Saturday, June 02, 2007

Giles Hickory: Wretched Excess!

[Reposted from The Pennsylvania Order of Liberty Blog.]

One of the major reform issues that did not make the final cut in the current reform package in Harrisburg is the problem of our General Assemblymen issuing Public Service Announcements [PSAs] at election time. This amounts to free targeted political advertising because it presents your local assemblyman in a very positive light and is paid for not with campaign money, but with tax dollars.

A recent example of this “wretched excess” is Mario Civera of Delaware County. This career politician reportedly spent nearly $115,000 of your tax money on PSAs during the general election campaign last year. In spite of it, and Civera's entrenched political organization that often broke the law by stealing his opponents’ campaign signs, Casey Roncaglione, the fine Democratic candidate showed very strong against Civera. Casey, however, did not have access to tax money for PSAs, and because PSAs are considered non-political, Roncaglione could not ask for equal time from the broadcasters. In addition to this issue, the broadcast and print media outlets print put these PSAs out free.

But the Reform Committee working in the Pennsylvania General Assembly failed to back any sort of reform on this issue, leaving the PSAs in place. This is a scary issue to leave in place. Obviously, the General Assembly is still stinging from the extreme rebuke it received over its actions from July of 2004 through July of 2005 and later, when stealth legislation was passed. Indeed, the gambling bill which gave us our casinos was passed in the wee hours of an early July morning in 2004 while budget negotiations were going on between the House and the Senate. A repeat in 2005 gave us the infamous Midnight Pay Raise which so outraged the voters that more than 50 incumbents either chose not to run for re-election, or were dumped by their constituency in the 2006 Primary and the 2006 General Election.

When the new General Assembly took over in January of this year, reform was at the top of the list. But ‘politics as usual’ seems to be gathering steam as one reform measure after another is beaten back.

The issue of PSAs during campaigns is easily tackled. Simply make it illegal for any elected official to authorize any PSAs, whether paid for by tax payers or not, three months before any Primary Election, or Special Election, and never between a Primary and a General Election.

Such PSAs protect incumbents when shown during campaigns. They are tantamount to free advertising for the incumbents and represent advertising that is unavailable to their opponents. And it is career politicians like Civera who benefit from the PSAs, and therefore seek to protect them from the Reform Committee. So, one can readily see why this was removed from the reform package.

Perhaps it is time draw the Reform Committee’s attention back to this issue so that we voters stand a greater chance of seeing fewer career politicians who practice “politics as usual”, and more fresh faces in the General Assembly. No one should be a career politician. Politics is a civic duty like military service, and one which should not usually generate a career in a single body like Civera’s 30 years in the Pennsylvania House!

Giles Hickory

“America must be as independent in literature as she is in politics, as famous for arts as for arms.” – Giles Hickory

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