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Loan still drawing groans for GOP Senate hopeful

WHEN YOU’RE worth more than $10 million, a $642,000 loan shouldn’t be much of a problem, especially if you back out of it before the check is cut. But Steve Welch, the Republican Party’s endorsed candidate in the April 24 primary election for the U.S. Senate nomination, is being dogged by a state loan he applied for in 2007 but didn’t take.

WHEN YOU'RE worth more than $10 million, a $642,000 loan shouldn't be much of a problem, especially if you back out of it before the check is cut.

But Steve Welch, the Republican Party's endorsed candidate in the April 24 primary election for the U.S. Senate nomination, is being dogged by a state loan he applied for in 2007 but didn't take.

Welch and his wife, Nicole, asked the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for $642,177 in November 2007, to move their company, Mitos Technologies, to a new facility in Montgomery County.

The request was withdrawn in June 2009, 18 months after then-Gov. Ed Rendell's office issued a news release announcing the loan's approval as part of $5 million in economic-growth funding.

A few things happened between the application being filed and withdrawn: Welch returned to the Republican Party after voting for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential primary and then ran for Congress, first in Delaware County's 7th District and then Chester County's 8th District. Welch dropped out of both races.

Welch sold the company and launched an investment-capital firm called Dreamit Ventures.

He dropped the bid for the state loan while running for Congress, making us wonder if he thought it would be a political liability for a Republican candidate to take Rendell's DCED cash.

Not so, says Peter Towey, Welch's campaign manager, who speculates that the candidate just got tired of the heavy load of state paperwork needed for the loan.

Welch yesterday told us he can't remember why he applied for and then rejected the loan.

He again put the responsibility for the loan on a company controller, a similar explanation to what he offered last week when primary foe David Christian, a Bucks County businessman, raised the issue during a debate.

We pointed out that Welch and his wife signed documents seeking the money. Welch again blamed the controller. "I had somebody that was working for me who was responsible for financing the project," he said.

During the debate, when government spending was frequently lambasted, Christian accused Welch of trying to avoid responsibility for seeking state money.

"He danced on that issue," Christian said. "He was looking for an escape route."

Welch and Christian face former coal-company owner Tom Smith, former state Rep. Sam Rohrer and Harrisburg lawyer Marc Scaringi in the primary.

So long, street money

President Obama, while seeking the nation's highest office in 2008, broke with one of this city's oldest political traditions: Spreading around "street money" used to pay for meals, transportation and other expenses for political party Election Day workers.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the city's Democratic chairman, vowed in 2008 to bring in the Obama bucks. Rendell told a Democratic fundraiser that year that street money was the "single most important thing you can do" to win a race in Philadelphia.

It didn't happen. And now it looks as if Obama will once again withhold the political tradition.

David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, this week vowed to run a "very strong and vigorous campaign" in Philadelphia and said he expected the street-money request.

"We may not always agree on the deployment of resources, but we certainly share a goal," Axelrod said of Brady.

Brady played the swing-state card when we asked about street money, noting Philadelphia's importance in Obama's winning Pennsylvania in the general election.

"We'll see what happens," Brady said. "They want to win Philadelphia. They will win Philadelphia. But how big do they want to win Philadelphia? They have to win big here to overcome other parts of the state."

3-1-1: The app war

The advent of 3-1-1, the city phone system meant to speedily convert complaints into city services, was viewed by many City Council members as a way for Mayor Nutter to take control of the constituent services that had long been their territory.

That tug-of-war now moves to the screen of your smartphone.

Councilman Bobby Henon is waiting for Apple to approve the iPhone "CityHall" app he created with about $7,500 in campaign funds (See editorial, Page 15).

The app, developed by Micah Mahjoubian, will allow residents to take pictures and submit them with complaints about trash, graffiti, potholes and other quality-of-life troubles. An Android app is in the works. Henon will donate them to the city.

He has the jump on the Nutter administration, as Managing Director Rich Negrin considers bids from two vendors for the 3-1-1 app. A winner should be selected soon, and the app, which will cost the city less than $20,000, will be live by the summer, Negrin hopes.

"I think we get a little too territorial in how we look at these things," Negrin told us, expressing concern about confusion with there being more than one app out there but enthusiasm for Henon's idea.

Negrin rejected the idea of just using Henon's app for 3-1-1, saying he wants "high functionality" that will allow for complaints to be processed quickly into city work orders and then reports.

That's more complicated than an iPhone app, Negrin added.

"Anyone can do that," he said.

— Staff writer Jan Ransom

contributed to this report

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