By David Falchek
October 11, 2010
The Times Tribune
Three weeks before the election, the Spending Revolt tour bus rolled into Scranton Sunday hoping to energize the conservative base.
With a decal-wrapped bus worthy of rock stars at the Hilton Scranton and Conference Center, a slate of speakers stoked fears over health care reform, expressed anger over dizzying debt and deficit numbers, and disapproval of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
“We want to send a message that the spending has got to stop,” said James Martin, chairman of the 60 Plus Association, as he removed a worn pocket version of the Constitution from his back pocket. “The Constitution needs to be read more.”
He predicted a “senior tsunami” on Election Day.
Seniors were few in the crowd of about 70 that turned out to the rally, which was streamed on the Internet.
“Don’t tread on me” T-shirts and a straw hat adorned with tea-bags, symbolizing the tea party movement, could be seen in the audience.
Matt Brouillette of the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation brought up a name closer to home: outgoing state Sen. Robert Mellow, D-22, Peckville. His constituents, Mr. Brouillette said, may be concerned about his future.
“Don’t worry. He’ll get $300,000 a year from his pension for his years of public service,” he said. “That’s not the exception in Harrisburg – it’s the rule.”
Health care reform, was referred to as “Obamacare.” Speakers invoked well-worn slogans in the debate about “death panels” and “rationing.” Mr. Martin blamed health care reform on stalled drug approvals and struggling Scranton hospitals.
Chris Jescavage of Tunkhannock came to the meeting because he is outraged at government at all levels, from the federal funds for a teapot museum, to lavish state employee pensions, to full benefits for local government workers when his insurance increased 38 percent.
“After years and years, when is it going to stop?” he asked.
Other groups funding the bus tour include Concerned Women for America, AmericaSpeakOn.org, Americans for Prosperity, and Council of Citizens Against Government Waste.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allows special interest groups participating in political campaigns to keep their source of revenue and donors private. Groups such as 60 Plus have been criticized by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other groups who suggest that they are fronts for corporate or foreign interests.
“Groups like 60 Plus are supporting Republican candidates because they all share an agenda that calls for privatizing Social Security and Medicare,” said Shirpal Shah of the DCCC.
When asked about 60 Plus revenue before the rally, Mr. Martin said the money comes from more than 300,000 individuals in amounts from $1 to $1 million.
“I’ll give you transparency the moment People for the America Way, MoveOn.org, and the AARP reveals where their money comes from,” he said, invoking liberal politically-active groups.
Although he is a registered Republican, Mr. Martin said the group is non-partisan. He criticized Republicans for not keeping their 1994 Contract with America promises.
“Democrats are big spenders, Republicans are big promisers,” Mr. Martin said. “The House will go back to the GOP, and if they don’t fly right, they’ll be tossed out again.”
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