Tuesday, July 18, 2006

184: “Rendell, Casey and Decker Violate the Law to Save Gambling”


The short version is that Governor Rendell approved it, and State Treasurer (and Senatorial Candidate) Robert Casey Jr. authorized the transfer of money from other state agencies to the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board to fund that agency.

In a recent post here, we reported the strange exchange between a State Senator who was on the Transportation Committee, and Senator Vince Fumo during the last minute budget negotiations earlier this month. We mis-recalled the figure that was discussed, and did not remember the name of the Senator from the Transportation Committee, but he asked Fumo four times if money was being taken from the PennDot budget and transferred to the Gambling Control Board.

Fumo gave three non-answers then stepped forward and said that no money was being taken from PennDot’s budget to be shifted to the Gambling Control Board.

According to an article last weekend in the
Lancaster Sunday News, the startup costs for the move to slots gambling in Pennsylvania, some $36.1 million was to be spread out equally between the new Gambling Control Board, and the Pennsylvania State Police at $7.5 million each, and the State Department of Revenue $21.1 million for a new computer system.

Apparently the board has ‘champagne tastes on a beer budget’! Late last year $7.3 million was transferred from the Revenue Department to the Gambling Control Board.

Article III, Section 24 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states:
Paying Out Public Moneys
Section 24.

No money shall be paid out of the treasury, except on appropriations made by law and on warrant issued by the proper officers; but cash refunds of taxes, licenses, fees and other charges paid or collected, but not legally due, may be paid, as provided by law, without appropriation from the fund into which they were paid on warrant of the proper officer.
When the Republicans blocked consideration of the Gambling Omnibus bill during budget negotiations, it was because Fumo was supposedly going to insert a $50 million loan to the Gambling Control Board from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Hence the gentleman’s questions during the budget debates which were televised on PCN, and reported here as $46 million (see 181: “I’m Mad as Hell!”).

Rendell administration officials defend the practice as “long established” without providing any specific examples. This blogger has seen examples of money being transferred and re- applied within a single department when budgetary shortfalls occur, and it is a legitimate way of reassigning funds to match priorities within a department. But those funds were already appropriated to that department.

This is completely different in that it is taking money specifically from the Motor Vehicle License Fund – a self renewing fund which is built in as a source of funding for the Department of Motor Vehicles – and thus is appropriated money, and transferring $50 million to the Gambling Control Board! PennDot can go scratch to make the money up (fewer pothole repairs next winter!).

The $7.3 million borrowed last year by from the Revenue Department was taken from the original $21.1 million appropriated as part of the initial Gambling appropriations of $36.1 million so the Revenue Department could construct a new computer system, ostensibly to handle all the money generated by the Gambling Control Board. But the $50 million from the Motor Vehicle License Fund has no such connection.

It is hard to imagine where the first $7.5 million allocated specifically to the Gambling Control Board went. They have not completed hiring, they insisted on contracting out background checks when the State Police were already authorized to conduct them (the other $7.5 million!). So perhaps they wasted taxpayer money in such a manner.

We already know that two members of the board have resigned their nearly $150,000 job after a year or so without having really done anything to earn that money…so there is more waste. Additionally, several employees of notable position and status have been arrested for various and sundry offenses ranging from using a badge to avoid a cover charge in a night club, to bar fights, to one person accused of murdering his girlfriend by dropping her from a high-rise apartment balcony.

While we are detailing the sins of Tad Decker, who obviously has mismanaged the Gambling Control Board right from the start, we might mention his public statements claiming the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law does not apply to his agency because they are “…not a Board, Commission, or Agency.” Mr. Decker has directed the board to act in secret right from the start, (except in contact with any potential applicants for licenses!), and has denied the public the right to comment on the plan to create a slots supplier industry in the state. His claim of having already conducted public hearings is absurd on its face, in that those hearings were conducted solely for the purpose of getting public and investor comments in each of the locations where a casino license was pending, and nothing was ever said, or published that said any of the comments would be on the slots suppliers.

We must also not forget Ms. Anna Neeb, hired last year at an exorbitant price to be the Executive Director of the Gambling Control Board. Ms. Neeb may be facing charges that she over-billed her work hours at her last position, which was the same as she currently holds, but in Louisiana (a well known corrupt agency).

Mr. Decker is dishonest, and has broken the Sunshine Law. He may be guilty of malfeasance in the conduct of his office as pertains to the misuse of funds. His hiring practices leave much to be desired. If he hired those individuals who have committed or have been charged with crimes, without waiting for background checks from the State Police (worse, after having paid a private agency for background checks, using funds he did not have), then there is further malfeasance.

Next is Treasurer Robert Casey Jr., candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senator Rick Santorum. The Republican Caucus in the Senate is considering filing charges against him for allowing the illegal (unconstitutional) transfer of funds.

Finally, we come to Governor Edward G. ‘Fast Eddie’ Rendell. He is Vince Fumo’s right-hand man. Fast Eddie came to office with a surplus in the treasury, and immediately instituted draconian budgetary cuts in most state departments while increasing government spending in a few areas, pushed for a tax increase his first year in office, then had the gambling bill passed unconstitutionally, then signed the unconstitutional pay raise of 2005, and sometime next year will claim that gambling as enacted will not fulfill the expectations and promises HE made, and if re-elected, will demand full table games and probably sports book betting in the slots casinos, and likely will issue more licenses for new casinos starting in 2009.

There are others very complicit in all of this, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, Senators Vince Fumo, Bob Mellow, Chip Brightbill, President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, Representatives Mike Veon and Bill DeWeese Sam Smith, and Speaker of the House John Perzel are all complicit in this whole ungodly mess. All will most certainly meet their makers on Judgment Day with much to account for, as will Casey, Rendell and Decker.

This has nothing to do with politics. This is all about greed. It transcends politics. There are Republicans just as guilty as Democrats, and vice versa, including some who describe themselves as being anti-gambling from the start. Fortunately, their time in office is about to end, the voters having seen through their dishonesty.

We keep telling you here on this blog, that your political parties have abandoned you as has your state government. The above is a perfect example of proof positive that this is so.


This is why we support
Russ Diamond for Governor, and a slate of candidates who have adopted the Roadmap for Reform. Candidates who are backed by Pennsylvania Clean Sweep also.

The more new faces in Harrisburg this January, the greater the chance that government will be restored to you, where it belongs, and not left in the hands of monied interests, like the gambling and health care industries, where it now lies.


Remember in November, before you vote,
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A special plea: Please do all you can to have your friends and family of voting age sign petitions for Russ Diamond. Time grows short, and we need this man on the ballot. Visit his petition website at Russ Diamond for Governor, and help out all you can. It's your fight, too, and Russ is one of the White Hats. Oh, and don't forget to sign the petition yourself!

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