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Pennsylvania's big secret

November 16, 2004

There's a lot of history in the state of Pennsylvania, but at the risk of stirring up preservationists' anger, not everything that's old is worth preserving.

No, we're not talking about tearing down buildings, but about ending the tradition of allowing those who lobby the state legislature to spend whatever they want and not tell anybody about it.

If that sounds like a recipe for corruption, a number of lawmakers thought so a few years back when they passed a lobbyist-disclosure bill. But the state Supreme Court struck it down in 2002.

Is this really a problem? Peter Jackson of The Associated Press reports that in 2001 - the last year the law was in force - 800 lobbyists reported spending almost $52 million. That's not peanuts.

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A bill to reinstate disclosure has been introduced by Rep. John Maher, R-Allegheny. But with two weeks left in the current session, its chances aren't good.

Why? AP's Jackson reports that it's because the governor isn't behind it, the House isn't interested and the state Senate's version of the bill is stalled because of a spat between Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer and Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, D-Philadelphia.

The feud began when Jubelirer wouldn't allow Fumo and other Democrats to offer amendments to a slot-machine bill.

And so, because of a disagreement about something completely unrelated, Pennsylvanians can't find out who's spending how much to influence the people they elect. If citizens don't raise a ruckus about that, they deserve whatever kind of representation they get.

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