What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 3, 2015

Conflict Of Interest? CONFLICT OF INTEREST??

In yesterday's Tribune-Review readers were presented with this lump of insincere concern:
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf has come out of the gate leading a charge for ethics reform in government. But his own glaring conflict of interest leaves a cloud over his high-minded efforts.

Wolf has asked his transition team to sign an ethics pledge in an attempt to prevent conflicts of interest within his administration. He's also publicly expressed his support for a comprehensive gift ban, indicating he would prohibit executive branch officials from accepting gifts from lobbyists — even something as small as a cup of coffee.

But if accepting a small gift creates a conflict of interest, the gov.-elect will soon be facing an enormous ethical dilemma: negotiating new state contracts with government unions who were among his largest campaign donors this past election.

Government unions spent millions more to support Wolf via “Super PACs,” which are partially funded by union dues. It's not unreasonable to think that union leaders will expect a return on their significant investment.
Ok.  It's good that we've established that.  But let's look at where this came from.  Down the bottom of the column there's this:
Nathan Benefield is vice president of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation
Commonwealth Foundation...Commonwealth Foundation...where have I seen that name?

That's right.  Here - from April, 2013 in The Nation:
The Commonwealth Foundation, a right-wing think tank in Harrisburg, is plotting to go after public sector employee unions. In a letter from Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) on behalf of the Foundation, the think tank announced “Project Goliath,” a new effort to make Pennsylvania the next Wisconsin or Michigan. The Commonwealth Foundation is one of a fifty-nine-state network of similar think tanks that have vastly expanded since 2009. The letter makes clear that conservatives believe that right-wing political infrastructure—the organizing institutes, the partisan media outlets, the rapid response efforts—has helped turn the tide against labor unions.
And the column in the Trib this weekend is about how the Wolf administration is going to face a conflict of interest for all that Union (especially the guv'ment union) money that flowed into the campaign.  WHAT A COINCIDENCE!

Hmmm...so let's take a look at the money.  Always the money.

First the Commonwealth Foundation.  According to the Bridge Project over the years:
  • The Foundation received $2.617 million in foundation support from the foundations controlled by the late Trib owner, Richard Mellon Scaife.  That's about 35% of the total amount ($2.617 million out of about $7.654 million)
And now Senator Toomey.  From his letter accompanying the foundation's description of "Project Goliath" we find this:
From my years as a US Congressman from 1999 to 2005 and then as the head of the Club For Growth...
So, onto the Club for Growth.  In 2012 we reported on the $200,000 or so in Scaife Foundation money shuttled to the Club and the $21,000 in personal Scaife money donated to the Toomey campaign.

I mean it's reasonable to believe that donors expect a return on their investment, right?  I mean if we're talking transparency and all.

So Scaife funded the Commonwealth Foundation AND furnished a platform for it (and a number of other Scaife-funded think tanks) to communicate to the public - all while failing to inform that public of the financial connections making it all possible.


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