Meadville Tribune

State News

May 17, 2014

Reps spend thousands on 'self-promotion' events

HARRISBURG — More than a third of Pennsylvania’s state representatives spend thousands of dollars in government dollars every year to stage senior expos, veterans dinners and other community events that some criticize as self-promotion at taxpayer expense.

Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Northumberland County, spent $2,515 on food and other items for a September senior expo that assembled representatives of social service agencies, according to records filed with the House of Representatives chief clerk’s office.

State Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Cambria County, submitted $1,126 for food he served at senior fairs in Cresson and Northern Cambria in October.

And Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-Northumberland County, took more than 60 people to tea last August in celebration of couples who’ve been married for more than 50 years. She submitted the $303 cost of nine cakes and a caterer for reimbursement as a legislative expense, according to House records.

The costs of these events add up. Last year 76 representatives — more than a third of the 203-member House of Representatives — spent nearly $80,000 in legislative funds on veterans day dinners, family days, children’s fairs and outdoor expos, according to a review of the Legislature’s expense records.

Of that total, lawmakers spent $50,748 on events targeting seniors.

Details of the events and their costs were obtained under a Right-to-Know request filed with the House of Representatives. The Senate Right-to-Know office asked for an extension to respond to an identical request, as allowed by law.

Each lawmaker gets a $20,000 annual allowance for office expenses. They may use the money to stage community events as long as they show an “underlying legislative purpose,” said Stephen Miskin, spokesman for the House Republican caucus.

State representatives “are people’s closest contact to government,” Miskin said, and often where people turn for help finding state services.

 

Self-promotion

Critics say the spending is self-promotional and unnecessary.

“If the Legislature can cut funding for books and bibs, than they can restrain themselves from spending money on duplicating services provided by the executive branch,” said Eric Epstein, coordinator of the activist organization Rock The Capital.

House-funded community events, he said, are a tool that incumbents use to deter challengers and win re-election.

“These events and expos are a part of coordinated program — used by both parties — to keep incumbents in power,” Epstein said. “Bottom line: Sitting politicians spend their time and your money campaigning, promoting and raising their profile to keep their low-performance, bad results, high-paying job.”

Republican Rep. Brad Roae of Crawford County, who is running unopposed in Tuesday’s primary election, is among the vast majority of representatives who don’t sponsor such events — or, at least, who don’t submit expenses for them.

“I’m a cheapskate when it comes to spending tax money,” Roae said. “Some legislators really overdo it with multiple taxpayer-funded events every year, especially election years. Some events are taxpayer-funded, ‘look-at-me’ events that focus on the legislator rather than the people.”

Like Roae, state Rep. Fred Keller, R-Union County, said the events are an inappropriate use of government money.

“I love seniors and veterans. We all do,” said Keller. “But if I want to help the American Legion, I’ll go to their chicken dinner. I don’t need to put on my event. I don’t think buying food and snacks is a function of government.”

But lawmakers who hold the events say the expense is a useful way to help constituents.

Text Only
State News
  • Well inspectors trying to keep up during boom time

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

    July 27, 2014

  • PennDOT seeking outside help to make bridge repairs

    State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Gov. Corbett pressures lawmakers in pension fight

    Gov. Tom Corbett is ratcheting up pressure on the Legislature to reform the state’s pension system by focusing on how often school districts use tax increases to offset costs.

    July 22, 2014

  • Experts: Expanding coverage fuels doc shortage

    Pennsylvania’s health care system absorbed more than 300,000 new patients who signed up for insurance through Obamacare’s exchanges. But experts worry the system can’t handle another wave of patients, twice as large, should the state expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

    July 13, 2014

  • Jerry Sandusky’s son tells story to Oprah Winfrey

    Jerry Sandusky’s adult son is speaking out about what he says was sexual abuse by his father.

    July 8, 2014

  • Environmentalists criticize drilling-for-dollars plan in state forests and parks

    Pennsylvania’s just finished budget calls for raising almost $100 million by expanding leases for gas development in state forests — even though leases the state has already issued are far from tapped out.

    July 3, 2014

  • Pennsylvania House approves Republicans' $29.1B budget

    The Legislature voted late Monday to put a looming, $1.5 billion shortfall in its rearview mirror, with a deal to pass a $29.1 billion budget that increases state spending by 1.8 percent but doesn’t hike taxes.

    June 30, 2014

  • Food safety delivery concerns rise with fuel prices

    A few weeks ago state agriculture inspectors forced a trucker to toss 2,000 pounds of food in the garbage after finding the cargo had not been kept at safe temperatures.

    June 15, 2014

  • Tow truckers hope to put brakes on dispatch system

    Some tow truck operators are boycotting a computerized dispatch system put in place by state police, complaining that it’s confusing and leads to longer response times than when troopers and dispatchers manage a call.

    June 1, 2014

  • 'Economics' of state gubernatorial campaigns

    Gov. Tom Corbett’s re-election campaign hailed April’s jobs numbers. Pennsylvania’s unemployment dipped to 5.7 percent — its lowest since 2008 and well below the national average of 6.3 percent.
    “The people of Pennsylvania elected me to Harrisburg on my promise of less taxes and more jobs, and we continue to see that promise ringing tr

    May 25, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks