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Former Sen. Daylin Leach Settles Defamation Suit With The Philadelphia Inquirer

The saying goes, “Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”

But in this case, former Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach has prevailed, although his political career is over.

Leach, who represented parts of Montgomery and Delaware Counties, reached settlements with The Philadelphia Inquirer and his “Me Too” accusers. The Inquirer recently ran a large ad above the fold as part of the settlement. Leach told the DVJournal that, under the terms of the settlement, he could not disclose the sum the paper agreed to pay him.

On X, he said, “Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer posted an unprecedented Page B-1, above-the-fold retraction for false stories they wrote about me as part of the resolution of my defamation suit. Justice takes time, but it’s certainly worth it.”

“The Inquirer came at me with this story about this girl from 30 years earlier who was claiming I assaulted her,” said Leach. “It became clear to them the story was not credible.” There were “six or seven wildly different and irreconcilable stories. But I found out later. The Inquirer knew them all.”

Leach had sued the three “Me too” accusers first and previously reached a settlement with them. Allentown area resident Cara Taylor, a convicted perjurer, had told various stories about Leach after Leach, a lawyer, represented her mother in court in the 1990s. The other two women he sued for defamation had supported Taylor and amplified her message on social media and at protests.

Leach used evidence from that suit as fodder in his litigation against The Inquirer. Editors at the newspaper rejected the story about Taylor’s accusations, but a reporter persisted in trying to find a way to publish it, the suit said. The Inquirer ran some 40 stories regarding allegations against Leach beginning in 2017.

While reporters must be truthful, there is some leeway for breaking news about government actions under “the fair reporting privilege,” the suit noted.

According to Leach’s suit against The Inquirer and two journalists, one of the reporters, Angela Couloumbis, allegedly encouraged Taylor to do things that would bring about government actions so that she could report her allegations against Leach under the fair reporting privilege, the suit said.

As part of the first lawsuit against Taylor, her posts to a group of friends in a private Facebook group that they called “Project Puke F***”–their nickname for Leach–were turned over. During a deposition, Taylor said those posts were truthful.

Taylor said, “As soon as I file for a pardon….Angela says it’s a legal document that is public record, and she can use that to report the story” and “There is no way to answer the pardon application questions without involving [Senator] Daylin [Leach]. The who[le] point of me filing that is for Angela’s ability to print the story.”

“And Angela said a public document would get the story published. She has known about [sic] since I did it, and still nothing. She kept pushing me, too, for a copy of my pardon application.”

“F*** the pardon! I was only doing that so Angela would have a public document to publish her story,” Taylor said.

Couloumbis allegedly encouraged Taylor to file a private criminal complaint against Leach. After the lawsuit was filed, Couloumbis denied Leach’s allegations.

But when then Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin declined to do anything about the supposed crime, which was past the statute of limitations, Couloumbis recommended Taylor circulate the complaint among state senators, Leach said.

Lawyer Eli Segal, who represented The Inquirer in the Leach case, declined to comment.

Leach said because of The Inquirer’s articles, he faced issues with his colleagues in the Senate. Sen. Katie Muth (D-Montgomery/Chester) was particularly insistent that Leach resign or be removed, even after a report from lawyers Eckert Seamans disproved the allegations. He told some “juvenile” jokes, but he never sexually harassed anyone, the report said.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa had asked the law firm to investigate Leach. When the report came out exonerating Leach, he was told they would read it out loud in the Senate caucus room, and the brouhaha would be over. Costa told Leach that he would be reinstated to various committees.

That didn’t happen.

“Sen. Katie Muth was obsessed with me. I don’t know why she was so obsessed, but she was. After the attorney from Eckert Seamans said he found no wrongdoing, she leaps up from her chair in the caucus and says, ‘You’re a f***ing liar.’ And starts screaming. And she starts posting stuff furiously on Twitter with the hashtag’ fake exoneration.’”

And Muth threatened Costa, who was running for reelection, with protests at his office and told him he “better not let this happen,” said Leach.

“So Sen. Costa called me into his office and said, ‘Katie Muth is unhappy you’ve been exonerated.’ And I was like, ‘Well, that’s unfortunate for her.’” Costa told him he would reopen the investigation because Muth wanted him to.

Leach said he would release the report anyway. So Costa called on him to resign. After the second investigation found nothing, Muth “kept filing complaints against me, ethics complaints, they were all dismissed. But she was obsessed with having me expelled from the Senate. She said my mere presence made her uncomfortable, and she wanted me out (even saying she) didn’t care if the allegations weren’t true.”

Neither Muth nor Costa responded to requests for comment.

Many other politicians Leach thought were his friends turned their backs on him. Some later apologized privately, he said.

“Marcel Groen lost his job as chair of the state party because he wouldn’t come out against me,” said Leach. “It was his dream job. Gov. Tom Wolf called him and told him, ‘You’ve got to call for Daylin to resign.’” Groen told the governor he’d looked at the allegations, and they were not credible, so he refused. And, while Wolf could not fire a party chair, he told Groen he no longer had his support, and Groen, who was “old school,” stepped down, Leach said.

In 2020, Amanda Cappelletti defeated Leach in the primary and won the general election. Leach, who had begun a run for Congress when the scandal ensued, may start a supply chain business for the cannabis industry. He authored the Pennsylvania law legalizing medical marijuana.

“I can’t be a lobbyist,” said Leach. “No one’s going to hire me to be a lobbyist. The only way I’ll ever work again is if I start my own company, which I’m trying to do.”

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Pennycuick Bill Would Give Employers Tax Credit for Hiring National Guard Members

Hoping to incentivize employers to hire Pennsylvania National Guard members, state Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery/Berks) introduced a bill to provide a $1,000 tax credit to employers who hire them.

“The Pennsylvania National Guard is recognized as one of the finest National Guards in the nation, and it’s largely made up of part-time members who work full-time jobs,” said Pennycuick, a U.S. Army combat veteran. “Giving employers an incentive to hire Guard members boosts access to workers with unique skill sets and makes serving in the Guard more attractive to Pennsylvanians.”

Recruitment and retention numbers for the Guard have dipped in previous years, presenting a manpower challenge as the Guard works to remain mission-ready for its dual state and federal responsibilities. Since most Guardsmen serve “part-time,” a key consideration for these dedicated and skilled individuals is obtaining full-time employment while they serve.

There are more than 700,000 veterans and approximately 18,000 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard in the Keystone State. National Guard members are “citizen soldiers” often called up in emergencies in their home states. They usually drill once a month and undergo training for two weeks yearly.

The governor or the president can call upon the National Guard to help with various situations.

Newly-elected Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker has mulled the idea of asking the National Guard to deal with the open-air illegal drug market that plagues Kensington. However, according to reports, Gov. Josh Shapiro is not likely to go along with that idea.

Under the legislation, a $1,000 tax credit would be available if a business hires an active member of the Pennsylvania Guard or if a current employee enlists or re-enlists in the Guard. The tax credit can offset income tax or corporate net income tax liabilities.

Delaware Valley state Sens. Maria Collett (D-Montgomery), Katie Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery), and Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) are co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill.

“With the second largest National Guard in the nation, it’s clear that Pennsylvanians are committed to service,” said Collett. “Employers across the Commonwealth are in desperate need of a dedicated workforce that has the leadership, skills, and character developed by those who serve in our Guard. That’s why I am proud to sponsor SB 985 with Sen. Pennycuick to incentivize employers to hire even more of our Guard members.

“Whether through a deployment or their employment, this bi-partisan legislation underscores how important our National Guard members are to the safety, security, and strength of Pennsylvania,” said Collett.


PA Senate Democrats Hear Testimony on Games of Skill

They have funny names like Piggy’s Big Break, Plunderin’ Pirates, and The Great Train Robbery. But Delaware Valley Democrats say the skill games popping up in gas stations and convenience stores are no laughing matter. They say the games “steal money that should be going to the Pennsylvania Lottery” and the state programs funded by it.

Supporters of the skill games and the local businesses that own them say Harrisburg is just upset that bars and restaurants are making money instead of the state government, adding it’s not the gaming that officials object to; they don’t like losing their cut.

The Democratic Policy Committee hearing, held last week at the Radnor Township Building, featured panels discussing regulation, law enforcement, gaming, and ongoing court cases over the games.

Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D-Montgomery/Delaware), who hosted the hearing with Policy Committee Chair Sen. Katie Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery/Berks), has circulated a cosponsor memo for a bill to add “skill games” — or as she calls them, “these predatory machines” — to the list of banned devices.

Mike Barley with Pace-O-Matic,  the largest distributor of skill games, told DVJournal the state’s powerful casino lobby wants the devices banned, while his industry is open to regulation and taxation. And, he noted, the Pace-O-Matic cabinets are made in Williamsport.

“The irony is, the casino industry has spent years saying we are illegal,” said Barley, but courts have ruled in the skill games companies favor. “So now they’re saying we’re unregulated. We agree. And the only thing standing between us and being regulated is the casinos. We would like to see rules put in place, such as limiting the number of games in locations.”

The Democrats at the Policy Committee hearing, like Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, took a dim view of the devices. Stollsteimer claimed they “present a soft target” for criminals who break into them and steal money. The spaces are public but “unsecured.”

Sens. Katie Muth (left) and Amanda Cappelletti

He said he also believes it is an “underreported crime because the legality of these machines is somewhat dubious.

“We would like to see some kind of regulation. Take a look at where these things are located and what security is in place,” said Stollsteimer.

Philadelphia Councilman Curtis Jones said skill games are suddenly appearing in his district, especially “lower-end neighborhoods” and stores that sell liquor by the glass at 7 a.m. and “loosey” cigarettes (not in packs) or “unlicensed” medical marijuana sites.

“These machines, it’s like throwing a match on gasoline. You create an environment where bad things happen (like) winners who were victimized as they came out of the store,” said Jones. He said people watch the machines and then let their cohorts know when a winner is about to leave so the winner can be mugged. He was also concerned about kids using their lunch money to play the skill games and senior citizens on fixed incomes spending their limited funds on them.

“It creates a toxic environment for crime,” he said, noting he is “hopeful” the legislature will “come up with regulations.”

Skill games supporters respond that the state sells quite a few lottery tickets in those same communities and has for years — including to people on fixed incomes. As for crime, Barley said the small businesses that house the skill games also sell liquor and tobacco, so those owners know how to keep children away from activities that are for adults only.

And, he noted, there are also crimes associated with the casinos, such as children waiting in locked cars while their parents gamble and high rollers being kidnapped after leaving casinos.

Crime is “a difficult issue,” said Barley. “It’s something we all have to work on.”

Gaming Control Board director Kevin O’Toole said his agency is ready and able to regulate the games of skill and is waiting for legislation. He appreciates a bill that Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Lycoming/Union) has introduced. However, that bill gives regulation of those games to a new division within the Department of Revenue rather than his agency.

Two casino industry representatives also testified.

Jeff Morris with Penn Entertainment called skills games “an unregulated, unmitigated disaster.” Currently, there are “zero protections.” There is nothing to prevent money laundering or to keep compulsive gamblers and underage kids from playing. The situation is “a wild west.” Plus, he noted there is no protection for consumers.

The games lead to robberies and even “a tragic case” of a “cold-blooded murder” in Hazelton.

Chris Cykle, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association, a casino trade group, said in the commonwealth, casinos are “an economic engine” in 17 locations that produce 22,000 jobs, $6 trillion in economic impact, and $2.2 billion in tax revenue. Employees undergo extensive background checks, and slot machines are checked to be sure they work properly.

He said that because the skill games are not state-regulated, Pennsylvania loses more than $1 billion it would otherwise receive.

Skill games supporters say that the state isn’t entitled to the money, even if that number is correct. If consumers are happy playing these games, and the businesses are happy to use the profits to stay afloat in a tough economy, that’s good news for Pennsylvania.

“We, as an industry, have come to the table and said we’d like to pay an extra tax, which, as you know, doesn’t always happen,” said Barley. “And the small businesses where the skill games are located get to keep 92 percent of the profits, and “the revenue is helpful to them.

“We’d like to see something like Sen. Yaw’s bill pass,” Barley continued. As for regulation by the Gaming Control Board, “They’ve been involved in every attack of the skill game industry over the years, at the behest of the casinos… They’ve moved away from being a regulator of the casino industry to being the lap dog of the casino industry.”

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PA Senate Committee Demands Answers on East Palestine Derailment

Pennsylvania state senators hammered Norfolk Southern Railway’s chef executive Monday over his company’s recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. It also affected Pennsylvania residents just across the state line.

The Senate Veteran’s Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) and Sen. Katie Muth (D-Berks/Chester/Montgomery), asked Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw a battery of questions about the decision for a controlled burn of rail cars that carried toxic chemicals at the East Palestine derailment site.

“Who specifically in unified command said to do this?” Mastriano asked. “You’re blaming it on the fire chief in East Palestine. Your cars are on fire, it’s your railroad, and you’re going to leave it to the local fire chief who never had to deal with such a catastrophe before? Who said, ‘We’re going to this’?”

Shaw said the decision was made by “unified command” and that “ultimately, the decision falls on the incident commander under consultation with unified command.”

Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Bucks/Montgomery) claimed the committee was “kind of glossing over” the seriousness of the situation in East Palestine just after the derailment.

“I personally think that the fire chief did the right thing,” she argued. “I’ve seen a helicopter explode, and I’ve seen the injuries when we didn’t do a controlled burn and let the fuel out.”

“I’m just trying to see if you can paint a picture for us of what that might have looked like if you had not done a controlled burn,” she said, calling it “important that we all understand what it would have looked like because I think (that) would have been catastrophic in life and property.”

Shaw responded that “the very real concern” at the time “was there would have been an uncontrolled, catastrophic explosion which would have shot vinyl chloride gas which, as you know, is denser than air, throughout the community along with shrapnel.

“So, all the relevant parties got together and modeled the dispersion, the government authorities modeled the dispersion with inputs from a number of sources,” he said.

Shaw added post-burn testing in the area indicated that “it was a success. It worked.” He said Norfolk Southern would compensate residents and businesses for their losses and reimburse them for medical care.

Andrew Whelton, a professor of civil, environmental, and ecological engineering at Purdue University, argued before the committee that the EPA and state agencies are not testing for all the toxic chemicals that might have been released in the incident.

Whelton, who has been studying soil, water, and air samples of the area with a team of volunteer researchers, said if a test is not done for certain cancer-causing chemicals, investigators won’t find them.

“The numbers don’t matter,” he said. “It matters what you test for.”

Mastriano, at one point, claimed that when he visited the site with his staff, their upper respiratory tracts burned and they developed rashes. Residents have told him about various health problems stemming from the wreck, he said.

The committee also heard briefly from railroad accident investigator Robert Comer, who said the railcars that carried the toxic chemicals did not belong to Norfolk Southern but to private companies. He speculated as to whether the railroad had checked those cars for problems before it added them to the train.

A bearing that caught fire is being blamed preliminarily for the derailment. Previously, the National Transportation Safety Board said the train continued running with an overheated bearing for 20 miles before it derailed, despite warning indicators.

Comer said poor track conditions with old, wooden railroad ties could also have played a role in the accident.

Shaw promised to help the residents and clean up the area affected by the derailment.

“I am determined to make this right,” said Shaw. “Norfolk Southern is determined to clean the site safely. We’ll get the job done and help these communities thrive.”

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PA Sens. Muth, Williams Decry Senate Parliamentary Rules

DelVal State Sen. Katie Muth says the rules of the Pennsylvania Senate are unfair, and she is teaming up with a colleague to fight back.

Muth and Sen. Lindsey Williams held an online Democratic Policy Committee discussion Wednesday evening to discuss rule changes for the upcoming legislative session.

“Most people would be shocked to learn how rigged these rules are,” Muth said in her opening remarks. Democrats will be in the minority in the Pennsylvania Senate for the 29th year next legislative session with a 22 to 28 split.

Williams (D-Allegheny) and Muth (D-Chester/Berks/Montgomery) also sent a letter to the new Senate leadership asking that a long list of changes be made to Senate rules used to conduct business. The changes would give members of the minority party more power.

Minority Leader Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said he supports the senators’ proposals.

“Negotiations on the rules are taking place as we speak and hopefully, we’ll be able to incorporate some of these,” said Costa.

Muth said the changes would make the Senate “more fair.”

One of her complaints is that under current rules, the minority party’s bills may not come up for discussion or votes, depending on decisions by the leadership of the majority party. “We’re not even able to speak on the floor before a bill is voted on,” said Muth.

However, both Muth and Williams admitted previously voting for those rules, which passed the Senate unanimously.

Now, Muth is complaining about them.

“Hundreds of bills and resolutions drafted by members of the minority party never receive consideration in committee,” said Williams. On the Senate floor, Democrats can offer amendments but the majority “routinely uses procedural motions, such as tabling the amendment” to prevent those amendments from being incorporated into the legislation — or even discussed.

“We call the committee ‘the graveyard’ sometimes because that’s where all the good bills go to die and they never get a vote,” Muth said.

During the online discussion, she showed a video of a chaotic scene in June 2019 and floor discussion of a bill concerning general assistance (welfare). The Democrats asked Lt. Gov. John Fetterman acting as Senate president to take control. Fetterman allowed Muth to read a letter on the floor in violation of the rules. Sen. Pro Tempore Jake Corman called out Fetterman’s actions.

“Never in my career has the presiding officer ignored the rules,” Corman said. “Your job is to enforce the rules of the Senate and not to be a partisan hack.”

Fetterman has since been elected to the U.S. Senate.

Williams cited some statistics: In the most recent two-year session, only 6.5 percent of bills introduced made it through the legislative process and only two bills introduced by Democrats reached the governor’s desk. But 111 bills sponsored by Republicans did.

The list of proposed rule changes includes ensuring all bills and resolutions receive a vote in committee; a two-thirds vote requirement for certain motions, including tabling; mandating the marked calendar be released at least 24 hours before the start of the session, and authorizing ranking minority chairs to call committee hearings.

Other rule changes include implementing a sexual harassment and misconduct policy to protect all individuals working within the state capitol, including outside contractors, lobbyists, and visitors; and requiring all members’ legislative expenses and all per diem payments to be posted and in a searchable format on the public-facing website of the legislature.

Erica Clayton Wright, Senate Republican Caucus spokesperson, said, “At the beginning of each legislative session, after consultation and compromise with the minority leadership team, the Senate as a body votes on the rules of the Senate. While we encourage and value Sens. Muth and Williams’s engagement in the rules process, the proper channel to present their recommendations is to their leadership and their members, not the media.”

During the discussion, Muth asked members of the public to contact their state senator and ask them to support these rule changes when the new Senate session begins on Jan. 3.

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‘Dems for Florio’ Target Muth Over Allegations of Abuse, Transphobia

Attack ads are hitting mailboxes in the state Senate District 44 contest between incumbent Democrat Katie Muth and her Republican challenger Jessica Florio. One stands out because it is an intraparty crossfire: The call is coming from inside the house.

“Democrats for Jessica Florio” sent mailers in the last week attacking Muth for recent reports that she fostered a hostile, bullying work environment in her Senate office and that she made a transphobic remark about Admiral Rachel Levine, a transgender woman who was previously the state’s health secretary.

Muth’s seat is considered one of the closest Senate races this midterm. The district, based mainly in Chester County but also touching parts of Montgomery and Berks, is evenly split between registered Republicans and Democrats. Muth won in 2018 by a 52-48 margin in a Democrat wave year.

The front side of the mailer says Muth “is an abusive employer,” and that she is “transphobic,” and concludes the argument on the flip side with “Bigotry is not progressive.”

“I’ve been a loyal party operator my entire life,” said Adrienne Redd, a Montgomery County Democrat who has run for office in the past. Asked why she was part of the Democrats for Florio effort, Redd said it’s because of her values. “Humanity and kindness are my highest values. and I am a pragmatic progressive with impeccable credentials.”

The mailer references two previous reports from Broad + Liberty, an online-only news and opinion site based in Philadelphia. Its opinion content features mainly right-of-center voices.

In the first report, Broad + Liberty used employment data from the Pennsylvania Senate to show Muth, still in her first term, had quickly cycled through numerous staffers, including four chiefs of staff and four communications directors. The report said her office witnessed 200 percent turnover, and no other Senate office came close to approaching that figure.

The report also included a Facebook quote from a former staffer who alleged Muth fostered a hostile work environment.

“All you have to do is check the public records to see that she’s had the highest turnover of chief of staff and everybody all the way down of any legislator ever in the history of the state of Pennsylvania.” And, Redd said, some of those staffers sought mental health treatment after their experience, including for PTSD.

Adrienne Redd

Muth did not deny the high turnover rate at the time, arguing  that her political mission “requires that I hold myself and my team to high-performance standards.” But in a statement to DVJournal, Muth now rejects the allegations as a “personal vendetta” against her from disgruntled Democrats.

“Personal vendettas have no place in government or in politics,” Muth said. “This election should be about issues and the ability to make an impact for our constituents and for all Pennsylvania residents. Since the beginning of this campaign, I have been subjected to outright lies, deceptive mailers paid for by dark money, and solicited, libelous articles in sham online publications like Broad and Liberty.”

[Muth’s entire statement to DVJournal can be found here.]

The mailer also references a second story about an official transcript of unsworn testimony from a former Air Force Major General who said Muth had called then-Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine a “mess in a dress.”

The former major general, Eric Weller, had previously been the second in charge of Pennsylvania’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and had some oversight of the Southeastern Veterans Center, a long-term care facility in Muth’s district that saw a higher-than-average death rate, especially in the earliest weeks of the pandemic.

Muth pushed out two of the top administrators at the SEVC, with the support of some upset families of residents. Weller believes those administrators were scapegoated as he theorized that culpability would either fall on the pandemic response of Gov. Wolf’s administration, or it could depend on the mid-level administrators.

Once again, Muth did not confirm or refute Weller’s claim about the Levine comment at the time of the first story. Today she is calling Weller a liar.

“Not only is Major General Eric Weller lying in his testimony, but he should be ashamed considering he was forced to retire due to his poor leadership, which resulted in dozens of veterans dying in the state-run veteran’s homes that he oversaw,” Muth said.

Muth also claimed that former state senator Daylin Leach was behind the attack ad.

“The recent PAC that was created was done so to smear my reputation by a group of individuals loyal to Leach, who lost his bid for re-election in 2020 after losing nearly all of the support from the Democratic Party and the district that he served,” Muth said.

“Not surprisingly, my opponent has accepted their help in a last-ditch effort to salvage her campaign,” Muth added.

Even when she was a candidate for the Senate, Muth, a rape victim, signaled she intended to try and push Leach out for alleged sexual improprieties. The Senate Democratic caucus did eventually force him to resign.

The mailer alleges that ethics complaints have been filed against Muth, but no evidence in the public arena exists to substantiate that idea.

Michael Straw, who runs the Pennsylvania Republican Senatorial Committee, says it is time for Democrats to dump Muth.

“Katie Muth has spent the last four years abusing and bullying her staff. No one deserves that. Democrats should be distancing themselves from Sen. Muth.”

Even some Chester County Democrats admit off the record Muth’s defensive reaction isn’t helpful.

“The old saying in politics is ‘if you’re explaining, you’re losing,’ said one local political insider. “But this isn’t just ‘losing.’ She’s ‘losing it.’”

Don’t Allow Energy Development, Lose Your Share of the Revenue, Senate Committee Says

You might call it the “Little Red Hen” law.

In the children’s story, none of the barnyard animals got to eat Little Red Hen’s delicious bread because they refused to help her make it. Advocates for Pennsylvania’s fossil-fuel sector have proposed the same approach for counties — often with Democratic leadership — that won’t help the state develop its energy economy.

By an 8 to 3 vote, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy (ERE) Committee voted to prohibit counties that have banned natural gas development within their borders from receiving the county share of impact fee payments and the Marcellus Legacy Fund drilling funds.

“It makes no sense if you ban drilling on land that a county owns then turn around and hold your hand out and want funds from the very source that you say, ‘We’re banning,’” said Sen. Gene Yaw (R-District 23) chair of the commitment and the author of the bill (SB 1331). “If you ban it then you can’t reap the benefits.”

All three “no” votes were from Delaware Valley Democrats.

The impact fee generated a reported $234 million in 2021. up more than 60 percent from 2020’s $146 million. The only year close to last year’s amount was 2018 when the Public Utility Commission (PUC) announced collections of $252 million. 

“County and municipal governments directly affected by drilling will receive a total of $123,217,163 for the 2021 reporting year,” the PUC reported in June. “Additionally, $86,030,934 will be transferred to the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which provides financial support for environmental, highway, water, and sewer projects, rehabilitation of greenways, and other projects throughout the state.”

The top receiving counties for 2021 were Washington, Susquehanna, Bradford, Greene, Lycoming, Tioga, and Butler. 

Yaw said he is seeking to provide what he called “a little bit of consistency,” and to make counties wake up and say, “‘We have to pay attention to how our land is used, and we can’t just make a blanket ban and say no.’”

The bill passed with just one Democratic vote, from Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Bethlehem).  Minority Chair Carolyn Comitta (D-West Chester) said she was a “no” even before the vote was taken. 

“Local leaders who want to protect their natural resources, parklands, and communities from the potential dangers of fracking should be able to do so without being penalized,” said Comitta. “Furthermore, I do not believe it’s fair to withhold all of this funding simply because fracking is not permitted on certain lands, and in some cases these areas account for a very small percentage of overall county land.”

As a result, Comitta said the bill seems like a heavy-handed approach to what is a local control issue. She also noted that while the natural gas industry appears to want all the land opened to fracking and drilling permits for unconventional wells expedited, data shows many wells that are permitted are not even drilled. 

Yaw said the bill “has nothing to do with fracking,” but is instead a preventative action to put every county on equal footing.  “One of the purposes of this legislation is to preempt problems down the road” when it comes to natural gas infrastructure.

And, natural gas advocates note, there have been other attempts at restrictions, such as restricting the ability of builders to provide natural gas hookups in new construction.

Sen. Katie Muth (D-Chester) was also a “no” vote. She expressed concern that counties banning fracked gas development would not be eligible for their share of the impact fee even if they have truck traffic from the industry. Pointing to Allegheny County as one example, Muth said there are multiple landfills there that take fracked gas waste. 

Yaw and the other Republican members of the committee were unmoved. Yaw even made it a point to say there is a total lack of understanding of what is happening in the natural gas development field. 

“Nothing prohibits a county from controlling by contract what happens on their land,” said Yaw, just before taking a vote. “They just can’t have a knee-jerk reaction and say, ‘everything is banned,’ (so) they have to think about it.”

The bill will now be submitted to the full Senate for consideration. 

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Sen. Katie Muth Called Rachel Levine the ‘Mess in a Dress,’ According to Retired Air Force Major General

State Sen. Katie Muth once called then-Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine “the mess in a dress,” according to the transcript of unsworn testimony a former Air Force major general gave during a 2021 state administrative hearing.

Levine, a transgender woman appointed Pennsylvania’s health secretary by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017, has since gone on to be the highest-ranking transgender person in federal service after accepting a position in President Biden’s administration.

Although the testimony of Major General Eric Weller came in 2021, he was recalling a conversation from the earliest weeks of the pandemic when Levine had become the face of Pennsylvania state government because of her daily COVID press conferences.

Weller retired from a highly decorated career in the Air Force and then served as the deputy adjutant general for veteran’s affairs for the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) from November 2016 to February 2021.

Weller was giving his recollections to a “name-clearing hearing” held by the Pennsylvania Office of Administration while testifying in support of two people who had been fired from their management positions from the Southeastern Veterans’ Center (SEVC) — two firings Muth had called for when the long-term care facility came under intense political and media scrutiny in the first weeks of the pandemic.

Sen. Katie Muth

While Muth was claiming poor leadership at the facility in her senate district in Spring City, the ousted leaders and their backers like Weller say the SEVC leaders were scapegoated so as to deflect attention from the Department of Health’s lackluster start to its handling of the pandemic.

“By mid-April, State Senator Muth took it upon herself to start attacking the SEVC and the DMVA regarding the outbreak at SEVC,” Weller said, according to the transcript. “It is interesting to note that never once did Senator Muth offer any assistance to DMVA, let alone SEVC.”

Moments later in the testimony, he recalled a direct conversation between him and the senator, while describing her language as “filthy.”

“And actually, if — I’m just going to go ahead and say it: her closing comment to me that day was, ‘I am considered to be a renegade Democrat. I am here to make a name for myself. Let me be clear about that. I am here to make a name for myself. And in doing such, I don’t care if I have to take down the Governor and any member of his staff, including — including the ‘mess in the dress.”

“I didn’t know who the ‘mess in the dress’ was, later realizing that she was referring directly to Secretary Levine,” Weller continued. “That came from Senator Muth. And I have detailed notes about that conversation.”

(Broad + Liberty has lightly edited the quote with punctuation for clarity.)

When reached about the story, Weller declined to comment on the record further, saying the transcript would speak for itself. He did add, however, that he remembers telling the same anecdote under oath, and that he would not hesitate to retell the same story in the same manner if he were under oath.

Muth did not confirm or refute Weller’s claim about the Levine comment.

“I am extremely proud of the work our office has done to fight for the rights of veterans who bravely served our country and to hold those accountable who hurt them – particularly as they were vulnerable during the early months of the Covid-19 outbreak,” Muth said. “We championed THEIR needs in that uniquely challenging time; we didn’t defend the status quo or administration of failing facilities, and I will remain steadfast in support of our veterans in my role as a state senator and in my chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee,” (emphasis original).

Although the number of fatalities at the SEVC was high, it was impossible to compare it contemporaneously to any other nursing homes or other long-term care facilities because the Wolf administration had not yet released statewide data — something it did not relent to until mid-May of 2020 amid constant public and media pressure.

When facility-by-facility data was eventually released it showed that another long-term care facility (LTCF) in Muth’s district, the Parkhouse Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Royersford, fared worse. Parkhouse not only had more resident deaths (48 compared to 35), but also a higher fatality rate (35 percent to 33 percent). Parkhouse, however, was never the subject of Muth’s ire or of any Inquirer exposés.

Yet, an Inquirer report in May of 2020 charged that the SEVC’s top administrator, Commandant Rohan Blackwood, was abusive, citing a single but anonymous source as claiming he altered medical records.

Meanwhile, Muth has faced her own accusations of abusive misconduct.

As Broad + Liberty reported last month, Muth has seen nearly 200 percent turnover in her staff in roughly three-and-a-half years in the Senate, and a former staff member accused her in 2021 of bullying and fostering a hostile work environment.

The idea that Muth might have been willing to take on fights as high as the governor’s office seems to be supported by a quote she provided to an Inquirer article about the SEVC in July 2020.

Muth “had begun drafting a letter to the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee to [formally request] a hearing on the nursing home,” the Inquirer reported.

“The silence of the DMVA leadership and the governor’s office is damning,” she told the paper.

Both Weller and Blackwood testified that the governor’s office prohibited anyone from the facility from answering reporters’ questions.

Washington Post article, aslo in July,  took aim at the SEVC for giving drug combinations in the earliest days of the pandemic that included hydroxychloroquine. While the drug has been largely discredited in the last year and a half as a COVID-19 remedy, it’s easy to forget that the government was gently giving permission for its use at the earliest stages of the pandemic.

The FDA’s guidance early in the pandemic sayid hydroxychloroquine “may benefit certain patients hospitalized with COVID-19 for whom a clinical trial is not available[.]” The guidance also said the drug was intended for hospitalized patients. The agency later revoked the guidance in June.

In that Washington Post article, Muth blasted the SEVC.

“Funny how they didn’t have PPE stockpiled but they made it a priority of their treatment protocol to include a drug that wasn’t proven to work and shouldn’t be used in non-hospital settings,” she said.

However, government documents obtained by Broad + Liberty show the facility was not as lax about PPE as she represented, at least where PPE is concerned.

On March 18, 2020, two days after Gov. Wolf ordered a statewide shutdown, SEVC requested, “N95 Masks and Face Shields (250 Each). Tent and Warming equipment for screening of COVID 19 prior to entry into the long term care facility,” according to a document from Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which tracked all requests for PPE help submitted to the state.

On March 20, it upped its original request for surgical masks from 250 to 2000.

spreadsheet showing all PPE distributed under the control of the Pennsylvania Department of Health indicates that the SEVC didn’t receive its first shipment of PPE from the state until April 14, 2020 — 27 days after its original request.

In the hearing, Weller told the state that the very first delivery of face masks from the state was useless because the masks were expired by fifteen years.

For a point of contrast, the state PPE delivery spreadsheet shows that the Fair Acres Geriatric Center run by Delaware County received more than 5,000 N-95 masks along with hundreds of gowns, gloves, and face shields on March 28 and April 1, 2020. The delivery came just days after it requested face masks from PEMA. SEVC would continue to wait.

PPE shortages at nursing homes were a national problem, and not isolated to one state or one facility.

Months later, when Commandant Blackwood and the SEVC nursing director had already been suspended, Muth hinted that any attempts to get to a factual accounting of what happened would need to reach far beyond the facility’s leadership. She implied some kind of coverup had happened at a much higher level of state government, perhaps unwittingly aiding the thesis of Weller and Blackwood that top state officials trampled the SEVC.

“I’m fearful that because this is a state-run facility, a true assessment of what’s happened already and what’s continuing to happen won’t take place,” she told the Inquirer.

The article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.

Former Employee Alleges Sen. Katie Muth Bullied Staffers, Kept an “Abusive Environment”

A former employee for Sen. Katie Muth alleged in a 2020 Facebook post that the senator bullied her staff and that the first-term senator was “perpetrating an abusive environment in her office.”

Those allegations against Muth are all the more serious when coupled with other information showing Muth’s office has been roiled by unmatched staff turnover, with the majority of those hired to work for her departing less than one year after they began, according to an analysis of Senate documents by Broad + Liberty.

Of the 28 staffers hired by the Montgomery County Democrat since Dec. 2018, six had tenures of 70 days or less. Many of those with the shortest tenures had the highest responsibilities, such as chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, or communications director.

The records also show in Muth’s three-and-a-half years in the Pennsylvania Senate, she has had four communications directors and four chiefs of staff.

In all, 17 of the 28 who went to work under Muth departed her employ less than one year after their hire date.

Looking at those raw numbers in one sense, it would not be inaccurate to say that more than half of her staffers have departed in less than a year, but such a characterization would also legitimately understate the matter. Because Senate offices tend to have a staff of about 7-10 people, it would be more accurate to say that her office has witnessed something close to 200 percent turnover in her first term.

Angelique Hinton, listed as a former community organizer for Muth, sharply criticized her old boss in a 2020 post on Facebook.

Hinton’s post included a screenshot of a tweet from Muth shortly after the death of basketball star Kobe Bryant, in which Muth noted the fact that Bryant had been accused of sexual assault early in his career.

“That she would select this moment to deepen the pain being experienced by so many is not surprising to me or any of the people who have worked for her and filed multiple CREDIBLE complaints against her in the Senate,” Hinton wrote.

“Katie should focus on giving those that she bullied & abused in her employ a voice & stop being a hypocrite! She has either fired or forced out at least nine people in her first year. All of those people, including myself, have lost their health insurance, their income, their livelihood… she should focus on helping them instead of hurting others. Abuse is abuse, and she is perpetrating an abusive environment in her office.”

The post was liked by another former staffer, Sharyn “Amy” Menache, who simply said, “Thank you! Signed one of the 9.”

Among Muth’s employees with the shortest tenures are:

— Jennifer Brown, communications director, left after 69 days

— David Cohen, chief of staff, left after 64 days

— Michael Connelly, deputy chief of staff, left after 67 days

— D. H., communications director, left after 41 days

— Sharyn Menache, executive administrator, left after 69 days

— Alia Tanko, chief of staff, left after 70 days

Three former Muth staffers reached for this article declined to comment. Requests for comment to numerous other staff members were not returned or were not successful.

The data becomes even more dramatic when compared to four other Democrat senators, all of whom were first elected in November of 2018 — the same time as Muth.

Sen. Lindsey Williams: One employee left in under a year. Only one chief of staff hired. No comms directors ever hired.

Sen. Steve Santarsiero: Zero employees have left in under one year. Two chiefs of staff hired, one communications director.

Sen. Tim Kearney: Six employees have left in under one year. One chief of staff hired, two communications directors.

Sen. Maria Collett: Four persons left in under one year. One chief of staff hired, one communications director have departed (possibly two communications directors, depending on if “communications/social media director” also counts as communications director).

The number of staff who left in under one year under Sen. Muth is 50 percent more than the combined total of her other four Democratic colleagues elected in 2018.

When contacted for comment about the staffing analysis only, Savannah Thorpe, press secretary for Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, demanded through an unnamed attorney that Broad + Liberty include the full and unedited quotes of both Sens. Muth and Costa. Although we believe we are under no obligation to honor that demand because the quotes were sent without any prior agreement having been reached, we nevertheless chose to honor it in this instance.

“I’m grateful for the hard work of every staffer who has taken on the challenge of serving our constituents, both legislatively and in our district offices.  I was elected to serve the public by promising to work to address the many issues facing our communities, and that mission requires that I hold myself and my team to high performance standards,” Muth said to Broad + Liberty.

“When I ran for office the first time, I committed to taking on the status quo and corruption in Harrisburg, and fighting for real change for working people, no matter who stood in the way. I am proud of the victories my team and I have won for our district, and when I am reelected, my team and I will continue fighting for the residents of Senate District 44 and everyone across the Commonwealth.”

While Muth provided that comment regarding the staffing analysis, she did not provide any comment to follow-up questions about the Hinton allegations. Muth’s office also did not answer a question as to which staffers quit, and which were fired.

Becky Corbin, a Chester County Republican who previously served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives said the staffing data should be raising red flags in Harrisburg.

“I was sworn in on January first of 2013. I served for six years, my career having ended on November 30th of 2018. During that six-year span, I had four staff members that I started with on January first, 2013, and they were with me when I left office,” Corbin said.

“I had no turnover. I had no one leave. If someone can’t hold on to staff for a period of one year — the way she’s losing people — it’s just appalling to me. I think leadership of the Democratic caucus should be concerned about employees who are unable to continue employment with a state senator,” Corbin concluded.

Only one other state senator out of fifty remotely approaches the high churn of Sen. Muth’s office — but his office turnover rate comes with a huge caveat.

Republican Senator Doug Mastriano, also the party’s nominee for governor this year, has had six staffers leave in less than one year.

Last August, however, as Mastriano feuded with fellow Republicans over the possibility of an election audit in 2021, Sen. Majority Leader Jake Corman reassigned three members of Mastriano’s staff. This is reflected in the data as three Mastriano staffers show end dates of Aug. 19, 2021.

Gauging turnover for Senate leadership is slightly trickier, because a Senate majority or minority leader has dozens of extra staff under them that serve the party’s caucus as a whole. For example, the website and company Legistorm, which tracks a host of information on congressional members and their staff, refuses to include leadership in their “bad boss” calculations that are based mainly on staff turnover.

Even before Muth was elected, while on the campaign trail in 2018, there were signals that working for her could be a precarious proposition.

In a 2018 interview with Slate, Muth previewed to the reporter that one of her staffers might be getting the ax soon, and that her campaign had experienced frequent turnover at the highest levels.

When Muth complained to the reporter about a printer that wasn’t working, a staffer tried to turn the situation into a political joke.

“‘Maybe it’s the Russians,’ says Nate Craig, who Muth later whispers may not be destined to last long as her volunteer coordinator. (She’s fired two campaign managers already),” Slate reported.

Costa said all of Muth’s personnel decisions were about efficiency. He sidestepped questions as to whether his office, as leader of the Democratic senate caucus, had ever received complaints from staffers about the atmosphere in Muth’s office.

“Senator Muth is a hard worker and I’ve been proud to serve alongside her. Sen. Muth won her seat by promising to take on tough fights for her constituents, and thanks to the team she has assembled, that’s what she’s done,” Costa said.

“She expects a lot from herself and her staff, and she’s made personnel decisions that allow her to get the job done. I am grateful for the service of everyone who has worked with her, and I look forward to working with her and her team to continue delivering for the 44th district.”

Although Muth’s office did not return a follow-up request for comment on Hinton’s Facebook allegations, Costa did.

“Senator Muth has never been found in violation of any Senate workplace policy,” Costa said. “Any allegations were met with a thorough standard investigation from Senate HR department, after which no negative findings were ever made, and no disciplinary action was ever taken.”

Senate District 44 is mainly based in Chester County, but also includes portions of Montgomery and Berks counties as well.

This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.

DelVal’s Muth Among Democrats Fleeing Biden’s Shadow

A recent CNN poll found 75 percent of Democrats said they did not want President Joe Biden to run for re-election in 2024. The Delaware Valley’s state Sen. Katie Muth apparently is one of them.

Asked about the prospect of another Biden run Muth replied: “He wasn’t my Democratic candidate of choice. I’d like to see what my options are.”

The exchange was caught on videotape, along with other Pennsylvania Democrats declining to answer questions about their support for a Biden 2024 campaign and distributed by a Republican group.

It is no secret progressives like Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery) have been less-than-thrilled with Biden’s performance, and polls show most voters agree. In the Gallup poll released last week, Biden’s approval hit a new low with just 38 percent job approval. That was down from 57 percent approval in January 2021.

In the video, released by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), Radnor Township Commissioner Lisa Borowski, who is running against incumbent state Rep. Chris Quinn (R-Media), scurried away as she is asked whether she would support Biden if he runs again.

And Allegheny County Democratic state Sen, Lindsey Williams also walked off without responding.

Neither Borowski nor Muth responded to requests for comment.

“Joe Biden’s agenda has devastated Pennsylvania’s economy, and Pennsylvania state Democrats have been in lockstep with his policies at every turn,” said RSLC Deputy Communications Director Mason Di Palma. “It’s too little too late for these candidates to try to separate themselves from the president’s failing policies, and Pennsylvanians will see right through their pathetic attempts to save their seats.”

Previously, DVJournal reported Delaware Valley Democrats, including Muth, declined to answer when asked whether they would want the unpopular president to come and campaign with them.

It is a sensitive issue for Democrats. During a debate on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) dismissed the 2024 question saying she did not believe the 79-year-old Biden would run again. Less than 24 hours later, and after pressure from the White House, the veteran Congressional Democrat took to CNN to offer a complete mea culpa.

“Mr. President, I apologize. I want you to run,” Maloney said, looking into the TV camera. “I happen to think you won’t be running, but when you run or if you run, I will be there 100 percent. You have deserved it. You are a great president and thank you for everything you’ve done for my state, and all the states, and all the cities in America. Thank you, Mr. President.”

A writer at the progressive website Mother Jones called it a display of “frightened fealty, wrapped in a groveling non-apology.”

Muth and Maloney are hardly alone. Axios has launched a tracker on the Biden 2024 question and Democrats who dodge it, featuring two prominent names from Pennsylvania politics: U.S. Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and candidate for governor Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

With the inflation rate rising to 9.1 percent in June, the highest in 40 years, Democrats are in a quandary because many experts link the increasingly high cost of living to the Democrat-backed surge in government spending. A recent study showed inflation will cost families $4,400 this year.

Republican consultant Charlie O’Neill said, “Democrats and Republicans seem to have one thing in common these days. Both can’t stand Joe Biden.

“But unfortunately, Sen. Muth and the rest of the Democrat Party did nominate, vote for, and continue to support Biden’s far-left policies,” said O’Neill. “Muth and Democrats own the out-of-touch and out-of-control spending, which has led to a recession. Even after billions of dollars in federal infrastructure promises and one of the nation’s highest gas taxes, bridges are collapsing, and potholes remain unfilled. It’s not just a Biden problem; it’s the entire extremist Democrat Party.”


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