Ed Rendell Stunned, Post-Gazette Comatose, Paul Martino Alert
The lead goes as follows: "Bowing to pressure, House Democrats yesterday released details of $1.9 million in bonuses paid to staffers last year, an amount that Gov. Ed Rendell said astonished him."
Rendell said, "It's stunning to me that [legislative leaders] would do this. It shows the need for reform is urgent."
The head of a watchdog group suggested the money may have gone -- illegally -- to staffers for work on campaigns. I would be, well, "stunned" if it hadn't gone precisely for that purpose.
The Governor, who's not nearly the political naif he sometime pretends, remind me of the Claude Rains character in "Casablana." He's the one who calimed to be "shocked -- shocked that there's gambling going on at Rick's."
Readers of this continuing column will not be shocked that Pennsylvania legislators, by and large, are corrupt. They've regularly voted themselves hefty raises and eye-popping benefits. Many of them -- are you listening Mike Veon, one of the worst offenders? -- abuse their "per diem" expenses and the travel allowances. Why do they do such things? Because they can.
The P-G and the Pennsylvania media generally bear a lot of responsibility for the culture of corruption that prevails in this state's politics. In the case of the P-G, it has endorsed or otherwise supported at least a dozen Western PA officials who have later been indicted or otherwide disgraced. They include the former Mayor (Tom Murphy) and the former Sheriff, Pete DeFazio, indicted along with his top three aides.
Other candidates, including one judge and one state senator, endorsed in the past by the P-G were led off in leg irons. Other judges are under federal investigation. Another judge "retired" early (on a huge pension) after mooning patrons at a bar and being drunk on the bench.
Somehow the paper never seems to question its process for evaluating clearly deficient candidates, including those who end up later in jailhouse orange.
In the recent election, the P-G strongly endorsed Representative John Murtha. He's been named by Melanie Sloan's group as one of America's most corrupt congressmen. In Murtha's disastrous effort to become Nancy Pelosi's legislative "butler," fellow Democrats pointed to his history of unethical behavior, and he lost badly.
Murtha had something very unusual in the last election: opposition. Diana Lynn Irey, a Washington County Commissioner, ran against Murtha and received 78,000-plus votes. The P-G responded to Irey either by ignoring her or treating her with contemp. At her "candidate interview," they did everything but stick her head in the toilet.
When John Murtha ran for the position of Democratic Majority Leader, the national media examined his seedy record as an influence-peddler and "earmark" designator (special projects for himself and his political allies) carefully. Much of the news probably came as a revelation to people in Western Pennsylvana who rarely hear a "discouraging word" about Murtha.
In his recent campaign, Murtha raised and spent more than $3 million. Gee, where did he spend the money -- which exceeded per capita that spent by Hillary Clinton? If you're asking the local media to check into whether Murtha paid off his minions, don't hold your breath. If you're asking me to do, I will. My advice to Jack Murtha is: "Sin in haste, repent at leisure."
In terms of our PA state legislators, they regularly bend or break the law. One former legislative power, Sen. Frank Gigliotti, was once asked if the main point of electoral politics was not to "serve the public interest." His famous response, recorded on tape, was, "F--k the public." There's evidence he was not alone in that view.
One investigative reporter in Pittsburgh, Paul Martino of KDKA-TV, has frequent reports on bad behavior by legislators, most of whom now refuse to talk to him. He breaks real news about corruption that the print media either doesn't know about or doesn't want to discuss.
There's been fairly recent discussion that the P-G is on its last legs. The supposedly pro-labor owner is reportedly engaged in vigorous union-busting that could result in the P-G's being sold or closed.
I'd say good riddance if the paper didn't have many fine people on it, including the author of today's story on legislative misbehavior. I believe subscription and ad revenues would be up if the paper was doing its job, part of which includes telling people the truth about the people they've elected.