It wasn't a good week to be Gib Armstrong, Jr. First, it became apparent that Armstrong has no interest in a debate with his opponent in the primary, Bryan Cutler. Then at Millersville University, Armstrong's crusade to expose liberal bias and indoctrination at state facilities of higher education failed once again to come up with anything. Finally, the big one hit-several former staffers leveled allegations that Armstrong has flouted ethics rules by essentially using his District office and staff for political work involving his campaign for re-election.
Naturally, Armstrong has issued denials, dismissing the accusations as the work of disgruntled former employees who were fired for poor performance. What else would he say? The primaries are in a month. Is he going to say, "These former employees are not disgruntled. In fact, they are fully gruntled and everything they say is true. Please hand down the jail sentence now, and congratulations to my opponent on an easy win."
What I find curious is the complete lack of attention to Gib's troubles by Lancaster County political muckraker Ron Harper, Jr. Normally, the editor/publisher of 5thestate.com would be all over anything that might be construed as a violation of ethics. With the possible exception of the convention center story, his Web site site seems dedicated to revealing those local politicians with lapses in ethics.
Harper didn't respond to an e-mail asking why he hasn't taken on the Armstrong ethics story. Granted, I only gave him about two hours to respond. Perhaps he was out gathering information for an explosive story that will blow the lid off former state representative John Barley.
Though that also could very well be the reason that Harper hasn't jumped on this story. Harper has been a big supporter of Armstrong, and an even bigger critic of Barley. Harper has made no bones of the fact that he thinks that it is Barley supporters behind the candidacy of Cutler. One of the allegations leveled against Armstrong is that he instructed an employee to pore through a campaign finance report for Armstrong's primary opponent in February and asked her to study it to determine who donated to Cutler's campaign.
Cutler denies that his candidacy has anything to do with Barley supporters out to get Gib. But even if it was true, so what? Just because someone supported Barley in the past doesn't mean that Cutler isn't a viable candidate, nor does it mean that Armstrong has been good at his job and is incapable of ethical lapses.
This is a big deal. Former state Rep. Jeffrey Habay, an Allegheny County Republican, was convicted in December of using legislative staffers to conduct election work for his House campaign. A big story on Armstrong-even if to vindicate him-should be the lead story for our local ethics crusader.
Instead, what you find is a story about poor Ron Harper being harassed by five policemen, just because he wanted documents. Maybe that's it-the newspapers scooped Harper, so he couldn't inject himself into the story as our hero in the fight against unethical behavior. I guess muckraking just ain't what it used to be.
Bill Rudick was disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that Armstrong is refusing to debate Cutler. No sense taking a chance of someone challenging your views. Rudick's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.