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Will Sandusky And Corbett Defeat Romney?

The Governor’s mishandling of the Sandusky investigation may doom the GOP

Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. It’s all about Ohio. Win the Buckeye state — win the White House.

Very true, especially for Mitt Romney, since no Republican has won without it.

But the monumental point is being overlooked.

Ohio is only kingmaker by default.  Its 18 electoral votes would not be needed if Romney wins Ohio’s larger neighbor — Pennsylvania and its 20 electors.

That’s not wishful thinking, but eminently achievable. Or at least it was, until two men severely diminished hope for delivering the Keystone State: Jerry Sandusky and Republican Governor Tom Corbett.

*****

Make no mistake. Pennsylvania should have been a lock for the GOP.  The fact that it has not voted Republican for president since 1988 is misleading. When there is a solid candidate, Pennsylvania is always in play, where a small vote swing changes the election result (George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004).  Conversely, bad candidates lose handily (Bush I in ‘92, Dole in ’96, and McCain in 2008). And remember that Ronald Reagan won it twice, and George H.W. Bush in ’88.

In 1994, it became the most Republican state in the country in terms of elected officials, with the GOP claiming both U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, total control of the state legislature, a majority in its congressional delegation, and two of three statewide row offices.

Fast forward to 2010, when GOP Governor Tom Corbett rode to victory with a massive ten-point margin.  Conservative Pat Toomey was elected U.S. Senator, and Republicans gained control of the State House in historic fashion, smashing the Democrats and taking a ten-seat majority.  The State Senate remained solidly Republican — as it has for three decades.

So why is it likely that Romney will lose the Pennsylvania Prize?

Enter Corbett and Sandusky.

*****

The most worthless commodities in politics are endorsements. Party leaders endorsing their own is expected, swaying no one.  And celebrities choosing sides only makes for good cocktail talk.  Romney doesn’t benefit from Clint Eastwood, nor Obama from Bruce Springsteen.

But while endorsements don’t sell, popularity does. And they are distinctively different.

If a leader possesses a bold vision — and the ability to articulate ideas in a common sense, bipartisan way — he will have followers from the entire political spectrum. New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie is the best example, having achieved monumental victories despite both legislative chambers being heavily Democratic.

While no single Republican could swing Jersey to Romney, that feat should have been in the bag in much more Republican Pennsylvania. If Christie could rack up wins in The People’s Republic of New Jersey, gaining immense popularity, how could Corbett not deliver Pennsylvania?

Because he is an MIA governor.

After the first year of his Administration, when virtually nothing was accomplished, Corbett’s own legislators nicknamed him “Christie-lite.” But after the second year, with an even more startling lack of achievements, the nicknames became unprintable.

We’re not talking about a failed extreme right-wing agenda, but common sense ideas Corbett promised but didn’t come close to delivering, despite holding all the cards.

-Was the nation’s largest state-controlled liquor system dismantled — a move overwhelmingly supported by most Pennsylvanians? Nope. Zero action.

-Was any effort made to 1) solve the state’s massive pension crisis, 2)lower the job-killing, corporate net income tax (second-highest in the nation), or 3) reform the nation’s most hostile legal climate? All drive businesses away, but no action was taken. The can was kicked down the road.

-Did state union workers receive a contract in line with private sector employees? No.  Instead, Corbett gave them guaranteed raises, no increases in health care premiums, and eliminated layoffs for economic reasons. At the same time, he raised salaries of his inner circle, aides who apparently couldn’t get by on $135,000.

While his inaction sunk the Governor’s favorable ratings, it was his handling of sexual predator Jerry Sandusky that really put him in the toilet, flushing away whatever attractiveness he had left.

Corbett’s attempt to steal the national limelight at Penn State news conferences by portraying himself as the savior who took down Sandusky rapidly backfired. Instead, his decisions in that case (he was the investigating Attorney General) grew into a firestorm that continues to explode.

No one is buying Corbett’s claims that he didn’t play politics with the Sandusky investigation. A whopping 69 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t view Corbett favorably, making him the nation’s least popular governor.  And a miniscule 17 percent think he handled the Sandusky investigation well.

Why? Maybe because:

-It took three years to get Sandusky off the street. Within the law enforcement community, it’s almost unanimous that Sandusky should have been nailed much, much earlier. Ten cases weren’t needed, as Corbett maintains, but only two or three to make an arrest while continuing to build the case.

-Corbett ordered a narcotics agent to lead a whopping team of two to investigate Sandusky, while scores of agents — including child predator units — prosecuted a political corruption case.

Because of Corbett’s colossal inconsistencies, Republican leaders were forced to abruptly end a legislative session, killing a motion requesting a federal investigation of Corbett’s handling of the case.

As a result, Corbett’s numbers have stayed in the basement. The erosion of his popularity, transcending Party lines, stems from the nagging feeling that Corbett placed politics above the protection of innocent children.

*****

The most far-reaching result of the Governor’s failures will be the political earthquake that never was. If Corbett had been just a fraction of Chris Christie, and had run the Sandusky investigation properly, Mitt Romney wins Pennsylvania hands down.

Instead, because of Corbett’s toxicity, Romney was forced to focus on Ohio, which he will likely lose, and with it, the White House.

But that may be the least of Corbett’s troubles. Kathleen Kane is poised to become the first elected Democratic Attorney General in Pennsylvania history.  Should that occur, the political embarrassment for Corbett would be immense, since he would be seen as the main contributor to a Kane victory.

If elected, Kane promises an intense review of the Sandusky investigation, with no hesitation to charge anyone —including the Governor — should improprieties be uncovered.

And who thought politics wouldn’t be interesting after this election?

As published in Daily County Daily Times:
http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/11/05/opinion/doc50979500780a2499235935.txt

Philadelphia Magazine:
http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/11/05/sandusky-corbett-defeat-romney/

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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November 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm Comments (0)

Gov. Corbett Still Refuses To Answer Sandusky Questions!

 

In a speech before the world’s press, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said, “We must keep in mind that when it comes to the safety of children, there can be no margin for error, no hesitation to act.” It was the same authoritative tone he took when chastising Joe Paterno for not doing more to stop Jerry Sandusky.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

It is Tom Corbett himself who is most guilty of hesitating. Hesitating to appropriately staff the Sandusky investigation, and hesitating for years to make an arrest — both of which jeopardized the safety of children. That hesitation, and the stonewalling that Corbett has now employed, has created an intense firestorm around the Governor.

 

Given the unprecedented nature of the Penn State scandal, this issue is not going away. In fact, if Corbett doesn’t come forward with answers, it promises to be the Number One issue in his 2014 re-election campaign.

 

*****

 

Last week, the Governor responded to Freindly Fire’s Open Letter, which had requested specifics on key issues.  But rather than answering any questions, the Corbett response raised even more red flags.

 

The Corbett response stated, “Grand juries take time. Evidence in decades old molestations must be reassembled. A moral certainty of conviction must be reached… Where does Mr. Freind think that decade’s worth of evidence came from? It had to be gathered, reluctant witness-by-reluctant witness, with accompanying corroborating evidence.”

 

Absolutely correct — and precisely Freindly Fire’s point. Corbett is admitting that this high-profile case required a tremendous amount of work. So why were so few investigating it?

 

Here’s the bottom line.  The Sandusky investigation took three years, was reportedly staffed by a single investigator at the outset, and later spearheaded by two narcotics agents, neither of whom had any experience in child molestation cases. Compare to this to the army of investigators Corbett used in the Bonusgate political corruption probe, including, sources say, agents from child predator units.

 

Given those facts, it seems logical that there can be only one of two explanations:

 

1) Politics

It doesn’t take a genius to know that sullying the reputation of the state’s largest university and taking down its legendary football coach would be a monumental challenge to any candidate running for governor. This would have been particularly true in Corbett’s case, given that his opponent, Dan Onorato, was a Penn State alumnus.

And the might of Penn State’s massive alumni network was just illustrated, where 76,000 alumni donated much of the $208 million the university raised this year.

So was the understaffed investigation dragged out in such a fashion that the arrests were not made until after the 2010 gubernatorial election?

 

2) Priorities

 

Or was the Sandusky case mishandled because Tom Corbett did not prioritize catching child predators?

 

If politics played no role, then Tom Corbett clearly prioritized corrupt politicians, who we will always have, over taking a serial child rapist off the street.  One can only wonder how many more victims Sandusky molested while he was under investigation.

 

There are a number of quotes, some by Corbett himself, that are quite telling.

 

Randy Feathers, the head of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Office in State College who eventually headed the investigation, stated, “During the Bonusgate investigation, we had a shortage of investigators in Harrisburg.” (Altoona Mirror, June 24, 2012)

 

Corbett was obviously proud of the fact that he pulled no one from Bonusgate, stating, “We used a completely different unit from Bonusgate… (the agents working the Sandusky case) were pure narcotic investigators from up in that region.” (Corbett press conferences, July 12, 2012, and July 14, 2012).

And Corbett admitted worrying that Sandusky could still be victimizing boys during the lengthy investigation, stating, “It was a calculated risk.” (CBS Philadelphia/KYW New Radio, June 26, 2012)

So Corbett knew of the risk, and yet decided that investigating a child-victimizing monster was worthy of only two investigators.

 

What’s even more telling is the fact that, upon Corbett becoming governor, he immediately ordered state police resources to the case.  Why wasn’t that done before?  So again, the question has to be asked whether Corbett, as Attorney General, ever requested additional assistance from then-Governor Ed Rendell, himself a highly respected former prosecutor. It’s not a trick question, and only requires a Yes or No answer.

 

And did Corbett ask the Feds for assistance, especially if additional state police resources were denied by Rendell and no one could be pulled from Bonusgate?

 

If the answers are in the negative, as they appear to be, what were Corbett’s motives in choosing to stay with such a bare-boned investigative staff?

 

*****

No one has suggested that Sandusky should have been arrested before evidence was gathered. Common sense dictated that at least two or three solid cases be assembled before an arrest was made, and numerous prosecutors with no ax to grind have stated that strategy would have been a viable one.

But, as has been stated in the media, Corbett waited to have at least 10 cases before making an arrest, which just boggles the mind.

Once several victims were identified and an arrest was made, with the spotlight on Sandusky, more witnesses would come forward. More importantly, Sandusky would have been closely watched and children would have been safe. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, a predator was given three more years to victimize his prey.

No wonder the Governor doesn’t want to answer questions.

So the stonewalling continues.  There are still no answers as to why Bonusgate investigators were not ordered to work the Sandusky case, and why, sources say, Attorney General agents, including those in child predator units, were pulled from other cases to assist with that corruption probe.

*****

Governor Corbett also failed to answer the Open Letter’s other questions, including why he did not consider it a conflict of interest to serve on the Penn State Board of Trustees while simultaneously investigating it, and why he approved the $3 million taxpayer grant to Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile, when he could have simply done nothing or vetoed it without raising one eyebrow.

The latter is particularly compelling since $640,000 in campaign contributions were made from Second Mile board members and affiliates to Corbett’s Attorney General and gubernatorial races.

*****

The Open Letter received an astounding response from across the political spectrum. It was Facebooked and Tweeted thousands of times, published in media outlets and websites across the nation, and was the hottest topic on talk radio, with Freindly Fire discussing it from coast to coast. Most telling is that 99.9 percent of that dialogue had one common theme: why was there so much hesitation to act by Attorney General Corbett?

 

Rather than invoking “space aliens,” as he did in his response, Governor Corbett would be better served by coming clean with the only thing that matters: the truth.

 

There is no such thing as “fair and balanced.” There is only truth and accuracy.  It is time for Tom Corbett to tell the whole truth — accurately — regarding the very troubling Jerry Sandusky investigation.

 

The best place to start? Answer the questions. And the truth shall set you free.

 

Read the column in the Delaware County Daily Times:

 http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/07/25/opinion/doc500ee47ae1559699997615.txt

Gov. Corbett Response to Freind

 http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/07/18/opinion/doc5006905ca4fe6470627721.txt

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

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July 25, 2012 at 7:56 am Comment (1)

Gov.Corbett Could Have Stopped Sandusky — But Didn’t

An open letter to Pennsylvania’s governor, who refuses to answer disturbing questions about his role investigating the Penn State sex scandal

 

Bursting with righteous indignation, his cheeks flushed with rage, the Governor banged the podium in disgust while berating a journalist — in fact, chastising the entire media — for the audacity to ask questions on the issue.

We’re not talking about New Jersey’s Chris Christie, who gets away with such outbursts because of his stellar track record and pure gravitas.

No, this tantrum came from Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett after being queried about his incredibly long investigation of child predator Jerry Sandusky.

And it backfired in spectacular fashion. Why?

Because Tom Corbett is no Chris Christie.                      

*****

Since questions on this matter remain unanswered, it seems only fitting, on behalf of the media and public, to pen an Open Letter to Mr. Corbett.

For the record, no media commentator in Pennsylvania supported Corbett’s ideas more than Freindly Fire during the 2010 campaign, from increased Marcellus Shale drilling to school choice to liquor privatization. In fact, FF even backed Corbett’s decision to subpoena Twitter during the Bonusgate corruption probe — a highly unpopular position. Bottom line: this isn’t personal, and it’s not partisan.  It’s only about one thing: the truth.

*****

Dear Governor Corbett:

Since there are a number of questions which you have failed to answer concerning your investigation of Jerry Sandusky, on behalf of the media and the public, I respectfully ask for clarification in the following areas:

1) Based on a decade’s worth of evidence of Sandusky’s predatory activities, why did it take the Attorney General’s office three years to arrest him? I fully understand that it takes time to conduct an investigation, but as numerous prosecutors have stated, you could have arrested him quickly and continued building the case.

Tragically, it is probable that Sandusky continued to molest victims during your epic investigation, as predators do not stop preying unless forced to do so.  Had he been arrested early, (standard procedure in many cases with a lot less evidence), Sandusky would have had to post bail, had restrictions placed upon him, and, most important, been under an ultra-intense media and community spotlight — every minute of every day until his trial.

In short, children would finally have been safe. And contrary to your assessment, this would have created a much more favorable environment for additional witnesses to come forward, knowing their bigger-than-life demon could hurt them no more. Arresting Sandusky quickly would have in no way jeopardized the strength of the case.

One of two things seems to be true, as there is no third option. Either A) you were an incompetent attorney general, which virtually no one believes, or B) the investigation was deliberately understaffed and drawn out  because you did not wish to be the gubernatorial candidate who took down fabled Penn State — with its massive and intensely loyal alumni network — and the beloved Joe Paterno. Since doing so would have presented difficult campaign challenges, many are asking if politics was placed above children’s safety.  Which leads to the next question.

2) Why was the investigation so understaffed? Yes, you just now claimed — after eight months — that media reports are wrong that only one investigator was assigned the case for the first 15 months. The real number, as you now state, was a whopping two.  We know you were busy with Bonusgate, but political corruption never threatens anyone’s physical well-being, particularly defenseless children.

And the two investigators assigned were narcotics agents. While Sandusky’s heinous crimes were many, drug offenses were not among them.

Yes, they were former police officers. But wouldn’t the reasonable course have been to assign agents with experience in child molestation cases? Did their inexperience lengthen the investigation more than normal…say, past your election in November, 2010?

Additional resources were available. Upon becoming governor, you placed state police on the case. You could have made that same request to Governor Rendell, and, given the stakes, there is virtually no possibility he would have refused. And since you are a former United States Attorney, you undoubtedly realized that federal assistance was also available.

3) Do you believe ethical and moral lines were crossed when, after investigating Penn State as Attorney General, you then participated as a member of the Board of Trustees upon becoming Governor?  

In other words, knowing full well that the investigation was still in full swing, conducted by your handpicked Attorney General successor, you nonetheless chose to sit on the very Board you had been — and still were — investigating!

Did you ever consider recusing yourself from Board activities until the investigation was concluded? Since governors rarely attend Board meetings, this would have in no way raised suspicions.


4) As governor, why did you personally approve a $3 million taxpayer-funded grant to Sandusky’s Second Mile charity, given your knowledge that Sandusky was under investigation for multiple child rapes?

Your statement that blocking the grant would have tipped people off to the investigation is utterly disingenuous, particularly since the media reported on the investigation in March, and you did not approve the funds until July, 2011.  

Vetoing the charitable grant would have simply been viewed as another financial cutback in a budget full of slashed programs.

So one has to ask if the $640,000 in campaign donations from board members of the Second Mile, along with their businesses and families, had anything to do with your actions?

If not, fine.  But how did such a massively significant point slip your mind — until the media brought it up? And was that question also out of line?

Since these are matters of grave concern, I and many others look forward to your immediate response.

 

*****

 

The media talks about Penn State’s Big Four casualties: Joe Paterno, former President Graham Spanier, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley. But perhaps they are missing the biggest: Tom Corbett.

He has always claimed to hold himself to a higher standard, and has roundly criticized Paterno and others for not doing more to stop Sandusky. But when it came down to it, when Corbett had the power to put a speedy end to Sandusky, he didn’t.  

If mistakes were made, fine. People can accept that.  But to stonewall reasonable questions on such an important matter, and then stalk off , is something that should not, and will not, be tolerated.

Tom Corbett has a choice, perhaps the biggest of his career.  He can either answer now — or in 2014.

 Link to column in Delaware County Daily Times:

http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/07/17/opinion/doc500484c4eef82305964009.txt

An accredited member of the medi\a, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

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July 17, 2012 at 7:59 am Comment (1)

Corbett’s Colossal Cockiness Castrates His Credibility

Candidate Choice Creates Calamitous Clusterf**k of Carnage

“Stevie Welch sat on a wall (of cards); Stevie Welch had a great fall (winning a mere two of 67 counties). All of King (or is it Joker?) Corbett’s horses (jackasses), and all the King’s men (endorsements by 27 County Commissioners and 35 State Legislators), couldn’t put Stevie’s candidacy together again (4 of 5 Republican voters rejected the Welch-Corbett-Obama “ticket”).

 

And so Freindly Fire’s prediction that Governor Corbett-endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Steve Welch would come in a whoppingly-bad third place was proven correct, though it didn’t take a political genius to guess that result.  After all, asking — strong-arming, actually — Republicans to support the Obama-voting, Joe Sestak-supporting Welch was anathema to common sense and political savvy.  And the resulting carnage is everywhere: the endorsement of the state Republican Party is as meaningful as being valedictorian of summer school; getting backed by Corbett now carries substantial negative baggage, and GOP legislators will think long and hard about aligning themselves with the Governor on his signature issues (are there any?), fearing that his promises of support could be akin to political suicide.

 

And all of this occurred just 15 months after being ushered into office with a ten-point margin and solid majorities in the House and Senate. And ironically, so easily preventable.

 

Many insiders will claim the blow to Corbett’s prestige will be a fleeting, short-term event. As is most often the case, those “experts” will be wrong. The political reality is that next month, when the Governor wants his ill-fated and unpopular voucher plan for only low-income families (which ignores the middle class) to pass, he will fall short, as his Party walks away from him. When he attempts to garner support for his proposed education cuts in the budget, he will meet substantial resistance. And should he try his hand at privatizing liquor, many in his GOP caucuses will cut and run.  Very few will risk their neck for a Guv who in the best of times was invisible, preferring the shadows to the bully pulpit. Now, Corbett has become a liability.

 

(Sidenote: Corbett’s low-income voucher allies made that issue the only issue this election, losing all of the races in which they were involved.  In particular, they spent big money trying to defeat West Philadelphia State Representative James Roebuck and mid-state Senator Pat Vance (who only ran again because she was “not going to be pushed out by any Political Action Committee.”). Both won easily — another reason Corbett will have a difficult time with that issue.)

 

Not only is Corbett’s popularity plummeting, but his reputation has been cemented as a lightweight empty-suit who simply can’t deliver.  The fact that he poisoned his own Party and made it a national laughingstock is icing on the cake.

 

In addition to Corbett’s endorsement of Welch (and the fact the he personally recorded the voice vote of every State Committee member during the GOP endorsement process), he went to the mat for his boy through mailers, phone calls, fundraisers and speeches.  Yet his election night was a disaster. Consider:

 

-The Corbett- Welch-ObamaDrama Ticket had all the advantages going into the race. With Santorum out of the presidential contest, many conservative-leaning Republicans did not vote — and low turnout elections almost always favor the endorsed candidate (especially the hand-picked favorite of a Governor).  The Party’s organizational structure and resources are usually sufficient to propel the anointed candidate to victory, but many Party committee people rebuked the Governor by openly supporting non-Welch candidates.

- Even better for Welch, there were two other major candidates in the race (Tom Smith, Sam Rohrer), both of whom would split the anti-establishment, anti-endorsement vote (and the remaining two candidates, David Christian and Marc Scaringi, did the same, taking 18 percent collectively). It should have been an easy “divide and conquer” campaign for Welch. Instead, it was a Kamikaze mission.
-There was a large snowstorm the day before the election across much of western Pennsylvania — Smith’s critical home base. Any dampening of that vote should have proven beneficial to the endorsed candidate, but it was Smith’s supporters who out-performed the once-vaunted statewide GOP machine.
- It should have been a slam-dunk for Welch to raise millions from Corbett and the big GOP donors.  But he took in an embarrassing $150,000 in the entire first quarter —half of Smith’s total and, quite possibly, even less than Smith’s dog. That lack of gravitas is quite telling.
- There was one bright spot: Welch’s campaign consultants reaped the benefits of the $1 million Welch personally gave his campaign.  The effectiveness of how they spent that money is another story, since there was no Philadelphia broadcast TV, limited media, and, come to think of it, virtually no campaign at all — usually not the best way to win an election.

 

-By far the most surreal moment of the night was Welch crying poor, complaining about being outspent 5-1 —even though he is accurately described in every news article as being the self-funding millionaire entrepreneur.  All self-funders claim that they will only spend a fixed amount, and, of course, exceed that after consultants convince them they are “closing fast.”  That never happened with Steve.  The irony is that he was always perceived as a self-funder (and no one wants to contribute to a rich candidate), but he clearly wasn’t able to micturate (look it up) with the big dogs in the tall grass.  Playing the rich-guy card (against a really rich guy like Smith) without having the aces in your hand isn’t just a bad bluff. It’s a dead-man’s hand.

 

Kind of makes you wonder what the hell the point was in going for the endorsement — or running at all.

*****

 

So what happens from here?  Prosecutor Kathleen Kane, who whipped the whining Patrick Murphy despite his endorsements from all the wrong folks (career pols Rendell and Nutter), is in the driver’s seat to become the first Democrat Attorney General. And expect the Penn State scandal to be front-and-center in the fall election, with Kane pounding away about what former Attorney General Tom Corbett knew, and when he knew it.

 

Not only would a Kane victory reflect negatively on Corbett (since the Dems would have captured that prize on his watch, and in doing so, beaten the Governor’s hand-selected candidate in what should be a Republican-leaning election), but his image and effectiveness will be further compromised as more is learned — and publicized —about his role in how the Penn State investigation was handled. 

 

From having it all just a year ago, Tom Corbett will witness his own Party run away from him on the issues and in the election — and helplessly watch as the Democrats make him the issue.

 

It took George W. Bush six years to get to that point.   If Tom Corbett’s goal was to best the former President, well…Mission Accomplished.

 

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

 

 

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April 27, 2012 at 10:08 am Comments (0)

Corbett’s Love Affair With The Democrats: An Election Letter Back At Ya’

 Well, primary election day is almost here, and some of the races have gotten downright nasty. From disingenuous, mean-spirited campaign ads to a Democrat masquerading as a Republican accusing his opponent of being a Democrat (did you get all that?), there’s something to satisfy everyone’s entertainment needs.

 

Perhaps the ugliest race is the Democratic contest for Attorney General (an office that Party has never held), pitting a woman against a whiner: prosecutor Kathleen Kane and former congressman Patrick Murphy.  Murphy certainly can’t run on his record (there isn’t one), so instead has charged Kane with being a millionaire trucking executive. (Note: if you can figure out how being married to a trucking company owner would prevent a career prosecutor from being an effective AG, please let me know. Perhaps she would look the other way on the rampant truck-on-truck crime in Pennsylvania?)

 

Of particular concern to many is that Murphy, who as a congressman perfectly personified the deer-in-headlights legislator (remember the Hardball interview with Chris Matthews on the Iraq war?), is running for the state’s top law enforcement job despite never prosecuting a single criminal case in Pennsylvania. He will need all the help he can get to pull out a victory, and apparently that help has arrived. Sources tell Freindly Fire that elements of the Republican Party have been covertly (and even overtly) pulling out all the stops for the young doe.  And for good reason: they see him as infinitely easier to beat in November than an articulate (and better looking) female prosecutor.

 

And speaking of Republicans helping Democrats, for your reading pleasure we have a letter from Governor Tom Corbett pushing Steve Welch, the Obama-voting, Joe Sestak-supporting U.S. Senate candidate he personally endorsed (and strong-armed the Republican Party to do the same). Unfortunately for the Governor, his letter is being received by an ever-dwindling number of supporters, many of whom are flat-out rejecting his call to back Welch. From elected officials to the grassroots, they are so incensed by what Corbett has demanded of them (akin to Party treason) that they are openly supporting other candidates in the race. Welch is most likely heading for a second-place finish, and maybe even third, either of which would be an incredible embarrassment to Corbett and a severe blow to his ebbing credibility.  

 

Alienating the Party faithful in a mystifying way is not exactly a recipe for influencing people and making friends, a fact lost on this Governor.

 

So in the spirit of accuracy, it is Freindly Fire’s civic duty to correct the Governor’s letter to reflect the truth, though we will leave the bad sentence structure intact. Commentary in bold:

 

Dear Friend,
 
In less than two years we have turned the tide (by being just like Ed Rendell?), and are righting the wrongs of the liberal agenda here in Pennsylvania (yes, that same “liberal agenda” that, in fact, was passed by an overwhelmingly Republican state senate).  We brought a new way of thinking to Harrisburg after inheriting a recession and a $4.2 billion dollar budget deficit in 2011 (Sorry, Guv, but despite the constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, those deficits still exist because no one—Republican or Democrat — will address the issues that led to those deficits.  Examples abound, such as the $400 million in I-80 tolls used to “balance” a prior budget — even though that interstate never became a toll road, and the money was never “repaid.”). While we have witnessed others in the past attempt to solve our state’s problems by spending more of your hard-earned tax dollars, I have employed a fiscally conservative approach to our economic issues (Yes, by finishing Rendell’s spending legacy of bailing out the Philadelphia Shipyard to build ships with no buyers, constructing a new stadium for the (obviously poor) New York Yankees’ AAA baseball team, funding the multimillion dollar Arlen Specter library,  spending Delaware River Port Authority funds (AKA taxpayer dollars) on projects having nothing to do with the bridges while tolls continue to increase…we’d love to continue, but column space is limited to 10,000 words).
 
Together with the General Assembly, we have put our state’s economy back on track (uhhh, the natural gas industry is leaving the state, in part because of no political leadership, and the unemployment rate has not measurably dropped), not by demonizing the private sector, but by lowering taxes (Really? The job-killing taxes haven’t been touched, such as the nation’s second-highest corporate tax and the 18 percent tax on every bottle of wine and booze to rebuild Johnstown from the flood — of 1936!), cutting government spending (let’s be honest — that’s only because the federal stimulus dollars dried up), balancing the budget on time and giving businesses the ability to create jobs and drive economic growth. 
 
Unfortunately, we have a government in Washington, D.C.  stuck in the same liberal trap that Pennsylvania was suffering in. (Sorry, can’t help it.  You aren’t supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. Where’s your brain at? Or, to be grammatically correct, Where’s your brain at, Genius?) We started the fight in 2010 by talking about real change and real reforms (Very, very true.  It was, and remains, all talk.) With your help and support, I was elected along with a Republican State Senate and House Majority, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey and 12 Republican congressmen to cut wasteful spending and promote economic growth. This year, we have to continue our efforts and send U.S. Senate candidate Steve Welch to join the fight! (The irony is just dripping here. Pennsylvania elects all those Republicans to stop the “liberal” Obama agenda — and Corbett is pushing an Obama-voter who was, until fairly recently, a Democrat. Go figure).
 
I endorsed Steve because he has the passion and ability to take our shared Pennsylvania values (Another truism, as Welch’s vote for Obama helped the President win Pennsylvania, and Corbett has acted more like a Democrat than Republican) to Washington, D.C. and get our federal government’s reckless spending back under control.  He is a businessman who has worked tirelessly to achieve the American dream, creating a successful living for himself and creating jobs for hundreds of others.  In the private sector, Steve has helped young entrepreneurs achieve their own dreams of launching a successful small business (In keeping with the “dream” theme, who in their right mind could possibly dream that endorsing an Obama-supporter would rally the Republican Party?)
 
Steve is running for the U.S. Senate because he believes in the same values you and I do! (Wait, whose values? Obama’s or Sestak’s? Or both? And do most in the GOP share those values? Admittedly, the Party’s pick for Prez is the architect of government healthcare, but still…). Steve could no longer sit back and watch as President Obama and Senator Bob Casey continue to spend our way into oblivion and add more debt onto the backs of future generations (Damn! If only Welch didn’t vote for Obama, that line may have worked!!). Steve wants to bring fiscal responsibility back to Washington, D.C. and help others achieve the American dream, as he has. (Unfortunately for Corbett and Welch, that’s not going to happen. There are no points for second (or third) place.  Sorry, Bob Casey — it doesn’t look like Christmas is coming early for you.)
 
Remember that we have a great slate of statewide candidates including Steve Welch – David Freed for Attorney General, John Maher for Auditor General and Diana Irey Vaughan for Treasurer – who need your support over the next few days.   You can visit www.pagop.org to learn how you can help. 
 
Most importantly, I hope you will join me on April 24thand cast your ballot for Steve Welch for U.S. Senate and our entire statewide team! (Too bad Democrats can’t vote in the Republican primary, since that would at least give your man a fighting chance…)
 
Sincerely, 

Tom Corbett
Governor (well, at least until 2014…)

 

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

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April 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm Comments (0)

Corbett’s US Senate Candidate Is An Albatross Around His Neck

 

The Guv’s man, Steve Welch, is an Obama Voter, infuriating many in the GOP

 

It’s the bottom of ninth, you’re down a run, two outs and a man on second.  Should he try to steal?

 

Hell no. A single probably scores you, and getting thrown out ends the game. Simply stated, the risk outweighs the reward. But if, for whatever reason, the decision to steal is made, there’s only one rule: you damn well better make it. Fail, and you’re toast with the fans, the media and your teammates.

 

For the political equivalent, look no farther than Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s bewildering decision in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

 

For a year, there were those who questioned whether the state even had a governor. Then Corbett stormed out of nowhere to endorse young businessman Steve Welch, strong-arming the Republican Party to do the same.  But despite this pressure, and the fact that the Governor personally recorded the vote of every State Committee member during the public proceeding (secret ballot? forget it), the endorsement vote was still close.  Why?

 

Maybe it had something to do with Corbett asking loyal Republicans to do the unthinkable — back a candidate who voted for Barack Obama. No, that’s not a misprint, and yes, that bears repeating: Welch voted for Mr. Hope and Change himself.  But there’s more.  He also contributed to Joe Sestak, and hosted an event for the man who was arguably the most liberal member of Congress.  

 

Here’s the kicker.  Despite Corbett’s support, Welch is running third and even fourth in some tracking polls (in a five man race), and his fundraising is nowhere near what you’d expect from the anointed favorite of the Governor.  

 

Many rank-and-file in the GOP are still scratching their heads as to why Corbett would back a flawed candidate who, should he win the primary, faces a huge uphill battle against incumbent Bob Casey. Given the circumstances, a Welch candidacy in the general election would be a gift from God to the Democrats.  Consider:

 

The President’s approval rating remains dangerously low; gas prices are soaring; Obamacare is hugely unpopular; and the economy is not recovering to the satisfaction of many.  These are big negatives that may prove decisive in races around the nation, and could become a backlash against the entire Democratic ticket through “guilt by association.” So in a year that the normally unbeatable Casey has become very mortal, many in the GOP simply aren’t buying the Corbett line that Welch is the best candidate.
And for good reason. Because of Welch’s support of Obama, any attack against Casey can be easily rebutted. 

 

“Bob Casey —you supported the President’s agenda,” would be countered by, “Yes, Steve Welch, and by voting for Obama, so did you. Glad we agree. What’s your point?”

 

It doesn’t help that Welch’s story keeps changing. He claims he left the Republican Party because George Bush and the GOP Congress weren’t doing enough to advance the conservative agenda. Fine. Many felt the same way.  That’s why God made the Independent, Reform and Constitutional Parties. But it’s mindboggling that any conservative would leave the GOP for the ultra-liberal Democratic Party. 

 

Welch then claimed he voted for Obama to stop “Hillary-care,” which also makes no sense since Obamacare is a far more aggressive government health care system. So which was it? Hillary-care or dissatisfaction with the Republicans?  And his claim that he was duped into believing Sestak was a fiscal conservative is laughable. Perhaps more than any politician in the nation, Sestak has proudly been true to his core beliefs — all of them staunchly liberal.

 

*****

To save the Pennsylvania Republican Party from national embarrassment, rank and file Republicans would be wise to hang the Steve Welch/Barack Obama/Joe Sestak debacle right where it belongs— as an albatross around Tom Corbett’s neck. He owns it, and he alone should bear the consequences of what most likely will be a colossal failure.

 

Ironically, Corbett has placed himself in a Catch-22. He made his endorsement, misguided as it is, and with his image and credibility at stake, his candidate better “make it.”

 

If Welch loses — and worse, comes in third — Corbett takes a hit. And yet, if Welch wins, he almost certainly loses to Casey in November, a defeat many will lay at the Guv’s feet for backing a candidate who was doomed from the start.

 

But here would be the biggest irony of all.  Due to the Governor’s own ineptitude, a stronger Bob Casey emerges victorious in November, then takes on and defeats Corbett in two years.  And since no Casey has ever lost a general election in Pennsylvania history, that’s a real possibility. 

 

Talk about the chickens coming home to roost.

 

 An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

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April 16, 2012 at 8:51 am Comments (0)

Philadelphia Catholic Schools Remain Open— But For How Long?

 Will the Church finally play political hardball?

 

I always try to check my emotions at the door when I begin a column. That’s why I rarely write in the first person. But, hey, I’m also human and a Philly Catholic, so I shed a few tears of joy when it was recently announced that four diocesan high schools and eighteen elementary schools were reprieved from their death sentence and would remain open. I didn’t go to Bonner (mine was the other Augustinian school, Malvern), but a brother, an uncle and a bunch of my friends did. (In fact, my uncle was a member of Bonner’s first graduating class and has three Prendergast—yes, Prendergast—football letters. How’s that for trivia?).And I have an aunt who’s a grad of the school which has, perhaps, the greatest tradition of all—West Catholic.

 

(Quick tangent: I’m a graduate of Annunciation BVM grade school in Havertown, which a niece and nephew presently attend.  Despite meeting or exceeding all of the thresholds laid out by Bishop McFadden in 2009 to remain open, Annunciation is nonetheless being closed. Ignoring the wishes of his congregation, the pastor refused to appeal. Scores of parishioners, encouraged by the 75% success rate of the schools that did appeal, as well as West Catholic remaining open even though it did not appeal, have taken their case directly to Archbishop Chaput.

 

Now that a short-term victory for many schools has been achieved, it’s time to push emotion aside and take an objective look at the situation, where more questions than answers remain.  What changed? What transpired in thirty days that allowed almost half of the schools to stay open? Was it “faulty information” that the Blue Ribbon Commission received, as some readers allege?  Or was it a few deep-pocketed donors stepping up to the plate?  And if so, is relying on a handful of wealthy individuals really a sustainable financial solution?

 

*****

 

It seems quite a stretch that bad information could be the reason for the turnaround. For that to be true, many schools must have submitted data painting a very negative picture — information subsequently determined to be incorrect (hence the reversals).  Outside of a few pastors who lack the desire or energy to further the mission of Catholic education, that scenario doesn’t stand up to the common sense test, since most schools would obviously put their best foot forward in their quest to stay open.

 

So either the Commission did not request the right information, or completely dropped the ball in analyzing the documents it did receive (as referenced in last week’s column). Either way, given that the Commission’s decisions affected the lives of so many, Philadelphia Catholics had every right to expect more, especially given the composition of the Commission. Its members included former top executives of some of America’s largest banks and insurance companies who were familiar with making tough financial decisions. Something just doesn’t add up, and, fair or not, that is fostering cynicism and fear that future closings are inevitable.

Of course, there is another possibility — that the Commission simply never bothered (or wasn’t allowed?) to contact many of the schools in question.  Since more than a few pastors confidentially enlightened me to that situation — why would they lie about something so easily verifiable? — it tends to further cloud the entire decision making process, both closures and reprieves.  And why on earth, if the Commission/Archdiocese realized that the data was incomplete and/or their methodologies flawed, would they not postpone the original announcement in January until they got their house in order?

As a result, many faithful are rolling their eyes (again), wondering how the Archdiocese could look so foolish, while still not communicating any long-term solution. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that, since enrollment has decreased sharply over the last decade while costs have risen, a viable plan must be enacted quickly, or the same situation will arise in the near future.

 

With that distinct possibility looming, how can the Church avoid it?

 

1) Start talking about the positive aspects of the Church, restoring the credibility that has been shattered by years of sex scandals, shredded documents and cover-ups. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest provider of social services in the entire world (and second in America behind only the U.S. government) and administers the world’s largest nonpublic school system, yet most people are unaware of those phenomenal achievements — a massive failure in public relations. The Catholic mission is perhaps the most noble on the planet, and the Church’s history, while certainly not without its darker moments, is a storied one.  From its humble beginnings as the church of a fisherman named Peter, Roman Catholicism became the most benevolent and impactful force the world has ever known.  It’s time to tell that magnificent story and educate the world — again — on what it really means to be Catholic, while purging every aspect of the scandals which have rocked the Church to its very foundations. Unequivocally, pride in Catholic identity leads to fuller schools.

 

2) The newly created Faith In The Future Foundation — charged with fundraising and being a guiding force on marketing and recruiting for the 17 archdiocesan high schools and assisting parish elementary schools—- is a good idea, but only if it offers membership to rank-and-file Catholics with ears to the ground.  Much criticism directed at the Church is that it is too insulated from the pressing issues, and too isolated from the parishioners themselves.  If the Foundation is comprised only of millionaires and politically-connected Catholics, it will fail.  That is not to invoke “class warfare,” for having intelligent business leaders is imperative, but by definition, most would not be able to relate to the concerns of the masses (no pun intended).  If “average” Catholics are not given a dedicated platform to offer their perspective, the rigidness, bureaucracy and stagnation that has come to define the Archdiocese will only worsen.  And the exodus of Catholics will accelerate.

 

3) The Church needs to fight. If you want a true long-term solution to keep schools open and thriving, and believe the best way is by returning to parents some of their tax money (vouchers and tax credits) so they can make the best choice where to educate their children, you are absolutely correct. But it doesn’t happen by itself.  

 

It only happens when political muscle is flexed. It only happens when you play hardball.  It only happens when you unabashedly make school choice the Church’s Number One issue in the primary and general election.  And it only happens when you make it crystal clear to all legislators who doubt the ferocity of a newly awakened tiger — one that has shed its paper skin — that they will reap the whirlwind for that miscalculation.

 

Seems common sense, yet the Church has been doing the complete opposite. For over a year, Freindly Fire and others have been successfully battling clueless Church factions who have been pushing “educational reform” legislation (Senate Bill 1) that would neither educate nor reform.  It’s such a worthless bill —written while Ed Rendell was still Governor and not amended to include the middle class (at all) despite an infinitely more favorable Legislature and pro-school choice Governor Tom Corbett — that, had it been passed a year ago, virtually none of the schools slated for closure would have been saved. School choice bills affecting just low-income families are born losers; only when the middle class is comprehensively included will there be light at the end of the tunnel to help Catholic schools survive and prosper.

 

Ironically, the Church — through its lobbying arm, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference —hurt itself by backing the wrong bill and not being truthful that the middle class was excluded from that legislation. Upon learning that the bill would never affect them or help keep their schools open, many Catholics reacted with palpable anger, setting off another wholly preventable firestorm. One step forward and three back is not the way to achieve political success.

 

What can be done immediately? Make an extremely aggressive push to have the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) expansion bill pass the Senate, where “school choice advocate” Senator Jeff Piccola is selfishly letting it languish (calling it “D.O.A.”) because he can’t pass his low-income voucher bill.  Making the sin mortal is that the EITC bill, sponsored by Montgomery County State Representative Tom Quigley, passed the House by an unheard-of bipartisan vote of 190 to 7 —a year ago!  The biggest tragedy is that some of the schools that have been ordered to close might have been saved if this bill had passed last spring.  But because of misguided legislative priorities and a total lack of political pressure by the Church, Catholics — and their schools — continue to suffer.

 

*****

 

All of the suggested solutions will be for naught if the hierarchy doesn’t learn one lesson very quickly. You cannot grow the Church by being inconsistent, and yes, hypocritical, especially to your own people.  The Archdiocese has thus far refused to grant school choice to many in elementary schools, instead dictating what schools children must attend.  That policy has created an immense backlash, with thousands feeling betrayed since they correctly see the Church pushing school choice for others, but denying it to them.  And no amount of spin or enrollment explanations will change that bitter sentiment.  Charity starts at home.

 

Of the countless emails received in the last week — most from loyal Catholics — one message was most common: Keep the faith but fight the corruption. 

 

If grounded Church leaders and reinvigorated rank-and-file Catholics keep that in mind while preaching a positive message and a wielding a political sledgehammer, then prayers for keeping Catholic education alive far into the future will undoubtedly be answered.

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

 

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February 29, 2012 at 3:03 pm Comment (1)

Opposing Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients? Are You High?

Randomly testing all public workers is simply common sense

Random drug testing of welfare recipients and public workers is racist, discriminatory and blatantly unconstitutional.

And if believe any of that, you’re smoking something.

Once again, the drug testing issue is making headlines in Pennsylvania, as such a program is now underway. Unfortunately, because the Legislature dragged its feet (what else is new?), the current initiative is a scaled-down version of the original bill, and has been put into effect via an emergency budgetary order from the Governor. It only applies to welfare recipients who have been convicted of a felony in the last five years or are currently on parole or probation.

Too bad.  It should include every single non-elected person receiving a paycheck courtesy of John Q. Taxpayer.

(The only officials who should be exempted from mandated drug testing are elected officials, though that position is sure to generate hoots and hollars from the cheap seats.  The rationale is simple: they are elected by the people. They are not collecting government assistance checks, nor are they hired as civil service workers. True, much of what we see from elected officials leaves us wondering if they’re all on drugs.  And yes, at first glance it seems hypocritical for lawmakers to enact laws that they themselves do not have to follow, but they are in the unique position of being employed directly by the people. What’s next? A State Rep fails the test and is stripped of his seat? Not practical, probably unconstitutional, and a very dangerous precedent.  Would these elected office holders be smart to voluntarily take a drug test? Absolutely, because if they don’t, they’ll be unsuccessfully explaining themselves all the way to the ballot box.)

Remember the point of state-mandated drug testing: to ascertain whether someone receiving money — given to them by hardworking Pennsylvania taxpayers — is breaking the law by using those funds on illegal drugs. It is not to put people behind bars, but to ensure that they are clean and not abusing taxpayer dollars.

Proof that this is not a conspiratorial police-state tactic designed to incarcerate the state’s drug users, but a program to simply ensure responsible stewardship of the people’s money?

Consumption of drugs is not illegal. Manufacturing, distribution and possession of illicit narcotics is. And since having drugs in one’s system is not legally considered “possession,” no one failing a drug test would be arrested.

*****

Taxpayers have an absolute right to know that their money isn’t going to welfare recipients’ drug habits.  No one has a gun to his head to go on public assistance, just like no one forces people to work at a private sector company that mandates drug tests.  It’s part of the deal— take it or leave it.

Seemingly lost in the debate is that drug testing isn’t a discriminatory act against select individuals, but is increasingly common throughout all of society.  Many companies require applicants to pass a drug test as a condition of employment, for obvious, common sense reasons. No business wants drug users on the job, as they would be high-risk, untrustworthy employees who would undoubtedly threaten not just productivity, but company stability.

It’s key to remember that public assistance is supposed to help the recipient and his/her family survive; it should never be used carelessly, especially for something illegal.  Since drugs are illegal, if recipients can’t prove themselves to be clean, they should receive no benefits.  It’s that simple. Public benefits are a privilege, not a right, just like driving or flying. If people choose not to abide by the rules, that’s fine. But it’s simply arrogant to think one is entitled to these benefits without any conditions.

Here are some of the more disingenuous arguments the pro-druggie side likes to use:

Argument: Welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than the rest of the population.

Answer: Who cares?  That’s completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what the percentages are, although that claim is certainly suspect.  The majority of the population isn’t directly receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. For those who are, drug testing should be the rule.  Don’t like it?  Fine.  Get a job. And if you have a public sector job, be thankful you do and act responsibly to keep it.  You work for the people. It’s their money.

 

Argument: Drug testing is expensive.

Answer: If the government starts operating like a business, and aggressively negotiates volume discounts with private testing companies, the price isn’t that high.  This common sense expenditure would surely even pass Tea Party muster.  By definition, Government must spend money, but should do so smartly and efficiently. The testing should be for all new applicants, and random testing of the entire public pool thereafter, somewhere in the five to ten percent range.

And financially and ethically, what is the cost of having taxpayers subsidize a crack addict’s drug habit?

 

Argument: The ACLU challenged the mandatory drug testing program as unconstitutional, arguing that drug testing of welfare recipients violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches, labeling it “intrusive.”

Answer: That’s insulting to every citizen NOT on the public dole. First, the anti-testing folks, including legislators and the ACLU, are not Supreme Court justices, so it’s not up to them to determine constitutionality.  Second, odds are certainly favorable that given the makeup of both the state and U.S. Supreme Court, mandatory drug testing would be upheld. Welfare recipients arern’t being forced to do anything. They choose to apply for welfare.  After that, they must abide by the conditions placed upon them in return for receiving public money.

 

Argument: Random drug testing is thinly-veiled racism, and an attempt to demonize public sector workers by lumping them into the (false) public perception that all welfare recipients are drug-using, inner city dregs of society.

Answer: I wouldn’t have believed these accusations could be made with a straight face, but that’s exactly what was thrown at me during two televised debates on this issue. Such weak arguments only serve to bolster what most people instinctively know: random drug testing of those receiving taxpayer money is sound policy that serves to weed out bad apples and preserve the integrity of “charitable” giving.

Given that a Democratic Senator, John Wozniak, is the prime sponsor of the Pennsylvania bill, and his Party loves to bill itself as the defender of the poor, minorities and public sector workers, those charges don’t stand up for a second.

They are so ridiculous on their face that they shouldn’t need rebutting, but it bears repeating: this issue has nothing to do with race (many on public assistance are White), and zero to do with demonizing public sector workers and unions (as many in the private sector are tested as well).  It has everything to do with the reasonable expectation of taxpayers that their money be used for humanitarian purposes (public assistance) and an intelligent, stable and productive workforce (public sector employees).

*****

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart ran a comedic segment, with one of its “reporters” interviewing the Florida legislator who sponsored a similar bill, and Rick Scott, the Sunshine State’s Governor who also championed the drug testing cause. Both men are right on the issue, but may have lost the PR battle, looking downright foolish at times.  That’s a shame, because it’s communication miscues like those in that interview that sets the issue back in other states, giving credence to otherwise baseless arguments that should have been smoked from the get-go.

It’s not what you say, but how you say it. So in Pennsylvania, let’s say it loud and clear: “This is your paycheck (a lot of taxpayer money).  And this is your paycheck on drugs: Absolutely nothing!”

Finally something worth inhaling.

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

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February 13, 2012 at 10:26 am Comments (6)

Rendell As Inquirer Owner? Might As Well Be Philly Enquirer

A Jerry Maguire-like treatise for how to resurrect the media’s credibility

 

Famed political strategist James Carville once referred to Pennsylvania as two major cities with Alabama in between.  What an insult to Alabama.

 

The folks in the nation’s fifth-largest state — all of them — are the backwards ones, the sad result of refusing to hold their leaders accountable for broken campaign promises and abject failures. All the while, their neighboring states — AKA “the competition” — continue to make gains at Pennsylvania’s expense.

 

Ohio and West Virginia are successfully courting natural gas and oil companies, which are beginning to exit Pennsylvania. Indiana is thriving after enacting comprehensive statewide school choice and becoming a Right To Work state, where compulsory unionism is no required as a condition of employment.

 

New Jersey (yes, Jersey!) can woo companies across the river because of faith that a real leader, Chris Christie, is righting the ship.  Everyone else on the planet can buy liquor easier and cheaper than Pennsylvanians.  And corruption, both criminal and institutionalized, remains rampant, killing optimism and trampling the hope that you can beat City Hall.

 

From Ed Rendell to Tom Corbett (is there a difference?), a lack of leadership has left Pennsylvania on the precipice, its citizens staring into the abyss of permanent mediocrity, paralyzed by fear to take the risks necessary to forge ahead. Such a malaise is anathema to employers looking for economic stability, a less hostile atmosphere and a better educational system.

 

While that lack of leadership is inexcusable, there is another, even more important factor as to why the state finds itself in such a precarious situation: a media that has sold its soul, forsaking its most basic mission of holding everyone accountable, with a “no sacred cows” approach. For far too long, stories that needed to be told were relegated to the dustbin. And unsavory politicians and business leaders counted on that. Without an aggressive press, it was, and remains, the Wild West where bad guys operate with impunity.

 

There is no better example of the media’s fall from grace than that of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Once a paper of national significance that took a bulldog approach to its reporting, it has since become a shell of its former self, an also-ran full of AP feeds and local fluff stories of virtually no interest.

 

The Inky really jumped the tracks was when it was “led” by Brian Tierney, who, along with investors, paid over half a billion for the paper (and the Daily News) in 2006.

Mired in debt, Tierney did the unthinkable — he approached then-Governor Rendell for a taxpayer-funded bailout to keep the papers afloat in 2009, a story that Freindly Fire broke ( http://freindlyfirezone.com/home/item/43-possible-inquirer-bailout-draws-ire ) and was picked up by the Wall Street Journal in its harshly-worded editorial “Bad News In Philadelphia — The Worst Bailout Idea So Far: Newspapers.”

 

WSJ Link

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123353263226537457.html

 

 

Predictably, Rendell was ready and willing to lend that helping hand.  But as negative fallout for the bailout plan grew, the deal fell apart and the papers filed for bankruptcy.

 

Despite what common sense unquestionably tells us — that a taxpayer-funded newspaper would in fact be an “adjunct of the state,” as the WSJ so adroitly described it — the players in that ill-fated bailout attempt saw nothing wrong with their actions.

 

Thankfully, Tierney is out of the picture, having lost the papers to an investor group who held much of the original debt.  But incomprehensibly, the situation has come full circle. Now the current owners want out, and it has been reported that none other than Ed Rendell has been approached to put together an investor group to possibly buy the papers.

 

Really?  Ed Rendell?  How is that even remotely possible?

 

Where is the journalistic integrity in working with the very man who stood cocked, ready to unleash millions in taxpayer funds to bail out an “independent” media entity?  It’s no secret that it has become increasingly difficult for papers to make a profit in the age of The New Media, but having Rendell as your “Go-To” man underscores just how desperate the situation has become.

 

Taking marching orders from elected officials destroys the very essence of being a journalist and jeopardizes the unique constitutional protections afforded to media members.  Sure, Ed Rendell is a private citizen now, but his mentality — how he sees the role of the government working hand-in-hand with the media — has undoubtedly not changed.

 

But the behavior of the Inquirer’s ownership should come as no surprise, given that it recently accepted a $2.9 million loan from the City of Philadelphia to assist the company move to a new headquarters. Yes, the same city, the same Mayor and the same City Council that the newspapers are supposed to be objectively covering.  Is nothing scared anymore?

 

The last thing the region needs is an investor group led by political insiders and ideologically-supercharged individuals with aggressive personal agendas.  As painful as it would be for the thousands of hard-working folks at the those newspapers, it would be better for the entire entity to close its doors than be associated with folks who may, at any given time, make a pitch for public financing.

 

And while past performance is not indicative of future results, it’s a damn good bet.

 

Better to have no paper at all than one that prostrates itself at the feet of the very people it purports to objectively cover.  And since the Philadelphia newspapers have been anything but a watchdog over the last six years, churning out less than a handful of quality investigations, the bad guys would see virtually no difference, since they’re not exactly sweating investigative reporters knocking on their doors.

 

 

Where The Media Went Wrong
The sad reality is that The Fourth Estate has abdicated its sacred responsibility of keeping American institutions honest and true. No longer respected as the entity which holds feet to the fire and follows investigations wherever they may lead, the American media has instead become part and parcel of the Establishment. Too many journalists play the “go-along, get-along” game — some because it’s easy, others because they want to be liked, still others who are afraid they will lose “access” if they ask the tough questions.

 

These people have forgotten that their profession does not lend itself to having “friends,” since nothing and no one should ever be off the table. The result of these close alliances is blatant conflicts of interest, both personal and professional.  Once that line is crossed, it is nearly impossible to return.

 

No medium is immune from this malady.  Those in television, radio, newspaper and internet are all complicit. As an entity, the media has fallen down on its most basic journalistic responsibilities, losing its integrity, and ultimately its credibility, along the way.

Consequently, the public’s view of the media is at an historic low.  And while complaints abound that the media is biased, which to a certain extent it is, this is but a symptom of a much greater illness.  A slant towards liberalism or conservatism is wrong, to be sure, but inherent laziness and, by extension, incompetence, are the first problems that must be rectified. Competence and vision will trump bias every time.

 

Resurrecting the media’s image is a Herculean task. And when the free press reaches the point where it is no longer believed, it stands on the edge of becoming completely irrelevant.

 

Whether it is nauseating nonstop coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s funeral procession or feel-good fluff stories in our nation’s pre-eminent newspapers, the lack of hard-hitting investigative reporting and aggressive interviews with top national and international leaders is appalling. Producers and editors are constantly looking over their shoulders at the competition, choosing to push out content to be like “every other station,” passing on golden opportunities to be different, to be journalists to be leaders.

 

These people spend more time trying to keep their jobs than actually doing them.

 

There is a certain irony here. If media executives produced the quality work that the American people expect, their ratings would skyrocket, and advertisers would pay a premium.  The biggest myth being propagated about the bankruptcy of media companies is that they are victims of the economy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

They are victims of their own ineptitude.

 

Americans still have an unquenchable thirst for the news, but they are increasingly tuning out the mainstream media because the content is utterly lacking of substance.

 

The solution is simple — it’s just not easy. Nothing and no one should be off the table.  Not politicians, government officials, businessmen, media personalities, sports stars, nor celebrities. With no agenda except the truth, the media should pursue stories with no boundaries and no restrictions.

 

*****

Americans don’t gravitate to question marks, but exclamation points.  It’s time to put the exclamation point back in the American press, not through new technologies and gimmicks, but by pursuing the only thing that matters: the truth.

 

As the voice in the classic baseball movie Field Of Dreams commanded, “Build it and they will come.” In the same way, if the media gets off its duff and starts producing content worthy of the world’s best press, readers and viewers will come — in unprecedented numbers.

 

Unfortunately, if Ed Rendell takes over Philadelphia’s newspapers, the ballpark will be empty before the new game even begins.

 

 

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

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February 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm Comments (2)

No Secret Ballot For GOP Endorsement Is Same As Union Card Check

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), commonly known as “Card Check,” is the misnamed legislation promoted by Organized Labor to stop the hemorrhaging within union ranks.  (From a high near 40 percent after World War II, union representation in the private sector has plummeted to just 7 percent today). It would make organizing a union infinitely easier by eliminating the current secret ballot vote used to determine whether employees wish to unionize.

Common sense tells us that whenever a secret ballot is not employed, many people will not vote their conscience.  Instead, they fall victim to intimidation and arm-twisting, and end up casting a ballot in favor of the person whom they are strongly encouraged —AKA “told” — to support.  The result is a rigged, Banana Republic election, anything but “Free Choice.”

The Republican Party, on both the state and national level, has vigorously opposed Card Check, not only because it is grossly unfair to companies, but much more important, because it would cavalierly discard that most fundamental American bedrock value: free and fair elections.  It is a right that has been held sacred in this nation, and has allowed the people to chart their own course and make their own decisions, free of outside influence and intimidation.

Given this, it seems extremely hypocritical that the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania — while opposing Card Check — jettisons free and fair voting for its own members by refusing to allow secret ballot votes on important issues, such as Party endorsements.

And now, on the eve of the meeting in which the Committee will vote whether to endorse a candidate for the U.S. Senate (or not endorse at all), that issue has become a firestorm that is only growing in intensity.

The big question centers on whether the Party will endorse millionaire Steve Welch, a favorite among several GOP leaders, including Republican Governor Tom Corbett. The problem many have with Welch is that he voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary and supported former Congressman Joe Sestak, a stalwart liberal consistently to the Left of Obama. Welch claims he left the GOP out of frustration that it wasn’t conservative enough, leaving more than a few Republicans perplexed.

(In an email to PoliticsPA this week, Sestak wrote of his meeting with Welch: “He expressed support of me and what I stood for. He seemed nice and, separately, supportive of the Democratic Party and its efforts.”)

So would the Party really risk massive damage to itself by endorsing an Obama-voter, and make the sin mortal by doing so without a secret ballot?

They can’t be that dumb.

But this being Pennsylvania’s Republican Party, all bets are off.

Should they endorse Welch, it will be a double whammy, throwing the entire Party into a quagmire from which it would be difficult to escape.

State Committee would cement the perception that its endorsements are behind-the-scenes deals by inside powerbrokers hell-bent on executing individual agendas — the rank-and-file Party faithful be damned.  More damaging, it would play out — in full public view — exactly how ruthlessly efficient Card Check tactics are, making unions blush with envy.

How could Party leaders possibly explain with a straight face that the process was fair, and that no political pressure and intimidation took place — when Governor Corbett and certain State Committee leaders were openly pushing Welch?  Would it really be plausible to believe that the message “do it for the Party, and do it for your Governor — or else your political career stops here” wouldn’t be made loud and clear?

Even more telling, how could the Party explain Committee members’ change of heart in endorsing Welch after only one of five State Committee regional caucus straw polls voted for Welch as their candidate of choice? In other words, of the five regional “pre-election” votes that took place — voted on by the very same people who are now being asked to change their vote and endorse Welch — only one made Welch a winner. Significantly, Welch’s own Southeast Caucus refused to hold a straw poll, and Corbett was not even able to deliver his hometown Southwest Caucus for Welch.

 

This is by no means an indictment of Steve Welch. It has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with the Republican Party. Clearly, in this particular situation, the wisest course of action would be to ignore the Governor’s misguided endorsement and refuse to endorse any candidate.

 

In allowing grassroots Republicans across Pennsylvania to make their choice, free of Party endorsements, a civil war inside the GOP would be averted, and the best candidate — the people’s choice — would emerge to take on incumbent Bob Casey.  And if Welch wins a non-endorsement primary, his victory would not be tainted with the perception that he “bought” his way to the nomination.  Regardless of the outcome, no one can argue with the results if rank-and-file Republican voters make that decision.

Besides gaining immense credibility with many Republicans should it not endorse a candidate, State Committee could score a huge coup by then amending its bylaws to allow for that which is uniquely American: secret ballot elections.

Otherwise, it will become known as Republican State Committee, Local 666.

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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January 27, 2012 at 8:26 am Comments (0)

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