Charter School Lobby Donates $50,000 to Teachers-Union-Backed PA Attorney General Candidate

Giving a bribe into a pocket


What’s the best way to avoid a charter school scandal?


In Pennsylvania, apparently you bribe the Attorney General.


That may be why Students First PAC donated $50,000 to Josh Shapiro, a Democrat running for the position.


This political action committee is not to be confused with the infamous national group founded by Michelle Rhee. Students First PAC is a state organization that typically contributes to charter school friendly candidates.


And $50K is quite a chunk of change in a State Attorney General race – the office in charge of prosecuting charter schools for breaking the law.


Charter school scandals have been an almost weekly occurrence throughout the Commonwealth. Chester Community Charter School, the state’s largest brick-and-mortar organization, is under investigation for pocketing $1.2 million “in improper lease-reimbursement payments.” As Philadelphia public schools are being closed due to a miserly state budget, “nonprofit,” charter operator Aspira Inc. was caught using public money to boost its real estate holdings instead of using those funds to educate children. Nicholas Trombetta, the founder of Pennsylvania’s largest cyber charter, an institution that operates exclusively over the internet, “was charged with fraud, for funneling $8 million of the school’s funds into his personal companies and holdings.”


It’s easy to see how having the state Attorney General on your side would benefit an industry rife with fraud and malfeasance.


Shapiro, chair of the Montgomery Country Board of Commissioners, is the odds on favorite to succeed Kathleen Kane as the state’s highest ranking law enforcement officer.


He is running for the Democratic nomination against Northhampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, and Allegheny Country Attorney General Stephen Zappala.


Despite strong corporate education reform ties, Shapiro has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the largest teachers union in the Commonwealth.


At a public debate earlier in March, challenger Morganelli called out Shapiro on the Students First PAC donation.


“Josh, you are really good at giving speeches but your resume doesn’t match your performance,” Morganelli said. “You have received $25,000 from Students First PAC, which is a charter school [organization], and you received it on March 4th 2015. That is a charter school advocate that is hurting our public schools. Josh gives a great speech here then takes $25,000 from Students First PAC, I think that’s wrong.”


Morganelli added in a prepared statement in Harrisburg, “It was later determined that Josh accepted an additional $25,000 from Students First PAC in 2012. Who knows how much more he may have received from them that has not yet surfaced.”


Shapiro has never publicly denied these allegations.


His response at the debate was that voters should judge him based on his record.
However, Shapiro’s campaign manager Joe Radosevich responded further.


“Josh’s record in support of public education is unmatched and he’s proud to stand with Pennsylvania teachers in this election,” he said. “Josh is the only candidate for Attorney General who will protect Pennsylvania teachers and stand up for the rights of each and every student to a ‘thorough and efficient’ education as guaranteed in our state constitution.”


Morganelli also took issue with PSEA for endorsing Shapiro over himself. He criticized the organization for a history of siding with candidates with whom high ranking leaders have a relationship regardless of their positions on eduction. He cited PSEA’s endorsement of Tom Corbett for Attorney General in 2008. Corbett won that election and went on 2 years later to become one of the worst Governor’s in state history whose “greatest” achievement was slashing almost $1 billion from our public schools.


PSEA’s endorsement of Shapiro is in the same line, Morganelli said.


“How can PSEA endorse a candidate who is in bed with the Charter school folks? This would be like someone being funded by both the NRA and CeaseFire [PA] – inconceivable!”


PSEA spokesman David Broderic compared Morganelli’s criticism to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.


“PSEA’s members decided to recommend Josh Shapiro, based on his support for our issues,” Broderic said. “That’s what happens in politics. Today’s Trump-like antics don’t do anything but devalue politics. It’s a shame he felt the need to do that.”


Shapiro is receiving tremendous flack for the donations. In private, he explained the matter further, according to a confidential source.


He said the money was actually donated by his friend Joel Greenberg, a hedge fund manager who has worked with Shapiro on county, Jewish and Israeli issues. Greenberg funneled the money through Students First PAC. He gave his own personal money to Students First PAC which, in turn, gave it to Shapiro.


Greenberg is infamous in his own right as one of the three Philadelphia investment bankers who founded Students First PAC. He is also on the board of the American Federation for Children, a national school choice group with mega wealthy far right backers including the Koch Brothers.


The explanation makes little sense. It is shameful that the PSEA hasn’t pushed Shapiro to either publicly explain his actions or give back the money. At very least, the union could retract its endorsement.


Morganelli is to be praised for bringing the matter to public attention. Unfortunately, he is plagued by his own political shortcomings.


In 2007, Morganelli joined State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe for a witch hunt against illegal immigrants.


Metcalfe, a Republican from Cranberry Township, is so far right, he makes Rick Santorum look like Bernie Sanders! He is infamous in state politics for flamboyant actions against homosexuals and immigrants.


Metcalfe wrote a report called “Invasion PA” claiming Commonwealth lives were at stake because of a perceived influx of illegal immigrants. It was laughed out of Harrisburg, but Morganelli supported it – at least at first.


“It’s not an illegal immigration issue, it’s a crime and national security issue,” said Morganelli, who claimed about 5,000 illegal aliens in Northampton County had been responsible for a disproportionate share of the crime.


Five of 10 rapes in Northampton County last year were committed by illegal immigrants, Morganelli said.


Pennsylvania taxpayers are picking up the tab for illegal aliens housed in county and state prisons, he said.


However, when the report was met with ridicule, Morganelli tried to distance himself from it.


He called it ”deficient.”


”The report was, in my view, poorly constructed,” the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review quoted Morganelli as saying. ”It was a compilation of opinions and inferences drawn from arrests that really did not support the conclusion that an ‘invasion’ is occurring in Pennsylvania.”


In addition to this catastrophic lapse in judgement, Morganelli is also a staunch advocate for the death penalty. Not exactly someone suited to state office.


Of the three Democrats running for the position, Zappala is clearly the best candidate. He has been a just Attorney General in Allegheny Country since 1998. For instance, he is in favor of treatment and prevention for drug abusers rather than incarceration.


The Republican candidates are John Rafferty, a state senator from Montgomery County, and Joe Peters, a Wyoming County resident who was a former police officer, federal prosecutor and spokesman for current Attorney General Kane.


Kane is not seeking re-election. The primary election is April 26.


The office has been plagued by scandal under Kane. She stormed into the position with immense political good will, the first Democrat and woman to be elected to the position since it became an elected office in 1980. She was a rising star likely to challenge Republican Pat Toomey for U.S. Senate. However, her star fell in August 2015. She was arrested and charged with multiple offenses, including two counts of felony perjury, and obstruction of justice. A month later the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania suspended Kane’s license to practice law, the first such occurrence for a Pennsylvania Attorney General. Since she was not removed from her position, she has continued to exercise her duties as with a suspended license by delegating legal responsibilities to her top advisers.


Pennsylvania needs an Attorney General free from controversy, and both Shaprio and Morganelli don’t fit the bill. We can’t let someone who accepts huge charter school donations take over regulating the industry.


And shame on PSEA for letting down the Commonwealth’s teachers, parents and children. Endorsements should be made based on what’s best for our schools not personal relationships.

The Monsters on Main Street – The Worst of Pennsylvania’s Political Freak Show

monster pic

Monsters are coming to your door.

You hear them shambling outside, dragging themselves up your front stoop and ringing the bell.

Unaware, you open the door and choke back a scream of disgust at their grotesque faces – enormous elongated smiles under sad clown eyes.

They aren’t wearing Halloween masks. They aren’t trick-or-treaters. They’re a gaggle of local GOP politicians aching to press the flesh!


Sorry, but the idea of these morally bankrupt, mentally challenged, scientifically illiterate Republican lawmakers at the threshold of my own home is enough to make me scream in terror.

But that’s where they’re headed – accompanied by campaign organizers and volunteers – armed with clipboards full of apologies or (more likely) attacks on their political opponents.

It’s almost funny that they even remember us, voters. The whole year long they act as if they have no constituents other than corporate lobbyists and the party line.

Slash funding for public schools? Oh yeah!

Healthcare for women? Not on my dime!

Environmental protections? Drill, Baby, drill!

Voter protections? Naah! Voter Obstructions!

But when election time rolls around, the rhetoric gets muted, and the false smile is duct taped in place. Disgusting!

And what’s worse – they know we’re repulsed. They’re actually overjoyed by it! That’s exactly the effect they’re going for!

It’s a calculated gamble. Instead of filling us with a burning desire to vote for them, they figure their chances for re-election are even better if we don’t show up at all.

An empty polling station is a vote for the status quo.

It’s the same in my home state of Pennsylvania as it is across the country.

Let me tell you; Democracy takes a strong stomach.

In that spirit of intestinal fortitude, I present to you a menagerie of monsters.

Look closely at these twisted public figures all suddenly begging for your vote. Watch as they rage and foam expelling rapacious quantities of gas and bluster – all safely locked behind thick glass for your protection. Of course!

I present for your entertainment and edification “Pennsylvania’s Worst Political Monstrosities: Rancid Republicans on Parade!”

Rick Saccone


In God we trust. For Rick Saccone, that’s not just the national motto – it’s his signature piece of legislation.

The Tea Party Republican authored a bill to force all public schools in the state to paint those words on the front of their buildings. The bill was eventually watered down to merely allow schools to break the Separation of Church and State and not force compliance.

But it didn’t matter. Saccone was trying to make a point.

“Don’t trust the gub’ment,” his smirking face seemed to say. “Put your trust in a higher power.”

As if to prove his point, in 4 years as a lawmaker he slashed almost $1 billion in funding for school children, kicked out supports for the sick and elderly and basically stomped on the poor and needy across the Commonwealth.

I’m no Biblical scholar, but I don’t think the core message of religion is to screw everyone over just to see if The Divine will step in.

Maybe if Saccone spent more time worrying about meeting the needs of the kids in those school buildings instead of just on what’s painted outside them, he wouldn’t have to rely on miracles to do his neglected job!

If that makes you want to vomit, Rick’s got you there, too. His second biggest legislation authorized a state day of fasting. So dry heave away!

The rest of the time, he just let Gov. Tom Corbett and the GOP do his thinking for him. In fact, he voted for Corbett’s initiatives 95% of the time giving him the nickname of Corbett’s “Mini-me.”

His Democratic challenger in the 39th Legislative District is Lisa Stout-Bashioum. You may have seen signs for her candidacy throughout southern Allegheny and northern Washington Counties if they haven’t been mysteriously torn down yet. Strangely, none of Saccone’s signs seem effected. Weird!

Will residents finally give Saccone his walking papers or are they resigned to more toadying and Biblical legislation?

Considering that Saccone only won re-election last time by 114 votes (less than .5% of the total voting in his district), it wouldn’t exactly take a tidal wave to wash him out to sea.

Here’s hoping that his constituents are as fed up with him as the rest of us are. Yuck!

 Daryl Metcalfe


Bigot. Xenophobe. Idiot.

State Representative Daryl Metcalfe is all that and more!

Remember our controversial Voter ID law that tried unsuccessfully to disenfranchise minorities, seniors and college students? As chairman of the powerful House State Government Committee, Metcalfe sponsored the darn thing.

It doesn’t matter that the law was eventually struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. It doesn’t matter that millions were wasted implementing this farce. The eight-term Republican put the blame where he thinks it belongs – on the people of Pennsylvania. He said, “…this judicial activist decision is skewed in favor of the lazy who refuse to exercise the necessary work ethic to meet the commonsense requirements to obtain an acceptable photo ID.”

But let’s not forget Metcalfe’s homophobia. There’s something about gay marriage that just gets him all hot and bothered. Since a federal court struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage, Metcalfe can be seen most weekends on his hands and knees pleading with the governor to appeal the decision. The economy’s tanking. Our environment is being poisoned by frackers. Our schools struggle to function on crumbs. But Metcalfe is working on what’s really important – blocking gay people’s right to equal treatment!

This issue is so important to Metcalfe, he wouldn’t even allow anyone else to voice a dissenting opinion. When State Rep. Brian Sims, the first openly gay lawmaker in Harrisburg, tried to speak on the house floor in support of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, Metcalfe denied Sims the right to speak. He said Sims’ intended remarks were “in open rebellion against God’s law.” It’s so nice we have such an expert in the house chamber!

One could go on recounting Metcalfe’s backward world view for days (a personal favorite of mine is when he opposed immigration reform as an “illegal alien invasion”) but to make matters worse – he’s also dumb as a brick.

One of his first pieces of legislation in 2001 was to introduce a resolution asking the federal government to fund and deploy a national defense missile system. Daryl, why would state lawmakers debate what the federal government should or should not be doing? The state can’t send soldiers into battle. It can’t declare war on a foreign power. Heck! It can’t even change the color the army paints its tanks. Why would it be in charge of missile defense?

Oh well. Calmer heads prevailed. Republicans passed the measure anyway!

Residents of the 12th Legislative District may have had their fill of these shenanigans. In May, Metcalfe almost lost a write-in campaign to Republican challenger Gordon Marburger. Metcalfe got 54% of the vote vs. 45% for Marburger – an impressive total for a write-in candidate.

Perhaps Democratic challenger Lisa Zucco will finally be able to unseat this blowhard. Residents of this gerrymandered Republican-leaning district will have to decide which they hate more – Democrats or being the laughing stock of the Commonwealth!

Gov. Tom Corbett


Speaking of sick jokes, there’s Tom Corbett – the chief executive of Keystone A-holes.

Wow! One has to wonder how such an incompetent public servant could ever be elected to a post as high as Governor of a populous state like Pennsylvania! It’s almost like electing Gomer Pyle, Screech or… George W. Bush!

In his 4 long, miserable years in office, Corbett has done more damage to the Commonwealth than an invading army. Let’s revisit some of his biggest catastrophic blunders:

Colossal Education Cuts – Larger class sizes in 70% of public schools, 19 districts completely eliminating full-day kindergarten, 56% of schools cutting full-time librarians, cuts to the arts, music and extracurricular activities, not to mention 27,000 teachers out of work.

This kind of catastrophic elimination of services doesn’t just happen – no matter how much Corbett tries to convince voters otherwise.

Corbett presided over the deepest education cuts in the state’s history. Originally, he wanted to slash more than $1.1 billion in school funding.

The Republican-led legislature eventually balked at such a huge sum and instead slashed only $860 million. With little change, these cuts have continued with every budget since, compounding the damage every year. So after three disastrous budgets, our school system is actually down approximately $2.5 billion!

But Corbett isn’t just against little kids getting an education. Like a villain in a slasher movie, he’s also after the frat boys and sorority girls at your local community college. He wanted to cut funding for state-owned and -related colleges by 50% in his first budget; but he settled for a mere 18% chop. Higher education has been flat-funded ever since. That’s why tuition has gone up 7.5%, technology fees have skyrocketed by 50%, not to mention other costs.

What about taxes? Corbett’s biggest campaign promise has always been not raising them. However, when you cut necessary services, the cost usually gets passed on someplace else. For instance, local taxes have increased at 75% of public schools statewide. At the Commonwealth’s colleges, higher tuition and costs were just passed on to the students. So technically Corbett’s right to claim he didn’t raise state taxes. He just made you pay for it elsewhere!

Voter Identification Law – It takes a person with a special depth of stupidity to ignore his own officials time and again. Well, Corbett has the right stuff! His administration officials told him the elderly would be disproportionately affected by the voter identification law (not to mention minorities, women, the poor, etc.) But with the 2012 presidential election coming up, Corbett did it anyway. Anything to get rid of that Bla… I mean “Kenyan Communist” Obama.

The courts, however, were unconvinced since the state couldn’t prove a single instance of voter fraud. If Tommy had had his way, more than 100,000 Pennsylvanians might have been disenfranchised. It remains to be seen if they’ll turn out in November to “thank” him at the polls.

Rejected Medicaid Expansion
Healthcare? You don’t need no stinking healthcare! Until recently Corbett held out on the Republican hissy fit against Obamacare longer than most other far right governors.

He just refused to accept the Medicaid Expansion, an estimated $17 billion in federal funds, leaving Pennsylvanians high and dry, while every bordering state took the free money.

Not only was this decision once again against the recommendations of his aides, it put Corbett to the far right of even Republican governors like John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey, who agreed to accept federal dollars for the expansion of Medicaid in their states. Facing dismal re-election polls, Corbett finally caved somewhat and accepted the funds only if he could provide the stingiest benefits in the country. Well, he has to live with himself somehow!

Mandatory Ultrasounds
– There’s something hilarious about a politician who screws over school kids but is so concerned about unborn fetuses. Corbett proudly supported his party’s version of Shariah Law called misleadingly the “Women’s Right to Know” Act. It would require doctors to perform an ultrasound on a patient, offer her two personalized copies of the image and play and describe fetal heartbeat in detail before she can have an abortion. Maybe they should have called it “Women’s Right to be Forced to Know.” Anyway, Corbett made the off-color remark that if a woman feels the measure goes too far “you just have to close your eyes.”

After outraged calls from doctors, the legislature decided to abort any further debate on the measure.


There are so many more catastrophic blunders. Everything from sinking the state’s job creation record from 6th to 47th in the country, the fiscally unsound lottery privatization, ethical fiascos, selling off government positions to his gas company campaign contributors… Oh, Tom, you are such a piece of sh… work.

Corbett is running against York businessman Tom Wolf who is killing the incumbent in the polls. I guess running on the exact opposite of Corbett’s policies is somehow popular. Who knew? Certainly not Corbett!

But “expected voters” and the real thing aren’t always the same. Will Pennsylvania rise up as one to swat this Republican insect from our collective posterior? I sure hope so.

And there you have it, Ladies and Gentlemen! The Monsters of Pennsylvania!

I hope it wasn’t too distressing for the kiddees to see. Just remember these creatures have no power unless you give it to them.

Even in our post-Citizens United age where corporations apparently are people, only YOU have the right to vote.

These slurping, burping, hideous fiends tried to take that away! With flag pins hypocritically shinning on their lapels, they actually tried to stop people from casting a ballot.

And even though they lost, they’re betting that you don’t care. You’d rather shut your eyes tight and wait for them to shamble on by.

If horror movies have taught us anything, it’s this: the person who refuses to hide in the woodshed, the person who stands and fights is the one who makes it out alive.

So wrap your ballot in a clove of garlic, spritz a little holy water on it and shove it down these critters throats.

The secret about any monster is that it’s actually afraid of you!