More about that Pa. state legislator who trolls constituents online (and why he turned against fracking)

Written by . Posted in 2014 Campaigns, Scandal

Published on May 30, 2013

jessewhiteThe Free Beacon has a fun item up about Democratic Pennsylvania State Rep. Jesse White, who has now admitted to going online and anonymously bullying an elderly constituent who had written positive things online about natural gas exploration in the Marcellus shale: 

A user with the same IP address as Rep. Jesse White, an outspoken opponent of the natural gas extraction technique hydraulic fracturing, left numerous comments on online news stories harassing Janice Gibbs, a Pennsylvania resident….

…White admitted Thursday to carrying out online attacks under fake accounts in a statement posted to his Facebook page.

That’s great, but my friends at the Beacon and others are missing what I think is the most important part of this story — namely, the series of events that turned White from a very pro-gas politician (who could give a speech like this one) into an anti-fracking zealot. Basically, in a move that is increasingly common among politicians in the era of big government, he turned against the industry because he couldn’t squeeze enough money or favors out of them.

This is an old story, so I’m going to quote from it at length, but I encourage you to click through and read the whole thing.

An ardent critic of the impact of gas drilling, state Rep. Jesse White of Washington County once enjoyed a cozy relationship with Range Resources Inc. — asking for a corporate plane ride to a Super Bowl and complaining the driller didn’t give him enough campaign money, emails between the lawmaker and company show…

“Just found out I had a few tickets to the game and am looking at our travel arrangements,” White wrote on Jan. 28, 2011, to Range Chief Operating Officer Ray Walker, in emails Range gave the Tribune-Review. “If the Range plane was heading down, any chance we could stowaway in the cargo hold?”

The Steelers lost that 2011 Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas, to the Green Bay Packers. White, a Democrat elected in 2006, did not travel with Range. He told the Trib he requested the ride as “a joke” and said he did nothing illegal or hypocritical in seeking campaign donations from Range. He said Range earlier invited him to its Super Bowl barbecue in Texas.

Five days after Walker denied his request, White, a former Cecil supervisor, formed Marcellus Municipal Co-Op, suggesting that communities hire a shared official to help enforce land-use rules during the gas rush…

White’s correspondence includes a March 2010 email about a May fundraiser Range was organizing for him. White wanted Autumn Haines, his former district aide who then worked for Range, to oversee the event planning.

His email said he and Haines had “a relationship” at the time. Range said involving her in the fundraiser would be a conflict of interest. White wrote: “Understood — I just don’t want to get shortchanged, especially because I am going to catch (expletive) no matter what. I don’t have the money some of my colleagues do.”

Range spent $1,000 on White’s fundraiser. When the event’s contributions totaled less than $5,000, counting the Range money, White emailed Range on June 17, 2010: “This was considerably short of the intended target and to be perfectly blunt, I attest the low turnout to a somewhat substandard effort in working your vendor list.”

Range claims the $10,000 it gave White during that time made him one of its top three recipients.

So if you’ve ever wondered what drives people to a life of Internet trolling, here’s one case study. It all goes back to the Steelers.