Senator Uses Public Money for Politics — So What?

All this hyperventilating over allegations that State Senator LeAnna Washington’s summer birthday bash included some surreptitious use of taxpayer resources for campaign fundraising is really a bit much…

Sure, she may have pressured her campaign staff into violating the “bright line” between public money and partisan politics—what of it? Campaign contributions were tallied and envelopes stuffed and stamped on the taxpayers’ dime? Nothing to see here.

What’s all this talk of 12 years in prison and other criminal penalties? Surely she could just offer to reimburse the state for any public expense incurred and all would be forgotten, right?

The history of Pennsylvania politicians using public funds for personal gain goes back decades. They’ve been at it so long—can’t we just ignore it by now?

Those must be the thoughts running through government union leaders’ heads upon the announcement of Sen. Washington’s public corruption charges.

Because when it comes to violating the integrity of public resources, her alleged misdeeds pale in comparison to the way government union leaders use their special legal carve out to fund their own political agendas.

Publically-funded payroll systems collect and bundle government union members’ dues and campaign contributions, then send them to union accounts on a daily basis in Pennsylvania. Physical checks are even printed, signed, and mailed using public funds—sound familiar, Sen. Washington?

In 2012, the line between public funds and partisan politics was violated by government unions with nearly $5 million in members’ dues spent on political activity and lobbying. Add to that nearly $4 million in government union PAC contributions given directly to political candidates.

That’s $9 million spent on politics, the vast majority collected using taxpayer resources. Sounds like cause for legitimate outrage—maybe even more than an ill-advised birthday fundraiser.

But government union leaders say they’ve offered to reimburse the state for any expense involved in automatic deduction. That makes it ok, right? Wrong.

Regardless of cost, 80 percent of union households agree that taxpayer resources should not be used to collect campaign contributions. Principles matter. Sen. Washington’s abuses will not be forgotten if she reimburses the state for her fundraiser expenses.

But, union bosses say, we’ve been doing it this way for years—why change things now? When is the last time decades of wrongs eventually made a right? By that logic, former House speaker John Perzel should never have been jailed for using public resources for politics. He was just another in long history of bad actors.

John Micek at PennLive puts his thoughts on the latest political corruption scandal rather emphatically (bolding in original), “It. Is. Illegal. For. You. To. Use. Taxpayer. Resources. For. Political. Purposes.”

Today, that applies to you, me, Sen. Washington and everyone in the state—except for government union bosses.

Shouldn’t the same principle apply to everyone equally?

Tell your legislators to take a highlighter to that “bright line” both union members and taxpayers agree on. Tell them to separate public resources from politics once and for all by passing paycheck protection.