to a writer (James Michener). Writers might want to go to some of the future meetings to make sure their voices are heard. There was at least one local publisher in attendance and someone in public relations, but little discussion of the literary arts. I didn’t see much evidence of dance presented either.

We were asked to fill out evaluation surveys and mingle or leave as we wished.

The crowd was diverse in many areas, though not racially. There were only a few people that looked under 30 but above that it was a mixed group, and I don’t remember a gender imbalance. The arts are often thought of as elitist but that wasn’t evident. A number of people had a vested interest but no one (that I observed or heard about) tried to put anyone else down, though some spoke more forcefully than others.

There are four more forums in the series and I would encourage those with any interest in the arts and culture to attend. Even if you don’t have a pre-set agenda or a specific tie to the industry, you still have opinions that are worth hearing. The more voices that are heard in this process, the better. We are all stakeholders in the future of arts and culture in the region and the priorities and strategies that come out of these meetings should reflect that. For added incentive, fruit and cookies are available during registration and were still out when we finished.

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

Congressman Joe Sestak (D-07) does the honors this week. In “Economic worries sour mood toward Congress,” by Douglas Belkin, Greg Hitt and Cari Tuna (7/07) we read:

Rep. Joe Sestak, a freshman Democrat from the Philadelphia suburbs, has received 1,000 lettes in the last year about gas prices. He says he is frank with his constitutents, answering their complaints by saying he’s sorry more hasn’t been achieved. I’m not going to shirk it. My party’s the majority party,” he said.

Former Philadelphia Mayor John Street makes a brief appearance in “Costs for conventions threatens to spoil the parties,” by Sara Murray (7/09). He is quoted as saying “Conventions are not what they used to be, and we all know that. You’re in another whole universe now.”

From “Groups push Congress to bar diversion of Great Lakes water,” by Ryan Davis (7/09) we read:
The Pennsylvania legislature approved the compact last week, and backer cite growing congressional support and a dearth of vocal opposition as evidence of the compact’s bright future at the federal level. The compact requires congressional consent.

The compact mentioned is to keep Great Lakes water from being taken to Southwestern states.

A note on Sen. McCain’s new energy ad airing in four states, including Pennsylvania gets a mention as does the company behind it, OnMessage Inc. From “’Independent’ ads tout McCain’s energy policies (7/07)

PA Businesses

The Pittsburgh Steelers got a lot of press this week. “Pittsburgh’s Rooneys quietly shop the Steelers,” by John R. Wilke (7/08), “’Hail, Mary’: Steelers fans face realities of a sale,” by Kris Maher (7/09), “Behind the steel curtain, a rusty belt,” by Matthew Futterman and John Wilke (7/10)

In “Pricey drugs put squeeze on doctors,” by Marilyn Chase (7/08), Penn bioethics professor Arthur Caplan is quoted and we learn that the American Society of Clinical Oncology has named a task force, including Neal Meropol of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, to develop a guide to help doctors discuss costs with patients.

“Commodity boom passes by Alcoa,” by Mark Gongloff (7/08) and “Higher costs hurt Alcoa,” by Robert Guy Matthews (7/09)

Two Pennsylvania companies, Confluence of Pittsburgh and PMSLIC Insurance of Mechanicsburg are mentioned in “Companies win as workers lose pounds,” by Simona Covel (7/10)

“Dow Chemical to buy Rohm & Hass,” by Ana Campoy (7/11)

Other PA

According to a graphic accompanying “Flight delays and cancellations abound,” by Scott McCartney (/708) 69.4% of flights at the Pittsburgh airport are on time.

Santa Wars in “These Santas are keeping a list, and not all have been nice,” by Jim Carlton (7/10). A trouble association of Santas, the Amalgamated Santas, is having some legal touble in PA.

There’s trouble between Scranton unions and the Catholic Church, as outlined in “Catholic Church, union show strains,” by Suzanne Sataline (7/10)

From “As textbooks go ‘custom,’ students pay,” by John Hechinger (7/10):
Pennsylvania State University recently ended a contract with Person for the roughly 10,000 students taking introducing economics courses. The economic department received a $10 royalty for each custom textbook student purchased, generating about $50,000 a year for the program, says Susan Welch, dean of the college of liberal arts. But Prof. Welch says, the school was uncomfortable “making money on students like that,” and the arrangement discouraged students from buying cheaper, used books.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is quoted in “Obama is catching up to McCain in television-ad spending,” by Aaron Rutkoff (7/11)

Who knew? “In Pittsburgh, NASA scientists used molecules of atomic oxygen to wipe a Warhold painting clean of the lipstick smear left by a vandal’s kiss, from “The search for a hidden da Vinci,” by Robert Lee Hotz (7/11)

“As governors gather, economic woes loom” mentioned the annual governors meeting held in Philadelphia this weekend (7/12)

“Early TV chef promoted ‘electric cooking’,” by Stephen Miller (7/12) is the obit for Florence P. Hanford, who had a cooking show in Philadelphia from 1949 to 1969.

Other Interesting Tidbits

In “Ray of sunshine emerges in sagging IPO market,” by Lynn Cowan (7/07), five energy related companies in the pipeline for issues an IPO are highlighted. None are based in PA.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Patrick Murphy and FISA

Congressman Patrick Murphy has been criticized recently for his vote on the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) bill. His formal remarks on the reasons for his vote are in the July 10 Congressional Record.

Here are some excerpts:

It is widely agreed that no warrant should be necessary to tap the phone of a foreign national talking to another foreign national on foreign soil. The major point of contention, however - what this year-long wrangling has been about - is what to do when targeting, for example, a terrorist sect in Pakistan whose communications end up hitting American soil. Certainly it would be overly cumbersome and perhaps dangerous to require an individualized warrant for every foreign target in the off-chance their contacts involve an American; but correspondingly, assurances must be put in place to ensure that all U.S. citizens who might be caught in such surveillance are given the protections that they are due as Americans. This, Madam Speaker, was the needle we were required to thread.

The bill ensures that – in order to protect the rights of Americans – foreign surveillance targeting of non-U.S. persons abroad must be approved by the FISA Court prior to the start of any intelligence collection to ensure sufficient oversight of Executive Branch activities. This requires the Administration to show how they determine that the targets of surveillance are actually foreigners and are actually located outside the United States . Additionally the FISA Court must approve the minimization procedures in place before surveillance can begin. Minimization is the process where the NSA prevents the dissemination of inadvertently collected information about U.S. persons. The bill also establishes a general prohibition against using FISA to "reverse target" Americans.

Additionally, the bill requires individual warrants from the FISA Court in every single case, based upon probable cause, to conduct surveillance of U.S. persons, whether at home or traveling abroad. While this provision has not been widely reported, this is an expansion of protections under the original FISA bill. For the first time, Madam Speaker, an individual probable cause determination and court-approved order will be needed to conduct surveillance of every American citizen, regardless of where they are located.

Perhaps most importantly, Madam Speaker, the bill restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the no President will be able to sidestep the exclusivity provisions of FISA and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. Under this legislation the current President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will officially come to an end, thereby firmly re-establishing basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.

The other major provision of the bill, Madam Speaker, is Title II - defining the role of liability litigation procedures for telecommunication companies. Madam Speaker, to be frank, as a former federal prosecutor and the son of a Philadelphia police officer the issue of immunity has always been a tough pill to swallow. Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia and schooled at St. Anselm's Parish, I was reared in somewhat "black and white" terms – wrong-is-wrong and punished accordingly.

But quickly I learned, as a judge advocate and special assistant United States Attorney, that at certain times legal immunity is an unfortunate necessity to encourage cooperation and testimony against those more culpable of committing the underlying offense. Madam Speaker, I have never liked seeing people get away with only a slap on the wrist, but I have grown to understand it can be a necessary tool to insure that justice is served.

If the telecom companies are ultimately shielded from litigation by United State District Courts for their involvement with the current Administration's illegal warrantless wiretapping program, they should be forthright and cooperate with Congressional investigators pursuing those in the Bush Administration who are truly to blame for the violation of our Constitutional rights.

But more importantly Madam Speaker, a principle reason for immunity in this instance is to keep civil lawsuits, or the fear of them, from establishing federal policy on a matter of grave national concern - both because of the security interests and because of the civil liberty interests. This policy should be established and enforced through the actions of Congress and the Executive Branch.

And just to be clear, Madam Speaker, nothing in this bill confers immunity on any government official for violating the law. In fact, this bill requires the inspectors general of four major national agencies to conduct a comprehensive review of the President's warrantless surveillance program and report back to the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.