Friday, June 09, 2006

168: "Why is Perzel Still Speaker?"

We would like very much to reproduce Tony Phyrillas’ latest blog, which zeroes in on a much needed action if our state is to survive and reform. We must first remove any roadblocks to reform. Starting with this one, as outlined by Tony:

Perzel May Take GOP Down With Him
by Tony Phyrillas
When the only major conservative newspaper in Pennsylvania (the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) and the most liberal newspaper in the state (The Philadelphia Inquirer) run editorials the same day agreeing on something, it's worth a closer look.

Both newspapers focused their attention on the scandalous waste of taxpayer money by Republican Speaker of the House John Perzel.

John Perzel, the modern-day version of Gen. Custer, led a bunch of fellow House Republicans into the Little Big Horn last year by telling them to vote for the July 7 pay raise. Perzel told the House lemmings (aka Republicans) that the Indians (aka voters) were friendly.

Perzel's miscalculation so far has led to the ouster of a Supreme Court justice and the defeat of at least 11 House Republicans and the two most powerful members of the state Senate, Republicans Robert Jubilirer and Chip Brightbill.

Perzel's continuing arrogance and unwillingness to permit any meaningful reforms in the worst state legislature in the country will lead to disastrous results for Republicans in November.

Perzel is the Tom Delay of Pennsylvania politics. He is an embarrassment to the Republican Party. Perzel's top political ally in Harrisburg is none other than Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, a fellow Philadelphian. Perzel, as well as Brightbill and Jubilirer, have worked closely with Rendell to push through massive tax hikes and huge spending increases in Harrisburg. Perzel and Rendell are birds of a feather who care more about Philadelphia patronage than doing anything good for the state.

Here's part of what the Tribune-Review had to say about Perzel in a June 7 editorial:

"Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel — whose amoral justification rationalizing the scandalous misuse of his campaign contributions was offered with stupefying indifference — is a prohibitively costly civics lesson about state government.

The Trib discovered Mr. Perzel spent $9,000 in campaign dollars for trips to Super Bowls, $34,000 for trips to Las Vegas, almost $1,350 on liquor for a state Supreme Court committee meeting, $1,800 for staying at an Atlantic City luxury hotel casino, $41,109 for food in Philadelphia even though Perzel and staff members live there, including $1,900 in home deliveries for Chinese food and pizza on 52 occasions and on and on and on.

And $700,000 in reimbursements to legislative staffers — including $56,000 in salary in 2005 and $264,000 in reimbursements in two years for Perzel's chief of staff, who also is paid $160,000 by taxpayers."

Here's what The Inquirer said about Perzel in its June 7 editorial:

"John Perzel had a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease. So he took an expensive cure. On the taxpayer's dime. Well, a lot more than a dime.

Last year, the speaker of the Pennsylvania House started paying a Harrisburg-area firm $5,000 a month — in taxpayer money — to advise him on public relations.

The advice boiled down to: Stop talking so much … The $60,000-a-year PR contract with Hershey-Philbin Associates came on top of another $60,000 the GOP caucus pays to a Philly-based consultant to handle local media relations for Perzel and two other lawmakers.

That all comes on top of the 46 staff flacks paid for by the House GOP — or, more properly, by taxpayers. Taxpayers surely get scant value for this PR spending, since its effect is to reduce candid talk by a key legislative leader. Perzel now responds to most press queries in writing. Anyone who believes Perzel personally types heartfelt responses, then hits the Send key, needs to take a cure for extreme naivete.

It's bad enough when this nonsense gets bankrolled with campaign cash, which gets raised by handing out political IOUs to the connected. It's beyond the pale when voters' own money is used to drown them in partisan distortion and fluff."

The two editorials came out the same week Perzel trumpeted his long-delayed lobbyist reform package. Pennsylvania is the only state in the United States where lobbyists don't have to say how much money the spend to influence politicians or which politicians get the lion’s share of the contributions. That's the way Perzel likes it. But his solders keep showing up with arrows in their back, so he felt compelled to make a token gesture at lobbying reform. What we've got is the typical Perzel shell game.

Are we to believe that Perzel is going to push through meaningful lobbyist reform for the House despite his abysmal track record so far? Talk about the fox guarding the chicken coop. Perzel and reform are incompatible. According to Rep. Greg Vitali, one of the few decent legislators in Harrisburg, Perzel's lobbying bill is so watered down, it's already sprung leaks.

Perzel's bill does not require lobbyists to disclose or companies to report how much they spent on specific lawmakers. It does not mandate the lobbyists disclose the specific issues or bills they are pushing. A meaningful lobbyist bill must disclose what lobbyist is giving what legislator how much to move what piece of legislation.

If his fellow Republican House members don't rise up and take Perzel out before the November election, be prepared to see the House fall into Democratic control.

Perzel is the poster child of everything wrong with modern politics. At least Tom Delay had the decency to resign from Congress rather cause any further damage to the Republican Party. Perzel, the personification of arrogance, doesn't care about the party. He cares only about Perzel. He is willing to take down as many GOP legislators with him as necessary in the vain hope of holding on to his position of power.

by Tony Phyrillas

Tony says it all. Folks should read and heed.

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