Corruption is What Makes Philly

15 May

In the run-up to the Democratic convention, the 2016 Democratic National Convention Host Committee launched #WhatMakesPhilly, “a social media campaign to energize Philadelphians about the Convention coming to town and highlighting what makes the city the unique.”

#WhatMakesPhilly Campaign Announced

What makes Philly unique? It continues to live down to its reputation as “corrupt and contented.” One of the longest serving congressmen, Chaka Fattah, is now serving time in federal prison. City Council Majority Leader Bobby Henon is under FBI investigation.

Bobby Henon FBI Raid - 8.5.16

District Attorney Seth Williams, who no longer has a law license, is under indictment. One of the candidates running in the May 16 primary election to succeed him is in debt up to his eyeballs.

Tariq's Tax Liens

And we now know the real winner of the host committee’s #WhatMakesPhilly social media campaign was the committee’s executive director, Kevin Washo. Last week, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Washo paid himself a $310,000 bonus:

On Nov. 25, all 12 of the host committee staff received bonuses. In addition to Washo’s $310,000 check, rewards ranged from $13,357 for the office manager, who was paid $3,000 monthly, to $220,000 for the chief financial officer, who was paid about $8,000 monthly.

In the host committee’s report to the Federal Election Commission, Washo’s bonus is described as “Consulting Services-Political.” On Dec. 23, 2016 — five months after the convention ended — he collected $13,805.96 in “salary.” By then, Washo had already been hired by powerhouse law firm Cozen O’Connor “to assist clients with government relations across Pennsylvania as well as in Washington, D.C., and New York.”

Cozen - Kevin Washo

Washo may soon need a lawyer.

Philadelphia Magazine detailed the other bonuses.

Philly Mag - Staff Bonuses

The nearly $1 million in bonuses were authorized by Host Committee Chairman Ed Rendell. Philly’s culture of corruption is so embedded that Rendell, a former mayor and governor, brazenly said:

No donor did this out of the kindness of their heart. They all wanted access. They got exactly what they donated for. No donor should feel cheated.

Why should donors “feel cheated?” After all, they received “access” and a tax deduction. Millions of dollars of donations to the host committee were funneled through the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau Foundation. The financial scheme appears to violate the absolute prohibition on political campaign intervention by a Section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. The bonuses also facially violate IRS rules against self-dealing.

So on Mother’s Day, I decided to file a complaint about these greedy mothers (half the word) with the IRS and the Federal Election Commission. When I visited the host committee’s website to find out who was on the board of directors, I discovered the site has been partially wiped clean (perhaps “with a cloth or something”), including its home page, sponsors and area partners.

Also on Sunday, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement denouncing Rendell and Washo for not returning the $4 million surplus to the state:

I am disappointed that when the host committee discovered there was a surplus, the first call was not to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to discuss returning the money to the taxpayers. The commonwealth supports large events that have an economic benefit to Pennsylvania and the region, but when there is leftover funding, that money should be returned to taxpayers. I am disappointed that the surplus was instead spent on bonuses and grants.

Wolf requested that Auditor General Eugene DePasquale review the host committee’s audit report.

UPDATE: Three Republicans — Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne — have called for an audit. In a letter to Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, they wrote:

The revelations over the past several days are particularly troubling. It is undisputed that the DNC had no less than $4 million I unencumbered funds upon completion of the event. A small group of individuals including former Governor Rendell chose to allocate the excess on targeted special interest initiatives and exorbitant bonuses, one greater than $300,000. We were not contacted at any point by the officials at the DNC, the Governor’s Office, or DCED (who administered the grant) about the surplus. No efforts were made to return any portion of the surplus to the Commonwealth.

Kevin Washo and the other host committee staff will have to use their taxpayer-funded windfall to pay for lawyers.

Stay tuned.

How Sanctuary Cities Work to Undermine Rule of Law

1 May

The fight over sanctuary cities is heating up. Last week, a federal judge blocked President Trump’s executive order barring sanctuary cities from receiving federal fund. Judge William H. Orrick issued an injunction blocking enforcement of Section 9(a) of the executive order on the grounds that it is unconstitutionally vague.

Section 9a of Executive Order

In a statement, the White House blasted the ruling as an “egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge”:

Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation. Federal law explicitly states that “a Federal, State or Local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” 8 U.S.C. 1373(a). That means, according to Congress, a city that prohibits its officials from providing information to federal immigration authorities — a sanctuary city — is violating the law. Sanctuary cities, like San Francisco, block their jails from turning over criminal aliens to Federal authorities for deportation. These cities are engaged in the dangerous and unlawful nullification of Federal law in an attempt to erase our borders.

Trump tweeted he will appeal the ruling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump Sanctuary City Ruling Tweet

Meanwhile, Baltimore’s sanctuary city policy works like a charm. In a memo obtained by The Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office says prosecutors should go easy on illegal immigrants:

In considering the appropriate disposition of a minor, non-violent criminal case, please be certain to consider those potential consequences to the victim, witnesses, and the defendant.

Will American citizens be given the same consideration?

In Philadelphia, Mayor Kenney and City Council work overtime to flout the rule of law. Last week, City Council passed a resolution that invoked a nonexistent “human right” to work in the United States:

Recognizing every person’s fundamental right to earn a living, regardless of immigration status, and affirming the City of Philadelphia’s commitment to protect and secure a safe and dignified workplace for all.

Philadelphia Daily News Columnist Stu Bykofsky noted the resolution is not worth the paper it’s written on:

There is no such right. That notion is not just harebrained, it is criminal. Under federal law, only people here legally have the privilege of a job, and they need a permit for that. Even legal visitors have no “right” to work without permission. Employers are prohibited from hiring the undocumented.

Immigration law was passed by Congress and if you don’t like it, go to Congress to change it. That’s how democracy works. You don’t ignore it or rewrite it. The Council resolution didn’t reference U.S. law or the U.S. Constitution. It instead cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We’re all Globalists, now.

In the same vein, Jay McCalla, a former deputy managing director of Philadelphia during the administrations of Mayors Ed Rendell and John Street, said Mayor Jim Kenney has some explaining to do:

While Kenney has boldly asserted the general policy, he has neither defined it nor invited public debate to affirm it. City Council adopted a resolution of support, but the few seconds set aside for a voice vote hardly qualify as a sincere sorting of the issues in what may be the most significant, potentially impactful declarations of values a city can make.

While we wait for Kenney to explain himself, check out the surprisingly evenhanded explainer from Vox.

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