More Lawmakers Sign for Constitutional Convention

Member Group : Democracy Raising PA

At the request of constituents, two more lawmakers have signed the petition for a referendum on a Constitution convention. They are Rep. RoseMarie Swanger, R-Lebanon and Rep. John Bear, R-Lancaster. This makes a total of four lawmakers, all from the House, two Democrats and two Republicans. Here once again is a link to the petition.

More and more citizens are reporting the responses of lawmakers when asked about letting citizens decide whether they want a convention. The dominant line of attack for lawmakers who oppose the referendum is a particularly insidious form of fear-mongering: to turn citizens’ perfectly reasonable mistrust of the legislature into a perfectly unreasonable mistrust of themselves.

This was on display at the PA Progressive Summit last weekend in Harrisburg.

During a "debate" between Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, and DR Co-founder Tim Potts, Leach repeatedly told the audience that they should fear what citizens might do at a convention without offering any realistic hope that the General Assembly can repair a government that is conspicuously broken. Click here to read a guest column by Potts at

According to Leach, the only people in PA who can be trusted to improve our government are incumbent lawmakers. Fortunately, as reported in the January 27 edition of DR News, 72% of citizens know better.

Bottom Line: Rigging Elections

Whether you call it "Bonusgate" or the Bonus Scandal or something else, there is one over-arching theme of the three-year-old attorney general investigation: rigging elections. Lawmakers do it in a variety of ways, some legal but wrong because lawmakers enact self-serving laws, and some just plain illegal.

Legal but Wrong. Lawmakers do this in several ways, in fact too many to recite here. So we’ll focus on Rep. Mario Civera, R-Delaware, as the latest high-profile example of this form of rigging elections. Having promised to resign from the House if he won election to Delaware County Council last fall, he now has decided to remain in the House until after the deadline for a special election to replace him at the same time as the primary election on May 18.

Civera is at least honest about his decision to rig the election. He admits he wants to wait until fewer voters will be paying attention in order to increase the chances that a fellow Republican will win the special election. His hometown paper, the Delaware County Daily Times, has editorialized about this twice:

• Special elections allow the voters to speak, Jan. 19
• Civera should give up his Pa. House seat, Jan. 21

By his attitude, Civera forsakes any claim to public service because he is willing to let the 63,000 people in his district go without representation in the House for longer than necessary. If Civera resigns one day before the deadline, the people he represents – who gave him and only him the power to vote on their behalf in the House – are without representation for about 60 days. If he resigns one day after the deadline, the people are without representation for at least 120 days. These extra 60+ days happen to be the most important 60 days of the year when, we hope, the state budget is passed.

• Why don’t House Republicans expel Civera and thereby set an example that they stand for honest elections that encourage voter participation instead of avoiding it?
Just Plain Illegal. In addition to the confessed crimes of the Bonus Scandal, here are other examples of illegally rigging elections.
In 2006, former Rep. Linda Bebko-Jones, D-Erie, withdrew from her re-election campaign, ending a 14-year career in the legislature, when her nominating petitions were challenged. In 2008, the attorney general charged her with forging signatures on the petitions, and Bobko-Jones pled guilty.
Last week, the State Ethics Commission reported that former Rep. Matt Wright, R-Bucks, has paid a $10,000 fine for using his tax-funded office and staff for his re-election campaigns. The case is similar to that of former Rep. Jeff Habay, R-Allegheny. The attorney general prosecuted Habay in 2004 for the same offense, sending Habay to prison, but Wright’s lawyer says part of the deal with the Ethics Commission was that Wright would not be referred for prosecution. The attorney general’s spokesman did not rule out prosecution, however. Click here for an AP story in the Allentown Morning Call.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Bonus Scandal is that no one in the House or Senate, leadership or otherwise, has joined integrity advocates in a public campaign for new laws to prevent such scandals from happening again.
• Which lawmakers will lead the fight to give PA the fairest, most voter-friendly and candidate-friendly election laws in America? Do we need a Constitution convention for that, too?

Why wait ’til May or November?
Vote for Integrity now and help DR work toward the Constitution convention we need.

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