A relatively new political action committee focused on marrying state public policy to polling data has just gotten its first statewide candidate to sign on.
Eugene DePasquale, a state Representative from York County and the Democratic candidate for state Auditor General, put permanent pen to large, demonstrative paper today in the Capitol and aligned himself with the mission of The Majority Party PA.
The group sets its public policy agenda based on the majority public opinion. When several polls show a solid majority comes down on one side of an issue, it is incorporated into the committee’s agenda. That to-do list includes taxing smokeless tobacco and cigars, selling off state liquor stores, and reducing the size of the state Legislature.
DePasquale said the purpose of the party pledge is not to replace a politician’s agenda, but to prompt a politician to act on issues where polls show a clear majority opinion.
“This isn’t saying you can only do this stuff,” he said. “The Auditor General, for example, must audit every school district once every three years… if there isn’t a public opinion poll that says, you know the Altoona School District, that 65 percent of people want that audited, I don’t think this is saying you have to wait for that poll to come out.”
The pledge has been signed by nine other state representatives and candidates for state House seats (three Republican, six Democrat). DePasquale made a case for the pledge’s relevance to the Auditor General’s office. If elected, he said he would audit the use of state funding at Penn State, since a recent poll by the Philadelphia Inquirer shows a solid majority of voters disapprove of how the school handled the child sex abuse scandal.
DePasquale said he would also use the office to look into the impact of natural gas drilling on water safety. He said a scientific poll he commissioned supports his plan to do a “performance audit of all water protection programs,” something that has been a part of his platform since the primary.
But it’s tough to say how binding the pledge is supposed to be. Tim Potts, chairman of the Majority Party PA, doesn’t deny that politicians’ personal beliefs may not always be in line with the majority.
“What you do, what you’re supposed to do in this system that we have, is go out there and talk to the public, and try to convince them to change their minds,” said Potts.
In the event that polls show the majority has contradictory desires – like lower taxes, but more state funding for transportation – DePasquale considers the best solution to be a compromise. “My view is that when people say that, that’s a sign that people want us to sit down and have a balanced approach on something, not tilt it one way or the other,” he said.
Brennan Hart, a campaign spokesman for John Maher, the Republican candidate for Auditor General, said the only pledge Maher will make is “to provide professional auditing service to the taxpayers of the commonwealth.”