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Clout: Al Schmidt picked a great time to announce commission race

PHILLYCLOUT doesn't usually issue orders but today we make an exception: Al Schmidt should go buy some lottery tickets while his lucky streak lasts.

Radio talker Don Imus
Radio talker Don ImusRead more

PHILLYCLOUT doesn't usually issue orders but today we make an exception:

Al Schmidt

should go buy some lottery tickets while his lucky streak lasts.

Schmidt, the Republican candidate for city controller last year and recently a senior adviser to the state GOP, spent weeks using public-records requests to collect faxes that he says demonstrate a "culture of corruption" in Philadelphia politics. He distributed the documents yesterday as he announced his candidacy in the May primary election for the Philadelphia City Commission.

And what a week the City Commission has had. First, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics announced that Deputy City Commissioner Renee Tartaglione Matos resigned last month after admitting that she had violated the city charter ban on political activity. Then her mother, Commission Chairwoman Marge Tartaglione, threatened to jump over a conference-room table and punch a Philadelphia Weekly reporter who asked about the resignation.

Schmidt uses the headers printed on the documents from the fax where they originate to show that local elected officials - holding city, state and federal posts - use their offices and equipment to coordinate the efforts of Election Day workers. His examples included Democrats and Republicans.

The very first page came from the district office of U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee, before the May primary election.

Stanley White, Brady's chief of staff, said a staffer inadvertently sent the fax and was then told that she should not do it again.

Schmidt expected such explanations but said the pattern of the practices shows the real problem.

"This is just the first chapter of this book," Schmidt said as reporters leafed through the documents. "There's going to be a lot more where this came from. And we're going to walk through it every step of the way."

Torsella: U.N. job no payback

Joe Torsella dropped his bid for the U.S. Senate last year after just three months when U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, at the urging of Gov. Rendell and President Obama, switched from Republican to Democrat.

Obama last month nominated Torsella for a top job at the United Nations after Rendell put in a good word for his former aide.

Torsella yesterday told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there was "absolutely no connection" between those two events, adding that nobody asked him to drop his Senate bid.

"No one offered me or hinted at the offer of anything to do so, nor did I ask anyone for anything to do it," Torsella testified. "I just did it because for me and my family it was the right thing to do. The only deal I made to get out of that Senate race was with my wife. And it was a good one."

Torsella, who was a deputy mayor in Rendell's City Hall days and has been chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Education since 2008, is up for the post of U.S. representative for U.N. management and reform. That comes with the rank of ambassador.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Foreign Relations Committee member, praised Torsella yesterday and then read a letter from former President George H.W. Bush about the appointment.

"As a former ambassador to the United Nations, I could not be more confident in Joe's qualifications for this job," Bush wrote about Torsella. "I would have been proud to have had him on my team. He is a man of character and principle and will represent our country well."

Five for 185th special election?

The race to replace the late state Rep. Robert Donatucci may mean a crowded special election, scheduled for Feb. 1. The 30-year state House veteran died last month of complications due to sleep apnea. He was 58.

His widow, Maria Donatucci, was unanimously endorsed Tuesday by Democratic ward leaders from the city who represent the 185th District, which stretches from Broad Street and Passyunk Avenue in South Philly southeast to Darby Township in Delaware County. The state party just has to sign off on her candidacy.

Robert Donatucci was re-elected by a 5-to-1 ratio a week before his death to another term.

Republicans this week nominated community activist Lewis Harris. Harris ran for the Philadelphia City Commission on the Green Party line in 2007 and for the state House 197th District in 2004 as a Republican.

Harris may be best known in politics as the landlord who provoked anger from supporters of Mayor Street in 2003 for renting space in his North Philly non-profit to Republican Sam Katz. After a dust-up in front of that office, a bottle that may or may not have been a Molotov cocktail was chucked through the window but did not ignite.

Staffers at the City Commission and the Committee of Seventy this week said as many as three independent candidates may also enter the race. Independents must file 300 nominating- petition signatures by Monday.


"We run a clean house here."

- City Commission Chairwoman Marge Tartaglione, just before she threatened a reporter for asking about corruption.

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