Biden heads to Pittsburgh

Published by James O'Toole on .

Vice President Joe Biden will be in Pittsburgh Thursday for a private fund-raising event.

An official of the Democratic National Committee, the event's sponsor, said about 40 people were expected to attend the reception at the Fox Chapel home of Pittsburgh lawyer Douglas A, Campbell.  Tickets for the event, which is closed to the public and the press, range from $5,000 and $32,000.   Tom Wolf, the Democratic nominee for governor, was also expected to attend, according to the DNC official. Also on the guest list is U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the Pittsburgh native and former Iowa governor who is a boyhood friend of the host, Mr. Campbell.


Corbett, Wolf campaign in Pittsburgh

Published by James O'Toole on .

After the groundbreaking ceremony for Consol Energy's new Marcellus shale extraction site at Pittsburgh International Airport,  Gov. Tom Corbett, center, talks with U.S, Rep. Tim Murphy.After the groundbreaking ceremony for Consol Energy's new Marcellus shale extraction site at Pittsburgh International Airport, Gov. Tom Corbett, center, talks with U.S, Rep. Tim Murphy. Larry Roberts / Post-Gazette

The candidates for governor had dueling appearances in Pittsburgh Monday although partisanship seemed to take a back seat to celebration in both cases.

 Gov. Tom Corbett was at the Pittsburgh International with county Executive Rich Fitzgerald heralding the Consol Energy's big drilling lease on the airport property.

Democrat Tom Wolf stopped by the Roberto Clemente museum to accept an endorsement and a number 21 cap from Roberto Clemente Jr.

Encouragement of the Marcellus shale gas drilling has been central to the policies of both Mr. Corbett and Mr. Fitzgerald.  Mr. Corbett differs from Mr. Wolf on how the gas development should be taxed, but  the Republican  didn't touch on that issue, as he lauded the boost to the county from the two decades of royalty payments the county and the airport can anticipate from the drilling on the site.

Across town, Mr. Wolf stayed positive as well as he appeared with Robert Clemente Jr. _  who won't vote for the Democrat, but encouraged others to.

Mr. Clemente lauded Mr. Wolf's business background in urging a vote for the Democrat.  He called Pittsburgh his second home as he stood among the photographs and memorabilia of the figure who would have been 80 on Aug. 18.

Mr. Clemente cited his competing ties to Puerto Rico, and his current home, Houston, Texas in explaining why he wouldn't be able to mark a ballot for his choice in the Pennsylvania governor's race.


New PAC involved in state Senate contest

Published by Kate Giammarise on .

Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York, the state senate's newest member -- and an outspoken one at that -- has formed a new PAC and is already weighing in on a race in the western corner of the state.

Mr. Wagner's Reform PA PAC has sent mailers in support of Camera Bartolotta, a Republican challenger seeking to unseat incumbent Democrat Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, in the 46th district, which covers Greene and parts of Washington and Beaver counties.

Observers have already predicted this contest could get expensive.

Mr. Wagner, a business owner who took office in April after a special election where he won as a write-in candidate, has spent big on supporting what he considers pro-business candidates in the past.

Mr. Wagner said the PAC could be involved in other Senate races but he expects it will be focused on this contest. Republicans hold a narrow 27-23 majority in the state Senate, an edge Democrats are hoping to erase or narrow this November.

Mr. Wagner said he believes Ms. Bartolotta is an excellent candidate and will bring her small business knowledge and independent thinking to Harrisburg.


Tomalis parking records answer few questions

Published by Mike Pound on .


If nothing else, we can be sure there's a car in Harrisburg that earned its $140,000 salary over the last year.

In an effort to prove that Ron Tomalis actually did some work during the year he spent with the state education department as a special adviser appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett, department officials released on Thursday eight pages of parking records that purport to show that Tomalis did the work he was hired to do.

Mr. Tomalis, a former state secretary of education, resigned last week in the middle of a burgeoning debate over whether his was a ghost position in the department. He was appointed by Gov. Corbett more than a year ago at the same $140,000 salary he earned as the department's secretary, but the Corbett administration has since had a hard time coming up with any evidence -- other than glowing reviews from current ed Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq -- that Mr. Tomalis did any actual work.

Work logs released by the department show few appointments. And contacts at the state's universities say they had not dealings with Mr. Tomalis, a curious thing given that he was hired to serve as the governor's adviser on higher education.

But hey -- look! Parking records!

Our friends at the Patriot-News got a look at the parking records, which include information from 2014. They helpfully did some math as well: since Jan. 2, Mr. Tomalis checked in at the education department's parking garage 127 days, for an average of 3.85 workdays per week. On the days Mr. Tomalis showed, he generally arrived just after 9 a.m. and left after 4 p.m.

Do the parking records answer the questions about Mr. Tomalis and his job? They show that his ID card was arriving at the office almost four days a week, but they definitely do not tell us what he did once he was there. A thorough accounting of emails produced by Mr. Tomalis could have helped clear things up, but those were deleted almost daily, in possible violation of the department's records-retention policy.

As calls for more details about the work Mr. Tomalis did for the state continue, we have some advice for those who are trying to justify his tenure: proof about the work he did will be more convincing than proof that he took his car for a drive every day.


Council is all wet

Published by James O'Toole on .

The latest not-so-hot news from Grant Street from our colleague Robert Zullo:

It was about what you'd expect from a bucket of ice water at 10 a.m.
"It was cold. but it went well," City Councilman Dan Gilman said after he and his colleague Councilman Corey O'Connor helped each other participate in the "Ice Bucket Challenge," a viral online phenomenon to raise money and awareness for  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig's Disease.
The councilmen dumped the buckets over each others' heads Wednesday morning in the portico at the Grant Street entrance to the City-County Building.  "I would argue that my bucket that was dumped on me had more ice in it, so my water was colder. Corey got off easy," Mr. Gilman said.
Both said they had received numerous challenges on social media as well as from media outlets and intend to donate $100 each to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association's Western Pennsylvania chapter.
Mr. O'Connor claimed that his shorter stature meant he got the worst of the dousing.
 "He's taller than I am so more of his bucket went directly on me. I think I missed him a little bit," Mr. O'Connor said. "I challenged the remainder of council, so now they're all on the hook."