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Pa. Senate leader loses suit against Spotlight PA reporter


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Joseph Darius Jaafari
October 8, 2020
A win for press freedom, mass bird deaths, Philadelphia sues Pennsylvania, Russians and Lancaster, and Mark Ruffalo naked. It's Thirsty Thursday. 
Chalk one up for independent journalism in Pennsylvania: A Jefferson County judge has dismissed a case against a Spotlight PA reporter and others brought by the campaign of the top Senate Republican, Joe Scarnati.

The suit centered on thousands of dollars in fees for public campaign finance records that Scarnati's campaign alleged reporter Angela Couloumbis, as well as The Caucus and its bureau chief, should be on the hook for paying.

The Context: A Department of State official said previously that Scarnati's campaign could only charge for costs to copy and deliver documents. But the campaign's accounting firm tried to bill upwards of $5,000 for the records. The campaign also tried to charge $1,000 for attorney fees. 

The lawsuit — essentially a debt collection action — not only named The Caucus, a publication of LNP | LancasterOnline, but also Couloumbis and another reporter, Brad Bumsted, in their individual capacity. That meant any negative ruling could have directly undermined their personal credit reports.

Couloumbis and Bumsted were part a team of reporters who produced an award-winning investigation last year into how Pennsylvania lawmakers have hidden the details of millions of dollars in campaign spending.

The legislator who topped the list? Scarnati.

His campaign could refile its lawsuit, and its lawyer said it probably will.
“So many birds were falling out of the sky, we didn’t know what was going on."

–– Stephen Maciejewski, a volunteer for the Audubon Society in Philadelphia, where as many as 1,500 birds collided with skyscrapers on a single day last week
POST IT: Thanks, @pa.pixels, for this sunset shot of Opossum Lake in Carlisle, Pa. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA: The now-defunct conservative blog Lancaster Patriot was part of a network of propaganda websites tracked back to Russia Insider, a pro-Kremlin website meant to sow misinformation among American social media users, the Southern Poverty Law Center found. LNP | LancasterOnline first reported on the site in September, finding that its editor was a white nationalist and Holocaust denier. 

'DELAY AND DENY': Tractor-trailer loads of mail have been rerouted from the Lehigh Valley to Scranton, concerned postal workers told U.S. Sen Bob Casey. The lawmaker blamed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for the delay, The Morning Call reports, saying, "DeJoy promised to reverse changes that were slowing the mail, but the evidence is clear that his only policy is delay and deny."

CITY SUES STATE: Philadelphia is suing the state of Pennsylvania in an effort to invalidate laws that keep cities from passing gun control laws, Billy Penn reports. “The simple reality is what we’re asking for from the commonwealth is completely reasonable,” said Council President Darrell Clarke.

KEEN TO IMPEACH: A Republican state representative is calling for the impeachment of a state Supreme Court justice elected as a Democrat, according to TribLIVE. In a statement, the court's chief justice, a Republican, said the spirit of the resolution is "an affront to judicial independence.”
HOW DO YOU DO, FELLOW KIDS: Getting out the youth vote has always been a bit of a challenge. Now, with many students not on campus, campaigns and grassroots organizations are relying on a fully digital effort. And even though polls show that this age group overwhelmingly supports Joe Biden, it's anyone's guess if they'll show up to vote, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. 

» YOU'RE INVITED: Register now for our upcoming live interview with Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar on ensuring a fair and accurate election in Pennsylvania. You can also submit your questions.

LAND OF 10,000 GOVERNMENTS: Pa. native David Thornburgh writes for CNN.com on why our state is so difficult to campaign in, and the complexities around trying to win over its residents. Outside of knowing local customs, it’s also about recognizing where residents feel they are best represented. 

BASIC MILK: Adding to the list of things you can add to your "Basic Fall Kit," including pumpkin spice lattes, Ugg boots, and chunky sweaters, Whitehall-based Schneider's is now offering pumpkin pie-flavored milk. Mmm.

POWERING UP: A Pennsylvania college plans to power two farms using cafeteria waste, cow manure, and brewery scraps. And they might generate so much that they'll be able to sell it back to the grid.

LITERALLY NAKED BALLOTS: Going off the viral video where a handful of Pennsylvania politicians went topless to raise awareness about "naked" ballots, celebrities have gone on to do the same. Seeing Mark Ruffalo strip to promote proper mail-in voting has immediately made my day better. 

KEEP WATCHING: Last night was the peak of the Draconid meteor shower, but tonight you might be lucky enough to get some remnants of the light show. If you get a really great picture of it, be sure to send our way.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out the winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Treacherous

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., George D., Jarrod B., Chip K., Irene R., Tracey C., Joel S., John C., Alex L., Shaye and Dave., Dianne K., David W., Brandie K., Lynne E., and Patricia R.
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