Other than in the past on a professional basis, when he wrote highly technical articles about IBM's AS/400 computer system, Brian Kelly receives no compensation for his work. Additionally, Kelly has not taken any donations or contributions other than for his US Senate Campaign of 2012. Mr. Kelly has recetly canceled his write-in campaign for the US Senate, and instead he endorses Tom Smith for US Senator from Pennsylvania v. Robert P. Casey Jr. If you would like to donate to the closed campaign to help defray costs, feel free to go to www.kellyforussenate.com and click the DONATE button. Your donations are most appreciated.
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Case closed. This is another problem for good men and good women being disincented from serving their country. Starry eyed and naïve, but not as a politician, I embarked in a process that I did not fully understand. In reality, I did not believe it would bring me to an elected office, but I felt if I did not try to do what I could, I should have no right to complain about the poor legislators we get by letting George do it. From my vantage point, the officials that we have elected, especially recently, have not served us well! I saw this adventure as my opportunity to change some minds, and help our country in some way. In 2010, when I ran for Congress in PA-11, I sincerely hoped that I could assist in sending home a thirteen-term Congressman who had become a major power broker in Congress and at home, and who, from my eyes had forgotten about the bulk of the people that he had sworn to serve. Overall, though I was not elected, this effort was highly successful. I helped make thirteen terms an unlucky number for this particular incumbent.
To be able to replace politicians with good people, as a country we must be able to attract good people to temporarily run for public office. Nobody is looking for more career politicians; just some honest citizens, willing to take some time out of their lives, with no hope of a long-term life-sustaining job and pension. Consequently, we cannot use the same strike-out pen for the neophyte trying to help, that we use for the thirteen term politician who can no longer say “no” to corruption. We must encourage good people to run and then we must continue to treat them as good people and not like politicians simply because they helped us all by choosing to run.
My definition of a politician is “someone who runs for public office, and once elected, chooses to run again.” I might add again, again, again, and again. The extended definition permits one or two additional terms but it does not permit a lifetime politician. Those days are gone. Somewhere before the first “again,” and the last “again,” a regular person, who is elected one term after another, becomes a politician, and shortly after that they become a victim of the fatal disease known as political corruption. Political corruption renders an office-holder ineffective. The people have to stop these potential politicians before they get the disease.
Think of how surprised we are when we find that a person running for office is actually a good and honest person. The perception has been that we must become politicians to represent our peers and this is a big negative for somebody merely wanting to do their part to help the locale or the country. Why is it that even our friends cannot see that there is no metaphysical change and that we are the same people the day before, and the day after we make a decision to run for public office? The stigma of being declared a politician makes regular people reluctant to run and it contributes to entrenched politicians staying in a game they should leave. The moral of the story here is that next time a friend of yours, who is a regular person, runs for office, please give he or she a break. They are regular people trying to improve their country.
I knew that running for office would be difficult and that to make contact with many people in five large counties in Pennsylvania would be an almost impossible task. My plan for recognition was to make myself available to radio and TV stations and newspapers, and to build a very comprehensive Web site that would highlight my platform as a conservative Democrat. The site would detail what I was all about, and why I would be a good representative for Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA). My formerly very alive web site is still intact at www.briankellyforcongress.com.
Though my children suggest the site is quite dull in appearance, it is chock full of interesting tidbits about a lot of issues germane to my candidacy. I naively planned to spend no money other than the ten dollars for the Web name, since I believed that regular people should not have to buy their way into public office, just as they don’t buy any other job. So, whatever I had to do to become better known, my plan was that it would not cost me anything.
When the ballots were actually drawn, I was one of just three people to make it, and I was listed # 1 on the ballot thanks to the drawing of lots. The Capitol Policeman that drew my lots in absentia assured me the # 1 spot on the PA-11 ballot for Congress. Yet, the press did not come running after me to give me free columns, and the media in many ways simply ignored me.
I had very little free publicity. Two local papers interviewed me after I made the ballot and they published their results very close to the election. I had a few other free runs in the papers but none of it was enough for me or any candidate to win any election, anywhere. Ballot access therefore is not the only issue with regular people gaining the opportunity to serve as elected officials. There needs to be a way for candidates to be known without going broke or having to prostitute themselves to benefactors.
I believed at the time that I had access to a local radio show that would let me tell the world that I had decided to pick up the torch and run for Congress. I knew I was as the poet Emily Dickinson once wrote: “I am nobody, who are you… are you nobody too?” So, as my kickoff, I wrote up a proposal as best as I could and I sent it in to the station and said that I would be available to discuss my platform whenever they were willing to give me the air time. I figured that it was news and I would get free coverage. The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft aglay!—i.e. “often go astray.”
My objective was to tell the listenership that a regular person from Pennsylvania, one of the almost 700,000 people in District 11, and 12,500,000 statewide, was going to run for Congress. I later learned no radio or TV station would give a “nobody” or even a “somebody” much air time without them paying for it. Since I had no dollars to invest, I was off to plan X, which at the time, had not been written.
Additionally, the incumbent, who behaved as if he owned the public TV channels, nixed a debate of all three candidates and Public TV would not grant a forum for my candidacy. Tell me again the purpose of public TV! Those in the know told me that Public TV’s funding was tied to this incumbent, and that they would be risking their existence by giving challengers to the throne any air time. Tell me again the purpose of public TV!
Backing up to the week that I decided to run, I spoke with Marty Devaney, my campaign manager about helping me out. He told me how to get started and eventually he signed up for the heavy lifting and he assured that we would have enough signatures to get on the ballot. That first week, I drove to Luzerne County voter services to get my packet to run for Congress, paid my parking fee twice, only to find that the congressional petitions were available only from the state office in Harrisburg. It was just day one of the campaign and I was already running into built-in ballot access process obstacles intended to make running for office in Pennsylvania a difficult task. From what I have learned, no matter where you go in all states, running for office is a tough road to hoe. It is simply not easy to run for elected office?
Len Piazza, then head of Luzerne County Voter Services at the time was kind enough to order the state packet for me online while I waited. I had no idea why the state packet was important since I had never received one. I was told by Marty that I needed the packet so we tried to get it. I was pretty Internet savvy at the time and had tried to find the packet links a number of times by myself but I had not been unsuccessful. Can it be intentionally difficult to discourage newcomers for public office?
I found it very noteworthy that PA Voter Services in my home town, an agency funded by the state, was not able to help in my quest for getting on the ballot in the state. That would be too easy. Of course their name is not PA Candidate Services, so this should have given me a clue that I needed to check my optimism at the door. Only because the head of the group thought that as a citizen of Luzerne County I deserved help, did I receive any courtesies. Courtesy was optional at the county level. It still is. Yet, this particular director showed me a lot of courtesy, and we had never met prior to that day.
Once I received the election packet in January, 2010, unfortunately, I was prohibited from requesting signatures for my nomination petition until February 16, 2010. There was a three week window from February 16 to March 9 and that was it. By March 9, all petitions had to be in Harrisburg by 5 P.M. I still cannot figure out why a three week period helps the process but I can see how it helps a well financed incumbent.
The coldest months of the year are when the politicos demand that the outsiders, such as I, trek through the snow and sleet and mush to get on the ballot. You know in their hearts that they hope we all get discouraged and just go home as failures. Most do fail. With just three weeks minus the day for the drive to Harrisburg, to get 1,000 to 4000 signatures, failure is very likely. In running for Congress in the Primary as a Democrat, I needed 1000 valid signatures but was advised to get 2000 to make sure. It was a major task but I had a lot of help, and I made it to the ballot.
Would our state level politicos intentionally make this process difficult? I think so. When Robert P. Casey Jr., an entrenched politician from a family of PA politicians, knocked Carl Romanelli Jr. off the ballot by nitpicking over 30,000 signatures for the General Election in 2006, it was not by accident. In running for Congress in the Primary, I needed just 1000 valid signatures. Though to be safe I should have brought in 2000 signatures to avoid Romanelli’s fate, my total was 1514 and I went with it. That is pretty good work for a 20 day period.
The Romanelli case is detailed in Part I of this article. Romanelli, a Green Party Candidate brought in almost 100,000 signatures but not enough for Casey to accede that he was a worthy opponent. Therefore, now Senator Casey, one valid signature at a time, had the Romanelli signatures invalidated. Romanelli was left with just 55,000 signatures agreed by the Greens and the Democrats to be valid. Yet, observers suggest most of the others were also valid. Nonetheless, Romanelli lost his opportunity to be on the ballot by about 12,000 signatures.
Ballot access is way too tough in Pennsylvania and many other states in which entrenched politicians decide that regular citizens are not worthy to run for office. I knew in my case that I would need at least 1500 to 2000 signatures to avoid a similar plight. Poor Carl Romanelli! Bad Bob Casey!
The instructions in my state packet cautioned me that any signature that was signed and dated any time other than during the three week period would be invalid and would be thrown out. Ironically, if your office requires just 10 or 100 valid signatures, you have the same three weeks to collect your signatures. Obviously, those of us that need 1000 or perhaps 4000 signatures, have a much more difficult job. The more signatures required, the less the powers that be want an outsider to win that particular spot on the ballot.
While I was at Voter Services in Wilkes-Barre, I asked the staffers for the list of Democrat voters in my area so I would know who to call on to get signatures. Republicans were automatically not valid. District 11 included all or parts of five counties of PA. Luzerne County could only provide a CD with Luzerne County residents. They were not permitted to give me the voter lists for the other four counties in D-11? Why? My answer is because it would make it too easy. Under the current system, I would have to visit each county to get those lists. Thinking that taxpayers such as I keep these state offices afloat, I was surprised to find that the one CD with the names and addresses in Luzerne County cost me a cool $50.00. I was even more surprised that to gain CD’s from the four other counties in District 11, it would cost me an additional $200.00 if I were able to get them.
Unfortunately, just as Barack Obama can change federal law to suit his purposes, counties in PA take the same privilege. One county official simply told my representative who lived in that county that they would not give her the CD because the incumbent was going to kill me in the election. Thank you, Monroe County, for your fairness.
The Voter Services site in Wilkes-Barre is very nice and clean and very new looking and the people there were all very nice to me. Though I typically characterize government people as uncaring, slow-moving, and crabby, this was not the case here in Luzerne County, at least when Len Piazza ran the place.
Unfortunately, I could not pay the $50.00 bill. I was not expecting to be expending any funds on the first day of my campaign. I did not have my checkbook, and I did not have enough cash, and they would not take credit cards. So, I had to leave for home, come back, and pay another parking fee after waiting for a spot to vacate (no visitor parking). Then I got to pay my $50.00. Unlike most election transactions, at least I did not have to get a money order or a certified check.
For a guy who planned to spend nothing on his campaign, just to compete I had already paid $50.00 on my first day and was on deck to pay $200.00 more for other county lists in PA-11. When I learned I would have to pay to have each of the more than 75 sheet signature petitions notarized before going to Harrisburg, I got the next scent of required spending. When I submitted the completed petitions to Harrisburg, since I could not drop them off at Voter Services in Wilkes-Barre, PA, it cost me a day of my time to drive there and back. At 100 plus miles each way, there was the gasoline fee and the car wear and tear factor, and of course there was the long wait in line to have the petitions verified.
Moreover, the state requires a money order or certified check for all items payable to Harrisburg, such as the $150.00 filing fee for the privilege of submitting the signature petitions. So there is another $150.00 that I did not know I would have to pay when I chose to run. Already I was over $500.00 and this is way too much in my humble opinion to encourage anybody to run for office. Anybody will tell you that at $500.00, for nothing that helps you win an election, you have paid just enough to be a valid loser. Eventually I spent a few more dollars on signs etc. but all of this was in addition to the state and county sign-up fees.
Why make it so hard? The rules were made by politicians so that they could get reelected and others, such as me and you, would not bother bucking a system designed to eliminate candidates at the starting block before the voters even get to know them. Luzerne County made it as easy as they could. They took a check, gave a receipt from an audit book, and life was good. Thank you again Len Piazza of Luzerne County. But, the state would not permit the nomination petitions to be checked out at the county level, even though they do this all the time for local elections.
Let me see if there is another good reason for such a restrictive process. Does the state think that a personal check is going to bounce? Will the state go bankrupt if a check for nomination registration, after the candidate gains a zillion signatures, actually does bounce? If a check bounces, could the state more or less eliminate the candidate or assess a penalty rather than force a money order or certified check? A personal check would make it so much easier with such major time constraints as those imposed in this system. Maybe there is no other reason than politicians like it to be difficult, especially when they know the ropes, and the challengers are like babes in the woods.
Don’t you just hate government bureaucracies? To tell the truth, that is one reason why I chose to run once again—this last time for the Senate. My hope has always been to reduce government and to the extent that it cannot be reduced, I would like to reduce stupidity in government. Of course, I would also like to eliminate the former “representatives of the people,” who create and foster such stupid requirements and require such ludicrous behavior for compliance.
Let’s back up now from submitting the petitions to Harrisburg to when I received my packet from the state. When I finally received the “official packet,” I had to figure out how to get all of the petitions signed by real Democrats. To save on cost, the state did not send me enough petition sheets to get the required number of signatures. So, I had to go to Office Max and pay to get legal sized copies made. To get volunteers to help, I had to buy clipboards, pens, business cards, promo material, and I had to pay to copy a lot of other material. None of this is free.
When all was said and done and we were finally counting the signatures and preparing them for notarization, I found that some of my completed sheets had only one or as few as two to five signatures. Some well-intentioned petition bearers were simply not able to give as much time as they originally had thought. Yet, each sheet needed to be notarized, and the cost of notarization had to be paid.
I have read about candidates whose petition bearers could do no better than one signature per half hour when out on the trail. When Marty Devaney, my campaign manager, and I, went out together, we got about six or eight signatures per hour. The outside estimates suggest that the rate should be on the average of about six to twelve signatures per hour, if you are fully prepared. That sounds low but it is what the experienced suggest due to the following door knocking scenarios and real life situations. Overall, Marty and I did fine, and most of our bearers did fine. Why is the number so low, you may ask? Well, there are problems. One variety of problems might be called:
Door Knocking Problems:
- Nobody home
- Home but peaking through the blinds
- Lots of noise and scurry but the door never opens
- Who dat?
- Oh, we don’t know him.
- Is he from our church?
- Can you come back when they are home and I can let you in?
- etc. etc. etc.
As Ringo Starr would say: “It don’t come easy. You know it don’t come easy.”
Doing the math, on the average, it would require well over 100 hours getting 1000 signatures. But everybody tells me that you need twice as many signatures (2000 total) since your incumbent opponent will try to have all your signatures thrown out (invalidated) because of errors. The state in most of these cases knows the signature is of the person who actually signed it, but, at the urging of the incumbent or another challenger, they are very anxious to strike a contested signature from a challenger’s nomination petition. The anxiety rolls over to the next one contested and the next and the next. A cynic might think that ballot access for an unknown candidate is simply unfair. It surely is unfair in PA and many other states. Why would a signature be contested in many states, including Pennsylvania? Here’s why:
Signature Line Challenges:
- Signer is not a registered voter
- Signer resides in wrong district / county
- Comparative “official” data base is not accurate
- Signature or data not completely legible
- Multiple counties on form
- Address is wrong / incomplete / missing address
- Incomplete / missing dates / dates out of order
- Ditto marks
- Nickname or initials in place of full name
- No cursive signature
- Wrong / fraudulent signature*
There are more potential issues than in the above list. Once you are able to gain all the signatures a petition form can handle, the petition bearer (the one who agrees to carry your petition and request and obtain signatures) must have the sheet with as many as 50 signatures notarized in an affidavit. The carrier must be present for the sheet to be valid for notarization. Notary Publics like to receive their usual and customary fee for the service, though some agree to be worker bees at Notary parties, in which tons of sheets are notarized and the Notary makes a bundle of cash.
Each sheet fits 50 signatures. As we examined the results, we found about 20 signatures on average per nomination petition page. So, for 20 signatures per sheet, at 75 sheets for 1500 signatures, the cost would be three hundred seventy five dollars if the Notary accepted $5.00 per page. But, let’s say the Notary Public charged $1.00 per signature. The cost in this case would be $1500 for the entire nominating petition. Is this America?
Why must all signatures forms (petitions) be notarized at all? If it is so that the signatures do not have to be checked in Harrisburg, then don’t check them again in Harrisburg. A Notary as a state official already would have already verified the facts. But that would be too easy. If the state believes via the state certified Notary’s stamp and the signature that the Notary examined each sheet, there should be no reason to contest them. So, I would suggest that either the state eliminate the contest period or eliminate the requirement for a Notary. I would vote for the latter.
If I paid the $1500 for Notary fees, and if I had to pay as little as $2.00 per signature to the bearer ($3,000.00) my campaign charges without any advertising at this point of the campaign, without trying to attract a single voter would have been over $5000.00. That is real money. For my Senate campaign it would have been in the neighborhood of $10,000 but probably more as petition contracting firms would have had to be paid. Another major burden is that if the income or expenses for a campaign exceed $5,000.00, you must file a huge report on a regular basis outlining income sources and expenses. I would have had to hire somebody to do that, which is additional expense, but my numbers were below the threshold.
Once you get the signatures, the hard work of proving they are valid begins. To show you how picky they are in counting signatures, here is a quick example. In 2009, Philip J. Berg, running for Judge of the Common Pleas Court of Montgomery County, in PA, was taken to court when Brian Miles objected to Berg’s having submitted 287 signatures, though he required just 250. Miles contended that Berg, a Notary Public himself, had notarized certain sheets from his own petition. These represented 121 signatures. In PA, a Notary is bound by law to not notarize any documents that are attesting to anything about the Notary.
The court found in favor of Miles even though, post facto, Berg submitted notarized signatures (fully compliant and verified by other Notaries); but it was after the 121 signatures were contested. Despite a tacit acknowledgment that the signatures were good, and it was merely a procedural fault, the voters were denied the opportunity to vote for Berg in the upcoming election. Moreover, his petition signatories were excluded from having their intended impact via a technicality. This is the ultimate voter disenfranchisement. Apparently, few powerful people in government understand the intentions of the Founders or they choose to enact laws that ignore the intentions as formalized in the US Constitution. Consequently many ballot access laws would be struck down as unconstitutional if the people brought the issues to the court.
Do rulings such as this help the public or do they help incumbent politicians? As detailed in Part I and discussed briefly above, in 2006, then Treasurer of PA, Robert P. Casey Jr. authorized the pay vouchers of a team of staffers, who sifted through Carl Romanelli’s nominating petitions to find, from their perspective, that over 30,000 signatures were invalid. Post facto analysis of this debacle showed the process was flawed and it shows that Romanelli was cheated from being on the ballot in PA. He was thus taken off the ballot by the judiciary, even though the judges understood that getting on the ballot, according to the law required just a modicum of support. The 55,000 uncontested ballots represented more than twenty-five times the signatures for support that Bob Casey Jr. produced. Surely, this was 25 times more than Romanelli should have needed under current law. Ten signatures are more than enough to prove a modicum of support. Who are politicians trying to kid?
Let me say it one more time. Carl Romanelli received 25 times the modicum of support required by the legislature for Democrats and Republicans such as Bob Casey Jr. Yet, neither the courts in PA nor Casey Jr. himself did anything to help Romenelli right this wrong. Casey Jr. never spoke up to suggest that democracy had not been served properly. In fact, it is alleged that Casey, as PA Treasurer, signed the paychecks of the PA staffers that worked for him and the Democratic Party. In other words the folks who caused Romanelli’s demise were paid by tax money that Romanelli had paid to Pennsylvania through checks signed by Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. Could Mr. Casey have known there was a problem?
An excellent treatise on the Carl Romanelli v Robert P. Casey Jr. case was written by Blydon Potts. Professor Potts’s piece is extremely well written. If Senator Casey is completely innocent of fraud and innocent of unauthorized use of government employees, Potts and others ask why are so many important PA legislators now in jail over the Bonusgate scandal that surrounds the Romanelli case? I suspect that we can rule out that Senator Casey was too important to prosecute? What do you think?
The Blyden Potts (Shippensburg University) essay on the subject of ballot access can be found here.
Many outsiders, who have nothing to lose, have a lot to say about this and Pennsylvania law in general. Pennsylvania’s ballot access laws are corrupt and the way they are implemented is even more corrupt. For example, on June 29, 2011, Randy LoBasso, writing for Philadelphia Weekly hit it on the head when he wrote: “… In fact, back in 2006, Pennsylvania was called one of the worst places – in the world! – to have a free election, according to the Helsinki Accords. Part of that includes the fact that Republicans and Democrats need just 2,000 signatures to get on a statewide ballot while independent and thirty-party candidates are required a fable-worthy 67,070.”
Pennsylvania’s antiquated laws not only hurt Pennsylvanians at all levels from providing competition against entrenched politicians in our state government elections; they also affect our national elections. I can see a day when citizens from other states pressure Pennsylvania lawmakers to change our laws to stop national elections from being corrupted by the legislative scum in Pennsylvania. What a legacy our state legislatures bring home to us. Before that happens, Pennsylvanians and citizens of all the other states should do something to achieve ballot access reform. Please!” Let’s do it now. Let’s fire all state legislators that choose not to solve the ballot access problem once and for all. Why wait? Since Romanelli, PA legislators have had six years to fix the problem and they have chosen to do nothing. Let’s fix that problem the very next time these maggots run for office. We know how to fix the problem for good. Send them all home.
Unfortunately, neither Pennsylvania nor most other states are getting better at protecting voters’ rights. In fact, some of the most popular third parties have screamed for attention that they faced concentrated efforts to get their party knocked off the ballot statewide in Pennsylvania in 2008 and 2010. As recommended, Pennsylvanians should recall all of our legislators until we can become as American as America permits. Do not vote for them ever again. What shall we expect when Tom Smith, a Republican takes on the same Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. a Democrat in the November election? I hope we see the honest man win.
In my run for Congress, in addition to the dollars already in the spent column, plus my undisclosed Notary fees, I was advised to get signs, T-shirts, matchbooks, newspaper ads, bench ads etc., all of which came to about $4,000.00 out of my own pocket. It is tough to run for office, and it can cost more than you would ever imagine. In the PA 2010 Primary Election for Congress, I achieved 17% of the Democratic vote without mounting a campaign—as the pundits would say. The incumbent won in a three-way race.
Therefore, as a Democrat, I took on the challenge of working for the Republican candidate, an honest and right-thinking person—Lou Barletta—to help Democrats know that as the challenger, he was the better person. America won a decisive victory in the general election in the fall 2010. Lou Barletta, one of US, became the representative of PA-D-11.
Congressman Lou Barletta knew that he was outgunned in D-11, with a huge incumbent campaign war-chest and a preponderance of Democrats who for the past thirteen elections had turned government over to the incumbent. He needed a lot of Democratic support to turn in a victory. My job was to tell Democrats my thinking about the incumbent and the challenger. Congressman Barletta is as fine a man as we could have representing District 11. Many Democrats, such as myself, crossed the Party line to vote for him because more than ever, the time had come to vote for the best man instead of the Party. Northeast Pennsylvania now benefits from their most recent past election decision. I could not be happier with our new Congressman.
When the states make the ballot laws even easier for regular people to get elected, more good people like Lou Barletta will surface more often, and our democracy will be far better served. For now, we in NEPA are pleased that our Congressman, Lou Barletta made it to Washington. Sometimes, even in a flawed system, good things happen.
Brian Kelly is a business owner and former assistant professor at Marywood University; he and his wife live in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Kelly is running for Senate in his state and believes limited government brings liberty and freedom.
About Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly is a business owner and former assistant professor at Marywood University; he and his wife, Pat live in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Kelly ran for COngress and for the US Senate in his state and he believes limited government brings liberty and freedom. Brian's 48th book is titled, Saving America, The How-To Book. It is available at www.checkoutking.com and www.itjungle.com.