This article was published by The Philadelphia Daily News. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.
THE POLITICAL excesses of Harrisburg have come home to Philadelphia.
First, Democratic state Sen. Vince Fumo is accused of fraudulently directing millions in tax money and charitable contributions to himself and to further his political ambitions.
Next, a dozen Democrats, including a current and an ex-state rep, are arrested for using tax dollars to pay campaign operatives.
Now, Mayor Nutter uses city tax dollars to pay for three staffers to attend the Democratic convention in Denver to further his political ambitions. We are paying for Mayor Nutter to take ex-ward leader and senior adviser Terry Gillen, special assistant Jordan Schwartz and spokesman Doug Oliver.
That’s air fare, rooms and food while they attend an event whose primary purpose is to pick the party’s candidates for president and vice president, and vote on a political platform.
The original plan may have been to soak the taxpayers for the mayor’s expenses, too.
Doug Oliver, one of those going on this junket, originally said the city was paying for the mayor as well as his staff. When the mayor was asked about it, he retreated a bit, saying, “I have not made a final decision about that.” It was only after the spotlight was on the issue were we told that the mayor’s campaign committee would pay his fare.
The mayor is also taking two members of his security detail. While there is a question if security is even necessary, I won’t begrudge the security – just the rest of the entourage.
Nutter ran as the “reform mayor.” But peel back the label, and you’ll find the same sense of entitlement as Sen. Fumo and the Democratic leadership in the State House. This is a political event and the mayor has a political agenda. There is no justification for having the taxpayers foot the bill. No more than having taxpayers pay bonuses to state employees for their work on campaigns.
The mayor’s rationalization is that “It’s a political event, but it is also a national event that has an impact on the city of Philadelphia.” OK, but couldn’t you say that about almost any political event? The convention is basically a four-day infomercial for Barack Obama, with opportunities for the mayor to develop political and financial contacts to help his re-election.
The mayor’s spokesman indicates that the staffers with the mayor will be prohibited from engaging in political activity. Maybe that’s the real purpose of the security. Since EVERYTHING at the convention is political, security will be needed to make sure the staff isn’t let out of their rooms for the duration of the trip.
Philadelphia has one of the highest tax burdens in the country. Even though many cities are growing, Philadelphia is still losing residents and businesses. It’s getting tougher to make ends meet in the city budget. But the mayor’s campaign committee recently held a million-dollar fund-raiser. What’s wrong with this picture?
GOV. RENDELL is attending the convention, with his campaign, appropriately, covering expenses. He seems to be able to get along with just one staffer, who’ll also be paid by the governor’s campaign.
I have a question for the reform mayor. A week after the Democrats meet, the GOP convention will take place in Minneapolis. It’s every bit a “national event that has an impact on the city of Philadelphia.” Do you plan to attend and bring your staff at city expense?
I didn’t think so. *
Matthew Wolfe is a Republican ward leader in West Philadelphia and is writing for the Loyal Opposition, a Republican policy group focused on issues facing the city.