What Fresh Hell Is This?

September 13, 2010

Paying attention to the men behind the curtain

You're all reading Rich Lord's three-part series on "The Network" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, right? (Part 1, Part 2, Illustration of who's who)


It's the Theory of Everything on how Pittsburgh works -- or in some cases -- works badly.

It explains how and why things get done in this city because it follows the money. For example:
In March 2008, an official who has since left the city sent Mr. Grattan a list of more than four dozen people who had done business with, or sought to do business with, or asked for help from the city or its agencies. Among them were Mr. Ferchill, several other developers, engineers, architects, contractors, and sports team executives.

Asked whether he was aware of the transmission of the list, Mr. Ravenstahl said, "I don't know what you're talking about, so I don't know."

The mayor held several political fundraisers in 2008, including one in May and a November event headlined by former President Bill Clinton. Two days before the latter event, the mayor's campaign paid Mr. Grattan $9,500, according to its filings with the Allegheny County Elections Division, for "travel & event deposit." Filings indicate that Mr. Grattan later reimbursed the campaign $6,300.

Between the date the list was sent to Mr. Grattan, and 2008's end, the mayor's campaign got checks tied to 30 of the people on the list -- usually directly from them, other times from their business associates, businesses, or political action committees to which they were connected. Members of Mr. Ferchill's firm, for instance, donated $5,000 to Mr. Ravenstahl's campaign at a May 2008 fundraiser, adding to the $8,000 that firm members gave his campaign in 2006.

The mayor's receipt of contributions from more than half of the people on the list is "a very powerful statement of the power of campaign contributions," said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause PA, a watchdog group which has pushed for years for statewide campaign contribution limits. "In an ideal world, that should never occur."


"Decisions aren't made to benefit Pittsburgh," Mr. Peduto said, "but instead [based on] how to make contractors into contributors, and contributors into contractors."
The only funny bit in this tragedy so far? The players' reactions -- those who actually did respond -- to the idea of The Network:
"Define for me who would be involved out of the Foerster era," said former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen A. Zappala Sr., whose brother, Charles, has been involved with finance, development and energy savings companies. "I was part of [the Foerster administration], but I left the administration, and went on the Supreme Court in 1982. ... I'm kind of lost. I don't know what you would mean as far as impact."


Charles Zappala declined to be interviewed, saying reporting on a network and its history "makes no sense to me."


Asked about Mr. Verbanac's role with his administration, Mr. Ravenstahl said the reporter was "confused, and I'm not going to participate in your pursuit of something that doesn't exist. I'm insulted by it, to be honest with you.
What's actually lost, confused and making no sense in all this is the ideal of Good Government.

I can't wait for part three.

1 comment:

rich10e said...

Pittsburgh's version of the Ruling Class.