Friday, August 18, 2006

Pa. Pay Raise, Act 201 Utility Terminations, No Lobbyist Disclosure Law, Bond Issue Transactions. . .

Did you know? Pennsylvania is the only state in the union that does not have a lobbyist disclosure law that monitors what lobbyists give to whom in the legislature in return for what kind of action.






A lobbyist disclosure law is intended to make public the efforts of lobbyists and check the integrity of our elected representative. Such a law's effectiveness depends upon the toughness of its limits and the degree of openness that it requires.

Lack of such protection has resulted in some serious questions about the leadership and the attentiveness of our state representatives. The great slots legislation debate of 2003-04 came and went without a full accounting of what lobbyists spent to influence Act 71.

In the wake of the legislative pay raise fiasco, lawmakers have been especially intent about having a reform vote on their scorecard. Somehow, however, they went on summer break without enacting a new disclosure law to replace the one scuttled by the State Supreme Court four years ago.

For politically connected firms, routine Bond issue transactions have generated enough in attorney's fees to make Joe Preston blush.

But, hopefully, the pay raise and Act 201 issues will spur additional interest in the harmful acts of political malfeasance associated with the "pinstripe patronage" that attends every Bond issue.

Pennsylvania's track record on such matters is shameful. The Turnpike and other state agencies don't use competitive bidding for legal work.

Interestingly, Mr Preston gets the majority of his special interest money from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association/Law PAC. The law firm Klett, Lieber Rooney & Schorling has also given Preston money.

Note: Klett Rooney received the most legal work (1.5 million) from the state Turnpike Commission over the past four years. This law firm with direct political connections to Mr. Preston has represented the Turnpike on two personal injury cases, two construction litigation cases and four cases on zoning and land use.

Klett Rooney (and Arthur Rooney II) donated about $128,300 to state Senate candidates and party committees from 1998 through 2004. Overall, the law firm contributed about $942,100 to state judicial, legislative and gubernatorial candidates and to political action committees.

An audit by the research arm of the state General Assembly in 1997 found that the Turnpike's Bond counsel fees were higher in most cases than those in six other toll states studied.