Saturday, June 18, 2005

Fast Eddie's Big Money Gamble

When Democrats lose big elections, the most frequent excuse that they throw out for the loss is that the Republicans have access to much larger sums of money for their campaigns. This is a myth, of course, as anyone who observed the activities of George Soros during the 2004 campaign could plainly see. Soros -- and a lot of other moneyed leftists -- devoted vast sums of money for the purpose of defeating President George W. Bush. It didn't happen.

Closer to home, Democrat Ed Rendell is looking forward to being reelected to a second term as Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Is he at a disadvantage? Is he having trouble raising money? It would seem not:

More than 16 months away from the November 2006 gubernatorial race, Gov. Ed Rendell has a huge head start on his potential Republican competitors, having raised $7.2 million in re-election funds through the first part of June.
That sounds mighty impressive for someone who belongs the "party of the people" and not the "party of the rich". Rendell has a lot of friends with plenty of money to toss his way:
Rendell received $2,500 checks from Bruce Lakefield, the CEO of US Airways, and John E. Luth, an executive with the same airline. The Philadelphia Eagles gave his campaign $15,000, and Comcast, the cable giant for which Rendell sometimes does TV football analysis, also gave Rendell $15,000 in June.
Lots of special interesting going on here. US Airways has its roots in a Pittsburgh-based airline called Allegheny Airlines, but is on its way out of the area. No wonder they want Rendell's influence on their side. Look for the airline -- and other big companies -- to donate to Rendell's opponent as well. They like to plays both sides, just to be safe. Rendell's hometown football team is no surprise, but I don't care because I never patronize the Eagles anyway.

But Comcast? I am a Comcast customer. My internet, cable TV, phone and long distance services are all provided by Comcast. Don't expect Comcast to play both sides like most corporate donors do. Their partnership with Rendell, professionally as well as politically, has made me reconsider doing business with the company, but in point of fact I really don't have any complaints about my service thus far. I guess this makes me, indirectly, a Rendell donor. He can thank the free market for that.

To his credit, the Rendell camp exercised some degree of discretion in dealing with at least one big donation:
Not included in that latest tally was a contribution from the Hardy-Magerko political action committee, a $10,000 donation that was later returned. That committee is led by wealthy politician Joe Hardy, owner of 84 Lumber Co. and Fayette County's Nemacolin Woodlands, which is one of several resorts eyeing a license to operate a slots casino in Pennsylvania.
Joe Hardy is kind of an interesting character. For better or worse, several years ago, he introduced a lot of people around here to the concept of a "trophy wife". As many people admired him as despised him for it.

The there was a former co-worker of mine who once told me how he mysteriously lost his job at 84 Lumber a few years ago. This guy -- a homosexual, as it happens -- was fired at the same time that, as he explained it, all Nemacolin employees who were known or suspected homosexuals were gotten rid of. All I'm going to say about that is that I have heard that there are many resorts around the country where, if all the gay waiters went away -- voluntarily or involuntarily -- there would be no one left to take your order or serve your food and drink. If what the former co-worker told me was true, then it seems like Nemacolin is atypical of fancy resorts.

Anyway, about the relationship of casino money to Pennsylvania politics:

Last month, Rendell was rebuked by Republicans for taking an April fund-raising trip to Las Vegas and meeting with gambling company officials. Rendell was not collecting money for his own campaign, but rather was meeting and greeting in his role as finance chairman and chief fund-raiser for the Democratic Governors' Association.

Republicans said Rendell did not violate the letter, but did violate the spirit, of Pennsylvania's new slot machine law, which doesn't allow Pennsylvania pols to accept contributions from gambling companies. Republican lawmakers this week introduced a bill that would forbid Rendell from accepting contributions from the governors' association for his re-election bid.

The spirit of the law, but not the letter. The Governor is a smart guy, and is very good about playing both sides. He knows what he's doing. That's why we call him Fast Eddie and not "Special Ed". Speaking of special, I'm not so sure I like the idea of passing a state law aimed at barring a specific individual from dealing with a specific organization. Well, it is not. The PG article does a bad job of describing the bill. It does not refer to either Rendell or the Democratic Governors' Association. It simply attempts to close a loophole in the slot machine law, and applies to any political of any party. No one running for office would be allowed to accept money from an organization that received gambling interests' money with the help of the candidate.

By rejecting Joe Hardy's contribution, Rendell is doing a good job of policing himself. How much did it hurt him? Not much, apparently:
Neither Hardy's Nemacolin resort nor his 84 Lumber is, technically, a gambling company. But even without the Hardy-Magerko donation, Rendell collected $1.7 million in the month between May 3 and June 6. Rendell's re-election campaign submitted their campaign finance report to Pennsylvania's state department this week.
How does the money raised by his "wealthy" opposition, the Republicans, compare?
The three would-be GOP candidates -- state Sen. Jeff Piccola, former Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton and Steelers legend Lynn Swann -- did not file reports by Thursday's 30-day post-primary deadline, nor were they required to.
It may be another year before we get a good idea of the money flowing in both directions in this campaign. Let us ask, then, how much more money did Rendell's 2002 opponent raise? Being a Republican, he must have had tons more to spend that the poor starving Democrat. Right?
No matter who ends up being the Republican candidate for governor, Rendell figures to have far more cash to spend that his competitor. In his 2002 race against Republican Mike Fisher, Rendell spent more than $40 million on campaigning and TV and radio ads. Fisher's budget was closer to $15 million. Rendell hopes to surpass the $40 million mark this time around, too.
This must be why I don't make jack. All the money is in being a Democrat. I might consider switching, but I would rather be poor than have to lower my standards to that level.

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