Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reforms of Pittsburgh Spring under Assault

My Adventure :)

I expected the trajectory of City Hall's evolution to be examined in this election, but not quite like this...

Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto's mayoral campaign filed for a court injunction today saying fellow candidates Michael Lamb and Jack Wagner are violating the city's campaign finance law. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

Full statement here. Now, to illustrate the civic environment at the time of that law's passage:

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl termed it "a historic day" for the city, saying it will "give residents the reform they deserve." (P-G 2009, Rich Lord)


"This working together of the administration and Mr. Peduto I think really gives us a guideline to how we can accomplish very significant things in this city," said Councilman Ricky Burgess. (ibid)

So these were some ├╝ber-popular, hard-won reforms not that long ago.

For the record, I bet Michael Lamb has an even chance at having his Controller money ruled kosher for his Mayoral run. Those who donated money to him for Pittsburgh-wide office are likely enough just as enthused about his leadership, and a thorough interpretation of the law might just reflect that. I'm also interested to hear more about his attack on Bill Peduto as a mere "gadfly". It's high time for candidates to lay their reservations about each other on the table, come what may.

But Jack Wagner's leftover money warhead from an unsuccessful run for governor is just the kind of encroachment these reforms were enacted to prevent. I'm not sure the "you all realize he's a great guy" defense is going to serve him well if his reintroduction to local voters is to wipe his feet on our growing legacy of redding up government. Perhaps a quick course correction is in order.


  1. Nothing "mere" about an in-house gadfly, an elected official willing to sting sources of corruption from within government structures that have been all too "pay to play" to fully serve so many basic needs of Us the People, from sewers to public transit. We needed that campaign financing reform law like water in the desert.

  2. I objected to the reforms then, when I was on the campaign reform task force. Knew this would happen.

    Oh well.

    It will be interesting.

    Creative money laundering has to happen or else breakdowns unfold. I don't think we want to reward creative money scrubbing at all.

  3. Case in point, a guy runs for 7 offices at the same time. How much can a donor give then?

    If Wagner give $4k from one PAC from old gov race to run for mayor, fine. Then he could spend the rest on billboards and ads to say vote for Wagner for Government's sake and run again for governor now.

    Zillion of other blind spots can be opened too.

  4. How long will it take the court to rule on this? Will it happen in time for the election? Explain how this really matters.

  5. Re: Lamb's labeling Peduto a "gadfly":

    "The word may be uttered in a pejorative sense, while at the same time be accepted as a description of honourable work or civic duty."

    "Being a gadfly is generally a thankless task. People with something to hide will go to almost any length to discredit one who brings their behaviour to light."

    Lamb and Wagner seem to be striving mightily to attack the messenger and distract from the issue at hand, both are questionable leadership traits.

  6. Anon 8:08 - Why should very large donations from the past and on other side of the state influence our local election today? I'd prefer a mayor who took the time and effort to garner smaller dollar support from Pittsburghers in larger numbers for this office, and be beholden only to all those folks. I'm unsure what's difficult to understand?

  7. This is all very inside baseball and regardless of the merits only appeals to Peduto supporters and the other gadflies. . .

    How about we talk about Peduto cozying up to Fitz donors and Fitz putting the squeeze on them???

  8. As long as its done in $4K increments or whatever the amount that is legal - because we understand it still provides for sufficient political equity - that's fine.

    What do you mean the squeeze? Do you have a contract-oriented donor in mind? Or are you just orbiting a general area of vague speculation?

  9. @Anon 10:41 am

    Do you have ANY evidence that shows that Peduto has swayed to Fitzgerald pressures? I'm sincerely interested in any news links you might provide that demonstrate such influence that might impinge on the health of the democratic process and substantive community input and say over matters that directly impact them.

  10. Well, the question really is how much money is coming to Mr. Peduto from contracts and vendors of the Port Authority and County. AG Kane just indicted a guy whose sole purpose under Gov. Rendell - according to the indictment - was to shake down Turnpike vendors for political campaigns. We all know the Co. Exec is backing Mr. Peduto and it was the guy who he anted to run the Port Authorty who was just indicted by AG Kane. Now, the indictment didn't say that they exceeded campaign finance limits. The crime committed was something else which is known as muscling government money into political support.

  11. You think the head of the Western PA Laborers Union isn't going to expect Peduto to take care of the members of his union that are in public works after he has maxed out donations to Peduto?

    Ravenstahl wouldn't do what the laborers wanted, so they found another candidate.

    Everyone seems to think that the campaign money influences the decisions. What no one ever seems to even try to comprehend is that the politicians milk money from PACs and supporters that will support them no matter what.

    A politician votes with labor 100% and tells the unions he really needs their help. They send checks. If they didn't send checks, 95% of the politicians would still vote with labor 100% of the time because they believe in the middle class.

  12. Anon 1:20 - Yes, but we also all remember that Rendell was a pillar of Ravenstahl's fundraising machine.

    It's the double-edged sword of any major endorsement. Would you rather get the endorsement of the Steelworkers, the police, the Boilermakers, of Reed Smith or PNC Bank? It all requires specifics.

  13. Plus if you cap donations at all, you ARE strengthening the case of a politician needing to reach a wider base of support, which means if Mr. & Mrs. $250 or their kid gets peeved at you it's *more* of a problem. Whole point.

  14. I find it pathetic that we need money to run for office. Pathetic, old-school, ripe for corruption, and a game that has absolutely nothing to do with executing well the tasks of any elected office.

  15. maybe someone should just ask the specific question. Did Bill or did Bill not take more than $5,000 from the SEIU and accept a bill written by them, not him, and move its introduction on the prevailing wage issue. It isn't that hard to ask the question. "Bill, you clearly got lots of money from the SEIU right about the same time you introduced the bill. Did THEY draft the bill and give it to you?" Now look, you might like the bill and that isn't the issue. The issue is whether or not bill doles out political favors to donors and supporters. If he does, then how is he different from anyone else?

  16. flybylight - Careful. Keep that up, pretty soon you'll be calling money pathetic, period.

    Anon 8:50 - Indeed, the time is ripe as times are evidently getting desperate. Can anyone confirm and if necessary explain or otherwise illuminate the Rumor of the SEIU+$5K? Ordinarily this is a Potter, nowadays it can be a Balingit or a Bauder... or even a Boren. Given this means you've also got to get around to running a donor-headhunt on each major candidate... gosh, I wonder how ye olde networke is doing.

  17. It will be hard for Bill to keep that reform image when 2 of his biggest supporters and insiders are Joe Brimmeier and Ben Woods.

  18. I heard that Hitler and Stalin were door knocking for Bill in Squirrel Hill. At least that's what someone told me at the fish fry. Who's the big reformer now, eh?

  19. Bram, do some journalism. Check Lamb's open records website for donations. Then, look and see when the bill was introduced. Then, just ask Bill the question. This isn't that hard. To answer your question, the ye olde network is doing just fine. the network operates in mysterious ways. Is Brimmier part of the network? You bet he is. Think he is the only network guy tied to Fitz? Of course not. The network works through all these candidates. The only difference is which particular network people on the inner circle and then the other ones have to come a calling to them. That is the point with the Bill criticism. He has you guys snowed - big time. He has lots of "connected" people funding and helping him. He is calling the other big timers as we speak telling them he is going to be Mayor and demanding donations. Again, just ask him. See what he says. Lamb has network guys with him as well. Wagner is picking up lots of them right now. A headhunt for donors isn't a bad idea. Like they say, follow the money. Most people don't give a lot of money without wanting something in return. Here is what I suggest. Find out who the big money people are for each candidate. Who is cutting the big checks and hosting the big events that raise tens of thousands. Then, find out what those people do for a living. Investigate why they want to be involved in a campaign. What do they get out of it? Are they good people or bad people? Is their primary motive money and power or something else? Do some investigating into each candidate and their big backers and shed some true light on the situation.

  20. Intro of bill and signed bill are not similar.

    The bill was put in once and I objected w a petition and we had the bill tabled after a public hearing and also support from LOWV too. After it was tabled for a year or so, also awaiting court ruling from a Philly law, it returned w changes.

    It pathway was a long and winding road.

  21. Sheesh Bram. It's so simple. Just start your own newspaper and expose all those big money players! I know, Rich Lord and the PG tried, but they missed so much. If only they'd just asked!

  22. If it keeps dinging around for a couple weeks, we'll get around to it. KIND OF BEHIND.