Howard Rich's Blog

April 11, 2009

In today’s Wall Street Journal

Today in the Wall Street Journal I am pleased to say my letter to the editor was published.

Our Government Should Serve the People, Not Donors

commend you for “The State Lawsuit Racket” (April 8th) describing the remarkably bald face pay-to-play scheme Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell conjured up with major campaign contributor F. Kenneth Bailey, of the Bailey, Perrin & Bailey law firm.

The gambit is as simple as it is shameless: Mr. Bailey contributed $90,000 to Mr. Rendell’s re-election campaign. In turn, Mr. Rendell skirted Pennsylvania law to reward his benefactor’s law firm with a potentially lucrative no-bid contingency fee legal contract. Asked about the apparent impropriety of such a transparent political payoff, Mr. Rendell’s spokesman replied that Bailey, Perrin was selected because of “their experience in these kinds of legal matters.”

The practice of such nefarious pay-to-play ploys as Mr. Rendell’s is all too common not only in Pennsylvania, but nationwide. And it is the most corrupting of practices. Not only does it cost the taxpayer billions in no-bid backroom deals, it betrays the trust of voters who expect politics to be played on a level field.

Citizens in Colorado last year moved to end this blatant abuse when they passed Amendment 54. And while those feeding off the pay-to-play system are challenging it, most legal scholars agree the people have it well within their rights to set the terms of sole-source contracts with vendors.

Nobody getting the benefit of an non-competitive, no-bid contract from government should be allowed to funnel money to the people awarding, or overseeing, that contract. It is basic fairness.

Pennsylvania, and Congress, should follow the example set by Colorado and ban this obscene practice once and for all.

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