Campaign and Election Reform

Where else would you expect to find some common horse sense?  Why, the “Horse Trader” of course.  The “Horse Trader” is well read in Armstrong and Jefferson Counties for folks who like to find good bargains.  But there is a man with some solid thinking and good common sense over there who writes a column called, “The Way I See It…”  Recently he had some thoughts on these past primary elections and he has noticed an area of corruption that is eating away at our American historical tradition of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Here’s what he says:

I must agree that most often offices are won by the incumbent or someone with the money or ability to raise large sums of money, not always the best candidates.  There are many people that could and would do a great job if elected to office but we will never know because they can’t raise the unbelievable amount of money it takes to get elected.  It’s time we take our country back with campaign reform that limits the amount of money spent and require it to be raised from the area served to make it again so that everyone has the same opportunity to run and serve.

We also need term limits to keep any politician from amassing enough power to be corrupt. Money spent by lobbyists must be cut, after all we have a representative goverment that represents all its citizens, not just those that pay for a vote.  Allowing bills to be voted by merit not how deep the lobbyists pockets are–because in this country the porrest of the poor deserve the same representation as a President in Industry.

Many, myself included, feel our party has left them as leadership values have changed. We are forced to vote either Democrat or Republican if we choose to vote in the primary.  Why not, like other states, allow all voters Republican, Democrat, or Independents to vote for anyone they choose in the primary.  This has worked for years in California, Florida, and many other states.  This would also take away the power of the two party’s leadership if they had to deal with Independents to get a bill passed.

Barry Crytzer properly identifies a frustration with the current system.  How can we expect our representatives to represent us if they are on the payroll of big business and lobbyists?  They continue to get richer and amass more power thus distancing them from the people they are supposed to be representing.  To start with we need a 100% tax on all lobby money that politicians receive that originates from outside of their district.  We also need politicians to exempt themselves from voting on any issue that involves a business that contributed to their campaign.  How can you expect fair and impartial decisions to be made otherwise?

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Punxsutawney Radio Interview

On 4/11/12 Josh Widdowson of AM 1450 WDAD Radio in Punxsutawney called to interview Jim Brown 


Jim Brown with the "first" yard sign 2012

These were the questions and answers discussed that evening.

1) Belt tightening is the big thing going on, not just with families and individual lives, but within state government as well?  What are your ideas on how we can tighten the belt without sacrificing too much?

  • Well, Josh, as a new member in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives I would begin this task by starting with cleaning our own house. The Commonwealth Foundation Has written a paper called A Taxpayer’s Budget an in it the identify a plan for Responsible Spending which includes opportunities to cut over $4 billion in wasteful state spending in the budget.  The report also offers a series of recommendations for resolving the current revenue shortfall and reducing the size, and burden of government on Pennsylvanians.

Basically their report was organized into three sections:

  • First,To Eliminate Wasteful Spending: they identified $4.13 billion in spending cuts – $1.00 billion from the state General Fund Budget, $2.21 billion from other operating funds, and $926 million from the capital budget and off-budget programs. 
  • Second, we should Adopt a Market-Based Delivery of Government Services: Spending on public education, benefits for state workers, and Medicaid is growing far beyond taxpayers’ ability to pay.  By adopting market-based reforms in the delivery of services, state government can not only reduce costs, but improve quality.
  • And Third, we should Adopt Spending and Budgetary Transparency Reforms: Transparency in government spending and instituting performance-based budgeting would help identify and eliminate wasteful expenditures, as shown in other states.Before imposing tax increases on working Pennsylvanians and job creators, Harrisburg policymakers need to prioritize spending, justify all $66 billion in state spending, and cut waste from state government.
  • A part-time legislature with part-time pay to match, and no pension.
  • A restoration of the founding tradition of term limits to re-instate the concept of a “citizen legislature.”
  • Opening every account in the General Assembly—including the notoriously secretive slush funds controlled by legislative leaders—to an independent audit.
  • An end to taxpayer-funded radio and television advertisements, newsletters, road maps, children’s coloring books and other goods and services that are not the proper domain of government but which legislators use to get themselves re-elected

Josh, when I am elected and arrive in Harrisburg I will refuse to participate in that lavish pension system. I will refuse to take the automatic annual pay raises that previous members have voted to give themselves. But most importantly, I will not make a career out of Harrisburg. I will not stay there more than six years total.

2) Jefferson County’s unemployment rate is currently above the State Unemployment Rate of 7.6 Percent as of February.  What do you think is the best thing that a state legislator can do to help stimulate job growth?
Let me ask you a question, Josh, “Do Government programs grow the economy?” Think of the economy as a small lake. If you fill a bucket on one side of the lake, walk around to the other side (spilling some along the way), and pour the water back into the lake, you aren’t increasing the total amount of water in the lake. But that is exactly how a lot of spending advocates argue government programs will grow our economy. While decades of increased government spending have resulted in economic stagnation, many advocates of increasing government spending, claim that their favored program will “grow the economy.” They argue that if government takes taxpayer money and “invests” it, that is the path to prosperity.

But This argument ignores the basic fact that government has no money of its own, other than that which it takes from taxpayers. Claims that any program “creates” economic growth look only at the surface effect of government spending, not the unseen effect of taking that money out of the economy through higher taxes. How much better would families and businesses spend and invest their own money than politicians?

If we are going to grow the economy and bring more jobs to Jefferson, Indiana, and Armstrong Counties we need to get the government out of the way of the private sector. A smaller government with fewer regulations will do more to truly stimulate our local economy than more taxes, regulations, and bureaucracy.

Josh, a few weeks ago our local Brookville Jeffersonian Democrat newspaper had an editorial by Randy Bartley called “Welcome to Regulation Nation.” In it he outlined how over the past generation liberal policy has gone berserk, regulating the nation to the brink of economic ruin. It’s time to return some common sense to Harrisburg and restore those personal and business freedoms that we have lost.

We can’t just blame the liberals on this issue, we’ve had our share of republicans there too that continue these economic bankrupting policies. I would like to restore some of that common sense to Harrisburg.

3) Education has always been a big issue in this area.  Can you name something that can be done to help school districts that may be in financial straits within the next five years?

Josh, I’ve been in education for 35 years now as a teacher, administrator, librarian and lately as a school board member. My experience tells me thatA well-educated citizenry is the bedrock of a prosperous society. Enabling parents to choose the school that best fits their children’s academic needs is the best way to ensure a well-educated citizenry.
Pennsylvania ranks in the top four states in America in spending on education, yet our students’ SAT scores are average at best.

I am proposing that we empower parents by

  • Allowing tax dollars to follow children to the school of their need—public or private—just like higher education.
  • Prohibiting public school teachers from striking and locking out students, and docking their pay when do, just as New York state does.
  • Grading each public school according to the academic achievement of its students and publicizing that grade to parents and taxpayers.

4) The size of the state legislature is slated to shrink.  Do you think this is a good idea?  Why or Why not?Well,Josh, I don’t know if you knew this but Only four states in the nation have a full-time legislature, and Pennsylvania is one of them. Defenders of the full-time legislature argue that Pennsylvania is a large state with a wide array of complex issues to continually address, such as education, transportation, energy, agriculture, health care, crime, the environment, and more. But Texas, which has more than double Pennsylvania’s population and is four times the size of the Keystone State geographically, has a part-time legislature.

Moreover, Pennsylvania’s legislators are in session only 70-90 days a year, yet they collect a $79,000 base salary, are fully reimbursed for mileage, and receive a gold-plated health care plan for which they pay very little (1% of salary). They also receive a golden parachute pension that is paying retired Senate Minority Leader $330,000 annually.

Additionally, lawmakers who live more than 50 miles from the Capitol are eligible to collect a tax-free, daily supplemental payment of $163 for food and lodging during legislative session.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “No wonder Jim wants to be a State Rep. That job is full of perks.” But Josh, I didn’t enter education to get rich, I entered because I want to serve people and help students learn. I have a similar motive for joining the House of Representatives, I want to serve the people of District 66 and help them get the most for their tax dollar.

Rather than cut the size of the legislature By Making the General Assembly part-time we could save the taxpayers as much as $20 million a year with no reduction in the effectiveness of state government, as Texas and other large states have shown. Oh, sure, if we reduced the number of representatives we would also save money and from the representative’s point of view they might be able to run things more efficiently but think about this from the taxpayer’s point of view, “Now I have to share my representative with a greater number of other citizens and I will probably be less valued in their eyes. Josh, I don’t want to see any taxpayer slip between the cracks. Each one of us needs as great of voice in Harrisburg as we can possibly get and we will lose some of that with a smaller General Assembly.

  1. What do you see out of state government two years down the road? Do you mean realistically or idealistically? Well, idealistically, I see a smaller government in Harrisburg with less regulating of the people and businesses in Pennsylvania. I see a much lower unemployment rate and the economy thriving. But realistically, I know I’ll just be a freshman legislator without much policical pull but what I do have will be some good strong vocal cords and I intend to use them to bring some common sense to Harrisburg. I will not sit idly by while business as usual goes on. I will make my voice heard.
  2. 6) What do you feel is the biggest issue that we have overlooked? So far we’ve neglected the really important issues. A couple of the most important issues before us today are the protection of personal and property rights. We’ve had a republican majority in control for some time now but we are still not getting our conservative agenda passed. We need to protect the weak and the defenseless. Today we still have lives of unborn being needlessly wasted. We have sick and infirmed people in hospitals not getting the best service that they need because too many of the important decisions are being made by insurance companies. Shouldn’t decisions be made with the best interests of the patients in mind? As for property rights I would like to see the property tax repealed and replaced with a sales tax. No tax should have the power to leave you homeless.
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Jefferson County Republican Banquet Speech

Jim Brown

Taken March 2012

Why is Jim Brown running for Pennsylvania House of Representatives?  It is because he is a God fearing man who expects more out of his government.  We’ve had Republicans in control of the House for some time now but we still are not getting our conservative agenda passed.  Every day that our Republican legislators drag their feet we have more needless abortion deaths, more rules and regulations choking our local businesses, more taxes, and more politically correct bureaucracy.  Maybe they’ve got something more important to do than save lives and restore freedom to Pennsylvania but as the Representative from the 66th district I will not want even one unnecessary death on my conscience.  The rights of the weakest Pennsylvanians will be a top priority.


I’m not a professional career politician; I am a career educator for 35 years, serving a 2nd term as Brockway Area School Director.  I know full well how government regulations and mandates often do more to harm the educational opportunities for families than to help them.  Education is a local issue and those decisions are best made by those closest to the student.  The ultimate responsibility for the child’s education lies with the family.  I would like to wean Pennsylvania off of Federal education money and return controls to more local levels.


It’s not just in education where we see that politics-as-usual has placed a death grip on the way things are run.  If you are a local businessman or farmer, you know what the government bureaucracies have done to your business these past 26 years.  You don’t have the freedom or support from your government that you need to succeed.  If you are succeeding it is probably in spite of your government instead of because of it.  A top priority in this campaign will be to consult with local business people and farmers to go over these government regulations to determine which ones have outlived their usefulness or should never have been put into law in the first place.  Rather than make new laws I see a greater need to repeal laws that are choking our economy and killing our job market.


Another injustice on our Pennsylvania books is the property tax.  I see a bull’s-eye on that target. Why should schools or any other feature of our society be paid for by just those who own property?  If we have something to spend tax dollars on why don’t we have a sales tax where every consumer will pay a fair share?  No tax should have the power to leave you homeless and that’s why the property tax needs to go.


Throughout my career, I have been a member of my church, the Gideons International, professional librarian & teacher groups, Pennsylvania School Boards Association, and the Brockway Fourth of July Committee.


But whether I am at work in the school, on the farm, in church, or the community, people are a priority for me.  People know me as someone who will listen to them and share the good times as well as the not so good.  I am a man of action.  If there is a cause or job that needs done people know I can be depended on to see the project through to its completion.  If Pennsylvania ever had a cause before it certainly has one in 2012.  I want the people of the 66th district to know they can count on me to help them with the problems they have with the government. 


We are not Pittsburgh, we are not Philadelphia, we are not Harrisburg, we ARE district 66.  We raise our families here, we build our homes here, we worship God here, we work our jobs here.  We are not the same as Harrisburg or any place else. Those places are not home to us.  They are different from us, and they don’t understand us.  It is almost like they are a wilderness to us in the sense that they do not sustain us.  We need representation in Harrisburg that understands that.  I want to be your voice in the wilderness, crying out to deliver those under the yoke of bondage of government over-regulation and to set at liberty them that are bruised with bureaucratic red tape.


Who should support Jim Brown for the House?

  • If you think politicians spend too much money, you should vote for Jim Brown.  I will practice what I preach and refuse the pension of Bonusgate.
  • If you want someone untainted by the good old boy network of Computergate, you should support Jim Brown.  I will fight for term limits and refuse lobby money that conflicts with the conservative values of this district.
  • If you love your country, and want to see the rights of the people protected, as God and the Constitution proclaim they should be protected, then you should support Jim Brown.  I’ve studied and taught both the Bible and the Constitution for years.
  • If you live in the 66th district, you should support Jim Brown. The 66th district is my home.  I will vigilantly guard your personal rights and freedoms that the Constitution has guaranteed to you.
  • I thank you for voting for Jim Brown.
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Open Letter to Representative Sam Smith

Open Letter to Representative Sam Smith.

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Open Letter to Representative Sam Smith

Mr. Sam Smith

139 Main Capitol Building
PO Box 202066
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2066

An Open Letter to Representative Sam Smith

Dear Representative Smith:

The people of District 66 are historically a hard-working class who value God, family, and country.  Few of us have had the easy life handed to us and a great deal of sweat has gone into what success that we have managed by the grace of God.  Not many of us run million dollar corporations or industries.  It concerns us greatly when we see that you accept thousands of dollars from interests that are not District 66 interests.

For example, when you accepted $30,125[1] from Electric Utilities, how can the people of District 66 expect you to vote on issues regarding the electric business?  Will you look after the interests of the people, or will you side with the Electric Utilities? I don’t know about you but if someone gave that much money to my campaign I would feel that I owe them a favor in return.  The temptation must be great.

Then there is the $27,750 from the Telcom Services industries like Comcast, another utility that sells to the people of District 66 at rates set by the government.  If they ask for a rate hike, won’t you feel obligated to grant them what they ask for because of their generous donations?[2]

Sam, District 66 is a conservative district.  Our voting records have shown that most of us prefer not to be associated with the Gambling and Casino industries.  You have accepted $5250 from them.2  If they want to bring a casino to our district will your vote represent the people that live here or the industry that wants to come here?

We all want to see District 66 prosper and become successful, but we also want to remember that this is our home.  We and our children will continue to live here long after the gas is extracted and it would be nice if we have a safe and clean environment.  Many important decisions need to be made regarding this industry and our homes.  We expect to have a representative in Harrisburg who will represent us but when you accept $58,000 from the Natural Gas Lobby we have to expect that you will side with them vs. us in any relevant legislation.[3]

Do we live in a government where the most money makes the laws? Let me rephrase that question.  Should we live with a government where the most money makes the laws?  We are just one small district in PA and maybe that type of practice is acceptable elsewhere but not here in the 66th.  The people of district 66 are looking for a representative that is fair and honest.  I’m not saying that you don’t have honest intentions but by accepting so many questionable donations it sure does give the appearance of having a conflict of interests.

In 2007 you correctly asked Governor Rendell to return nearly $40,000 from a questionable source.[4]  You are to be commended for your stand on that issue.  It is important that our government leaders not be in a position that could compromise their decision-making capabilities.  In that same vein, should not the people of District 66 ask you for the same?  Don’t we deserve representation that is unencumbered by questionable sources?

I wish I could stop here but there are two more points that need to be made.  In 2009 you wrote that your goal was to “earn back the people’s trust and confidence.”[5]  This was in the middle of  the Bonus-gate investigations and you truly stated a worthy goal.  That was almost two and a half years ago and while the people of District 66 are still waiting for real reform we notice that your campaign contributions from interests outside of the 66th district continue to climb.  Your plan to stop corruption is the first step.  First, we must recognize that we have a problem and you have done that.  But the points you outline in your plan are mostly cosmetic.  It is we the voters of the 66th district and other districts around the state that need to have a plan.  The only way to remove corruption from our government is to do it the way that the Constitution instructs us, at the voting booths.

Then there is Computer-gate and the number of your colleagues that have gone to jail for their roles in that scandal.  By your own words, “I think that, if what is alleged is accurate, it bears out that I was given misleading information on what those [computer] contracts were all about,”[6] you recognize that you were involved somehow.  It is a shame that “they” gave you misleading information.  The prosecution did not wish to pursue a case against you nor did a jury find any charges against you.

But Al Bowman thinks not all the evidence was presented.  In a lawsuit, former House Republican staffer Al Bowman claims “caucus-paid lawyers blocked his efforts to give prosecutors testimony against caucus Leader Sam Smith.” [7] [8]  Where is the transparency mentioned in your 2009 plan to earn back the people’s trust?  That plan has fallen short.

Sam, I know you grew up here in the 66th District.  You’ve raised a fine family, made many friends here, and made some worthy contributions. I’ve even voted for you in the past.  But the past few years things have gone downhill concerning the confidence that you elicit from the people here.  We just can’t be sure that your interests lie with us or if they are with those movers and shakers with all the money.  My personal opinion is this.  If you really want to “earn back the people’s trust and confidence” like you say then this is the time to put action to your words.  Show the people that you are one of us by declining to run in this year’s election. You’ve had 26 years of service.  This would be a good time to step down and rejoin the people of the 66th district.

Best wishes,

James M. Brown, Ph.D.

[3]    Tom Barnes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Environmental groups decry gas industry’s political contribution.” 11/11/11, , 03/18/12

[4]    Sam Smith, “Rendell Should Return Campaign Money, 9/4/07, , 3/18/12

[5]    Sam Smith, News Release: Statement by the House Republican Leader Sam Smith, 11/12/09, 3/18/12.

[6]    “Sam Smith Speaks Publicly on Bonusgate Arrests.” 11/17/09,, 3/18/12.

[7]    “Foxes Guarding the Hen House” 01/07/12, 3/18/12.

[8]    Charles Thompson, The Patriot News, “Former Capitol aide alleges malpractice by lawyers in ‘Computergate’ case,” 01/05/12, , 3/18/12.

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Town Hall meeting at Brockway High School

Wednesday evening 200 or so concerned citizens attended a public hearing held at the Brockway Area High School sponsored by Joe Scarnati. They met with representatives from Department of Environmental Protection and the Flatirons gas company to discuss the application to drill a second well on the Brockway Borough Municipal Authority’s watershed. The Courier Express did a good job at informing the public as to much of the content of the meeting

What was lacking was a summary of the overall mood of the citizenry. The audience was polite and quiet for the hour and 45 minutes that the DEP and Flatirons explained what they are doing but the meeting still had another two hours and twenty minutes to go. The question and answer time was anything but quiet and calm. It was obvious that the citizens had prepared for this meeting and they did their homework. A special thanks to Sen. Scarnati for doing such a good job at announcing and inviting. It really paid off in the quality of questions and the attendance.
In the audience we could sense frustration and helplessness. People were afraid of the future and upset with the current precautions that are in place to protect them. Some seemed like animals caught in a car’s headlights just before becoming road kill. Panic is probably too strong of a word to use but it was obvious that they were distraught over the situation in which they were trapped.
Flatirons and the DEP appeared to be holding their own at alleviating people’s fears but the biggest conflict of the evening appeared when one of the constituents accused Rep. Sam Smith of not responding to three of his letters regarding his water safety concerns. Mr. Smith replied the best that he could but not well enough to satisfy that constituent who sat down with one last comment. “It sounds like you’re on the wrong side of the table Mr. Smith,” implying that Mr. Smith should be sitting with the gas company rather than the audience. At that point the audience broke out with a thunderous round of applause and cheers. With that Senator Scarnati jumped up to the podium and scolded the audience for getting distracted from the main reason for being at the town hall meeting. He was obviously angry with the audience who had their frustration mounting. He reminded them that we didn’t come here to discuss politics but rather to open dialog between the concerned parties and the citizens.
The forum of speakers did provide a plethora of information in response to the questions. But as Sunny106 reported,, the next morning many of the citizens were complaining afterwards that their questions and concerns were not properly addressed. More than one person was overheard to comment that this was an election year and they still had hope for change.

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Preserving Pennsylvania Property Rights

Do you have the right to raise your own animals and sell the products from those animals without government interference?  The news this week sure did surprise me.  We certainly have lost many of the rights that my grandparents took for granted.
The US Constitution guarantees all rights not given to the Federal Government remain with the states or the people.  It is only natural and right that the people should think that their state will protect them from abuses of the Federal government.
Now we have a farmer here in Pennsylvania who for personal or religious reasons wants to farm according to the dictates of his conscience.  Granted there are some, who in their opinion, think that drinking raw milk is harmful, never mind that people have been doing that for thousands of years.  But shouldn’t this Pennsylvania farmer have the right to practice his farming unmolested from the federal government?  Where is our Pennsylvania legislature at a time like this?  Don’t we need a law that protects Pennsylvanians from having their civil rights violated?  Oh, wait, we do have a law.  It is the Pennsylvania Constitution.  In that case let’s look to the executive branch to protect us.   Do we have a governor or sheriff that will protect our farmers?
Here is the article.  Read it and form your own opinion.
(NaturalNews) It is with much sadness that we report the two-year war waged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against Pennsylvania Amish farmer Dan Allgyer has been a success. The Washington Times and others are now reporting that, following a ruling last month by Judge Lawrence F. Stengel that Allgyer could no longer ship raw milk across state lines, he is officially shutting down his entire Rainbow Acres Farm.
Provoking Allgyer to shut down his farm appears to have been the goal of the FDA all along, which back on February 4, 2010, conducted a gestapo-style raid on Allgyer’s Kinzers, Penn., property to search for evidence that he was shipping raw milk across state lines. After illegally trespassing on the man’s property, the agents proceeded to harass Allgyer about his supposed involvement in interstate commerce (
Just a few months later on April 20, 2010, the FDA again sent its Nazi-sympathizing thugs back to Rainbow Acres Farm, this time at 4:30 a.m. while Allgyer was still asleep, to conduct another raid. Violating the provisions of their so-called warrant, which specified that any inspection must be conducted during “reasonable times during ordinary business hours,” the agents proceeded to once again ransack the farm in search of evidence to back their claims that Allgyer was engaged in illegal interstate commerce (
Following this second sting, the FDA claims to have discovered the evidence it needed, and immediately sent Allgyer a warning letter notifying him that he was in violation of interstate commerce laws, according to their view ( The agency also filed a civil complaint against Allgyer around the same time.
With hundreds of happy and satisfied out-of-state customers that relied on him for fresh supplies of raw milk, Allgyer attempted to satisfy the FDA’s demands by restructuring his farm’s distribution process into private cow share agreements with customers. Such agreements allow individuals to directly purchase shares in the cows from which they get milk, which means they personally own them, and they are not subject to FDA jurisdiction.

Rogue judge essentially declares FDA has jurisdiction over private property use, in this case cows

But on February 3, 2012, Judge Stengel decided that Allgyer was still in violation of interstate commerce laws, even with the restructured cow sharing arrangements, and ordered him to stop distributing raw milk altogether. Private cow share agreements do not constitute interstate commerce, of course, but Judge Stengel apparently pays no regard to individual liberty, having declared that the FDA basically now has jurisdiction over private property use.
Likely worn down from the perpetual and never-ending harassment, Allgyer appears to have decided to simply give up trying to fight this unprecedented tyranny, and simply shut down his farm. Hundreds of families that relied on Allgyer for fresh milk, butter, cheese, eggs, and other nutritious goods will now have to find a new source for clean food, at least until the FDA shuts them down, too.
“I can’t believe in 2012 the federal government is raiding Amish farmers at gunpoint all over a basic human right to eat natural food,” said one of the farm’s former customers, who wished to remain anonymous, to The Washington Times. “In Maryland, they force taxpayers to pay for abortions, but God forbid we want the same milk our grandparents drank.”
Learn more:
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