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Republicans are fighting to hold on to their last bastion of power in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Parking Authority, the city’s only GOP-controlled agency, could slide to Democratic control by next summer.

Joe Ashdale, chairman of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. His term expired on June 1, and Republicans are fighting to maintain control of the agency.
Joe Ashdale, chairman of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. His term expired on June 1, and Republicans are fighting to maintain control of the agency.Read moreClem Murray / Staff Photographer

Twenty years ago this month, John Perzel pulled off a ploy of political piracy so brazen it was startling, even by Philly’s standards.

Perzel, then a Republican state representative from Northeast Philly and House majority leader, successfully pushed legislation enabling his party’s hostile takeover of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

Since then, the revenue-rich, patronage-laden agency has grown in size, staffing, and mission.

And State House Speaker Bryan Cutler, a Lancaster County Republican, on Thursday tried to fend off what could be a slide to Democratic control by next summer for the city’s only GOP-controlled agency.

The question now: Will Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, try to help his party take back the agency?

The potential destabilization of GOP control started last June, when 10-year terms for two of the six members of the PPA board expired. By law, the Republican-controlled state Senate had to send Wolf at least three potential replacements.

The Senate offered two Republicans, including former City Councilmember Al Taubenberger, as well as Democrat Lynette Brown-Sow. Wolf picked Taubenberger and Brown-Sow.

Cutler on Thursday sent Wolf a list of three names to replace PPA Chair Joe Ashdale and board member Karen Wrigley. Both players in Perzel’s 2001 board takeover, their terms expired June 1.

Cutler’s picks are all Republicans: Beth Grossman, the GOP nominee for district attorney in 2017; attorney Patricia Furlong; and real estate agent and appraiser John Szymanski.

Mike Straub, a Cutler spokesperson, told Clout he didn’t know if Wolf asked for a Democrat on the list.

Wolf spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger, asked if he requested a Democrat, offered: “The governor would like to see nominees that are willing to work collaboratively, and will be an asset to the board.”

» READ MORE: More Clout: Republicans want voters to be able to recall elected officials — but only in Philly

The law allows Wolf to reject Cutler’s first list within 30 days, ask for a new list, and then make his own direct appointments if he doesn’t get one in another 30 days. Cutler gets to make the appointments directly if Wolf doesn’t act within 30 days of getting a list.

Clout eyes motivation for the fight, considering the stakes at an agency with about 1,000 jobs, bringing in more than $250 million in revenue per year before the pandemic.

Wolf gets to pick two members next year when another set of terms expire. If he can’t get a Democrat this year and picks two Democrats next year, control of the agency would be split 3-3 by the summer of 2022.

Clout hears Taubenberger is making a play to serve as PPA chair, the only paid position on the board, with an annual salary of $75,000. Ashdale, a pal of Perzel’s for decades, continued serving on the board for two meetings this month after his term expired. Wrigley is also still serving.

Perzel, who went on to serve as House speaker and then spent almost two years in prison after pleading guilty in 2011 to charges he used millions of taxpayer dollars to benefit himself and others politically, did not respond to Clout’s hails about the fate of his boldest feat.

He’s now a lobbyist.

Down goes Giuliani! Down goes Giuliani!

Rudy Giuliani’s law license was suspended Thursday in his home state in a ruling that said the former New York mayor made “demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public” while acting as ex-President Donald Trump’s attorney and trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who filed a petition in May in support of the New York Attorneys Grievance Committee investigation, quickly tweeted: “You cannot lie in a court of law and get away with it — not even if Trump has you on speed dial.” Shapiro added that Giuliani should now be disbarred.

The 33-page court ruling cites Giuliani’s false claims about there being more mail ballots received in Pennsylvania than were originally sent out by the state, and that thousands of dead people voted in Philadelphia.

Giuliani even claimed Philadelphia boxing legend Joe Frazier kept voting after he died in 2011. Public records show Frazier’s voter registration was canceled three months after his death.

The ruling concluded that Giuliani’s “misconduct directly inflamed tensions that bubbled over” during the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Trump, in a statement Thursday, again asserted his Big Lie about a stolen election, while calling Giuliani “a great American patriot.”

‘She really drank the Trump Kool-Aid’

An Indiana woman who participated in the insurrection took the first plea deal of the sprawling case Wednesday, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor that carries a $500 fine, three years of probation, 120 hours of community service, and no jail time.

Chuck Peruto, the Republican nominee for district attorney in Philadelphia, is hoping to land a similar deal for his client, Gina Bisignano, a Beverly Hills salon owner accused of taking part in the riot. She faces seven counts, including obstructing an official proceeding, civil disorder, engaging in physical violence, and destruction of government property.

Peruto, who’s still working as a defense attorney while he campaigns, said Bisignano didn’t realize how her behavior looked to others until she saw the photographs and videos that spread from social media to the evidence folder.

“She had been doing a little drinking from the flask she had, smoking a little marijuana and got caught up in the crowd,” Peruto said. “She thought it was a vacation because she really drank the Trump Kool-Aid.”

Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.