Thursday, July 30, 2009

Back To The Corruption Beat...


We've talked and legislated "pay to play" politics nearly to death in this town, but we've never addressed the flip side of that coin: "Don't pay or you won't play". Now we have a candidate who is raising that allegation in print.

I think if only one or two of these allegedly threatened business owners ever came forward, it would be an awfully big deal.


  1. A candidate typed it. It was published. It appears for all the world to see.

    If it appeared on his campaign blog, would that not have counted? Twitter is what is called micro-blogging.

  2. Peduto made these same allegations....

    Until names are printed and stories are confirmed... this twitter posting has as much value as what the HUDDLER writes on the stall while in the bathroom.

    (this is coming from an anonymous blogger by the way - so take it for what it is worth. The same probably applies to the entire blogosphere...LOL)

  3. I can see MH's question. It doesn't mean it didn't happen, it just adds an air of silliness. "I saw that on one of Kevin Acklin's tweets".

    I can see local business men would be in an awful spot, if they do any government business or even obtain local government issued licenses. A pharmicist could donate to Acklin without fear of reprisal, but any one in the the building field ... Even if Acklin makes it to Mayor, there are Democratic Committee (I believe) sprinkled through out City and County administration.

  4. I'm not doubting Acklin. Just mocking Twitter (I older things in my freezer).

  5. Nothing good can come from the twitter craze. I say often that I am misunderstood because an email or blog post cannot convey sentiment accurately at all times.

    An Acklin staffer came to visit me last night because I was a signature on the petition to have him on the ballot. I enjoyed chatting and in human contact it is normal for stories like the twitter post to be discussed. I even shared an unflattering story about Jack Wagner's senate office and the contact I had with them in 2001. Campaigning brings out lots of stories. People who do not necessarily want to become the spokesperson for a cause will share stories with people/candidates and twitter will be used to repeat them.

  6. I forgot to take the 'have' out of the freezer for my above comment.

  7. Blowback is real. It is also par for the course. It goes along with the lockstep boosterism.

    Giving to a candidate is a sin. Hell, try running for office and being a candidate. And, then try that outside of the "d" party monopoly.

    In TN, it is illegal to run as a candidate for local office and declare your party. That's from mayor on down.

    In Maine, candidates can get public funding to run for office - so as to remove blowback for donors.

    All in all, this makes for another good reason why we need smaller government that doesn't do business with bribes (TIFs) and so many contractors. That GOV MONEY gravy train is poison on many levels and it sucks the life out of the economy.

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  9. Make no mistake -- this stuff happens all the time. DeSantis heard it, Dowd heard it, and now Acklin is hearing it too

    "I'd love to give to you, but the Dread Lord told me..."

    Boogeymen. They really do exist.

    But you know what? Don't blame the boogeymen. They're just doing what they do.

    Blame the people who are afraid of 'em. Blame the people who told that to DeSantis and Dowd and Acklin and probably Harris too, but who decided to cower under the covers of their favors or their city contracts and didn't stand up for what they knew was a better candidate.

    We get the government we deserve, peeps. Every time.

  10. Apparently in New Jersey, you can just give cash. That would solve so many problems.

  11. The story is out there, relatively low-hanging fruit. This It often occurs, but Onorato and his li'l pupil have been particularly aggressive with it. (I'm not saying a Wagner or Shields or X would necessarily be better.)

    Still, it is lying on the table, openly. Will anyone do the legwork in Pittsburgh? If I were an odds-maker . . .

    Hey, Bram ... did you know there is an (apparently unadvertised) water and sewer authority meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Friday at the PWSA offices on Penn Avenue? I sense that if there is to be any worthwhile coverage of what could be an important meeting . . . you're our only hope, Obi-Wan.

  12. Infinonymous - Haha, yes, I was writing a post about it apparently while you were writing that comment. Thanks for the star wars motivation anyway, but a little on the nose don't you think?

    Schultz - I hope you didn't just "out" somebody who didn't want to be outed.

    Anonymous of 5:11 - I hear much of what you're saying, but that's why intimidation sucks, right? It's not "we'll withdraw your special favors gravy train". It's, "We'll withdraw your due process and equal protection under the law. We'll hound you out of business." That's the urban myth, anyway -- we have zero credible evidence. I would like to think the journalists are trying, and if it's not there it's really not so much out there.

  13. Bram, I agree wholeheartedly with bringing attention to the mafioso politics, but I've got a rather large quibble with your chosen hero, and can't think of anywhere else to raise it. Here goes:

    Twitter is the perfect mode of communication for the Acklin campaign. Glib and flippant are the order of the day, both for the medium and the message.

    Seriously, is anyone else upset about the fact that this well-educated, significantly-tenured member of the Pennsylvania bar encounters an instance of corruption and intimidation, and the best he can think to do is write a message about it in 140 characters or less? No press release? No angry, Arlen Specter-style open letter to Ravenstahl/Zober? God forbid he should put his vocation to action and come up with a creative litigation strategy to counter this threat to public order. Nope, better to microblog about it.

    Honestly, I don't get the fascination in the pgh progressive blogosphere with this quixotic excuse for a campaign. Set aside the fact that he's a younger, less-well-financed Mark "27%" DeSantis. Set aside as well that the only thing this campaign is actually effectuating is blocking the true independent, with better name recognition, educational credentials, charisma, and fundraising capacity (didn't hear any bellyaching from Mr. Acklin before he realized that Mr. Harris had twice his cash on hand and counting). The fact is that the ONLY reason he's got support at all is because Luke (rightly, in my opinion) inspires such severe disgust. But disgust isn't a winning electoral strategy, not against the machine incumbent.

    I guess I understand what Acklin gets out of this. He realizes that you'll ignore his longstanding history of being an undistinguished, doctrinaire big money conservative, so long as he spouts platitudes at random council meetings and over the internet. While it's not a path to victory (which Mr. Acklin is undoubtedly smart enough to realize), it is a path to visibility. He'll benefit from the visibility, both in his private career and any future in electoral politics he might have, and it won't have cost him but a couple of tweets and a few hours on Grant St.

    What I don't understand is what y'all get out of this. There's one candidate in the field with a chance, however slim, to knock out Opie Ravenstahl in November. Mr. Acklin is not that candidate.


  14. Anonymous 9:13 - [APPLAUSE]

    I'm not sure I can let you get away with "doctrinaire big money conservative", Anonymous 9:13, without hearing some examples (three digit campaign contributions to high-ranking incumbent statewide Republicans aren't nearly sufficient for my purposes), but applause! Applause! Encore!

  15. Anon 9:13...

    Don't be silly. Franco Jr. has no chance of beating Mayor Opie. He's just another platitude-spouting empty suit, but without the party apparatus and experience.

    He can pretend to be a local version of Obama as much as he wants. [Anybody who heard his speech Monday night, provided they stayed awake through it all, knows what I'm saying.] But he's really just a local version of George W: a rich kid chronic underachiever who owes pretty much everything he has to his famous successful daddy.

  16. Bram,

    9:13 here. Can't tell if the applause thing is sarcastic or not. I'm rather dense.

    Speaking of dense, am I missing something or did Kevin Acklin not consider running for the Republican nomination (until he thought better of it)? And did he not give thousands to Romney, plus a grand to Melissa Hart in a contentious House race, as his HuffPo page attributes to him? Or work for Tom Ridge? This isn't meant to be oblique, and if there's some controversy to any of those points of which I'm not aware, my apologies.

    Moreover, and I guess this relates to my earlier point, I'm unaware of anything that Mr. Acklin has done prior to entering this race that would disabuse me of the limited facts in his public past that paint a picture of someone who's going to side with the little guy. Perhaps he is, but the evidence just isn't there.

    10:09--You're entitled to your opinion on Harris, although I think some of the ad hominems are as untrue as they are unwarranted. But I'm curious how you'd respond to my original points, namely that (1) Acklin doesn't have the necessary characteristics to run a victorious campaign (some of which Harris does have -- I fully admit he probably doesn't have them all and it's an uphill battle, but he does have the ones I listed); (2) Acklin knows that (1) is true; and (3) he's running anyway, and spouting soundbytes to siphon some visibility out of his charade.

  17. Anon 9:13/10:35 - Here goes...

    1. Applause not at all sarcastic, I admired the demonstration of well-reasoned, somewhat overdue argument. However now I already want to take something back from it: the gratuitous beating up on Twitter, and the unfamiliarity with and repulsed horror at the good old-fashioned "trial-balloon". As to "the glib and flippant order of the day", it made me recall a certain YouTube series favorite of mine: LINK. In short, lighten up. Like his method or not, Acklin was the first to bring the issue to light. In like three or four mayoral elections, maybe ever. I don't see Harris bringing anything original to the table.

    2. Thanks for putting Acklin's contributions into accurate perspective. I'm still comforted by his identification with Romney -- Mitt Romney was a liberal Republican from Massachusets and the least neocon Republican this side of Ron Paul. He was just dorky, and put a dog on his car roof. But he was also reasonable on abortion for most of his career. I'd be interested to see if those donations came in before Mitt had a brain transplant at the RNC.

    Since we're on the subject, an Acklin staffer floated to me at their kickoff that they're pretty sure Harris was once a Republican also. In fact he thought it went D-R-D-I. Any confirmation on that?

    3. On "siding with the little guy" -- he is siding with them now. Are you saying he is being an insincere opportunist? I say living in and observing civic life in Pittsburgh can be a rapidly eye-opening experience.

    4. The characteristics to run a victorious campaign and the desire achieve visibility over victory? I'm not convinced about any of you. You're both reasonably close if everything goes perfectly. One of the two should obviously drop out and vociferously support the other before the Dept. of Elections withdrawal deadline. Unless Luke flips his politics at the G-20, then nuts to both of them.

  18. 9:13,

    Just because an attack is ad hominem, that doesn't mean it's not true. Please tell me why I'm wrong about little Franco.

    Meantime, here's how you're wrong about Acklin...

    Acklin was touted as the possible Republican nominee by the Republican Party in Pittsburgh, such as it is. I don't know that he ever considered it.

    He gave to Romney, or so I've been told, because his work at a Boston law firm included work for Romney, who at that time was the very moderate Republican governor of a very blue state. He gave to Romney before Romney veered far right.

    Ridge was a popular, moderate, pro-choice Governor of Pennsylvania. That's a problem?

    (Franco's kid, by the way, used to be a Republican too. And he used to be a Democrat. Twice, right? Now he's an Independent who claims to be a progressive. What's he gonna be next year)

    The Melissa Hart money is a problem for Acklin, as is the Santorum thing. He needs to explain those contributions, and fast.

    Getting past those, though, it's obvious you obviously haven't done much to look into Acklin, or you'd know that he sides with the little guy plenty.

    Lots of volunteer work in the community. Ties to community groups and leaders and projects in Beechview and Brookline and Sheraden and Homewood and the Hill, among many other places that Opie never goes without cameras and Franco Jr. likely wouldn't go without his Dad.

    Pro bono work for community groups and victims of domestic violence. Big Brother for five years. Public supporter of the county anti-discrimination ordinance back when all Republicans, and Luke, and Dan, and Franco Jr. were all conspicuously silent.

    The guy grew up poor as dirt in Oakland and worked for everything he's ever gotten. Side with the little guy? Hell, he IS the little guy.

    The evidence is there, my friend. You just need to acknowledge it.

    What makes you so sure Franco Jr. is going to side with the little guy?

    What "necessary characteristics" does Acklin lack? A famous Dad? A rich Dad? A Democratic machine behind him?

    And while we're talking about charades... explain to me what "necessary characteristics," besides his Dad and his money, make Franco Jr. able to run a victorious campaign.

    I'm willing to be convinced. But so far, I don't see it.

  19. Anon 9:13/10:35 - Oh, and where have I ad hominemed? Where has anyone, prior to Anon 10:09/11:22 up there? From what are you extrapolating my "opinion on Harris"? I think there are some slights being imagined.

  20. Bram,

    mea culpa -- I tried to make it clear that I was referring to the other anonymous by including his timestamp at the beginning of the graph. You made no slights, real or imagined.

    I say this as someone not involved with the campaign -- in fact, I'm watching this whole thing from afar as a victim of the diaspora. I've appreciated your coverage from the jump.

    Incidentally, I agree I was uncharitable to the good folks at Twitter; Tehran over the last 60 days is a testament to it being more than a l'il livejournal. I guess I just think it's a cop out for intelligent public people who use it as a way to release a short a statement as possible as a CYA mechanism. Twitter's OK for reminders, quick thoughts, links...but if you're going to say something substantive, write a letter. Kevin wouldn't tweet his advice to his clients, he shouldn't run his campaign in that medium either.

    Anon 10:09 (NOT BRAM) -- I dunno. Maybe you see something in Acklin I don't. Or maybe you're offended by the fact that Harris grew up well-off. You'd certainly be entitled to feel that way. I just am completely uninspired. His pro bono work is the same kind that every big law firm lawyer does to keep the profile up and provide training to younger associates (not that it doesn't deserve credit...what other profession takes time out of its day for charity work as a rule? but it's not leadership). His statements are calculated to play up the fact that he's not luke ravenstahl and nothing else. And I simply haven't heard anything that makes me think he'll be the steward of a new age in the triangle. I see the potential in Harris, if only because I think he could bridge the gap between the 65+/city employee crowd (I won't use the "y" word), the new young inhabitants, and the african american community. You don't. I get it. Fine. Cheers.

  21. 9:13 etc - Bah! Just noticed that, my mistake. Irony!

  22. Actually, of the Harris trio, I'd vote for Dana Dokmanovich (Mom/Mrs. Harris). She's the straightest shooter in the bunch.

  23. Bram - I gotta wonder. Between touting Acklin's tweets, celebrating Romney, and having Acklin campaigner staff "floating" stuff to you (reminds me of the Baby Ruth swimming pool scene in Caddyshack), I wouldn't be surprised to see you carrying Gastmeyer's notebook at the next ACKlin campaign event.

  24. some reporter should simply ask Yaroone Zober:

    "Have you ever had conversations, made phone calls or sent emails from the Mayor's office threatening retrebution if one were to contribute or otherwise support political candidates or elected officials opposed to Luke Ravenstahl?"

    He has but I doubt if he would own up to it.

    The recent letter from Rob Stephny of the URA to thier "partners."(sent via direct order of Yarrone Zober and Ravenstahl political director, John Verbanec) is yet another intimidation tactic.

  25. Ed Heath: "Business men", eh? No business women?

  26. Look. Acklin and Harris are both smart guys. No doubt about it.

    Let's move on from the personal bashing to the policy.

  27. The only problem, as I see it, is Acklin and Harris are going to pull votes from each other, eliminating anyone's ability to unseat Ravenstahl. They will both draw from that very large pool of disatisfied city residents but they will simply split the pool. They need to decide who has the strongest chance to win and the other should withdraw from the race. Acklin has been out in the communities and is gathering momentum. I haven't seen Harris out and about,as of yet. Both candidates are smart guys but they need to come together on this. It is the only chance at unseating Ravenstahl.