Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Day's events: Campaign Finance exception triggered, Patrick Dowd endorses


All of a sudden, it's no-limit Indian poker:

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James initially ruled that Wagner could not use the money he raised to campaign for governor in 2010 and during his campaign for auditor general, a position he held from 2005 to 2013.
But Wagner's attorney, Edward Friedman, introduced additional evidence following that ruling, including two checks that Lamb donated to his own campaign in December — one for $2,000 and one for $50,000. Those donations triggered another part of the city's campaign finance law, voiding the donation limits for all candidates, James ruled. (Trib, Adam Brandolph)

The judge enforced the law, but Lamb's curious $52,000 contribution to himself earlier triggered a voiding of the limits in this race.

Wagner alleges the law was simply poorly written, so the next question should be whether he himself thinks limiting campaign spending is important, and what he would do to fix it...

In any event, if a necessary loophole in the law was cagily exploited (using one's "own" money being an inalienable right, even it is "Controller" money) the voters can just close it themselves.



In other news, Councilman Patrick Dowd has endorsed:

“Never before has it been more crucial for city and county government to work shoulder to shoulder on issues such as water and sewer system reinvestment, transportation and economic development,” Dowd states as the foundation for his endorsement. (

Dowd's prior hesitations and reservations about Peduto (and about the blogs sometimes) are already on record, but the guy has his head screwed on right. He always has. His vote of confidence in Peduto's ability to bring people together is valuable. A mayor's capacity to innovate and invest successfully is important, and that takes not only political courage and ability but enormous amounts of trust and confidence.

The kind of leadership the Mayor's office lacks, as a unit, right now.



  1. When did Dowd criticize the blogs?

  2. Anon 6:02 - The Council president race of Jan '08 (and '10), the blogs' reaction to his role during Billboardgate, maybe certain aspects of the parking lease wars... I shouldn't say he ever criticized their existence or role, but he's hardly ever been shy about going against their grain.

  3. Screwed on right and Dowd in the same sentence, ... hummm. Makes me think of how the students, citizens and PPS got screwed, thanks to Patrick Dowd, for empowering Mark Roosevelt and closing Schenley High School.

    We got the shaft. He delivered the shaft.

  4. Mark - That's another good example. He addressed it. And remember he was operating with the information the PPS Administration provided the School Board at the time.

    One of these days I'll have to ask him his reflections on the Roosevelt era. A good question for anybody.

  5. Funny how Peduto keeps trying to push candidates out through legal moves rather than simply standing on his own record

    Next he will be attacking the petition signatures for Wagner.

    Peduto does not do well in Citywide polling because he comes off as pompous and arrogant.

    Does not help that he did not know the campaign finance limit law (he supposedly authored) well enough to keep from wasting the court's time.

    It especially does not help that appears to be in Fitz's pocket.

    Shame that we have progressed from "Nobody's Boy" to "Fitz's Boy".

  6. Anon 11:30 - I find your worldview compelling, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. Can you share this "Citywide polling" that does not show Peduto ahead? My take on rumors of polling data is, show me pics or it. Didn't. Happen.

    I got phone-polled yesterday on the candidates in the race and solely on the UPMC tax exemptions issue. I wonder which candidate is licking their finger to test the winds...

  7. Bram, for the record, Dowd addressed it and got a "FAIL." There are a couple of comments on the video page on YouTube from me from 4 years ago.

    This is one of those, "we don't talk about it topics" that he was railing about. Politician double-talk alarms and red flags are still waving.

    Dowd's senseless acts crushed the PPS District and cause the bleeding of tens of millions of dollars without any investment shown and furthermore cost the loss of thousands of students from the ranks of the district that is still in a downward spiral today.

    He can make all the endorsements he desires. Of course he was going to endorse Peduto too. But don't try to sell the "head on straight" crap as those who were there and witnessed his folly are not buying that for a heart-beat.

  8. Dowd's a douche and he's even oblivious to that fact. These guys on council write laws all the time that aren't worth a bunch of beans. That big sucking sound you heard Monday was Jack Wagner sucking all the air outta Bill Pedutos campaign. Bill can have the paramedics, they're a strange crew as it is and fit neatly into Peduto off beat, pseudo hipster crowd. Sheet metalworkers yuk yuk. If OWS had a union, oh wait they do.SEIU and we know who those characters support!

    I'd much rather have a guy who can go to Harrisburg and get something done working with local and state legislators.You know guys and dolls who know him from his 16 years in in Harrisburg. That's about the same amount of time Peduto has spent on the fifth floor in some capacity or another. Sure Bill knows all the groovy hip hop DJ 's but unless Guy takes him by the hand to see his brothers and cousin, he still just another guy from Walnut St.

  9. This is like watching "Survivor Pittsburgh - The Mayor's Race" Agree with Rauterkus re Dowd and Schenley/Roosevelt/PPS. There are a series of people who will never have my vote because of that debacle . . . and Peduto is one of them. Bill talks out of both sides of his mouth, but anyone who was there KNOWS he was not there for Schenley supporters. Has he ever met an East End developer he didn't like?

    But can I vote for the throwback Wagner? Or Wheatley? Another whole story . . . good thing I don't have to decide until May 21. A write in is looking better and better.

  10. "Not MH" is a laff riot! Any sheet metal worker who pulls up at a Crazy Mocha today in an EMS truck and shows a union card gets a free latte!

  11. Anon 1:46 This is BS: He has a real tough time with Walnut Capital and others since he stood up for our neighborhoods. Anyone who has been there has witnessed it. Wc donated to Luke not Peduto. He funded work to look at the Schenley...and that at least allowed an open process, which by PPS standard was a an improvement. We all would have like to have seen a different outcome on Schenley, but the political winds of the School Board prevented any success. Peduto is the solution to old school machine politics. Wagner guarantees more of the same Ravenstahl style, network back politics. Bill will do a great in Harrisburg because he is able to cross the aisle on substance not back room back slapping. Wagner is all talk and no substance.

  12. Anon 10:05

    Peduto crossing the aisle?

    What a laugh.

    He has been the biggest obstructionist to progress in this City.

    It has always been his way or we are not going to do it.

    My perception of his attitude for the last 8 years has been "If I make the mayor look bad enough, maybe voters will believe in me." I, for one, don't.

    His inability to work effectively with the executive branch speaks volumes about how he will be able to deal with 1) the Pittsburgh Council and 2) Harrisburg

    His challenges in his district are much easier than the challenges that Kraus, Levelle and Burgess face.

    He has shown little or no interest in public safety until it suits him politically.

  13. Are we talking about the same mayor? What has Peduto obstructed that he oughtn't?

  14. So much nonsense in the comments. We're talking about politicians, right? Support the one with the plan that comes close to what you want to see. Oh, that's right, it would be really tough to do that with Wagner since he has bubkus as far as any plans on his website and it's been more than 30 days since Luke's announcement. FAIL.

  15. @Rick

    I agree with you that Peduto has communicated far more concrete, thoughtfully specific policy visions for the future than Wagner's soft-focus, big-fuzzy sketches. But I also respect that Peduto's future plans are based on a foundation of actual legislative accomplishments over time. You can see where Peduto stands by where he has actually won ground, by what he has DONE for the city, not just what he says he'll do.

  16. Anon 10:05 AM
    Your problem is you don't get it. Pete Flaherty started the " nobody boys" bull crap. Pete had his people and they got rich; Caliguiri another reform guy same deal the money rolled into the caliguiri coffers . Sophie was like Elizabeth the first; only joe of Mistick knows where her $$ came from.Tom Murphy Murphy opened his campaigns to multiple developers and is no a very well of landholder in butler county. Bobby O had Dennis Regan and not enough time. The boy Mayor came in naive and leaves under possible indictment. The network, the money, the developers they already have Peduto, Wagner. Jake wheatley c'mon. Check out his FB page. and AJ a race baiting lunatic who the other candidates give respect.thats reason to not vote for any of them.

    So yeah Peduto is up to his neck in commitments to $$$.

  17. Anon 11:46 - So you're saying it'll never change and we shouldn't bother? Can you demonstrate your allegation that "the Network, the money, the developers they already have" Peduto, and "up to his neck," or are you just confusing readers, laying down suppressing fire? We have already seen the URA, the police union, this Mayor's office with its rollodex lining up behind Wagner, just as we see Wagner argued in court that we should now lift all donation limits.

  18. Dude you're not as naive as you pretend. The office is the magnet! Just as Obummer has managed to fill the coffers of his cronies with green energy scams,Peduto will bring in his coterie of supporters all with their own little kingdom to be made. The guy you support didn't even understand his own election finance law. Go to court whine and cry only to find out your law created the exemption. Dumb is the only word to use. I see Jack is already hitting at BP's independence from the Once and Future King, Fitty the Great, keeper of letters and secrets.

  19. Anon 1:34

    Agree with you completely.

    How can a person that did not even understand a law he authored be expected to effectively run a City?

  20. Going to court is how you make a law work. It's a branch of government. It's there to use. Lamb took $2K back from his $52K contribution to himself, it was a legitimate point of clarification as to the $50K threshold on the "millionaire's clause". Which, by the way, was written in by Ravenstahl and Onorato and a condition of Ravenstahl's allies supporting anything. Try writing a law sometime.

  21. Bram, Peduto's suit never raised the $50,000.00 issue. This resolution is a mess and it was a mess long before Ravenstahl suggested anything. Council again focussed on looking like something was getting done rather than on actually getting something done.

  22. Agreed, Peduto did not. Wagner's defense raised the $50K "millionaire's clause issue", and appropriately so if he decided to be cutthroat and disrespect the wishes of ordinary voters who don't have that kind of money. The judge ruled the law VALID AND ENFORCEABLE, then enacted the bit about the millionaire's clause.

    Chanting that it's a mess, it's a mess, it's a mess, is a cannily political strategy given our lazy media but it doesn't make it so. The judge ruled it CLEARLY ENORCEABLE. The loophole Ravenstahl, Onorato and Harris insisted on inserting is now allowing Wagner to collect unlimited money. Own it.

  23. The judge ruled nothing of the sort. According to some reports, the judge was very critical of the law. He left it in place but never came close to suggesting it was 'clearly enforceable.'

  24. Now that the Pittsburgh reform efforts for campaign finance swirls in the toilet for this race, what does that mean in next rounds of questions? Can Josh Joshua Wander go ahead and get a $1M donation from the PAC of Barbara Haeffer or Jeb Bush? He is running for mayor. He is NOT with a contested primary. Will there be a ceiling for the general election?

    The original version of the ordinance from Bill Peduto looked at limits per election and per election cycle and per length of term. We talked about all of that as part of the reform committee that was trying to craft a great bill. However, I don't remember how it resolved in the final outcome.

    So, can a PAC, say the TEAMSTERS give $3,999 to a candidate for mayor in the primary (in April) and then again another $3,999 (better to be safe and under the $4,000 limit) in the fall (in August). Or, was it just up to $4K for both elections? And, if that is true, can $4K be given in April and then another $4k giving in mid November, a week or so after the actual election?

    So, if the judge had ruled that the law was in effect, could Jack Wagner have taken his quarter million dollars still in his PAC (political action committee) bank account from past races (PA Governor's venture) and paid $1,000 of that money to 300 people to open up their own issue PAC and then those same 300 people could have made $950 donations from their newly minted PAC back to Jack's PAC for the mayor's race?

  25. Heard that the limit was 50/50 in that a $4,000 limit would mean that only $2K to come in the primary and another $2K could come in the general election time periods.

    But, that isn't "confirmed" and it doesn't really matter any more for this race.

  26. I hear Wagner threw a bash at the common plea for all ward chairs and various allies. 20+ ward chairs showed plus some vice chairs from wards where the chair was a Peduto supporter.Among those in attendance were , Lamb, Ferlo, and Darlene Harris. It's only a matter of time before the obvious happens; wagners the next mayor.

  27. I hate the "done deal mentality."

    We will see in due time. This is a three or four way race and the majority is still firmly in the undecided camp, where they should be, mostly.

    Pittsburgh people can think again.

  28. Can Josh Joshua Wander go ahead and get a $1M donation from the PAC of Barbara Haeffer or Jeb Bush?

    I'm going to go ahead and bet that neither of them really wants to risk $1 million on that much of a long shot.

  29. Anon 12:56 - what the heck are "ward chairs"?

  30. They are what you put in the street to hold your place along the route of the Leave It To Beaver parade.

  31. Oh Bram, so close yet so far away! And while MH is as always humorous, in the political vernacular, a ward chair is the Democratic Chairperson.

  32. Bram,

    You have to stop saying that the judge ruled that the Ordinance was "valid and enforceable."

    No one asked him to rule on that.

    The Plaintiff in an action demanding enforcement certainly doesn't stand to benefit by questioning the validity of the law he's asking a judge to enforce, and Wagner DID NOT ASK Judge James to rule on whether it was enforceable.

    Wagner simply went into Court to get a ruling consistent with his desired interpretation of the Ordinance, which failed on first pass, and succeeded on the second one.

    We are all entitled to our own opinion, but the facts are the facts.

  33. Well, by failing on the "c'mon, pretty please" defense and then succeeding using a clause of the actual law itself, that's a pretty good indication that the law means something.

    If you think Wagner might have succeeded by challenging the validity of the law, why didn't he just do that? It would have done us all a favor and embarrassed his opponent to boot. Funny he didn't put his money where your mouth is.

  34. Ward chair. You know, Pete Wagner is Democratic chairman of the 19th Ward, Jeanne Clark is chairman of the 7th Ward, Sam Hens-Greco is 14th Ward chair. The elected leader of each ward. In some wards, the chair dictates who their underlings, the county party committeemembers in that ward, will vote for at the party endorsement and in the election.

    The "common plea", BTW, is a downtown restaurant frequented by drunken judges.

  35. Bram,

    In government, a law is presumed valid unless it is successfully challenged.

    It clearly wasn't in Wagner's interest to raise his attack(s) on the validity of the law itself.

    He desired an immediate ruling from the Court. Had he raised his attack on the validity of the law, we might still not have a ruling.

    And had the millionaire's clause not been implicated, the judge would have ruled that the contribution limits don't even apply to Mayor/Controller elections in the first place.

    Nobody puts their money where my mouth is... That's why you still have a job! LOL

  36. @Shawn

    You write: "It clearly wasn't in Wagner's interest to raise his attack(s) on the validity of the law itself."

    It clearly wasn't in the interest of We the People Without Deep Pockets for Wagner to challenge and invalidate that law for this election.

  37. Sophistic packaging, tangled qualifications, legalistic prettification of "Good Old Rich Boys Unite Again" - whatever you want to call it, Wagner's attack on the actual practice of that campaign finance law did real damage to equitable democratic process and the possibility of a far more fair and level playing field.

  38. None can level the playing field. Can't happen. Trying to do so is foolish, IMHO.

    Rather, the thing to do is illuminate it fully. There are bumps, holes, grades, steepness and all sorts of other nasty ways that the field of life is less than fair or even close to being fair.

    Point them out.

    Having OPEN and FULLY TRANSPARENT PACs with real time reporting of every cent going in and coming out of the campaign is what I'm talking about.

    An equitable democratic process and the possibility of a far more fair and level playing field comes with public financed elections. I'm not sure that's ideal either. But that's the only real way to get something that is far more fair with a level playing field.

  39. @Mark

    I'm all for public financed elections, increasingly common around the world and with generally good results, or at least with clear betterment.

    By the way, I meant to second Bram's compliment on the excellency of one of your recent comments - too sleepy to go find it right now.

  40. Flattery .... bucking to get called Excellency X 2.


    Have a good weekend all.

    Who is going to live blog the next debate on Saturday, in less than a day? Remember, wifi isn't so good in the ex-Peabody auditorium / lobby. Anyone with a simple audio recorder for a mp3 file would be welcomed too.

  41. Well, a pretty lazy attempt at Excellency X2, even if I do say so myself.

    I'll be at the debate, but I'm already way behind on my promised Part II post to the Comet, so I'm bowing out.

  42. I might livetweet if I can get service in there.

  43. To Bram - most Ward Chairs work in the city. Part of the deal - they get the people in power their votes - they then get a job with the City. The reason why Peduto and Rudiak did not go for the democratic endorsement is because the vote is in the bag - as the ward chairs will all vote for Lukie then. How could you not if you work for the City and Lukie is the mayor? This is a governance flaw but obviously a strategic ploy for those in power. If you seek the democratic endorsement and then not get it, you cannot run as an independent. Some of these ward chairs have thug-like mentality and because they are there due to their democratic affiliation - They run the others into the ground especially those they see as a threat. They are obviously not there because they are qualified for their jobs but because of their political affiliations.

  44. To all those that think passing illegal legislation like gun bans and fracking bans because "at least Bill is standing for something." How did his poorly written election law work out for ya? Guy can't even be good at being bad.

  45. Helen,

    The real question is, "Why, since the millionaire's clause was a part of the Ordinance, and Councilman Peduto, who wrote the Ordinance, was aware of that, knowing that Michael Lamb had likely already triggered it, did he not simply follow the remedy provided by the millionaire's clause and raise money with no limits?"

    I'll answer: Less-than-desirable statutory construction.

    This much is clear: Almost no one who is/was subject to the Ordinance was clear on how it was to properly operate, Councilman Peduto included.

    Helen, you should read the Ordinance with a keen eye and you will find that, as written, the Ordinance doesn't work, for numerous reasons.

    Anytime a law is written with multiple, plausible interpretations, THAT's a problem.

    Blame Jack Wagner and Michael Lamb all you want. The person you should blame is the person who wrote it.

    When a law is broken, blame the lawbreaker. When following the law results in the occurence of multiple ubsurdities, blame the law.

  46. Helen,

    And as for what is in the interest of "We The People Without Deep Pockets", a large group of which I am a member, it never serves our interests to be told that laws we generally support aren't actually capable of doing what they're advertised to do because our elected local lawmakers didn't bother to either due their due diligence, proofread or don't really understand the law.

  47. Jack Wagner has spent the last 18 years working in Harrisburg. He has not been a decision maker or policy maker in Pittsburgh. Bill Peduto has spent the last 18 years being an active decision and policy maker in a Pittsburgh. And yet Wagner in a short two weeks has overtaken the presumptive leader in the race with little effort. Menawhile Peduto seems to be stuck at 30 %. Honestly, if you're not sure of Peduto after he's spent the last 6 years being the the the face of mayoral opposition, you're not going there. I haven't even seen or heard a commercial yet, but it looks like voters are settling in early !

  48. Each and every person who comments on this blog is a hack, aren't they? :o How long has it been this way?

  49. Shawn Carter, your post yesterday points to a problem that really needs to be addressed in city government - the decline of the City Council into no-discussion legislation.

    How could a piece of legislation get passed with such a thing as a millionaire's trigger? By arriving at the table, sloughing around on the table, being beaten up for high-horse postures standing for low-count corruptibility, and then being passed with the thought that "we should just get it passed already, we can fix it later."

    You are still working in City Council, you could make discussion - real, deep, complete, and engaging discussion - of legislation happen before it is even introduced. I know you know how, you and I both have attempted it. I don't mean just going to everyone's office and trying to gloss over the issues and get them to agree to vote on it, I mean sitting down at a table with your colleagues and discussing the ins and outs of the legislation, bringing in outside opinions (not paid consultants or yes-persons, not anyone with a vested interest in it passing with loopholes), and making it the best it can be.

    I am saddened by the judge's decision, because the spirit of the law, the intention of the millionaire's clause, was that a person with boundless personal resources (not campaign money, not loans) should not have an unfair advantage.

    I am saddened that we even need money to get people's attention in an election.

  50. flybylight:

    Like it or not, whether we agree with it or not, any citizen wishing to seek elective office is entitled, under the First Amendment, to spend as much of their own personal resources as they choose, because the Supreme Court rules that as "protected speech."

    So, barring the two millionaire's clauses, the Ordinance would have faced a short half-life, because the minute it was challenged by some candidate wishing to contribute, say, $15,000 of his own money into his own campaign, he/she would have marched straight down to 700 Grant Street, and that would have been the end of it right there, two years ago.

    Having established that, the only way any Campaign Finance regulation would be fair is to account for that for the candidates who don't have that luxury.

    The question you should be asking -- because it is key -- is how did the legislation pass in its' final version with the flaws it contains?

    How did City Council pass Comprehensive Campaign Finance Regulations that only tie the hands of candidates for City Council? How did that get not 5, 6, 7 or 8 but 9 votes?

    Of course Mayor Ravenstahl signed it, no one on Council objected.

    And of course he followed it, he was the only candidate for Mayor who managed to raise a million dollars while following it.

    The legislation, in theory, sounds good, but in practice, is perhaps the single best piece of incumbency protection legislation ever passed by City Council.

    And it gets better. You'll have to wait until my longer explanation graces this site to read it, though.

  51. flybylight:

    And we have to get over this obsession with the "spirit" of the law.

    We don't live in a society where people are often bound to the spirit of the law. If we did, we probably wouldn't need laws or lawyers.

    As you know, we codify laws because the boundaries established in laws are the bare minimum we will, as a society, accept in terms of the behavior of individuals, groups and organizations.

    I can't expect you to live up to my hopes and dreams. I should be able to expect you to live up to the "letter" of the laws that govern our society.

  52. SORRY I WAS GRUMPY ON April 7, 2013 at 6:48 PM