Conservative group mobilizes against Senate GOP aide Crompton’s judicial nomination | Tuesday Morning Coffee

Senate counsel Drew Crompton.

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A conservative activist group is mobilizing against a longtime Republican Senate aide’s nomination to one of Pennsylvania’s two mid-level appellate courts, saying that he “[embodies] the swamp,” and that Gov. Tom Wolf, who made the appointment “would have had to work hard to make a worse choice.”

The email campaign by the Lemoyne, Pa.-based Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania asks recipients to get in touch with their local senator to ask them to oppose the aide, Drew Crompton’s, nomination to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.

An attorney with nearly three decades’ experience in the Senate, the Montgomery County native currently serves as counsel and chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson.

As someone who’s been close to every major legislative action for years, Crompton’s eventual confirmation, which must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate, “would raise serious questions about his impartiality in legal cases,” CAP wrote in its email.

“How will his involvement in the drafting of legislation, public statements, and issuance of internal documents impact his ability to hear cases? How many plaintiffs or defendants will seek his recusal? How disruptive will it be for the Senate to have parties to cases file suits seeking email communications on legal matters authored by Crompton?,” the group asked in an email blast obtained by the Capital-Star.

Crompton’s nomination has faced similar scrutiny from the non-partisan Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, which has also raised questions about his qualifications. Other sitting members of the appellate panel have “have far more judicial experience,” than he does, Maida Malone, the group’s president and CEO told the Capital-Star earlier this month.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

The CAP email raises two, specific criticisms of Crompton’s Senate tenure.

First up is a 2005 memo that Crompton authored in the wake of the notorious government pay raises, suggesting that the grassroots groups that popped to protest the wage hikes needed to register as lobbyists.

In an editorial at the time, the Tribune-Review called the tactic “an orchestrated plan of attempted intimidation that, to this day, we believe is worthy of a Justice Department investigation.”

The email also takes issue with a $19,647 bonus Crompton received in 2007 when he returned to the legislative payroll after taking a leave of absence to work on former Steeler great Lynn Swann’s failed 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

Crompton told Capital-Star’s Elizabeth Hardison that the bonus was the result of his legislative work.

The bonuses nonetheless prompted a probe by then-GOP Attorney General Tom Corbett. While no one in the Senate GOP was ever charged, Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and some staff, in the state House were convicted and sent to prison as a result of the investigation that became widely known as Bonusgate.

The Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg (Capital-Star file)

This isn’t the first time that CAP has gone after an ideological fellow traveler for what it views as insufficient adherence to orthodoxy.

In 2018, the group helped orchestrate the successful primary season ouster of former Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny.

In 2017, Vulakovich voted, along with most of his GOP colleagues, for a revenue package that included a severance tax on natural gas drillers. The Senate-approved package, intended to break a budget deadlock, sank in the House.

But sending Vulakovich packing ended up being a Pyrrhic victory. Democrats flipped the seat in 2018 with the victory of now-Sen. Lindsey Williams. So make of that putative Midas touch what you will, we suppose.

Reached for comment on Monday, Crompton observed that CAP’s “definition of a conservative has always been a restrictive one.”

“I have worked on many more issues that they likely support than oppose, but I respect their right to say what they choose,” he said.

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An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.