"What's black and white and read all over?"

Friday, December 30, 2005
Posted 8:50 AM by

Pot-bellied Rendell to PAC kettle: You're (in the) black

Bully at the pulpit. Ed Rendell claims he's for campaign finance reform even though he's stashed $12 million for his re-election campaign next year.The wheels of campaign finance reform grind ever so slowly in Pennsylvania, when they don't hit a pothole, blowout and ride on their rims after every election cycle.

Case in point, Gov. Ed Rendell said Thursday he will propose limits on giving money to state-level campaigns in Pennsylvania, capping what a person or group can give to a single candidate as well as the cumulative amount during a campaign cycle.

The only way to end the cycle of legalized corruption that has permeated all levels of politics - from the local to the national, though, is for Congress to mandate TV stations give candidates free air time during the six weeks leading up to an election, said Rendell, an ex-Democratic National Committee chairman.

That sounds real pretty coming from the pot-bellied former Philly prosecutor, but it comes only after he's already sold his soul to raise $12 million for his re-election campaign next year - possibly his last as a public official.

Where was Fast Eddie on this issue the last four years, while he and Legislators took all the pro-gambling and other special interest money they could get their grubby hands on?

As a candidate for governor in 2002, Rendell said he would propose limits of about $5,000 in donations by individuals and groups to a candidate and $25,000 total in a gubernatorial election year. Then, Rendell smashed state campaign finance records during that gubernatorial campaign, raising and spending more than $42 million.

He declined to say how much he plans to raise next year, saying only that it would be "whatever is needed" to win.

Pennsylvania bans direct political donations by corporations, labor unions, and regulated industries, but it doesn't prevent their officers and employees from giving money. It is also one of a dozen states that have little or no limits on political giving.

The state Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation is only empowered to check the accuracy of state-wide candidates' campaign finance reports only after a formal complaint is filed.

The bureau's web site lets users search for candidates reports, but only lets them look at how much individual contributors have given to multiple candidates in a single year.

Meanwhile, the rules allow candidates and political action committees to spend donated money on virtually anything - even playing kingmaker, by giving it away to other candidates.

Pa. Politicians can also re-write their finance reports whenever they feel like it and postpone reporting the source of much of their funding until 30 days after an election.

Limiting how much they can sell themselves to special interests touches only the tip of the iceberg.

It's not like this issue hasn't gotten lip service before.

Sign of the times? Who can blame taxpayers for feeling second class with bought-off jerks supposedly representing them in Harrisburg.In 1998, I sat through two days of special hearings in Wilkes-Barre for a special commission that proposed limiting judicial campaign contributions to $1,000 per individual and $5,000 per legal entity for statewide races, and $500 per individual and $2500 per legal entity for common pleas races.

It also wanted to set financing caps of $1 million for Supreme Court candidates, $500,000 for Superior Court and Commonwealth Court, and $250,000 for common pleas.

But it came to nothing and that's two days of my life I'll never get back.


This Week's Rants | The Daily Rant Archives

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.