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Governor Rendell lied to taxpayers about the cost of his religiously based child scavenging raid

Been meaning to mention this here for a few days now.

By way of a brief refresher overview on the Rendells’ Raid, readers may want to refer back to this piece from my earlier post Haiti series- “It is madness. It is insane…” Bribes, Bullies, and Traffickers extract kids, Part 4: Kids not in an adoption process being exported, bullies and bribes & the Rendells’ Raid.

Now, at the beginning of March, the cost to taxpayers is finally coming to light, see Gov. Ed Rendell’s trip to rescue 54 Haitian orphans cost taxpayers after all

Gov. Ed Rendell has described his January rescue mission that brought 54 orphans out of earthquake-ravaged Haiti to Pennsylvania as one that cost taxpayers nothing.

But the state plane log for January shows there was a cost to taxpayers after all.

The state Department of Public Welfare was charged $5,578.29 for use of the state plane to transport the governor and the state’s first lady, Judge Marjorie Rendell, to and from Pittsburgh. Once in Pittsburgh, they then boarded a privately-funded plane to travel to Haiti.

At the time Governor Rendell had insisted:

“This trip cost the taxpayers of Pennsylvania nothing,” Rendell said after the trip to Haiti.

His spokesman, Gary Tuma, was quick to excuse Gov. Rendell’s lie as only pertaining to the U.S. to Haiti leg of the trip, which yes, was by way of a private flight:

“I’m sure he interpreted the questions about cost to taxpayers to mean the trip from Pennsylvania to Haiti.”

However, this spun narrative also ignores the fact that the kids, (some of whom were not matched to any American would-be-adopters,)  left Haiti on an American Military flight, which again, also would have also come at a cost to the taxpayers.

Once in Florida, the group left the military flight and reconnected with their private flight for the final leg back to Pennsylvania.

The welfare department was billed for the cross-state flight because of “the children and youth function related to these kids,” said Stacey Witalec, a department spokeswoman.

Let’s get this straight,that $5,578.29 came out of the Pennsylvania welfare budget so Governor Rendell, and his wife, Marjorie O. Rendell of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit could fly cross state to meet the private flight that took them, Representative Jason Altmire, and a number of Doctors and Nurses on to Haiti.

In essence, he’s arguing his cross state flight to meet the plane that would take them on to Haiti was PART OF the ‘humanitarian aid’/child extraction related trip.

Pennsylvania’s first family flying across the state, the first leg of their trip, had nothing to do with kids. There were no kids on board.

Simply put, there was no “children and youth function related to kids” about the Governor flying cross state to meet a flight, but if you think he’s going to own up to that fact and restore the money to the state’s welfare budget, think again:

Rendell has no plans on reimbursing the department for the trip, Tuma said.

But wouldn’t you know it, this gets even worse, because Tuma goes on to argue the flight billed to the taxpayers was to “assist the McMurtrie sisters….”

Ali and Jamie McMurtrie work with the BRESMA orphanage in Port-au-Prince, an explicitly “faith based” christian “orphanage.”

Donations to BRESMA are funneled through the  Keystone Center of Life Church in Pittsburgh (see link).

Now in the aftermath of the quake, donations are coming at a rapid pace for the destroyed “orphanage:”

Donations continue to pour into the Keystone Church of Hazelwood on behalf of an orphanage that is uninhabitable,…

So what we’re really talking about here is Governor Rendell flying cross state and charging $5,578.29 to the Pennsylvania state welfare budget and then saying that cross state flight was somehow in support of an explicitly religious based ‘child saving’  mission (yes, complete with all the christian implications of “child saving” you might envision. ) Emphasis added by me:

He said the governor’s cross-state travels were not merely to help out foreign kids, but also to assist the McMutrie sisters and to fly medical supplies and a team of Pennsylvania medical personnel to Haiti.

“Considering the benefit to the 54 orphans, to the two native Pittsburghers needing assistance in Haiti, and to the Pennsylvania citizens who made up the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center humanitarian relief team, the cost of several thousand dollars is not unreasonable,” Tuma said.

Such can only be portrayed as “reasonable” if you have first bought the notion that the state should exist in order to come to the church’s aid in times of the church’s need. For those of us who reject such theocratic poppycock, we think it’s time that $5,578.29 went back into the welfare fund for impoverished Pennsylvanians, for starters.

Even wingnuts like Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation recognize the public relations mess Governor Rendell’s trip has created and, never one to miss an opportunity to bash Democrats, is quoted in the article  as finding  Governor Rendell’s (who was the general chair of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 Presidential election) trip “disturbing:”

But Matthew Brouillette, president of the conservative-leaning policy center Commonwealth Foundation of Harrisburg, found the governor’s statement disturbing.

Naturally, Brouillette would rather see the cross state trip be privately funded:

Brouillette suggested that perhaps the medical center should pick up the tab for the good public relations they derived out of this trip.

Paul Wood, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center vice president for public relations, said the medical center has no intention of reimbursing the state for any cost taxpayers incurred. He said he was unaware there was a cost.

Instead, it appears the state will end up simply eating the cost, putting further strain on a state welfare budget already underfunded and facing demands from every direction imaginable:

This is a difficult time for Pennsylvania and many of its residents. The state barely slid through last year’s budget crisis, revenues are still not what had been expected, the federal stimulus money is going to be drying up, long-term transportation funding is uncertain and the pension crisis is about to hit.

Meanwhile, unemployment remains high and the demand on social services is only increasing.

Nothing like taking from the poor to buttress child evangelism efforts.

Now, just when you think this mess has gotten about as twisted as it possibly can? Along comes Governor Rendell’s own policies regarding travel by state personnel and attempting to curtail even in state travel when possible as a cost cutting measure (which should be more than enough to break anyone’s irony meter permanently.)

As Patriot-News Capitol Bureau Chief Jan Murphy reported Sunday, in the nine months after state workers were banned from traveling outside of Pennsylvania, there have been 5,482 trips across the state border.

Of those, 4,893 trips costing more than $1.8 million were under Gov. Ed Rendell’s jurisdiction. And it was the governor who on Sept. 16, 2008, said that in light of the state’s mounting budget deficit he was prohibiting out-of-state travel by commonwealth employees, board members and commissioners.

Apparently the Governor feels budget cutting in relation to travel is for other people, not for him or his family, and their religiously based extra curricular “orphan” collecting activities.


Return to the Table of Contents of my Haiti series.

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