Pennsylvania Incumbent Protection Plan
By Leo Knepper
A recent report from LancasterOnline outlines the cost of one component of the “Incumbent Protection Program” operated by the General Assembly:
“Welcome to the state Capitol, where elected officials and their staffs operate a massive, sophisticated and partisan media machine that costs taxpayers nearly $10 million a year at a time when the number of journalists serving as watchdogs on government is shrinking…In a building home to one of the largest, most expensive legislatures in the country, there are at least three of these television studios built to produce state-run, news-like programs for state lawmakers.” (Emphasis added)
That’s right, $10 million per year to operate three television studios and an impressive public relations (PR) operation. Each of the four caucuses operates their own private, tax-payer funded, PR firms. These slick PR operations produce everything from news-letters to tele-town halls to professionally made videos of lawmakers touring businesses in their districts.
Lawmakers would argue that all of these expenses help them to connect to their constituents. One has to wonder how many of these “essential” communication attempts would be made if lawmakers were term-limited. Or, if they weren’t trying to hold onto an $85,000 per year salary and a golden parachute.
The PR expenses are only one component of a system that the General Assembly has built up over time to protect themselves from the electoral competition. This year, the legislature has a budget of over $350 million. They abuse this system to build their own name ID and ensure they enter every electoral cycle with an advantage that is costly to overcome. Communicating with constituents is one thing, but most of these expenses don’t even pass the laugh test as being necessary to accomplish that goal.