McGinty ‘dangerously short’ of cash at close of 2015 cycle

BY MELISSA DANIELS  mdaniels@tribweb.com

It’s not quite 2016, but that hasn’t stopped next year’s political candidates from acting like it is.

The coming close of 2015 fundraising cycle for political candidates has many campaigns – including Pennsylvania’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty – pleading with their supporters for last-minute donations.

McGinty’s campaign blasted out an email Thursday afternoon saying they’re falling “dangerously short” of their goal (emphasis original):

mcginty screen grabbed

The email continued to say the campaign needed 28 donors by midnight to meet the campaign’s mid-month fundraising goal. They don’t specify what that goal is, exactly.

While the dire language could be a fundraising trope, all signs point to McGinty and fellow Democratic Senate hopefuls Joe Sestak and John Fetterman needing a strong fund balance to compete with incumbent Republican Sen. U.S. Pat Toomey.

The Pennsylvania race was most recently labeled “leans Republican” by the election watchers at Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

And while he doesn’t know who is going to be up against, Toomey’s campaign has already launched a website called WhoIsWorse.com attacking McGinty and Sestak.

Some signs point to the Democratic Senate candidates having the wind at their backs for 2016 – especially in Pennsylvania. The City of Brotherly Love will be hosting the Democratic National Convention, potentially gearing up the party’s voters in advance of the presidential election that could see party favorite Hillary Clinton at the top of ticket. Clinton, you’ll recall, won Pennsylvania when she ran in 2008.

So, whether it’s en masse fundraising emails, or preliminary attacks, there’s more than one indicator that the competition of 2016 has only just begun.

None rose above the crowd in final debate of 2015

BY SALENA ZITO  szito@tribweb.com

Everyone is going to talk about Donald Trump pinky-square promising (again) that he would not run as a third-party candidate if he should fail to get the Republican nomination.

The final Republican debate of 2015 (more to come in 2016) did prove two things, though:

  • frontrunners Trump and Ted Cruz know how to deflect jabs from their rivals: Cruz with a smile, Donald with that chip on his shoulder;
  • this race is far from determined 40-plus days before the first caucus vote is cast.

Hosted by CNN with a focus on the threat posed by the Islamic State, the event also included Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former surgeon Ben Carson, former tech executive Carly Fiorina and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

All, with varying degrees of success, tried to draw as stark a contrast as possible from the others before the cowbell rang.

Despite some great zingers delivered by Bush (to Trump: “You’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency”) and Paul (“A vote for Donald Trump is a vote against the Constitution”), the net result was a leveling debate, a reset button if you will, and you will once again see people look at everyone “new” again.

Washington, D.C.-based Republican strategist Bruce Haynes said he doesn’t think anyone rose above the group tonight. “That means that there were three winners: Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz,” he said.

Haynes said he sees this swiftly becoming a three-candidate race: “Trump commands a substantial block of blue-collar, working-class Republicans. Cruz is becoming the favored candidate of ideological and evangelical Republican voters. And Marco Rubio is becoming the candidate of the future, of the white-collar voter who has been the deciding factor in handing the last two nominations to Romney and McCain,” he said.

“The real question now is, if we have three candidates who have the ability to win substantial amounts of delegates, can one of them win enough to end the race before the convention?” Haynes said.

Dane Strother, a Washington, D.C.-based Democratic strategist, agreed.

“They all shadowboxed with Obama and Clinton, but we really learned nothing,” said Strother, who also did not see a clear winner.

“Trump survived, so that is a win for him. Cruz stood out simply by being assertive and loud, but he temporarily hurt himself when he petulantly refused to quit speaking when Blitzer was trying to ask a question.  Cruz comes off as smart but not likable.

“Bush was really not impactful, though he did land a couple of blows to Trump. Trump weebles but he won’t fall down. Bush still has not made the case for the same family running the nation in a quarter of a century,” said Strother.

“Fiorina is running for vice president,” he said. “She’s auditioning as the Hillary attack dog.”

Both men agree the GOP’s biggest concern right now is whether the party will go into the convention in July with a clear winner.

Attorney General hopeful Zappala skips PA Society for basketball, ‘family stuff’

ZappalaBY AARON AUPPERLEE  aaupperlee@tribweb.com

The latest candidate to jump into the race for Pennsylvania attorney general won’t be attending Pennsylvania politicos’ biggest party this weekend.

The state’s top political players – those who want to be and those who want to be seen – will mingle in the swanky digs of New York City hotels and clubs this weekend for the Pennsylvania Society annual gathering.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. is taking a pass for a bleacher seat at his son’s basketball games, said his campaign manager, Marty Marks.

“He’s sticking around for family stuff and family activities,” Marks said, adding the decision to skip the NYC weekend was made over Thanksgiving. “We have a lot of friends going to be talking about Steve and talking him up.”

Zappala, Allegheny County’s top prosecutor for two decades, confirmed Wednesday he will seek to replace embattled Kathleen Kane as attorney general in 2016. The Fox Chapel Democrat jumped into a Democratic pool already featuring Pittsburgh attorney David Fawcett, former federal prosecutor Jack Stollsteimer of Delaware County and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli.

Fawcett, an attorney at Reed Smith, was driving to NYC Friday for the festivities. He joked he was disappointed he missed Friday’s state Republican fundraiser featuring Donald Trump.

Fawcett said he’s become a regular at the annual party and looked forward to talking to political brethren from points east, like Harrisburg and Philly.

“It’s a good way to see people in one place,” he said.

Allegheny County’s governing elite will be well represented Friday evening as County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto host a reception at the Yale Club, where neither attended.

New group courting Democratic women candidates in PA

BY MELISSA DANIELS  mdaniels@tribweb.com

Pennsylvania has a new organized effort to get Democratic women elected.

Emerge Pennsylvania, co-founded by state Reps. Tina Davis and Mary Jo Daley, is getting off the ground with a new executive director, Anne Wakabayashi, and hosted its kick-off event earlier this week.

Anne Wakabayashi
Anne Wakabayashi

Emerge is a national program that launched in 2002 designed to encourage women to run for office and get them elected. The program has graduated 1,500 Democratic women, about 52 percent of whom have been elected to office.

Wakabayashi previously worked on campaigns for candidates running for Philadelphia City Council and Pennsylvania Supreme Court; she also served as the political director and communications director for the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.

Pennsylvania has a well-known dearth of women in elected office, never having elected a woman governor, or to the U.S. Senate. The 18-member U.S. congressional delegation is made up entirely of men, and the state legislature ranks 39th in the nation for number of women members, according to Emerge Pennsylvania.

Republicans in the past have started programs to encourage women to run for office, including the Anne Anstein Excellence in Public Service series from renowned fundraiser and committeewoman Christine Toretti. There’s also the non-partisan Ready to Run training program hosted at Chatham University. But it seems Emerge is the first Democratic counterpart to take shape in Pennsylvania.

One more thing: If you hear about these efforts and think, “Is it necessary to have a concerted effort to get more women in office?” – we point you to the latest news about misogynistic emails circulating among male prosecutors and judges in Pennsylvania, then ask you to consider whether establishing equitable gender representation in government might be a culture change that’s long overdue.

Clinton’s ‘momentous event’ – Bill will be fundraising in Pittsburgh

BY SALENA ZITO  szito@tribweb.com

Invitations to attend “a momentous event in support of Hillary Clinton” have circulated among Pittsburgh’s Democratic elite to attend a fundraiser headlined by former President William Jefferson Clinton in support of his wife, Hillary Clinton, in her bid for the party’s nomination for president.

The venue is somewhat shrouded in mystery – the only way you can find out where the event is being held in Pittsburgh is to donate:

Clinton RSVP

Hillary has visited Pittsburgh twice so far since she announced her bid for her party’s nomination; the first time was in the spring when – on the day of her campaign announcement from her home in suburban New York City – she boarded a van for an Iowa final destination: she stayed over that first night at the Hotel Monaco in downtown Pittsburgh.

The former First Lady’s second visit was a fundraiser in July at a private home in Fox Chapel.

Martin O’Malley headlined a fundraiser here for his campaign in September.

The Democrats aren’t the only ones who have been wooing Western Pennsylvania donors to support their candidacies: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, U. S. Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have all held fundraisers in Pittsburgh this fall.

Here is the email invite and link for the event:

Clinton please joinBill

When transparency and tradition create confusion

BY MELISSA DANIELS  mdaniels@tribweb.com

Sometimes it takes a mistake to learn something new in this life.

We were reminded of that this week when a Senate calendar showed H. Geoffrey Moulton, a former Office of Attorney General special deputy, up for nomination to a Montgomery County judgeship. But the document doesn’t tell the full story, far from it.

Turns out, Moulton’s name was used as a placeholder to keep an appointment open until a final candidate is agreed upon by the governor and the Senate.

Jenn Kocher, spokeswoman for the Senate Republican caucus, said while the nomination is official, the placeholders don’t file paperwork that would otherwise get the ball rolling on the confirmation process, so there’s never any vote on the placeholder. This is fairly routine when a nominee hasn’t been agreed to, she said.

But – and this is where the tradition causes confusion – the Senate nomination lists are now publicly available on Internet, meaning they show names like Moulton’s that are never truly up for consideration.

All of this sounds like a great lesson in Senate Rules Shadowgames 101. While it’s reasonable to assume that leaders will come to agreements and rules among themselves, how can that be clear to the citizenry at large accessing these documents online, which is arguably the motive behind posting them?

We’re big fans of the transparency that goes into posting legislative information – including calendars -online, but most citizens aren’t familiar with Senate traditions, and in this instance, the tradition – combined with transparency – fosters confusion.

Perhaps it’s time to tweak the “placeholder” tradition… for future placeholder names, instead of actual people, maybe names like “Eleanor Rigby,” “Major Tom,” or “Mr.Tambourine Man” would eliminate confusion… or simply “Placeholder” or “To Be Determined.”

Kane-appointed investigator to become judge with prosecutor who charged her?

Special Deputy Attorney General H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr. speaks on Monday, June 23, 2014, during a news conference on the results  of a probe into the Jerry Sandusky investigation as Pennsylvania  Attorney General Kathleen Kane (left) stands by.
Special Deputy Attorney General H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr. speaks on Monday, June 23, 2014, during a news conference on the results of a probe into the Jerry Sandusky investigation as Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (left) stands by.

BY MELISSA DANIELS  mdaniels@tribweb.com

H. Geoffrey Moulton, the special deputy hired by Attorney General Kathleen Kane in 2013 to examine the Jerry Sandusky investigation conducted by her predecessors, appears on a list of nominees up for confirmation in the Pennsylvania Senate on Friday – as a nominee to become a Court of Common Pleas Judge in Montgomery County.

Appointment requires a two-thirds vote. The seat was previously held by Judge Emanuel Bertin, who hit mandatory retirement, according to the Senate.

And in an interesting small-world happenstance, Moulton, if appointed, would serve on the bench alongside Risa Vetri Ferman, the Republican MontCo district attorney who charged Kane, and then won a judgeship this November.

UPDATE: Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokesman Jeff Sheridan said Moulton is not actually being nominated to the position; rather, his name on the list as a “placeholder” so they can appoint a future candidate, he said.

There apparently is a long tradition of placeholders being used to keep an appointment open until a candidate is agreed upon by the governor and the Senate. Jenn Kocher, spokeswoman for the Senate Republican caucus, said this has been the case “forever and a day.” The placeholder names are kept until a final nominee is agreed to, she said – the placeholders also don’t file paperwork that would otherwise get the ball rolling on the confirmation process.

Moulton’s Sandusky report pulled together all of the emails in the attorney general’s office. Later, Kane released some that showed pornographic, misogynistic and racist messages shared among prosecutors and high-ranking state officials, beginning the “Porngate” scandal that has led to the resignation of gubernatorial cabinet members and a Supreme Court justice. The scandal embroiled Sandusky prosecutors now working in Philadelphia, including Kane’s nemesis Frank Fina.  Now, Kane is running those emails through another special investigation while she fights back against criminal charges that involve allegedly lying to a grand jury.

To be clear, Moulton did not release the emails – Kane did – but it was his investigation that opened up the servers to scrutiny.

Following the report’s June 2014 release, Moulton did not fade altogether from government work. In February he was hired by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, The Associated Press reported. With all the challenges for Kane, given the criminal perjury charges against her, Moulton was considered a likely candidate to replace her should she resign or the Senate remove her from office.