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Monday, January 07, 2008

Who else has Rendell promised money to?

Pete DeCoursey of Capitolwire.com (subscription) has broken a story about Lionsgate Films lobbying the state. The story began by looking into violations of the state lobbying law when Lionsgate lobbying for the film tax credit in 2007, but found lobbying in 2006, and found a letter from Governor Rendell to Lionsgate, which raises three interesting questions.

1) Is this letter covered by current proposed open records legislation?

2) Did Lionsgate violate lobbyist rules?

But the 2006 situation has one key difference. In 2007, Lionsgate was ignoring a state law enforced by the Ethics Commission. In 2006, the rules in place were those Rendell himself mandated months earlier, rules his own staff was charged to enforce. ...

So did Lionsgate lobby? If the daily salaries of Lionsgate’s six-figure-salary brigade, plus their travel, expenses, hotel bills and phone bills exceeded $2,500, in the third quarter of 2006, which ended just days before Rendell sent them the secret funding commitment letter, they were required to register.


Experts say Lionsgate spent enough to make their meetings count as lobbying under Rendell’s rule. Asked if he agreed, Rendell said of Manuel: “I don’t know what he spent. I have no idea.” ...

But lobbying disclosure law is not about lobbyists. It is about revealing monies companies and groups spend to influence policy or get your taxpayer dollars. ...

He didn't even remember the meetings and dinners, his staff said, until Capitolwire found the secret funding letter. Then he recalled the dinners, his dinner companions and that he had paid cash for his own dinner, when dining with Keezer, Pinkenson and Manuel.
3) The letter itself is more troubling, in my view. Is Governor Rendell legally allowed to state "If I am re-elected, I will give your business taxpayer money?"

I am confident, however, that if I am re-elected Governor, in next year's commonwealth budget I will propose increasing the film grant program by an additional $10 million, bringing the total amount of funding available to $20 million. We will use our best efforts to ensure this result during the budget negotiations in June of 2007.

In the event we are successful in increasing the film grant program to $20 million, the commonwealth will commit up to $3.5 million from the fund to support Lionsgate production activities in the City of Pittsburgh (subject to the usual grant terms and conditions). While we have no additional capacity in this year's film grant program, we are in a position to offer you a grant in the amount of $100,000 immediately to help defray costs incurred to date.

Because of the delicacy of budget negotiations, it is important that you maintain this commitment as confidentially as possible.
Has Governor Rendell also made promises to supporters to get his million "Energy Independence Fund"? Is that why he is insisting on $650 million?

2 comments:

Jos. Madison said...

Lame duck already? You betchya. Good story Nathan. These are the kind of things that will break an elected officials ability to negotiate a budget.

Anonymous said...

If Lionsgate made porn maybe the Commonwealth could make it back from increasing taxes.