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Monday, May 24, 2010

State AG protects us from Twitter ... can he protect his own lead in the polls?

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2010 at 10:49 PM

Last week brought a slightly worrisome omen for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato. An early Rasmussen poll shows Republican Tom Corbett up by 13 points.

Should this worry you? Answer: No. 

Yeah, Corbett is up 49-36. And Rasmussen notes -- with impressive mathematical rigor -- that this puts Corbett "near the critical 50 percent mark." But this is, like 6 months before the election. And I can't help but feel like I've heard this sort of prediction before ... 

In fact, wait ... yes I have. Six months before the May primary, Rasmussen had another poll out, with remarkably similar findings. In that December 2009 survey, the odds-on favorite led a Democratic challenger by an almost identical margin of 48-35.

Except in that race, the favorite was Arlen Specter, and the Democratic challenger was Joe Sestak. We know how THAT turned out. 

Yeah, Onorato's got a tough climb, for all the reasons you've heard about. On the other hand, as noted here previously, being a prosecutor can bite you in the ass if people think you're motivated by partisan self-interest.

Oh, and by the way... you knew Corbett dropped his Twitter subpoeana, right? Turns out the guy he was supposedly after, Brett Cott, got 5 years in prison even without Corbett having to prove Cott had been denouncing prosecutors online.

Gotta say though, that sentence seems extreme. As PoliticsPA notes, former Philly state Senator Vince Fumo got 55 months for Bonusgate-related offenses. Fumo was one of the most powerful figures in Harrisburg -- surely he did more to make Harrisburg what it is than Cott, a legislative aide no one has ever heard of. Then again, no one ever accused Fumo of using Twitter, so I guess he deserves a break.

A final note. Worth a look is this Tribune-Review story last week about UPMC board members receiving big-dollar contracts from the health-care behemoth. It isn't exactly breaking news -- in fact, the very same writer did a very similar piece more than a year ago. But in these days of sanctimonious hand-wringing about political patronage, it's nice to be reminded that the big shots in the private sector do the same thing.

In fact, I guess it's worth noting that there's an unacknowledged conflict of interest in the Trib's story about conflicts of interest. Note this passage:

According to the returns, the Downtown law firm of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick and Raspanti earned $348,616 in legal fees. William Pietragallo is a UPMC board member. The law firm paid $792,215 to UPMC for heath insurance.

Pietragallo said he filled out a conflict-of-interest form, as he has in past years.

"It reminds me of how much I pay for health insurance," he said.

UPMC isn't Pietragallo's only client, of course. Another of his clients -- as we here at City Paper know only too well -- is one Ritchie Scaife. That's right: The same Ritchie Scaife who is in a protracted divorce dispute with the Tribune-Review's publisher. That's the problem with these conflict-of-interest stories -- and I speak as somebody who's done a few. It's not that there are so few of these connections. It's that in a town like Pittsburgh, there are so many. 

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