Pennsylvania Republicans are threatening the Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania (YCOP) for sponsoring a public information campaign exposing a hefty pay raise passed for lawmakers, judges and top executive-branch officials.
On July 7 at 2 a.m., state legislators voted to give themselves a pay increase of more than 30% without debate. YCOP is demanding repeal.
Lawmakers offended by the group, made up of Pat Toomey supporters—whose efforts nearly ousted U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter last fall—want legal action to name those funding YCOP’s plans and stop the campaign.
The legislators also granted themselves access to “unvouchered expenses” as a part of the plan, which immediately went into effect.
YCOP’s project, InformedPA, was unleashed a week ago to educate voters of their lawmakers’ voting record on the pay raise. YCOP is posting black billboards with bold white type and red accents in the home districts of lawmakers who voted yes on the bill.
Targeted lawmakers are: President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, Senate Majority Leader David J. “Chip” Brightbill (R.-Lebanon), Sen. Noah Wenger (R.-Lancaster), Senate Minority Leader Robert Mellow (D.-Lackawanna) and House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese (D.-Greene).
Each billboard features a large black and white photo of the lawmaker on the left. The billboards say things such as, “Senator Wenger voted to raise his own pay to $115,000. A 36% increase.”
Radio ads are made to accompany the billboards. Jubelirer, the first to be attacked, said he is offended by the campaign. A spot that aired in his Altoona district notifies constituents that Jubilee upped his pay to $145,553 a year, with an increase of 34%. It ends, “Sen. Bob Jubilee: Raising our taxes and his salary, since 1975.”
In response, Jubelirer today launched his own radio campaign in defense. YCOP member Mark Harris says people like Jubelirer view YCOP as an outside special interest group. “Their tactic is to paint us as crazy extremists,” he said.
Chris Lilik, who directs the campaign, says he has been contacted by Ron Harper, a contract Senate employee directed to “research people and subjects important to the Senate,” on three separate occasions. Lilik says Harper implied he could face jail time for his campaign.
Jubelirer aide Mike Long says YCOP can expect a lawsuit. Although Jubelirer will not file it, one of his supporters is likely to make the motion. He told Capitol Wire, “I think it is absurd that a conservative group would target Republican leaders who have helped maintain the Republican majority in the senate for almost 25 years and maintained Republican leadership. It is a stupid mission if one believes in conservative principals and conservatism because it is the Republican Party that preserves those ideas.”
Lilik’s denies these charges. “This isn’t a Republican issue. This isn’t a Democrat issue,” he says. “This is a matter of trust and our state legislature violated that trust when they voted themselves a massive unconstitutional pay increase in the dead of night without debate.”
Today, YCOP announced their campaign will be extended in Lancaster County, home of Wenger, chairman of the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus.
You can follow YCOP’s campaign at http://www.informedpa.com/.