Inquirer: Front page story on Harrisburg citizen activists

See it on the front page of the Inquirer at

HARRISBURG – They call themselves, simply, “the Coalition.”

They are an informal group of about a half-dozen citizen activists – most of them middle-aged men from Central Pennsylvania – who spend their time waging a grassroots war for governmental change in the Capitol.

Each member of the group’s cast of characters has his own political persuasion and priorities – not to mention colorful turns of phrase and memorable props to enliven the good-government message. But all are motivated by the same philosophy: State government needs fixing and elected officials aren’t doing the job.

“There is a cancer on the Capitol,” said Gene Stilp, founder of Taxpayers and Ratepayers United and one of the more visible Coalition members. “The question is if it’s incurable.”

Love them or hate them – and many hate them – this small group of activists has had a big impact on Harrisburg’s political landscape. Since 2005, their work has helped push out a Supreme Court justice and almost a quarter of the legislature.

Stilp is credited with prompting the 17-month probe into legislative bonuses that just this month led to a raft of political corruption charges against a dozen Harrisburg insiders.

But who are these activists? And why do they spend so much of their time – usually without pay – to do what they do?


Read on at

This ran today for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The coverage is part of a post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA).

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