Campaign finance reform inches forward; Babette Josephs nearly gets tossed from committee meeting

    I’ve spent the day in Harrisburg following a baby step forward in campaign finance regulation in Pennsylvania. It’s a measure requiring candidates and political committees to file their required contribution and expense reports electronically, so candidates can’t dodge public scrutiny by submitting paper filings that take days or weeks for officials to get up online.

    The bill moved out of a house committee today and appears headed for passage in the Republican-led legislature, in large part I’m told because Gov. Tom Corbett was annoyed in 2010 when his Democratic opponent, Dan Onorato employed the paper-filing gambit and made it harder for Corbett to see who was funding his campaign.

    I tried to ask Corbett about this at an event he held to honor retired Pittsburgh Steelers star Hines Ward, but the guv shut me down, saying he’d only answer questions about the weighty matter of Mr. Ward and his contribution to the Commonwealth. I was warned by the capitol media corps this would happen – unlike past governors who would regularly engage reporters on a range of issues, Corbett won’t stray from his agenda.

    But the most entertaining moment of the day came in the House State Government Committee meeting at which the campaign finance bill was approved.

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    Philadelphia Democrat Babette Josephs repeatedly provoked and insulted Republican chairman Daryl Metcalfe, calling him at one point, “a disloyal American.”

    Finally after an extended complaint that Metcalfe had rushed the bill onto the committee calendar to deny Democrats a chance to propose changes (which Metcalfe all but admitted, saying Josephs abused the process with pointless amendments), Josephs pushed Metcalfe over the edge.

    “You are cheating the taxpayers, as you generally do,” Josephs said.

    At that point Metcalfe did his version of a baseball umpire giving a manager the heave-ho.

    He ruled Josephs out of order, told her to leave the meeting, and instructed a bewildered sergeant-at-arms to see that it was done.

    “Security, please escort Representative Josephs out of this meeting, as her constituents have escorted her from her district,” Metcalfe said.

    Josephs, who was seated next to Metcalfe, stayed put. After a back-and-forth among members over whether Metcalfe had the authority to bounce Josephs, he gave up and finished the meeting.

    After more than two decades in the legislature, Josephs lost the Democratic primary for her Center City seat to attorney Brian Sims last month.

    I wonder how long it will be before Metcalfe misses the fun.

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