LEMOYNE, Pa. (WHTM) – “Our reason for being is that Pennsylvania can do better,” said Leo Knepper, CEO of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.
CAP, as it’s called, sits in a Lemoyne office park about two miles from the state Capitol.
“We’re an organization that was formed to really hold the General Assembly’s feet to the fire.”
CAP is best described as a fiscally conservative watchdog group that specializes in recruiting primary candidates to run against Republicans it doesn’t deem conservative enough. The CAP caucus has elbowed its way to 21 members; 15 in the House and six in the Senate.
“We don’t get many Christmas cards,” Knepper laughed. “We don’t get invited to the fun parties over at the Capitol. What we do is look out for taxpayers.”
Last year, CAP embraced Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Wayne Langerholc, a state Senate candidate. Langerholc came to the CAP offices and filled out a questionnaire agreeing with CAP philosophies of limited government, pro-school choice, anti-union and a part-time legislature. Langerholc also signed a CAP pledge promising not to take a pension if elected.
In October, CAP spent $15,000 on a colorful campaign mailer that spotlighted Langerholc’s promise to decline a state pension.
In November, Langerholc easily won the seat previously held by longtime Democrat John Wozniak.
Tuesday, Langerholc was sworn in at the Capitol and Wednesday in his hometown paper he was quoted as calling pension reform a top priority.
But also on Wednesday, ABC27 confirmed with the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) that Langerholc signed up for a state pension. Lawmakers have 30 days to decide whether to take or reject a pension. But once they decide, that decision is final. Langerholc is in.
“It’s appalling, it really is,” Knepper said. “He didn’t just lie to us. He lied to his constituents.”
After Tuesday’s swearing-in, I asked Langerholc for an explanation about signing a pledge to not take a pension and then deciding to take it. He said he wants all legislators and new hires to be placed in a 401(k)-style pension plan prevalent in the private sector.
“That’s something I’m looking at. To be able to work toward a 401(k), to be a part of that and not be a part of the state system,” Langerholc said. “That’s something that’s sorely needed. I’m ready to lead the fight to take the existing pensions into 401(k).”
“That’s the typical politician non-answer,” Knepper said dismissively, pointing out that Langerholc could fight to change the system without being part of the problem and living up to his pledge.
It is worth noting that a Western Pennsylvania senator owes no answers to a West Shore watchdog group. He answers to his voters.
“What they need to ask themselves is, given Wayne’s deception on this issue, can they believe whatever he’s gonna tell them he’s going to do?” Knepper said.
ABC27 attempted on Wednesday to let Langerholc respond to Knepper’s harsh criticisms. We spoke by phone to his chief of staff, explained the story, and asked for Langerholc to return the call. He never did.Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download our News App and our Weather App for your phone and tablet.