Pay-to-play in Pa.: Lawmaker hopes for support for bill

John O'Brien Nov. 4, 2009, 9:00pm




HARRISBURG, Pa. (Legal Newsline) - While pay-to-play allegations abound in Pennsylvania, state Rep. Doug Reichley is hoping to drum up some public support for the legislation he proposed eight months ago that has become stagnant.

Reichley may get his wish, as a recent audit by the state's auditor general urged the General Assembly to adopt new contracting rules and the FBI and state Attorney General Tom Corbett have been investigating the state Turnpike Commission's contracting practices.

Not to mention the controversy Gov. Ed Rendell created when he hired a law firm that contributed heavily to his campaign to pursue a lawsuit against Janssen Pharmaceutica on behalf of the State.

"In terms of the status of the legislation, it's still bottled up by House Democrats," said Reichley, a Republican. "They won't even schedule a hearing on the legislation."

Republicans hold a majority in the state Senate, while Democrats hold a majority in the House of Representatives. Corbett is a Democrat, and Corbett is a Republican who is running for governor next year.

"What we're going to try to do is evaluate where we can start to gain some forward momentum," Reichley said of his legislation.

Auditor General Jack Wagner, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in next year's gubernatorial election, said there was a lack of competition, transparency and accountability in the State's awarding of $592 million to information technology vendor Deloitte Consulting.

Wagner said there was no competitive-bidding process on 34 of 59 contracts awarded to Deloitte. Rendell called them a reward for quality service.

Rendell has received $15,000 from Deloitte's political action committee and $19,000 in Deloitte employees since 2001, The Associated Press reported.

"Unless you can reward good performance or punish poor performance you lose the ability to get good results," Rendell said, according to the AP.

Wagner turned to the sports world to make his point.

"Clearly, there is a profound difference between the governor and me with regard to competition in the procurement process," Wagner said. "The Philadelphia Phillies had to win their way into the World Series, and the Steelers and Eagles had to beat their opponents this past week to get victories. Nobody rewarded them; they had to earn it."

With the debate getting more public, Reichley thinks his cause could "gain a little traction." He says the legislation will:

-Change the Procurement Code to make it applicable to legislative and judicial branches as well as the executive;

-Limit the use of sole source procurement by eliminating certain loopholes;

-Prohibit sole-source, emergency, legal and insurance work from campaign contributors.

-Allow the Budget Office to hire a consultant only as it relates to the Commonwealth's interest in the financial markets;

-Eliminate the sole-sourcing of legal work, requiring legal contracts to subject to a request-for-proposal process and open for public review prior to execution;

-Reinstate and expand the open records requirements; and

-Prohibit the executive and legislative branches from hiring lobbyists as consultants.

Reichley said the amount of voters who turned out to elect Republican Joan Orie Melvin to the state Supreme Court Tuesday shows Pennsylvanians are tired of the current way the state government handles its business and are looking to make changes.

"I think that, from a political standpoint, we can take heart from (Tuesday's) result," he said. "It shows an active Republican base willing to come out for what is historically the lowest turnout in a four-year election cycle."

Corbett will be hoping for the same next year. He turned down Houston plaintiffs firm Bailey Perrin Bailey's offer to sue Janssen, claiming the firm did not have enough evidence to sustain a case.

After he made the decision, Rendell hired Bailey Perrin to represent the Office of General Counsel. The firm gave $75,000 in direct contributions to Rendell, as well as more than $16,000 in air travel and $25,000 to the Democratic Governors Association.

Janssen's attorneys challenged the contingent fee contract. It was heard by the state Supreme Court last month.

If Rendell is elected governor, Reichley said it would make sense for him to drop the suit.

"Logic would argue that since he didn't take up the litigation the first time and took a pass on it, he didn't feel like it was worth pursuing," he said.

"Admittedly, he'd be elected to a different position and that might require a different evaluation. I think there'd be an inclination on the part of the Attorney General to decline to pursue that litigation."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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