Thursday, March 30, 2006

116: “Extra! Extra! Read All About It!”


Well, things are really moving at a very fast pace now, as efforts underway to clean up state politics continue, in spite of the new gambling bill passed in 2004. As it turns out there have been three recent articles posted online, one from the Online Edition of the Reporter, one from the Allentown Morning Call, and the other at the conservative blog Keystone Review. We’ll get to them in a moment. First, however, a comment. If the two main political parties in Pennsylvania think life continues on under the aura of “business as usual” they need to learn a very hard lesson in humility and reality.

Come the May primary, and later the November election, what you are about to read is going to go into the booth with the voters of this state, which both parties have demonstrably abandoned, in principle and in effect. How is this information going into the voting booths? The same way it is reaching you now, by unbiased reporting in the many fearless small daily newspapers around the state, and by unbiased bloggers like Keystone Review who have been abandoned by their party leaders. Those leaders have abandoned reason, principle, and their oaths of office for greed. They no longer work for the people, but only for themselves, and have lost all touch with the will of the people.

I salute the Keystone Review for its principled stand against the ongoing graft and corruption of our state and local government. I salute the smaller, area newspapers across the state, like the Record Online, who are sending reporters out to gather real news and track real problems outside the state capital. Oh, the big city newspapers, such as the Morning Call, are doing their job, too, primarily because these same politicians threatened them with a special tax which would seriously dent their revenues, and partially because they still retain that crusading spirit, even after decades of political bias and political friendships.

The people of Pennsylvania are fortunate to have the bloggers, the newspapers, and the grassroots groups like the people who sent these three stories to me, friend Dianne Berlin from the
Pennsylvania Family Institute and its sister Organization Pennsylvanians Against Legalized Gambling, and friend Russ Diamond of Operation Clean Sweep, and the friends over at Stop the Casinos in Limerick who sent us the third article.

First,
Operation Clean Sweep sent out this note to alert us to the Keystone Review article on Brightbill and Jubelirer the top two Republicans in the State Senate. Please note that Keystone Review is a conservative blog which is, with this story, outing two Republicans for financial campaign misdeeds. If this story doesn’t make you angry, the next one will.

More Capitol $henanigans
can things get much worse for Team Incumbent? Apparently so...

Brightbill Relation, Jubelirer Aide Bought Off Pro-Life, Tax Groups?
We wanted to let you know about an interesting story from our friends at the Keystone Review blog. While the Keystone Review blog is a "conservative" outlet and PACleanSweep is a non-partisan organization, we believe all Pennsylvanians should take note of their discovery regarding the flow of money and power in Harrisburg.

Click the link below to read the story. If it makes you angry, forward it on to all your associates.

Armstrong accused
of using staff, office for campaigning In yet another story of Team Incumbent using YOUR tax dollars to campaign for office, The Lancaster Intelligencer Journal is reporting that Rep. Gib Armstrong, Jr. is under fire for allegedly ordering district staffers to conduct campaign operations while on the taxpayers' timeclock.
Now, Russ threw in the article on Gib Armstrong just for an extra treat. Thanks Russ!

Next we find the shenanigans of the Democrats, particularly one Robert Mellow, Brightbill’s Counterpart as floor leader for the Democrats in the Senate. It seems Mr. Mellow has the option to appoint one of the five members of the Gambling Control Board. His initial selection, a fellow named Conoboy, resigned late last week, and moving swiftly, Mellow replaced him with another person, with the same conflicting ties to an individual mentioned in the Keystone Review article, one Louis DeNaples, a Scranton resident and head of a group applying for a license to open a casino at Mt. Airy Lodge in the Poconos. You will find this hard to believe. Please visit the Allentown Morning Call and read the article [link below]:
Replacement appointee to gaming board raises eyebrows
Ray Angeli also has ties to slots license hopeful. Senator defends pick.
By Matt Birkbeck
Of The Morning Call
March 30, 2006

When Sen. Robert Mellow made his latest appointment to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, it was supposed to be conflict-free. But on Wednesday, Mellow found himself once again defending an appointee: this time, Ray Angeli and his ties to an applicant for a slots license in the Poconos.

Angeli, appointed Monday to replace William Conaboy on the gaming board, is president of Lackawanna College. The college's board has ties to Scranton businessman Louis DeNaples, who is vying for a license for Mount Airy Lodge. The college board chairman is DeNaples' brother, Dominick.

Two other associates of Louis DeNaples — Conaboy, who resigned from the gaming board a week ago, and Al Magnotta of CICO Associates, DeNaples' chief engineer on the Mount Airy project — also serve on the Lackawanna College board. Louis DeNaples is seeking a Category 2, or stand-alone, slots license for his $350 million hotel-casino at Mount Airy Lodge in Paradise Township.

Mellow, through a spokeswoman, scoffed at any conflict between Angeli and DeNaples, Conaboy, and Magnotta. ''Dominick DeNaples doesn't have anything to do with the gaming application and Sen. Mellow is satisfied there is no conflict,'' said Teresa Candori, Mellow's spokeswoman.

Read the rest of the article: click here
Who needs Tony Soprano when we have Louis DeNaples!?

Finally, we have this from The Reporter Online, in Montgomery County, that will show you the graft on a smaller scale. This gets as confusing as the first two.

Casino opposition spurs scrutiny
JACOB FENTON, Staff
Writer
03/28/2006
If state regulators allow Boyd Gaming Corp. to build a 3‚000-slot-machine casino in Limerick‚ township supervisor Frank Kotch will serve as a liaison between the company and the local government during the rezoning process. Kotch knows a thing or two about gambling. His resume includes more than six years in the casino and gambling industry in Nevada.

“I started as a dealer and eventually got up to a floor supervisor‚” Kotch said. None of the casinos he worked at were owned by Boyd‚ he said.

Kotch said his work experience would aid his understanding of the proposal‚ but not make him more likely to support it.

“I do have an insight‚ but is it biased? I don’t think so‚” said Kotch‚ who was first elected in 2005.

Kotch said that he has not been offered a job at Boyd if the casino goes through – but he couldn’t rule out the possibility of working at a Limerick casino if it were built. It would be‚ he pointed out‚ the largest local employer.

Local officials in municipalities where casinos are proposed face heightened scrutiny of their potential links to gambling backers.

Although public attention has focused most heavily on the competitive state process for awarding casino licenses‚ state politicians who were worried about Philadelphia corruption passed legislation this month to curb city politicians’ participation in casino zoning decisions.

Bucks County state Rep. Paul Clymer‚ R-145th District‚ has been a consistent critic of gambling.

“In looking at other states that have legalized gambling‚ we know that public corruption and organized crime will surely follow the industry’s formation in Pennsylvania‚” Clymer said in a press release touting the formation of a new unit in the state attorney general’s office devoted to public corruption.

Posters to sites like stopthecasinos.com have speculated at length about possible misdeeds surrounding the plan. A site representative would not comment for this article.

Heading up Limerick’s board of township supervisors is Skippack developer and newly elected board chairman David Kane.

Questions about possible links between his firm‚ Limerick Township‚ and a real estate group that would benefit from the casino are unwarranted‚ Kane said.

“I resent the implication‚” Kane said. “We’re transparent about everything.”

Limerick‚ Kane said‚ is the only municipality not to have provided casino zoning so far.

And Kane’s expertise in development means the public can expect a more knowledgeable review process‚ he said.

“Nobody ever reports the good stuff‚” he said‚ adding that he volunteered long hours of his time to insure that Limerick got the best representation possible.

By day‚ Kane works as a developer for the Skippack firm he founded‚ Kane Core Inc.

The firm drew attention for a proposal to build a 17-story tower in Ambler‚ though that plan was withdrawn after considerable public outcry.

Attorney Michael Clement has represented Kane Core in Lower Providence and has litigated for the firm in a dispute with Franconia Township.

Clement also represents Boyd’s in Limerick.

Clement‚ of the Blue Bell firm Wisler‚ Pearlstine‚ Talone‚ Craig‚ Garrity & Potash‚ said he saw no problem presenting Boyd’s case to a board chaired by a member of a firm he’d represented.

Clement said the key point was that he didn’t represent the township.

“Obviously there is a limited pool of attorneys in the area who do development work and many of us represent interests which will come into play with each other but I don’t represent Limerick Township and never have represented Limerick Township‚” he said.

Beyond state guidelines‚ Clement said he examines any job for its potential appearance as well.
“The second consideration is whether there is an appearance of impropriety and I don’t think there is‚” he said.
Kane Core also has several government ties.

Kane’s co-founder‚ according to the firm’s Web site‚ is Mark Marino‚ who is chairman of the Skippack Township Board of Supervisors.

Marino recently became chairman of the Area 4 Republican Committee‚ a district that includes Limerick‚ Collegeville‚ Lower Providence‚ Perkiomen‚ Royersford‚ Skippack‚ Trappe‚ Upper Providence and Worcester.

Marino’s father is former District Attorney and former County Commissioners Chairman Michael Marino‚ who was recently appointed county solicitor.

Michael Marino also keeps an office at Kane Core and does occasional legal work for the group. “It’s a loose association‚” he said.

When Michael Marino was appointed county solicitor‚ Carolyn Carluccio was named to the newly created position of chief deputy solicitor. The promotion increased her salary from $68‚321 a year to $91‚773.

Carluccio’s father is Charles J. Tornetta‚ president of Tornetta Realty Corp.

Providence Properties‚ a related company that state records list as being headed by Lawrence F. Tornetta‚ made more than $31 million selling 125 acres to Boyd’s for the casino.

A project summary prepared by Boyd notes that “Tornetta Realty Corporation will retain 57 acres of the site for retail and commercial development.”

Charles Tornetta has served on the county planning commission since 1966 and chaired it from 1968 to 1991. He also serves on the board of Continental Bank with Clement.

Realty executives at Tornetta’s firm did not return calls for comment on the proposal.

Tornetta’s daughter Carluccio was appointed chief public defender about five years ago under Marino’s administration.

“I appointed her because she’s highly competent‚” Marino said. He said he’d known Charles Tornetta “forever.”

The idea that Carluccio’s employment had any bearing on the Limerick proposal was “the most absurd‚ ridiculous possibility in the world‚” Marino said. He described the association as a meaningless link. “You string ’em all together and you end up with nothing‚” he said.

County Commissioner Ruth Damsker‚ the lone Democrat on the county’s three-person governing board‚ said that Carluccio’s promotion came about because both she and County Commissioners Chairman Tom Ellis were pleased with her performance. “Michael did not choose to have her as a deputy‚” Damsker said.

“This is really a local issue and we really have no oversight whatsoever‚” said Damsker‚ adding that local issues like traffic would be much more important.

The traffic analysis included with Boyd’s local impact report was conducted by Pottstown-based Traffic Planning & Design and dated Dec. 16‚ 2005.

On Jan. 3‚ 2006‚ Traffic Planning & Design was named the new traffic consultant in both Skippack and Limerick townships.

Kane said the firm was the most qualified.

“As a board in Limerick Township we did tremendous research and did tremendous interviews to become educated” about professional consultants before hiring them‚ he said.

Read the article at
the ReporterOnline.
I love it when someone says, "Conflict of interest? No Conflict of interest here." It is so....unctuous. Just look at all the money being spread around in the name of development!

Our thanks to reporter Jeff Fenton for allowing us to reproduce his story. As you can see, this one has implications that ripple across the eastern part of the state. When you read about Mr. Kotch, take a look back as the other essay posted here today, GettysBLOG # 115: “Why Pennsylvania is the Laughingstock of the Nation”.

Folks, one final set of groups to recommend to you. Pennsylvania Common Cause has been at the front of this fight since day one, as have our friends at Rock the Capitol, Bob Durgin at WHP, and our great friend Tim Potts at Democracy Rising: please visit his site to see what ideas exist for a State Constitutional Convention to fix these ethical problems we have in Harrisburg and locally throughout the state. Visit all of these sites, and get involved. Stay informed, and stay involved. It is the only way out of the mess these hubris-filled politicians have gotten us into. You owe it to yourselves, and you owe it to future generations of Pennsylvanians, for after all, we voted these folks in, and we voted in the people who selected these folks. This happened on our watch. Let’s fix it on our watch.

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“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --
THE CENTRIST

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" --GettysBLOG

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