Two Mike Flecks in Pa. politics lead to confusion

     Former state rep. Mike Fleck served in the House for eight years. (Image from Mike Fleck's Facebook page.)

    Former state rep. Mike Fleck served in the House for eight years. (Image from Mike Fleck's Facebook page.)

    A Democrat and a Republican find something in common: their name. 

    Former state representative Mike Fleck is used to seeing his name in the headlines. A Republican, Fleck served in the House for eight years. In 2012, he came out, making him the first openly gay representative in the state. This revelation was news in Harrisburg and across the state, and Fleck says, contributed to his loss in 2014.

    Since he left the statehouse, Fleck has been laying low and working for the state. Which is why he was surprised to see himself giving a speech on Channel 69 news, a local TV station, a few weeks ago, accompanied by a scandalous story: his offices were being raided, his company was under investigation and he had packed up his house and fled the city.

    That was the first hint that the story might be about the “other” Mike Fleck.

    The story was corrected and Channel 69 issued an apology for the mistake. Fleck (let’s call him Fleck #1) says he should be used to it by now: there are two Mike Fleck’s in Pennsylvania politics, one on each side of the aisle. They share an involvement in politics, a penchant for getting headlines and now, the infamous name, Mike Fleck.

    Fleck, the Democrat

    Right now, Mike Fleck, the political consultant (we’ll call him Fleck #2) is under investigation by the FBI as part of their probe into the Allentown and Reading city governments. The mayors and city councils in both cities are being investigated, and according to the Reading Eagle, “one person — former consultant Michael Fleck — was probably the biggest immediate beneficiary in the web of political contributions and expenditures that spanned the two cities since the start of 2011.”

    When he was 26, Fleck #2 was elected to the Easton City Council. He ran for mayor in 2003 and 2006, but lost both times. During these campaigns, Fleck #2 admitted that he lied about graduating from Moravian College, as well as his business experience at a used car dealership. Nonetheless, he was re-elected to City Council in 2009.

    During these years, Fleck #2 was also building his political consulting business. It was a side gig until he connected with Ed Pawlowski, then a candidate for Allentown mayor. With union support and an army of paid volunteers, Fleck #2 helped Pawlowski win every single ward in the 2005 general election. Pawlowski helped Fleck #2 find other clients, and hired him to run his Senate campaign.

    That campaign is no more, called off four days after the FBI began their probe into Allentown City Hall. H Street Consulting, Fleck #2’s company, was dissolved and shuttered, and he hasn’t been heard from since early July.

    Fleck, the Republican

    It was this scandal that prompted Channel 69 to use video of the wrong Mike Fleck. The former state rep says lots of people have heard his name on the radio or television, and if they’re not paying attention, it’s easy to get the story mixed up.

    “People knew that I had left the legislature, but they didn’t necessarily know where I had landed,” says Fleck #1. “So people start to think, ‘Oh, I guess Mike moved to Allentown,’ when they hear these stories.”

    He hopes that most people who know him would realize that the allegations don’t sound like something he would be involved with, or at least notice that the party alignment is different. But to be on the safe side, he answered the phone today by saying, “This is Mike Fleck–the good Mike Fleck.”

    Fleck #1 served in the Pa. House of Representatives from 2006 to 2014. He represented the 81st District, which covers Huntingdon County and parts of Centre and Mifflin counties. Fleck #1 came out as gay in 2012, and at the time, assumed that would be the biggest news associated with a Mike Fleck in the state.

    “Before, my concern was that if you Google me, all you see is stories about the gay Mike Fleck,” he says. “But I’d much sooner people click on that then see the news that Mike Fleck was raided by the FBI.”

    It helps that Fleck #1 is out of the political game for now. He works for the state as a bureau director for workforce partnerships, essentially helping find jobs and workforce training for Pennsylvania’s unemployed people. His original plan had been to serve in the legislature for ten years before turning to this sort of work. In the end, he was in the House for eight years.

    “But after the last campaign that I ran, I was more than happy to be done with politics,” he says. “I’m doing the sort of work I always wanted to do, and it’s very rewarding.”

    Meeting of the Mikes

    Fleck #1 first learned that he had a political name-twin when he was a freshman representative, and not all that well-known yet in Harrisburg. Fleck #2 had just lost his bid for mayor in Easton and, in a strange turn of events, was ticketed for throwing away his campaign signs at an Auto Zone store. (The ticket was later dropped.)

    “When we were on the floor of the House, we would read political headlines during recess,” says Fleck #1. “Everyone was asking me, ‘what are you doing in Easton dumping signs at an [Auto Zone.] And why are you running for mayor?'”

    Despite working in politics in the same state for a number of years, the two Mike Fleck’s met only once. And until Fleck #2 resurfaces, Fleck #1 is happy to be the sole Mike Fleck in Pennsylvania politics.

    There is a third Mike Fleck that he knows of, though, a Penn State employee with no known scandals to besmirch the name.

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