The Pa. Senate’s highwaymannery

The Pa. Senate’s highwaymannery

The coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate the public policy news, of course. But there are other public policy matters worth commenting on, nonetheless. Here’s one of them:

Just when you thought the hubris of the Pennsylvania Senate could not get any worse, it turns out the senators’ handlers have been working hard to reach a new low.

Now comes word from Spotlight PA that, as it reports it, “the top lawyer in the Republican-controlled chamber is trying to muzzle senators.”

You might recall how the upper chamber edited out or otherwise redacted key details of how it spent a whole lot of taxpayer money.

That lawyer, the news outlet says, emailed GOP senators to tell them to clam up if reporters contacted them about the matter, instead forwarding those requests to her office.

When Spotlight PA contacted the lawyer, Crystal Clark, she claimed the questions posed to the senators contained “inaccuracies,” refused to say what those “inaccuracies” were, then invoked the oldest dodge in the book by saying the matter involved legal issues.

This behavior – “a classic case of damage control,” as one political science professor told Spotlight PA – is outrageousness slathered thick on top of shamefulness.

Sound public policy demands transparency. Such outright omissions –“scrubbing,” in the parlance of public officials who obviously have something to  hide — and suspect redactions are giant red flags that the public ignores at its own peril.

But clearly, the legal beagle who appears to now have taken charge of the Senate majority’s damage control has no regard for the public whose pockets have been continually pilfered to pay for such highwaymannery.

So, to what axiom do these senators subscribe?

Perhaps it’s “The public! The public! How many fools are needed to make the public!”

Or is it “The public is a ferocious beast: one must either chain it up or flee from it.”

Or, just perhaps, these spending-shielding pols subscribe to a simpler, far more succinct axiom: “The public is a fool.”

But that much derided “public” should not suffer these legislative fools gladly.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).