Will Senator Williams recuse himself from Marcellus related votes?

Fun fact, everyone, I don't work for any non-profit at all any more. I am no longer a professional Organizer. My career in that vein has ended. That's not to say that I don't still care a ton about the issues. Especially the issue of the environment. Ironically, in fact, I found I did the worst job on the issue I cared the most about. Strange, but that's a post for another time.

The reason I am writing today is because I wanted to put an exchange I had with Senator Anthony Williams of West Philadelphia onto the record. First, because it should be instructive for other politicians on how not to use Twitter, and also because it raises an important public policy question: should politicians recuse themselves from voting on issues that their households have a vested interest in?

It started with this story in The Inquirer. From the short piece:

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, the natural gas industry trade group, is expanding its presence in Southeastern Pennsylvania by hiring Shari Williams, a former communications specialist at the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the wife of State Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D., Philadelphia).

If you're not familiar, The Marcellus Shale Coalition is a lobbying group that would have you believe that natural gas drilling is so clean and pure that loading the ground full of hydrochloric acid actually improves soil quality. Like... potatoes come out with vitamin C and manganese after one of their shale rigs gets done with a site.

Notably, Sen. Williams was one of two noteworthy Senate D's to cast the wrong vote on the only significant piece of legislation that has passed on the Marcellus Shale so far. Now known as Act 13.

So then when the news came out that his wife is now working for Team Pollution, my hackles were raised. It's not hard to imagine that the Senator had some idea that this relationship might be consummated even as the vote was going down. Shady. Or maybe he didn't. There had to be some reason why he and Hughes backed this legislation when every other Democrat stood against it, though. The crummiest part is that I don't think they even needed their votes to get it passed.

So I sent him the following tweet last Friday:

For the full exchange that followed, hit read more.

Note to politicians: the right move when a citizen uses Twitter to call you out on something where you are obviously in the wrong is to completely ignore it. He did not, however. Yesterday, he sent me this.

Pretty dumb. Did I know about his environmental record? Umm, yeah. I am willing to bet I know more about it than he does, in fact. Whatever. I had a few responses for him. First:

The funny thing about this one was he Favorited it. I am guessing this was an accident and he had just meant to hit reply. Still, I giggled.


And I also said this:

I wrote that out of anger, I confess. It is a rumor I heard back when I was still in a position to hear things about the goings on in Harrisburg. Now I'm just another nobody. If there are any reporters reading this, maybe go ask some Green Dog D's in the House to corroborate. Maybe he didn't, but he did vote for Act 13. No one can argue that. And that really makes me furious.

He didn't like it. I got this back:

Do you know me? Umm, we've met. In fact, I've organized events you've spoken at. Mostly, though, I have known members of your staff, and I have known members of your staff, continuously, for the last seven years.

And then he said:

Nice use of "NOT!" Senator. Takes me back to 1987.

And, how would I know? Because it was me that organized several dozen people to call into your office and ask you to sign onto it. It was also me that schlepped all the way down to your Southwest Philadelphia office with two constituents to meet with your staff and get you to sign onto it.

So yes. I know when you did it and I know why. I got you to do it. Here's the legislation in question. I burnt a lot of time on this bill, once upon a time.

The trouble with legislative records in Pennsylvania is that the only co-sponsors you can see on The General Assembly site are the ones who co-sponsor when the legislation is submitted. It's pretty normal for co-sponsors to come on board later. By the time Sen. Williams came on board the Safer Drinking Water Act, we already had every Republican in the five county area (except Pileggi, but he has his douchey Majority Leader status to fall back on).

It was silly of him to suggest I was lying, though, because all he has to do is check his own records to find out I was right.

And I'm right.

Believe me.

And all accusing me of lying does is show that he's defensive, and when you're defensive it usually indicates you know you are in the wrong. And when your wife works for an industry, you are totally in the wrong if you think it's not a fair question to ask whether or not you should recuse yourself from votes on that industry.

And don't worry. I had not lost track of this.

No answer yet.

I left a few tweets out of this exchange for the sake of brevity, but they are all still up on my feed. Have a look. And here's the Senator's, tho I wouldn't be surprised if some of these disappear into the ether.

Do you think the Senator should have to recuse himself from Marcellus related votes? I honestly have a hard time believing that Senate ethics rules don't require him to, but maybe they don't. Either way, he still hasn't answered the question. He could win some major credibility points for himself if he volunteered to recuse himself. After all, odds are that the current Senate leadership won't let any more natural gas drilling legislation get to the floor anyway. If it does, though, anyone who's wife works for the organization working desperately either to move or oppose every bill related to drilling definitely should not get a vote on those bills.
Brady Dale is the artist and writer behind the webcomic Eat The Babies! and author of the novella collection, Dream Her Back.

It's a start

In the last hour, the Senator has restarted our conversation. With this tweet, though, I have to tip my hat to him. As long as he follows through with it, it's close enough.

Eat The Babies! A Tuesday and Friday Webcomic.

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