I just had coffee with a gentleman named Bob Guzzardi. He is a very influential conservative activist in Pennsylvania, most active in the southeast, but he also travels all over the state speaking to fellow activists. He is financially influential as well. He was a big part of the Pat Toomey movement that almost overthrew Arlen Specter in the GOP primary, and also one of the conservative influences behind the recent anti-corruption and anti-incumbent movement locally.
Bob is not unreceptive to Mayor Giuliani’s campaign. Actually, to me he seemed very receptive. There was one thing that gave him a great deal of pause, though, and that involves Bob Asher. He is our national GOP state committeeman. He also happens to be a convicted felon.
Some of you may remember Bud Dwyer. He made national news when during a press conference he shot himself through the mouth– on TV!– after being convicted of a panapoly of corruption crimes. An unintended consquence of that tragedy was the release of “Hey Man, Nice Shot” by the band Filter, although they claim it’s a song about any public suicide, not Mr. Dwyer’s specifically.
What many of you may not remember is there was another man convicted in that corruption conspiracy, which involved a scheme to elicit hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal political contributions from a California company attempting to secure a no-bid contract to perform accounting and account recovery services for the Commonwealth. That man was Bob Asher.
Now, I will not debate here the wisdom of the jury’s conviction of Mr. Asher on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, racketeering, and perjury. Asher claims he did nothing wrong to this day.
Mr. Guzzardi, though, feels that any presidential candidate who consorts with a man convicted of these charges will instantly lose the support of the politically active conservative grassroots here in Pennsylvania. Those activistists are indeed conservative, but they are virulently opposed to corruption and cronyism in the state GOP as well. Former GOP speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate Robert Jubelirer lost his primary race in 2006, and that was at least in part effected by Mr. Guzzardi and this conservative grassroots network.
Do I agree with Mr. Guzzardi here? Well, I aspire to consistency in matters such as this. So I would encourage the Giuliani campaign to take a step back from Bob Asher. Besides, Asher is merely representing a shadow movement within the Ridge machine that now wants to try and play all sides. So I would recommend in future that Mayor Giuliani decline Asher money much like he declined Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s ten million dollars in the wake of 9/11. In both cases the money could end up doing some good. But you do not want to be indebted in any way to people like that.
UPDATE: After reading this post, it occurs to me I did not do a very good job of putting myself in Mayor Giuliani’s shoes. Clearly, I have a personal antipathy for Bob Asher. Equally clearly, though, the Giuliani campaign is in no position to decline the support of the PA GOP national committeeman. In fact, it would be outright foolish for them to do so, and they are lucky to have his support as he is rather influential. After all, were he to choose to support one of the other leading candidates, would they say “No thanks”?
Prominent Republicans from all over our big tent coalition are going to need to express a preference for the GOP nomination eventually. Individually, they may differ on a range of issues, and come from a wide range of backgrounds, from connected insiders like Asher to insurgent outsiders like Guzzardi. You can probably guess which side of that debate I am on. That does not mean, though, they cannot support the same candidate. In fact, that is the precise sort of unifying influence we hope a candidate with leadership will have.
For example, would it be impossible for Arlen Specter and Pat Toomey to endorse the same GOP candidate? Of course not. Does that mean Arlen and Pat have changed in any significant way? Not necessarily. Although you could probably speculate they have different reasons for coming to the decisions that they do. So, upon relflection, I can say I would very much rather have Asher in my corner than bin Talal.