Monday, March 24, 2008

Getting Ready to Metastasize

Governor Ed Rendell likes to award a lot of no-bid contracts … More than $1 billion between 2003 & 2008 with $246.3 million so far this year. Even in a state where payback, pork and patronage run rampant, these numbers stand out.

A particularly flagrant instance is the $1.8 million contract awarded to Rendell’s former law firm, Ballard Spahr Anderson & Ingersoll. The firm was retained in May 2007 for work on Rendell’s effort to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike but state lawmakers didn’t find out until last week.

So was this award illegal? Unfortunately not. Pennsylvania law allows state officials to award contracts without competition when it’s “in the best interest of the commonwealth.”

Has Fast Eddie been any worse than governors before him? That’s an interesting question. One everyone would like to know. Unfortunately the state’s Department of General Services can’t find the previous spending records. They claim the records were lost when they switched to a computerized system. Or maybe past administrations never kept the information. Either way, we don’t know and it appears we never will.

What we do know, however, is that Ballard Spahr has contributed heavily and consistently to Rendell’s political campaigns. A search of that firm on Pennsylvania’s Campaign Finance Reporting web site reveals some interesting information. Between 2001 and 2007, contributions to Rendell in the name of the partnership totaled $269,250. Individual firm attorneys gave a whopping $476,025 and another $200,257 came in labeled as ‘in-kind’. That totals a hearty $945,532 over that 7-year period.

For some reason, Rendell’s campaign had cause to pay some of that money back to Ballard Spahr. The reporting web site shows payments for “personnel” and “administration” totaled $431,427. Then there were a few bucks ($30,399) for travel and catering. All totaled, the Rendell campaign paid Ballard Spahr $461,826 leaving Rendell with net contributions of $483,706 for the 2001 – 2007 period.

Let’s see …they give nearly a half-million dollars. Then they get a contract for $1.8 million. Not bad. Not bad at all. Especially since it can’t be the only thing they’ve gotten over the years.

Even though Fast Eddie won’t be in a position much longer to throw millions or billions of state dollars at his friends, who have coincidentally contributed heavily to his campaigns, and who coincidentally are “in the best interest of the commonwealth”….. We shouldn’t be too quick to breathe a collective sigh of relief because Rendell has hitched his star to Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort. Rumor has it he wants to be her Secretary of Transportation and one can only imagine what damage he could do from that position.

He’s received a lot of support from outdoor advertisers over the years. Maybe he’d be ready on day one to plant an LED billboard every 50 feet on our nation’s highways and byways. Maybe Ravenstahl's LEDs wouldn't look so bad by comparison.

Yet another good reason in a long list of good reasons not to vote for Ms. Hillary. We just can't let this stuff spread.


Mark Rauterkus said...

No bid contracts are legal -- but -- they are NOT healthy in the public sector.

No bid contracts should be made NOT legal.

The city needs to NUKE all NO BID CONTRACTS, by design, by law, by gosh.

Same too with the state.

COMPETITION works wonders.

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