Sludge

Posted by By at 29 September, at 10 : 29 AM Print

I should have known something was wrong when I heard the cheerful voice of the operator who sounded something like the ProgressiveAuto Insurance woman on hallucinogenics.  It was a voice reflecting a level of happiness I didn’t usually associate with public employees in my home state of Mississippi.  Maybe Pennsylvania would be different, after all.

“Welcome to Pennsylvania!  My name is Sylvia and I’m here to provide you with everything you will need to make our relationship as productive as you can possibly imagine!”

I had to admit, I’d never felt more welcome.

“Hi, Sylvia.  I own a company, presently based in the south, and we’ve started exploring relocation…”

“Absolutely, I can help you with that!”  Sylvia gushed.   “You definitely called the right place!”

“I figured the Governor’s Action Team would be the place to start.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, were you calling the Governor’s Action Team?  I think you have the wrong number.”

“I called 866-GO-NEWPA – the number listed on your website.”

“No, actually, you called 866-NO-NEWPA.  I warned them this was going to cause confusion sooner or later.  But they wouldn’t listen.  ‘We need a number that reflects our respect for the old ways of doing business in Pennsylvania,’ they said.”

I was about to hang up and redial the correct number when I recalled how enthusiastically Sylvia had responded to my initial, misdirected request for assistance.  Had fate, and my overly fat fingers, led me to her for a reason?

“Um, Sylvia, can you tell me what office I actually contacted?  You seemed so willing to help…”

“Oh, I get paid to help.  This is the ICCR – the Interbranch Campaign Contributors Relations Office.  We handle the contractors and investors who do business with and within the Commonwealth.”

“Handle?”

“That’s correct.  Are you interested in purchasing influence?”

“Influence?”

“We have several plans to fit your specific needs.  And the best part is, we’re funded directly from the Legislative surplus, so we don’t even exist as a line-item.  What kind of business do you operate?”

Here we go, I thought.  This is where we always hit the stumbling block.

“I import and store radioactive sludge.”

“Radioactive sludge!” Sylvia gasped.  “In Pennsylvania, we spell that J-O-B-S!”

“Um…” I slowly continued, figuring it was my opportunity to lay all the cards on the table, “there have been some issues in other states.  Fines.  Lawsuits…”

“Okay.  It’s a good thing you let me know while you’re still considering a plan.  You’ve never been arrested for using drugs, have you?”

“No.  Just for illegally dumping carcinogenic refuse in a major watershed.”

“Good.  We don’t tolerate drugs, here.”

“Clean as a whistle,” I proudly proclaimed.  “Except for the glowing in the dark.”

“Then I think we can come up with a plan that suits your specific needs.  Buying influence with the Governor can cost upward of seven figures.  So we don’t recommend that one for small businesses.

Besides – between you and I – he believes in a free market, so he basically just stays out of the way,

anyway.  With our basic plan, you can purchase Legislative influence for about $25,000.  If you’re buying ala carte, it would cost you $10,000 for the leaders of Senate Caucuses, $5000 for the leaders of the House Caucuses, $1000 for a Senator and $500 for a Member of the House in the district where you’re dumping.  It’s really a good deal.   But, because the application will probably end up in court, you might want to purchase influence with a judge or two, as well.

“That sounds…” I stammered.  “I mean, you can buy influence with judges?”

“Oh, sure.  We elect our judges, here.  Their campaigns are pretty much paid for by law firms.  It’s a very effective system.”

“But isn’t that illegal?” I asked, trying desperately to hide the fact that a radioactive sludge dumper could find something shocking.

Sylvia sounded a bit frustrated.

“Sir, if the people making the laws and the people enforcing the laws have no problem with it, who are we to object?  Don’t you think they know a little more about the law than we do?”

She had a valid point.  Maybe Pennsylvania was the place for me and my seven illegal alien employees, after all.  But I still had one major concern.

“What about if another party takes over after I’ve already bought a package with the old one?  Can I get a refund?”

“Don’t have to worry about that, sir,” Sylvia proudly replied.  ‘’We got rid of political parties in 2006 – at a few minutes after midnight.  People got so bent out of shape over that pay raise thing, they didn’t even notice. Now we just have incumbents and they’re all-but unbeatable.  Believe me, you and your sludge will feel right at home in Pennsylvania.”

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Terry was employed for fifteen years as the District Office Manager for State Representative Frank LaGrotta. During that time, he organized and led campaigns which halted the construction of a high-voltage electric transmission line, a natural gas pipeline and a landfill. In 2007, before the term “Bonusgate” had been coined, Terry approached the Attorney General’s office with crucial information related to crimes committed within the caucus and he was the first witness to testify before the Western Pennsylvania Grand Jury. The information led to the conviction of his former employer, who received a reduced sentence for cooperating with investigators examining the activities of members of caucus leadership. For the last three years, Terry has worked in various capacities for Democracy Rising PA and presently serves as the Research Director. He is in the process of completing a novel which relates the story of his career in the corrupt world of Pennsylvania politics in a science fiction genre because, he says, if he presented it as fact, no one outside Pennsylvania would ever believe him. Interested publishers may querie. - Email Terry Shaffer

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