Friday, December 26, 2008


Best wishes to all for a very Happy Holiday season! We will be back next week and we look forward to the New Year.

We also look forward to continuing to cover the hypocrisy of the political class in PA!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Secretary Steve Crawford Turns Down House Democratic Caucus Chief of Staff Job.

A Captain Renault post: Our sources On The Hill and inside the Capitol Bldg. tell us that Gov. Rendell's long-time Secretary of Legislative Affairs Steve Crawford was recently, officially, and formally offered the job of "Chief of Staff to the Democratic Caucus". The word from Caucus and Governor staff insiders is that Crawford said "no" to the job offer and is staying with Rendell.

We're not sure if Crawford's decision to turn the job down is a vote of "no confidence" in the House Democrat Caucus or a vote of "confidence" in lame duck Rendell and his last two year legislative session.

Our sources tell us Crawford met with the new House Democrat Triumvirate -- McCall, Eachus, and Evans -- and they asked him to take the job. He said no.

If Crawford serves out his two years with the Rendell administration he will be the longest serving Secretary of Legislative Affairs in anyone's recent memory.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


A Captain Renault post: The Pittsburgh Tribune Review published an article on December 14th that clearly exposes Attorney General and Space Cadet Corbett's partisan and selective prosecution of Democrats. Brad Bumstead's Sunday column had his usual critique of the entire legislature -- this time for what he calls "the per-diem scam". Bumstead reports in his column what everyone in the Capitol has known for a long time: many of the legislators have been collecting per diems with no requirement for receipts while also having their meals paid for by lobbyists or Caucus leadership or Committee accounts. This was common practice and common knowledge. But Corbett only investigated Democrats for this common practice and only indicted Democrat Mike Veon -- despite the clear evidence that Republicans were guilty of the exact same behavior.

We're glad someone in the Main Stream Media is finally doing at least some reporting on the partisan and selective nature of Corbett's Bonusgate investigation. We reported on this specific selective and partisan part of Corbett's investigation way back in October. Read our post again here. We hope more reporters start paying attention to how Corbett has abused the justice system in PA.

As you can see in our October post and in this document, House Republican members collected hundreds of per diems while also paying out tens of thousands of taxpayers dollars for meals on the same day. According to Corbett and the articles published since the July Bonusgate indictments, Democrat Veon was indicted for the exact same thing dozens of House Republicans did on a routine basis. We have no idea whether or not any of this activity is illegal and we certainly aren't defending Veon on this blog. If he was wrong he should pay the price.

What we have dedicated our time and effort to over the last few months is to point out Corbett's hypocrisy, double standards, and partisan use of the immense power of the Attorney General office. We were motivated by what we saw Alberto Gonzales do to the US Justice system. Too few people in the media paid attention to what Gonzales and his partisan staff were doing until it was too late.

If Veon was wrong then so are the dozens of House Republicans who did the exact same thing -- and as our research has shown on the exact same days for the actions Veon was indicted on! Corbett should be forced by law and public outcry to apply the law to both parties in the same way. The arrogance and partisanship by Corbett and his crew is in full display in this part of Bumstead's column:

Some suggest that going after Veon on the meals is selective prosecution by Attorney General Tom Corbett.

No way, his office says. He just followed the evidence.

"During the course of our investigation, we developed evidence related to Veon's basketball dinners," said Kevin Harley, spokesman for Corbett. "That evidence was referred to a grand jury. It will be up to a jury to determine whether that is misappropriating tax money. I can't really comment on the others. The evidence was uncovered in our investigation of Veon."

It's a typical statement from the arrogant spokesman/political operative Harley. The "evidence" on the Republicans is in full view. But you aren't going to see it if you close your eyes and don't even investigate the Republicans.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


A Captain Renault post: Lots of news of course over the last week about the Governor of Illinois and the fine political art of pay to play. I came across an article in Legal Newsline that sheds some light on what some observers describe as PA's very own pay-to-play game. Read it here.

PA Governor's (and other state officials) have long had the ability to award lucrative contracts and legal work to preferred firms without the need to bid the work out. These no-bid contracts have very often been awarded to generous campaign contributors and have been PA's version of pay-to-play for a long time.

Below is an excerpt from the court action. In polite, but strong, legal language it sure looks like an accusation of pay-to-play to me.

"Indeed, the role of the Governor's General Counsel in the retention of Bailey Perrin, the timing and amounts of Mr. Bailey's campaign contributions the terms of the contingent fee agreement, and the involvement of Bailey Perrin in other Risperdal-related litigation that might be affected by this lawsuit combined to give rise to a manifest appearance of impropriety -- the impression that the government's prosecutorial decisions have already been infected by impermissible considerations."

By the way, our research has shown that Attorney General and Space Cadet Tom Corbett has often used outside law firms to do work that many believe should be done in-house. We are doing some additional research to determine how many of those firms are also big campaign contributors to Corbett. Given Corbett's always high level of hypocrisy, we expect to find quite a few contributors who just so happened to get lots of legal work. We will report our findings here of course.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


A Captain Renault post: Yesterday I published a post on Corbett and his staff illegally leaking information from the Bonusgate secret grand jury proceeding. Anyone who has followed the Bonusgate story from the start has seen how Corbett and his team work to manipulate the press coverage to Corbett's advantage with well-placed and timely leaks to reporters all over the state. The stories often have insight and direct quotes from "anonymous" sources that could only come from inside the AG's office. In every article Corbett's spokesman and political operative Kevin Harley publicly states (one would assume with a smile and a smirk) that the AG's office has "no comment" because the grand jury process is "secret".

It is illegal for the AG and his staff to leak secret grand jury information to the press. Illegal -- as in against the law. And as in the law Corbett is sworn to uphold. Last week, in an astounding coincidence, both the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and the Philadelphia Inquirer published articles on the same day with leaks from Corbett's office. Read the articles here and here for yourself.

Last week's leaks by Corbett's staff were so blatant that Corbett himself felt compelled to disingenuously assure the public that the leaks did not come from his office. In an article in the Indiana Gazette published last weekend Corbett provides lots of drivel and pious comments about the sanctity of the secret grand jury process. His comments in the article reach a new high for hypocrisy and double talk -- even for Corbett.

The best line in his speech is this: "So when you see stories out there, I'm reasonably assured that they didn't come from my staff."

I will again point out that is is illegal for the AG and his staff to leak secret grand jury information. It is a crime. And now we know Corbett is "reasonably assured" his staff did not break the law. The top law enforcement officer in our state is "reasonably assured" that is own staff is not committing criminal acts. How comforting.

What we really need is a grand jury to "reasonably assure" the public that the top law enforcers aren't breaking the law.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


A Captain Renault post: Time to call a plumber for Attorney General and Space Cadet Tom Corbett -- or a real prosecutor. It looks like AG/SC Corbett and his crack staff are continuing to illegally leak stories to reporters in an effort to make Corbett look good, to further his political goals, and to cover his tracks when he fails to indict any Republicans.

It is of course illegal for the Attorney General or his staff to leak any information from a secret grand jury proceeding. But that doesn't appear to have stopped Corbett and his staff from doing just that since the beginning of this investigation. Time and time again articles appear in papers throughout the state outlining what the grand jury is investigating, and how smart Corbett is and how hard he is working to bring the corrupt legislature to justice. Corbett and his spokesman/political operator Kevin Harley always trot out the usual direct quotes in each article explaining that they "can't comment on an ongoing investigation" -- yada, yada, yada. In the meantime, each article has the kind of insight and details that only could come from inside the grand jury and the AG's office.

Last week Corbett and his crew were just a bit too cute by half because their leaks were reported in the state's two largest newspapers on the same day! What a coincidence that both papers would have the same story about secret grand jury proceedings on the exact same day. And what a coincidence that both stories made it look like Corbett was "getting tough" with the House Republicans because they are stonewalling his investigation.

Both the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and the Philadelphia Inquirer published their stories about Corbett going to the Grand Jury Judge to force the House Republicans to comply with issued subpoenas. What are the odds that two reporters who have been covering the Bonusgate story for many months would just happen to come across the same information on the same day and write essentially the same story. Corbett continues to be a master hypocrite -- illegally leaking material to reporters while prosecuting alleged illegalities in the legislature.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


A Captain Renault post: Today I am posting another of those entertaining, interesting, and well researched missives that an unknown author has been sending to members of the Democratic caucus for months. Whoever the author is, he/she sure does his/her homework and always makes some compelling points backed up by facts and cited newspaper articles.

Read the entire epistle here. It is enlightening and on target.

Corbett has bungled the Bonusgate investigation so bad he now has to beg a judge to make the Republicans comply with subpoenas. What a disgrace. Corbett spent all of his time investigating the House Democrats, indicted Democrats before the election, and now has been walking backwards rapidly on whether or not he will charge Republicans.

In the meantime, the House Republicans took the cue from Corbett and destroyed all of the hard drives before Corbett could politely and belatedly ask for them. Corbett has reaped what he sowed.

In an even more amazing and hypocritical example of Corbett's best use of his double standard two-step, Corbett has yet to even lay a glove on the Senate Republicans. this is despite the fact that the Senate Rs had issued some of the largest bonuses to staff who were widely known to be very politically active.

Monday, December 8, 2008


A Captain Renault post: The House Republican caucus seems to be an ungrateful bunch. Attorney General and Space Cadet Tom Corbett did everything he possibly could to help them in the November election and now they tell him to kiss off!

Corbett spent 18 months investigating the House Democrats while ignoring similar allegations against the House Republicans and indicted 12 Democrats before the election. Corbett made sure there "wasn't enough time" to fully investigate or indict Republicans before the election. As I have posted here many times in the past, Corbett's actions were used to great advantage by the Republicans in the election against Democrats throughout the state.

Now that Corbett has been backed into a corner and has to at least appear to be "investigating" the Republicans, the House Republicans return the favor by fighting Corbett and stonewalling his investigation. According to several reports in newspapers across the state, Corbett had to go to court to "force" the Republicans to honor the grand jury subpoenas served on the House Republicans. If this matter wasn't so serious it would be funny. Corbett spent all of his time looking at the Democrats while making sure the Republicans knew what was happening and giving them lots of time to make sure there wasn't much "evidence" around once Corbett got around to going though the motions of investigating them. There were even reports in the media this past summer of the House Republicans replacing and destroying their computer hard drives right in the middle of of the ongoing grand jury process. It seemed very blatant at the time but Corbett didn't seem to react at all to that bombshell.

So while the Democrats allegedly were shredding a few boxes of material, the House Republicans were replacing and destroying all of their hard drives. And Corbett now wonders why he can't find enough evidence on the Republicans?

Many rational observers have said Corbett was conducting a mismanaged investigation from the start by spending all of his time on the Democrats while giving the Republicans a pass for so long. Even to this date, there is no indication of any action by Corbett towards the Senate Republicans. The Senate Republican staff had some of the biggest bonuses awarded and were known in the Capitol to be very politically active -- and yet to date NOTHING from Corbett about them.

Looks like the Senate Rs are telling Corbet to get lost too.

Friday, December 5, 2008


A Captain Renault post: New Majority Leader Todd Eachus made it clear yesterday that he intends to be the top dog in the House Democrat Caucus. Eachus seems to be moving quickly and decisively to grab the reins of power and to make sure Bill DeWeese is relagated to a very minor (and hopefully irrelevant) role in how the Caucus is managed. In a session with reporters yesterday Eachus outlined some of his goals and described some of the first steps he is taking in order to make some of the necessary changes in his caucus operations.

In the meantime, I noticed a pitiful and pathetic letter to the editor that DeWeese sent to the Hazelton Standard-Speaker. DeWeese's letter looks like a child's effort to be noticed and was in response to an editorial the Standard Speaker published recently. The Standard-Speaker editorial encouraged incoming Speaker Keith McCall and Todd Eachus to break with the past and bring some needed reforms to the legislature. The editorial also bemoaned the fact that the Democrat Caucus elected DeWeese to any leadership position.

If Eachus really does decisively take the reins of power in his caucus, it will be fun to watch DeWeese stomp his feet in the months ahead in a vain but useless attempt to have anyone care about anything he says or does.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


A Captain Renault post: It looks like Todd Eachus didn't much care for those meetings DeWeese held a few weeks ago with senior Democrat caucus staff. According to several staff sources who attended the meetings, DeWeese suggested with a wink and a nod that despite his demotion he would still be making many decisions about staff and direction of the caucus as part of "the new leadership team". I described the meetings in an earlier post.

Well from the news reports today it looks like the new Majority Leader Todd Eachus responded to DeWeese's wink with a big foot on his neck.

Eachus has hired Attorney Chris Casey of the famous PA Casey clan to "conduct a full scale review of House operations...". In this Standard - Speaker article Eachus seems to be making it clear that he is in charge of the caucus. Although he doesn't mention DeWeese by name in the various articles today, he goes out of his way to describe the changes he wants to make after "14 years of the same leadership".

From what I can tell form the emails we get here and the staff chatter on the Hill and in the street, many are holding their breath waiting to find out if there is going to be a power struggle between DeWeese and Eachus or if Eachus will in fact be in charge and in control of all aspects of the Democrat caucus.

With his selection of Casey as "outside counsel" and his very strong and public comments today in the press, it looks like Eachus isn't going to take his foot off of DeWeese's neck anytime soon.

Monday, December 1, 2008



In my earlier post today I reported on a meeting Bill DeWeese had 2 weeks ago with senior Democrat caucus staff. I received several emailed tips about the meeting and tracked down a couple of staff people who spoke to us off the record. All of the sources told us similar things about the meeting and one called it "a typical weird BS performance by DeWeese...most of the staff were just rolling their eyes".

What I found to be very interesting was how one source described DeWeese's "speech". From one of the emailed tips:

"DeWeese basically told us the new leadership was a "team" and that he would be "very involved" in making decisions about the staff and everything else. He said it with a wink. Whatever that means. Then he told us we were all "safe" and that there would be "no changes" in the staff. Hell, we want changes. And we thought we were going to get a change from DeWeese to McCall and Eachus. It was very disappointing and disheartening to listen to DeWeese act and talk like he is still in charge."

Is crazy DeWeese still running the show despite his demotion? I wonder why Eachus and McCall weren't part of that meeting? Is all of the DeWeese staff "safe"? And "safe" from what? And what does all of this mean for the larger Democrat majority and Ed Rendell's agenda in the upcoming session? What does it mean for Corbett's investigation of DeWeese and the Democrats?

From what I can see and hear, from on the hill and in the street, Democrats both inside and outside the Capitol building are hoping this DeWeese "speech" to the staff is just more of his craziness and that someone will put a muzzle on that guy. Most Democrat activists around the state seemed to be hopeful that DeWeese would at best join his colleague John Perzel as a back-bencher in the legislature. But unfortunately that did not happen. DeWeese is an embarrassment. But from all of the reports I've read in newspapers across the state, the guy seems to have no shame. And THAT is a shame.

Will bring more tips and tidbits in future posts in our new HEARD ON THE HILL - AND IN THE STREET feature.


A Captain Renault post: One of the interesting things about posting a blog about state politics in PA and reporting on the happenings of the state Capitol and it's players is that you get quite a few tips and tidbits from the people that work in the business.

SEC. STEVE CRAWFORD TO MAKE A MOVE? One of the latest hot tidbits and tips from some Capitol insiders has the Governor's Sec. of Legislative Affairs, Steve Crawford, under active consideration for a top post with the incoming new Democrat Leadership in the House -- either with Soon-to-be-Speaker Keith McCall or Majority Leader Todd Eachus. We aren't sure if they are pursuing Crawford or if Crawford is pursuing a new assignment but it sounds like either way there's lots of chatter about it.

DEWEESE IS CRAZY. BUT IS HE STILL RUNNING THE SHOW? Speaking of the new Democrat Leadership and tips from insiders, we will post some observations from some staff who attended a strange and weird meeting last week with Bill DeWeese. These staff left the meeting shaking their heads for lots of reasons and wondering if DeWeese was still in charge of the Democrat Caucus staff operation. He seemed to imply just that at the meeting. We wonder how Eachus feels about that? Or is he in on it?

Will post some more details soon with some interesting observations from staff who claim to have been at the meeting and emailed some tips to me about the things DeWeese discussed.