Will the Philadelphia Inquirer Harrisburg bureau get trimmed?

The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are officially sharing content, according to Editor & Publisher.

Inquirer Editor William Marimow and Post-Gazette Editor David Shribman confirmed that they have been swapping daily budgets since Jan. 29, the latest example of the ever-growing trend of newspapers with no common ownership or JOA trading news.

“We exchange budgets and except for the most highly-competitive stories, we will be sharing,” said Marimow. “You will see more Pittsburgh Post-Gazette bylines and photos in the Inquirer.” [Source]

Continue reading Will the Philadelphia Inquirer Harrisburg bureau get trimmed?

Post-Gazette: Bonus scandal [with my audio]

HARRISBURG — Rachel Manzo was released on her own recognizance yesterday, then returned an hour later to pay $10,000 — all in $20s — to bail her husband out of police custody.

They are among 12 current and former lawmakers and legislative aides charged in a scheme to use tax dollars to fund political campaigns.

The bail for Michael Manzo, who is thought to have orchestrated the plan, was the highest at $100,000 secured, which means he had to put up 10 percent of the money before he could be released.

“I’ve [represented] organized crime figures who didn’t have to pay this much bail,” his attorney, James J. Eisenhower, said while court personnel counted the bills, which Mrs. Manzo brought in 10 envelopes.

Above, hear Philip A. Ignelzi, the attorney for state Rep. Sean Ramaley, discuss the charges against his client and criticize state Attorney General Tom Corbett. Below hear Ignelzi discuss Ramaley’s state Senate campaign.

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Photo of former Democratic House Leader Mike Veon, courtesy of PennLive.

Post-Gazette: Bonus scandal defendants arraigned

It what may be the most significant story of my young journalism career, here a double byline for a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This breaking story appeared on the Web and an extensive follow up will appear in tomorrow’s edition.

HARRISBURG – Preliminary arraignments were held today for 11 people charged in the state bonus scandal, in which state Rep. Michael Veon, current Rep. Sean Ramaley and 10 current and former Democratic staffers allegedly conspired to divert millions of dollars in state resources, including more than $1 million in illegal pay bonuses.

The charges stem from two grand jury presentments unveiled yesterday in which jurors said Mr. Veon and the staff members conspired to arrange hefty year-end bonuses to House employees who worked on political campaigns over a three-year period. Mr. Ramaley is accused of working full time on his 2004 House campaign in Beaver County while drawing a taxpayer salary as a member of Mr. Veon’s staff.

During the preliminary arraignments, the defendants hear, and are asked if they understand, the charges against them. They do not enter pleas.

The first preliminary arraignment took place yesterday for Jeff Foreman, an aide to House Majority Whip Keith McCall, D-Carbon. Mr. Foreman surrended to authorities even as Attorney General Tom Corbett held a press conference outlining the case. Mr. Foreman, who was charged with conspiracy, theft, and conflict of interest, was released on $50,000 unsecured bail.

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Image of former House Democratic Leader Mike Veon, D-Beaver Falls, by Bradley C. Bower via Post-Gazette.

Post-Gazette: Legislators, staffers charged in bonus probe [with my audio]

Details of the long-rumored “Bonusgate” scandal dropped this afternoon. I helped a bit with the reporting for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story written by Dennis Roddy and was charged with cutting some audio for the paper’s Web site.

Hear Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett at his 2 P.M. news conference…

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Tom Corbett today filed charges against a dozen figures in the payroll bonus scandal, including former House Democratic Whip Michael Veon and current state Rep. Sean Ramaley.

Reports by two grand juries — one in Pittsburgh and another sitting here — laid out an array of accusations, including a conspiracy to deliver more than $1 million in state-paid bonuses to House employees who worked on political campaigns. Mr. Ramaley, 33, D-Economy, was accused of working full-time on his 2004 House campaign in Beaver County while drawing a taxpayer salary as a member of Mr. Veon’s staff.

Continue reading on Post-Gazete.com. More audio to follow.

Photo by Dennis Roddy, courtesy of the Post-Gazette.

Post-Gazette: Legislator rejects award from White Christian Nation

Here’s a very interesting story by Tracie Mauriello of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on which I contributed some reporting yesterday.

HARRISBURG — An anti-Muslim remark made on the House floor last month inspired some to call state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe a bigot and others to call him intolerant.

One group, though, says it wants to give him an award.

The White Christian Nation compares Mr. Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, to prominent white supremacist leader Thomas Robb and says it wants to give him a Christian National Soldier Award during a rally the group is sponsoring Aug. 10 at Adams Township Community Park.

Mr. Metcalfe denounced the group and said he had never heard of White Christian Nation until it notified him of the award two weeks ago in separate letters signed by John Nayst and Jerry Western.

“I categorically reject any association with you, your organization and Mr. Robb,” Mr. Metcalfe wrote back in a letter dated July 3. “As an Army veteran who had the privilege and honor of serving the United States alongside extremely dedicated men and women of all races, religions and national ancestries, I will not allow my office or my name to be compromised.”

Continue reading here

Photo from Outraged Patriots.

Post-Gazette: Pennsylvania firefighters in California

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

HARRISBURG — Forty Pennsylvania firefighters ran into triple-digit temperatures yesterday as they began their first full day combating wildfires that are scorching northern California.

Two 20-person crews, including four firefighters from Western Pennsylvania, left Sunday from Harrisburg International Airport on a U.S. Forest Service-chartered jet. They arrived Monday and joined hundreds of other firefighters in trying to control the blaze that has burned since June 20, said John Miller, chief of Pennsylvania’s forest fire protection division.

“With the amount of fire activity in California right now, it’s very important” to get help from other states, said James Stone, a California Forest Service spokesman. “Those boys from Pennsylvania are a significant portion of that.”

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Photo courtesy of ABC Australia.

Greek mythology and state government; no, it’s funny, I swear

Sometimes you have more color from a story than you can fit. Yesterday, for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I covered a press conference held by a coalition of citizen groups calling for legislative reform on the third anniversary of the pay-raise controversy.

Interesting read, but I simply couldn’t get the following in the story:

Matt Brouillette of The Commonwealth Foundation, called state Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Philadelphia, a “minion” of House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Fayette.

Under DeWeese’s control, the chairwoman of the House State Government committee stalls reform legislation, Brouillette said.

“She is Cerberus, guarding the River Styx,” he said, referring to the fierce three-headed dog that is said to patrol the banks of the boundary between the Earth and the underworld in the Greek mythology.

What power I have, to keep this from readers.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Schaut.

Post-Gazette: Three years later, citizen groups still want change in Harrisburg

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

HARRISBURG — A slim slice of carrot cake sat on a podium in the state Capitol rotunda today, marking the third anniversary of the infamous legislative pay-raise vote of July 7, 2005.

A coalition of citizens’ groups said the small piece of cake represented the state’s new open records law — the one and only piece of reform legislation that the General Assembly has enacted in the wake of a huge public outcry over the 2 a.m. vote to increase legislative salaries by up to 34 percent, an increase that was later repealed.

“There is not very much cake for the people of Pennsylvania to eat,” said Gene Stilp of Taxpayers & Ratepayers United, who hauled an inflatable pink pig around the state in late 2005 and 2006 to protest the pay raise.

The Legislature did approve some changes to its operating procedures, such as adjourning most sessions by 11 p.m. and waiting between six and 24 hours before taking final votes on bills.


See the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Photo courtesy of Three Sources.com.

Post-Gazette: Turnpike lease stuck in committee [with my audio]

HARRISBURG — A deal to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike “will not see the light of day,” vowed the chairman of the House Transportation Committee yesterday.

That would effectively kill Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposal to enter into a $12.8 billion, 75-year lease with a consortium comprising the Spanish multinational Abertis Infraestructuras SA and Citi Infrastructure Investors, a subsidiary of Citibank.

“There is no meaningful support among our committee members,” said committee Chairman Joseph F. Markosek, D-Monroeville. He said he has no intention of bringing it to a committee vote.

“I am putting a permanent hold on it. It will not see the light of day for as long as I am chairman.”

Hear some of Markosek’s comments above.

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Hear Rendell’s response of Markosek’s comments:

Image courtesy of Central Penn Business.

Post-Gazette: State passes budget [with my audio]

I contributed to today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report that a state budget deal was reached and signed last night.

I also cut an audio clip of Gov. Ed Rendell speaking on the budget, which the Post-Gazette put on its Web site: hooray for New Media!

Alongside Rendell is House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, and House Majority Floor Leader Bill Deweese, D-Fayette. Behind him is outgoing Budget Secretary Michael Macsh, who came with Rendell from Philadelphia.

Continue reading Post-Gazette: State passes budget [with my audio]