Thursday, October 28, 2010

State Legislators Scored by Green Groups

(Harrisburg) – Sierra Club and Clean Water Action released today a new scorecard for all current Pennsylvania state legislators for their support for environmental laws and regulations over the past two years. State House members and State Senators were scored based on floor votes in the legislature, or other official actions taken by legislators on environmental matters.

“Before voters head to the polls next Tuesday, the Environmental Scorecard is a way to see what a state legislators’ actual record has been over the past two years. Voters who care about the environment should hold their elected officials accountable,” stated Jeff Schmidt, Pennsylvania Chapter Director for the Sierra Club.

The two groups noted that there were large differences between legislators who have a history of supporting environmental positions and those who are clearly opposed. Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action stated, “It is striking that the House Environmental Resources Committee Chair, Rep. George (D-Clearfield) had one of the highest scores at 92%, while the senior Republican on the House Environmental Resources Committee, Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) had one of the lowest scores at 13%. This stark difference shows how the outcome of the State House elections could have a big impact on the environment.”

The Environmental Scorecard is available for download at .

Key votes in the Scorecard include votes on the severance tax on natural gas extraction, a moratorium on further gas leasing in state forests, clean energy policy, and state funding for environmental programs. For the first time, legislators received extra points for some non-voting actions, including co-sponsorship of key bills, or by officially supporting or opposing key clean water regulations enacted this year. As a result, a few legislators received scores over 100%.

Sierra Club and Clean Water Action dubbed 13 State House members and 10 State Senators as “Environmental Heroes” for scoring 100% or higher on the Scorecard.

These legislators are:

Rep. Bradford (D) 105%, Briggs (D) 115%, Freeman (D) 106%, Harper (R) 101%, Hornaman (D) 106%, Houghton (D) 106%, Lentz (D) 104%, McIlvaine Smith (D) 106%, Melio (D) 106%, Murphy (D) 105%, Santarsiero (D) 106%, Santoni (D) 101%, Wagner (D) 101%.

Sen. Dinniman (D) 110%, Farnese (D) 115%, Ferlo (D) 115%, Fontana (D) 105%, Hughes (D) 105%, Kasunic (D) 100%, Kitchen 105%, Leach (D) 115%, Tartaglione (D) 103%, Washington (D) 105%.

In the House the highest scoring Republican was Rep. Kate Harper (R) with 101%. High scoring Republicans in the Senate were Sen. Lisa Baker (R) and Sen. Charles McIlhinney (R) both with 90%.

The lowest scores on the House side were fifteen members who scored under 25%. These were: Rep. Brooks (R) 22%, Rep. Causer (R) 13%, Cox (R) 18%, Ellis (R) 22%, Gabler (R) 22%, Hutchinson (R) 13%, Kieger (R) 18%, Knowles (R) 20% Metcalfe (R) 18%, Perry (R) 24%, Pyle (R) 22%, Rapp (R) 13%, Roae (R) 13%, Stevenson (R) 13%, Turzai (R) 22%.

The lowest scores on the Senate side were a group of six Senators who all scored 50%. These were: Sen. Earll (R), Folmer (R), Orie (R), Robbins (R), White, Mary Jo (R), White, Donald (R).

Sierra Club is national environmental organization that was founded in 1892. It has 10 local Groups in Pennsylvania, representing over 24,000 members. The Sierra Club works to protect and restore the natural and human environment through education and advocacy.

Clean Water Action is a national, member supported, environmental organization working to protect our waters, build healthy communities, and make democracy work for all of us. Operating in Pennsylvania for 25 years, Clean Water Action has over 100,000 members in the state.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CeaseFire PA's Powerful New Ad, "Ryan's Story"

View it here:

Yesterday CeaseFirePA began airing a new ad in the Pennsylvania Governor race – asking why Tom Corbett refuses to close the Florida Gun Loophole that allows criminals to carry a concealed gun in PA – even after PA police have told them NO.
The ad features Mary Beth Hacke, a mother whose infant son was killed by a stray bullet fired by criminal using an illegal gun.

Every major law enforcement group in Pennsylvania supports closing the loophole, including the PA State Police, PA Sheriffs, and hundreds of Police Chiefs from cities and towns across the State.

As Attorney General, Corbett had the power to close the loophole on his own – but instead he listened to his extremist allies at the NRA – and has refused to take action. As governor, he’ll continue to take his marching orders from the gun lobby.

Last week, CeaseFirePA endorsed Dan Onorato to be the next Governor of Pennsylvania. He has proven his commitment to pursuing reasonable reforms to reduce gun violence, including: closing the Florida concealed carry loophole, lost or stolen handgun reporting, and greater penalties for criminals found in possession of illegal guns.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Since September 14, the Gas Drilling Industry Has Contributed $144,000 to the PA Governor’s Race

Corbett: $139,000 Onorato: $5,000

Harrisburg –, a project of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania (CVPA) and Common Cause PA, tracks campaign contributions from natural gas industry PACs and executives to candidates for Pennsylvania state office.

Today, released the gas contribution figures for gubernatorial candidates Dan Onorato and Tom Corbett from campaign finance reporting cycle 5. Cycle 5 included the 34 days between September 14 and October 18, 2010.

In cycle 5, Republican candidate Tom Corbett received at least $139,000 from the natural gas drilling industry. His cycle 5 average of $4,088.24 per day is up from $3448.45 per day in cycle 4. Corbett has received a grand total of at least $856,220 in reported contributions from the gas drilling industry in the last decade.

In cycle 5, Democratic candidate Dan Onorato received at least $5,000 from the natural gas industry. His cycle 5 average of $147.06 per day is down from $463.91 per day in cycle 4. Onorato has received a grand total of at least $124,300 in the last decade.

“In the last weeks before the election, drilling industry CEOs went all out for Tom Corbett because he thinks that ordinary Pennsylvanians should pay to clean up the messes that their drills leave behind,” Josh McNeil of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania said. “Supporting Corbett might make sense if you’re a drilling company CEO, but not if you’re an ordinary Pennsylvanian.”

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Senate failed to vote on a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drillers. The legislature is unlikely to deal with Marcellus Shale drilling in any way before it’s next session. It will therefore be up to one of these two candidates to shape drilling’s impacts on Pennsylvania.

Dan Onorato supports a severance tax to pay for environmental protections and to help communities deal with the impacts of gas drilling. Tom Corbett does not.

It is estimated that the severance tax recently passed out of the House of Representatives would raise approximately $316 million in 2011-12 and as much as $570 million by 2014-15 for environmental protections, conservation programs and local communities. In the absence of a severance tax, regular taxpayers will end up paying for all of those costs.

Contributions to Tom Corbett, should he win the election, could earn drilling companies a 66,572% return on their investment in his campaign.

Note: The contribution data to Onorato and Corbett for cycles 4 and 5 is not yet available on It will be posted in the next 48 hours.

Contact: Josh McNeil; 215.564.3350;

Friday, October 22, 2010

12 organization enthusiastically endorsing progressive candidates

The Pennsylvania Progressive Voters Guide. Your one stop for progressive endorsements:

These 12 leading progressive groups are working together to assure victory for progressive candidates. Check out the endorsements of over 200 candidates across PA.

Tom Corporate Image for your use

This was sent to us from some environmental friends. We'll gladly give credit when we find out who developed it. In the meantime, use it as your Facebook and Twitter photo and post it everywhere.

Glenn Beck is voting. Are You? Great GOTV video.

From our partners in Wisconsin, One Wisconsin Now, comes this brilliant video.

And Glenn Beck hates it:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

3 New Reports Show Republican Proposals Weaken Social Security

Just in case you had any doubt about what Pat Toomey and other Republicans' plans will do to Social Security, here are three new studies that show what will happen if the GOP takes the House and Senate.

First - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Ryan Plan Makes Deep Cuts in Social Security

The Roadmap for America’s Future, which Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI) — the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee — released in late January, calls for a radical redistribution of resources from the broad majority of Americans to the nation’s wealthiest individuals. [1] It provides the largest tax cuts in history for the wealthy, raises taxes on the middle class, ends guaranteed Medicare benefits, erodes health care coverage, partially privatizes Social Security, and makes deep cuts in guaranteed Social Security benefits.[2] This paper explains the full dimension of the cuts in Social Security, using information from a new analysis by the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary.[3]

Second - Chief Actuary of Social Security
Analysis Reveals Proposals to "Save" Social Security Result in Deep Cuts in Retirement Income for Middle Class Seniors

Ways and Means Social Security Chairman Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) today released the results of a study from the Chief Actuary of Social Security analyzing several proposals, including those advanced by Republican Congressional leaders, as ways to reduce the long-term cost of Social Security. The analysis reveals that, contrary to the assertions by their proponents, these proposals would have a profoundly negative impact on the retirement security of middle-class seniors in addition to high-income retirees.

"There's been a lot of discussion about how easy it would be to cut Social Security in order to save it," said Chairman Pomeroy. "I asked the experts to analyze the proposals being made because I felt that much of this discussion lacked substantive information. The truth is that none of the cuts being proposed are easy on anyone and in fact, all of them will hurt middle class seniors and their retirement security. I don't think the average American worker could afford to lose 30 percent of their Social Security, which is what would happen under the Republican proposal. That's not what I'd call ‘saving' Social Security."

The Office of the Chief Actuary analyzed several proposals - including those by Budget Committee Ranking Member, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) - that claim to make "modest" changes affecting higher-income seniors in order to "save" Social Security.

"The new analysis reveals that these proposals result in benefits cuts ranging from ten percent to as high as 50 percent,” continued Pomeroy. “As I talk to seniors today about stretching their Social Security benefits with no cost of living adjustment in sight, they would not agree with describing cuts of this magnitude as ‘modest’.”

Today average Social Security benefits are $14,000 a year for retirees. Six in ten seniors rely on these modest Social Security benefits to provide the majority of their income, and one-third of seniors have little other than Social Security to live on.

Proposals analyzed by the Chief Actuary include:

  • raising the retirement age from 67, as scheduled under current law, to a higher level-this reduces benefits for all regardless of when they retire;

  • flattening benefit levels and reducing replacement rates by tying initial benefit levels to price levels rather than wage levels (sometimes referred to as "partial price indexing" or "progressive price indexing");

  • adopting an alternative measure of inflation as the basis for the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

The attached charts outline the impact of these proposals.

Chart 1 is a baseline, showing benefit levels under current law for individuals retiring in 2010.

Chart 2 shows the size of the benefit cuts under "price-indexing" as proposed in the Ryan plan – H.R. 4529, the Roadmap for America's Future. The chart displays the size of the cuts for workers with various earnings levels, and for different generations. It shows that the cuts affect the middle class and become increasingly deep for future generations.

Chart 3 shows how proposals to raise the retirement age cause a reduction in benefits regardless of what age the individual retires. The chart shows benefit levels for individuals retiring at ages 62, 65, 67 and 70. It compares current law, indexing the retirement age to longevity (similar to the Ryan plan), and raising the retirement age to 70 by 2040.

Chart 4 illustrates the effect of changing the COLA by switching to an alternative measure of economy-wide price inflation. The oldest beneficiaries are the ones most affected.

Third - Joint Economic Committee:
JEC Report: Republican Proposals Weaken Social Security Guarantees and

Cut Benefits for Many Americans

Washington, DC -- A new report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee finds that two central elements of the Social Security proposals put forth by Republican lawmakers—“privatization” and “progressive price indexing” —would result in benefit cuts for millions of middle-income workers, jeopardize the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund and undermine the program’s ability to keep millions of Americans from living in poverty.

The report, “Unnecessary Risk: The Perils of Privatizing Social Security,” focused its analysis on recently revived Republican proposals to privatize the program by allowing future retirees to divert a portion of their payroll taxes to individual investment accounts.

“Privatizing Social Security jeopardizes the security in Social Security,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Chair of the JEC. “This report highlights that it is unwise to look to the stock market for a guaranteed annuity. We all know all too well that the stock market is subject to wild swings. We cannot afford to roll the dice with our seniors’ retirement security.”

A key finding of the report is that with privatization, retirees will be subject to fluctuations in the performance of the stock market and overall returns will vary based on individual investment decisions, with significant swings in returns and account accumulations possible from year to year and even month to month.

  • An annuity purchased by a worker who retired in 2008, after the Great Recession had begun and the stock market had collapsed, would replace only 40 percent of his final income, down from 87 percent replacement just two years earlier. For example, a worker expecting an annuity of $867 per month in 2006 would have received $399 per month if he retired in 2008.

  • The report shows that in the post-World War II period, a worker’s annuity purchased at the time of retirement, after investing 7 percent of his earnings over a 40-year career, could replace as much as 156 percent of his final salary or as little as 36 percent, depending on which year the individual retired and purchased the annuity. (See chart below).

The JEC report finds other significant problems with privatization:

· Allowing current contributors to divert funds out of the general Social Security Fund into private accounts will exacerbate the shortfall in revenues for current and future retirees as well as for current and future recipients of disability and survivors insurance.

· Private accounts are unlikely to provide a guaranteed retirement annuity, indexed for inflation, as the current Social Security system provides.

Private accounts may encourage lower-income workers to borrow against retirement savings in order to provide food and education for their children.

Lower-income households, women, African Americans and Hispanics would be hurt most by privatizing Social Security, since they depend more heavily on Social Security for their retirement income. For example, among adults 65 and over, Social Security accounts for 79 percent of income for the bottom income quintile while making up just 25 percent of income for the top quintile.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's Tom Corbett Hiding?

This is the first TV ad for Keystone Progress PAC. Help us get it on the air widely. Send checks to: Keystone Progress PAC, 1500 N. 2nd St., Ste. 11, Harrisburg, PA 17102

Toomey Ranked #8 in National Wingnut Index

From the Daily Beast:
"The former president of the Club for Growth is one of the original RINO hunters—a hard-core fiscal and social conservative whose voting record in Congress was to the right of Jesse Helms. His voting record makes Rick Santorum—the former conservative Pennsylvania senator who got kicked out of office because he was too far right for the purple Keystone State—look liberal. But against the Wingnut tide of Angle and O’Donnell, Toomey almost looks like a statesman."
Read the entire article at:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Watchdog Group Calls on Candidates to Disavow Controversial Chamber of Commerce Attack Ad

Chamber spends $10.5 million this week on advertising campaign in 22 House and nine Senate races; Funding may include money from foreign corporations

Washington, DC – The nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign watchdog group Campaign Money Watch today called on 31 federal candidates to join its effort to demand the U.S. Chamber of Commerce answer questions about the use of its foreign corporate dues in political advertising.

Evidence surfaced this week that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has received foreign corporate funds into its general treasury, which was first reported by Think Progress. The Chamber uses that general fund to support its $75 million political program, including nearly $10.5 million in attack ads it placed this week alone in many of the most competitive elections in America.

“The Chamber has admitted to taking foreign corporate money, and they’re spending up to $75 million to elect a pro-special interest Congress,” said David Donnelly, director of Campaign Money Watch. “Republican candidates in the nine Senate and 22 House districts who are benefiting from this money should disavow it until such time the Chamber can verify, beyond a doubt, that no foreign corporate money is funding their partisan attack ads.”

In addition, the Chamber’s acceptance of foreign corporate dues, including some from government-owned enterprises, indicates that it represents more than just the interests of American-based companies in Washington, D.C.

“No candidate – Republican, independent, or Democrat – should be elected by foreign money, and that’s why we call on these candidates to stand up today to disavow the Chamber’s help,” continued Donnelly. “No candidate should sit quietly by and accept help from TV advertising that is furthering the special interest agenda of the Chamber. That agenda now appears to include operating as a political outpost for foreign corporate interests in Washington.”

Details of the Chamber’s overseas funds through affiliates in India, Egypt, Bahrain, Russia, and other countries, have come to light as the Chamber is pouring money into politics. But the Chamber has yet to provide details regarding what safeguards, segregated accounts, or practices they use to ensure foreign funds are not paying for domestic political advertising.

The organization is faxing letters to each of the beneficiaries of the spending this afternoon. A copy of the letter and the list of Chamber expenditures and targets are available at

Campaign Money Watch also announced it would continue to track the Chamber’s independent spending and will send additional letters to candidates who benefit from future spending.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hacking the D.C. Internet Voting Pilot

By J. Alex Halderman - Posted on October 5th, 2010 at 9:07 pm

The District of Columbia is conducting a pilot project to allow overseas and military voters to download and return absentee ballots over the Internet. Before opening the system to real voters, D.C. has been holding a test period in which they've invited the public to evaluate the system's security and usability.

This is exactly the kind of open, public testing that many of us in the e-voting security community — including me — have been encouraging vendors and municipalities to conduct. So I was glad to participate, even though the test was launched with only three days' notice. I assembled a team from the University of Michigan, including my PhD students, Eric Wustrow and Scott Wolchok, and Dawn Isabel, a member of the University of Michigan technical staff.

Within 36 hours of the system going live, our team had found and exploited a vulnerability that gave us almost total control of the server software, including the ability to change votes and reveal voters’ secret ballots. In this post, I’ll describe what we did, how we did it, and what it means for Internet voting.

D.C.'s pilot system

The D.C. system is built around an open source server-side application developed in partnership with the TrustTheVote project. Under the hood, it looks like a typical web application. It's written using the popular Ruby on Rails framework and runs on top of the Apache web server and MySQL database.

Absentee overseas voters receive a physical letter in the mail instructing them to visit a D.C. web site,, and log in with a unique 16-character PIN. The system gives voters two options: they can download a PDF ballot and return it by mail, or they can download a PDF ballot, fill it out electronically, and then upload the completed ballot as a PDF file to the server. The server encrypts uploaded ballots and saves them in encrypted form, and, after the election, officials transfer them to a non-networked PC, where they decrypt and print them. The printed ballots are counted using the same procedures used for mail-in paper ballots.

A small vulnerability, big consequences

We found a vulnerability in the way the system processes uploaded ballots. We confirmed the problem using our own test installation of the web application, and found that we could gain the same access privileges as the server application program itself, including read and write access to the encrypted ballots and database.

The problem, which geeks classify as a “shell-injection vulnerability,” has to do with the ballot upload procedure. When a voter follows the instructions and uploads a completed ballot as a PDF file, the server saves it as a temporary file and encrypts it using a command-line tool called GnuPG. Internally, the server executes the command gpg with the name of this temporary file as a parameter: gpg […] /tmp/stream,28957,0.pdf.

We realized that although the server replaces the filename with an automatically generated name (“stream,28957,0” in this example), it keeps whatever file extension the voter provided. Instead of a file ending in “.pdf,” we could upload a file with a name that ended in almost any string we wanted, and this string would become part of the command the server executed. By formatting the string in a particular way, we could cause the server to execute commands on our behalf. For example, the filename “ballot.$(sleep 10)pdf” would cause the server to pause for ten seconds (executing the “sleep 10” command) before responding. In effect, this vulnerability allowed us to remotely log in to the server as a privileged user.

Our demonstration attacks

D.C. launched the public testbed server on Tuesday, September 28. On Wednesday afternoon, we began to exploit the problem we found to demonstrate a number of attacks:

  • We collected crucial secret data stored on the server, including the database username and password as well as the public key used to encrypt the ballots.
  • We modified all the ballots that had already been cast to contain write-in votes for candidates we selected. (Although the system encrypts voted ballots, we simply discarded the encrypted files and replaced them with different ones that we encrypted using the same key.) We also rigged the system to replace future votes in the same way.
  • We installed a back door that let us view any ballots that voters cast after our attack. This modification recorded the votes, in unencrypted form, together with the names of the voters who cast them, violating ballot secrecy.
  • To show that we had control of the server, we left a “calling card” on the system's confirmation screen, which voters see after voting. After 15 seconds, the page plays the University of Michigan fight song. Here's a demonstration.

Stealthiness wasn't our main objective, and our demonstration had a much greater footprint inside the system than a real attack would need. Nevertheless, we did not immediately announce what we had done, because we wanted to give the administrators an opportunity to exercise their intrusion detection and recovery processes — an essential part of any online voting system. Our attack remained active for two business days, until Friday afternoon, when D.C. officials took down the testbed server after several testers pointed out the fight song.

Based on this experience and other results from the public tests, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has announced that they will not proceed with a live deployment of electronic ballot return at this time, though they plan to continue to develop the system. Voters will still be able to download and print ballots to return by mail, which seems a lot less risky.

D.C. officials brought the testbed server back up today (Tuesday) with the electronic ballot return mechanism disabled. The public test period will continue until Friday, October 8.

What this means for Internet voting

The specific vulnerability that we exploited is simple to fix, but it will be vastly more difficult to make the system secure. We've found a number of other problems in the system, and everything we've seen suggests that the design is brittle: one small mistake can completely compromise its security. I described above how a small error in file-extension handling left the system open to exploitation. If this particular problem had not existed, I'm confident that we would have found another way to attack the system.

None of this will come as a surprise to Internet security experts, who are familiar with the many kinds of attacks that major web sites suffer from on a daily basis. It may someday be possible to build a secure method for submitting ballots over the Internet, but in the meantime, such systems should be presumed to be vulnerable based on the limitations of today's security technology.

We plan to write more about the problems we found and their implications for Internet voting in a forthcoming paper.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Corbett Gas Ads Mislead the Public

Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, PennEnvironment and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania call for the Corbett campaign to stop airing ads on Marcellus Shale

Harrisburg – In the last week, gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett has launched two campaign ads that focus on Marcellus Shale drilling and the severance tax. The first, a radio ad, refers to the severance tax as “a huge extra tax on drillers” that will: “make it more difficult for companies to compete, kill jobs, and increase utility bills.” The second, a TV spot, calls a severance tax “a massive Pennsylvania energy tax that will kill jobs and drive up utility bills.” These statements paint a dire and inaccurate picture of the economic impacts of a severance tax. PennEnvironment, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club ask Mr. Corbett to pull these ads off the air.

“These ads are pure and simple fear mongering without any facts,” said Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director, Clean Water Action. “The reality is that communities have had their drinking water contaminated by gas drilling. It’s only fair to ask these multinational oil and gas companies to pay to clean up the damage.”
“A massive/huge extra tax”: Pennsylvania is the only major gas producing state that does not require gas drillers to pay for our natural resources. Montana charges an effective rate of 7.5% on gas drillers. New Mexico: 7.3%. Oklahoma: 6.7% The proposals for a PA severance tax fall into this same range. Pennsylvania is also the only state in which property taxes cannot be collected on drilling rights, lowering the Commonwealth’s overall tax rate for drillers. It’s not a huge tax, it’s a tax that’s in line with established practice throughout the country and one that drillers expect to pay. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that a drilling executive from Dallas told Rep. Karen Beyer (R., Lehigh) that the industry is willing to pay a production tax. Beyer called Pennsylvania's lack of an extraction tax "an outrage."
“Drilling poses serious risks to Pennsylvanians and our environment. A severance tax will compensate communities and fund projects that repair environmental damage,” state Dennis Winters, Chair of Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter. “It is time the drillers pay their fair share in Pennsylvania. The public deserves to be told that the severance tax is a tax on producers and not consumers. Mr Corbett seems to be running the same ads as the American Petroleum institute, the industry’s mouthpiece.”
“Drive up utility bills”: Gas is bought and sold on a worldwide market and the production price of any single gas source has a negligible effect on the market rate. Currently, most Pennsylvanians get their gas from out of state, from states that already impose a severance tax. Gas that is produced in Pennsylvania goes into the same gas market as the gas from everywhere else, meaning that an increased production cost in Pennsylvania due to a severance tax will have little bearing on the price paid by consumers.
“Mr. Corbett’s advertisement feels a bit like an Alice in Wonderland scenario where everything is topsy-turvy,” stated David Masur of PennEnvironment. “The environmental community by and large has vocally supported the passage of the natural gas severance tax so for Mr. Corbett to attempt to claim the environmental high ground on this issue by opposing the extraction fee is a bit ridiculous.”
“Kills jobs”: The argument that a severance tax will kill jobs is based on the idea that a tax will slow the production of gas in Pennsylvania and thus delay the creation of drilling jobs. This argument supposes that increased taxation will lead to less drilling. The massive amount of drilling currently occurring in Texas, Colorado, and the other states, each of which currently maintains a severance tax, belies this argument. Pennsylvania’s location, next to the major gas markets of the American northeast, means that Pennsylvania drillers will always have an advantage over other states due to decreased transportation costs.

Additionally, a recent Penn State study* reports that a severance tax will actually create jobs in Pennsylvania. The study predicts that for every $100 million paid in severance taxes, the Commonwealth will see a net job gain of 1,100 jobs. Meanwhile, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development estimates that 70% of the jobs at Marcellus Shale sites currently go to workers from out of state. The job increase from state and local spending based on a severance tax would employ primarily Pennsylvania workers, meaning that the net job gain for Pennsylvanians would be even higher than the study reports. The real truth is that failing to enact a severance tax will cost Pennsylvania thousands of jobs each year.
“If you want to lead Pennsylvania, misleading its citizens is a bad place to start,” said Josh McNeil of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania. “Mr. Corbett needs to take down these deceitful ads.”
Neither the Sierra Club nor Clean Water Action have made an endorsement in the Pennsylvania Governor’s race. Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania and PennEnvironment have endorsed Dan Onorato.

*Rose M. Baker and David Passmore, Benchmarks for Assessing the Potential Impact of a Natural Gas Severance Tax on the Pennsylvania Economy, September 13, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Rogues' Gallery from People for the American Way

Pennsylvania: Pat Toomey

Former Congressman Pat Toomey, who nearly beat then-Republican Senator Arlen Specter in the GOP Senate primary six years ago, is an unabashed anti-government ideologue who spent years working for the Club for Growth, which has a single-minded fixation on lowering taxes for the wealthy. Toomeys congressional voting record was to the right even of former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum.

Toomey , a former derivatives trader, is of course opposed to regulation of the complex financial instruments that made millions for investment bankers while leading the nation to economic catastrophe. Videos have surfaced showing Toomey on the floor of Congress praising credit swaps as "very important tools" and calling derivatives "the most important, creative, and innovative development in finance in the last 30 years."

Toomey supports at least a partial privatization of Social Security, saying younger workers should be free to invest their social security taxes in the stock market. He warns that Democrats would turn America into a "European" welfare state.

Toomey is also backed by Religious Right leaders. In 2004, James Dobson campaigned fervently for Toomey in his primary challenge to Arlen Specter.

Toomey believes Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, thinks abortion should be illegal and doctors who perform abortions should be jailed. In Congress he voted to prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds even for non-abortion women's health work.

Hes opposed to marriage equality, voted for a federal constitutional amendment that would bar any states from allowing gay couples to marry, voted to strip federal courts of the right to hear challenges to bans on same-sex marriage, and voted to ban gay couples in Washington, D C from getting married. He opposed hate crimes laws as "an attempt to criminalize thought."

He says, "My idea of gun control is a steady aim."

Toomey is another member of the earmark hypocrisy hall of shame. As the Philadelphia Inquirer has noted,

Republican Pat Toomey crusaded against earmarks for most of his three terms in the U.S. House, and not long ago took a live pig to Independence Mall as he challenged his Senate-race opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak, to swear off the funding that lawmakers direct to their pet projects.

But in his first term representing the Lehigh Valley's 15th District, Toomey won at least $9 million in earmarks, including $3 million for a private company that became for a time his largest single source of campaign contributions.

Toomey has challenged President Obamas patriotism, saying the president doesnt believe in American exceptionalism, which Toomey defines as the belief the United States' model of freedom and free enterprise is the best one.

To see the entire Rogues' Gallery, click here:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Statewide Coalition Condemns Proposed Abortion Ban

The following press release was sent to media throughout Pennsylvania on September 30, 2010 by Pennsylvanians for Choice. Pennsylvanians for Choice is a coalition of pro-choice organizations and their allies whose mission is to protect and enhance reproductive health care for all Pennsylvanians. Member organizations include: Pennsylvania NOW, Inc., the Women’s Law Project, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union, WOMEN’S WAY, the Women’s Medical Fund, and CHOICE.

Pittsburgh, PA: Today Pennsylvanians for Choice, a statewide coalition of pro-choice organizations, denounced proposed legislation that would severely restrict access to abortion care in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 1399, introduced by Senator Don White (R-11) would ban private insurance plans sold in Pennsylvania’s state exchange, created under health care reform, from covering even medically necessary abortion procedures.
“Today, most private insurance plans cover abortion care,” said Susan Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project. “Senator White’s proposal would leave women worse off than they were before health care reform began.” Under Senator White’s bill, no abortion plan that contracts with the state exchange would be permitted to cover abortion except in the narrowest circumstances.

With an estimated 80% of private insurance plans currently covering abortion procedures, coalition spokespeople said that a ban of this magnitude would have a devastating effect on Pennsylvania women.

"Aside from having some of the oldest and most stringent abortion laws in the nation, Pennsylvania, like every other state, is bound by the Nelson abortion provision to the federal health care law,” said Sari Stevens, Executive Director of the Harrisburg-based Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates. Under the Nelson abortion provision, any health insurance plan that contracts with the exchange is required to implement a complex system of segregation to ensure no federal funds are used for abortion coverage - including the collection of two separate payments from the beneficiary, one for abortion coverage and one for all other health care coverage.

“Poll after poll shows that Pennsylvanians are not interested in reopening the debate around abortion. I urge Pennsylvania lawmakers to follow the lead of their constituents and support measures to prevent unintended pregnancy in the first place,” added Stevens. The insurance exchanges, slated to be available for enrollment in 2014, will serve those who do not have access to employer-based health plans including the unemployed and small business employees.

The proposed ban would deny insurance plans participating in the exchange from covering abortion care except in cases where the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or where the life of the woman is in danger. Frietsche pointed out that “in the Medicaid context, Pennsylvania courts have already ruled that it’s unconstitutional to make rape survivors jump through the kind of insulting and burdensome hoops this bill would create.” The bill would require rape survivors to “personally” report the crime and identify the assailant, if known, within 72 hours in order for their health insurance to cover an abortion procedure.

“The White bill is a throwback to the days when society blamed rape victims for somehow being responsible for the violence that was done to them,” Frietsche commented. “Pennsylvania lawmakers really should have moved beyond these gender stereotypes by now.”

“Instead of denying Pennsylvania women access to fundamental reproductive health care services, politicians should be working to protect and advance women’s health,” concluded Rebecca Foley of the Philadelphia-based nonprofit WOMEN’S WAY. “This proposed ban will leave many Pennsylvania women without coverage for safe, legal, and critical care.”

Support the Fair Elections Now Act

In a year of record spending in a midterm election, voters are seeing that our “representative democracy” isn’t so representative of average Americans anymore. Politicians are dallying in DC and admitting it’s just because raising money is easier among lobbyists than from their constituents.

Outside groups like the American Future Fund, Americans for Job Security, and the 60 Plus Association are spending hundreds of thousands of out-of-state dollars to influence local races. Voters don’t like it and don’t trust it.

What voters do support is the Fair Elections Now Act, which would get big money out of our elections and return democracy to the people. Recent polling from Celinda Lake shows that voters in battleground states support Fair Elections 65 to 18 percent. In addition, that support cuts across traditional party lines. What other issue has the support of 76 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Tea Party members?

Voters get it. When D.C. hosts 400 fundraisers in 14 days, something is seriously wrong with our electoral system. When 30 percent of Americans say that opposition to the Fair Elections Now act would makes them less likely to vote for a candidate, it’s time to take action. Our representatives have a choice: to lead, as they were elected to do, or continue to hide in D.C. and face the consequences. It’s time for the Fair Elections Now Act.