Scandalous Lobbying in PA

Member Group : Guest Articles

In a recent constituent email, Sen. Scott Wagner highlighted an ABC27 investigation outlining the intimate relationship between the influential lobbying firm of Long Nyquist & Associates and the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Their report: Founding partner Michael Long worked 27 years as an upper tier staffer in the state Senate, including as chief of staff for many years to Senate Pro Temp Robert Jubelierer. Todd Nyquist held senior positions including chief of staff to current Pro Temp Joe Scarnati. He left the Senate and partnered with Long in 2009. Amy Long, Michael Long’s wife, was employed for years by Sen. Pat Vance, chairperson of Public Health and Welfare Committee. Nyquist married Noel Nyquist former staffer to Sen. Don White, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance. Both spouses now work for the lobbying firm, as do the wives of Drew Crompton (Megan), Scarnati’s chief counsel, and Krystjan Callahan (also Megan), House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s chief of staff.

Who else works for Long Nyquist? Tim Nyquist, Todd’s twin, the former chief of staff to Appropriations Chair Jake Corman, and Mike Long’s son Casey, a Scarnati staffer who, incidentally, makes a salary of $104,000.

Demonstrating the political reality of profit over principle, the former Republican staffers of Long Nyquist lobbied on behalf of PSEA to derail pension reform, parental school choice, and paycheck protection; and on behalf of the UFCW to sink liquor privatization. These citizen-benefitting reforms failed passage even while Republicans controlled the state governorship, Senate, and House.

Long Nyquist also manages political campaigns. So first the firm works to get a legislator elected and later lobbies the successfully elected legislator for a favorable vote on legislation of interest to their clients.

The second part of the ABC27 report laid out a typical crony capitalism event. The story begins with ChemImage, a company that produces explosive detection equipment, promoting their wares to the Senate President, Joe Scarnati who subsequently wrote $1.5 million into the state police budget for the ChemImage device. The police tested the product and subsequently decided against the purchase.

Undeterred, Sen. Scarnati amended a Race Horse Development bill to include the $1.5 million for ChemImage. When the legislation went to the House, the allocation for the explosive detection equipment was removed.

Scarnati made a final try to steer the $1.5 million to ChemImage by creating a pilot program for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. This budget allocation went unmolested through the House and Senate budget bills. Tom Corbett, mindful of his promise to steward hard-earned taxpayer monies, line-item vetoed the $1.5 million. Why was Scarnati promoting funding for unwanted technology? As it turns out, ChemImage is a client of the earlier mentioned Megan Crompton.

Sick? Appalled? Amazed? Don’t be. This is not a scandal. It is business as usual in our government, trumping professed party or principle. It is how government operates, or more accurately, how government operates mostly for special interests. The incestuous association between Long Nyquist & Associates and the state Legislature is typical of the relationships between state and federal staffers and legislators, and lobbyists. Our "public servants" first work for government, learn how government runs, and develop personal relationship within the government. They then move into lucrative lobbying jobs, leveraging their knowledge of the system and their relationships for the benefit of special interests and to the detriment of our inalienable rights that our government was formed to protect. An estimated 40 percent of House members and 50 percent of senators who retire from Congress now stay in Washington, D.C., to become lobbyists.

Crony capitalism too is how government operates, again to our citizenry’s detriment. In economically free markets, companies compete to provide value, a function of price and utility, to customers. In our crony capitalism system, companies lobby legislators so to avoid messy value-based competition. Money is taken from present and future taxpayers to provide preferential tax-treatment, subsidies, bailouts, below market rate loans, price-controls, trade protections, competitive advantages, and monopolies for special interests.

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 752 would ban lobbyists from simultaneously working as campaign consultants. Yet it is naïve to think big government can be made to function appropriately. Because the individuals in our government are as or more self-interested as those in the private sector and because our government has access to so much of our economy, our property, and how we live, those in the government will get around any laws or rules, including term limits, devised to promote better government.

This mess is the direct and predictable outcome of government allowed to extend its reach beyond the wise limits established by the Constitution. Until government no longer has the expanse to create a Racehorse Development Fund, we will have government of special interests, by special interests and for special interests.

On second thought, maybe it is a scandal.

Nick Pandelidis is a local physician and a regular contributor to Viewpoints.

Fix Pennsylvania’s killer dams (YDR opinion)
Puterbaugh case questions unanswered (YDR opinion)