John A. Lawless

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This article is about the Pennsylvania politician. For other persons with the name, see John Lawless (disambiguation).
John A. Lawless
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 150th district
In office
January 1, 1991[1] – November 30, 2002[2]
Preceded by Joseph Lashinger
Succeeded by Jacqueline R. Crahalla
Constituency Part of Montgomery County
Personal details
Born (1957-11-30) November 30, 1957 (age 59)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Political party Republican (1991–2000)
Democrat (2001–2003)
Spouse(s) divorced
Residence Punta Gorda, Florida
Alma mater West Chester University
Occupation Legislator (retired)

John A. Lawless is a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Education and early career[edit]

He is a 1975 graduate of Methacton High School.[3] He earned a degree from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 1979 and has attended classes at Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.[3] He was first elected to represent the 150th legislative district as a Democrat in 1990 and switch over to the Republican Party two weeks later.[3] During his tenure, he frequently clashed with the Republican leadership in the House Republican Caucus; one newspaper account said that he had "a tendency to tell his party's secrets to the news media."[4]

Sex Faire controversy[edit]

In February 2001, Lawless gained nationwide media attention when he began an effort to withhold state funding for Penn State University because of "Sex Faire," a student event featuring information on cervical cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, and safe sex practices that he labeled "classless acts of debauchery."[5][6] The event also had games such as "orgasm bingo" and an "erotic-foods-guaranteed-to-turn-you-on" table.[5] Lawless and a video crew attended the event, where he filmed tables with literature he labeled pornographic and "gingerbread men and women with artful icing."[7] During the university's annual budget hearing, Lawless and several other legislators grilled Penn State President Graham Spanier on the event.[8] During the 4-hour hearing, Lawless played the much-hyped 5-minute tape that he made at the event, causing several legislators to remark it its relative tameness. State Rep. Dan Frankel told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette "No, I wasn't offended. You can find worse things in advertisements in some mainstream publications." State Rep. Babette Josephs said "I was very underwhelmed. This is what it was all about?," blaming the controversy on "somebody, it seems to me, with a problem in his personality and it gets played out because he is in a position of power."[7][9] In a contentious moment, Lawless told Spanier of a Penn State student who made fun of his facial disfigurement in an e-mail message; Spanier responded by noting that the student had complained to a threatening call from Lawless.[9] In the end, the legislature continued to fund Penn State University.[7]

Career as a Democrat[edit]

In the 2001 redistricting negotiations, House Republican leaders "eviscerated" Lawless' district, splitting it three ways in the 2002 Pennsylvania reapportionment plan.[4] Lawless said "They shafted me. They took away my base. This was about cowards at work. This is about paying the debts to the boys."[4] He said that he was considering running for re-election in spite of losing his political base or running for Pennsylvania Senate.[4] Instead, in November 2001, Lawless changed his party registration to Democrat.[10][11]

In that following May, Lawless ran for the Democratic nomination the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania in the 2002 election, placing third.[12] At the same time, he easily won the Democratic nomination for the newly reconfigured 150th legislative district; Jacqueline Crahalla won the Republican nomination and would face Lawless in election that November.[13] In September 2002, Lawless caused a controversy when he was pulled over for a minor traffic violation by a Lower Providence Township, Pennsylvania police officer. Lawless used vulgar language to berated the officer and threatened the police department with a loss of state funds.[14] In the November general election, Lawless lost to Crahalla by a mere 168 votes.[15] Following the loss, he destroyed many constituent-related documents, rather than surrender them to Crahalla.[16]

Post-legislative career[edit]

He was one on the plaintiffs in the 2001 lawsuit challenging Robert Jubelirer's dual role as Pennsylvania Lt. Governor and President Pro Tem. of the Senate.[17][18] When expenditures by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) were publicly revealed, Lawless, who was a board member, was criticized for using PHEAA funds to purchase falconry lessons for himself at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.[19][20] He currently is employed as the Corporate Secretary for the Delaware River Port Authority, although he was escorted by officials from the office in April 2010 because of an undisclosed disability he still collects a six-figure salary for an unknown reason.[21]


  1. ^ "SESSION OF 1991 - 175TH OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY - No. 1" (PDF). Legislative Journal. Pennsylvania House of Representatives. 1991-01-01. 
  2. ^ Per Article II, Section 2 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, the legislative session ended on November 30, 2002
  3. ^ a b c "John A. Lawless (Republican)". Official Pennsylvania House of Representatives Profile. Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 2001-08-03. 
  4. ^ a b c d M.R. Bull, John (2001-09-26). "Redistricting zaps Mayernik, Kaiser; Bodack's Senate seat kept intact". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. PG Publishing. 
  5. ^ a b Bull, John M.R. (2001-02-27). "Profs lecture 'Sex Faire' critic". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 
  6. ^ Pro, Johnna A. (2001-02-15). "Lawmaker upset over feminists' Sex Faire at PSU". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 
  7. ^ a b c Bull, John M.R. (2001-02-28). "Sex Faire tape not so titillating". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 
  8. ^ Fitzgerald, Thomas (2001-03-07). "Legislators join fray over sex fair at Penn State.". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  9. ^ a b Cooke, Jeremy R.; Daryl Lang (2001-02-28). "Spanier defends Sex Faire under fire from Lawless". The Daily Collegian. 
  10. ^ Raffaele, Martha (2001-12-30). "Court rejects suit challenging Jubelirer's role". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. PG Publishing. 
  11. ^ "John A. Lawless (Democrat)". Official Pennsylvania House of Representatives Profile. Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 2002-02-07. 
  12. ^ "Lieutenant Governor, 2002 General Primary". Commonwealth of PA - Elections Information. Pennsylvania Department of State. 2004. 
  13. ^ "2002 General Primary - Representative in the General Assembly". Commonwealth of PA - Elections Information. Pennsylvania Department of State. 2004. 
  14. ^ "Report: Lawless rebuked officer after stop, The lawmaker says he swore at the patrolman, but denies a threat to stop helping Lower Providence police get Pa. aid.". Philadelphia Inquirer. 2002-09-18. "State Rep. John Lawless (D., Montgomery) berated a Lower Providence police officer who stopped him for a minor traffic violation and later threatened the police chief with a loss of state funds for the department, according to an internal police document. According to the five-page document detailing the incident, Lawless used vulgar language, suggested to Officer Mark Wells that he "should be out looking for real criminals," and later made a veiled threat about..." 
  15. ^ "2002 General Election - Representative in the General Assembly". Commonwealth of PA - Elections Information. Pennsylvania Department of State. 2004. 
  16. ^ Dobo, Nichole (2002-11-15). "Lawless destroys files and disappears after loss, opponent says". The Daily Collegian. University Par, Pennsylvania. 
  17. ^ Bull, John M.R. (2001-10-18). "Suit targets Jubelirer's dual role". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. PG Publishing. 
  18. ^ Hinkelman, Michael (2008-12-03). "Testimony links Fumo to nonprofit's misuse for personal, political gain". Philadelphia Daily News. "John Lawless...testified that Fumo aide Christopher Craig had contacted him and said that an anonymous donor would foot the legal bill if Lawless agreed to be the plaintiff in a lawsuit against then-Lt. Gov. and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer. Lawless said that he was unaware that Citizens Alliance was the anonymous donor that paid $20,000 in legal fees to file the suit until he was told about it by FBI agents." 
  19. ^ Murphy, Jan (2007-03-15). "PHEAA runs up bills for wives". Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Tribune-Review Publishing Co. 
  20. ^ "Board Members". Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. Archived from the original on 2001-04-17. 
  21. ^ "Board Information". DRPA: Delaware River Port Authority. Delaware River Port Authority. 

External links[edit]

Works related to Lawless v. Jubelirer at Wikisource

Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joseph Lashinger
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 150th District
1991 – 2002
Succeeded by
Jacqueline R. Crahalla