Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Decide for yourself. Here is a series of quotes from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The city's Democratic Party organization invited 27 Philadelphia judges to a buffet breakfast this week and asked them to pay $10,000 each to assure party support when they face yes-or-no retention votes in November, according to judges who attended.
And the request was reportedly delivered with a warning from the party treasurer, former State Rep. Frank Oliver, that Democratic ward leaders would "cut" - withhold support from - judges who failed to pay, according to several witnesses.
"It's Godfather II," one judge told The Inquirer, comparing the situation to the heavy-handed political pressure that convinced an Atlanta company to walk away from a multimillion-dollar
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the party chairman, invited the 27 judges facing retention votes to the Wednesday-morning breakfast at Finnegan's Wake on Spring Garden Street.
Brady intentionally left the room before Oliver's remarks, to comply with federal restrictions on Brady's fund-raising activities.
Complaints about Oliver's remarks reached him later that day, Brady said, and he tried to reassure judges that none of those facing retention votes would lose party support for not making the requested donation.
For decades, the city's political parties have sought significant contributions from endorsed candidates in competitive judicial elections running against each other in what's usually a crowded field. This year, Democrats asked for $35,000 from each judicial candidate.
The City Committee typically uses money collected from slated candidates for a variety of Election Day expenses, including printing sample ballots, providing transportation to voters, and food and cash payments - known as "street money" - to party workers.
The chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, Rudolph Garcia, said he had heard about the breakfast meeting.
"I think it's outrageous that the party is, as I understand it, asking for $10,000 per judge," Garcia said. "I don't see why printing costs for sample ballots should be anywhere near that amount. This is one of the things wrong with our system, and why we shouldn't be electing judges the way we do."