Shades of Orie Melvin in State Supreme Court Race

Shades of Orie Melvin
in State Supreme Court Race

Public Resources Used for Campaign Politics

October 27, 2015, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Government union leaders are free to back their preferred judges for spots on the state Supreme Court—but should they use public resources to help them?

Ahead of elections next week, government unions have pumped more than $280,000 into the state Supreme Court race, according to the latest state campaign finance reports. That includes money collected from the paychecks of state workers and school teachers—using government payroll systems—then given to candidates.

That’s ironic, given a Supreme Court judge was criminally convicted for mixing public resources and politics just two years ago.

“Have we already forgotten former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, now a convicted felon for her involvement in using public resources to aid her election campaign?” commented Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. “How is it fair that we give government union leaders a pass for engaging in activity called ‘theft of services’ and ‘misapplication of government property’ if committed by a lawmaker or judge?”

Currently, government unions—and only government unions—can tap public resources to collect money specifically earmarked for politics. They haven’t been shy about using this legal loophole: In the last election, 10 government unions gave a total of $10 million in campaign money with taxpayers’ help.

That’s why legislation called paycheck protection, which passed the state Senate on Oct. 14, is an urgent government reform. This bill would end the government collection of union political money while allowing 100 percent of the money used to represent union members to still be collected. Government unions could continue to raise and spend money on politics. They would simply have to collect that money like everyone else—without using public resources.

“The Supreme Court race brings to light another example of special interests receiving special favors,” continued Brouillette. “Nearly 70 percent of Pennsylvania voters support requiring government unions to collect their own political money. For the sake of equal treatment, transparency, and basic ethics in government, the time for paycheck protection is now.”

Matthew Brouillette is available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 to schedule an interview.

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The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.