How Kathleen Kane Fooled the Press

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane looks on before newly elected members of the Pennsylvania Legislature are sworn in, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Republicans who control both the Senate and House picked up additional seats in the November election. In the House, Republicans outnumber Democrats 119 to 84 and in the Senate, 30 to 20. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

There are few stories I regret writing more in my 18-year career as a professional journalist than this sycophantic 2013 profile of Kathleen Kane.

Take this tidbit:

“I don’t back down from anything,” she says at lunch. This West Side [of Scranton] toughness, wrapped up in a charming package, is a big part of the reason Kane has made such an impression both in Harrisburg and on voters. At 47, she’s confident but not-quite-cocky, and her tone (more than her actual agenda) is candid and bracing.

Kane has managed to create a sense that she’s the only one out there actually doing, while the rest of the political class stands still. And she has — perhaps intentionally, perhaps not — tapped into the fathoms-deep well of disgust that so many Pennsylvanians feel for the retrograde crew running the state. What Kane has come to represent — through her decisiveness, her biography and, yes, her gender — is an alternative to Pennsylvania’s go-slow status quo. You look at Kane and think: Maybe, just maybe, things could be different around here after all.

Ha. Haaaaaaaaaa. “Different.” Well, things are different, inasmuch as Kane’s brand of alleged corruption isn’t quite as venal as is the norm in Harrisburg. Kane’s failings are more Nixonian in nature: The enemies; the paranoia; the reported surveillance of suspect employees, the firing of a whistleblower. Read more »

The Sorry State of Philadelphia’s Big Belly Trash Cans

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A sampling of the condition of some Center City Big Belly trash cans. | Photos by Tom Beck.

Philadelphia has a love-hate relationship with its Big Belly trashcans, those solar-powered trash compactors with handles so foul, most of us open them with our elbows — or not at all.

On the one hand, they’re clearly superior to the old wire mesh models, which overflowed faster than the Streets Department emptied them. The city says the Big Belly cans save them about $1 million a year in collection costs, because sanitation workers don’t have to swing by as often to collect the trash, given the compacting-function. And it was nice for a while there that Philadelphia was leading the way on a new urban innovation (the city was the among first in the U.S. to deploy solar-powered public trash cans at scale).

But the gee-whiz novelty wore off pretty quickly, given the ick factor of those handles. And a lot of the older Big Bellies are really showing their age. A quick tour of Center City big bellies found many covered in graffiti and general grime. Read more »

Andrew Stober and Some Also-Rans File for Long Shot Mayoral and Council Runs

There will be no Bill Green or Sam Katz City Council run. There is no last-second mayoral candidate with a big name and big checkbook. Just a handful of third party and independent candidates, headlined by Andrew Stober, the architect of Indego who quit his job with the city in a bid to land one of seven City Council at-large seats.

Monday was the deadline for independent candidates to file nominating petitions for November’s election. The Democratic and Republican nominees were already set, of course, in the May primary election. The assumption this year — as in most years for the last half-century or so — is that the Democrats will sweep every office, and Republicans will be left to pick up the crumbs set aside by the city charter for non-majority parties (namely, two of the seven at-large Council seats).

Stober’s Independent candidacy is the first real test of that model in a long time. He’s got a strong resume, he’s running a real campaign, and he has a base, albeit a small one. Stober has no chance of beating any of the five Democratic City Council at-large candidates. But he doesn’t need to. He just has to place sixth or seventh to claim one of the two positions that typically goes to Republicans.

Make no mistake. Stober is still a long shot. But he is the bluest of blue chips compared to the other Independents and third party candidates who filed in time to meet Monday’s deadline.

Tricia L. Nadolny reports for the Inquirer that Jim Foster, a Mount Airy newspaper publisher, and Osborne Hart, a Walmart employee, are joining the mayoral race alongside GOP nominee Melissa Murray Bailey and Democratic candidate Jim Kenney. Also running for mayor? Boris Kindij, Newsworks reports. It’s ok if you don’t know who Boris is. At this point, for Kenney, the election is little more than a formality, although to Murray Bailey’s credit, she’s not treating it that way. Read more »

The Weekly Brief: Everything You Need to Know About the Indictment of Chaka Fattah

Chaka Fattah | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Chaka Fattah | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

It took almost a year after his son and former chief of staff were indicted, but the other shoe dropped on Congressman Chaka Fattah this week, as federal prosecutors slammed him with an array of corruption charges, most of it connected to his ill-fated 2007 mayoral bid. Here’s what you need to know…

Why is this a big deal?

Chaka Fattah is one of the most consequential political figures in Philadelphia’s modern history. The Democrat has represented Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District since 1995. But it’s his work in the city — building a grassroots movement that helped African Americans claim their fair share of political power — that has probably been most consequential. As a Philly Mag 2007 profile of Fattah put it:

Over the past 30 years, you see, Chaka Fattah, 50, has been one of the most dynamic and thoughtful political figures in the city. He has also been one of the most ambitious. That ambition has been responsible for more than its share of good: It’s helped the city sidestep financial ruin, helped countless low-income kids stay on track for college, and secured millions of dollars for local scholarships. It has taken Fattah from rabble to respectability, from obscurity to celebrity, from a West Philly rowhouse to an East Falls manse he shares with his TV anchor wife, Renee Chenault-Fattah. But it has done other things, too, things that aren’t particularly noble or pure or good: It has transformed Fattah from outsider to insider, from reformer to player, from someone who once idealistically raged against the machine to someone who has hackishly defended its most conspicuous sins.

What does the indictment say?

Fattah was charged on 29 counts — including conspiracy, bribery and racketeering — for allegedly participating in a number of schemes. The feds say he illegally directed federal funds to help pay off an illegal campaign loan, misused campaign funds to pay off his son’s student loans, and accepted a bribe in exchange for trying to land an ambassadorship for a lobbyist friend. Read the indictment here.

Also charged were three longtime Fattah associates and Herbert Vederman, a former deputy mayor and big time political donor. Vederman is the one alleged to have bribed Fattah to land that ambassadorship. Read more »

In Delco, a Bruiser of a Special Election

From left to right, Leanne Krueger-Braneky, Paul Mullen and

From left to right, Leanne Krueger-Braneky, Paul Mullen and Lisa Esler.

Suburban politics usually falls outside of Citified’s focus, but we’re going to make a quick exception for the special election in Delaware County’s 161st House District, which includes Swarthmore and other communities north and west of Chester.

The election — which will be decided Tuesday by presumably a tiny slice of hard core voters — has turned into a three-way scrum featuring Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky, Republican Paul Mullen, and Lisa Esler, who is mounting a credible write-in campaign and running to the right of Mullen. They’re vying to replace Republican Joe Hackett, who resigned less than four months after being sworn in for another term.

So what makes the race worth paying attention to? A couple things. Read more »

Sam Katz and Bill Green Won’t Run for Council After All

Green-Katz

School Reform Commissioner Bill Green and three-time mayoral candidate Sam Katz have decided against running as a two-man slate for City Council at-large in November’s election.

This wasn’t an idle flirtation. They were seriously considering the possibility as recently as Wednesday morning.

Katz wrote in an email that “politics is critical but there are other ways I hope to continue to move the city forward.” He said he was “gratified” that “so many Philadelphians” encouraged him and Green — who he praised as a “dedicated and talented leader” — to “create an independent party.”

“There is a lot of fuel left in my gas tank.  I won’t be a candidate but I have no plans to disappear,” Katz wrote.

Green wrote that he’s “always believed” that “providing educational opportunities to Philadelphia’s children would make a bigger impact in Philadelphia than anything else.” Then there are the pragmatic considerations. “Without multiple voices like mine on Council I would be spitting into the wind, sometimes, but rarely, effectively,” Green wrote. “My highest and best use is on the SRC at this point.” Read more »

Who Are Fattah’s Indicted Associates?

Chaka Fattah | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Chaka Fattah | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

You can’t have a RICO prosecution without alleged co-conspirators. So who have the Feds targeted in addition to Chaka Fattah?

Herbert Vederman, 69, Palm Beach, Florida.

Biography: A politically potent lobbyist with strong ties to former Gov. Ed Rendell, Vederman is the other big fish in this indictment (below). Vederman was a former clothing executive who joined Mayor Ed Rendell’s administration as an unpaid deputy mayor. He headed up economic development for the city for a time, and played a role in a 1995 City Hall scandal called “boobgate,” which involved strippers and L&I, because this is Philadelphia. He’s contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to Rendell’s political campaigns. Later, Vederman was a lobbyist for hire in the government relations division of Stradley Ronon, the law firm. He also served as finance director for the Fattah for Congress Committee for more than three years. Read more »

Why Is Mayor Nutter Getting So Pissy About the Pope Visit?

Pope Francis | neneo / Shutterstock.com.  Mayor Nutter | Jeff Fusco

Pope Francis | neneo / Shutterstock.com. Mayor Nutter | Jeff Fusco

On Monday, Mayor Nutter faulted “little people with little pieces of information” for more or less inciting Pope panic in Philadelphia over the weekend.

On Tuesday, in a phone interview with Citified, Everett Gillison, Nutter’s chief of staff and point man on the Pope visit, said one of the big problems is that people are getting too much information. “It’s just the opposite,” Gillison said when asked if the lack of logistical details about the Pope’s visit was undermining public confidence. “They’re getting literally too much, too early, and that’s what’s causing all the angst. They’re getting inundated with what could or could not be …”

So that’s the official line: If anything, the city has been too forthcoming, and the real problem here is an over-competitive press and the uncharacteristic emergence of a mile-wide twitchy streak in too many Philadelphians. Relax, the city says, we got this.

Unofficially, the story is a little more complicated. Nutter administration sources in a number of departments tell Citified that the city very much wants to release more information and to firm up logistical plans sooner, but is being prevented from doing so by the Secret Service, the World Meeting of Families and Vatican security officials. The sources say that this dynamic — which effectively prevents the city from communicating openly with its own citizens — is extremely frustrating, particularly given the growing public clamor for information. Read more »

Anthony Williams’s Politically and Financially Disastrous Property Deal

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Photo by Jeff Fusco.

State Sen. Anthony Williams — the guy a lot of people thought would be the city’s next mayor — was involved in a unsavory mortgage deal in New Jersey that left him battling with a recalcitrant tenant, damaged his credit and raises some serious questions about his judgment, according to a story posted overnight on Philly.com

Reporters Ryan Briggs and Brian X. McCrone do a great job unspooling the entire mess in their investigative report. In short, Williams bought a home in Atco, New Jersey, that was on the brink of foreclosure, and rented the home back to the prior owner. The government generally takes a dim view of these sort of deals.

Williams says he’s a victim in all of this. The deal was put together, Williams told Philly.com, by a “friend of a friend.” Williams says he was in it for altruistic reasons. Per Philly.com:

Read more »

Will Bill Green and Sam Katz Team Up for Surprise City Council Run?

Green-Katz

Bill Green and Sam Katz.

Bill Green and Sam Katz — two of the city’s most capable and pugnacious political pot-stirrers — are considering running for City Council at-large as a two-man slate in this November’s election, Citified has learned.

If they were to run and win, they could upend a political system that, by design, traditionally awards Philadelphia’s under-powered Republican party two at-large City Council seats. It would be an enormous blow for the city’s GOP.

A Katz-Green victory could also change the balance of power in City Council, and present likely next mayor Jim Kenney with a pair of well-informed and high-profile potential critics. Read more »

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