Thursday, October 2, 2008

Columnists DeCoursey Nails (Corbett) It

Pete DeCousrsey really did nail the absurdity of Corbett's excuses for not indicting Republicans before the election so we post the entire Column here.

OFF THE FLOOR: Will Corbett's self-granted Bonusgate extension satisfy

A Capitolwire Column

By Peter L. DeCoursey
Bureau Chief

HARRISBURG (Sept. 23) - At least Tom Corbett didn't say the dog ate his sense of fairness, or unruly mice ate all of his leads into the Republicans.

But his excuses for charging Democrats, and only Democrats before this election, had that smack of bad high school excuses.

It made me think of the time, back in high school, I once asked a teacher for an extension on a major paper, a 30-pager at a minimum.

He asked me: "When did you start on it?"

I told him "two days ago," about a project that would take at least 30 hours of concentrated work.

The teacher, quite reasonably, said he would be inclined to cut me a break if I had started in time, but since I started too late to conceivablycomplete it in time, "it will affect your grade, and my opinion of you."

So my first reaction to Attorney General Tom Corbett's announcement that there will be no more charges before the election, because he lacked time to present info to the grand jury, was: "When did you start?"

Well, Corbett started looking into the House Democrats in March 2007 and seized their records that summer, months before he sought or seized any records from other caucuses.

Then, 16 months after he began his probe, he charged one former House member, Rep. Mike Veon, D-Beaver, one current member, Rep. Sean Ramaley, D-Beaver, and 10 former or suspended House Democratic staffers, with official corruption charges.

So he seized their stuff first, got around to looking at the computer records of others months to a half-year later, and apparently waited until he finished charging Democrats before he began summoning Republicans before the grand jury.

Now after weeks of stories about the tough questions Corbett and his investigators have apparently been asking various House Republicans, and the records he is poring over from Senate Republicans, we are told that, darn it, Corbett ran out of time before he could charge anyone else.

Gosh, that is more convenient than the time I watched a public school teacher punish only four of eight kids who beat up another kid, because the teacher said graduation was coming and he ran out of time.

Or the time a kid at a big Philly private school whose parents were big donors forgot to do his independent study senior project, and graduated anyway, because he just ran out of time, and heck, no one wanted to hold that against him.

Both were examples of favoritism, pure and simple, and gosh, this has the
same smell as that.

Corbett says he doesn't have the time now to present all the evidence he has to the grand jury, and that the election is an "artificial deadline" created by others. And he thinks it is improper to charge someone before the election if his ducks aren't perfectly in a row.

And that statement is entirely right. Corbett shouldn't charge people until he has the evidence lined up and it is sufficiently convincing to merit presentation to the grand jury.

But he began this investigation more than 18 months ago. He could have decided to investigate both parties from the start. He did not, even though, from the recent newspaper accounts, it appears he had good leads about Republicans as well as the information he suspected and then alleged about House Democrats.

All those years ago, the teacher told me I delayed on purpose. I denied the charge, just as Corbett will say he didn't time his investigation to have the clock run out just as the House Republicans are dripping with investigation fear sweat.

But I knew what was coming, and could have made time for it. So could have Corbett.

The most insulting part is Corbett's comment that elections are "artificial deadlines."

He had 19 months to tell voters which legislators and staffers he believed to be corrupt, a type of information most voters want very much before re-election season. Prosecuting official corruption and informing voters by charging people is his job.

Instead, Corbett oversaw an investigation that managed to take nearly 19 months so far, and only charge House Democrats before a re-election, where he, a partisan Republican, is running for re-election. And in an election where many believe he could lose, especially if eastern Republicans dumped him, because, say, he just indicted a bunch of their pals, again, the smell here isn't quite right.

So what happens now? Well, there is no teacher to grade Corbett, just 5 million or 6 million voters who will decide how serious his "Incomplete" on this investigation should be.

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