Fitzgerald leads own Democratic surge with new weapon

Pittsburgh’s hottest political action committee is “Better Jobs, Better Future”, or BJBF.

It has everything: Chelsa-smashing, Council-whipping, and centrist triangulating. There are donor congas — that thing of when politicians with access to money open up all sorts of new money appendages to each other.

[Allegheny County Controller Chelsa] Wagner called the group’s activities, which extend to county council races, “terribly concerning” and said they jeopardize checks and balances in county government.

“If we cannot have a government where this is a healthy discourse and dissent, I think it’s pretty clear that this is not a strong or functioning form of government.”. (P-G, Potter & Born)

That’s a little overblown. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s BJBF is not set up as one of those “dark money” PACs. Apparently, it must disclose its activity in and out.

The public disclosure deadline for political spending is “early May”, which is a concern; that can’t be long before our May 19th elections. That non-fatal flaw in our campaign finance laws is crying out for a fix!

Similarly, if the County Controller truly may not audit County authorities or perform certain types of audits, those laws need to be fixed pronto. Allegheny County residents deserve that all their infrastructure, transportation, airport and stadium spending, and most of their public safety spending, be scrutinized professionally by their own accountable Controller’s office. The state Auditor General’s office is far too distant and tied up with the rest of the state, to be of regular use at home.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 4.43.28 AMBack to the politics of money: it’s a shame all that money and energy from the top of Pittsburgh’s political pyramid will be coming down on other local Democrats, or stashed in the piggy bank for some future spectacle. Rich Fitzgerald & Co. might otherwise address our GOP state legislature forthrightly! But alas regionally, most Democratic officeholders lie submissively in detente against their neighbors in both Republican majorities. Blame it on the need to court Harrisburg.

Our real concern with Fitz’s BJBF begins and ends in whether its flow of resources is transparent enough to judge its nature and motives. That’s the reason four years ago, Fitzgerald pledged to post County spending online – so we can together root out political waste and inefficiency in government…


Is County spending yet posted online? I cannot find it.

11 thoughts on “Fitzgerald leads own Democratic surge with new weapon

  1. Anonymous

    we here lots of transparency and campaign finance. Yes, Fitz is pounding on donors to raise hordes of cash to take out his enemies. Bill has done nothing about fixing campaign finance in the City and Fitz has done less than nothing about implementing it at the county. I suppose they will get around to it once they have stuffed their own pockets and in the meantime local progressives will blame republicans for everything wrong with big money in politics. That is just how it works. And oh yeah, look out for those cameras that are funded by big gas interests roaming around hoping to catch you say something normal or human so that it can be plastered on the tv with money from the corporate crowd flowing into Fitz’s coffers. But don’t look over here, that young girl that is holding them to account is the bad girl. Lets get rid of her pronto – and then we can fix the laws.

    1. bramr101 Post author

      Since it is wealth and big industry that tends to benefit from unregulated elections, it stands to reason Republicans are at the forefront of stonewalling new elections regulations and scaling back old ones. But to say Republicans are at the “forefront” is also to say they are rarely alone of course.

  2. MGG

    Take a look at Caroline Mitchell. On the face of it, her candidacy–and Fitzgerald’s and Peduto’s endorsement–make no sense. She’s outspoken, independent and firmly anti-fracking, just like her opponent, incumbent Danko. She’s also a political novice, at age 68, except for Fitz appointing her to the county board of health just weeks before she announced her candidacy. Why would Fitz throw over a long-time ally who enjoys loads of community support just to try to put another fracktivist on council? And why would Peduto bother to endorse a county council candidate who will have no involvement in city business? As one local elected official with a ton of perspective put it, Fitz picks fights just to fight.

  3. Drill Baby

    Where’s the upside for Fitz? If his people win it will be viewed as bullying machine politics run amok, if they lose it will be hung on Fitz as a sign of weakness and bad judgment. And if he runs statewide a top storyline among politicos will be that he lost the support of his base and neighbors (Pittsburgh progressives, 14th Ward). Perhaps it really does all just come down to fracking money, with Fitz going all in with the drillers.

    1. bramr101 Post author

      Let me speak up for camera-toting. It’s okay to film politicians at public gatherings just like it’s okay to film cops. In fact, days before that article came out, Chelsa Wagner’s uncle Jack was spotted filming Neil Patrick Flaherty at a political event.

  4. Judge Knotts

    Not sure where else to air this, so here goes … I’m a Dem committeemember. We all get inundated by mailers from judicial candidates in the run-up to the party endorsement (this Sunday). Three seats are open on the common pleas bench, 12 candidates are seeking the endorsement. The pitches in the mailers are sometimes hilarious and often irrelevant the the job:

    – “Let’s make _____ _____ ONE of three because he’s ONE of us!” (That is, he’s from a working class background.) In another mailer he writes: “_______ _______ never forgot where he came from … [turn page to inside of mailer] … because _______ _________ never left.” (He lives a few blocks from where he grew up.) It seems like there’s one of these homeboy candidates every year.

    – Another candidate has a former Steeler endorsing him on his mailer. I don’t care.

    – Another is pictured with Congressman Doyle. I don’t care.

    – Another includes a Celtic symbol on his campaign literature–perhaps to distinguish himself from all the other Irish candidates–and proudly announced at a committee meeting that it’s a “symbol of Irish unity”. I’m not Irish. Don’t kiss me, and don’t count on my endorsement.

    – Another candidate did NOT include her face on her mailer. That, along with being favorably impressed with her credentials and her appearance at a committee meeting, has secured one of my votes.

    1. bramr101 Post author

      Thanks for all this material. Funny stuff, and I’m a fan of your reasoning. Sometimes I feel I’d like to be on the Committee just to take part in that side of the game, but out where I am located in the 23rd ward, Bernie Grady seems to rule the roost with no major objections.

  5. Judge Knotts

    Special bonus mailer report: Mark Patrick Flaherty (D-Ireland) is playing the ward chair game–his latest mailer says he has received “the public support” of 96 Dem. chairs, including 18 in the city (which has 32 wards). Danko’s county council opponent made a similar pitch at a recent ward meeting, ticking off the names of all the communities and wards where she said the committees had “endorsed” her. She was called out on the claim and recanted, saying she only had verbal assurances from the chairs that their committees would back her. So this endorsement is shaping up, as other recent ones have, to be a test of wills between wards where chairs call the shots versus wards with strong input from members.

    1. Anonymous

      funny how quickly the challengers become the machine and rule committee’s with impunity and hand out jobs and board and commission seats to supporters. the more things change the more they stay the same.


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