#PAGov: Obamacare Frenemy Allyson Schwartz Takes a Page From Karl Rove’s Playbook

Nobody from the Allyson Schwartz campaign wanted to give us a password for their Obamacare call with reporters today, obviously, probably because they don’t want to answer our questions about her record of standing with Republicans to undermine the cost control provisions in the law that big hospital corporations don’t like.

That’s politics for you, but anyway, the news out of the call was that Schwartz took a shot at Tom Wolf for supposedly being weak on Obamacare, or something. Actually, Wolf has been more supportive of Obamacare than Schwartz, and wants to go further than the law does in some areas, which is why he called it “a step in the right direction.”

For example, while the Schwartz campaign was being cagey about whether they’d leave Tom Corbett’s fake “private option” expansion in place rather than expanding the public option (they finally committed to undoing it when pressed), Tom Wolf was taking direct aim at the fake expansion:

Gov. Corbett’s Medicaid proposal gives money to private insurance companies at the expense of Pennsylvania families. Furthermore, after years of delay, Gov. Corbett’s proposal also requires approval and negotiation, needlessly delaying getting half-a-million working people covered.

We know that expanding Medicaid will increase health care coverage to nearly half-a-million Pennsylvanians, save the commonwealth millions of dollars and pump billions into the state’s economy.

We need to expand Medicaid, we cannot simply afford Gov. Corbett’s political games.

Expanding Medicaid is just the first step.

Wolf also wants to go further on issues like home care than I’ve heard any of the other candidates go. Unlike some politicians, he doesn’t think our parents and grandparents should be forced into nursing homes if they’d rather receive care at home – which is actually cheaper in many cases:

In addition to expanding Medicaid, I will work to control costs and increase transparency by creating a state insurance exchange and exploring the possibility of other health care reforms.

Once we make our insurance system more fair, then we have to improve long-neglected areas of our health care system like home health care for seniors.

Too many of our seniors are forced to move to nursing homes, often leaving homes they lived in their entire lives, because they can no longer fully care for themselves and their families lack the resources to provide care.

Read his health care platform. There’s absolutely nothing in there to suggest that Wolf is a half-hearted supporter of Obamacare, and in many cases he’s willing to go further than Schwartz.

So what’s going on here? I think this is a classic play from the Karl Rove playbook – hitting your opponent on an issue that you yourself are weak on.

Allyson Schwartz is one of Obamacare’s biggest frenemies in Congress. She’s worked to undermine key cost controls that special interests don’t like, at the same time as she stresses her support for the law overall.

This isn’t stuff that the average voter pays attention to, but it’s exactly the type of thing that high-information influentials and liberal activists are looking at when trying to differentiate between the candidates, and Schwartz is trying to throw them off the Third Way scent with this weird attack line. But don’t be confused – Allyson Schwartz is the weakest supporter of the Affordable Care Act, and if she’s in charge of implementing it, we’re likely getting one of the most conservative reform packages of any blue state.

Posted in Elections, Governor

CHART: Marjorie Margolies’ Burn Rate From Hell

Colleen’s got you covered on the details, but the visual is pretty striking.

Margolies Fundraising

Posted in US House

#PA13: Will fundraising woes be Margolies’ downfall?

bio-imageFrom the very beginning, Marjorie Margolies’ political comeback has been what most political pundits and writers have referred to as “non-traditional”. In fact, most would not have predicted a political comeback from the congressional veteran at all, but Margolies has completely defied those odds, becoming the perceived frontrunner in the race for her old seat in Washington. This perception is cursory and journalistically reckless, at best.

Early on, skeptics of the Margolies campaign pointed to her avoidance of public appearances and her lackluster and honestly weird debate performance at the one debate she agreed to attend. They also talked about her twenty year gap from public office, her husband’s fraud charges and their bankruptcy, or even some scandalous business practices she committed as the chair of Women’s Campaign International, an organization that advocates for women all over the world who wish to run for public office. These all would be fair details for skeptics to emphasize, but one should really examine the way Margolies’ campaign has been managed, especially from standpoint of finance.

Marjorie Margolies’ campaign is not gaining the fundraising momentum most would have expected, given her previous occupancy of the 13th congressional seat, and no one is more acutely aware than her staff. After failed attempts to understand what the campaign finance numbers meant for my analysis of each candidate in the 13th congressional race moving forward, I decided to be proactive and email Margolies’ campaign personally. When I asked a few basic questions about their fundraising, they weren’t amused. Here are the questions I asked in the email:

(1) What was your primary-eligible cash on hand as of March 30th?
(2) Did you classify any of your expenditures to-date as being for the general?
(3) How much did it cost to plan and execute the Clinton event?
(4) When did you pay for the Clinton event (food, beverages, facilities, staff, etc.)?
(5) It looks like Joe Trippi, DA Jones, and Linda August were not paid during the month of March. Have they been let go, or did they choose to defer their payments?

Their response?

“We do not find Keystone Politics to be a credible news organization nor this reporter to be a credible journalist on this topic as she has actively solicited campaign contributions for another candidate in the 13th congressional race.  Our campaign finance report speaks for itself,” said Ken Smukler, Margolies campaign spokesman.

I happen to agree that their finance reports speak volumes, but we’ll leave that aside for a moment.

Fair enough, Ken. A simple google search or a glimpse of my Linkedin account would indicate to anyone that I once interned for Senator Daylin Leach, one of the other candidates in the race – but a voluntary internship ten months ago cannot skew math.

Margolies declared her candidacy on May 30, 2013. During the first 32 days leading up to the 2013 Quarter 2 campaign finance report, the campaign raised $185,345 and spent $25,378, leaving a respectable $159,966.27 cash on hand. They spent an average $793.06 per day, if you do the math.

Then after that, things got a little crazy. In Quarter 3, Margolies raised $237,370, spent $207,279, leaving $190,056 cash on hand. that isn’t a huge increase in their bank for later in the campaign, which is what most experienced politicos would advise for a contentions primary like this, especially with such an expensive media market. What is more disconcerting is their average spendings during that quarter: $2,253.03 a day.

In Quarter 4, leading up to the end of the year, the campaign actually spent more money than what was coming in. $211,039 was raised, $227,228, leaving just $173,866 on hand, mere months before the May primary, with three other highly qualified candidates. Their average daily spending rose ever higher: $2,469.86 per day.

This most recent campaign finance filing, the 2014 Quarter 1 finance report, indicates that the Margolies campaign raised $211,178, spent more funds than came in again, $225,255, leaving them with $159,789 cash on hand. Of these funds, a fairly large percentage is locked down until after the primary election, in accordance with Federal Election Commission regulations. They spent an whopping average of $2,502.83 per day during this past quarter, a continued escalation of spending when the other three campaigns have been existing scarcely to gear up for GOTV.

Using the data from this past campaign finance filing, which is all that is publicly available, Margolies has the least amount of financial resources of any candidate in the race. A fundraiser with President Clinton was held about a week after this deadline, but with the fundraising lead that Daylin Leach, Val Arkoosh, and Brendan Boyle have over her, she would have had to raise over $400k from her Clinton fundraiser to have the same level of resources as Senator Leach, the current fundraising leader.

How many voters have the Margolies campaign staff actually made contact with, and how many supporters have they identified? Surely Margolies isn’t out every day canvassing herself. I hope with all this crazy spending, they’re talking to a lot of people, or their dozens of double-max donors are not going to be happy.

Posted in Miscellany

#NN14: Do you want Keystone Politics at Netroots Nation? VOTE NOW.

Click HERE to send me, Colleen Kennedy, to Detroit, Michigan in July! We’ll be sure to live blog as many events, seminars, and keynote speakers as possible, so that it will be like you’re there yourself.

I am currently ranked 10th in a scholarship contest sponsored by Democracy for America and Netroots Nation, and the top five candidates are sent to NN14, all expenses paid, to provide more access to readers abroad. There are only six votes between me and my next closest competitor.

Once you vote, please share this link on your social media networks. The other publications will be doing the same, so we need the competitive edge from our readers.

Posted in Miscellany

#HD164: Are you there, Margo? It’s me, Colleen. (Part II)

cb1485_47ee5737fb494bbbac4965fa1a0c6d32.jpg_srz_235_320_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzAre you there, Margo? It’s me, Colleen.
I’ve noticed pay equity has become part of your teachings, at campaign stops, on canvassing expeditions through neighborhoods, and at Democratic committee meetings. It doesn’t seem to be something you’ve been a real leader on before threats to your political position came along, but I am in admiration of your recent commitment to this important policy issue that has an impact on women across the Commonwealth.

My research through talking to other knowledgeable political analysts tells me that you were one of the incumbent politicians who recruited Former Representative Babette Josephs to challenge Representative Brian Sims’ current seat. Representative Sims has been leading the charge with Allegheny County State Representative Erin Molchany on the issue of pay equity, and a few weeks ago, they were even invited to the White House as President Obama announced an executive order mandating equal pay for all federal employees.

You probably weren’t thinking about pay equity when you sought to challenge Representative Sims’ political position – the audacity to support your primary challenger!

But you also probably weren’t thinking about pay equity more than a month ago anyway. It certainly doesn’t send the message to me that you want to collaborate with others to make pay equity a reality.

The National Organization for Women’s Pennsylvania chapter endorsed your male challenger, Billy Smith, even though you are a woman! The nerve.

This is what they said. “Pennsylvania NOW endorses the candidates we know will fight for the women of the Commonwealth every time.  In this race, that’s Billy Smith.”

Mom’s calling me for breakfast. We’ll talk later, Margo!

1147569_10200590892402913_215344128_o-Colleen Marie Kennedy
(girl who lives at the house with the blue door)

Posted in Civil Rights, Economy, Elections, Miscellany, State House, State Politics

#HD164: Are you there, Margo? It’s me, Colleen (Part I)

434710102_640Hi. Over here. In the 164th District. I’ve been here this whole entire time. I’m so lost and confused! Can you hear me?

As our thousands of readers know, the highly contested race in the 164th state legislative district of Pennsylvania has become a hot-button topic for all who discuss it, and I’m having a lot of trouble deciding where I belong.

Should I be for you, Representative Davidson, and be considered a loyalist by those who want a more progressive candidate that is representative of the “values of the district”?

Or should I support Billy Smith, and be part of a top secret agenda to serve the “old boys club” in Southeastern Pennsylvania politics? I’m going to have to have a deep internal, spiritual examination of my values. I hope your teachings can guide me… Continue reading

Posted in Budget, Civil Rights, Education, Elections, Greater Philadelphia, Miscellany, State House, State Politics

We Still Need Diversity in Higher Education—Not Because It’s Right, But Because the Economy Demands It

Today, the Supreme Court upheld an amendment to Michigan’s constitution that bans affirmative action in admissions to public universities. Now that states can decide for themselves whether to ban the use of race as a factor in admission to public institutions of higher education, it is crucial that proponents of affirmative action make a strong case as to why it is still necessary.

Affirmative action in higher education has long been controversial both in the courts and public opinion. On the one hand, universities and colleges across the country maintain that diversity is an important factor in attaining educational goals. On the other hand, the concept of a color-blind constitution advances our long-held tradition of meritocracy.

But today’s 21st century economic and social realities make the case, now more than ever, that affirmative action programs still have a crucial role to play in the American higher education system.

America is experiencing the greatest demographic shift in our nation’s history. Minorities made up 50.4 percent of U.S. births in the 12-month period ending July 2011. As a result, by 2028—the year in which these children will reach college age—over half of all children will be Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, or multiracial.

That means that the majority of the next generation of our work force will be racial or ethnic minorities.

If America is going to continue to compete in the global marketplace, it is crucial that this next generation of workers be educated.

Data collected from 1990 to 2009 suggests that affirmative action programs have led to universal rates of improvement in enrollment in higher education; however the rates among whites, African Americans, and Hispanics have been uneven.

The college enrollment rate for whites has risen from 32 percent in 1990 to 46 percent in 2009. African Americans made smaller gains, from 23 percent to 35 percent. The rate for Hispanics has greatly risen from 16 percent to 29 percent, although Hispanics still lag behind African Americans and Whites.

But with people of color making up the majority of the next generation of workers, we have work to do to maintain America’s competitive edge. We cannot afford to have an under-educated workforce at a time when our international competitors are catching up with us.

Not surprisingly, the business community agrees.

According to a Forbes survey of 321 executives at enterprises with $500 million-plus in annual revenues, 85% of the executives who responded agreed that “a diverse and inclusive workforce is necessary to drive innovation and promote creativity.”

In a brief written to the Supreme Court on behalf of 65 Fortune 500 companies including Coca-Cola, General Electric, and Intel, the companies agreed that “today’s global marketplace and the increasing diversity in the American population demand the cross-cultural experience and understanding” gained from and educational environment where undergraduates “are exposed to diverse people, ideas, perspectives and interactions.”

From a business perspective, affirmative action isn’t about righting societal wrongs or giving people a fair chance—it’s about increasing profits and being able to innovate in a changing global economy.

But affirmative action in higher education also has advantages for the students themselves. In fact, scientific studies show that diversity in higher education leads to increased educational benefits across all races.

For example, in a study analyzing data recorded over a four year period from nearly 20,000 students of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds at 227 institutions, scientists found that students who engaged in high levels of cross-racial interaction in college reported significantly larger gains than their counterparts in their critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, general knowledge, and intellectual and social self-confidence.

In the coming years, our nation will be in the middle of the most drastic demographic change that we have ever faced. At the same time, ever-increasing globalization and industrialization will continue to morph the 21st century economy.

We can meet this challenge. An emphasis on greater diversity in higher education will result in a larger participation rate by America’s next generation of workers, will benefit the educational experience of all races, and will fuel a business climate of innovation, connection, and creativity.

Posted in Education, Issues, National Politics

#PAGov: Obamacare Frenemy Allyson Schwartz Running on Obamacare Now

(Cross-posted from Primary Colors)

We like that Allyson Schwartz isn’t backing down from Obamacare just because of the rock roll-out like some other Democrats are, but many of the national and local media outlets have been weirdly silent on how much of an Obamacare frenemy Congresswoman Schwartz has been.

Health care policy is really where the Third Way/New Democrat rubber meets the road for the Congresswoman. And though she recently dissolved her affiliations with Third Way and the New Democrat coalition during the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania Governor, there is a reason she once supported those groups, and health care is really where the New Democrat rubber met the road.

Typically how a New Democrat differs from a good Democrat is that, while both generally vote the same way on the biggest, most visible issues, a New Democrat will look for ways to sell out progressives on less visible issues, taking positions that appeal to special interests and donors when the base isn’t looking.

So for instance, there are a lot of medical device makers in southeastern Pennsylvania who hate Obamacare’s medical device tax.

The logic of including the tax in the law was pretty clear – all those newly-insured people are going to create new demand for medical devices, and device makers are going to get some windfall profits. So Obamacare grabs some of those windfall profits back to pay for the coverage expansion.

So being a New Democrat, Congresswoman Schwartz saw an opportunity to deliver a policy win for some special interests on a low-profile issue that liberals weren’t paying much attention to, and she co-sponsored a House Republican bill to repeal the tax.

Congresswoman Schwartz was also one of the only Democrats to join a Republican effort to kill the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) – a boring-sounding but important piece of Obamacare.

Basically every year the health care wonks at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) makes a bunch of recommendations for cost-saving payment reforms, changing the way the public insurers pay doctors and hospitals, and every year Congress ignores those recommendations, largely due to lobbying from doctors and hospitals who don’t want to be paid less money.

But Americans pay about double for the same medical treatments that citizens of other rich countries pay, for no good reason. We don’t even get better health outcomes for it. The prices are so high because the hospitals are so much larger and more concentrated than the insurers, giving them more power to set prices, and Medicare and Medicaid aren’t even allowed to try to negotiate down prices. They have to pay what the medical industrial complex says they have to pay.

So IPAB was created as a backstop, as one of the only actual cost-control sticks in all Obamacare. In the event that health care costs grew too fast, some of these payment reforms would start kicking in automatically. And if members of Congress wanted to stop any of them, they would have to propose alternative and equivalent savings.

Republicans hate this idea because they want to dismantle Medicare, not use Medicare as a means to control costs. They think that if Obamacare’s cost controls don’t work, it’ll make it more likely that we end up with something like Paul Ryan’s vouchercare. Instead of controlling costs by cutting payments to doctors and hospitals, we’d control costs by cutting benefits to people using public insurance.

Under pressure, Allyson Schwartz eventually backed off the Republicans’ IPAB bill, but the moment was pretty instructive. When Congresswoman Schwartz thinks liberals are watching, she votes with the team. When she doesn’t think they’re watching, she votes with the special interests.

When Republican Governor Tom Corbett rolled out his “private option” non-Medicaid non-expansion plan came out last year, a Schwartz staffer bragged to me on background that Schwartz had been careful not to rule out leaving in place the fake Medicaid expansion plan, as evidence of how bi-partisan and open-minded to Republican ideas she was. A few weeks later when I pressed the campaign for an official position on the “private option,” I got confirmation that Schwartz did not intend to leave CorbettCare remnants in place and would accept the real Medicaid expansion.

That’s nice, but the episode just confirmed my instinct that Congresswoman Schwartz’s Third Way modus operandi is to pull a fast one on liberals whenever she thinks she can get away with it, and then change her position if people raise a fuss.

Her primary score captures this well. In an uber-safe D+13 district, Congresswoman Schwartz only votes with progressives 82.9% of the time. Remember – no Republican holds anything above a D+5 so there is basically zero risk of the seat changing parties. Meanwhile, up in PA-17, freshman Congressman Matt Cartwright is voting with progressives 92% of the time in a D+4. Schwartz could easily get away with voting like that. Why hasn’t she?

Pennsylvania has become a pretty solidly blue state at the state level, 2010 being a major exception, and the Governor has a lot of power to implement many Obamacare provisions at the Executive branch level. There’s no question that Schwartz knows her way around health care policy issues, but the flip-side of that is that putting her in charge of Obamacare implementation is extra dangerous if liberals don’t have the attention span to watch her every move.

The chances seem good that under Governor Schwartz, Pennsylvania would end up with one of the reddest health care reform efforts of any blue state.

Posted in Miscellany

This week on #TheStump – Josh Maxwell and Josh Young

As you may have read last week, we have initiated a new feature here at Keystone Politics, and we call it The Stump.

Instead of allowing opposing candidates to remain in their own little bubble during the campaign, we’re going to challenge them to state publicly and in writing why they deserve to be elected. We’ll post submissions from opposing candidates at the same time, and then the Keystone Politics contributors, along with any readers who would like to submit their thoughts, will get to tell us who had the best stump speech on The Stump.

Candidates will have up to 1000 words to say what they need to say, and we will not edit a single word. They can even use some of their time (if they wish) to call out any coverage we or other publication have had on their race that they believe to be unfair, inaccurate, or biased. None of it will be edited.


This past Friday, we had a test run, using the 164th state legislative district as a guinea pig. Representative Margo Davidson declined the opportunity, despite our giving her this chance to rip apart my many articles about her voting record, but Billy Smith and Dafan Zhang, her two challengers in the May Democratic primary, sent in submissions.

Click HERE for Billy Smith’s submission to The Stump.
Click HERE for Dafan Zhang’s submission to The Stump.

If you have comments about Smith’s or Zhang’s submissions, be sure to comment or shoot me a tweet with the hashtag #TheStump. My handle is @ckennedy124.

JoshMaxwell2013 1653434_10151906218136962_1474666466_n

On Friday, we’ll have submissions from Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell and Caln Township Commissioner Josh Young. They are running for state representative in the newly drawn 74th district, and I am hoping that they’ll both discuss PASSHE secession, an issue broken by Raging Chicken Press’s Sean Kitchen and a very contentious issue within this particular race.

If you have questions for Young or Maxwell, be sure to tweet them to me, again with the hashtag #TheStump. We’ll try to get these questions to the two candidates before they submit their pieces, and we’ll provide an opportunity to answer questions after if it is needed.


Posted in Miscellany

These Are Pennsylvania’s Emptiest Areas

Idiots sometimes wonder why, if so much land area of Pennsylvania is Republican, why do Republicans have so much trouble winning statewide elections.

The answer is that big swaths of central PA are actually empty. Here’s a cool map that shows the Census tracts where nobody lives. Most are in the western US, but here’s a big dark splotch in Pennsylvania:

Screen shot 2014-04-21 at 4.51.59 PM


Pennsylvania is an urban state. Three times more people live in urbanized municipalities (which include low density suburbs) than live in rural areas.

Some people think the choice to live in places where nobody lives is some noble activity that should be subsidized. Some other people would like to see this empty land get developed and get subsidized broadband and stuff. Some people think agriculture is a very large economic sector in Pennsylvania deserving of special subsidies.

They are wrong, and this budget season, they need to lose.

Posted in Budget, Economy