Archive | Social Media RSS feed for this section

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.

2016 Recount Farce

28 Nov

Karl Marx said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” The 2000 presidential election came down to Florida. Trailing George W. Bush by 537 votes, Al Gore pressed for a recount in four cherry-picked counties. He pressed his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The Supremes stopped the recount.

bush-gore-dec13-jpg

Fast forward to today. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s share of the vote barely registered in Wisconsin (1.04%), Pennsylvania (0.81%) and Michigan (1.07%). Still, in less than 48 hours, she raised over $4.7 million towards the cost of recounts in the three battleground states.

jill-stein-election-integrity

On Friday, Jill Stein filed a petition for a recount in Wisconsin.

In Pennsylvania, petitions are filed by voters not candidates on a precinct-by-precinct basis. In Philadelphia County alone, there are over 1,600 precincts. The deadline (November 21) to file the petitions has passed. So a lawsuit is Jill Stein’s only option.

It should be noted that only 17 counties have any form of paper trail. Voters in these counties represent roughly 20% of the total vote in the Keystone State. In vote-rich Philadelphia and Allegheny (Pittsburgh) counties, there are no paper records to recount.

Josh Marshall, editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com, advises caution:

There are countless reasons why people are upset about the results of the 2016 presidential election. The final tallies in the critical states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were extremely close. But we cannot help noticing that Green Presidential candidate Jill Stein’s fundraising goals for recounts in these three states keeps rising as she brings in more money. The initial goal was for $2.5 million. That was bumped up to $4.5 million. Now it has been raised again to $7 million.

That’s very fishy.

[…]

At best, I think this is basically a publicity stunt for Jill Stein. At worst, well … the ever-escalating goals speak for themselves. An election campaign really has no limit on how much money it can raise or spend. Recounts are finite. There’s only so much recounting you can do – even when you pile on ‘lawyers fees’ and fees for recount workers.

Hillary Clinton’s supporters have been crying since Election Night. When the farcical recounts are completed, they may drown in their own tears.

#APeoplesJourney

3 Oct

The newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture was 100 years in the making. The dream of black Civil War veterans was fulfilled on September 24, 2016.

nmaahc

With the ringing of the First Baptist Church Freedom Bell President Barack Obama opened the doors to a view of African American history and culture through an African American lens.

I was in DC for the grand opening ceremonies.

makinghistory-facebook

I did not visit the Museum because I did not want my first visit to be rushed (I have tickets for October and November). So I spent the weekend reveling in the Freedom Sounds Festival. It was comforting to see the ancestors presiding over the community celebration.

ray-charles-freedom-sounds-resized

By the way, Ray Charles’ “Lonely Avenue” was remixed into a freedom song, “Fighting for My Rights.”

On my visit to the Museum on October 3rd, my first stop will be the Slavery gallery. If time permits, I’ll check out the Music collection. My plan is to check out one or two galleries on each visit.

Are you ready to visit? Admission is free, but you need a timed pass. You’ll have to plan ahead because Museum tickets are sold out for the rest of the year. Passes for Museum admission between January and March 2017  will be available online starting Oct. 3 at 9 a.m.

For more info, check out Top 10 Things To Know About Visiting the Museum.

%d bloggers like this: