Valley Forge Patriots

Constitutional Conversations in Tredyffrin Township

What do you get when you mix a Republican T/E School Board member with a recently elected Tredyffrin Township Republican committee person? The answer, as I discovered on Saturday, is a new township cable show, ‘Constitutional Conversations’ co-hosted by T/E School Board member Dr. Rich Brake and M-4 Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee man Dennis Gallagher.

Flipping TV channels, I was surprised to see Rich Brake on a township cable show.  I caught the last 5 minutes of Constitutional Conversations and heard Gallagher mention that this was “In Order for Form a More Perfect Union”, Part 1 of a 5-part series on the Constitution, co-hosted by Brake and Gallagher

I discovered that this new cable show, which made its debut on Thursday, June 28, has an associated blog called Constitutional Conversations, www.constitutional-conversations.com where you can watch the show’s segments.  The site also offers some background on the co-hosts and the background of their show.  According to their blog,

“ … Constitutional Conversations was conceived at the grassroots level in Tredyffrin Township in Chester County, PA. In the latter part of 2011 Dr. Richard Brake, a resident of Tredyffrin and co-host of Constitutional Conversations, gave a lecture on the Constitution which was attended by some Tredyffrin community leaders. After the lecture the township leaders approached Dr. Brake requesting him to produce a series on the Constitution for the township’s public access television station. They felt that such a series would be an excellent educational opportunity for the township residents and also a wise use of the township’s public access television facilities.

Subsequently Dr. Brake collaborated with Dennis Gallagher, also a resident of Tredyffrin, to produce a five part series on the Constitution entitled Constitutional Conversations. The purpose of this series is to tell the story behind how America’s Constitution came into being, the debates amongst America’s founding fathers as to its design, and the various debates throughout America’s history that continue up to today as to how America’s Constitution should be interpreted in our modern society.”

Most of us know Rich Brake as a member of the T/E School Board.  In addition to his elected position, Brake serves as the National Director of Education at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Wilmington, DE. According to their website, “ISI seeks to enhance the rising generation’s knowledge of our nation’s founding principles — limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, the rule of law, market economy, and moral norms.”  Brake is listed online as a member of two local Tea Party groups, Chester County Patriots and Valley Forge Patriots.  Brake and I have been playing ‘email tag’ over the last month, trying to schedule a meeting to discuss a Constitution class he was giving for local TTGOP committee people and his involvement in the Tea Party movement (The June Constitution class was ultimately cancelled).

I was not familiar with Dennis Gallagher except that the show bio indicates is the TTRC Committeeman for M-4, which includes part of Chesterbrook.  In the last election, Gallagher ousted Jim Bailey (a friend of mine) by a very small margin, to serve as Republican M-4 Committeeman.  The cable show identified Gallagher as a ‘Constitution Scholar’ and a bit of research indicated that he is the founder and editor of  Political Policy, www.politicalpolicy.net, a blog whose “ … mission is to advance traditional conservatism and preserve America’s First Principles.”

It appears that Gallagher and Brake may have been blood brothers in a former life … apparently sharing similar views on traditional conservatism, limited government and Founding Father principles, they have come together for ‘Constitutional Conversations’ to discuss and educate the public on the Constitution.  Looking ahead to upcoming topics to be discussed on the cable show, they have scheduled Part 5: Health Care and the Constitution for August 20.

In last week’s landmark ruling, the Supreme Court announced that in a 5-4 decision (with Justice Kennedy dissenting and Chief Justice Roberts writing the decision) that Obamacare, for the most part is constitutional.  It could be interesting to hear the discussion of the health care decision by the Supreme Court discussed by Brake and Gallagher in the final segment of Constitutional Conversations.

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Update:  For the first time since I began Community Matters nearly 3 years ago, I substantially edited an article after it was posted.  Originally when I posted this article on ‘Constitutional Conversations’, I included comments from local attorney John Petersen.  Within a span of less than 24 hours, I received some negative comments and emails about my post and Petersen’s remarks. As a result, I made the decision to edit the post and  remove his comments.

I need to be clear … Mr. Petersen did not volunteer to give his remarks on this post, I asked for his comments on Constitutional Conversations and then posted those comments.  However today, I made the decision to remove his remarks along with the associated comments.  Regrettably, I did not notify Mr. Petersen until after I removed his remarks.   As a result of my actions and decision to remove his comments and associated comments, Mr. Petersen wants to set the record straight on this matter and I am honoring that request.   Below are Mr. Petersen’s new updated remarks on this blog post. 

I’d like to respond to the comments re: the objections over my solicited comments re: Messer’s Brake and Gallagher and their foray into the world constitutional analysis. Accordingly, I’m happy to provide the substance of my point here.

Context is everything. So… when folks look at the “Constitutional Conversations”, they should to look at that in the context of these items:

Rich Brake:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSkd63MnntA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPbFY8PJ8cs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dn5RTnqyPAI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGkCa9wREIs

Dennis Gallagher:
http://www.politicalpolicy.net/
https://twitter.com/#!/grandestparty

If you are going to be considered a “Scholar” – then the body of your work, your statements, etc needs to be looked at in its entirely. You cannot simply cherry pick the things you want.

So…if we are going to evaluate, then let’s evaluate the whole cloth. If you view the cable show on its own, in a vacuum, then you lack the necessary context of what these guys are about. They are quite clever – starting with the seemingly innocuous historical facts. But look how it ends – with health care? It’s not like they leave these extreme political positions at the door. They have a right to say what they want. Folks have a right to be fully informed about what these guys stand for and that their real agenda is advancing their own political view points. It’s kind of ironic when much of what they say is about how the “Left” has captured the media, academia, etc. It’s actually more hypocritical than ironic. That was MY point – that these guys are not really acting in the role of “Constitutional Scholar”. Rather, they are acting as covert politicos that are using the constitutional topic as a pre-text.  One may say “Gee John, that’s just YOUR opinion.” To that, I’d say “Yes, it’s my opinion, but it is an informed opinion.” I’d also say to those same people “You are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts.” My only exception to this are places like school board meetings where recently, Brake has decided to use that platform as part of his “Constitutional Scholar” outlet. I think that is way out-of-bounds.

With that, let’s confront the question of whether these two guys are “Constitutional Scholars.” This matter needs to be settled before it is determined whether getting into the sum and substance of these shows is warranted. If one can argue that these two are not constitutional scholars in spite of the fact that they call themselves that, we can settle the matter right there. That would seem to me to be a reasonable approach.

As to whether they are “Constitutional Scholars” – I’d have to ask them for their credentials. I get the fact that Brake has a PhD – in American Politics. I get that he knows a lot of historical facts. But what I also get is that much of what he says is laced with a very specific political agenda. For backup on that assertion, I cite the YouTube links listed above.

As for Gallagher, sorry to have to be the voice of reason here, but part way through an online school for an MA in History with a concentration in American History simply does not rate one the title of “Constitutional Scholar.”  That, coupled with his tweets, blog posts, etc – give evidence to what is also a very definite political viewpoint that are clearly, deep rooted beliefs.

Note, I’m not judging Gallagher’s and Brake’s political view points. I’m indifferent as their viewpoints don’t affect me one bit. I don’t agree with them, but that is not the point. They have every right to express their view points. That said, one of them is an elected official and one of them is an elected committeeman. They have direct involvement in the political process which makes them public/semi-public personalities. When you place your views in the market place of ideas, you invite scrutiny. Whether you are able to withstand/tolerate that scrutiny is another matter.

To be a constitutional scholar, you need to be a lawyer, a law professor and somebody who spends the bulk of their professional life in that arena. Likely, you were  a SCOTUS clerk or at the very least, a clerk at the Court of Appeals. You likely have written a horn book and have NUMEROUS law review articles. You do that, you are a constitutional scholar.  People like Erwin Chemerinsky, Jonathan Turley, Lawrence Lessig, Laurance Tribe, Cass Sunstein, Akhil Amar, etc. These folks are the real deal. I’m a lawyer and have studied constitutional law – and I don’t consider myself even close to being a constitutional scholar. And based on the aforementioned criteria, neither is Brake nor Gallagher. In my opinion, it says a lot about a person who is willing to have a label applied to them that they have not earned. They are certainly not shy about expressing their opinion on their forum. They should “Scholarly” enough to withstand some criticism. Certainly, Dr. Brake had to do that when he had to defend his dissertation. Shying away from the criticism and not realizing it’s a two-way street says a lot about a person. It’s one thing to lecture and get into 1-way conversations. I think Dr. Brake would cite that is a problem with the “Liberal Academic Establishment.”

And with that, since they are not Constitutional Scholars, I really don’t need to get into the sum and substance of what they are talking about. But if called upon to do so, I’m more than happy to engage.

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Will former State Rep Paul Drucker challenge State Rep Warren Kampf for the 157th District in 2012?

Is former State Rep Paul Drucker considering a 2012 run against State Rep Warren Kampf?  You be the judge.

In my post, ‘Tea Party Agenda by State Rep. Warren Kampf, so claims Former State Rep Paul Drucker’ dated August 27th, I included Paul Ducker’s recent ‘As I See It’ editorial from the Main Line Media News. 

Drucker claimed that Kampf was following the tea party agenda and gave examples of the education cuts in the state budget, the lack of taxing Marcellus Shale gas drilling and decreased state funding for social services.  In reading the editorial, it was obvious that Drucker did not agree with some of Kampf’s choices since taking office in January.  Although Drucker may not agree with Kampf’s governing approach, the article left me wondering what would he do differently?  I also found the timing of the op-ed of interest; questioning why Drucker decided to write it ‘now’. 

I came up with 6 questions for our former state representative and asked for a response by Wednesday, August 31.  As I wrote on August 27, if Drucker responded to the questions, I would offer his answers on Community Matters.  Below are my questions and Drucker’s answers.  I offer Kampf the opportunity to respond to Drucker’s comments.

1.    Why write the As I See It article ‘now’?

Representative Kampf has written a series of factually incorrect and misleading e-mails, which he has sent to residents of the 157 District, as well as opinion pieces for the newspaper.  These communications are nothing more than his parroting the tea party line on important issues facing the Commonwealth.  I felt it was important to correct errors and give context to the Republican majority’s priorities.

2.  What do you think are the most challenging issues currently facing the residents of the 157 District?

There are many challenging issues that negatively affect Pennsylvania residents, but I will restrict my answer to the most challenging issue locally, and the most challenging issue statewide.

You don’t have to be a savant to realize the most challenging issue facing the 157th.  This is obvious to anyone who drives through the commercial areas in the District or walks down Lancaster Avenue in Paoli.  Empty storefronts abound. The focus needs to be on jobs, jobs, and jobs by supporting and encouraging business development.  For example, the long awaited development of the Paoli Intermodal Train Station is a potential economic engine that will help turn us around and lead to an economic revival.  It will provide short-term jobs.  It will provide long-term jobs.  It will create new residential, and commercial space.  It will bring in new retail space, restaurants, apartments and housing.  It will create additional tax ratables on what is now worthless property.  It will create a TOWN CENTER.   In Phoenixville, the development of the old steel site is also critical to the economic health of the district.

The most challenging issue facing the Commonwealth is equally obvious.  We have a serious budget crisis.  But it is not a crisis caused solely by expenditures and can’t be cured by making draconian cuts to education and the social services.  The revenue side of the budget needs to be addressed realistically.  This means analyzing and utilizing potential sources of revenue.  Last year, the House passed a tax on Marcellus shale that was modeled after the West Virginia Marcellus tax. (I voted in favor of the bill)  The Senate refused to approve the measure and it died.  This year there is similar bill on the House floor that would produce $420 million in revenue in 2012.  This would go a long way to supporting education and needed social programs.  But at this point there is no Republican support, so the bill cannot even get out of committee.                   

3.   If you had been re-elected as state representative, what would you be doing differently than State Rep Warren Kampf to address these issues?

To support economic revitalization and development in the 157th, I would pitch my tent in the office of Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph.  I would make his office my satellite office. (Which is what I did when I was in the House)  I would make Trans. Secy Schoch and House Transportation Chairman Geist my nbff. (Which is what I did when I was in the House)  I would go to meetings. I would create meetings.  I would convince everybody and anybody of the reality, vitality and economic importance of the Train Station and the steel site development, not only to the 157th, but also to the entire Delaware Valley and to the Commonwealth.

To address the revenue situation, I would immediately sign on as a cosponsor to H.B. 33.  This is the Marcellus bill.  I would go to State Representative Benninghoff, Chairman of the House Finance Committee and try to convince him to release the bill to the floor. (In fact, a discharge motion to force this bill to floor was defeated.  Representative Kampf voted in lock step with his tea party cohorts to defeat the bill) I would talk to House Majority Leadership and attempt to get them to support the bill.  I would let it be known that this bill is vital to closing our budget gap, and vital to protecting the environment of the communities where the drilling is taking place and the water shed of the entire Commonwealth.                     

4.   Where do you think State Rep Kampf should focus his attention?   

See above.                  

5.    Do you think that the possible 157 District re-districting could play a role in the State Representative race of 2012? If so, why?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is going to get redistricted.  Among other things, Chester County gained 65,000 people since the last redistricting and will get an additional seat in the State House of Representatives.  Since the Republicans control the Senate, the House and the Governor, they control this process.

The only constitutional requirement is one of mathematics, one person, one vote.  As long as each district is within the standard deviation of the mean the district passes muster.  The district doesn’t even have to be contiguous.  (I introduced a bill, that didn’t pass, that required many other factors to be taken into consideration when redistricting.  This would have made the decision much more representative and made gerrymandering much more difficult)

There is no question that the Republicans will gerrymander any district they can if it will strengthen that district from a Republican perspective and if they can do so without weakening another corresponding Republican district.  Whether on not that will impact the 157th remains to be seen.

6.  Are you considering a 2012 run against State Rep Kampf?

This question is premature.  I can say that I have remained involved in the affairs of the 157th and intend to continue to do so.  I will support the citizens of this district any way that I can.

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Tea Party Agenda by State Rep Warren Kampf; so claims Former State Rep Paul Drucker

Today’s online version of Main Line Media News includes an ‘As I See It’ op-ed article written by former PA State Rep Paul Drucker (D). Drucker suggests that currently serving PA State Rep Warren Kampf (R) of the 157 Legislative District is following the ‘Tea Party’ agenda.

The editorial specifically points to the state budget cuts to education, lack of taxing on Marcellus Shale gas drilling and the state’s decreased funding for social services. Drucker claims that an extraction tax levied on the gas-drillers would have helped solve many of the state’s budgetary problems. Based on the editorial, it is clear that Drucker does not support some of Kampf’s decisions since taking office.  (Drucker’s editorial is below).

Read the editorial — do you think Drucker’s opinion provides a fair analysis of Kampf’s performance as a state representative? Do you agree that Kampf has leanings towards the Tea Party agenda?

 I had some questions about Drucker’s op-ed  . . . specifically why he wrote this editorial ‘now’ and what was ‘his’ agenda? I emailed him some questions and asked for a response by Wednesday, August 30. I will post any response that I receive from our former state representative.

Here is the list of questions that I sent to former State Rep Paul Drucker:

1. Why write the As I See It editorial ‘now’?

2. What do you think are the most challenging issues facing the residents of the 157 Legislative District?

3. If you had been re-elected as state representative, what would you be doing differently than State Rep Warren Kampf to address these issues?

4. Where do you think State Rep Kampf should focus his attention?

5. Do you think that the possible 157 Legislative District re-districting could play a role in the State Representative race of 2012? If so, why?

6. Are you considering a 2012 run against State Rep Kampf?

Warren Kampf refuses to permit facts to interfere with his Tea Party agenda
By Paul Drucker
Main Line Media News
Published: Saturday, August 27, 2011

It is summer, and the annual Harrisburg spectacle of balancing the budget has come and gone. Back in March, Governor Corbett presented a budget that rolled back government spending to 2008-9 levels, with the most draconian cuts made to public education. The proposed budget slashed $1.2 billion from pre-K-12 education and $686 million from higher education. Moreover, the cut to state-funded colleges and universities represented a staggering 50-percent decrease from 2010 state funding levels.

The ink wasn’t even dry on Corbett’s proposed budget when State Rep. Warren Kampf jumped on the bandwagon, e-mailing his constituents in the 157th District, “This is a tough but honest budget: Corbett balances his budget without resorting to massive tax hikes.”

Actually, the budget included no “tax hikes” at all. Despite widespread support for a tax on gas-drillers in the Marcellus Shale gas field, Mr. Kampf aligned himself with the slash-only Tea Partiers and balanced the budget by making massive cuts in expenditures.

Apparently, Kampf and his anti-tax colleagues did not anticipate the outcry from Pennsylvanians who were opposed to public education bearing the brunt of Corbett’s budget cuts. In short order, Mr. Kampf reversed his earlier position. He claimed, “I said from day one that we could do a much better job prioritizing spending than the governor did in his proposal…”

The result was the proposed House Bill 1485. In an e-mail to constituents he wrote that House Republicans had “unveiled a plan that shifted state spending back to our schools.” He claimed the bill “restored education spending… by building on bipartisan ideas…”

In reality H.B. 1485 didn’t “restore” anything. It merely reduced the size of the draconian cuts. The funding gap for pre-K-12 education remains at $586 million. Higher-education funding remains $165 million below 2010-11 levels, almost ensuring increases in tuition and fees for college students this fall.

And the Republican House budget’s partial restoration of education funding has come at a steep cost to the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. It slashes an additional $1 billion from health and human services. In reality, Mr. Kampf and his colleagues simply decided to shift the pain.

Furthermore, no one can honestly call this bill bipartisan. The vote was 109 Republicans in support, 90 Democrats and two Republicans opposed.

In Sen. Andy Dinniman’s view, “This budget fails some of the most deeply held priorities of the district: education, the environment and health care. A vote for this budget was a vote against open space, and a vote for higher local property taxes and higher tuition at state schools.” In effect it is nothing more than trickle-down taxation; robbing Peter to pay Paul.

While Representative Kampf claims to be a strong supporter of local control for schools, he voted for H.B. 1326 within hours of passing the budget. This bill restricts the ability of school boards to raise revenue beyond the Act 1 limit and increases their costs if they attempt to do so. Despite the fact that only three states in this country fund education at a lower level than Pennsylvania, the Republican majority in Harrisburg made it a high priority to further restrict local districts’ flexibility and discretion.

But according to Representative Kampf, this bill “strengthens taxpayers’ voices in the local communities and encourages school districts to budget more efficiently…” He knows that historically, very few tax increases are approved by referendum, and that no referenda to raise revenue beyond Act 1 limitations have ever passed. The bill virtually guarantees larger class size, reduced educational options and an overall decline in the quality of education.

All of these Tea Party machinations could have been avoided if Pennsylvania did what every other natural gas-producing state has done – impose an extraction tax. We are the only major energy-producing state without one. A current Democratic-supported Marcellus tax bill projects 2012 revenue at $492 million with annual increases going forward.

In addition, as of June 30, there was a $785-million budget surplus. These revenues could have easily supported a budget that avoided deep and harmful cuts. Instead we have a Tea Party budget, supported by Representative Kampf, which will clearly result in a hike in local property taxes and hurt the neediest Pennsylvanians.

As Senator Dinniman so eloquently reminds us, “These are not our values… We value education, and we value the Quaker tradition that reaches back to the founding of our country and teaches us to extend a hand to those who are truly in need.”

Clearly this year’s budget doesn’t honor those values. And no stream of e-mails or party-generated talking points can hide this fact.

Paul Drucker served as the state representative for the 157th District in 2009-2010. He served as Tredyffrin Township supervisor from December 2005 until January 2008.

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