CP: Ravenstahl supports same-sex marriage

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Nice story today from Lauren Daley at the Pittsburgh City Paper on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announcing his support of same-sex marriage. It starts:

How did you come about this decision? Earlier in the year, a Post-Gazette article quoted your office as saying you did not support it.

This is actually a position I've had for some time. This isn't obviously an issue that crosses my desk on a daily basis. It is something that I believe. It is something I'm proud to now sign the Mayors for Marriage Equality, and join fellow mayors in the state and across the country in the effort. Hearts change, minds change. I had numerous discussions with members of my staff who are gay, friends who are gay, and as I said, hearts change and mind change, and mine has changed.


Union curve ball for liquor privatization

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Looks like liquor privatization is off for years: the union for workers in the state-run system have signed a contract extension that will hold off privatization, its leader says.

From the AP's Peter Jackson:

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Efforts to privatize the sale of liquor and wine in Pennsylvania encountered what could be a serious setback Tuesday as the union representing 3,500 employees of Pennsylvania's state-owned liquor stores announced that they have ratified a new labor contract that runs through mid-2015.

One union leader said the pact requires any private companies that take over all or any portion of liquor and wine sales to hire displaced state-store employees and to adhere to contract provisions covering salaries, health insurance and pension benefits.

The state must advise prospective operators that the contract is "binding in its entirety upon them for the duration of its term," said Wendell W. Young IV, president of Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents more than 2,000 employees in eastern and central Pennsylvania.

"This, I think, really makes any discussion of privatization moot for several years," Young said in a telephone interview.

The four-year contract with two UFCW locals, which is retroactive to July 1, 2011, when the terms of the previous contract were extended, provides pay raises totaling more than 4 percent.

Union members approved the contract, 85 percent to 15 percent, in regional meetings Sunday.

The vote came amid a renewed effort by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai to put a privatization bill up for a House vote before lawmakers adjourn for their summer break in June.

A call seeking comment was left with Turzai's spokesman, Steve Miskin.

Gov. Tom Corbett has said he supports closing the more than 600 state-owned stores, but his office had no immediate comment.


Santorum announcement Friday

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Rick Santorum will make a "big announcement" about his future come Friday. From ABC News:

Longtime Santorum adviser John Brabender tells ABC News Santorum will announce what he's doing next after his failed presidential bid, but he wouldn't reveal much more. The former presidential candidate has written in fundraising emails to supporters that he will let them know what's next for him as soon as he is able to retire his campaign debt. After the last reporting period, the Santorum campaign owed $2.2 million.

Brabender said Santorum will not announce that he's running for another elective office.

Two other insiders familiar with Santorum's thinking said the announcement could have more to do with the issues that Santorum plans to pursue through his political action committee.


DeWeese and his familiar roommate

Published by Laura Olson on .

Our friends at Capitolwire are having a good week already: first they broke news (even to legislators) about a proposed lucrative tax credit for Shell Oil Company, and hours later on Monday, they had an even better bombshell for state political junkies:

Former state House Speakers Bill DeWeese and John Perzel currently are roommates at Camp Hill State Prison.

Yup, the Greene County Democrat and the Philadelphia Republican, both convicted in the attorney general's Bonusgate probe for misusing state dollars for campaigning, are awaiting their final placement among the state's correction facilities.

In the meantime, the once-powerful duo are bunking together and cracking jokes in the dining hall. Capitolwire notes that's an improvement for DeWeese, who was initially rooming with Mike Manzo, his former chief of staff and a prosecution witness against him during his January trial:

State Corrections Department spokeswoman Sue Bensinger confirmed the two and Manzo are at Camp Hill and housed in the same 120-prisoner unit. The prison system, understandably does not saying who is cellmating with whom.

Asked why Manzo would be paired with DeWeese, when his testimony helped imprison the former Speaker, Bensinger said it would not happen with violent criminals but sometimes would with non-violent offenders.

Asked if it wasn't odd to have two ex-Speakers rooming together, Bensinger said: "It's an unusual occurrence to have this many former lawmakers there at the same time. Very unusual."

DeWeese is reportedly in high spirits and has not lost the charm that made him popular in Harrisburg (on his way into prison, he stated his goals were to obey the rules, stay in shape and make new friends):

Another reason might be moments like a recent trip to the prison dining room, where a guard teased DeWeese: “Here comes Sticky Fingers.”

DeWeese roared with laughter, as he tells the story and responded: “I’m Sticky Fingers?”

He pointed at himself: “They accused me of [misusing] $100,000.”

He pointed at Perzel: “They accused him of $10 million! He’s the Sticky Fingers!”

Perzel, guards, other inmates crack up.

Photo: PoliticsPA


Corbett attacked in new anonymous ad

Published by Tim McNulty on .

A mostly anonymous non profit is back with another ad attacking Gov. Tom Corbett, this time over his appointment of a coal industry exec (and GOP funder) to head the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Starts the ad:

Our eyes are wide-open, Governor Corbett.

We saw you take money from a former coal executive whose company polluted our drinking water. And then we watched you appoint him to a position that polices environmental permits.

The spot from Democratic consultant Bud Jackson is set to run through the rest of the week. In a statement released with the ad Jackson criticizes Corbett for appointing Walker and other contributors to state positions:

"The perception is pay to play with some of these appointments," said AWF Action Fund chair, Bud Jackson. "How could it not be? You give his campaign over $100,000 and – poof! – you are a former executive for a company widely reported as a polluter and now you are in charge of environmental permits for the entire state. Alan Walker's appointment wasn't an isolated incident. Corbett has established a record or rewarding donors and cronies. It's time to shine the light on it."

But Jackson himself still will not shine a light on who is funding his ad campaign. "Social welfare" 501c(4) non profits can run political education ads under IRS rules while keeping their funders anonymous, and the only known person besides Jackson involved in his American Working Families fund is fellow Democratic strategist John Balduzzi.

How can a related fund that had only $118 (yes, one hundred and eighteen) in its coffers as of April 15 (according to Open Secrets) pay for "several hundred thousand dollars" worth of advertising two years before Corbett faces reelection? Welcome to the Wild West of campaign advertising circa 2012.