Wrong guy, wrong place, wrong time - PittsburghLIVE.com
By Brad Bumsted STATE CAPITOL REPORTER, Sunday, March 26, 2006
The PACleanSweep reformers are looking like ordinary pols. (footnote 1)
Russ Diamond, the founder of PACleanSweep, a statewide anti-incumbency group, last week even sounded like one of the Pennsylvania lawmakers he excoriates in offering "no comments" and speaking of confidential agreements. (footnote 2)
Just like the state Legislature they want to put out of office, the PACleanSweep leaders were bickering and jockeying for power. Diamond, the top leader, came off as an opportunist. (footnote 3)
A rapprochement may or may not be achieved by the time you read this. In a way, it doesn't matter. (footnote 4)
This is a column about what had been the angst for some PACleanSweep board members: Diamond's interest in running for governor as an independent candidate.
Diamond hasn't declared, of course. He has until August to decide. But as this column was being written, Diamond was still contemplating a race for governor. In an interview last week he rated the chances of running 50-50. He could swear off interest in running to bring peace to PACleanSweep.
The ongoing negotiations with his board prompted the talk of confidentiality.
Shortly after state lawmakers shocked the collective conscience of Pennsylvania last July 7 by approving a 16 percent to 54 percent pay hike for themselves, Diamond, a Lebanon County businessman, founded a Web site, www.pacleansweep.com, calling for repeal. Throwing the bums out was the unyielding call of Diamond and his cohorts. (footnote 5)
Diamond became the highest-profile member of the anti-pay movement. There were several leaders from different groups. But Diamond went about attacking the Legislature with the most panache.
No matter what happens, Diamond deserves credit for stepping out early against the pay hike and for showing no fear of powerful politicians.
As the voter insurgency swelled, Diamond also became a target of scorn for legislative insiders. He came to epitomize what lawmakers and legislative staffers saw wrong with the anti-incumbency movement.
Diamond was portrayed by his critics as a demagogue, a media hound, who cared little about the real workings of government. (footnote 6)
With the repeal of the pay hike last November, Diamond turned his full attention to defeating incumbents in this year's election. By the filing deadline last month, Diamond's organization was able to put up 99 candidates for House and Senate seats -- playing a key role in the 2006 surge of post-pay raise challengers. (footnote 7)
Some argue that PACleanSweep's main effort could end there with considerable success. (footnote 8)
But Diamond began to set his sights on the governor's race. Incumbent Democrat Ed Rendell is being challenged by Republican Lynn Swann. To run as an independent, Diamond would need to meet the enormous hurdle of gathering 67,000 signatures by August. (footnote 9)
Even as he downplayed the possibility of making such a run, Diamond told me there was one man who could have stopped the pay raise dead in its tracks -- and didn't. That man is Ed Rendell, he said.
It's called a veto.
Such a three-way race would be entertaining and enlightening for voters. (footnote 10) A candidate like Diamond could push Rendell and Swann into issues they would never address on their own. But it likely would be futile. (footnote 11)
If Diamond runs for governor, it would cheapen the anti-incumbency movement. (footnote 12) The critics on his board knew instinctively (footnote 13) that a Diamond-for-governor bid would hurt the larger cause. Diamond would be portrayed as a reformer with one foot in the governor's limo. (footnote 14) Defenders of the status quo in Harrisburg would have a field day lambasting Diamond. (footnote 15)
Further, it could be argued that entry of Diamond into the governor's race would merely hurt Swann and help Rendell get re-elected. Diamond and Swann would split the anti-Rendell vote. (footnote 16)
So where does that leave angry voters? With Rendell, the pay-raise master, and co-conspirators in legislative leadership still in power?
An argument could be made that if Diamond truly believes the stuff he's been saying, he has a duty to step in and face the voters as a candidate.
Maybe so, but on balance it seems a Diamond gubernatorial campaign fits under the heading of wrong guy, wrong place, wrong time. (footnote 17)
The anti-incumbency movement spawned by the ill-fated pay hike has never been about Russ Diamond, or Gene Stilp, another reformer running for lieutenant governor. (footnote 18)
It's about restoring trust and integrity to state government.
Reactions and footnotes from Mark Rauterkus:
#1. Of course the citizens are looking like ordinary people. We are ordinary. We want ordinary. We are citizens. To say the reformers are like the Harrisburg leadership -- that is another matter. To say that the reformers are acting like judges with massive expense accounts -- that is another matter.
#2. The expression, "No comment." has been part of the Russ Diamond and Clean Sweep vocabulary from the get-go. The candidates were getting on-board with the movement in the fall -- but the list wasn't released until the end of January. They were saying 'no comment' for months. To say 'no comment' is not new.
#3. You make lemonaid when you're given lemons. That is prudent. The real opportunist are those in Harrisburg who passed a big pay raise in the middle of the night in the middle of the summer.
#4. If it doesn't matter -- why waste the ink other than to smear? Say something that excites and then say -- just fooling. What's that --- an April Fool's Joke? Brad, the writter / reporter, is double-talking now.
#5. The pay raise was repealed. That is business that has happened -- and was fixed -- and is part of our history now. So, that important milestone has passed. If nothing else happens -- the effort of PACleanSweep and the others was a success. And, for a while, a high priority was NO Votes to Newman and Nigro -- and history was made there too. One got tossed from the bench, thankfully. The "unyeilding call" has many flavors and echos -- with different verses.
#6. The reason Diamond has been such a nasty pain-in-the-butt to the Harrisburg politicians is because he does understand and does communicate real insider knowledge of the mechanics of Pennsylvania government's machine. Diamond has taken a knife and bright light to the smoke that the elected policians spout at every turn. It is clear that Diamond has been 'on message' with critical 'government policy struggles.' Average citizens now know, thanks to Diamond's podcast, how many sit in the chambers of the PA House and do cross-word puzzles. We understand now, better, how one session of the legislature can happen with another session -- at the same time -- so the double-dipping of pay is easier. Diamond has unraveld the wires and levers of governmental workings -- a wicked contraption -- and put those insights into the realm of thousands of citizens.
That's an eye opener. That's dangerous to the jerks who play along for their jobs and pork.
So, it makes sense that the attack will come from them that Diamond cares little about the workings of government. It is exactly where he shines best.
The real red-face blushing should be from -- get this Brad B -- the Fourth Estate. The Harrisburg coverage from the 'watchdogs' has been lax to the Nth degree. The jouralists have NOT done a decent job in covering what's what -- for years now.
Let's all do our jobs -- and not worry about who is to blame or get credit. There is plenty to do to unravel the mess that has been created in Harrisburg and elsewhere in terms of government. And, I'm one who really respects the duty of the media. Then, we can have educated citizens.
#7. The number of candidates is growing and will go past 99 in the weeks and months to come. This is a process and there will be some movement among candidates to adjust that number according to many personal reasons.
#8. PACleanSweep is a success. It has been like a modern day Johnny Appleseed to scatter seeds, high and low, on pavement and in fertile lands. Another verse makes PACleanSweep efforts like that of a mustard seed. A small seed has the potential to move mountains. Hope and seeds are present and some have been planted in some places.
Seeds within the needles.
#9. The enormous hurdle of gathering 67,000 signatures is NO JOKE. It is HUGE. It is unfair. It has to be changed. For me to run for State Senate, I'll need 500 signatures of people in the 42nd district. That isn't for the faint of heart either.
#10. A three-way race means nothing to me in terms of being "entertaining." Zippo. Being a candidate is hard work, tireless, and after a few spins is mostly grunt work. I try to be a candidate that engages thoughtful interactions -- but that has little to do with entertainment. Watch the WEST WING to be entertained.
The other word in the article I did think was right on the mark, "enlightening for voters." That is the mission -- to be enlightening. And this is a light that can be shared. This is a common cause thing. We are building a well of knowledge and working on our future -- and everyone benefits. (except Rendell and Swann, perhaps.)
But, I do think that Rendell and Swann could benefit with Russ Diamond in the race for Governor too. I do feel that the people of PA will benefit in both the short term and long term with a Diamond run for Governor in 2006.
#11. Futile?!?!? F-you. Fuedal is what we got. A fued brews. Fruits will come about because of these efforts for public office.
I, way more than most, understand that there are plenty of victories that come about because of a lost election. If you think it is really "futile" -- then I'd certain that Bumsted is a fool. But, I'm sure you don't really think what you happened to write. You're just tossing out a concept so as to shoot it down -- like a skeet shooter does.
Just turn the clock back a bit -- and history shows that Russ Diamond was a candidate for public office. He ran for state house and lost. But, that was part of the valuable foundation of other things to come. His loss in the last election wasn't futile. And, perhaps, it can be championed, as Pennsylvania goes -- it was WAY, WAY better that Dimond didn't win his past election(s). Now we have Diamond free to do the bigger work and heavy lifting that only a governor candidate can do. And, he's got something of a network.
Furthermore, there is a lot of reason to get onto the ballot to be a bigger player and help with these other elections. There are lots of up-ticket and down-ticket actions and influences that need to be shared and leveraged. This is politics. Diamond can play politics -- and run for Governor (and other offices) -- as that is what great players in politics do every once in a while when the opportunities present themselves.
#12. I say it is impossible to cheapen the anti-incumbency movement by offering a challenge to an incumbent. The flip side of anti-incumbency is PRO-Challengers. Running adds value to the anti-incumbency movement, for goodness sakes. It is what it is.
#13. "The critics on his board knew instinctively...." hold the phone. This is Diamond's organization and Diamond's board. Why in the hell would there be critics on it? The board for one organization should NOT be littered with critics of that company -- so as to work against the driving force. This is an organization, not a government. Government should have spots for critics on all its boards.
But, do you think that the Trib Newspaper Board -- or editorial board -- would dedicate seats there to editors of the P-G? That would be called a mole, perhaps a 'spy' and perhaps a counter-revolutionary.
My instinctive reaction is that an organization should NOT have critics within the board.
My other understanding is that a board that just formed months ago. That board is but a baby. And, nurse-maids might help a baby -- but would better move along as the organization grows. Reforming a board that is young is okay to do. And, lots of boards have lots of dead weight members. They should pull the plug on themselves and get out of the way. Board work is hard work and few knew what they were getting involved with to jump on the bandwagon that has become PACleanSweep. Just holding on is hard work and a sure fire way to failure. That organization is going fast -- and there isn't a brake pedal for the board to push. They each have decisions -- and some should bail if they are worried about the real mission of the cause. And, they've lost skin already and will take their lumps stepping off now.
#14. One foot in the governor's limo is another bad joke. Running for governor doesn't have much to do with getting a foot in his limo. But, yes, this is a time to take an inventory and jump on or jump off. And, it is a trip where dust gets kicked in the air. Zoom -- and I don't mean break the speedlimit on the PA Turnpike at 85 miles an hour. Fast Eddie works hard, of course. He needs to. He should. And so too should those around him and those who want to unseat him.
#15. Sure, no doubt. It is easy to have a field day lambasting Diamond -- as that what should occur in campaigns. Those that can't take the heat should get out. Some of the lambasting will stick -- some won't. Those that lambast might end up last. To protect a candidate from false attacks from ever hitting the news cycle is to do damage to the candidate.
Furthermore, Brad B, the author of the article, has no business lambasting Diamond for no reason at all other than to say some might have a field day of lambasting him. Brad is doing the dirty work of those in status quo positions who want to lambast but can't or won't or would only wish for need a puppet to do the lambasting for them.
#16. One way to be sure that the entry of Diamond does not take away from votes of either Rendell or Swann is to have a NONE OF THE ABOVE option on the ballot -- in all elections. I'm in favor of a built-in option of "NONE OF THE ABOVE" on all ballots in PA.
I don't know, yet, if Diamond is going to hurt one or the other more, if it even comes to pass. Time will tell.
I was in a 3-way race as a 3rd party candidate against a D and R who both spent $1-million on their negative campaigns. I looked at each of the opponents and would have helped one of them beat the other if either was worthy of being a PA Senator that I'd be proud of. They both failed -- in my eyes -- to say things that made sense to me -- as a parent who is raising a family here.
I was in a 8 way race too. Again, I looked hard at all the other candidates. With one month to go before the election, I talked with my insiders and we looked at the others in the race and made some decisions about getting out of the race, or staying in.
Even when I ran for Mayor, in 2001, I recruited candidates to run against in the R's primary. I called dozens of people on the phone and asked them to enter the race. I knew then that Pittsburgh needed a new mayor more than I needed to be mayor. That was honest.
When I was on the ballot in the special election for PA Senate -- I offered my position to another person who I thought could win a Senate Seat and be a much better senator than either Diven or Fontana. Michael Lamb didn't want to get out of the Mayor's race and he got third -- and he split the anti-machine vote with Bill Peduto.
Even in the race -- people can have a big impact as to who they help and who they don't help. In our 8 way city council race -- seven of us were certain as to who we didn't want to win. He didn't win. That is a good example of power and influence that doesn't make the headlines.
Furthermore, in the recent 8 way city council race, another candidate, M.B, spoke strongly about "ending TIFs." (TIFs are tax breaks to rich developers and insitutions that cost the school and current budgets.) It was good that he was at the candidate forums so he'd speak about an issue that I had championed for years. Then I'd give the combination punch too. The citizens got the enlightenment from a few channels. Same too with the Republican -- who wanted to liquidate the parking authority. He must have read my letter to the editor from prior years as I had called for the same measures. So, battles are won and lost -- but the war rages and the tides are turning.
#17. The only thing worse than the wrong guy, wrong place, wrong time -- is wrong logic and being at odds with reality.
#18. I agree that the anti-incumbency movement has never been about any one individual (Russ Diamond, or Gene Stilp). But, it is about 100 or so reformers. It is about a series of candidates to challenge a series of incumbents. The movement now needs role players. Just as the NFL isn't about "Big Ben" -- nor is the SuperBowl about Joe Montana. But, we need people to fill roles for our team at certain places and times.
Just think again. Do you think that the Cleveland Browns would be more able or less able to beat the Steelers if that team steps onto the game-day field without anyone willing, ready, able and prepared to play the Q.B. position?
The Browns could beat the Steelers without a Q.B. given a fantastic defense and great blocking and running backs. Could happen. The Browns could play a single-wing offense. Might be possible. But the chances would be better if various people were slotted for various roles.
This is the time for the reform movement to draft a person for the quarterback position.
I see nothing wrong with Russ Diamond as a player for public office in November 2006.
I'll help him to get onto the ballot. I'll help the movement along too in other ways as well.
And, ask to see my playbook -- and I'll say, "no comment." Then I'll be just like all the ordinary polls too.... yeah right.