01 Mar City Confidential: Week of 2/22/19
The Scranton Times-Tribune has been on a hot streak since we last wrote. Borys Krawczeniuk conducted an exhaustive examination of the campaign finance reports of Democratic Mayor Bill Courtright and picked through years of Republican State Representative candidate Frank Scavo‘s Facebook posts to unearth racist and bigoted posts against Muslims.
Lackawanna County politics as a pay to play culture – where contractors and professionals contribute campaign money in exchange for government work – comes as no surprise to seasoned observers. Where Krawczeniuk scored big is laying out the breadth and depth of a corrosive system that benefits both Democrats and Republicans. Courtright raised $114,048 in 2018. Among the list of his ten biggest donors, six accounted for $6.4 million in city work. For example, James A. Valvano donated $33,000 to Courtright and received $234,745 in city snow removal contracts. Courtright recently signed the new ethics code proposed by Democratic Councilman Bill Gaughan and adopted by City Council. The measure caps the amount individuals can donate to city candidates at $2,700 per individual and $5,000 per political action committee. Given the dynamics of the FBI raids on City Hall and his home, it was smart politics for Courtright to sign off. Then again, he’s handed a talking point victory to one of his most persistent critics.
Running for office as many times as he has, you would think Frankie Scavo would be more careful about what he posts online. The Times’ Krawczeniuk found numerous posts labelling Muslims as “terrorists, rapists, or pedophiles.” Of course, Scavo offered a half-hearted after the fact apology. What Borys can’t write, but we can, is that this type of rhetoric is exactly what is wrong with politics today. Scavo should be ashamed but we doubt he is. Unfortunately, these type of posts are all too common in 2019.
Perennial candidate Tom Borthwick finally won a seat on the Scranton School Board. As the straight reporting from the regular news team here at Scranton Citizen has already noted, Borthwick’s said some incendiary things about his new colleagues Tom Schuster and Mark McAndrew. We will be watching with interest to see how that play out. The more important question, though, is whether a man who ran and lost twice before can retain the seat he was just appointed to?
Courtright friend Gopal Patel (see: top ten list of Courtight campaign contributors) also vacated the director seat he’s held since December. Patel was appointed in clear violation of the state Sunshine Law and rumor has it there was going to be a court challenge. He’s a smart businessman and maybe a smarter politician. Before any more embarrassing headlines hit he announced he was moving to Florida. So long, Gopal, we hardly knew ye.
We have noted here previously that in the race for campaign funds, Lackawanna County Commissioner Jerry Notarianni is the David to Pat O’Malley’s Goliath. At the start of the year, campaign finance records indicated that among the dueling Democrats O’Malley’s haul outpaced Notarianni by a factor of forty-one times. Now, he’s putting that $250,000 to use with the timed release of digital ads on Facebook. In one week, the video that introduces O’Malley running mate Debi Domenick has garnered 10,000 views. In contrast, Notarianni introduced his running mate George Kelly to a crowd of forty at his downtown headquarters. With institutional support like Lackawanna County Democratic Chair Chris Patrick behind them, we’re calling O’Malley and Domenick the frontrunners in the May 21st Democratic primary election for county commissioner seats. Jerry would be smart to take a page from Borys and ask, “Where’s the money coming from?”