Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Stevens Lane Redux

The residency issue is the tar pit of the Rick Santorum's re-election campaign. He just can't seem to free himself of it.
He was asked about it on Meet the Press in his debate with Bob Casey. The papers back home keep hammering him on it. It is hurting him bad with voters, particularly in western Pennsylvania.
I have no polling data to support that assertion, but if you want evidence, just turn on your TV. There you are likely to see a Santorum campaign commercial called "Important Job."
It's a very effective piece (or a shameless one, depending on your point of view) that features his children vouching for Dad.
The ad is designed to change the conversation from Santorum's residency (negative) to being a good Dad (positive). It also is intended to innoculate Santorum against a likely flight of Casey ads on the residency issue. Finally, from a tactical standpoint, it opens the door to allowing Santorum to claim that Casey is attacking his children by raising the issue.
(May I suggest that the Casey ad feature his children, saying: "We know where our Dad lives and he's never lied about it.")

On Meet the Press, host Tim Russert went after Santorum with hammer and tongs on the issue. ( Here is a transcript of the exchange) Russert got Santorum to admit that he probably, maybe spends about 30 days a year in the house on Stevens Lane.
In turn, that admission prompted Allegheny County Democrats to make merry with the issue this week. They wondered out loud why Santorum claimed a Homestead Exemption -- thus lowering his tax bill by $70 a year -- when such as exemption is supposed to be given only on a primary residence. A copy editor at the Post-Gazette wrote a clever headline for the piece:

County Democrats trying to hit
Santorum where he doesn't live
But, wait there's more. Santorum got a total of $73,000 from the Penn Hills School District so his five of his six children could attend a cyber-charter school from the family home in Leesburg, Va. (Not a bad deal. Santorum pays about $2,000 a year in property taxes on the house on Stevens Lane, but got $38,000 a year from the district for the cyber charter.) Discovery of the payments led to a brouhaha over whether it was right or wrong for Santorum to take the money. He pulled his kids out of the school when the issue was first raised, but it won't go away.
Recently, the state decided to pay the Penn Hills District $55,000 to settle the issue after Penn Hills sued the state over what the district said were foggy and contradictory rules and regs on cyber charters. On Tuesday, the district decided to accept the state's offer, but that gave Santorum's bete noire, Erin Vecchio -- Penn Hills Democratic party chair and school board member -- a chance to slap him around again over the whole mess. It also gave the PG an opportunity to do the same in an editorial , which suggested that if Santorum was a good and decent fellow, he would repay the district the entire $73,000.
See what I mean? A tar pit.
A postcript: I've blogged before about this issue, You can find earlier posts here and here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The residency issue is the tar pit of the Rick Santorum's re-election campaign. He just can't seem to free himself of it. I've blogged before about this issue.

Gee, why can't Rick get out of that tar pit, Tom? Could it be that DNC shills in the press like yourself won't let him, writing about the same issue 8 times?

It is hurting him bad with voters, particularly in western Pennsylvania. I have no polling data to support that assertion, but if you want evidence, just turn on your TV.

That last sentence explains a lot. Keep fiddling like Nero. As long as it keeps your Dem friends in power.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that photo in this blog supposed to be the Stevens Lane house or did you simply select a photo of a blighted property to leave an unfavorable impression on Santorum. Also, if this carpetbagger issue is so important and worthy of note, why doesn't the Inquirer or yourself do an investigative piece on Democrat candidate Joe Sestak in the 7th district? He lives in a million dollar Virginia home and just started "renting" an apartment in the district. Is this a similar "tarpit"?

3:39 PM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

The first two posts are proof postive the issue is hurting Santorum.

Of course Santorum could and should have been able to put this issue behind him. All he had to do was tell the truth that he doesn't live in the Stevens Lane house, that he was wrong to have asked for and accepted tuition reimbursement for his kids, who were already being homeschooled regardless, and made arrangements to pay the money back.
But Santorum keeps insisting he lives in PH when it's so very obvious to everyone that he lives in Leesburg, VA. He's in a hole and his instinct is to keep digging. Every time he insists he "lives" in PH, he makes it worse for himself by reminding the voters why they got angry in the first place.

It's an incredibily dumb strategy, but as a partisan Dem, I say, keep digging, Rick!

5:26 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

One doesn't have to be a Democrat to see that the residency issue is going to hurt Santorum. A lot of people would love to home-school their child at a very expensive cyber-school and get reimbursed by a school district where they don't really live. But given the opportunity to do so, most people would consider it wrong and wouldn't do it. That is why this issue is giving Santorum trouble.

It's true, of course, that elected Congresspersons and Senators have to maintain a residence in their district or state. It's also true that all of them spend a lot of time away from their legal residence. But as far as I know, Santorum is the only Senator who has claimed reimbursement from taxpayers based on his legal residence. Most, if not all, legislators who live in D.C. send their kids to local schools, and most pay the cost themselves.

Our Senators are not underpaid. Santorum could have afforded the cost. That he chose to get reimbursement was his decision to make, and very likely the reimbursement was technically legal. But legal is not the same as right. Santorum's troubles on this issue are of his own making, not a creation of the press. If he wasn't aware of how his choices might look to the voters, he should have been. Maybe he is in the wrong business.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Santorum is THE biggest bush puppet of them all. What ever the "pres" says, his little puppet dances on the strings, with a big smile on his simple minded face. Anyone voting for this gentleman must not EVER read a newspaper, or watch a newscast. Wake up Pennsylvania, Santorum MUST be voted OUT!!!!

6:06 PM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

As far as I'm concerned the cyber school isn't clean either. They have forms to fill out asking questions about residency, presumably so they can obtain proper tuition reimbursements. The president of the cyber school is politically savvy having, according to FEC records, contributed to Melissa Hart, so it's not like the name Santorum would've been unfamiliar. They apparently didn't question the application at all when rudimentary checks might have shown the Santorums weren't qualified for tuition reimbursement.

It still puzzles me why no one has considered looking into the possible link among the cyber school, located in Hart's district, her close association with Santorum and the fact that Santorum's kids enrolled there. Maybe there's no connection, but, then again, maybe there is.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Parodox said...

In response to anonymous II, I would like to point out that as a resident of Nether Providence where Adm. Sestak is renting, I am not paying for the education of his daughter. It is also noteworthy that Mr. Weldon was kind enough to raise the carpetbagger question when Adm. Sestak's daughter was in the midst of cancer treatment and his trolls thought that he should move her treatment to Philadelphia without considering the possible adverse health consequences.
A second issue that is not being commented on is the favorable loan from a private bank that Mr. Santorum received to purchase his "temporary housing" in Virginia even though he did not have a deposit in that bank, and their rules forbid giving mortgages to non-depositors. That bank coincidently is regulated by his committee. Adm. Sestak may use his VA home mortgage right to purchase the home he plans to buy here, but I don't find that objectionable because he has made his deposit (in sweat equity) to the Navy.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing most people may not realize about the military is that active duty personnel are permitted to declare any state they want as their "home". Lots of Navy personnel choose Florida or Virginia rather their actual place of birth because those states have no personal income tax.

I don't know for sure, but if Sestak has his official state of residence in Pennsylvania, then he deserves credit for that because he chose to pay the state's personal income tax rather than avoid it.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good Catholic, like the image Saint Santorum tries to project, would not steal tens of thousands of dollars in cyber school services by lying about his residence--especially when so many of the schoolchildren in the area he claims to represent attend schools woefully short of resources. What a greedy pig. Anybody who can afford to live in a three quarter of a million dollar mansion in Virginia and have a stay-at-home wife (while chastising other women who NEED to work outside the home) can afford to repay the money. GO TO CONFESSION RICK.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

As a resident of Glen Mills, I could not care less how much time Rick Santorum spends in his PA home, where his children go to school, or who pays for it. I would rather he spend his time in Washington, or around the state he represents dealing with the real issues of the voters and residents of all of Pennsylvania. Where he stands on tax cuts, immigration, Iraq, terrorism, unemployment, oil crises, et al is more of an issue to me than whether he spends 30 days or 300 days in his PA home. This is another non-issue, and to me the only people who rail against it would not vote for him regardless of where he spent his time or who paid for his childrens education.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's see, suppose Santorum enrolled his kids in Virgina schools. How many Casey ads would we see about that? "Pennsylvania school aren't good enough for Santorum's kids." Or suppose he enrolled them in a private correspondence school in Pennsylvania. "Santorum doesn't believe in public schools." Or suppose he left his wife and 6 kids in Pennsylvania and only saw them on weekends. "Santorum talks about family values but doesn't practice them."

5:20 PM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

It's great that you don't care all the state taxpayers, including yourself, are getting stuck repaying the tuition the Santorums illegally took from Penn Hills.

But since you're ok with that, how about you reimbursing the state of PHSD the 78k the Santorums got? I'm sure Rick would be thrilled there's at least one person in Pennsylvania who doesn't mind paying the tuition for his kids.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

According to news reports, the Santorum kids were registered as home schoolers with the PHSD. I don't personally agree with homeschooling, but fine, he's entitled to do that. Presumably since the oldest child is 15, that means the Santorums have been registered homeschoolers for the past decade or so which would include his relection year in 2000. No one cared that he homeschooled his kids or made an issue out of it.

Santorum himself made this an issue by choosing to accept tuition reimbursement to which he was not entitled by virtue of not living at the Stevens Lane address. When he was caught, instead of accepting that he did something wrong, he was totally unrepentant and insisted that he did indeed "live" in Penn Hills, when everyone plainly sees he doesn't.

I happen to believe that by choosing to live in Leesburg, which is NOT a short drive into DC, he's dissing Pennsylvania where he could have also bought a home almost as close on the central PA-MD border, but how many others believe that I can't say.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Naahm Deplume said...

Now, if the powers that be decide that Santorum never was a bona fide resident, can he get all of his income tax payments back? After all, people don't have to pay PA taxes if they don't live or work here.

Seems to me that when I worked in DC but owned a home in Philly, they wanted to count me as a resident, even though I was not there most days. Unlike Santorum, I did not pay PA taxes because I disavowed resident status (and still do -- as a Bostonian, I consider it an insult to be called a Philadelphian).

1:59 PM  

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