By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Partisan politics are in full swing after the release of TV ads attacking Republican Gov. Tom Corbett for failing to stand up for middle-income earners.
The man behind the recent attacks, Bud Jackson, previously received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the House Democratic Campaign Committee and additional campaign dollars from jailed former Rep. Bill DeWeese, D-Greene. That money went to Jackson's campaign consulting firm, The Jackson Group, based in Alexandria, Va.
The money trail has made Corbett allies suspicious, thinking ads are in retaliation for the former attorney general’s prosecution of Democratic officials. But to Jackson, creator of the ad from the American Working Families Action Fund, calling out his past record is attacking the messenger, instead of addressing the issues.
Kevin Harley, Corbett's director of communications, said the administration doesn’t need to take direction from a media consultant.
“I don’t think it should be a surprise to anyone that the media consultant for convicted felons Bill DeWeese and Mike Veon is running political ads against Gov. Corbett,” Harley said.
Veon, former House minority whip, was convicted of using public money for his campaigns as part of the Bonusgate corruption case, in which House Democrats gave raises to their staff in exchange for campaign work.
The Jackson Group, of which Jackson is president, received $27,864 from the Bill DeWeese Campaign Committee in 2006, and another $21,517 in 2008 for campaign consulting, TV commercial production and other costs, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State records.
DeWeese is serving two and a half years at Camp Hill State Prison after his conviction on multiple charges for using state-paid employees to do campaign work from 2001 to 2006. Jackson said he did not work for DeWeese after the former House minority leader was indicted.
He also said American Working Families Action Fund, which is a registered 501(c)4, is a separate entity from The Jackson Group. Jackson said Corbett's allies are bringing up his history in the campaign world to deviate from the points brought up in the anti-Corbett ad — and he never hid the fact he was a Democrat, or that he had consulted for Pennsylvania politicos in the past.
“The issue isn’t about who is making the charges,” Jackson said. He called speculation of retaliation “absolutely ridiculous.” Jackson also said the governor has a history of favoritism for his appointees, noting the appointment of Alan Walker as secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development after a $100,000 campaign contribution, as well as the recent nomination of former Chief of Staff William Ward to the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas.
The Corbett administration defends these appointments, touting records and know-how instead of addressing donations. Harley said Walker was appointed to the secretary position because of his private-sector background.
As for Corbett’s record concerning middle-income earners, Harley points to a rise of private-sector jobs leading to a decreasing unemployment rate now at 7.4 percent, and reeling back the “tax-and-spend” policies of the former Democratic administration.
The House Democratic Campaign Committee retained Jackson for a number of election cycles, paying consulting and production fees totaling more than $381,000 from 2004 through 2010, according to Department of State records. The House Democratic Campaign Committee confirmed that The Jackson Group is not currently under retention. The most recent receipt was in January 2011 for a $795 consulting fee.
Joseph DiSarro, chairman of the political science department at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., said where the money comes from, where it goes and who benefits are all part of “pay-to-play” politics found everywhere.
“Winning an election requires money, and lots of it,” he said, which becomes the root of the problem. He said the solution is campaign finance regulation and better disclosure laws. “Disclosure laws are inadequate, period,” he said. “It’s creating a problem because then the public really cannot find out where the money’s going, what was the reason for this money, was it truly just a campaign contribution or did the person or political party expect something in return?”