Sunday, August 21, 2005

PittsburghLIVE.com Castigates Mike Long

The GOP's smarmy offensive - PittsburghLIVE.com: "The GOP's smarmy offensive

By Colin McNickle
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, August 21, 2005

The state Senate Republican leadership, stung by its conviction on highwaymannery charges in the Pennsylvania Court of Public Opinion, has launched a smarmy campaign to discredit critics of the pay-jacking it helped to orchestrate.
And the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania, through its silence, should be considered an accomplice.

Don't be surprised if leadership "allies" (i.e., common political stooges) file a lawsuit challenging the public education activities of InformedPA.com, an offshoot of Chris Lilik's Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania (YCOP), registered as a 501(c)4.

It's part of a harassment and intimidation campaign, pure and simple. And if there's any taxpayer money involved, the Justice Department should prosecute this gang for conspiracy, racketeering and official oppression.

The leadership is royally honked off that a Republican political neophyte such as Mr. Lilik would have the temerity to see pay-jacking Republicans as the public service reprobates that they are, then have the guts to go public and say enough is enough.

Not only does the leadership want to shut down Lilik's planned billboard campaign designed to better inform the public who these self-dealing legislators are -- did one firm already back out because it was threatened by GOP goons? -- it wants to know who's bankrolling it.

No doubt these Republicans and conservatives of dubious pedigree want to punish those who have been willing to put their money behind Lilik's convictions.

Gee, maybe they'll even pay for the "third-party" lawsuit with cash from their "leadership accounts" (i.e., slush fund). Follow the money, gang; let's see who's walking around with blackened greasy palms.

Mike Long, chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tem Robert Jubelirer, the pay-jacking Republican of Altoona, is spinning like a turbocharged top. He's been publicly dismissing Lilik as "misguided," saying Lilik's criticisms are "angering" conservatives.

Conservatives often cheer when they're angry, Mr. Long? Fella, you'll be lucky if that next knock on your office door doesn't come from a brigade of those bearing cans of tar at perfect-pouring temperature and freshly plucked feathers.

Long also said that prominent conservatives -- such as prospective gubernatorial candidate Bill Scranton and his campaign manager, Glen Meakem -- are "too bright, able and savvy" to give Lilik's efforts monetary support.

It's a slap at Mr. Meakem, who is very concerned about the "culture of corruption" in Pennsylvania government, who considers Lilik a protege and who has donated money to YCOP. It's Meakem who made it possible for Lilik to move YCOP from Pittsburgh to a new Harrisburg headquarters.

And though Meakem says he personally wouldn't have employed the same tactics as Lilik, he told Capitolwire bureau chief Pete DeCoursey that he supports YCOP's campaign. These are "great people doing great things," he said.

Of course, Messrs. Scranton and Meakem are too bright, able and savvy to step in the kind of cow-patty bombs being dropped by Long. Should Scranton be elected governor and become the titular head of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, look for Mike Long's manure-shoveling skills to be practiced on some farm instead of in Harrisburg.

But wait, it gets worse:

On Thursday, in an open letter to Long, Lilik alleges that "employees of the Senate of Pennsylvania in public and private conversations have issued personal, legal and political threats" against him and YCOP.

And he says that Ron Harper, the GOP's well-known opposition research guru (i.e., a political baddy) "implied a threat of jail time."

If true, it's despicable behavior.

So, where does the state Republican apparatus stand on this matter? There's been nary a peep from the peeps at the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania. Until I e-mailed Chairman Eileen Melvin on Thursday, that is.

"Speaking of Lilik, where does the party stand on what's going on?" I asked. And the response resembles a vigorous tap dance.

"I will ask Chris why he isn't challenging Gov. Ed Rendell's policies that place an increased financial burden on every Pennsylvania taxpayer, cost Pennsylvania workers thousands of manufacturing jobs, and will give Pennsylvania families gambling without any property (tax) relief," she responded. "And as Pennsylvania children head back to school, their parents can take comfort in the fact that their governor is hard at work for Comcast commenting on (Philadelphia) Eagles' games instead of working to improve their education."

But it's OK for Republicans to shaft taxpayers and violate the state Constitution? And it's equally just dandy for Republican henchmen to attempt to smear those who protest the molestation, is that it, Ms. Melvin?

What, pray tell, does the state Republican Party stand for anymore? Anything?

Some GOP insiders seem to be genuinely concerned that campaigns such as Lilik's will hurt efforts to remove pocket-picking politicians through the electoral process.

"If Lilik causes Jubelirer and (Senate Majority Leader Chip) Brightbill to suck up all of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee's money," then candidates who are willing to, say, term-limit themselves and act responsibly in general won't get elected, the insider said.

But once elected, they're usually conscripted and corrupted by a lock-stepping, diktat-issuing leadership that believes taxpayer dollars are its personal piggy bank, aren't they?

The Chris Liliks of this commonwealth are the future of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, not the seeds of its demise. And that has the Republican establishment -- hands so deep in the public's pockets that they scrape at the knees -- running scared, circling the wagons and scrapping the bottom of the behavioral barrel.

This whole debate comes down to integrity. Lilik has it. Those mounting the smarmy offensive -- and those who hope Lilik goes away -- don't.

Colin McNickle is the Trib's director of editorial pages. Ring him at (412) 320-7836. E-mail him at: cmcnickle@tribweb.com."

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