Clout: Is Blatstein stacking the deck for the city's 2nd casino license?

This bumper sticker, which is making the rounds in City Hall, depicts Marge Tartaglione, former chairwoman of the City Commission, who lost re-election last year.
This bumper sticker, which is making the rounds in City Hall, depicts Marge Tartaglione, former chairwoman of the City Commission, who lost re-election last year.
Posted: October 26, 2012

THE SWANKY AFFAIR that developer Bart Blatstein put on Wednesday to unveil his plans to seek Philadelphia's second casino license seemed finely tuned to create an air of inevitable success.

The usual Democratic suspects from City Council and the state General Assembly were there.

But it was a trio of Republicans who stood out to Clout.

Attorney Bill Sasso served as master of ceremonies while John Brabender and Brian Nutt roamed the crowded venue.

This trio is super-tight with Gov. Corbett.

Sasso served as co-chairman of Corbett's transition team when he moved from state attorney general to governor.

Nutt ran Corbett's two successful campaigns for attorney general, served as chief of staff in that office, then ran Corbett's campaign for governor. He now runs the Harrisburg office of Brabender's political-consulting firm, which did the television commercials for Corbett's campaigns.

Nutt and Brabender are part of the team Blatstein assembled to try to win the city's second casino license for the former home of the Daily News, Inquirer and philly.com at Broad and Callowhill streets.

Nutt said he will focus on lobbying in Harrisburg on Blatstein's behalf. Brabender will handle media strategy for the project.

In August 2011 Corbett named another veteran of the Attorney General's Office, Bill Ryan, as chairman of the state Gaming Control Board, which will award the license.

Corbett also named Ryan acting attorney general when he became governor in January 2011.

Blatstein is seeking a casino license awarded in December 2006 to a group of local investors with strong ties to former Gov. Ed Rendell. The Gaming Control Board revoked that license four years later due to a long series of delays for that casino project.

The deadline to apply for the license is Nov. 15, and Blatstein is expected to have competition.

Parkway Corp., which does parking management and realestate development, is likely to apply but is not ready with details.

"We're working on something we think is exciting," Parkway president Rob Zuritsky said.

Developer Ken Goldenberg says he is "fully exploring" applying for a casino license at a parking lot he controls at 8th and Market streets.

Bolton not so diplomatic

Mitt Romney's campaign this week pitched a visit by former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton as a chance to "promote the optimistic vision of America's role in the world."

Bolton, a veteran of former President George W. Bush's administration, skipped the optimism and spent most of his time Tuesday at the Jewish Americans for Romney event trashing President Obama's foreign-policy record in the last four years.

That's certainly fair game, especially coming one day after the third and final presidential debate focused on foreign policy.

But Bolton's diplomacy faltered when a member of the audience repeated claims by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota who ran for president this year, that an aide to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The man who asked the question and who later refused to identify himself also claimed the Muslim Brotherhood was trying "to infiltrate all aspects of our society."

Bolton's answer, which drew applause from the crowd: "One thing I can say obviously is, under our system, when you get a new president you get a lot of new personnel in the White House and the State Department. Not only do we need a new president, we need about 500 top new presidential appointees right below him."

Romney has ducked questions about the claims Bachmann and four Republican colleagues from the U.S. House made in July about Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee for president, denounced the attacks on Abedin on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Do you miss Marge?

The Philadelphia City Commission had a curious culture for the 36 years that Chairwoman Marge Tartaglione was in charge. The agency, which runs local elections, treated good-government groups like ignorant interlopers.

Tartaglione was defeated in her bid for a 10th term last year by Stephanie Singer. Now chairwoman, Singer has a rocky relationship with her two fellow commissioners and, at times, the people who work for her.

Consider the response she got in a public meeting Wednesday from commission staff counsel Fred Voigt when she asked a follow-up question to a response he gave a representative from a good-government group.

"I'm not sitting here to be interrogated," Voigt told Singer.

How bad is it? A bumper sticker is popping up in city offices, showing a smiling Tartaglione and emblazoned with the question: "Do ya'll miss me yet?"

That is a take-off on a bumper sticker with a picture of former President George W. Bush that became popular a few years ago.

Tartaglione told us she hasn't seen the bumper sticker but would like one for her scrapbook. She said she doesn't much keep up with what's going on in her old office or care about it.

Tartaglione said she wishes no "ill luck" on anyone, though we're fairly sure we heard a little delight about Singer in her voice.

"We all make our mistakes," Tartaglione said. "And she's making plenty, I hear."


Contact Chris Brennan at brennac@phillynews.com or 215-854-5973.

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