Skip to comments.Kanjorski: 'We deserved to lose'
Posted on 01/10/2011 3:49:09 AM PST by Born Conservative
NANTICOKE - In his first and only major post-election interview, U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski contended his tenure was better than one of the region's legendary congressmen, partially credited himself with two decades of improvement in the local economy, defended his role in his nephews' failed technology company and said he "deserved to lose."
"The fact of the matter is, I probably did more public works in this congressional district than any other member of Congress," Kanjorski said while seated in the living room of his home during an almost two-hour interview just before his 13th and final term officially expired last Monday at noon.
Kanjorski, 73, the chairman of a key House Financial Services subcommittee, also basked in his defeat of Wall Street interests when Congress last year passed the financial reform bill. That bill included the Kanjorski amendment that allows the government to break up big firms if they threaten the overall economy. It brought him high praise from respected MIT economist Simon Johnson.
First elected in 1984, Kanjorski obtained millions of dollars in federal largesse to:
- Build the Wyoming Valley Flood Control Project and the Interstate 81 interchange near the Mohegan Sun Arena which has sprouted massive growth in Wilkes-Barre Township.
- Buy more than 16,000 acres of abandoned and scarred mine land from the bankrupt Blue Coal Corp. and set up the non-profit, Earth Conservancy, to develop and manage the land.
- Consolidate the Social Security Administration's offices into one local building, saving 1,200 jobs.
Kanjorski lamented the long-term effect of local corruption, but made no apologies for obtaining more than $9 million for his nephews' Cornerstone Technologies and a related company, which had a patent for a water-jet technology that he once claimed could revolutionize the region's economy, but ended up bankrupt.
As far as what's next, Kanjorski, a lawyer, remains undecided, but said his life as a candidate is over.
What follows is a partial transcript of the interview, which was edited for length and clarity. Additional parts will appear gradually on The Borys Blog at thetimes-tribune.com.
TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS: Have you thought at all about why you ran in the first place and what you wanted to accomplish back then and how that compares with what you accomplished in the time you were in office?
KANJORSKI: Oh, yeah, when I first ran for Congress, the unemployment rate in Luzerne County was 14.9 percent â¦ Our unemployment rate was three points higher than the national average at the time â¦ I initially recognized that we really had to make up for the deficit in employment in the area with better jobs and more jobs. And then finally I recognized that we would have a hard time doing that without good infrastructure. So the one thing I could impact upon very early was making sure that the federal infrastructure was up to the highest speed.
If you look around between then and now, almost every federal building has been rehabilitated or built new and our highway system is phenomenal â¦ We set about in 1986 authorizing the levee system â¦ We had to earmark $250 million in the federal budget over the last 20 years â¦ That was a long ongoing labor that nothing had been done on from 1972 until 1986.
Then, we had things like highways so you passed the (Mohegan Sun) Arena and the new shopping area. Well that wouldn't be there except for the fact that I had all the funds allocated by direct earmarked appropriations for the interchange.
TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS: When you first ran, did you have the sense that â¦ you were running to fill the shoes of Dan Flood?
KANJORSKI: No, not really. Quite frankly, I had probably a different view of Dan Flood. I think at the time he was a good congressman, accomplished a lot of things of what congressmen are supposed to do.
But I've never hero-worshipped him as many other people because I think that he probably could have exercised some leadership that would have improved the area in a much better way.
TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS: And so Flood should have done what?
KANJORSKI: You know it was a choice, it was a Hobson's choice â¦ If he hadn't done what he did do coming out of the Second World War and helped with all the basic growth things, the economy would have lagged significantly behind where it was. So he gave a short-term shock to the system and improved it, but he didn't provide the basis - and it wasn't his job to provide the basis - but we didn't get the long-term planning of high-tech growth.
TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS: The kind of high-tech, North Carolina Research Triangle stuff?
KANJORSKI: Yes, that's what we needed here. And we didn't get it.
TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS: But do you think we've gotten that since you've been the congressman?
KANJORSKI: Oh, we certainly have tried to do a lot of it. We haven't broken through because quite frankly, every time we make progress along that line, we seem to run into â¦ some masochistic desire of the community to shoot ourselves in the foot.
A perfect example is our corruption today. That corruption is very severely injurious to us. It's not good, you shouldn't have corruption. But what we have has nationally permeated the area with a stain that's going to take 20, 25 years to get rid of. You're not going to see people say, 'Gee, let's move to Northeastern Pennsylvania because there's a new form of high-tone democracy up there.'
And it's not just Luzerne County, it's Lackawanna County â¦ the various cities all the communities. And those of who've been in politics for years understand. Most politicians are honest. They are.
TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS: Well, let me ask you about that. Because you know during the 2002 campaign, the issues of Cornerstone Technologies â¦ came up, and then again in 2008 and far less so in 2010. Don't you feel at all â¦ that you somehow contributed to that (atmosphere of corruption)?
KANJORSKI: No, no, absolutely not. I had a choice. I tried very hard to inject into the area an economic stimulus in technology. I tried that in several ways for a period of 20 years. Well, for a period of 15 years before we ever got to that high-tech thing, and in most instances it did not work. This area and the leadership were not receptive to that â¦ I'm talking to people right now â¦ to use it (water-jet technology) in gaining our gas reserves in the ground. And I think ultimately that may be the way we get it out in an environmentally sound way. Water-jet represents a new era of thinking, but we haven't paid a lot of attention to it.
TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS: But what rankles everybody is not that you have this grand vision, because it sounds very appealing. But that the money ended up with your nephews.
KANJORSKI: Well, that was well-answered early on. I went to national corporations to get involved. I went to local companies and business people, asked them to get involved. Nobody would get involved. I had a choice. It was there for the taking, it had been planned, planned in the Earth Conservancy. But everybody gave it up. The Earth Conservancy didn't want to spend its time and energy in that area, understandably â¦ And maybe they wouldn't have succeeded if they had. It didn't offend me at all. It all had been pre-planned that we were going to have that capacity. Quite frankly, it was red meat to the media. It was a great story. And it was a great story because if you look at my career, that's the only thing that anyone ever could really attack me on â¦ When I look back on it, when you consider all the corruption that went on in Luzerne County, and you mention how you (the media) attacked me, it looked like I was really corrupt. I didn't do anything. Anything. It was passed on, investigated and cleared. By everybody. TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS: Why do you think you lost?
KANJORSKI: I think there was a tidal wave of anger â¦ In politics, there's a tide. And that tide cleanses and it's healthy. The fact that I lost is not unhealthy. It's healthy â¦ The Democratic majority this last two Congresses â¦ just failed to take into their confidence the people. And that's a fatal error in a democracy. And we deserved to lose. I deserved to lose being part of that mechanism. No question about â¦ I'll be honest with you, I did not think that the media and the people turning against me would be as successful as it was. I underestimated that. That's understandable from my position. I do not have a political organization. I do not sit in Washington and talk to 50 people a day, 'How's it going in Sugar Notch?' I didn't want to do that. I could have, I'm bright enough to do it. I just didn't want to do it. It's up to your mentality. I wanted to do what I felt I could do best and well and what I was equipped to do that long-term would serve my district and my country. And it would have worked, we would have been re-elected if this tide hadn't occurred.
TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS: You told me in 2002 that you had not taken a national profile on many things â¦ the way that some congressmen did because you thought it was more important to concentrate on the local stuff, that you had spent more time obtaining money for different projects and the things you thought that the valley needed at the time. But in the last couple of years you really had the opportunity to gain a national profile.
KANJORSKI: The truth of the matter is very few members get an opportunity to do much on Financial Services unless they're there at least three or four terms â¦ I wrote half the (Wall Street reform) bill â¦ It was killing me up here because you folks had no appreciation for how important that was historically â¦ If you look at the Kanjorski amendment, I framed that over an entire year â¦ That goes back to the question: why did you run (last year)?
TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS: So why did you run?
KANJORSKI: I ran because I recognized that if I had announced that I was not going to run, I would immediately become a lame duck, and I could not participate in ushering through the half of the (financial services) reform bill that I wrote. â¦ There wasn't a question that if I wanted to see this legislation through to a strong position, I had to put myself on the line to do it. I did it. It's no heroic thing, but I could have just as easily walked away. I could have taken a job on Wall Street for millions. I was their greatest scourge, for Christ's sake. I was the guy that stuck my both thumbs in all of their eyes. There were guys like (JPMorgan Chase & Co. chairman) Jamie Dimon, they'll never forget me â¦ He's probably considered the most powerful banker in the world and I took his ass on and I defeated him. Not openly, nobody in the public knew. This is only my opinion that I defeated him â¦ He tried to lead a cause to stop the Kanjorski amendment and the Volcker rule of incredible proportions. The only thing is they miscalculated how to handle it and I had out-thought them a year in advance. I got prepared, I put it together. And quite frankly, I did a magnificent job. That's why I didn't want to give it up â¦ If implemented as I would like to see it implemented, it will have as strong an impact on the world financial markets as anything we've ever done in the country.
TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS: What are you going to do next?
KANJORSKI: Well, actually, we're analyzing it â¦ I have no need or desire to make a lot of money â¦ I intend to speak and I've had several requests. I've had four or five law firms (all outside the area) come in and discuss how I could join them, work on their things â¦ I want to do a smattering of things â¦ I've talked to several educational institutions. They'd like me to think about doing graduate courses. Locally, Philadelphia â¦ I think I could be very effective in developing a support base to make sure we implement the (Wall Street) reform bill. I could spend some time writing on that, speaking on that and testifying on it.
What the heck is a "Sugar Notch"? I can imagine but maybe someone from this area can enlighten us...?
Sugar Notch is a small town near Wilkes Barre Pa.
Sugar Notch is a smakk town located in his district.
Gees typing in the dark
My family is from Duryea, PA. What a depressing place. If Kanjo was the representative, it would be even more depressing.
Best thing about Duryea WAS the Topps Card Company that has relocated(outsourced) to Mexico .I remember the smell of bubble gum when driving by the place.Many locals made a lot of $$$ dumpster diving at that plant .
Most of the article is patting himself on the back for pork. It’s really sickening that these schmucks determine how successful their terms in Congress were based on how much taxpayer pork they managed to legally steal and bring home to their district. Until that is no longer the yardstick they measure success by we’ll never fix that sinkhole in D.C.
It’s a small borough near his hometown of Nanticoke.
You need one of these: http://amzn.to/4QBZDX
Personally, I think Hop Bottom (PA) beats the name Sugar Notch.
Mosic is in that area.