John Baer: Imagine, representatives truly representing

Tim Potts of Democracy Rising PA. (Source: www.dickinson.edu)
Tim Potts of Democracy Rising PA. (Source: www.dickinson.edu)
Posted: January 18, 2012

YET ANOTHER PUSH to reform Pennsylvania politics and government might well get a boost from results of what's billed as a first-ever statewide public-integrity poll.

I know, I know, you think any attempt to fix our inept, unchanging, often corrupt political system is very close to impossible.

And I don't disagree.

But there's clearly a need and any effort is worth noting, and this new effort is interesting.

Last month, Tim Potts, a co-founder of the grass-roots reform group Democracy Rising PA, launched a unique political-action committee, the Majority Party PA.

The committee's goal is simple: Use polling to determine what a majority of state voters want on a variety of issues, ask anyone in or running for office to pledge to make decisions and cast votes reflective of those wants, then stand back and let democracy rise.

Imagine the results.

Poll findings to be released tomorrow in Harrisburg and obtained by the Daily News show broad majority support for aggressive reforms and say that 68 percent of voters want a convention to amend the state Constitution to get those reforms.

Among findings: 81 percent want to reduce the size of the Legislature and impose term limits; 87 percent say state pols should be required to resign from one office in order to run for another (as Philadelphia's Home Rule Charter requires); 72 percent think we should change the way legislative districts are drawn, and 88 percent support recall elections.

Imagine the fun we all could have with recall elections.

In areas not requiring constitutional changes, 74 percent support limiting campaign contributions from groups and individuals; 65 percent favor some form of campaign public financing to reduce the influence of special interests; and 95 percent say all candidates, regardless of party, should face the same state requirements to get on the ballot.

Statewide third-party or independent candidates now are forced to collect far more signatures than Republican or Democratic candidates.

But lest you think only progressive issues are polled, findings also show an overwhelming majority - 87 percent - favor a law requiring state-issued voter ID.

Such a law is pending passage in the state Senate. It passed the House last year.

Potts says the Majority Party PA has no agenda and will post polling results on its website, themajoritypartypa.com, on any issue with "anything over 60 percent" support in at least two reputable polls, regardless of who commissions the polls.

The website, for example, includes polling results on taxing Marcellus Shale drilling and selling off state stores.

Potts says the website is the only site with results, summaries and links to all issues-polling done in the state.

The integrity poll was commissioned by Democracy Rising and done by veteran Pennsylvania pollster Terry Madonna.

Potts says of his Majority Party effort: "This country was founded on the idea that people have the right to govern themselves. If there's any legislator or candidate who can't buy into this, you really have to question their motives."

Potts isn't new to attempts to upgrade integrity and accountability in public office. The Inquirer named him one of three Citizens of the Year in 2005. Common Cause gave him its Public Service Achievement Award in 2006.

And he knows of what he speaks. He once worked for former state House Speaker Bill DeWeese. Jury selection for DeWeese's public-corruption trial begins today; his Dauphin County trial is to start Monday.

DeWeese was among two dozen lawmakers and legislative aides charged with using taxpayer-paid employees or taxpayer money for campaign work.

Pennsylvania needs reforms and more accountability. Potts' effort at least offers a path in that direction.


For recent columns, go to

philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.

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