Sunday, March 17, 2013
MARKETING TO THE GOP
"Officially, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission had up-front ways of deciding which companies deserved turnpike contracts, but major contractors figured out the back-door method for persuading turnpike officials of their worthiness. Once they figured campaign contributions to the right people unlocked the commission treasury, contractors turned the contributions into a cost of doing business. 'We look at it as basically it is a marketing expense in a way,' the unnamed president of Traffic Planning & Design Inc. told the grand jury. 'It still is something that we need to do in order to be able to pursue these type of projects and that is why I said it is marketing.'" [Times-Shamrock 3/15/13]
Borys Krawczeniuk of Northeast Pennsylvania's Times-Shamrock News group followed up on Attorney General Kathleen Kane's grand jury presentment of the pay-to-play culture at the PA Turnpike by looking more closely at the contractors mentioned in the presentment. Krawczeniuk placed particular emphasis on turnpike contractors' belief that contributing to the right political committees was a cost of doing business.
The grand jury presentment focused on Traffic Planning and Design's contributions to the thinly disguised "Senator 6" -- easily unmasked as former State Senator Vince Fumo. We took a step beyond the presentment and examined exactly how much Traffic Planning and Design gave to ALL Pennsylvania political committees. What we found was quite interesting and should portend further arrests in the future.
The company's executives were generous to Democrats, with a total of $58,000 in contributions to Democratic candidates and committees at every level since January 2000, including all contributions to Fumo, former Governor Ed Rendell, and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato.
However, during the same time period, Traffic Planning and Design's executives gave a whopping $239,000 in contributions to Republican candidates and committees - and that's just to GOP state senators, GOP county committees and GOP gubernatorial nominees. The total grows when contributions to Republican House and local candidates are counted.
The same company that considered political contributions marketing expenses in order to score lucrative Turnpike contracts gave at least $15,000 to Governor Tom Corbett's committees. The Pennsylvania Future Fund, a PAC controlled by Corbett's powerful political patron Bob Asher, collected over $28,000 from Traffic Planning and Design executives.
More startling is the amount of Traffic Planning and Design money that found its way to Republican County Committees in Southeast Pennsylvania: Suburban Philadelphia GOP county parties received more than $134,000 in contributions from the company's executives, including $96,000 to Chester County alone.
When it comes to the now-infamous "60/40" rule for awarding contracts at the Turnpike, Traffic Planning and Design clearly falls into the Republican side of the equation. Why else would it make sure 2002 GOP gubernatorial nominee Mike Fisher got at least $13,500 and 2006 nominee Lynn Swann at least $18,000. Executives at Traffic Planning and Design even gave Congressman Jim Gerlach's short-lived gubernatorial campaign $4,500.
While powerful individual GOP Senators like Bob Jubelier ($1,000), Joe Scarnati ($2,500), and Dominic Pileggi ($3,900) didn't receive quite nearly as much to their individual accounts, it's obvious the money sent to county committees (and Bob Asher) in the GOP's most challenging area of Pennsylvania was directed primarily to GOP State Senate campaigns.
All of these campaign contributions are outlined here.
Does anyone actually believe Senate GOP spokesmen (who received large taxpayer-funded bonuses) when they insist that Scarnati and Pileggi didn't know about the corrupt contracting arrangement at the Turnpike?
"Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, 'doesn't have any knowledge of the so-called 60-40 split,' said staff attorney Andrew Crompton. The same is true for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware county, said his spokesman, Erik Arneson." (Tribune-Review 3/14/13)
Before swallowing Crompton and Arneson's absurdity, read the very detailed 2005 reporting by the Tribune-Review's Brad Bumsted on the chokehold both parties in the State Senate had over the Turnpike. It's ridiculous to believe Jubelirer, Brightbill and their former staff leader, Mike Long, didn't pass along the tricks of the trade to Scarnati and Pileggi:
"They've got a friend in Pennsylvania" (Tribune Review 1/3/05)
"Well-connected firms get no-bid legal work" (Tribune Review 1/3/05)
"Turnpike practices likely to be unchecked" (Tribune Review 1/9/05)
And, of course, Traffic Planning and Design's "marketing expenses" didn't end following the 2006 loses of former State Senate GOP leaders Jubelirer and Chip Brightbill.