Keystone Politics

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Au Revoir

May 3, 2009 - 8:40pm
This is a tough post to write. Almost five years ago, I was frustrated with the scope and quality of political news in Pennsylvania. I had just graduated college and was temping while I waited to start graduate school.

I decided to dust off my rusty HTML skills and start a new website. After brainstorming with some friends, we decided it would be called Keystone Politics - designed to directly compete with PoliticsPA (as if that's a surprise). This was during Howard Dean's heyday, when we were just beginning to see the potential of the internet as a tool to facilitate political discussion. Every day for five years, we've done our best to bring a unique perspective to Pennsylvania politics.

So it's with a heavy heart that I have to inform you that Friday was Keystone Politics' final day of publication.

My first post, which I'll never forget, was about former state Senator Vince Fumo vacationing for years on a yacht owned by the Independence Seaport Museum. When their yacht (and really, what museum has a yacht?) was in drydock for repairs, Fumo demanded they lease him another one. It's tough to vacation in Martha's Vineyard without a yacht. It was clear then that Fumo was a corrupt bastard, but little did I know that five years later, the story would still be going strong.

Though I've spent most of those years in Washington and New York, I still think Pennsylvania has one of the most corrupt governments I've ever seen, with rampant, barely-concealed cronyism and graft from the smallest local borough right up through the capitol in Harrisburg. Very little that happens in your government is what it seems, and very little of it is honest. Sometimes that ends up benefiting you as citizens, but if so, it's pure happenstance.

As for us, it's time to move on to other projects. Rob will, as always, continue to be a player in PA politics. I'll undoubtedly still be present in the online publishing world, but it's time for me to leave Pennsylvania politics behind. We'll be leaving the site online indefinitely, along with the archives, as a historical record of the past five years of PA politics.

Most importantly I need to send out a big thank you - to Rob, to all of our contributors over the years, and to our readers. You've all made this a great place to develop political discussions online and I've appreciated your guidance and opinions over the years.

Best wishes,
Greg
Categories: PA Politics

Au Revoir

May 3, 2009 - 8:39pm
This is a tough post to write. Almost five years ago, I was frustrated with the scope and quality of political news in Pennsylvania. I had just graduated college and was temping while I waited to start graduate school. I... Greg Palmer http://www.keystonepolitics.com/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=1&id=1
Categories: PA Politics

The End is Near, So I Face The Final Curtain

May 3, 2009 - 7:28pm

Keystone Politics was started by Greg Palmer nearly five years ago to better inform Pennsylvania voters about the political issues and campaigns. At the time, there were only a handful of political websites reaching out reaching this audience. Although the internet was growing, most political observers were still getting their news from their local newspapers. Keystone Politics stepped into a void of news coverage with a mix of original content and aggregated news from across the state.

In the more recent past we have a seen a drastic switch in that dynamic. Increasingly, political news and views are emanating from original content on blogs around the state. We have seen sites and bloggers come and go; watched newspapers decrease staff, lose circulation and decrease impact. Meanwhile, a vibrant community of bloggers continues to break down the barriers of our society to better inform readers.

Since joining Greg a few years ago as a contributing writer and later as Executive Editor, I have observed the shape of Pennsylvania change drastically. We now see many candidates and government agencies reaching out online in way that was unthinkable five years ago. While we cannot take credit for that in any way, I only hope that we played some small part in opening the world of politics to Pennsylvanians.

Greg and I sat down over the weekend to discuss the future of Keystone Politics. Both of our lives have moved forward in different directions and neither one of us can dedicate the amount of time to KP as we used to. We discussed the changes in how the web reaches Pennsylvania's political observers and what role KP could play in the future.

Ultimately, we decided to discontinue active posting to Keystone Politics entirely. This was not easy for either of us, but I feel that some of the newer voices on the web can fill any void we leave behind. Moreover, I am enthusiastic about some recent changes in the political and internet landscape that I feel will continue to provide effective coverage on the Pennsylvania political world.

I want to personally thank every reader, contributor, all of the great bloggers around the state, and the collection of reporters who allowed us to spread your work to a larger audience. Without this unique dynamic of players we could not have done this for so long. Most of all, I want thank Greg for creating this site and allowing me to be a part of it.

As for me, I will continue my political activities and I suspect you will see me resurface to inflict some harsh commentary upon Pennsylvanians.

Take Care,
Rob

Categories: PA Politics

The End is Near, So I Face The Final Curtain

May 3, 2009 - 7:05pm
Keystone Politics was started by Greg Palmer nearly five years ago to better inform Pennsylvania voters about the political issues and campaigns. At the time, there were only a handful of political websites reaching out reaching this audience. Although the... Rob Hopkins http://www.keystonepolitics.com/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=1&id=2
Categories: PA Politics

State Budget Deficit Could Hit $3B

May 1, 2009 - 5:44am
The state's precarious fiscal situation is getting worse -- much worse, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee said yesterday.

Rep. Dwight Evans D-Philadelphia, said the revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, is now projected to be "at least $3 billion."

That's $700 million more than the $2.3 billion that Gov. Ed Rendell forecast three months ago, and $400 million higher than some legislators forecast just a month ago.

"The numbers are staggering," Mr. Evans said. "We have a lot of work to do. Do we need to make decisions that are painful? Absolutely."

The state's original spending plan for fiscal 2008-09 was $28.26 billion, but that is being trimmed by more than half a billion dollars. The state Revenue Department is due to release the state's April revenue collections today.

"Given the national economic indicators, the [Pennsylvania revenue] numbers could be grim," said Rendell aide Chuck Ardo.

Categories: PA Politics

State Budget Deficit Could Hit $3B

May 1, 2009 - 5:41am
The state's precarious fiscal situation is getting worse -- much worse, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee said yesterday. Rep. Dwight Evans D-Philadelphia, said the revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, is now projected... Rob Hopkins http://www.keystonepolitics.com/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=1&id=2
Categories: PA Politics

New Legislative Proposal Supports Medicinal Marijuana

May 1, 2009 - 5:40am
A state representative from Philadelphia is introducing a bill to permit the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania under certain restrictions.

Democratic Rep. Mark Cohen said people in pain should not be forced to choose between moving out of state for treatment or buying drugs from criminals.

The bill has only six co-sponsors, but Cohen said he's optimistic about its prospects because polls show high levels of public support and lawmakers have to respond to their constituents.

Categories: PA Politics

New Legislative Proposal Supports Medicinal Marijuana

May 1, 2009 - 5:36am
A state representative from Philadelphia is introducing a bill to permit the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania under certain restrictions. Democratic Rep. Mark Cohen said people in pain should not be forced to choose between moving out of state... Rob Hopkins http://www.keystonepolitics.com/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=1&id=2
Categories: PA Politics

LCB Didn't Break Law in Awarding Contract

May 1, 2009 - 5:36am
The state Liquor Control Board didn't break the law but showed impaired judgment and ignored red flags when it awarded a $173,820 contract to a regional director's spouse, Auditor General Jack Wagner said Wednesday.

The liquor board last month referred the matter to Wagner after newspapers revealed it awarded a contract to Solutions 21, a Pittsburgh firm whose president, John "Buddy" Hobart, is married to the board's western regional director, Susanne Hobart.

Liquor board Chairman P.J. Stapleton III said he is pleased Wagner's review concluded no laws were broken. The board said Solutions 21 submitted the lowest proposal to provide courtesy training to state store clerks.

Wagner said he found no evidence Susanne Hobart funneled confidential information to Solutions 21 or influenced the process. But he said the liquor board ignored red flags and exercised poor judgment.

Categories: PA Politics

LCB Didn't Break Law in Awarding Contract

May 1, 2009 - 5:33am
The state Liquor Control Board didn't break the law but showed impaired judgment and ignored red flags when it awarded a $173,820 contract to a regional director's spouse, Auditor General Jack Wagner said Wednesday. The liquor board last month referred... Rob Hopkins http://www.keystonepolitics.com/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=1&id=2
Categories: PA Politics

Ban on Casino Contributions Struck Down

May 1, 2009 - 5:30am
The Legislature went too far in barring casino owners and executives from making any political campaign contributions, Pennsylvania's highest court ruled Thursday in wiping out what had been touted as a major bulwark against the gambling industry's influence.

The Supreme Court said the law's approach to banning all contributions was an overly broad and harmful attempt to combat corruption -- or even just the appearance of corruption -- that violated the state constitution's guarantee of free speech.

Writing for the 5-1 majority, Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille also said the blanket ban was out of step with the law's intent. In the law, lawmakers wrote it was necessary to prevent corruption that may result from ''large campaign contributions,'' but went on to prohibit all such contributions.

Castille did not rule out the constitutionality of a limited ban that capped political campaign contributions from the gambling industry at a certain amount.

''A statute that limited the size of contributions, rather than absolutely prohibiting any contributions, would be more narrowly drawn to accomplish the stated goal,'' he wrote.

Categories: PA Politics

Ban on Casino Contributions Struck Down

May 1, 2009 - 5:28am
The Legislature went too far in barring casino owners and executives from making any political campaign contributions, Pennsylvania's highest court ruled Thursday in wiping out what had been touted as a major bulwark against the gambling industry's influence. The Supreme... Rob Hopkins http://www.keystonepolitics.com/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=1&id=2
Categories: PA Politics

Specter Defection is Toomey's Dream Come True

April 30, 2009 - 8:33am

Tuesday afternoon, Pat Toomey received the kind of news political candidates only dream of.

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, his longtime nemesis and main foe in a 2010 Republican Senate primary, had just become a Democrat, catapulting Toomey into de facto front-runner in a race with national implications.

Suddenly, Toomey was everywhere: TV, radio, the cover of national newspapers, the blogosphere. Most candidates cast as giant-killer would have bragged and thumped their chests.

Not Toomey, who at 47 is embarking on a fifth career.

''I have a remarkable level of support across Pennsylvania and a huge influx of financial support,'' he said matter-of-factly by phone while driving to Philadelphia for television interviews. ''I am confident I will win the Republican nomination.''

Categories: PA Politics

Specter Defection is Toomey's Dream Come True

April 30, 2009 - 8:32am
Tuesday afternoon, Pat Toomey received the kind of news political candidates only dream of. U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, his longtime nemesis and main foe in a 2010 Republican Senate primary, had just become a Democrat, catapulting Toomey into de... Greg Palmer http://www.keystonepolitics.com/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=1&id=1
Categories: PA Politics

What Role Did Rendell Play in Specter's Defection??

April 28, 2009 - 10:11pm

From Eleanor Clift:

...Funny, yes, and seriously Machiavellian, claims one GOP source, who attributes Specter's surprise defection to a Biden-Rendell bank shot. Vice President Joe Biden is from Scranton, Pa., and Ed Rendell is governor of Pennsylvania, ties that put them solidly in Specter's orbit. Biden spent the last three decades in the Senate and knows Specter well. They served together on the Judiciary committee back in the day when they along with many others made fools of themselves grilling Anita Hill. The self-interest of the Obama-Biden administration in getting that 60th vote in the Senate is self-evident. It changes the calculus for everything going forward (health care reform, judicial nominations) if Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Then there's Rendell, whose personal ties to Specter are extensive, but who also has a political stake in seeing him hold his seat in Pennsylvania. Rendell once worked for Specter and regards him as something of a mentor; they're friends. For Rendell, a gregarious, ambitious politician, a Senate seat would cap his career as a former mayor and popular two-term governor. Those who know Rendell say he really wants the seat that Specter holds but would not run against his friend.

Categories: PA Politics

What Role Did Rendell Play in Specter's Defection??

April 28, 2009 - 10:08pm
From Eleanor Clift:...Funny, yes, and seriously Machiavellian, claims one GOP source, who attributes Specter's surprise defection to a Biden-Rendell bank shot. Vice President Joe Biden is from Scranton, Pa., and Ed Rendell is governor of Pennsylvania, ties that put them... Greg Palmer http://www.keystonepolitics.com/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=1&id=1
Categories: PA Politics

Specter switching parties today

April 28, 2009 - 4:06pm
Wow, a real surprise given Specter's statements that he intended to run in and win the GOP PA state senate primary. I guess Sen Specter finally realized he needed to jump off the bus before it headed over the cliff.

Specter to switch parties.

Sen Specter's statement


Categories: PA Politics

Specter switching parties today

April 28, 2009 - 12:04pm
Wow, a real surprise given Specter's statements that he intended to run in and win the GOP PA state senate primary. I guess Sen Specter finally realized he needed to jump off the bus before it headed over the cliff.Specter... phillydem http://www.keystonepolitics.com/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=1&id=12
Categories: PA Politics

Feds Say Fumo Owes $4 Million

April 28, 2009 - 6:22am

Federal prosecutors yesterday tried to debunk disgraced former state Sen. Vince Fumo's argument that he should not have to forfeit $4 million to the government.

The feds' court filing said that the defense was dead-wrong in its assertion that the feds' $4 million claim for forfeiture should be dismissed or at least limited to the $2 million amount originally sought in the indictment.

Fumo was found guilty on March 16 of 137 counts of conspiracy, fraud and obstruction of justice after a five-month trial. (Prosecutors contended at trial that Fumo defrauded the state Senate and two nonprofits of more than $4 million by, among other offenses, using Senate staffers and nonprofit resources for personal or political gain.)

Categories: PA Politics

Feds Say Fumo Owes $4 Million

April 28, 2009 - 6:21am
Federal prosecutors yesterday tried to debunk disgraced former state Sen. Vince Fumo's argument that he should not have to forfeit $4 million to the government. The feds' court filing said that the defense was dead-wrong in its assertion that the... Greg Palmer http://www.keystonepolitics.com/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=1&id=1
Categories: PA Politics