Monday, May 11, 2009

Luke Ravenstahl: Do Great Minds Think Alike?

This was very interesting news for several reasons:

Mr. Ravenstahl's campaign reported having $480,475 on hand, versus $44,345 for city Councilman Patrick Dowd, as of May 4. The mayor rolled up that edge by adding $325,898 -- of which $150,000 was a loan from County Executive Dan Onorato's campaign -- to an already fat bank account.

The mayor's campaign reported spending $661,996 this year through May 4, topped by $85,000 spent on television ads. (P-G, Rich Lord)

I'll get to Dan Onorato eventually -- crikey, he thinks it would be that intolerable for Pittsburgh to lose Luke Ravenstahl? -- but I'm much more interested in what Null Space noticed: the discrepancy between only $85K spent on television out of a total of $662K spent on ... something.

Adding radio, direct mail, yard signs and local staff to the $85Kfor television simply won't get you anywhere near the ballpark of $662K. Where did the money go?

UPDATE: The web version of the Post-Gazette article added a "Correction/Clarification" three days after publication: Ravenstahl's campaign now reportedly has spent $295K on television ads, the original $85K having been an "incomplete figure". This leaves not such a wide discrepancy but a discrepancy nonetheless -- and meanwhile, the Ravenstahl team has maintained its silence on the general topic of the post.

I must say it lends more credence to rumors that have been circulating that the Ravenstahl campaign has employed high-powered DC political strategists Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group -- specifically Frederick Yang, made famous as Advisor B in the criminal complaint against disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated, “I want to make money.” During the call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH, HARRIS, and Advisor B discussed the prospect of working a three-way deal for the open Senate seat. (US vs. Blagojevich & Harris)

Advisor B said that he liked the idea of the three-way deal. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he is interested in making $250,000 to $300,000 and being on some organization boards. Advisor B said they should leverage the President­-elect’s desire to have Senate Candidate 1 appointed to the Senate seat in order to get a head position with Change to Win and a salary. Advisor B agreed that the three-way deal would be a better plan than ROD BLAGOJEVICH appointing Senate Candidate 2 to the Senate seat and getting more done as Governor. (ibid)

On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Advisor B. ROD BLAGOJEVICH discussed with Advisor B his idea for a 501(c)(4) organization. Advisor B stated that he likes the idea, but liked the Change to Win option better because, according to Advisor B, from the President-elect’s perspective, there would be fewer “fingerprints” on the President-elect’s involvement with Change to Win because Change to Win already has an existing stream of revenue and, therefore, “you won’t have stories in four years that they bought you off.” (ibid)

Frederick Yang, AKA Advisor B, is mentioned 14 times in the criminal complaint.

Is it inconceivable that our young squire of pay-to-play, whom we know also harbors pronounced penchants for celebrity and for high-rollers, insisted upon hiring only the creme de la creme when it comes to political practices that skirt along the edge of propriety?

Geoff Garin of Garin-Hart-Yang served as chief strategist for Hillary Clinton. Thanks to Ravenstahl's stalwart support for her presidential bid, Bill Clinton hosted a high-dollar fundraiser for Ravenstahl.

If Ravenstahl is indeed purchasing political advice from Mr. Yang, that would be incredibly relevant, newsworthy and entertaining all at the same time. The sheer persistence of evidence about Ravenstahl's pay-to-play practices and the degree to which this has been the central charge levelled against him in the mayoral race would make it so.

I've been e-mailing the Ravenstahl campaign on and off for a while now asking for a confirmation or a denial of these rumors, and I've received no response.

The next time any of you see the Mayor or his campaign manager, I definitely think you should ask them and report back on how it went. You never know their response.


  1. "The next time any of you see the Mayor or his campaign manager, I definitely think you should ask them and report back on how it went."

    Does the mayor ever come to Squirrel Hill, Shadyside or Oakland? I've never seen him in person.

  2. Hats off to Patrick Dowd for running. We needed someone to run, and I needed a break. Patrick is showing a lot of courage and he is making it a race -- as best he can.

    Doug, shame on your for that quote.

    Getting to the head of the class in city council chambers is not all that hard -- as Luke did it. Doug seems to think that nobody rushes to the front row in his business. What a joke.

    (fixed some typos with prior delete.)

  3. Mayor Ravenstahl, along with two of the other three mayoral candidates (not Dok) spoke at the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club's endorsement meeting, held at the Schenley Park Ice Rink, April 19.

  4. Anon, just out of curiousity, who did the 14th Ward Independent Dems endorse?

    As for seeing Ravenstahl on the East End, I could have been clearer. I was referring to seeing Luke in the course of my daily activities. I see Sheilds, Peduto, and Onorato around from time to time and used to see O'Connor quite a bit. I'd certainly never go out of my way to see a local elected official or candidate. I've also never seen Zober in person, but that's not a complaint.


  6. Thanks. I wasn't sure if "Independent" was for real of whether it was like "Democratic" in "German Democratic Republic".

  7. The reports are, amazingly enough, now online on the Allegheny Elections website. I can only seem to get it to work in internet explorer though.

    The money appears to have been frittered away... lots of people on the payroll, lots of consulting, some "computer support", "beads" (mardi gras beads??) and of course, $5,000 to go to the superbowl.

    On a quick look, I don't see Yang or Garin mentioned anywhere.

  8. Anon 12:19 - There are a few possibilities:

    One is that the rumors are false. Which would be fine, but again how hard is it to say, "No, we didn't hire that guy?"

    Another is that there are pages or items missing from the report, which from what I understand was the case at least for a while with the hard copies at the elections office.

    Another I think even more likely scenario is that the expenditures were clandestine in some way -- they easily might have been made by contributors / political well-wishers directly to G-H-Y without ever having graced Ravenstahl's campaign accounts (perhaps through intermediaries like Governor Rendell or their shared "money guy" Ed Gratton.) Matt H does have a point when he says campaign finance regulations aren't perfect.

  9. Ravenstahl's report currently online appears to have all its pages.

    I agree that it could easily be hidden-- thus the "quick look".

  10. Interesting question: included in the report is an emphatically unneeded $150k loan from Dan Onoroto. What is that hiding? Maybe a look at city contracts and Onoroto's finance report is in order?

  11. see lukes campaign staements. under expenses. GHY is his pollster.

  12. The $85 thousand was spent three times, plus another $40 thousand to a Philadelphia media company. Roughly three hundred and five thousand. At least, that was my read of the Ravenstahl filing. If requested, I could go back and get the dates. Now, the filing does not specify what the $85,000's were for, might have been those thousands of mailers we have been getting.

  13. Anon 12:19 says: "...and of course, $5,000 to go to the superbowl."

    Tell me, how in the world would a trip to the Superbowl by the boy who is mayor be a campaign expense? I have no doubt there are some other things buried in 'Lil Lukey's spending and reports.

    Politicians raise all this money and then spend it on themselves?

    Good work if you can get it. (Though first you would have to resign yourself that you're a "prostitute".)

  14. I don't care that Luke spent 5k on the Superbowl. That just makes him look like a putz and makes his donors leary of donating to him in the future. I dole out donations from 20 to 100 bucks. If I see them being used like that then I cut it off. My chump change does not really matter in these big races however beacuse.... The mayor is for sale.