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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Government Ethics: Alaska vs. Pennsylvania

Amanda Carpenter writes about a report that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin may be cited (though no penalties would be attached) for ethics violations for ... wait for it ... using her fame to raise fund for her legal defense against other nuisance complaints.

Contrast that with the case of Vince Fumo, who not only did the same (using his status to raise legal defense funds), but also used his clout to get legions of politicos and business leaders to write letters to the judge, asking for lenience, since Fumo had done good when he other people's money legally. None of this is considered unethical in Pennsylvania. Of course, stealing millions of dollars is frowned upon in Pennsylvania, but only deserving of a slap on the wrist.

With little indication of a sense of irony, Rep. Mark Cohen has made a few comments on Twitter about Gov. Palin's ethics accusations (and about Mark Sanford). Naturally, the guy who spent $30,000 of taxpayer money for books for personal use would want to chime in on whether Palin may or have not benefited from her office. The guy who let taxpayers foot the bill for his trips to New York (even while other lawmakers paid their own way) sees fit to comment on Mark Sanford's travel habits. Of course, Cohen also sees no need to adopt good-government reforms in Pennsylvania.

Another Pennsylvania House Democrat staffer also saw fit to post on the Palin story, again with an amazing lack of self reflection. After all, it is his caucus (two members and several staff) who have been indicted in "Bonusgate" for using tax dollars for bonuses for campaign work, political polling, and no-work jobs for candidates and mistresses. And one of those indicted members - Mike Veon - has implicated his boss and others for doing the same sort of illegal activity. Of course, they aren't merely using "fame" to raise money to defend these charges, they are using taxpayer dollars.

And I'd be remiss if I failed to point out that former Pennsylvania lawmaker Frank LaGrotta - also a convicted felon - is now blogging about Pennsylvania politics. In his latest, he longs for the good old days, when folks like Fumo, Veon, and he ran the show.

Pennsylvania may not be the most corrupt state in the union (what will Illinois having back-to-back Governors heading off to prison), but it's got to be close. Could you imagine what Pennsylvania would be like with Alaska's ethics laws?

3 comments:

Paul said...

Back in September 2008, we saw her wagging her finger that Hillary Clinton, that Hillary should not whine about tough media coverage, she was not doing women any good, she should just plow through it, she should have known what she was getting into and should just try harder and prove herself. “WOW”, I guess she loves measuring others by standards that she does not follow. What a hypocrite, but expected from most political false prophets types. Now we see that she attempted used her official position for personal gain, this is too sweet. Thank you Sarah, great job.

Rep. Mark B. Cohen said...

I regret that Nathan feels he has to sink to ad hominem attacks on me. I have long learned that making ad hominem attacks is a sign of having a weak case.

There is nothing illegal or unethical about buying books on public policy out of a legislative expense account. The legislature makes public policy. Mastering public policy is one important way to get things done in a legislature split by parties and all too often paralyzed by special interests.

Nor was there anything illegal or unethical about having my employer pay for my travel to the Pennsylvania Society, where I talked to many of the attendees about legislative business and engaged in no political activity whatsoever. The vast majority of the attendees to Pennsylvania Society dinners have had their expenses paid for by their employer according to the staff of the Pennsylvania Society itself.

Senator Fumo, for example, famously had his law firm pay his expenses. I work for the full time, and do not go to the Pennsylvania Society to drum up any private business for any private firm.

I have been a major part of many reform efforts over my legislative career, including mandating pre-election disclosure of campaign finances, establishing the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission, limiting the amount of money that any interest can spend on any legislator without disclosure, banning the payment of speaker's fees to any legislator talking on legislative business, increasing minority representation on legislative committees, requiring any legislative leader or committee chairman under indictment to resign, etc.

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