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99 Candidates Commit to Integrity ActionsEdit

Source: Democracy Rising PA April 2008

Democracy Rising PA posted on its web site the results of a questionnaire completed by 99 candidates for the General Assembly in the April 22, 2008, primary election.

The questionnaire was co-sponsored by Common Cause/PA, the Commonwealth Foundation, the PA Council of Churches, Rock the Capital and PA Citizens for Legislator Accountability, as well as Democracy Rising PA.

"In every area of public integrity, this questionnaire found dozens of candidates willing to pledge that they will take specific actions to achieve higher standards of public integrity during their term of office," DR Co-founder Tim Potts said.

The questionnaire asked candidates whether, if elected, they will take any or all of seven specific actions on 33 different proposals to improve public integrity. Those actions are:

  • Introduce legislation
  • Co-sponsor legislation
  • Advocate publicly for votes in committee within three months of referral to the committee
  • Advocate publicly for vote in the full House or Senate within one month after referral from a committee
  • Sign a discharge resolution to remove bills from committee and get a floor vote
  • Advocate publicly for the specific proposal
  • Base votes for leadership on the leadership candidate's commitment to action on the issue

The issues presented ranged from open records and lobbying control, to Constitution amendments on re-districting and lame-duck session, to changes in how PA conducts elections and candidates fund their campaigns.

Candidate ConsensusEdit

Responses show a clear consensus among candidates for the questionnaire's proposal to "Enact the highest standards of public integrity in America for public access to government documents in all three branches." This proposal had the highest level of support in six of the seven actions candidates pledged to take. Altogether, 41 candidates pledged to introduce legislation, and 67 pledged to co-sponsor such legislation.

A proposal related to openness and accountability beat open records in one action category and tied open records in another. Thirty-eight candidates promise to introduce legislation to "Require all roll call votes, including procedural votes, to be posted online within 24 hours with links to the language actually voted upon and the final outcome of the vote."

Another consensus finds that on every action category, the proposal with the least support is to "Convert to non-partisan voter registration," which would allow all voters to participate in primary elections without having to declare a party preference when registering. Yet even with a relatively low level of support, nine candidates promised to introduce legislation, and double-digits of candidates said they would take every other action to advance the proposal.

Strong SecondsEdit

Beyond the most and least favored proposals, there is strong support for a broader range of issues. Thirty-six candidates said they will introduce legislation to fix PA's second-worst in the nation system for drawing legislative boundaries, and 35 said they will prime sponsor a bill to prohibit all forms of unvouchered expenses.

For more on the issue of legislative districts, which requires action on a Constitution amendment by June 23, visit the League of Women Voters at www.palwv.org .

Fifty-four candidates say they will put their names on bills to "Ban lobbyists from providing gifts, hospitality, travel, entertainment or any other benefit to any public official."

Forty candidates said they will use their power to force a floor vote for a bill to "Provide a monthly online accounting for each legislator detailing the cost of all salary, benefits and expenses paid during the previous month and including the accounts used to pay the expenses." (For more on this issue, click here to see the April 10 edition of DR News.)

Candidates showed their lack of information about, or lack of support for, some issues - all affecting how the candidates would win election and conduct themselves in office - by not responding. At least 60 candidates skipped five proposals:

  • "Convert to non-partisan voter registration." (68 candidates)
  • "Examine whether to continue taxpayer-funded primary elections for political parties." (66 candidates)
  • "Limit the amount of money legislative candidates can raise from sources outside the district they seek to represent." (61 candidates)
  • "Prohibit fundraising events outside of a candidate's or incumbent's district within one week of a legislative session day." (60 candidates)
  • "Prohibit legislators from providing any service to citizens that is already provided by an executive agency under state or federal law." (60 candidates)

Challengers participated in the questionnaire more often than incumbents, 31.6% to 12.4%.

Incumbent House Republican candidates had the highest participation rate, 35.8%.

Incumbent House Democrats had the lowest participation rate, 9.7%.

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