So the kickoff show for The Cost of the Pipeline (Radio Edition) on PANJ Radio went great, I really enjoyed it and Lorraine Crown was a fabulous guest co-host for the show. I’ll have a full transcript available eventually and will post about the full content when that’s available.
Audio is available here:
For now, I wanted to focus on the second half of the show, when we talked about the West Amwell Township Committee elections and the Democratic union contribution scandal with Democratic candidate Eric Richard.
There were two topics I wanted to get to in this segment. First, what were the concrete plans the Democratic Campaign had for opposing the PennEast pipeline. Both sides have stated that they’re against the project, but the democrats had not published any details of what they would do if elected.
Second, would be a discussion of the union contributions.
The Plan is: We have no plan
On the first point, I was very surprised by Mr. Richard’s answers. There was a lot of discussion of families, and keeping residents safe and protected, and talking about being a friend of the environment and environmental causes, but no concrete actions were discussed. After listening to a description about how the Democratic Campaign was against the pipeline from the “day it launched”, I interjected:
[Mike] I think that’s fair enough but i think that Lorraine’s point, you know she mentioned that there’s words, and there are actions….
Why don’t we look at the positive first and then we’ll talk about the contributions
You know, what sort of actions would you take if you’re elected in opposition of the pipeline.
Mr. Richard replied that he agreed with “95%” of what myself and Lorraine had been saying against the pipeline, but then went on to say this:
And so when I saw that my opposition and my slate of candidates had the same position on this, I put it on the shelf. I said I am NOT going to try to invent a political issue to tear down my opposition if there is no “there” there. A couple instances folks brought things to my attention, where they said you should go after your opponent’s for this. I said no, I’m not I’m not gonna go after them for that. Why, because at the end of the day, even though there were some bumps in the road, they did the right thing. And so I’m going to take that issue and I’m gonna put it on the shelf. I’m not gonna turn it put into politics.
Lorraine tried to push him a bit to get something a bit more concrete, saying:
[Lorraine] And it was the question that was on my lips as you were just talking now what about as a you know as “I will” and a “I will do this” statement, that West Amwell will allocate money toward expert, experts, or legal defense, or, “or or or”.
..which Eric responded to by saying that he sent a check for $250 to West Amwell Citizens Against the Pipeline, and that his check beat the township’s donation by a few days.
At the end of the day, it became abundantly clear that the Democrats have no action plan for defeating PennEast. None. Since both sides “oppose PennEast”, they called it a day and conveniently just stamped their campaign saying “We’re Ag’in it!” and figured that was enough.
He did get a dig in noting that West Amwell Township hadn’t allocated any funds to fight PennEast directly, which is duly noted. But again, when Lorraine asked him if HE would allocate any funds, we got a pivot into another direction.
It should also be noted that while the Republicans have not allocated funds for the pipeline fight, both the Township and Environmental Committees have been extremely active in opposition, and have done a number of wonderful things including letters to the FERC docket, interaction with state agencies, and passing ordinances in opposition of PennEast or which hinder its ability to move forward.
So we have Republicans with a history of opposition to the pipeline with concrete actions, and we have appeals to emotion and vague assurances from the Democratic side, with no actual plan.
This is disappointing, to say the least.
On Those Donations
On the Union donations themselves, Mr. Richard made it clear that getting massive union donations was the intent from the beginning. He stated that Republicans out number registered Democrats 2-1 in West Amwell, so he was facing an uphill battle. And that unions would be key to overcoming the odds. So the union contributions were intentional and part of the strategy.
He also came out as being extraordinarily in favor of unions in a big way. Not surprising, given that he works for the AFL-CIO. But I found it a little disappointing that he never actually said what his job was – which is a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO. There is a tendency here to obfuscate and hide details which I continue to find troubling.
He tried to distance himself from any pro-PennEast contributions with a lot of razzle dazzle about other candidates in state and federal races, how hard it is to track what union is for what cause, and some other obfuscating tricks to try to blur an issue that is actually pretty black and white. I acknowledge early on that some union contributions clearly have nothing to do with PennEast. But despite this, most of the contributions in total were in fact form pro-PennEast union organizations.
Mr. Richard talked about his “litmus test” for donations. In a nutshell, he would ask any organization if they would “directly benefit” from the pipeline (presumably in the form of jobs). If they verbally answered “No”, they were OK to donate. If they said “Yes”, they weren’t (and he claims to have returned one $500 check from LiUNA).
But that the whole “test” – a verbal assurance (often from friends and buddies of his) and nothing else. Whether an organization was pro-PennEast or not was immaterial. In fact, this happened:
[Mike]What i can say that publicly there’s is every indication that UA Local 9 is pro-PennEast, certainly their parents are, certainly the sheet metal workers are PennEast. Lots of the other organizations here, I think we call them up and I said “are you pro PennEast or against PennEast”…[Eric]Mike, I’m not disputing that, I’m not disputing that some of these unions are pro PennEast.
I, for one, am not. How about you, voters of West Amwell?