Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

State Sen. Scott Wagner

1) We don't know if Scott Wagner also loaned Camera Bartolotta a baseball bat for her successful campaign to unseat Tim Solobay last year, but the outspoken Republican state senator from York did make a personal loan to Ms. Bartolotta to the tune of $100,000, which Ms. Bartolotta then loaned to her campaign fund. At least one expert says the loan looks iffy when held up against a state law that prohibits making campaign contributions in the name of another.

2) A favorite claim of politicians has to do with independence, as in not blindly following the party line. But who puts their money where their mouths are, when it comes to voting against the party? The Washington Post has combed through the votes of the 114th Congress and figured out which of our officials are likely to break with the party. At the top of the list for senate Democrats? West Virginia's Joe Manchin, who has voted against the party about 25 percent of the time and around 35 percent when the votes were tight. Also in the Top 10 among senate Democrats was our own Bob Casey, who split with the party around 10 percent of the time. Leading the way for senate Republicans was Susan Collins of Maine, and presidential candidates Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham both made the Top 10.

3) Should we really be surprised that Ted Cruz doesn't care that he's hired an anti-Islamic bigot to work for his campaign?

4) Hillary Clinton is ready to ditch the Scooby van and the meetings with small groups of voters – at least temporarily – as she kicks off her campaign in a big way with a big speech scheduled for Saturday in New York. She'll use the life story of her mother, Dorothy Rodham, to make a more personal connection with voters; she'll also apparently address the State Department email scandal and some of the other issues that have been dragging down her recent approval numbers.

5) Not in the mood for a Hillary Clinton speech? You could join us at the Point for Saturday night's Three Rivers Arts Festival show by Neko Case. Have a great weekend, boys and girls.


Broad group will get vote for District 11 replacement

Published by Mike Pound on .

All Democratic committee members in Allegheny County Council District 11 will get a vote to decide who replaces the late Barbara Daly Danko, the county's party chairwoman said today.

The election to name two replacements for Ms. Danko, who died of cancer two weeks before last month's primary election, will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Pittsburgh Firefighters IAFF Local 1 hall, 120 Flowers Ave., Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills said in a statement. Those eligible to vote include all chairs, vice chairs, secretaries, treasurers and elected or appointed committee members from the district.

That's a change from earlier interpretations of the vague laws that govern the situation which could have limited the vote to the district's ward and municipal officers.

"After careful consultation with attorneys and members of Allegheny County leadership, I am pleased to announce that we are able to grant voting privileges to all committee members within this district," Ms. Mills said in the release. "We know this is the most democratic -- and most fair -- way of conducting this election."

Those eligible will vote twice, to elect a replacement who will serve out Ms. Danko's unexpired term ending in January and to nominate a Democratic candidate for the next four-year term.

Terri Klein, the campaign chairwoman for Ms. Danko, was appointed by county council to fill Ms. Danko's seat until the August special election.


Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Erik Arneson (The [Allentown] Morning Call)Erik Arneson (The [Allentown] Morning Call)

1) The state Supreme Court will get a say in the dispute over the job status of Erik Arneson, the man appointed by Tom Corbett to serve as director of the state's Office of Open Records. As you may recall, one of the first things Gov. Tom Wolf did after taking office was firing and replacing Mr. Arneson, who helped write our open-records law as a Republican aide. Arneson sued, saying the office had to be independent to serve its purpose as an arbiter ... and the state's Commonwealth Court agreed. But Gov. Go Time, who maintains that whoever holds the position serves at the pleasure of the governor, has already filed notice that he'll appeal to the Supreme Court.

2) State Revenue Secretary Eileen McNulty juggled plenty of questions from members of the Senate Finance Committee about Gov. Go Time's sales tax proposals, which include extending the tax to some services – like hiring a lawyer for certain services or using a nursing home – as well as increasing the state rate to 6.6 percent. The interesting thing here? There could be some consensus about hiking sales and even personal income taxes in the state, if the extra revenue is used to cut property taxes.

3) But before we get all excited, let's make sure we're realistic about the state of the relationship between Harrisburg's Republicans and Mr. Wolf: the house on Wednesday passed a resolution condemning Mr. Wolf for his moratorium on the death penalty. That prompted state Rep. Mike O'Brien, a Democrat from Philly, to refer to the resolution as a "hissy fit." What do you bet that won't be the last time we hear something like that this month?

4) We've heard over and over that our neighbor to the west is a gold standard when it comes to winning presidential elections (as in, no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio); Sabato's Crystal Ball gives us a new reason to look to Ohio when trying to figure out how a presidential race will conclude: in the last 30 elections, Ohio has gone with the winner 28 times. Next up on the list? New Mexico, followed by Illinois and Nevada. And Pennsylvania's record? We've been right 23 out of 30 times, good for a messy tie for 6th place.

5) We don't know much about any of the Jonas Brothers, so we don't have a whole lot to tell you about Nick Jonas, who stepped up to take the place of Iggy Azaela at Saturday's Pride in the Streets. He seems like a nice kid, though.


Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Acting state police Commissioner Marcus BrownActing Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown

1) Marcus Brown isn't going anywhere, even after the state Senate rejected his nomination to become commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. Monday's vote came after Gov. Tom Wolf withdrew the nomination of Col. Brown in hopes that he'd have more time to convince senators that the former head of the Maryland state police was worthy of the position. The Senate wasn't convinced; neither was the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, which called the news that Col. Brown would remain as acting commissioner "disheartening." The Wolf administration explains that Col. Brown was hired as a deputy commissioner and then elevated to acting commissioner ... and that he would stay there, regardless of the Senate's vote. What does this portend? Perhaps A) another legal battle between Harrisburg Republicans and Gov. Go Time (see Erik Arneson) and B) an ugly – and extended – budget season.

2) Here's an appointment for which Mr. Wolf won't need Senate approval: Jim Burn, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, is thinking about stepping down.

iggy tweet

3) With an announcement on Twitter Monday night, Iggy Azalea gracefully bowed out of her scheduled performance at Pittsburgh Pride this weekend, ending the debate over her worthiness to perform after making racist and homophobic comments in the past. To her credit, Ms. Azalea acknowledged and apologized for those remarks, which the 25-year-old said she made as "a young person." But while the flap over Ms. Azalea is over, the furor over the Delta Foundation, the group that organizes Pride, seems to be just getting started.

4) The Washington Post takes us back to 1984, when current Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley jumped into national politics by working on the candidacy of Gary Hart. The team of upstarts is now a bit more seasoned, and they're working for Mr. O'Malley this time around. Like Mr. Hart, Mr. O'Malley -- the former governor of Maryland – is a long shot, but it's worth noting that Mr. Hart was able to sustain his effort through the Democratic convention that summer.

5) We're all aware that successful political campaigns require cash, and lots of it. But we wonder if any of the Republican presidential candidates will fall in with Jay Faison, a North Carolina businessman who has started a $175 million campaign to push the party to stop fumbling over the science of climate change and to start talking about solutions.


Perry on Politics: Walker an ideal tea party candidate

Published by James M. Perry on .

Republican presidential hopeful, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses an economic summit hosted by Florida Gov. Rick Scott in Orlando, Florida, June 2, 2015. (Steve Nesius/Reuters)Republican presidential hopeful, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses an economic summit hosted by Florida Gov. Rick Scott in Orlando, Florida, June 2, 2015. (Steve Nesius/Reuters)

If you believe the next president of the United States should work tirelessly to outlaw abortions even in cases of rape and incest, to prohibit same-sex marriages, to end collective bargaining for municipal and state workers, to overturn Obamacare, to do little or nothing about climate change, and to entertain thoughts of invading Iraq again, then Scott Walker, the 47-year-old Governor of Wisconsin, is your man.

He is, in fact, the Tea Party's ideal candidate, and he's thinking seriously of joining the mob of candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination next year.

Let no one say this man avoids a fight. In his latest gambit, he proposed to weaken tenure for professors at his state's first-class university system and to undermine the faculty's role in campus governance. "If this proposal becomes law," grumbled the New York Times editorial board, "it will damage the university, perhaps irreparably." And so it might. Who, after all, would want to teach there?

Mr. Walker, the son of a Baptist preacher, seems to revel in trouble-making. It started when he was a student at Marquette University, a Jesuit school in Milwaukee. He became a student senator and led an investigation of some of his colleagues. He called for their impeachment, and some of them resigned. He ran for student government president in 1988 and lost, by 300 votes. He dropped out of Marquette in 1990 and never returned to earn his diploma.

That same year, when he was just 22, he sought a seat in the state's lower house, and lost to a Democrat in the general election. He has not lost a competitive race since then. Three years later, he won a seat in the Assembly from his new home in Wauwatosa, a Milwaukee suburb. He became Milwaukee's county executive in 2002 and governor in 2010.

He had been governor barely six weeks when -- living up to his promise to conservative backers that he would go "big and bold" -- he proposed legislation that became known as Act 10. "I'm just trying to balance the budget," he said. What he really was trying to do was wreck the unions by limiting their collective bargaining powers. Union leaders and members and their supporters were outraged. They poured into the stately old state capitol in Madison day after day. When Act 10 came up in the Senate, Democratic leaders were absent, having skedaddled to neighboring states, denying the Republicans a quorum.

Conservative talk radio shows, a powerful force in Wisconsin, had been gleefully covering the fight -- now it went national. After Act 10 passed (the Democrats eventually came home) and became law, Mr. Walker's angry opponents sought his recall. Walker turned to his right-wing backers, including the ubiquitous Koch brothers and a local moneybags named Mike Grebe. They raised an astonishing $37 million dollars from more than 300,000 donors and blitzed the state with TV and radio ads and mailers and flyers. He picked up 53 percent of the vote to become the first governor in history to survive a recall election.

"More than any of his potential rivals for the White House, Mr. Walker is a product of a loose network of conservative donors , think tanks and talk radio hosts who have spent years preparing the road for a politician who could successfully present their arguments for small government to a broader constituency," a lengthy investigative piece in the New York Times declared.

The Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, part of that constituency, met at the Kennedy Center in Washington the other day, with columnist George Will, a board member, warming up the crowd. The consensus was that the country needs "big and bold" leadership and that Scott Walker might be just the man to deliver it. "We believe that through that collaboration (with other like-minded foundations and donors) we can help change the world," Mike Grebe said.

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.