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How do you handle a problem like Scott Perry? | Will Bunch Newsletter

On Jan. 6, Rep. Scott Perry was Trump’s man on Capitol Hill. Pa. needs to know more

Pamela Hunter from Cumberland County protesting Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), near his headquarters in Wormleysburg, Pa., Friday,  February 5, 2021.
Pamela Hunter from Cumberland County protesting Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), near his headquarters in Wormleysburg, Pa., Friday, February 5, 2021.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

The Phillies keep finding new and innovative ways to annoy me this season. This weekend, I drove five hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for a glorious, sun-soaked 24 hours in Pa.’s second city, marred only by watching my Phils lose to the Pirates in the 9th inning at PNC Park. Rays of hope and a missed tag — a 2021 metaphor, no?

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On Jan. 6, Rep. Scott Perry was Trump’s man on Capitol Hill. Pa. needs to know more

Give Anna Drallios and her allies in Harrisburg a little credit. Way back in our pre-pandemic, pre-insurrection world of early 2020, the members of the anti-Trump and anti-Sen. Pat Toomey “resistance” decided folks weren’t paying enough attention to their local back-bencher GOP congressman, Rep. Scott Perry.

So a small flock of them started protesting outside Perry’s Harrisburg-area district office over issues like expanding health care or protecting the environment or immigrant rights. The rallies they called “Fire Perry Fridays” eventually moved downtown after Drallios said participants were spooked by oddly swerving cars on a narrow sidewalk. They didn’t fire Perry — he beat back a high-profile challenge from the former state auditor general, Eugene DePasquale — and then, after the election the five-term Iraq War vet seemed to confirm the protesters’ worst fears.

“He is a puppet to GOP power and not working for his constituents,” said Drallios, a 67-year-old retired teacher and Greek immigrant. She was appalled when Perry didn’t just vote on January 6 not to certify President Biden’s seemingly uncontroversial win here in Pennsylvania but was revealed as a key ally of Donald Trump’s assault on the 2020 vote. “He worked to undermine the election that elected him! ...How hypocritical.”

Now, nearly seven months after the deadly insurrection on Capitol Hill, alarming new details are emerging about Perry’s close ties to Trump and the failed push to somehow overturn Biden’s clear-cut victory in the Electoral College. The House committee now investigating the January 6 insurrection has received notes from a top aide in the Justice Department just 10 days before the uprising in which the then-president told the acting attorney general and the aide that if prosecutors would just come out and declare that Biden’s election was corrupt, Trump — and his key congressional allieswould take care of the rest.

And who were Trump’s men in Congress? According to the notes, three names came up. Two were politicians with a national profile — Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson. The third was Perry (and there’s also a reference to a Pennsylvania senator believed to be state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a leading 2022 GOP contender for governor).

By now, Perry’s name as a leader in a drive to toss out a free and fair election shouldn’t be as surprising as it once would have been. We learned in January that Perry — who rarely speaks to the media — played a key role in Trump’s post-election maneuvers by introducing the then-POTUS to a mid-level Justice Department lawyer (from Philadelphia) named Jeffrey Clark, who then worked closely with Team Trump. Perry and Clark even discussed an unrealized plan for the Justice Department to probe voting in Georgia and alert GOP lawmakers there. Perry, of course, was one of 138 GOP House members who voted against certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.

» READ MORE: Scott Perry, it’s time to resign | Opinion

Perry’s activities or around January 6 have certainly roiled the 10th Congressional District that he’s represented since 2013. One progressive group has even erected a giant billboard on I-283 leading into Harrisburg depicting the congressman in front of the Capitol and a montage of the wackier insurrectionists reading, “We Deserve Better” and steering motorists to a website, Indeed, many Democrats and media outlets — including the Inquirer editorial board — have called for Perry to quit over his efforts to undo the election.

But Scott Perry isn’t resigning. In fact, Perry — frequently seen at fundamentalist churches or even the dirt track in York where voters in his heavily working-class district tend to congregate — will be tough to beat next year, even, or especially, if his Democratic challenger is again DePasquale, as some expect.

But there’s a bigger issue with Perry than whether he wins again next November. His reported actions — in working aggressively with both friends in the Justice Department and with Trump at a time when the results of a clean election were under attack, and as Trump was encouraging his supporters to criminally disrupt the Jan. 6 certification at the Capitol — call into question his very legitimacy to hold office. How can America move forward when so many of our elected leaders are on record as challenging a fundamental tenet of democracy?

The one thing that could help, dramatically, is more information. As tantalizing as the tidbits released so far about Perry’s involvement are, there’s still a lot we don’t know. Did he speak with Trump on Jan. 6, as Jordan, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and others did? Did he have any meaningful contacts with the insurrectionists?

There are several probes into that day’s events — an ongoing criminal investigation in the new and improved Justice Department, and the House panel that began last week with emotional testimony from police officers. It’s imperative that somebody get to the bottom of what role members of Congress played in the Jan. 6 events — including Scott Perry. Billboards on I-283 are cool, but 2022′s voters need all of the facts.

Yo, do this

  1. One of the best new podcasts of 2021 has the sadly pedestrian name of Now & Then, when — to borrow a mildly politically incorrect play title from the ‘70s — it could have been called “A Coupla History Chicks Sitting Around Talking.” The brilliant women here are two of today’s most popular historians — Yale’s Joanne Freeman (advisor to Hamilton!) and Boston College’s Heather Cox Richardson (writer of America’s top newsletter!) — and their shtick is talking about the historical roots of whatever’s in the news. Their take on “culture wars” veered into Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Gone with the Wind and other interesting detours. A compelling weekly journey.

  2. If you want to know where the political conversation is headed next, watch for the atom bombs of amazing journalism that get dropped every six months or so by The New Yorker’s great Jane Mayer. Her latest is one of her best yet, titled simply: “The Big Money Behind the Big Lie.” Rather than focus on the often fringe-y participants at the Capitol on January 6, Mayer digs into the millionaire and billionaire deep pockets funding the challenges to the 2020 election, and to democracy itself.

Ask me anything

Question: Will, is there any issue you view as more important than voting rights? — via Jones Murphy (@JonesMurphy) on Twitter

Answer: No, there isn’t. To elaborate, I had the unique experience of working in Alabama in the early 1980s, or less than a generation after enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Birmingham had its first Black mayor in Richard Arrington, and many rural counties with Black majorities had their first African-American county commissioners, making key decisions on matters like schools and economic development from which they’d so long been excluded. It was living proof that you can’t have real government without true democracy.

History lesson

Sunday was an epic anniversary event for anyone born in the second-half of the baby boom — 40 years since the launch of a cable TV network whose simple mission was right there in its name: Music Television, or MTV. The August 1, 1981, launch of MTV — with the all-too-appropriate pop-opera by The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star” — is now remembered in tandem with a Reagan-ite decade of ever-rising consumerism and of style rivaling substance, but the reality was more complicated. I started watching around the time I arrived in Birmingham (see above) in 1982, and in hair-band-heavy Alabama it was the only way to hear, let alone watch, avant-garde British New Wave bands who dominated the channel in the first couple of years. It was a mesmerizing cultural moment, and then it was over.

» READ MORE: Casey Kasem and the death of American mass culture

This week, the Philadelphia “adult alternative” station that’s popular with my generation, WXPN, has devoted the week to celebrating the MTV anniversary — for example, on Monday airing the first 100 songs that played on the channel. That’s cool, because you know who all but ignored the 40th birthday hoopla? MTV. The channel that ended the original format of music videos eons ago stuck with its lineup of goofball, Gen Z-targeted reality shows like a marathon of something called Ridiculousness that frankly I’m afraid to Google. I guess the poobahs at owner ViacomCBS thought even a couple hours of their father’s Duran Duran or Stray Cats would have sent 21-year-olds running from the flat screen, never to return. The odyssey from “I Want My MTV” to “OK, Boomer” is a sad but inevitable turn in the circle of life.

Inquirer reading list

  1. I really didn’t think I’d be writing anything about the Summer Olympics in Tokyo — and especially not women’s gymnastics. But that was before gold medalist and U.S. superstar Simone Biles decided to take the mental health break heard ‘round the world. I thought it tied into the some of the broader battles since COVID-19 over the future of work and the true meaning of happiness — so I wrote my Sunday column about this.

  2. It wasn’t as sexy as, say, the moon landing — but America should be making a much bigger deal about the fact that the government has worked to cut poverty in half during 2020-21, boosted by pandemic emergency aid but also a changing attitude toward social welfare. I wrote over the weekend that we need to keep this up, but that we should also ask ourselves, why we didn’t help our fellow citizens sooner?

  3. Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police, or FOP, is a major power player in this city, and with so many politicians in its orbit, the cop union requires an outside force like The Inquirer to keep an eye on them. The paper’s William Bender has been relentless in reporting on a horrific incident in which an off-duty officer who’d been drinking at the bar at the FOP lodge in Northeast Philadelphia slammed his car into a couple’s home, seriously injuring them and killing their two dogs. Bender pulled the couple’s new lawsuit and learned this isn’t the first time something like this has happened at the lodge. You want accountability in Philly? Then you want The Inquirer. Please consider subscribing today.