Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hey You Casey Operatives, Get Offa My Lawn!

Most weekends I take a break from newspaper reading in order to spend more time with the family. As a result, I miss stories like this one reported by Triple A of the Minnesota-based Residual Forces blog. Bob Casey supporters are snooping around Rick Santorum's Penn Hills home looking to see if anyone lives there? (And I have to go to Minnesota to find out about it?) This is very strange indeed. Rick's letter to Bob is posted on RedState, along with plenty of comments both pro and con from the RedState folks

I have been a constituent of Rick Santorum since 1990, when he was first elected to Congress, so I have been keeping up with the residency issue. If you are not familiar with it, what you need to know is that the Santorum family purchased a house in Virginia several years ago while claiming a smaller house in Penn Hills, Allegheny County, as his primary residence. People began crying "foul!" a few years ago when Penn Hills Democrats complained that the Santorum children were being educated via a cyber-school at the expense of Penn Hills taxpayers while apparently living in the Virginia house. Many Dems and even some Republicans were outraged. The harshest critics demanded that Santorum resign his seat and run for Senator from Virginia if he wanted to stay in office. The Santorums took the kids out of the cyber-school and turned to homeschooling in order to avoid allegations of taxpayer money misuse. But for many of his critics, the question of Santorum's residency remains an issue to this day.

Most of the criticism is groundless. Senators and Congressmen spend much of their time working in Washington, D.C. A few of them get by with apartments in or around the capital city. This can also mean long periods of separation from their families. Others, like Rick Santorum, purchase houses in the vicinity of Washington so that they can go home to their wives and children every night. There's nothing wrong with that. He lives close to work and keeps his family nearby. It doesn't mean he can't represent Pennsylvania. He spends plenty of time in the state, but he doesn't stay in one place. Being a Senator means keeping in touch with the concerns of your constituents from one end of your state to the other. It involves a lot of travel. If he did keep his family back in Penn Hills, he would spend more time there, and less time in Washington. And his critics would complain about him being an absentee Senator rather than an absentee resident. It's a non-issue.

The real issue has become the stalker mentality of Democrats who feel the need to dwell upon Rick Santorum's house and whether he, or anyone else, is at home. His letter to Bob Casey made it quite clear: Publicizing the "visit" to the Santorum property infringes on the privacy and safety of the rest of the family, not just the Senator. Thugs from nearby neighborhoods might well decide to invade the home after hearing on the news that no one is (allegedly) ever at home; and if the family does happen to be in, they could easily fall victim to violence.

Come to think of it, is this the first time that the opposition has sent someone to spy on the house?

The Democrats seem surprisingly desperate for a party whose candidate has been leading in the polls as of late. If they think they can beat Santorum, why are they so concerned with where he lives?

(The KDKA-TV news story, with video of angry mad Democrats, can be found here.)


jipzeecab said...

I agree with you whether or not Santorum owns a home in Virginia should be a non issue. Probably the proper defense is to demonstrate that there are Democratic Congressmen who also own their residences in Va or Md. No one is questioning their comittment to PA.. (there has to be at least one or two).
The cyber school thing is another kind of issue because no matter how Santorum tries to "spin it", legal or not, it leaves the appearance of slime which I have always associated with politicians such a Rick who don't really stand for anything unless they believe it will get them votes (e.g. your unstated observation of "grandstanding" on the Schiavo exploitative opportunity) and who will use their positions for personal gain whenever they think they can get away with it.

Nicko McDave said...

I have been on the fence about the cyber-schooling question. It's a nice 21st century method of educating children who are either unable to set down roots or who can not function well in a classroom environment. (For the latter reason, I'm currently considering it for a couple of my kids.) But it does come into conflict with traditional methods of financing public education. Should the municipality pay for it? Only if the children reside within the district. That causes a problem for Rick because it brings back the residency question. What about state funding? The Pennsylvania constitution (unlike the US constitution) allows for state support of public education (Article III, Sections 14-15), so state money could constitutionally pay for the cyber-schooling. It says nothing about districts.

But that would require a big-time reworking of the system.

jipzeecab said...

Traditionally States have accepted the responsibility of funding and overseeing education because of the 10th amendment, it not being a function the Federal Government had reserved for itself when the Constitution was written.
Because of this most Federal Education entitlement and other programs originated in the last 60 years.
States normally assure a minimal level of financial support for local students by insisting that there be a certain amount per student within a school district and supplementing those districts' budgets where the tax base is weak.
If Andy Sheehan is correct the Cyber School in Midland receives about $6000 per student (although Sheehan's interest is merely to demonstrate that the Cyber School is only spending $4500 and doing all kinds of other evil things that don't involve PA students with the other $1500 like building a $22 million dollar student arts center in Midland furnished with 20 Steinway Baby Grand Pianos).
My point here is that in a "competitive cyber school setting" it ought to be cheaper to give a quality education to individual students although there would be an onus on parents such as yourself whose children were involved to make certain their kids were really getting what the District/State was paying for (even though the State would hire auditors who ostensibly were doing this).
Of course taking those individual "FTE's (full time teaching equivalents) away from a local district is something the Teacher Unions could never in good conscience endorse even though it makes sense to the rest of us.
The big loss to a child under cyber schooling would be the social interaction that he would normally get at school, but that might not necessarily be bad would it..
An aside: My daughter's in-laws run a very successful high quality private music school in Florida. It has at most one Steinway Grand in a performance area. The students practice wearing headphones on Yamaha electronic pianos which cost less than $ 1000 each.

A Big Fat Slob said...

The real issue has become the stalker mentality of Democrats who feel the need to dwell upon Rick Santorum's house and whether he, or anyone else, is at home.

This is perpetuating a Santorum-campaign lie.

Rickie and Karen sent this letter to Bobby:

Dear Bob,

We are writing to express our outrage regarding the actions of your campaign, which have put our six young children at a serious safety risk. Last night, we learned with deep dismay that a Casey operative admitted on KDKA-TV to trespassing on our property and viewing the inside of our home. Further, your campaign issued a press release yesterday that falsely says that we do not stay in our Penn Hills home. This reckless statement is not only a lie, but alerts those who may want to enter the home illegally. Your despicable actions have greatly endangered our children's safety.

Blah blah blah . . . .there's more of the same. It is signed "Sincerely" by "Rick and Karen Santorum".

The Santorum lies:

"the actions of your campaign" -- Where is the evidence that this has anything to do with Casey? Because the neighbors challenging Santorum's stealing of money from their school district and falsely claiming to live in a too-small empty house are also Democrats? Santorum knows that this couple has been challenging Santorum's false claims of residency for years -- since before Casey even decided to run for Senate.

According to KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, Ed Vecchio, a Penn Hills resident, said that the two-bedroom house owned by Santorum in Penn Hills, which Santorum claims as his residence, is vacant:

“He doesn't live here,” said Ed Vecchio of Penn Hills. “The house he's registered to vote out of, is vacant -- no curtains, furniture, nothing in there. It's abandoned for over a month. So, I feel it's my right to contest his vote.”

On election day, Vecchio had challenged Santorum's residency (but Santorum was permitted to vote without having to sign a residency affidavit). This is a continuation of a dispute that began several years ago when Vecchio's wife, a Penn Hills School Board member and Democratic committee chair, who blew the whistle on Santorum ripping off Penn Hills taxpayers in excess of $100,000 which the District paid to educate Santorum's children in Virginia, where they live.

After Ed Vecchio -- who lives near the Santorum property in Penn Hills -- made his comments about the home being empty ("no curtains, furniture, nothing in there"). Mrs. Santorum, who was at home in Virgina with their children, called the D.C. Police (NOT the Virginia, Pennsylvania State, or Penn Hills police, mind you), to say that someone must have have trespassed on the property to obtain that information.

KDKA says that the police say they have nothing to support Mrs. Senator's claim:

"Right now, Penn Hills Police don't know who, if anybody, trespassed on Santorum's property. No one has been charged."

But, the Santorum spin machine managed to turn it into a scary affair for the poor little Santorum tribe. From the way the story was fabricated by Santorum's campaign, it sounded like Casey ordered his staff to go peering into Santorum's home, scaring the crap out of the little Santorums and acting so badly that the police needed to immediately come running to protect their lives and property. Both Casey and Vecchio have denied any relationship with one another. And, contrary to the Santorum falsehoods, no one in the TV report admitted to trespassing.

"put our six young children at a serious safety risk" -- How's that? The six little santorums were hundreds of miles away from their father's show hovel, nestled safely in their six little beds in their million dollar Virginia home. Pretty despicable to lie about the safety of your own children. Some family values on display there.

"we learned with deep dismay that a Casey operative admitted on KDKA-TV to trespassing on our property and viewing the inside of our home." Oh, how many lies in this one?

"Casey operative"? - see above.

"Admitted to trespassing"? No, he didn't. Readers can go to KDKA and view the actual report, not Santorum's lie about what it says.

"Trespassing"? -- well, not according to the police. And Ed Vecchio has offered to take a lie detector test to prove that he and his wife didn't trespass on Santorum's investment property:

Meanwhile, Penn Hills Democratic Chairwoman Erin Vecchio fired back, “If you want me to take a lie detector test to say I was never on that property. Go for it. I'll, myself and my husband, will take a lie detector test. Because, will you take a lie detector test, Rick -- to say you ever lived in that house?”

(I've already offered to the Santorum campaign that I would pay for the polygraphs to be administered at the Pennsylvania Stae Police barracks of their choice. No response.)

"Home"? Please! There are no curtains, no furniture, the grass is overgrown, and there are two bedrooms for the 8-member Santorum tribe. Until recently, it was occupied by tenants. 'lil Ricky lives in luxury in Virginia.

The Santorum campaign has got to be more than a little nervous to be carping about this non-event and trying to tie Casey to it.

The issue of Santorum not being legally registered to vote in Penn Hills is a separate matter, as is whether he should live in Virginia. His fellow Pennsylvania Senator doesn't, and many members of Congress commute. I think the issue only has play because it points up Santorum's hypocrisy -- when he ran for the House he harped on the same practice of the then-incumbent Democrat and promised Pennsylvania that he would never buy a house in Virgina and would live in PA.

But for Santorum to keep repeating the claims which he knows are lies is really pathetic. Fortunately, he's on his way out.