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Happy Valley: Do You Know Robert Jubelirer?

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Former Senator Robert Jubelirer (R- Blair County) is running to become a Pennsylvania State University Trustee. Penn State alumni, please take a moment to read this biography before you cast a vote.

Mr. Jubelirer was elected in 1975, served as Majority Leader from 1981 to 1984, and President pro tempore from 1985 to 1992 and 1994 to 2006. Mr. Jubelirer served as a senator at the same time he served as Lieutenant Governor, from 2001 to 2003.

Mr. Jubelirer was defeated in the 2006 primary for his role in drafting the 2005 legislative pay raise.

Mr. Jubelirer also voted to increase his pension in 2001.

Pay raise: Mr. Jubelirer was one of the architects of the infamous pay raise. Without debate at 2 a.m. on July 7, 2005 the Legislature approved a 16% to 54% pay hike for lawmakers and a 10% to 15% raise for judges.

“Unvouchered expenses” were a backdoor way of providing immediate raises for lawmakers, thus skirting a constitutional prohibition against increases during their term of office. Without the unvouchered expenses, lawmakers would have been forced to wait for a new term of office to get more pay.

The pay raise also extended to the judiciary and benefitted Mr. Jubelirer’s wife, Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer.

Judges were allowed to keep their pay raise.

Sore loser: John Eichelberger rode an anti-Pay Raise tide to defeat Mr. Jublelirer. However, after 30 years in office, Mr. Jubelirer cleaned out his office and left the cupboard bare. “There was not one piece of paper, no electronic communication. It was just like we were starting from scratch, and there was never a state senator in this district,” said Mr. Eichelberger.

(Records Missing as Guard Changes, Brad Bumsted & Debra Erdley, January 14, 2007.)

Legislative office files are paid for by tax dollars and saved on electronic databases. They are not the personal property of legislators. The data is vital to monitoring local requests for assistance, processing grant applications and providing constituent services.

Night life: Harrisburg is known for political excess. And Robert Jubelirer was no stranger to partying with tax payer dollars.

“Senate President pro tempore Robert Jubelirer dropped $336 one night at Garrison’s Tavern….Another night, Jubelirer charged you more then $300 for dinner at Scott’s Grille.”

“In just one year, Jubelirer charged you $10,600 in meals and catering and $6,500 at a place called the Beer and Soda Depot.”

(KDKA, Investigation Unveils Double Dipping In Harrisburg, August 24, 2006.)

Bonus babies: From 2005-2006, President pro tempore Jubelirer and Senate Majority leader David Brightbill authorized $350,000 in “supplemental payments” or “bonuses” to staffers.

The bonuses were investigated by Attorney General Tom Corbett.

Former-Senator David Brightbill’s brother in law, Mike Long, was the former chief of staff to former Senate President pro tempore Robert Jubelirer. Mr. Jubelirer awarded Mr. Long a $22,500 tax payer-funded bonus for running the failed Swann gubernatorial primary campaign. Senator Jubelirer also gave Drew Crompton $19,647 for working on the Swann campaign.

Turnpike pay-to-play: According to Mr. Jubelirer, pay-to-play was “completely foreign” to how Republicans behaved when he was running the joint. “We recommended people who were very competent,” said Jubelirer, who also said he was not contacted by law enforcement. “Sometimes they got hired, sometimes they didn’t.” (Times Leader, March 16, 2013.)

The political reality is that Mr. Jubelirer and former Senator Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia) had immense influence over the Turnpike Commission. Senator Jubelirer’s recommendations carried weight.

Deborah Eckert, the future Mrs. Jubelirer, started working at the turnpike in 1994 making $42,000 as a “marketing department representative.” In 1997, John Durbin, the former executive director of the turnpike, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Jubelirer had called him in mid-1996 to say, “Deb was extremely qualified for a promotion…”

She was promoted. Thank goodness there’s no nepotism at the Turnpike.

The couple married on August 17, 1997. When Deborah Eckert Jubelirer quit her job on August 6, 1999, she was making $66,539 as assistant deputy executive director of marketing. Mrs. Jubelirer and a computer technician were fired after officials learned that a nude photo of her was in the computer system in the turnpike commission offices. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 7, 1999.)

Fundraiser on 9/11 after defeat: Even after being tossed out of office, the good senator held a fund raiser on his own behalf.

“As the nation was observing the five-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, some lawmakers saw fit to stash campaign coffers. Senate pro tempore Robert Jubelirer – who lost his primary race and isn’t even running anymore – caught some political flak for hosting a fund-raising golf event. To top it off, the event was in Holidaysburg, just 35 miles southwest of Shanksville, where Flight 93 crashed.” (Beaver County Times, September 18, 2006.)

Current status: Mr. Jubelirer is the Chairman of Government Affairs at Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel, LLP.

Health care: Life time subsidized state health care including long-term care.

Monthly state pension: $7,577.81.

Lump-sum state pension withdrawal: $193,715.69. (SERS Response to Right To Know Request, February 19, 2013.)

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About the Author

Eric Epstein

Eric J. Epstein is RocktheCapital‘s coordinator and a community advocate for good government for over 25 years. Mr. Epstein is also Chairman of the Three Mile Island Alert, Inc., a safe-energy organization founded in 1977; President of EFMR Monitoring Group, Inc., a non-profit economic development corporation established in 1977, and Chairman of the Stray Winds Area Neighbors (SWAN), a smart growth association organized in 2005. Mr. Epstein was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Humanities at PSU-Harrisburg (1992-1999) and co-authored the Dictionary of the Holocaust, which was released by Greenwood Press (1997)

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