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Citizens alliance of Pennsylvania turns Keystone State politics upside down.
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By now you can imagine. Scott Wagner is awash in government regulations — and he needs to retain 13 outside attorneys just to figure out how to satisfy bureaucrats he says make a profession not of helping entrepreneurs but of finding something they are doing wrong. Then fining them for it. And by the way, put Scott down as highly skeptical that bureaucrats are even capable of holding a job in the private sector.
In other words, Scott Wagner was one frustrated Pennsylvanian. Fed up.
CAP was his kind of deal.
And Scott wasn’t alone. He is one of several capitalists who banded together to form CAP.
They include among others Frederick Anton, the longtime president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturer’s Association. PMA has had a long and distinguished 103-year old history in Pennsylvania as an advocate for free market economics. In fact, the history of PMA itself is reflective of the once formidable role capitalism played inside a state filled to overflowing with capitalists in businesses like steel, banking, railroads, lumber, and oil. PMA was founded in 1909 by a Bucks County textile manufacturer named Joseph R. Grundy. Befitting a state with such a heavy manufacturing presence, the influence of PMA and the capitalists it represented was considerable. At one point — in 1929 — Grundy himself was appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate.
As time wore on, however, PMA and capitalism in general began to see its influence wane as the power of public employee unions and trial lawyers — the very targets today of CAP — began to surge.
But as is true with other states — like Wisconsin and its recent battle royal with its public employees — the fruits of the union/trial lawyer alliance eventually began to sour. So many legislators from both parties were in hock to unions like PSEA (the Pennsylvania branch of the National Education Association) and the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) that, combined with the abandonment of a part-time legislature and the increasingly generous pensions legislators were giving themselves — rebellion began to brew.
Anton himself is directly responsible for the resurgence of PMA, restoring it to a free-market prominence that resonates with its storied history. He is a leading mover not only in CAP but the conservative Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, a CPAC-esque group that has become an annual magnet for conservative leaders and free-marketeers within the state at its annual meeting, drawing nationally renowned speakers including Newt Gingrich, Bill Bennett, the late Robert Novak, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Lynn Cheney and Frank Luntz.
Put another way than a list of names, Pennsylvania’s capitalists have had enough. In a state that once upon a time was identified with capitalists like H.J. Heinz, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Mellon and his Coolidge-era Secretary of the Treasury son Andrew, the decision was made to start bringing back an old tradition of a state devoted to pro-employer and pro-taxpayer policies. To zero in on what had become words-that must-not-be-mentioned in a state that had slid into the clutches of the “Iron Triangle.” Words like “Right-to-work,” “tort reform,” “school choice,” and — gasp! — the elimination of property taxes. Last but certainly not least are those once cherished three words that are now making a huge comeback: the free market.
With the group organized, CAP launched on its task: taking on the Iron Triangle.
In quick succession:
Now, here’s the latest eye catcher. One that reminds of various national races such as the one that up-ended Indiana’s longtime GOP U.S. Senator Richard Lugar with Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock.
In this case the Lugar role was played by 34-year incumbent State Rep. Rick Geist from Altoona. (Full disclosure, I first met Rick Geist when he was young legislator and like him. But the point CAP was raising up there in the distant precincts of Altoona was not about Rick’s likeability — anymore than Indiana voters were judging the eminently likeable Lugar’s.) Geist, like Lugar, had a senior role in the House — in Geist’s case as Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. The post, once an asset, was now seen as a liability. Not to mention that Geist had voted both for the infamous pay raise and a bill increasing legislative pensions. And proudly nominated John Perzel for Speaker in January of 2007 — that being the Republican now ex-Speaker who has been sharing a cell with the Democrats’ ex-Speaker. To make matters worse, CAP was targeting Geist for his opposition to school vouchers, right-to-work, and unemployment compensation reform. The portrait CAP presented to voters was of Geist as the Harrisburg “old bull.” Mr. Anti-Free Market. Mr. Anti-Capitalist. Mr. Insider.
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