Fired Staffer Claims Cover-Up

Posted on Tue 02/26/2008 by

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by , Co-founder of Democracy Rising PA

In This Edition

  • Reality Check
  • Fired Staffer Claims Cover-Up
  • Campaign Funds Pay Veon Debt
  • Full-Time Cost, Part-Time Work
  • Representatives Propose to Cut Legislature’s Budget

Reality Check
964 – Days since the Pay Raise of 2005. See the ticker .
2 – Laws enacted to improve government integrity. See .
0 – “Best-in-America” laws enacted. See .
See the full of “Reality Check” on the web.

Fired Staffer Claims Cover-Up
Last November, House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, fired seven top staffers. Last week, one of them sued DeWeese claiming that the firing was a ploy to cover up wrongdoing by unnamed legislators.

Steve Keefer of Lebanon was the House Democrats’ director of information technology before being fired. His lawsuit claims, “The termination … was a direct result of a conscious and knowing effort to divert attention and suspicion from individual members of [the Democratic caucus].” The court papers also claim that he is entitled to $27,430 as payment for unused sick and vacation leave. The letter that fired him told him he would receive the payment, but the money has been withheld.

Earlier this year, Keefer won his first battle with DeWeese when he was awarded unemployment compensation over DeWeese ‘s objections.

Campaign Funds Pay Veon Debt
The House Democratic Campaign Committee (HDCC) has paid more than $40,000 of debt racked up by former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon, D-Beaver, in his losing bid for re-election in 2006. The payments were made more than a year after his defeat.

The irony is thick since Veon is now a lobbyist. No one interviewed by reporters can recall a time when politicians paid a lobbyist. Usually it’s the other way around.

State Rep. Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne, is chair of the HDCC and authorized two payments. Three House Democrats who raise money for the HDCC – Rep. Joe Preston, D-Allegheny; Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny; and Rep. Jennifer Mann, D-Lehigh – said they were not consulted, although Eachus says he consulted with unnamed others in Democratic leadership before making the gifts.

Some have questioned the legality of the payments. Under state law, which is routinely ignored and un-enforced, campaign funds are to be used to influence the outcome of an election. CLICK HERE for the story by the ‘s Brad Bumsted and Deb Erdley.

Questions:

  • Who asked Eachus to pay the money to Veon?
  • How does paying year-old campaign debt influence the outcome of an election?
  • Will donors withhold or reduce contributions if they think their money will go to pay off losers rather than elect winners?

Full-Time Cost, Part-Time Work
As a few lawmakers know (see below), Pennsylvania’s legislature has the most expensive payroll and consumes the largest percentage of the state budget of any legislature in America. We also have the largest full-time staff except for New York, and our cost-per-citizen is twice the cost of New York and nearly three times the cost of California. CLICK HERE for a previous DR News about this.

So we took a minute to look at what we’re getting for our money over the past 14 months. Figures are as of yesterday morning:

  • Bills introduced 3,552
  • Laws enacted 118 (including 39 budget bills)
  • Voting Days of Session House 90; Senate 105

Of course, a great deal of work occurs in committees. So we looked at the 48 standing committees (26 in the House, 22 in the Senate):

  • More than half of the committees in each chamber have reported out 2 or fewer bills per month in the past 14 months.
  • Most committees have reported out fewer than one-fourth of the bills they received.

But here’s the best part. Two committees have received no bills and held no hearings in the past 14 months.

Which ones? The House Ethics Committee and the Senate Ethics Committee. .

Representatives Propose to Cut Legislature’s Budget
Several representatives have proposed cutting the legislature’s $334 million budget by 20%. Democrat Matt Smith and Republican Randy Vulakovich led a news conference two weeks ago to announce the plan for this year’s budget. Others supporting the plan at the news conference included Mark Mustio, R-Allegheny; Jesse White, D-Washington; Sean Ramaley, D-Beaver; Jaret Gibbons, D-Lawrence; Tim Mahoney, D-Fayette; and Eugene DePasquale, D-York.

Smith said the group wanted their leaders to know that cutting the legislature’s budget is “important to obtain their vote at budget time.”

They did not mention that a 20 percent cut could be easily funded from the legislature’s surplus, which exceeds $200 million.


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