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Saturday, June 03, 2006
Posted 9:09 PM by

Perzel takes trips, pays staffers with campaign cash

Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel has paid his staffer $700,000 out of campaign contributions for their political work.Anyone who wants to know why Pennsylvanians are crying out for reform and throwing incumbent legislators out of office need only read a story from today's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about state House Speaker John Perzel.

In a state where there are no limits on how much money a candidate can raise and how much someone can donate, and with little to no restrictions on what the money can be spent for, Perzel, R-Philadelphia, has set a new all-time low.

He's used $700,000 of the contributions he's raised to reimburse family, friends and legislative staffers assisting his campaign - in effect paying them for their political help when some already draw a salary from the state.

For instance, Perzel's chief of staff, attorney Brian Preski, is paid $160,000 by state taxpayers to oversee Perzel's legislative staff. In 2005, Perzel's campaign also paid him a $56,000 salary as its chairman.

Perzel's campaign also reimbursed Preski $264,000 in 2004 and 2005 for expenses ranging from bottled water, to trips to Las Vegas for him, Perzel and their wives and trips to the last two Super Bowls for both men and their sons, as well as babysitters and food for Preski's kids.

The Trib quotes John Kennedy, a former Republican House member from Cumberland County, as saying Perzel's campaign spending is "mind-boggling" and "an abuse of power."

Perzel didn't have to pay for his own tickets to the Super Bowls or his trip to Vegas. They were paid for by lobbyists.

However, the verbatim transcript of his and Preski's responses to the newspaper is downright hysterical to read.

At one point, Perzel was asked why his campaign spent $1,349 for a bar bill at Davio's restaurant in Philadelphia on Oct. 1, 2004, for which Preski was reimbursed. The receipt for "liquor" was marked "Supreme Court."

"Separate and apart from his other duties, Mr. Preski served during that time as a member of the Supreme Court Criminal Rules Committee," Perzel wrote. "The members of the Criminal Rules Committee came to the City of Philadelphia in early October 2004. At a dinner event for the Committee my campaign paid for the drinks served that night.

"There were committee members in attendance at the dinner. My campaign benefits from the knowledge of the issues affecting criminal justice policy in our Commonwealth. As the Speaker I am often asked during campaigns my views on many of the issues that affect the Commonwealth as a whole. Mr. Preski is able to gain important insight into these matters during the give and take between the members of this Committee during the meals that take place when the Committee is in recess. As a courtesy to the members of this Committee, who are themselves volunteers, my campaign committee paid for this expense of the dinner during their visit to Philadelphia."

Is it any wonder now why Perzel put Preski in charge of a closed-door panel of current and former state lawmakers, lawyers, judges and others that will make sure a lobbyist disclosure bill passes Constitutional muster before it's put to a vote?

The bill itself is being written by Perzel's unnamed "research staff" behind closed doors and Perzel has promised to have it on Gov. Ed Rendell's desk by the end of the month.

Attorney Brian Preski, House speaker John Perzel's chief of staff, has drawn an extra $56,000 salary from Perzel's campaign funds. He also happens to be chairman of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority.Despite the outlays, Perzel had nearly $1.5 million left in two campaign war chests - Friends of John Perzel and John Perzel Victory 2006 - on May 1. Nevertheless, he was still out raising money even though he didn't have a primary opponent on May 16.

In fact, he raised another $500,000 last week in Pittsburgh, the Tribune-Review reported.

Is it wonder why reform-minded Republicans are now considering ousting Perzel from his leadership position?
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