Sunday, April 30, 2006

140: “The Legislator Test”

Tony Phyrillas is the City Editor of the Pottstown Mercury. He is also one Hell of a fine columnist. He is one of the not-so-many editors around the state who actually gets it when it comes to the pervasive sickness that infects our Pennsylvania government. Most of them have a jaundiced approach “So, what else is new”, or “Yeah, they’re all crooked, but whaddya gonna do?”

Tony Phyrillas. Tony is angry and disgusted, like many of us, and has been continually applying the heat on the state legislature for quite a while. Tony is another of our Citizen-Patriot Heroes.

Tony has written a column in the Pottstown Mercury that is absolutely fascinating. He lists the non-accomplishments of his seven-term State Representative, and exposes the man as a virtual non-entity in the General Assembly.

Here’s his article:

Unsure of your state legislator? Take this test
Tony Phyrillas,
If there’s anyone out there still considering
re-electing their incumbent Pennsylvania legislator on May 16, I have a request. Consider turning in your voter registration card.

You obviously are not adequately informed or rational enough to cast a vote. Unless you are related to a Pennsylvania legislator or have some direct financial gain by keeping the person in office, you have no other choice but join the people’s revolution to retake control of this state from 253 self-serving politicians.

I know some of you are trying to rationalize your decision to stick with the poison you know. Maybe the newcomer will be worse, you say. At least I know my state representative. He gives me free maps every time I see him. (I hate to break this to you, but you’ve already paid for the map through your state taxes.) What about that time his district office helped me fill out some paperwork? (The office staff for the next legislator who will occupy the office will also help you with paperwork).

Any attempt to justify casting a vote for any incumbent who voted for the July 2005 pay raise won’t wash. That kind of reasoning proves you’ve been in a coma for the past year.

In case you’ve lost your mind, here’s a couple of legislative highlights to jog your memory.

The middle-of-the-night pay grab. The unvouchered expense scandal. The outrageous perks and rewards legislators lavish on themselves. The inability or unwillingness of lawmakers to provide meaningful property tax relief. The influence lobbyists have on the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the governor. Lifetime pensions for all retiring state legislators that will cost taxpayers at least $4 billion to fund over the next 10 years.

Do you get the picture?

Below, I’ve listed 10 reasons why I will never vote for my state legislator, a fellow by the name of Dante Santoni Jr., who by my calculation has collected more than $1 million of our hard-earned tax dollars in the 14 years he’s been feeding off the public trough in Harrisburg.

Substitute the name of your representative or senator for my local political hack and see what your legislator has been up to.

• Rep. Dante Santoni twice voted to give himself an unconstitutional pay raise, most recently to $89,155 from $69,647 for a job that requires him to be in Harrisburg 77 days a year.
• Rep. Santoni took the pay raise early in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
• Rep. Santoni defended the July 2005 pay raise for months until he and his fellow career politicians were shamed into repealing the pay raise and giving back the money after the news media alerted taxpayers to what happened.
• Rep. Santoni voted against the Commonwealth Caucus plan that would have eliminated property taxes for homeowners.
• Rep. Santoni voted to double his own pension,
allowing him to collect money from taxpayers for the rest of his life.
• Rep. Santoni voted in favor of Ed Rendell’s massive $1 billion income tax increase in 2003.
• Rep. Santoni voted for the crushing $400 million increase on the state gasoline tax.
• Rep. Santoni has sponsored zero -- that’s 0 -- bills during his 14 years as a lawmaker.
• Rep. Santoni has never chaired a committee during his 14 years as a legislator.
• Rep. Santoni earned a dismal F+ grade in The Commonwealth Foundation Liberty Index for 2005-06. Santoni earned an F+ in the 2003-04 report card grading economic policies.

Santoni wants to go back to Harrisburg for another two years to continue his stellar record.

Santoni’s campaign signs read "Working for Us." I haven’t figure out who "us" is. It’s certainly doesn’t include me or my family because Santoni hasn’t done a thing for "us" in the past 14 years.

If you find that your state senator or representative is responsible for even half of the 10 transgressions above, vote for somebody else, write in "Mickey Mouse" or do all of us a favor and stay far away from the polls on May 16.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at
©The Mercury 2006

Well, we disagree with Tony’s last comment, as we want everyone to vote. Not voting is an indication that you want the situation to remain as it is, with rampant abuse, graft, and corruption of state and local governments where the elected serve only to serve themselves and a few of their usually monied close friends. And this year, both in the primary and in the regular elections you have an option available to you that offers a different choice than “business as usual.”

But we heartily concur with the rest of the column. Tony’s description of the record of Representative Santoni had us repeatedly muttering, “Yeah, that applies to Steve Maitland, too” throughout the list. It's very likely is the same for State Senator Terry Punt, as well.

Please visit Tony Phyrillas’ Blog, as well (click on his name here, or in the first paragraph, or under the heading Citizen-Patriot Heroes on the right sidebar). In it you’ll see Tony projecting that if Russ Diamond and the Operation Clean Sweep candidates are successful, that the Clean Sweep movement in Pennsylvania will grow to the Federal level. That definitely has its possibilities.

However, our thinking here is that the two main parties need to be completely overhauled in the way they do business, the way they vet their candidates, the way they endorse their candidates, and the access by monied interests into the process before a candidate even hits the ground in his or her campaign. Big money from gambling bought Ed Rendell his candidacy in the last gubernatorial election, and it has dumped millions of dollars into his reelection campaign coffers. His opponent is also now beholden to gambling money as he accepted that before the state Republican committee endorsed him. They were also influenced by gambling money. And therein lies the big problem. Both parties require millions of dollars to run their campaigns, and neither party cares where it comes from beyond recording that fact for reporting purposes. Until that is stopped, until the party committees are no long stocked and led on the basis of the size of your campaign contributions, the rest of the problems in State government will continue to appear, and reappear.

What we are saying is that the problem starts with the Pennsylvania State Committees, both Democrat and Republican. That’s where the lobbying begins. That’s where far too much money changes hands. New laws need to be made regarding the operation, funding and control of the state party committees. Party committee members should be pegged with the title “Political Operative”, and as a class, should be governed by the same laws and ethics rules that our politicians will hopefully soon be operating under.

We want lobbying reduced to an absolute and total prohibition of anything of any value being given to or otherwise influencing any elected or appointed official – to the point that if someone wants some legislation passed or altered, they should make an appointment with their legislator and convince him or her of the merits of such a change. No lobbying whatsoever outside the legislature and the Governor’s office. Period. None. That prohibits all lobbying on a local basis!

That will put an awful lot of lawyers out of work. Good! Maybe they should then go practice law, instead of playing politics. And any violators of such a law would lose their right to practice law in Pennsylvania, and suffer stiff fines and imprisonment, as would their targets.

We advocate that you visit the various sites of the Citizen-Patriot Heroes listed to the right. We also advocate that you visit the
Operation Clean Sweep website and familiarize yourselves with the candidates in your area (click on the license plate that says “Survival Guide”). Finally, we strongly urge you to visit Tim Potts great website at Democracy Rising PA, and explore some of the issues ripe for fixing in a Constitutional Convention. [The current leadership in the General Assembly fears a Constitutional Convention as it would strip them of their power, and their ability to make tons of money on top of their legislative salaries.]

Important Note: We will post our voting guide for the Primary in two weeks, May 14, 2006. Be sure to spread the word to come and check it out.


“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --

“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

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” --GettysBLOG

Remember in May! Before you vote,

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