Despite more than two dozen recent indictments alleging corruption reaching the top ranks of the state legislature, the political class in Harrisburg still can't control itself.
Take the pet projects slipped into the latest effort to expand gambling in Pennsylvania — Gov. Rendell's special baby come full term.
Under the proposal, select hospitals, libraries, and medical schools with ties to key lawmakers will get dedicated funding from the casinos. Other hospitals, libraries and schools in need of funding will have to get better connections in Harrisburg.
Here's just a couple of the lucky winners: Lower Bucks Hospital stands to get a slice of casino revenue thanks to a provision by State Sen. Robert "Tommy" Tomlinson (R., Bucks) who until recently was on the hospital's board. What a coincidence.
The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton will receive revenue from a slots parlor in the Poconos. This hookup was done courtesy of Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Mellow (D., Lackawanna). The slots joint was built by Mellow's pal Louis DeNaples, a trustee at the medical college. Nice work, fellas.
The anointed institutions give new meaning to the slogan: You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania.
While the institutions may do good work, a specific organization shouldn't be signaled out just because it has a sugar daddy in Harrisburg.
If there is going to be more gambling, the tax revenue should go into the general fund and spread evenly. Funding specific institutions further undermines the already dubious legitimacy of the gambling law.
(Recall that two slots license holders are convicted felons; many license holders are big donors to Rendell and other lawmakers; a revolving door of state gaming board officials have gone to work for casino interests; and the state Supreme Court rubber-stamps most legal issues backing lawmakers and gaming interests.)
Ironically, the measure that includes the pet funding projects began as an attempt to reform the flawed gaming law passed in the dark of night in 2004. From there, it morphed into a bill that will transform slots parlors into full-blown casinos, like in Atlantic City. It has yet to pass, even though it's part of a budget deal due six months ago.
The sponsor of the legislation that expands gaming is former House Speaker Bill DeWeese, (D. Greene), who was recently indicted on separate corruption charges. That seems about right, since the entire gaming process in Pennsylvania has been pretty much corrupted from the start.