County officials, ACLU challenge voter ID law

Published by Administrator on .

Allegheny County officials will join forces with the ACLU and other organizations to challenge the state's new Voter ID law.
The law, which will require voters to produce one of several types of government-approved photo identification before they can cast ballots, is scheduled to take effect for the Nov. 6 general election. The measure was signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in March.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald will outline his administration's support for legal efforts to block the implementation of the new requirement at a 2 p.m. press conference today.
Among those joining him at the courthouse event will be Controller Chelsa Wagner. Wagner said her office will file a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the challenge to the Voter ID law now pending in Commonwealth Court.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the Advancement Project, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Washington, D.C., law firm of Arnold & Porter last month asked appeals court judges to overturn the law.
Their complaint alleges that the photo ID requirement violates the state Constitution by making it harder for some citizens, especially the elderly and minorities, to vote.


Corbett goes all-out for cracker credits

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett isn't just joining hands with organized labor to get tax credits for the Shell cracker plant approved -- he's even getting UPMC & Highmark in the same room.

The governor wants the health care giants to keep negotiating on a contract past their current drop-dead date in 2015, and apparently he wants them to help lobby for $1.65 billion in Marcellus-related tax credits too. He got his 2010 gubernatorial rival Dan Onorato (now a Highmark exec) to attend yesterday's cheerleading session on the tax credit plan (and its promise of thousands of construction and industry jobs) along with an exec from UPMC and a bipartisan group of legislators, union officials and civic boosters.

The full list of attendees is below:

DCED Secretary Alan Walker
Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser
Labor & Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway
Senator Elder Vogel (R)
Representative Jim Christiana (R)
Representative Jim Marshall (R)
Representative Robert Matzie (D)
Representative Jared Gibbons (D)
Beaver County Commissioner/Chairman, Tony Amadio (D)
Beaver County Commissioner, Joe Spanik (D)
Dave Spigelmyer, Chairman of Marcellus Shale Coalition
Rich Stanizzo, Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades
John DeFazio, District Director, United Steelworkers International Union
Dan Onorato,Highmark
Gina Pfederhirt, UPMC
Chris Masciantonio, U.S. Steel
Louis D'Amico, Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association
Jim Cassidy, Insulators Local #2
Patty Horvatich, Allegheny Conference/Pittsburgh Regional Alliance
Mark Angle, Boilermakers Local #154
Mark Thomas, Iron Workers Local #3
Louis Gilberti, Carpenters
Bill DiCioccio, Center Township Supervisor
Mike Sisk, Center Township Supervisor
Michael Jones, Potter Township Supervisor
Larry Nelson, IBEW Local 712
Joe Didiano, Cement Masons Local 526
Thomas Rager, United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local #47
Thomas Melisko, Operating Engineers
Mike McDonald, Construction and General Laborers' Local #833
Frank Telesz, IBEW Local 712
Sam Prodonovich III, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 57
John Malagise, IBEW, Third District
Daniel Rains, McCarl's, Inc.
William Cornell, McCarl's, Inc.
Robert Santillo, McCarl's, Inc.
Scott Monit, Beaver County Chamber of Commerce


Critz Cross

Published by James O'Toole on .

Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, battling to defend his House seat in a Republican-leaning district, was quick to criticize President Obama Thursday after his fellow Democrat sought to make an economic case against Mitt Romney.
In one rambling sentence, Mr. Critz assailed the administration's trade and energy policies in a statement e-mailed to reporters shortly after the president concluded a speech in Cleveland that cast the election as a contrast between two sharply different economic visions.
"President Obama and others in Washington need to realize that we cannot spend out way to prosperity and that in order to create jobs, we need to address unfair trade deals that ship jobs overseas and enact polices that allow us to take advantage of our vast natural resources such as gas in a safe and responsible manner which will lower energy costs and create jobs and approving the Keystone XL Pipeline would be a good first step.''
During his speech at a Cleveland community college, Mr. Obama did mention the need to develop natural gas and clean coal, but that clearly wasn't enough for Mr. Critz, who faces a hotly contested challenge from Republican Keith Rothfus in the newly configured 12th district.  But he Critz critique, predictably, was not enough to mollify his GOP critics.
In another press release, The National Republican Congressional Committee accused the incumbent of hypocrisy for attempting to distance himself  from the president.
"Mark Critz's remarks are dripping with irony since he has supported ObamaCare 20 times since coming to Congress,'' said NRCC spokesman Nat Sillin.  "Critz has been caught saying one thing and doing another.  Despite his words today, Critz voting record shows he's supported President Obama 70 percent of the time.''
Mr. Critz has consistently said that he would not have voted for the administration's health care law, which was enacted before he took office, but he has voted against Republican budget measures that included provisions to defund portions of the controversial law.
Mr. Critz won his current seat in a district that had a narrow Republican voting tendency in national elections.  The newly configured 12th district, where Mr. Critz won a hotly contested primary over fellow Democrat Jason Altmire, is even more Republican in its recent voting patterns.  The former 12th District, represented by Mr. Critz's old Boss, the late Rep. John P. Murtha, for generations, was the only House district in the nation that voted for Democrat John Kerry in 2004 but switched its support to Republican John McCain in 2008, while Mr. Obama carried the state overall in a landslide.

Ohio in play

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Both Obama and Romney are next door in Ohio today for early afternoon speeches. Romney returns Sunday on his bus tour after driving though Pa.

Charles Babington at the AP takes a look at strategy and TV spending:

In the most recent weekly tally of campaign broadcast spending, Romney's forces nearly matched Obama's dollar for dollar in Ohio. Romney and the super Pac that backs him focused mainly on urban areas. They heavily outspent their rivals in GOP-leaning Cincinnati, and slightly outspent them in Columbus and Democratic-leaning Cleveland. Obama's campaign bought air time in smaller markets that Romney skipped: Zanesville, Steubenville and two West Virginia towns whose TV broadcasts reach southeast Ohio.

Columbus - Ohio's capital, biggest city and home to Ohio State University - is a competitive region that Obama won comfortably in 2008 but George W. Bush narrowly carried four years earlier. Both campaigns will fight hard for its swing voters.

Strategists say Romney hopes to run up big margins in rural areas and the Cincinnati suburbs. Obama's campaign will need big turnouts from Cleveland's black and liberal voters, and it hopes union households in the struggling coal and steel regions won't abandon Democrats.


Critz hits Rothfus for new endorsement

Published by Tim McNulty on .

The Mark Critz campaign is again attacking GOP opponent Keith Rothfus' ties to a conservative group, which the Rothfus camp is dismissing as "scare tactics"

Last week the Critz camp hit Rothfus for talking to a Tea Party group that supported Paul Ryan's budget (with its changes to entitlement spending) and today it dinged him for getting the endorsement of the House Conservatives Fund, the political arm of the Republican Study Commission. The RSC authored the similar budget that caused such a stir in the PA12 primary, when Critz joined a Democratic effort to embarrass Republicans by voting "present" on the proposal while opponent Jason Altmire voted it down.

Said Critz spokesman Mike Mikus:

Millionaire Keith Rothfus today gained the endorsement of yet another fringe group. Rothfus was endorsed by the House Conservative Fund, an extreme group which is "dedicated to increasing membership" in the Republican Study Committee (RSC), according to Politico. Over the last few years, The Republican Study Group proposed budgets would end Medicare by turning it into a voucher program, raise the retirement age to 70, and lead to massive cuts to the Children's Health Insurance Program, and kill 700,000 jobs. Additionally, the RSC is a leading proponent of privatizing Social Security.

"Keith Rothfus wants to end Medicare by turning it into a voucher program and raise the retirement age, so it is not surprising that fringe groups are rallying around him," Critz for Congress Spokesman Mike Mikus said. "This is further evidence that Western Pennsylvanians can't afford Keith Rothfus in Congress because he supports policies that will hurt seniors and children while killing hundreds of thousands of jobs."

Rothfus spokesman Jonathan Raso said his candidate was rather committed to saving Medicare, and attempted to tie Critz to the Obama administration:

"It's really unfortunate when a sitting member of Congress has to purposely deceive his constituents in order to save his political career. When Congressman Critz had the opportunity to stand with seniors, he failed them and decided to stand with President Obama and his takeover of our healthcare instead. Obamacare ends Medicare as we know it, and because of Congressman Critz's actions, Medicare has already been placed in jeopardy.

But the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania are above these deceitful scare tactics and class warfare. Keith Rothfus is dedicated to protecting and strengthening Medicare for this and future generations. Keith knows that with unemployment above 8% for the entire time Congressman Critz has been in office, we need to change from empowering Washington bureaucrats to empowering the workers of Pennsylvania. If Congressman Critz thinks his job record is something to run on, he must be just as out of touch with the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania as President Obama."