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Keystone Progress has learned that a backroom deal by Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey may result in President Obama appointing a Tea Party lawyer to serve as judge on the Western Pennsylvania District Court[i] in Pittsburgh.

The nomination of David J. Porter is working its way to the White House as part of a deal between Pennsylvania’s two United States Senators.  Senators Casey and Toomey are expected to jointly present Porter to President Obama any day now as part of a deal that will allow Casey to nominate people for 3 other vacancies.

Insiders say Toomey and the Republican Party are willing to make any deals necessary to get Porter on the bench.  He represents the type of jurist the GOP hopes to place on the bench across the country.

Porter is not just a lawyer with a right-wing point of view.  He is a right wing activist and leader in anti-choice, anti-marriage equality, pro-gun movements in Pennsylvania.

He is not just a member of the Republican Party. Porter is well-known in legal circles for being part of the Rick Santorum wing of the Republican Party.  In fact, he has served as Santorum’s counsel.[ii]

Porter is currently the leader of the Lawyers Chapter of the Pittsburgh Federalist Society.[iii] Porter recently invited the president of the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) [iv]  to lead a session of his Federalist Society chapter.[v] CEO is a right-wing legal group that is anti-immigrant, anti-affirmative action, and is even against bilingual education.[vi]

Who is David Porter?

·      Porter is a contributor to the right-wing Center for Vision and Values (CVV)[vii] at Grove City College where he also serves a trustee. CVV’s upcoming conference features Rick Santorum; anti-gay firebrand Michael Geer (gay relationships are a “tragedy” and like incest)[viii]; right-wing radio host Michael Medved and Randall Wenger (attorney for anti-gay and pro-creationism law suits).
·      Head of the Pittsburgh Federalist Society Lawyers Chapter (see above)
·      Member of the Republican National Lawyers Association
·      He is an outspoken conservative tea-partier who not only opposed Justice Sotomayor’s nomination, he helped found a coalition to oppose her.[ix]
·      Porter has written extensively on why the ACA is unconstitutional.[x]
·      He has represented the PA Republican Party on anti-environmental policy.[xi]

Keystone Progress has set up a petition page asking President Obama and Sens. Casey and Toomey to reject Porter as a potential federal judge because he lacks the temperament to be an effective jurist. Click here to take action.



PA also 4th in Percentage of State Students Graduating with Debt

HARRISBURG, PA—The results of a new state-by-state survey by the Institute for College Access and Success show Pennsylvania has the 4th highest percentage of college graduates with student loan debt and the 3rd highest total student loan debt in the nation. Keystone Progress Executive Director Michael Morrill said these latest statistics show the importance of adequately funding higher education and solving the student loan debt crisis.

"These are top ten lists Pennsylvania should not be on,” said Morrill. “The student loan debt crisis isn't just hurting borrowers and their families, it is a drag on our economy that will prevent Pennsylvanians from buying a home, starting a business or make investments in their future."

The study by the Institute found that 70% of students graduating in Pennsylvania in 2012 had student loan debt, the 4th highest percentage in the nation.

In addition, Pennsylvania ranked 3rd in terms of average debt amount per student at $31,675.

Also of concern is the finding that the average student loan debt, already the second largest form consumer debt in the nation and estimated to exceed $1.2 trillion, increased 10% over the last year.

One attempt to solve this problem is the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2013 (HR 1330), introduced by Rep. Bass, Karen [D-CA-37]. There are currently 51 co-sponsors, none from Pennsylvania.

Excessive student loan debt is impeding economic growth in the United States. Faced with excessive repayment burdens, many individuals are unable to start businesses, invest, or buy homes. Because of soaring tuition costs, students often have no choice but to amass significant debt to obtain an education that is widely considered a prerequisite for earning a living wage.

Another solution would be for Pennsylvania to enact legislation to help students and their families. In Wisconsin, the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act was introduced that would:

•    Create a state authority to help borrowers refinance their student loans, just like you can a home mortgage;
•    Allow borrowers to deduct their student loan payments on their state income taxes;
•    Require borrowers be given detailed information before entering into loan agreements, offer counseling to students and parents on the implications of student loans and require the state to collect and disseminate information about private lenders and maintain a ranking system; and
•    Track information about student loan debt in the state to help policy makers better understand the depth and breadth of the debt crisis.

“Pennsylvania needs to deal with this problem now or find its economy will be harmed for generations,” added Morrill.

The entire report can be viewed here:

Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive organization, with over 250,000 subscribers.  KP uses traditional field organizing, the internet and new media to organize online at the state and local level; and utilizes cutting-edge earned media strategies to promote a progressive agenda and counter right-wing misinformation.  


Sen. Richard Alloway and Rep. Brian Ellis pledge fealty to American Legislative Exchange Council in their role as PA co-chairs

Senator Richard Alloway (R-33, Adams, Franklin, York) and Representative Brian Ellis (R-11, Butler), as Pennsylvania state chairs for the American Legislative Exchange Council, were asked to pledge, "I will act with loyalty and put the interests of the organization first."

This pledge to put their affiliation with ALEC over their oath of office was revealed in documents released about ALEC in an investigative report by The Guardian newspaper.
Alloway and Ellis have not publicly rejected this pledge to put a corporate front group ahead of their constituents.

"It is outrageous that Senator Alloway and Representative Ellis have put corporate special interests ahead of serving their constituents and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress.  Alloway and Ellis must repudiate the loyalty oath to ALEC and apologize to their constituents and all Pennsylvanians."

Keystone Progress has been the Pennsylvania leader in exposing ALEC’s role in writing Pennsylvania laws and which legislators are members of ALEC.  The documents revealed by The Guardian ALEC claims 31 legislators.  Keystone Progress has identified 41 current PA legislators who have been affiliated with ALEC.

See more here:

Link to yesterday's story in the Guardian. The state chair pledge is highlighted on page 20 of the embedded document:
Link to the ALEC website listing Alloway and Ellis as the Pennsylvania chairs:
Link to the 2011 Keystone Progress report on ALEC and PA legislators:
Link to 2013 Keystone Progress report on PA’s ALEC-related State Policy Network “think tanks” the Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute:


New report by Keystone Progress unveils Commonwealth Foundation and Allegheny Institute as part of web of groups pushing national corporate agenda at the expense of Pennsylvania’s middle class

(HARRISBURG, PA)— Keystone Progress and the Center for Media and Democracy released a new report today that exposes how two nominally independent tanks—the Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute—are taking their cues from right wing funders, the Republican Party and the agenda established by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The report, entitled “The Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute: Think tanks or corporate lobbyist propaganda mills?” exposes the relationship of far-right State Policy Network (SPN) to both groups.  SPN is a web of conservative state-based think tanks across the United States. In addition to its state think tank affiliates, many other national right-wing organizations are associate members of SPN, including the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Cato Institute, the Franklin Center, the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

SPN and many of its affiliates are some of the most active members and largest sponsors of ALEC, where special interest groups and state politicians vote behind closed doors on “model” legislation to change Americans’ rights, through ALEC’s task forces.  SPN has close ties to, and works with, other national right-wing organizations like the Franklin Center and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity.

The report shows how these organizations take advantage of tax laws to push an extreme right-wing agenda that aims to privatize education, block healthcare reform, restrict workers’ rights, roll back environmental protections, and create a tax system that benefits primarily those at the very top level of income. (See the full report here:

The Keystone Progress report is one of twelve new reports released today exposing the State Policy Network (SPN), an $83 million web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country. Although SPN’s member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, an in-depth investigation reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders. The reports reveal some members abusing tax laws and masquerading as “think tanks” while really orchestrating extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.

Some of the highlights of the report:
While nominally nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations established to do research, both organizations appear to be taking their cues from right wing funders, the Republican Party and the agenda established by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Both organizations rely heavily on right-wing billionaires for the bulk of their funding.

Both organizations are registered with the IRS as 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organizations, but both advocate openly for legislative changes, acting more like 501(c)(4) advocacy groups.

Despite their legislative advocacy, neither organization has registered as a lobbying organization with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and no staff, board members or other agents have filed any lobbying expense reports with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

"The bottom line is these organizations of the rich, by the rich and for the rich are representing themselves as groups that are looking out for the best interests of everyday, working class Americans and it's just a blatant lie,” said a statement from the Center for Media and Democracy.  “What we're doing is trying bring some transparency to the damaging work they're doing on a daily basis.  From policies that promote polluting the air and water to the destruction of our public education system and a tax system that benefits their rich donors, what these organizations are doing is shameful and it's time that someone brought this to light."

The full report is available here:
To view similar reports from other states, go to


Posts on his Facebook page encourage violence, blocking access to meeting

(GILBERTON, PA)—Insurrectionist former police chief Mark Kessler is encouraging his supporters to join him tonight to “make that final stand.” He and his allies believe that thousands of people will respond to that call to disrupt tonight’s Gilberton (PA) Council meeting.  The meeting was called as the final legal step before Kessler is fired as the police chief.

Kessler’s Facebook pages are full of calls to violence.   He encourages his supporters “to make that final stand.”  “Final Stand” is commonly understood to mean a fight to the death.

Kessler proudly links to posts by fellow insurrectionist Pete Santilli.  Santilli has called for truckers to come to Gilberton tonight. In a news release, Santilli wrote, “We fully expect numerous Truckers to press their front bumpers against the front door of the town hall at this public hearing. Thousands of the Chief’s supporters are expected to attend.”  (

Santilli is known to share Kessler’s view that liberal politicians should be shot.  In May Santilli created a controversy by declaring that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should be shot in the vagina.

His supporters are threatening violence to the Gilberton Council and Mayor on Kessler’s pages.  Kessler regularly removes posts with which he disagrees.  The fact that these posts remain suggests that Kessler agrees with their content.

Before prior disciplinary meetings Kessler has urged his supporters to refrain from violence. That has not been the case for tonight’s meeting.

Because of the threats of violence, Keystone Progress is encouraging its members and supporters to avoid tonight’s meeting.

“The situation in Gilberton tonight is expected to be very volatile,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress. “The presence of Kessler’s opponents would only add to the tension, With their predisposition to violence someone is likely to get hurt.”

Morrill will be available for comment via telephone or email.

Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive organization, with over 400,000 subscribers.  KP uses the internet and new media to organize online at the state and local level; and utilizes cutting-edge earned media strategies to promote a progressive agenda and counter right-wing misinformation.  


Tom Corbett: Same-sex marriage is like brother-sister incest

Hardly a week goes by without Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett insulting LGBT people.  And each time we think he's reached a new low he opens his mouth and says something even more outrageous and insulting.

Here's the latest:

Mark Kessler has been something of a media darling the past few weeks.  The small town (Gilberton, PA) police chief has posted a series of flamboyant videos that have threatened elected officials and private citizens whom he has called “libtards.” The media have largely ignored these threats, instead focusing on what they call Kessler’s “potty-mouth” language and his fascination with anal sex.

But the real story is not the cussing.  Nor is it Kessler’s threats to Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry or to “shoot a libtard” (although he should be prosecuted for those threats).

The real story is Kessler’s call for a military coup.  Kessler has called for a massive march to be held next week in Washington, where he hopes the military will join with the people to “give the tyrannical government 48 hours to step down.”

Here is Kessler’s call to action from his Facebook event page, unedited:

“we need millions upon millions of American people to attend and march on Washington DC, September 9th, (peacefully,) look at what is happening right now in Egypt, millions and millions of Egyptians citizens are demonstrating peacefully & demanding their tyrannical government step down, they are doing it peacefully, WITH NO WEAPONS! , now the Egyptian military has sided with the people and has given the tyrannical government 48 hours to step down or the military will intervene,

we can do the same here, but we need millions and millions to stand up go to Washington , and have our military stand with we the people & the constitution once and for all !


Chief Kessler

we can do the same , but we need Millions & Millions


Image taken from Kessler's call to action.
Kessler is a known insurrectionist.  He wears Confederate flag t-shirts, which in the militia movement is considered patriotic because the Confederacy was the Second American Revolution.  
His Facebook page features masked and heavily armed militia members with the flag of the Third American Revolution.  
He and his supporters use their code language for this revolution by calling themselves “III%ers.” “III%” refers both to this Third American Revolution, and to their belief that only 3% of the population of the Colonies was under the command of General George Washington during the First American Revolution.  They believe that an armed 3% can win a revolution today to overthrow the current, illegitimate government.

Kessler has repeatedly posted on his Facebook page and website that he believes he will be the spark for this Third American Revolution.

And his plan is for it to begin on next Tuesday.  His model is the Egyptian military coup.  He has called for the military to “do the same” as the military in Egypt has done, and overthrow the illegitimate tyrants.  He believes that millions of people will arrive in Washington next week to tell the “tyrannical government to step down.”  His vision is for the military to see this massive uprising and join the people in removing President Obama and Congress from power, ushering in the Third American Revolution.

It is easy to dismiss Kessler as a megalomaniac with a martyr complex and classic delusions of grandeur. He clearly lacks the support and the ability to pull this off. But it would be wrong to dismiss him as simply a lone kook.  There are thousands more like him across the country who are just as willing to take up arms to eliminate their political opponents.  And they will likely escalate their rhetoric and their actions to create the spark for their Third American Revolution.  To ignore and trivialize them puts us at risk.

Chief Kessler's Peaceful March on D.C. 9/9/13 (American Gun Owners Alliance)
Chief Kessler's Peaceful March on D.C. 9/10/13

Continue Reading

PA GOP Candidate Tom Smith equates rape to getting pregnant out of wedlock

What is it about Republican Senate candidates and rape?  First, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin said that "legitimate rape" doesn't lead to pregnancy because a woman's body would "shut down."

Tom SmithNow Pennsylvania's GOP U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith said that rape is similar to "having a baby out of wedlock."

Smith made these comments on Monday to Mark Scolforo, an Associated Press reporter.  Here's what he said:

SCOLFORO: How would you tell a daughter or a granddaughter who, God forbid, would be the victim of a rape, to keep the child against her own will?  Do you have a way to explain that?

SMITH: I lived something similar to that with my own family. She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views.  But, fortunately for me, I didn't have to.  She chose they way I thought. No. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't rape.

SCOLFORO: Similar how?

SMITH: Uh, having a baby out of wedlock.

SCOLFORO: That's similar to rape?

SMITH: No, no, no, but... put yourself in a father's situation, yes. It is similar.

Don't take my word for it.  You can hear it for yourself here.

I'm the father of a wonderful daughter.  I can tell you that there is no relationship whatsoever between the way I would feel if she had gotten pregnant before she was married and if she had been raped.  That's because, like most people, I understand the difference between sex and rape.

I've had enough of these medieval Republican views of sexuality, women, and rape.   That's why I'm writing to Tom Smith to tell him what I think of his sexist views that diminish the devastating impact of rape.

I'm also going to demand that he withdraw from the race for Senate, because I don't want someone with these views representing my Pennsylvania.

You can write to Tom Smith too.  Just click here and use our template, or to write your own message to Smith.

Enough is enough.  It's time for decent men and women to stand up write to Tom Smith and tell him what you think.

Michael Morrill, Executive Director
Keystone Progress


These are the official positions from the 2012 platforms of the 2 major parties.  Unless a candidate disavows a position, by accepting the nomination they have agreed to their party's position.

Like and share this on Facebook here.

The first of a series.


The repercussions of the Jerry Sandusky crimes keep adding up.

•    Thankfully, Jerry Sandusky was found guilty and will never be free to rape children again.  
•    The Freeh Report revealed the culpability of the leadership at Penn State where some have lost their jobs and others are facing criminal prosecution for their roles in the cover-up.  
•    Earlier this week the Penn State football program received unprecedented penalties by the NCAA.

We can argue the appropriateness of the level of punishment, but at least people are finally being held accountable for their roles in the Sandusky rapes and cover-up.

But one person has not held accountable—Tom Corbett.  In both his role as Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and as Governor, Corbett apparently had numerous opportunities to stop Sandusky that he didn’t take.  I say apparently, because he refuses to answer questions about what he did or didn’t do.  When a reporter has the audacity to raise questions, Corbett indignantly blusters and threateningly chastises the questioner.

That is probably why no one has called for an investigation into Corbett’s role—until now.

Since Corbett has not been forthcoming, Keystone Progress is requesting that PA Attorney General Linda Kelly, Senate President pro tem Joseph Scarnati and Speaker of the House Samuel Smith begin a formal investigation into Corbett’s role in the Sandusky scandal.

The major question that needs to be answered is why did Corbett wait years to get Sandusky off the street?  I’ve talked to four prosecutors and asked them when they would have arrested Sandusky.  Each of them said they would have arrested him immediately after hearing the testimony of an eye witness.  Each of them said the first priority is to stop the rape of children by getting him off the street.  The investigation can continue after he’s locked up.  None of them could understand why Corbett waited years to have Sandusky arrested.

That still begs the question.  Why did Corbett wait so long?

Chris Freind, one of the most conservative columnists in Pennsylvania, summarizes it this way:
“One of two things seems to be true, as there is no third option. Either A) you were an incompetent attorney general, which virtually no one believes, or B) the investigation was deliberately understaffed and drawn out because you did not wish to be the gubernatorial candidate who took down fabled Penn State - with its massive and intensely loyal alumni network - and the beloved Joe Paterno. Since doing so would have presented difficult campaign challenges, many are asking if politics was placed above children’s safety.”[i]

Friend is right.  Those are the only two options.  If Corbett is simply a bumbling Governor and Attorney General, the people will take care of that in 2014.

If, however, Corbett intentionally kept a child rapist on the street to further his political career, it is morally reprehensible and probably criminal.

That’s why we’re calling on Pennsylvania’s law enforcement and legislative leaders to conduct an independent investigation into Corbett’s role as Attorney General and Governor.

We are under no illusions about asking Republicans to investigate Corbett.  There’s not much chance they will put politics aside and do the right thing.  But we have to hope that they will do just that.  In a state dominated by one party we have no other choice.  If they don’t respond, we’ll try other avenues.

Please sign our petition by clicking here. Then spread the word to friends and family.

It’s time to get answers and only public pressure can get them.

Michael Morrill
Executive Director, Keystone Progress

[i] Delaware County Daily Times


Dozens of PA Legislators publicly rejecting controversial lobbying organization.
Rep. Nick Kotik only remaining PA Democrat publicly allied with ALEC.

(HARRISBURG, PA) – Two weeks ago, Keystone Progress launched a campaign urging state legislators to leave the controversial corporate lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). More than 18,000 letters, emails and faxes have been sent as part of that campaign.

As a result, 4 PA legislators have cut ties with ALEC, publicly stating they are no longer members. Those legislators are Sen. John Pippy (R, Allegheny, Westmoreland), Rep. Sandra Major (R, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming), Rep. Mark Mustio (R, Allegheny) and Rep. Harry Readshaw (D, Allegheny).   Pippy is the former state chair of ALEC.

Readshaw’s withdrawal leaves only one PA Democrat, Rep. Nick Kotik (D, Allegheny), as a member of ALEC.  There are 42 Republicans still publicly allied with ALEC.

The entire list of members of ALEC and those who have rejected ties to ALEC can be viewed at

In the past few days, hundreds of legislators around the country and major corporate sponsors of ALEC have indicated they will not renew their memberships to the controversial corporate front group.

ALEC is behind the efforts to pass bills that strip away union rights, scale back child labor laws, attack the regulation power of environmental agencies, suppress voter rights with strict identification requirements, eliminate the social safety net, and privatize public services.

ALEC is not just another public policy organization, it is a front group for some of the most radical and dangerous legislation.  With such a proven negative track record of effect on our public policy, there's no excuse for legislators to continue their involvement in the organization.

 “Sen. Pippy and Reps. Major, Mustio and Readshaw have shown great courage by opposing a corporate bill factory and standing with the people of Pennsylvania,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress. “We applaud every member of the General Assembly who has rejected ALEC, and we are asking our members to thank those courageous legislators.”

Continue Reading

Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 07:59 AM PDT

"ID, Please"

by Michael Morrill

I voted about an hour ago in West Reading Borough Hall where I served for 5 years as a member of Borough Council.  The Constable greeted me, "Good morning, Mr. Morrill."  The poll workers all said, "Hi, Mike."  Then they asked for my ID.

Michael Morrill

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