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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Campaign Contributions May Have Influenced Animal Cruelty Vote in Pennsylvania

Spectrum Features Syndicate

HARRISBURG—Three days before he blocked proposed animal cruelty legislation, Rep. Mike Turzai (R-McCandless), chair of Rules Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, received a $3,000 campaign donation from the Flyers Victory Fund.  

The Fund is the lobbying and campaign contributions arm of the Pennsylvania Flyers Association (PFA). The PFA, according to its website, was “established by a group of shooting enthusiasts committed to promoting and protecting bird shooting for future generations.” Its primary mission, however, is to promote pigeon shoots.
While delivering $3,000 to Turzai, who is also House Majority leader and unopposed for re-election, it also delivered $1,000 to each of the 17 other Republican committee members, including House Speaker Samuel H. Smith (R-Punxsutawney). The Fund gave no campaign contributions to any of the 14 Democrats on the Committee, according to records filed by the Fund with the Pennsylvania Department of State. The Fund also made three donations totaling $1,150 to Republicans not on the Rules Committee.

The PFA delivered the campaign funds on Friday, Oct. 17. The vote to ban slaughtering and eating domestic dogs and cats, and to ban pigeon shoots, was scheduled for Monday, Oct. 20.

Pennsylvania is the only state where pigeon shoots, which hunters do not consider to be “fair chase hunting,” are common. At pigeon shoots, the birds are launched from cages and shot from 30 yards away. About 70 percent of the birds are wounded, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The birds, if they fall onto the shooting fields, are then strangled, stuffed alive into barrels, or have their heads cut off by “trapper boys” in their teens. Birds who manage to fly outside the fields are left to die long and lingering deaths. The bill addresses animal cruelty and not what the shooters mistake for “sport.” The NRA opposed the bill, claiming that to ban pigeon shoots would lead to a “slippery slope” to banning hunting and all guns.

Two days before receiving the funds, Turzai told former state Sen. Roy Afflerbach and retired Humane Society police officer Johnna Seeton he planned to bring the bill to the Rules Committee for an up-or-down vote. The Senate had previously passed the bill, 36–12. Gov. Tom Corbett (R) had said if the bill came to him, he would sign it.

However, Turzai did not bring up the bill in the first of two scheduled Rules Committee meetings. Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Pittsburgh), a member of the committee and Democratic caucus chair, says when HB 1750 didn’t come up, the committee members “believed it would come up in the second committee meeting,” especially since it had been on the agenda. However, Turzai cancelled that second meeting, effectively blocking the bill from being discussed and voted upon in both Committee and on the House floor on the last day of a two-year session.

In addition to Turzai and Smith, receiving funds before the vote in the Rules Committee were Republican representatives William F. Adolph (Springfield), Matthew E. Baker (Wellsboro), Jim Christiana (Monaca), Brian L. Ellis (Lyndora), Mauree Gingrich (Cleona), Robert W. Godshall (Hatfield), Seth M. Grove (York), Thomas H. Killion (Newtown Square), Ron Marisco (Harrisburg), Kurt A. Masser (Danville), Mark Mustio (Moon Twp.), Tina Pickett (Towanda), Mike Reese (Mount Pleasant), Stan Saylor (Red Lion), Mario M. Scavello (Tannersville), and Katherine M. Watson (Warrington).

Turzai had previously received three donations, totaling $1,600 from the Fund, according to the Department of State. Other members of the Rules committee who received Fund donations prior to 2014 were Reps. Baker (1 for $1,000), Christiana (2 for $450), Ellis (4 for $1,450), Godshall (2 for $3,460), Grove (1 for $250), Marisco (4 donations totaling $1,150), Masser (1 for $250), Reese (1 for $100), and Smith (1 for $500). Marisco was the only member of the Committee who received Flyers funding in 2012. The Flyers contributions in 2012, according to the Department of State, were $6,400. However, in the month directly preceding the pigeon shoot vote, the Fund tripled its entire 2012 contributions, donating $21,150, according to forms filed with the Department of State.

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