Corey O'Connor | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 7:15 PM

In a post about campaign contributions I made last week, I noted that Corey O'Connor, who is running for the city council seat once held by his father, had received $500 from Family PAC. As I noted at the time, Family PAC typically supports pro-life causes -- a fact that raised flags over at 2politicaljunkies.

The site noted that, while a woman's right to choose is not typically the sort of thing local officials decide (and let's thank God for that), the protection of women's clinics often is left in their hands.

O'Connor's rival, Chris Zurawsky, is an unabashed supporter of abortion rights. Accordingly, he's receieved the stamp of approval from a political committee affliated with Planned Parenthood, as well as the Gertrude Stein Political Club, which considers abortion rights in deciding who to endorse.

So where's O'Connor on this issue? Our very own Chris Young asked him that question awhile back. It seems safe to say that O'Connor was not as enthusiastic about the issue as Zurawsky is. But O'Connor did respond that if elected to council, "I would support the bubble-zone" -- a reference to a protester-free area that is maintained around the entrance to family-planning cliincs. O'Connor later added that he didn't think local elected officials "should make a decision on someone's personal life and how they want to choose."

So if it helps you to choose between these candidates ... this is where the candidates say they stand on choice.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Posted By on Fri, May 6, 2011 at 5:36 PM

All right -- this is a partial breakdown of contributions in some of the key races on the ballot this May.The reports aren't all in yet, but I'm posting this now, because of some interesting developments. (Hint: Pro-choice advocates might want to skip down to city council district 5. And fans of "The Network" should check out the entry for Vince Pallus in district 1, and Jeff Koch in district 3.)

We'll update this page before day's end, so come back before bedtime -- and make sure to clear your cache before reloading the page, so you can see changes. 

UPDATE (May 7):  OK, I've done as much as I'm going to do here. What follows is reports concerning city council races only. County exec and county controller races will have to wait until another day, assuming our colleagues at the dailies haven't rendered the whole thing moot by then.

Let's start with a bit of breaking news related to a story we've been following since yesterday: complaints about whether district 3 city councilor Bruce Kraus has violated the campaign-finance regulations he's touted in his own campaign. As you'll see below, today's filings offer more ammunition for those complaints, and late this afternoon, the campaign of Jeff Koch just sent out this release:

Jeff Koch filed an ethics comlaint against Councilman Bruce Kraus with the city of Pittsburgh for his blatent violations of his own campaign finance reform.

"Bruce Kraus is a hypocrite who refuses to follow his own laws. How can we trust him with the welfare of the city of Pittsburgh when he cannot follow the very laws that he wrote and is subject to? It’s deceptive, hypocritical and reveals a dangerous proclivity to say one thing, do another and violate the law for his own benefit."

Mr. Koch is considering all possible avenues in an attempt to address this matter. He is filing his ethically sound financial disclosure reports to the Allegheny County Board of Elections by today’s deadline.

In other action ...

City Council District 1

Incumbent Darlene Harris has racked up an impressive $52,540 so far this year -- although she's spent less than half of it so far. 

Harris' support comes from a diverse array of sources -- no doubt reflecting both her status as council president, and her allegience with progressives in the council majority. In addition to labor groups who have long supported her, she has the backing of groups like the Sierra Club (who gave $200), fellow council Bill Peduto's committee ($1,000), and the elction committee for Rich Fitzgerald ($1,000).

But unions were her heaviest supporters, and she has three contributors who gave $4,000 -- the maximum allowed by even the most generous reading of the city's campaign finance law. Local 66 PAC Club gave that amount, as did IBEW Local Union 5; "Moderate Americans," a PAC supported by executives with the Academy System, a program for juvenile offenders.

She's also got a nice little sidelight in picking up cash from folks on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's enemies list. Former public works director Guy Costa kicked in $250; ousted operations chief Art Victor gave $100. F. Dok Harris, who ran against Ravenstahl for mayor in 2009, gave her $1,000 -- his father, Hall of Famer Franco Harris, gave $500. 

Ravenstahl's own horse in the race, Vince Pallus, has pulled in more than $26,000 -- half of Harris' total, but very respectable for a first-time candidate. The mayor's own PAC, Ravenstahl for Mayor, contributed $2,000 to Pallus; the mayor's brother, state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, gave $250. 

But the news here is that "The Network" -- which has already come out swinging for Ricky Burgess -- is backing Pallus too. Once, bloggers could only guess at the influence of political powerbrokers like John Verbanac, whose name almsost never appeared in campaign-finance reports. Now, the numbers are out there for all to see. Verbanac has contributed $500 to Pallus; Verbanac's fellow Summa Development head Charles Zappala has contributed $1,000, while another purported Network member, William Lieberman, has kicked in an additional $500. 

Not sure Rich Lord's story on the Network is gonna win a Golden Quill next week -- though it is up for one. But he may have flushed these guys into the open, after years of playing a much quieter role.

Harris rival Bobby Wilson, a dark horse in the race, has raised $2,400 -- $500 of which was in contributions of $50 or less. Wilson's biggest contributor was a PAC affiliated with the Teamsters. 

Steven Oberst appears not to have filed a report. 

City Council District 3 

Incumbent Bruce Kraus can expect more headaches in light of his campaign-finance filing today. He raised more than $46,000 this year, adding to a nearly $35,000 war chest. But at least two of those contributions will raise the same questions rival Jeff Koch is making hay out of. 

Prominent local beer distributor Frank Fuhrer gave $2,000 to Kraus on Feb. 25. Since the city's legal limit on contributions is $1,000 per "covered election," Kraus will presumably pledge to save half of that donation until the general election (assuming he wins, of course). It's also probably safe to assume that Koch will not be mollified by that pledge. Kraus also recieved a $1,500 from one Dawn Lorincy in March.

Other than that, Kraus raised money from a bevy of unions and progressive types, including Jana Finder of CeaseFire PA -- a gun-control adovcacy group who supported Kraus' work on a "lost-and-stolen firearms" bill. Former mayoral contender Kevin Acklin was also good for $1,000.

As for Jeff Koch himself, he raised $21,858 -- a surprisingly high percentage of which ($3,573) was in contributions of $50 or less.  Among his biggest supporters is ... the campaign committee for Mayor Ravenstahl, which has loaned him $2,000. Also on the list -- surprise, surprise -- are reputed Network members Charles Zappala ($1,000) and William Lieberman ($500). Nice to see everyone laying their cards down. (Although no love from Verbanac? What gives?) Damien Soffer, whose company developed the SouthSideWorks site, donated $1,000.

In response to rumors (see the comments section) that he was the "bar scene" candidate, Gavin Robb told City Paper that he received "zero dollars in campaign contributions from any bar owner" in the South Side. While we can't vouch for the identity of every bar owner along Carson Street, Robb's claim appears true. Of the $14,625 he raised between January and May 2, Robb's biggest contributor was himself -- he loaned $5,000 to his campaign. He also received $500 from a PAC affiliated with Tucker Arensberg, where Robb works. 

Much of Robb's other support comes from Beaver County, where he originally hails from.

Similarly, of the $2,000 Jason Phillips raised in the first part of 2011, $785 was contributed from Phillips himself. Another $500 was from Phyllis Lee, who apparently supplemented that gift with a $500 loan. The rest of Phillips' contributions were small-dollar gifts, though he did receive an estimated $1,000 worth of graphic design support from an employee at Copies at Carson, a South Side printer.

City council district 5

Corey O'Connor raised just under $33,000 this year -- not an earth-shattering total, but thanks largely to the political inheritance of his father, he came into the year with more than $127,500 -- and still has more than $100,000 left. His biggest contributors are union PACs -- Steamfitters #449 gave him $2,000, for example. O'Connor's boss, Congressman Mike Doyle, helped his protege out with a $1,000 PAC contribution. 

But progressives take note: O'Connor has also received $500 from Family PAC. That PAC, operated by the Donahue family (of Federated Investors fame), typically backs pro-life candidates. Family PAC also supported Republicans Tim Murphy and Heather Heidelbaugh so far this year. And it contributed $1,000 to the Susan B. Anthony List, which seeks to elect pro-life women around the country. 

I have yet to see a report from O'Connor's rival, Chris Zurawsky.

City council district 7

Tony Ceoffe Jr. raised more than $12,000 for his campaign this year. Not surprisingly, his backers include state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl -- brother of the mayor, who gave $200 -- and at least one family member who gave $200. (Correction: The contribution was in the name of Tony Ceoffe; we reported that the contributor was Ceoffe's father. Tony the Elder, however, says the money did not come from him, but may have come from his father -- who is also named Tony. Another Ceoffe, Michael, gave $500.) Leonard Bodack, who held the council seat until incumbent Patrick Dowdbeat him in 2007, gave Ceoffe Jr. $100.

Large-dollar gifts came from the Western Pennsylvania Laborers ($2,000), the 6th ward Democratic Committee ($1,000) and the WUF Political Action Committee.

Incumbent Patrick Dowd reported moer than $53,000 in contributions -- though he'd previously reported some of the early contributions on his 2010 annual report. Among them is a $2,000 donation from Daniel Booker previously discussed.) Like Kraus, his latest filing includes additional contributions that would run afoul of Jeff Koch's reading of the city's campaign-finance ordinance. An April 17 contribution from Deborah Duff Booker -- same address as Daniel -- was also worth $2,000, half of which Dowd is earmarking for the general election.

Otherwise, Dowd is drawing from healthy union support, led by a $2,000 contribution from the Boilermakers. He also has $1,000 from William Benter. That contribution may be significant because it's so small -- Benter, who backs progressive local politicians, once gave $50,000 to Bill Peduto. He can't do that sort of thing anymore ... something worth thinking about if you're tempted to say the campaign finance rules have already been rendered meanignless.

City council district 9

Lucille Prater-Holliday, one of two challengers attempting to unseat incumbent Ricky Burgess, reaped just under $11,200 in contributions. Prater-Holliday has long been the choice of progressive activists, a fact reflected by her $1,300 donation from Progress Pittsburgh (good to see those folks back in the fray, btw), as well as $300 from the Sierra Club, and $1,000 from an SEIU PAC. Prater-Holliday also got support from individual changemakers like Joy Sabl and Daniel Jimenez

The other challenger in that race, Phyllis Copeland-Mitchell, has garnered $6,270 in contributions. Copeland-Mitchell's reports are a little sloppy and incomplete -- they do not list all the necessary information for individual contributors who gave more than $250. But her supporters include Franco Harris ($500), and his son, Dok ($250). Copeland-Mitchell's biggest supporter is herself -- she's contributed $1,880 to her campaign. But she also has the backing of black political stalwarts including Louis "Hop" Kendrick and Jacque Fielder, who has been a Copeland-Mitchell champion from the outset. 

As for Burgess himself, as of May 7, the county seems to not have a report for the second Friday pre-election. On the other hand, even if Burgess didn't file a report yesterday, he did file an earlier statement -- one that candidates for local office aren't generally required to produce. We discussed that report here


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Hey, a special offer from Slag Heap Central here. It's not as good as the freebies you can sometimes get from That's Church, I admit. But I'm hoping that if you care about the future of this city, it'll be an offer you can't refuse. 

This weekend, City Paper is joining with Democratic committee leaders from Shadyside and Squirrel Hill to help moderate a political form. 

The event is running this Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. -- meaning it will actually take slightly less time than the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. The location? The auditorium of Winchester Thurston School, at 555 Morewood Ave. (Use the Ellsworth Avenue entrance.)

Candidates expected to appear include those running for:

  • City Council District 5
  • City Council District 9
  • County executive
  • County controller
  • County treasurer

... plus some county council aspirants and judicial candidates. Among the contestants we hope to hear from are those seeking to the local magistrate post in district 05-2-35. That's where City Councilor Doug Shields is going toe-to-toe with Hugh McGough and Dan Butler.

(See the flier here.)

The goal here is to minimize the political pabulum and get right to the issues that matter. As Shadyside Democratic Chair Jeanne Clark puts it, the motto here is "no stump speeches -- just straight answers."

As for the questions? That's where you come in.

In addition to taking questions from the floor, we're also soliciting suggestions online ... starting right now. 

Want to ask Rich Fitzgerald how he justifies his favorable stance on Marcellus Shale drilling? Let me know. Confused about whether Mark Patrick Flaherty has a stance on Marcellus Shale drilling? Hit me up. Ask Shields to explain the hearsay rule, or demand to know whose side Corey O'Connor is really on.

Questions can be submitted in the comments section of this blog post, hitting us up at our Twitter account, or by sending me an email.

I and the other moderators will blend these in with questions from the audience, and we'll use as many as we can. 

If you miss the event, the Shadyside Democrats will be posting video of it online at their web site. For those of you who don't have 4-plus hours of your life to spare watching online video, either ... I'll be posting highlights of the transcripts in a future post. 

Put simply: It couldn't be easier for you to participate in the political dialogue. You can take part in a political debate without canceling your Saturday-night plans. You can ask questions of future leaders -- and get the answers -- without ever putting on a pair of pants. And that, my friend, is what America is all about.

The lines are open. Let me hear from you. 


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Posted By on Thu, Feb 3, 2011 at 8:01 PM

A short time ago, I received the list of local candidates seeking the Democratic Party's endorsement in this year's May primary. Those letters were due today, and based on the response, this should be an interesting election season. Some Pittsburgh voters may well be treated (if that's the right word) to three- or even four-way races. But city council district 5 -- where chaos seemed to be in the offing -- is apparently not among them. 

In District 1, incumbent Darlene Harris, who just formally announced her re-election bid today, will face two opponents: Vincent T. Pallus, of Brighton Heights, and Bobby Wilson of Spring Hill. 

District 9 city councilor Ricky Burgess also faces two rivals for the party's backing. One, we've already written about: Lucille Prater-Holliday. The other is Phyllis Copeland-Mitchell, who we're told has the backing of Jacque Fielder, the chair of Ward 12.

And what of District 5, where a donnybrook was shaping up between incumbent Doug Shields and Corey O'Connor, the son of Shields' former boss? Not going to happen, apparently.

O'Connor is seeking the party's endorsement, as is Chris Zurawsky, the head of the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club, who has previously made his intentions clear. But Shields will indeed be running for a district justice seat, as he intended all along.

It seems, however, that Shields is in for a three-way contest anyway: Also seeking the party's nod for magesterial district 5-2-35 is Hugh McGough -- known to faithful readers in his role as solicitor to the city's police review board and a member of the county's Human Relations Commission -- and Squirrel Hill attorney Dan Butler.

Other city races present fewer surprises. Michael Lamb's bid for the party's city controller endorsement will apparently be uncontested. In district 3, Bruce Kraus is facing three opponents, but as reported here yesterday, only one -- former councilor Jeff Koch -- is seeking the party nod. 

For District 7 incumbent Patrick Dowd, the picture remains unchanged: Both Tony Ceoffe Jr., son of district magistrate and longtime Lawrenceville United head Tony Ceoffe, and artist David Calfo are seeking the endorsement.  

In the city school district, there appears to be only one contested school-board race. District 8's Mark Brentley -- always a lightning rod -- faces a challenge from Doris Lewis, of the Mexican War Streets.

On the county level, only one development may come as any real surprise: The county controller's seat -- which is being vacated by county executive candidate Mark Patrick Flaherty -- is being sought by four Democrats.

Three of the candidates had already expressed interest: current state Rep. Chelsa Wagner, longtime county real-estate office manager Valerie McDonald Roberts, and former clerk of courts George Matta. But a fourth entrant has also joined the fray: veteran activist Joni Rabinowitz, who for many years headed up Just Harvest, a local advocacy group for the poor.

At the top of the fight card, the county executive race, only Flaherty and Rich Fitzgerald, the county council president who formally launched his own candidacy last week, are seeking the party nod. 

To the surprise of no one, Stephen Zappala is the only guy seeking an endoresment in the District Attorney's race.

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee will hold its endorsement meeting March 6, after which some disappointed office-seekers may well drop out. Check back here for more details about these candidates as they come in. 

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