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MLK, following the money, and ugly support
Here we go, the first Mondays With Matt v2.0. First, the mission statement of sorts: Crawford County needs three new reps and one new state senator in 2022. We’ve got four folks who cruise in every election partly because of gerrymandered safe districts, and partly because they enjoy a near-absolute vacuum of scrutiny. We can’t do much about the first part, since the GOP retains unfetter(man)ed power in the PA House and Senate. But we can at least work to help folks pay closer attention to what’s happening…and not happening…with their reps.
Today: 1) who actually likes and publicly supports our useless legislators; 2) money talks, as political donations show us a lot; 3) what you should be doing right now if you’re going to be the person who wins in 2022; 4) what you could be doing right now to help apply pressure to help someone else win in 2022.
First, a Note About Martin Luther King, Jr
We honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, who we all know as a revered figure working toward Civil Rights. As Joe Tompkins points out in today’s Meadville Tribune, King also fought for economic fairness as part of racial justice, recognized that financial struggle crosses lots of racial barriers and ought to lead to allies among, say, rural white Americans and black Americans. But: racism. And, not to be forgotten, King was largely reviled by the general population during his life. Justice is rarely popular, because it breaks the chokehold of subjugation, and those who benefit from inequity really hate to let it go.
So, today, notice who actually bothers to recognize MLK at all (spoiler alert: it’s highly unlikely our state legislative delegation will), and who just recognizes him with some soft weakness like, let’s hold hands and love one another. You might also notice a whole bunch of federal politicians traditionally on the side of racism throwing out the whole, judge a person on the content of their character not the color of their skin quote today. I’ve seen it, with the same wording, from several. They’re dog whistling, using MLK as their cover (which is disgusting), because the next step from that quote is to start whining about how calling out racism is actually racist, which is something that racists like to do often.
Instead, be anti-racist. Vote anti-racist. Advocate for the hard work of equity and justice. Commit to paying attention, because racism is really good at breeding in the shadows. And lots of people will try to get you to stop looking in those shadows.
Remember What Brad Roae Said About Racism in NWPA?
A) That it isn’t a problem. B) That more people should carry concealed weapons. Yes, things he really said this past summer, in response to a racist hate crime in Meadville. Huh. Almost like he doesn’t want us to look in the shadows. Or, sadly, here in NWPA, to notice the Confederate Battle Flags that offer a clear indication of the presence of unchallenged racism in our region.
Which I Mention Because…
One of the worst things about running for the state house was that I read the comments, a lot. This has given me a troubling insight into the swath of our community who actually seems to like the job Brad Roae does as our rep (and like Mike Kelly’s dipshittery, too, btw). There’s a pretty strong correlation between folks who will say, nice job Brad!, and folks who have Facebook walls full of truly ugly stuff. Confederate battle flags. Three-Percenter stuff. “Inspirational” quotes that really just signal bigotry. MAGA. These are the folks who post hateful things on the Roae “discussion” threads, and bully folks who disagree, and who not infrequently hint at or directly suggest various general and personal acts of violence.
Roae doesn’t push back on these statements, offering weak defenses occasionally that he can’t read everything. Even though it’s clear he does read everything, because he’s happy to pile on the folks he sees as enemies or threats. This past week, Roae was even giving the business to one of his Republican constituents for having a Biden sign in his yard, and boasted of himself as being pro-MAGA and pro-Trump…all of this in the aftermath of the white supremacist, Trump-fueled violent raid on the US Capitol.
The point is, the support for the Rep we have is support for the worst of what we’re seeing in divisive, radicalized, nationalistic, anti-LGBTQ+, racist, violent insurrectionism. To be clear, Roae also hasn’t exactly decried the actions of Jan. 6. Like many other faux-conservative weasels, he has offered bland statements about not agreeing with violence, while also saying most of the insurrectionists in DC (he likes to say 99%) were “peaceful.” But we can’t forget that 100% of the people who descended on DC for the “Stop the Steal” hype-conspiracy-frenzy-fest were there because they wanted to overturn the lawful results of the Presidential election. So let’s not give them them the free pass on designating themselves as “peaceful.” Undermining democracy is an act of violence.
Which Leads Me to the Money Thing…
Every donation and expenditure for every candidate in Pennsylvania is public information. Here’s the official PA Department of State link. Search for our legislators. Roae, Rapp, Wentling, Brooks. If you live elsewhere in PA, search for yours. You can learn a ton by seeing who donates to whom.
So let’s look at Broad Roae in this election cycle.
Hey, you seem to be singling out Brad Roae here, you might say.
In return, I offer *Enthusiastic nodding*
Let me be clear: all four of the legislators need to be challenged and defeated, but Roae is a special point of emphasis, not the least of which is because I had to become a specialist in Roae’s legislative biography as his opponent, and the more you look, the worse it gets. He’s also *steel yourself, Matt…you can say it* my rep. I’m not okay with that, because he literally said in the election that he doesn’t think about people like me when he votes in Harrisburg.
The math works out to bad policy philosophies, plus general legislative laziness and, there you go, $90k a year for Roae’s salary, plus benefits, plus travel, plus office costs. We pay a ton for Brad Roae. And, wow, it costs us. All of us.
Anyway, scanning the financial filings from the election reveals a couple of things:
1) I had Roae spooked. No question about that. He spent a lot of money on the general election, which isn’t something he usually does or has to do. In fact, I’m pretty proud to say that we drained his coffers. He started the year with more than $39,000 in his account. After the election, he was left with just $5,000. And that was without any primary election spending (which is where he’s spent bucks in the past, but not like he did this year).
1b) He was so spooked that he had to call in emergency funds in late October, during what’s called the 24-Hour Reporting Period. That’s the chunk of time between official filing dates, in the run-up to the election when candidates have to report all contributions over $500 within 24-hours of receipt. Between October 21 and October 29 Roae raked in $5000, all from Political Action Committees. $1000 from Erie Insurance PAC; $1500 from Marathon Petroleum Employees PAC; $2000 from PA Duquesne Light PAC; and $500 from Enterprise Holdings Inc, PAC.
1c) That means Roae needed money to send those amazing mailers…the ones that listed nothing other than a brief, empty bio…which he spent a ton of money on. $19,901.48 for the election cycle, and $16,576.60 for the general election report…which means our “fiscally conservative” rep spent a small fortune on really expensive, really dumb mailers. That tells you something, probably a lot of things. Yet when Roae needed money for that, the corporate donors were there for him. That’s where he turns, because that’s who “values” a Rep like Roae. That’s friendship, you know. Or, rather, it’s back-scratching politics.
2) In fact, for the whole election, Roae received nearly every dime from corporate PACs, which in his case are mostly comprised of energy and insurance PACs. Of his total of approximately $32,000 in contributions through the election, only $1,750 came from human beings. Three $500 donations. One $100. And $50 in unitemized contributions (which is probably one person giving him a check). So, seriously, only five real people want to donate money to Brad Roae.
3a) We should see this as a marker of his tremendous weakness and vulnerability as a candidate. His backing includes the Loudmouths of Facebook, corporate PACs with agendas to own politicians, and five human beings.
3b) We should also see this as a clear indicator of who Roae works for. Those five people. The Loudmouths of Facebook. The insurance and energy industries. Which is to say, as usual, he doesn’t work for us. And this is something we need to repeat over and over and over for the next two years. The evidence is clear.
3c) Check 2019 also. He got a ton of money from…surprise!…corporate PACs. And just corporate PACs.
Okay, So Roae is Paid For By Corporate PACS…Now What?
We shall now connect some dots from today’s (not so) brief newsletter. Roae denies the existence of racism as a problem, supports MAGA insurrection, and refuses to speak back against abusive behavior on his own Facebook page. Roae is paid for by corporations. Corporations do not like being associated with things like racism, insurrection, and violence.
What you can do, today, and should consider doing repeatedly over the next two years, is write letters and send emails to the corporate donors of elected officials (such as and specifically including Brad Roae) to let them know how you feel about their support of legislators who represent such ugliness. If you have Erie Insurance for your car or house, for example, call them and let them know you’re shopping around because their political contributions make it clear what they support.
As we’re seeing on the national level, this can have an immediate impact on the cash flow politicians need. And since Roae, in particular, demonstrates a weak ability to fundraise for himself, this could have a dramatic impact on his ability to run ads against his opponents in 2022. That’s a good thing. That will help someone beat him, once and for all.
But Didn’t Roae Promise He Would Never Take PAC Money?
Of course he did. It was foundational to his original campaign. But he changed his tune because he wanted to, and because he must have forgotten that the first line of the Scout Oath he took when earning his beloved rank of Eagle is, a Scout is Trustworthy.
When pressed on PAC donations this year, Roae responded with two laughable points. First, he said he never renewed that vow so his failure to follow through now is fine. He didn’t break any promises because the original promise had expired. You know how vows expire, and you never have to tell the person you made the vow to? Very normal stuff here. Nothing weasely at all! Second, Roae said he takes dirty PAC money because everyone else does, too.
There you go. Profiles In Courage! Political backbone!
Folks, this is your state rep.
What You Should Be Doing Today to Win in 2022
I am talking to you. You need to decide to run, now. Because no one else is talking about it. All of these legislators face rare opposition, particularly the reps, and that’s part of why they are so useless/terrible.
We gotta keep talking about money. You need to spend time now quietly building a base of financial support so you can be running at full steam in early 2022 when you’ll get on the ballot for your primary. Get. Started. Now.
Step One: you need to download and read this document from the PA Department of State. It covers the nitty gritties of candidacy.
Step Two: you need to establish an official Campaign Committee right away. Here’s the link to that. It’s pretty easy. The key is you need to make sure you have an official Campaign Chairperson and an official Campaign Treasurer. You can’t collect contributions until you have those. Pick people you trust.
Step Three: You’ll need to establish a campaign bank account, which will involve registering your campaign with the IRS, then going to the bank with your treasurer. This is also pretty easy, but it needs to be done. Paperwork. You should be ready for lots of paperwork, by the way. It’s a big part of being a candidate.
Step Four: If you’re a Democrat, you can set up an account with the fundraising nonprofit ActBlue, which will let you accept online and credit card donations. There’s probably a similar tool for Republicans and third party candidates and independents. You’ll have to do a quick search.
Step Five: This might actually be Step Zero…you need to start keeping fastidious records of donations and expenditures. Scour the requirements for reporting, so you have what you need. Check into resources like the National Democratic Training Committee (if you’re a Democrat). There are tutorials here, and really helpful spreadsheet templates. You’ll be filing your first campaign finance report about a year for now, covering all of your financials for 2021.
The down-low: now is the time to establish a committee even if you are just seriously considering running for office. Then you can start low-key fundraising which, to be honest, will probably be slow for awhile. That’s fine. People will be paying more attention to municipal candidates in 2021, as they’re up for election. But you want to be viable immediately, and doing some of the legwork of connecting with folks who will be interested in your campaign. Sure people are tired of politics right now, but they are also always tired of politics. That doesn’t mean you can waste this year. You need it.
To be clear, both Brad Roae and Parke Wentling are in weak financial positions right now, with very little money in the bank. Kathy Rapp and Michele Brooks have pretty decent fund sums, somewhere around $40k each. If you’re going to oppose one of them (and: you should!), all the more reason to start fundraising now. Rapp and Brooks are alike, in that a lot of their money comes from PACs. Wentling…ummm…just doesn’t seem to actually raise or spend much money. So, know that!
You Might Say, “Do I really want to run for office?”
One Last Section
Share this information. Send people the substack link, so they can start receiving these in their inboxes. Copy and paste part or all of the info I offer on social media. Talk to friends and neighbors. We can be a big part of changing the conversation in Northwestern Pennsylvania by opening up the conversations we need to be having.
Oh, and next week I promise to say something about books and publishing, and about my next project, due out in 2022 from Belt Publishing.