Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PA Supreme Court Candidates Spar Over "Pay to Play"

State Supreme Court candidate Joan Orie Melvin is accusing her Democratic opponent of engaging in “pay to play” agreements with a trial lawyer’s organization.
Orie Melvin, the Republican candidate for Supreme Court, is taking issue with campaign contributions Democrat Jack Panella has received from Committee to a Better Tomorrow, the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association’s political action committee.

"When you can go into a courtroom and walk in and one side has an advantage—and you’ve received a million dollars plus from that group on those issues, because you’ve always been there for their issues. For me, it’s the public perception, and I find it to be pay to play."

The group has given 500-thousand dollars to Panella’s campaign, but also contributed 100-thousand dollars to Orie Melvin.

"I would definitely say a million dollars is too much. I would definitely say 500 thousand dollars is too much, and that is an automatic disqualification."

Panella spokesman Dan Fee says Orie Melvin’s accusation is off base.

"It’s very odd that she accepts hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Senate Republican leadership and declares she can maintain independence, but questions whether other people can maintain their independence."

Orie Melvin says candidates should be forced to recuse themselves from cases involving major campaign contributors, though she declined to assign a specific dollar amount to that suggestion.

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