Thursday, December 31, 2009

WHAT 'LIES' WITHIN?


Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett, whose supposedly secret grand jury investigation of the legislature leaked like a sieve for a year and a half, now says he's "disappointed" that grand jury transcripts have appeared in the press.

We're always surprised Corbett's head doesn't burst into flames from sheer hypocrisy when he says stuff like that. But if the rumors we're hearing are true, he's got more "disappointment" in store. Sources tell CasablancaPA that all 4,000+ pages of grand jury testimony that were delivered to defendants' lawyers are now in the hands of the press. What further juicy tales of Corbett's incompetence may lie in store? We can't wait!

We're not surprised at Corbett's "disappointment," since "leaks" that come from anywhere other than his office always result in huge embarrassment for him. Who could forget the famous "U R welcome" e-mail linking former Leader Bill DeWeese to the bonus scandal? Or the hundreds of e-mails showing DeWeese and his top aides directing a state contractor to perform political work? Or the hundreds of incriminating e-mails DeWeese withheld from investigators? Or that Corbett ignored evidence implicating former Revenue Secretary and Campaign Committee head Steve Stetler and allowed Stetler to ditch a grand jury subpoena?

These revelations are not just embarrassing but inconvenient for Corbett, as he is forced to take precious time out of his busy campaign schedule to attempt damage control (although DeWeese remains suspiciously uncharged in the bonus and LCOMM matters).

Then there are the "leaks" that reveal Corbett's own shady dealings such a secret meeting between Corbett, his campaign manager and the supposed target of an investigation, or allowing another supposed target to host a fund-raiser for him, or allowing another supposed target to host another fund-raiser for him (if "allowing" is indeed the proper term). Plus the hundreds of phone calls on state phones during state time between state OAG and legislative workers and Corbett's campaign staff.

No wonder Corbett is terrified at the publicization of whatever further blunders and shenanigans that may be contained within the transcripts - which may at this moment be in the hands of some enterprising journalist!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE


We bet Attorney Matt Haverstick wishes he could get back this letter he sent to Jeff Coleman on December 22. (tip of the hat to Grassrootspa.com)
"It has come to my attention that recently you falsely accused the [Senate Republican] Caucus and its memebers engaging in rampant political activity with state funds...Your allegations are made with willful disregard of whether there is any truth whatsoever to your claims and thus are defamatory under Pennsylvania law."
Well, Mr. Haverstick, how about these apples?
"The investigation, confirmed last night by Jerry McDevitt, who is representing Ms. Orie, apparently began a day before the November election when an intern at the senator's district office in the North Hills complained to the district attorney's office that political calls were being made there on behalf of state Supreme Court nominee Joan Orie Melvin, the senator's sister.

On Friday,detectives executed a search warrant at Ms. Orie's district office at the La Casa Blanca Building on McKnight Road. Earlier in the month, detectives had placed Ms. Orie's office under surveillance, Mr. McDevitt said.

He also complained that, at one juncture, investigators had followed his client to church.

'It was pretty much a computer raid,' Mr. McDevitt said. He said detectives seized computers assigned to office staff, several laptops and the office computer server, leaving Ms. Orie's own computer in place.

Sources with first-hand knowledge of the inquiry said the district attorney's office has received complaints of fundraising and other political calls from the senator's district office. Additionally, a college intern brought complaints of improper political activity." (Post-Gazette 12/24/09)
Perhaps Haverstick should consider sending an "I'm sorry" bouquet of flowers to Coleman. This all sounds so very familiar:
"Democratic attorney general candidate John Morganelli's charge that House Republicans probably destroyed records in the investigation of legislative bonuses is borderline slander, the state House GOP leader said Wednesday.'When Mr. Morganelli makes these accusations, he's stepping pretty close to the line of slander,' said House Republican Leader Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney. Smith said he is considering suing Morganelli after the Nov. 4 election...Smith said Morganelli essentially accused members of his caucus of destroying evidence. 'I kind of took it that way, and I took offense to it,' he said." (Tribune Review 10/16/08)
Fast-forward a year later:
"While the computer contracts likely passed the $10 million mark in what the attorney general believes was misused by Mr. Perzel and his co-conspirators, Mr. Corbett told reporters that was not the thing that bothered him the most. 'If there's one thing in all of this that annoys me? Obstruction's the worst. You're interfering with people finding out what truly happened." (Post Gazette 11/12/09)
Whoops! It is like a bad joke that people keep telling over and over to one another.

Just as with Smith feigning righteous indignity over whether or not Corbett's botched handling of the investigation presented his caucus the opportunity to destroy evidence, it is ridiculous for Haverstick or anyone in Harrisburg to make the claim that Senate Republicans did no campaign work on state time using state resources. Everyone knows how active former Senate staffer Mike Long was for over 20 years in the Capitol offices doing campaign work.

Even Orie's lawyer said there is no politician that can pass the stringent zero tolerance policy Corbett has apparently decided to implement selectively:

"There's not a politician in this state that could pass a zero tolerance test." (Tribune Review 12/30/09)

We couldn't agree more with Orie's counsel. In fact, based on Corbett's own campaign cell phone bills, it is incontrovertible that Corbett himself can't live up to the very standards to which he is holding those he chooses to prosecute.

Everyone in Harrisburg should make a New Year's resolution to not be "shocked, shocked" whenever anyone is accused of using state resources for campaign work. Time after time, it is proven true that "not a politician in this state [can] pass a zero tolerance test."

The real crime and scandal is how gubernatorial candidate Corbett arbitrarily selects those he chooses to indict.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

BUT I ONLY BROKE THE LAW A TEENY BIT

Dennis Roddy with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette breaks an incredible story this evening regarding a raid by the Allegheny County District Attorney on Republican State Senator Jane Orie's district office and a grand jury investigation of her for illegal campaign work.
The investigation, confirmed tonight by Jerry McDevitt, who is representing Ms. Orie, apparently began a day before the November election when an intern at the senator's district office in the North Hills complained to the district attorney's office that political calls were being made there on behalf of state Supreme Court nominee Joan Orie Melvin, the senator's sister.

On Friday, detectives executed a search warrant at Ms. Orie's district office at the La Casa Blanca Building on McKnight Road. Earlier in the month, detectives had placed Ms. Orie's office under surveillance, Mr. McDevitt said. (Post Gazette 12/23/09)
Just how serious is Corbett's investigation of Senate Republicans?

If Orie was concerned about Corbett's probe, running operations for her sister's judicial campaign from her taxpayer funded office is no way to show it.

More incredibly, Corbett has three active grand juries investigating corruption, yet he is upstaged by the local district attorney and a county level grand jury!

Orie has been a long-time fan of Corbett and his handling of the investigation:
"As a former prosecutor, I understand it's extremely complicated and (the investigation) expands as he goes along," said Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, a former assistant district attorney in Allegheny County. "I'm confident in (Corbett) and I think he has handled this well." (Tribune Review 8/12/09)
No wonder!

We guess when she got word from Corbett that he wasn't peeking over one of her shoulders, she should have remembered to check for other law enforcement over the other.

Here at CasablancaPA, we never cease to be amazed at the rank hypocrisy of those in both parties. Orie's blatant disregard of the law puts this quote from a year ago in a much different light:
"I think we (Pennsylvania) are one of the worst," said Senate Majority Whip Jane Orie, a McCandless Republican and a former prosecutor. "I think when you look at the pay to play, gaming ... bonuses, we're in a culture, especially in the Legislature, where there was no reform and business as usual." (Tribune Review 12/21/08)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Q: WHAT WILL...

...a deal with Rachel Manzo to knock 12 felonies down to 1 misdemeanor get gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett?

A: The head of Majority Leader Todd Eachus.

Mark Scolforo with the Associated Press reports this evening on the deal Manzo was given in exchange for testimony against her old boss. (Associated Press 12/22/09)

These revelations by Manzo and John Jones, another former Eachus staff member, shed light on why Corbett sent Eachus a "target" letter earlier this month. (Post-Gazette 12/04/09)

Here is Eachus on Monday telling WNEP "anyone who has created a problem should face justice."

FINISH MY CAR, THEN WAX MY BALLS

Brad Bumsted has a must-read today on Bill DeWeese's use of his taxpayer-funded staff. (Tribune Review 12/22/09)

Apparently, the obnoxious bow ties and the weird bouncy balls were just a fraction of the madness Scott Brubaker described as the "daily nuttiness that [DeWeese] put his immediate staff through."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

THE "BUMSTED DOCTRINE"

At the press conference follwing the announcement of his latest bonusgate indictments, gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett refused to answer what should be a fairly simple question for an allegedly corruption-busting, tough guy -- "This campaigning has been going on for years and is ubiquitous...what are you going to consider criminal acts?"

This should have been very easy for Corbett to answer, especially since he and his "professional" staff constantly cite the Superior Court decision in the Habay matter. In a nutshell, "[a public official]is not allowed to direct state paid employees under his authority to conduct campaign or fundraising related work during state paid time for his personal benefit."

There is no floor in Corbett's interpretation of the Superior Court's decision. One minute of tax-payer salaried staff time is the same as 100 hours. One email is the same 100 emails. One cell-phone call is the same as 100 cell-phone calls.

Corbett refused to say there will be zero tolerance for any campaigning on state time (as the Habay decision clearly states) under his watch, and in the absence of an endorsement of a zero tolerance policy, he refused to enunciate what would get a public official in trouble.

It is obvious why Corbett won't endorse a zero tolerance policy -- it would ensare Corbett himself. No one credible in Harrisburg will say Corbett and his staff do no campaign work using taxpayer resources, especially using taxpayer funded staff. Everyone knows there are many on Office of Attorney General staff -- notably Brian Nutt, Joe Murzyn and Becky Myers -- whose only purpose is campaign related.

For the very same reason, Corbett won't outline what exactly rises to criminal activity that his "professional" investigators will pursue.

Brad Bumsted with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review used his column today to step into the breach created by Corbett's refusal to make a clear statement on who will get arrested or not:
"Here's my [Bumsted's] view. You're in trouble with the law if:

• The activity is a pattern or pervasive in nature.

• It's directed by the boss or his lieutenant.

• There's "criminal intent" -- you know it's wrong and you have a motive to gain by it.

• You put it in writing, such as an e-mail." (Tribune Review 12/20/09)
Clearly, the "Bumsted Doctrine" allows for illegal activity to take place. In fact, quite a lot of this political activity is allowable using Bumsted's standards depending on a prosecutor's definition of a "pattern" and the word "pervasive."

Corbett would still be in serious jeopardy if the lax Bumsted Doctrine is applied to his activities, particularly his campaign's well-documented work over cell phones with the OAG.

First, the "pattern and pervasive" test. The revelation that hundreds of Corbett campaign cell phone calls were made into the Office of the Attorney General and even more troubling, hundreds of calls were made OUT OF the Office of Attorney General to his campaign cell phones certainly meets the standard of a pattern and hundreds of calls over just a few weeks is pretty pervasive.

Second, the "boss or lieutenant" test. Since Corbett himself was both making and receiving these campaign cell phone calls between himself and his OAG staff on state time, it is clear that "the boss" was directing campaign activity. Furthermore, does anyone believe that Brian Nutt wasn't directing campaign activity from the OAG?

Third, the "criminal intent" test. Corbett was elected to enforce the laws and ostensibly knows the law. Any political activity, most clearly illustrated by the hundreds of campaign cell phone calls, would definitely be recognized as criminal by Corbett as he dialed the phone and spoke with of his OAG staff at their OAG offices during the work day.

Fourth, the "writing" test. The only person with subpoena power over these matters is Corbett himself. Since no one else in Pennsylvania has the power to subpoena Corbett's OAG computers, we'll never know the amount of illegal activity occuring under Corbett's tenure. All written documentation since Corbett took over in 2005 is either destroyed or safely ensconced in the OAG untouchable from even open records requests.

Bumsted quoted Jack Treadway, a retired political science professor (what expertise he has in the law, we're not quite sure, but he still makes a good point) that "It is probably easier to tell when the line has been crossed than where it should be drawn." He is quite right!

Not only does Corbett get to set and move the line, he also gets to decide when the shifting line has been crossed. This is the very reason Corbett shouldn't be allowed to make the decision of when and how the line has been crossed as he runs for governor.

Zero tolerance or Bumsted Doctrine, it doesn't matter. Corbett will never say what is illegal or not because it protects him from entraping himself, but also because he can move the "line in the sand" back and forth as he sees fit based on who shows due deference to his campaign for governor...or who his campaign funders tell him to protect.

Most incredibly, Corbett has allowed the standards of his investigation to deteriorate to the point where, in the absence of an enunciation by Corbett of any legally consistent standard of criminality, newspaper columnists and pundits like Bumsted believe they are qualified to venture suggestions of what the standard should be themselves.

Friday, December 18, 2009

UH, DAN. IT'S YOUR PROBLEM, TOO


As gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett's politically motivated indictments countinue to mount, many in Harrisburg still don't get it.

This is especially true for the House Democrats for two reasons.

First, DeWeese spent three entire days with the Attorney General's agents. (Tribune Review 12/12/09) You all know Bill. He is a deluded fool and a rank coward who would do anything to get out of trouble. Does anyone in the caucus really feel comfortable knowing DeWeese spent all that time alone with Corbett's investigators?

Secondly, DeWeese and his attorney Bill Chadwick misguidedly put in place a system where Democratic caucus staff were actively coached by their DeWeese provided attorneys (in concert with Corbett's investigators) to divert as far from DeWeese as possible any culpability. (What DeWeese, Chadwick and Corbett didn't count on was that caucus witnesses with their own lawyers wouldn't go along with this system, i.e. Sidella, Manzo.) But, we digress.

So, we find it par for the course that upon reading the news that Frank Dermody was elected the new Majority Whip (congrats to Frank, btw) some folks still maintain Corbett's investigation is someone else's problem.

Case in point is Democratic Representative Dan Frankel:
"Mr. Frankel said members want [Dermody]...to prevent the kind of alleged transgressions that led to the arrest of Mr. DeWeese and 14 others associated with the caucus. The scandal, which has become known as Bonusgate, involves allegations of using public resources to run political campaigns. 'Obviously, our leaders have had difficulties, whether that's Bonusgate or our ability to get things done legislatively,' Mr. Frankel said. 'There's an overwhelming reason to break with the past, and this [election of Mr. Dermody] is an expression of that,' he said." (Post-Gazette 12/18/09)
Uh, Dan. It's your problem, too.

Think about it...what did DeWeese tell Corbett about you? And, surely, you're aware that at least three Democratic staff have clearly and unequivocally implicated you in the very things DeWeese was indicted for this week.

If not, here is a quick reminder, you annoying hypocrite: Dan Frankel in Veon July pre-trial motion. Much of that is from 2007!

Those documents show you doing all this stuff from the past you vehemently want to "break from" now. Dan Wiedemer, Paul Martz and Jeb Wagner are all part of the Veon presentment and will likely be part of the Veon trial. They most certainly gave hours of grand jury testimony to Corbett...and clearly some of it was about you and conduct exactly like DeWeese's.

So, if you're so adamant about changing things in the House Democratic Caucus and breaking with the past, how about resigning yourself? You were a leader of this operation and if you're saying now you want to break from it, then get the heck out.

Or, you can just shut your hypocritical trap and hope that whatever Wiedemer, Wagner, Martz, Manzo and any other House Democratic staffer said in the grand jury won't come back to haunt you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

SHINY? TRY DIRTY, SMARMY, STINKING SMEAR



Gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett's investigation continues to stumble into serious ethical and, most likely, illegal territory.

In September of 2008 while Stetler was under an active investigation by Corbett's vaunted "professional" investigators, he received a campaign solicitation from Corbett's campaign.

Here is Stetler's attorney brandishing the letter following yesterday's arraignment of the latest bonusgate indictees:


















However, this isn't the complete story. In July of 2008, Corbett allowed Stetler to ignore a grand jury subpoena (Pittsburgh Tribune Review 5/2/09)

It is quite possible that Corbett let Stetler off the hook for the failed grand jury appearance, then provided Stetler a subtle avenue to express some appreciation that Stetler failed to recognize consequently resulting in his being indicted. After all, Stetler never did contribute to Corbett in 2008.

Far-fetched? We would agree except this isn't the only instance of a spurned quid pro quo resulting in an indictment by Corbett.

Last month, Chris Brennan with the Philadelphia Daily News reported how Corbett, while actively investigating John Perzel, had a cozy meeting with Perzel where Corbett's campaign was discussed. (Daily News 11/12/09)

Many folks who are privy to the what was really discussed in this meeting say Perzel remained uncommitted (at best) to a Corbett gubernatorial bid. And -- surprise, surprise -- two weeks later Corbett launches into the investigation that results in Perzel's arrest. (Associated Press 10/23/07)

This is a shocking and troubling pattern from Corbett. It should give his "professional investigators" pause. Certainly, the news that Corbett and his campaign manager, Brian Nutt, met with Perzel while an active investigation was under way should raise serious red flags with the top two "professional" investigators, Frank Fina and Jim Reeder.

Rather, Reeder's response to the troubling revelation that Corbett was soliciting campaign contributions from a major target of Reeder's own investigative efforts was an arrogant, non-chalant answer:
"Reeder said the letter was probably authentic...'I don't know, I'm not part of Mr. Corbett's campaign. It surprises me that the response of defense counsel is not what this guy did, but look over here, look over here, here's something shiny...And if Mr. Lock thinks he can distract the jury with something shiny, well, so be it.'" (York Daily Record 12/16/09)
We're not really surprised by Reeder's response. He is after all one of Corbett's "professional investigators" who let Corbett's staunch political ally, York County DA Stan Rebert, walk away unharmed from very potent and well-documented ethical misconduct charges.

Oh, and Reeder worked in Rebert's office while all this illegal activity was occuring. We wonder how much campaign work Reeder did on the York County taxpayer's dime.

Shiny? Not quite. That fundraising letter isn't a shiny distraction, rather it is a dirty, smarmy, stinking smear on the validity and ethics of Corbett's investigation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

WE'RE NOT BUYING IT


Think the arrest of former House Democratic Leader H. William DeWeese puts to rest questions about a shady deal between DeWeese and Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett?

Think again.

Despite clear evidence of his involvement, DeWeese was not charged on suspicion of awarding bonuses for political work.

DeWeese was not charged with directing state contractor Eric Buxton to do political work, despte the revelation of 123 e-mails between Buxton and top DeWeese aide Kevin Sidella, 93 e-mails between Buxton and DeWeese press secretary Tom Andrews and even half-a-dozen e-mails between Buxton and DeWeese himself. Corbett's own grand jury presentment against Team Veon acknowledged that DeWeese "always communicated with Buxton through his campaign account."

And DeWeese was not charged with directing House Democratic Caucus staff in Harrisburg to work on campaigns around the state, despite ample evidence that he did so.

Corbett's presentment against DeWeese is based largely on the testimony of immunized witness Kevin Sidella, who began cooperating with prosecutors in the fall of 2007, more than two years ago, well before the grand jury returned indictments against Veon and 11 others.

DeWeese is acting shell-shocked, whining to anyone who will listen that he cooperated with Corbett - in other words, how dare he? There's no doubt DeWeese had a clear expectation that his cooperation would protect him from indictiment.

During yesterday's press conference, reporters asked Corbett point-blank whether DeWeese "has immunity," but the question did not address specific charges, or other arrangements, official or unofficial, between DeWeese and Corbett. Corbett simply said no, without being specific. What the reporters didn't ask is why none of the evidence DeWeese turned over in the fall of 2007 was used against him, even though it clearly implicated him. If Corbett is committed to following the evidence, why didn't he follow that portion of the evidence that led to DeWeese?

Questions unasked remain questions unanswered.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

KEEPING SCORE


The pundits agree that Sean Ramaley's aquittal is a blow to Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett's campaign.

When criminal prosecutions carry this much political weight, it's kind of a hint that they're - y'know - political. If there are crimes to be prosecuted, it seems like a no-brainer that they should be prosecuted by someone who doesn't have quite so much personally to gain or lose by their outcomes.

But as long as everyone wants to pretend that criminal prosecutions are just another tool in the political toolbox, like robocalls and yard signs, let's get a few things straight:

Even if one concedes that plea bargains count as "wins," Corbett's score isn't 5-1, it's more like 5-2.5. That is, if charges against Rachel Manzo are to be withdrawn in exchange for her husband's guilty plea, as expected. It's hard to imagine that Corbett plans to prosecute Todd Eachus without the testimony of his top aide, but it's also hard to believe he wouldn't have a deal with Rachel locked down before proceeding with Eachus' indictment. On the third hand, it's even harder to believe Mike Manzo would have agreed to such an absurd plea unless withdrawal of his wife's charges were thrown into the bargain. So, we're tentatively awarding Corbett a loss until further notice.

We're also deducting a half-point for the dismissal of all charges related to the Beaver Initiative for Growth. If Corbett hadn't sought a do-over in front of a politically-friendly Republican magistrate, BIG would be a solid loss - and may yet be. Even if Corbett somehow manages convictions in the teetering case, we're afraid he'll never gain full points because he failed to refile all the original charges.

We don't suppose it's worthwhile to point out that these "points" represent actual human beings, is it? Yeah, we figured not.

Meanwhile, what's with Corbett's excuse that his own case was "weak?" That's a defense? Close scrutiny might beg the question: if it was a weak case, why'd you bring it? Then again, anyone paying attention already knows: Ramaley was poised to win a seat in the state senate. The seat went to a Republican after Ramaley withdrew. The case was a success long before the jury deliberated.

Is there no limit to the political machinations Pennsylvania will tolerate from its top law enforcement officer?

Friday, December 11, 2009

THEN WHY DID CORBETT BRING CHARGES?


We're getting a kick out of the initial Ramaley trial post-mortums.

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (his campaign broadsheet) are working hard to find ways to downplay the embarrasing loss yesterday.
"'I would say it's a minor blow, if it's a blow at all,' said Thomas Baldino, a political science professor at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre...But this was, perhaps, the weakest of the cases, and the defendant was not the major target.' Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Krastek said...'Obviously, there's much more involved in the other cases...There are a lot more facets than this little sliver.'" (Tribune Review 12/11/2009)
If Ramaley wasn't a major target or this was just a little sliver, then why did Corbett bring the charges in the first place? Why did he decide to pick just Ramaley out of all the members of the legislature?

Today's Capitolwire gives us the best and most concise answer to these questions.
"Ramaley was charged after he had won the state Senate primary in 2008 for a seat he was favored to win. After Corbett charged him, Ramaley was forced out of that race, and in the din about corruption that followed, Republicans pick up that seat. Corbett now has to answer questions about that decision and its political fallout, which benefited his party and his political allies." (Capitolwire 12/11/09)
We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

Corbett's arrest of Ramaley enabled Corbett's Republican allies and campaign contributors in the state senate to pick up a seat normally safely in the Democrat's column...and with a dolt like Elder Vogel no less.

Ironically, the main campaign consultant on the Vogel campaign was Mike Long, who is the most high-profile political operative who worked in the legislature and the recipient of the largest legislative bonuses.

Here are a few of the pieces of Long's handiwork. One, Two, Three, Four, Five. After looking at those mailpieces, it is clear Corbett's political use of the grand jury benefited the Senate GOP.

Make no mistake. Corbett desperately wanted to convict Ramaley. He put his ace trial attorney, Tony Krastek, up against Ramaley's team. Corbett spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars (if not millions) to dig deep to find witnesses and thousands of documents to tear Ramaley apart.

If Corbett and Krastek now want to downplay the Ramaley trial results by saying Ramaley was a minor part of the investigation and that it was going to be hard to prove the charges, they why did they indict Ramaley in the first place?

They either wanted to win the case (and subsequently failed miserably) or they merely wanted to ruin a Democratic candidate's chances to win...and his life.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

PANDORA'S BOX


Members of the House Democratic Caucus should be very concerned.

According to today's editions of both the Tribune Review and the Patriot News, it appears former Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese may be holding up his end of his apparent deal with Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett.

Anyone who has ever crossed DeWeese is at risk, because DeWeese is in possession of a big box of incriminating material Bill Chadwick and Bill Sloane dug up on DeWeese's colleagues for just this occasion. (Post Gazette 3/14/09)

Josh Shapiro is probably on the top of his list. (Post Gazette 8/5/08) After all, Shapiro did have one of the largest district office staffs of any member, and according to the Veon pre-trial motions from July of 2009, Shapiro certainly put them to good use on his campaign.

DeWeese is likely to throw overboard every member of the House Democratic Campaign Committee leadership -- notably Steve Stetler, Dan Frankel, Jennifer Mann and Joe Preston. (Veon July pre-trial filings)

Even rank and file members may be fingered by DeWeese in his desperation. Is DeWeese selling out Dan Surra and Rich Grucela ? (Veon July pre-trial filings)

It goes without saying that DeWeese would spill the beans on the highest-ranking members of House Democratic leadership -- Speaker Keith McCall and Majority Leader Todd Eachus -- to avoid arrest.

DeWeese even may be so desperate to keep himself out of trouble that his ex-wife Holly Kinser and the Four Seasons concierge for whom she left him may need to be concerned.

Every member of the Democratic Caucus should be asking himself or herself, what did I ever tell DeWeese and what is in that box of material that DeWeese gathered?

BREAKING NEWS: RAMALEY AQUITTED

The Facts: 1; Corbett: O

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A TANGLED WEBB



Well, now. Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett's star witness against Sean Ramaley (and presumably against the rest of Veon and Co.) is an admitted liar and perjurer.
Mr. Webb testified yesterday in the first day of Mr. Ramaley's trial on six counts of conspiracy and theft and admitted he had told some lies while under oath before a state investigative grand jury in September 2007.

"I was untruthful," he said. "I made the biggest mistake of my life."

He didn't return to the grand jury to change his story until April 2008. What happened after September 2007 that might have influenced Webb's recollection of events?

Corbett granted someone secret immunity in October 2007.

Then-leader H. William DeWeese turned over to Corbett a cache of carefully-selected documents implicating several hand-picked scapegoats.

Most of those hand-picked scapegoats were fired with great fanfare in November 2007.

Furthermore, Webb, like most of Corbett's witnesses, is represented by a lawyer who was paid with caucus funds at DeWeese's direction.

Pre-secret immunity deal: Webb has nothing to say. Post-secret immunity deal: Webb, armed with a DeWeese-selected lawyer and the spectacle of his former colleagues' public humiliation, becomes a veritable font of information against DeWeese's chosen scapegoats.

We're sure it's coincidental.

Friday, December 4, 2009

WHO TURNED ON THE LIGHTS?


 
Character, the sages say, is what you do when you think no one is looking.
 
What does Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett do when he thinks no one is looking?
 
He accepts a campaign contribution from a political operative he claims is under investigation.
 
He allows a political operative ostensibly under investigation to organize a fund raiser for him.
 
He allows another supposed target of investigation to host another fund raiser for him.
 
He and his campaign manager meet privately with a politician he claims is under investigation.
 
He allows his taxpayer-funded state Attorney General staff to initiate and accept hundreds of calls, on state phones and on state time, to and from his campaign staff.
 
He allows a sitting cabinet member to ignore a subpoena.
 
He green-lights the disposal of computers that supposedly contain evidence in a supposed investigation.
 
He parks political operatives in taxpayer-funded jobs at the Office of Attorney General.
 
He overlooks clear evidence of wrongdoing in the office of a Republican district attorney and political ally.
 
He sweeps under the rug rape allegations against another Republican district attorney and political ally.
 
He grants someone secret immunity and subsequently ignores a mountain of evidence against the most obvious suspect in the investigation he claims to be conducting.
 
Now that the eyes of Pennsylvania are upon him, Corbett thinks he can paper over these sins with a little damage control.
 
Would he ever have conducted a real investigation of Republicans if he hadn't been publicly called out on his partisanship?
 
If the Tribune-Review hadn't revealed that Steve Stetler flouted a subpoena, would Corbett have continued to let it slide?
 
If certain bloggers hadn't raised red flags about a possible secret deal with former House Democratic Leader H. William DeWeese, would DeWeese ever have been called before the grand jury?
 
Would allegations against current Leader Todd Eachus ever have seen the light of day if defendant Mike Veon hadn't included them in his massive motion for dismissal in July ?
 
As the Magic 8-Ball says: Very doubtful.
 
 

Friday, November 27, 2009

IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER?

"It just doesn't matter."

At least that is what partisan Republican Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett and his taxpayer funded campaign flaks would have you believe when questioned about the propriety of conducting his bonusgate investigation while running for governor.

But, it does matter and not just for appearance's sake. Unlike any other elected official, the Attorney General has the power to indict other politicians...and more importantly the power to intimidate using his perogative.

Perhaps this is why gubernatorial rival Congressman Jim Gerlach has been such a wet noodle when it comes to criticizing Corbett on this point:
“I’ve not said [Corbett’s] unethical, I’ve not said he’s in any way dishonest – and don’t believe that he is,” Gerlach said. “But I do believe that conflict exists, and I do think for Pennsylvania and for that office that conflict needs to be resolved.” (Capitolwire 11/23/09)
Get some stones, Congressman. Or, are you just a tad worried about calling Corbett exactly what he is -- unethical and dishonest -- since Corbett has already gratuitiously (and opportunistically) featured your campaign manager, Scott Migli, in his latest grand jury presentment. (Tribune Review 11/13/09)

Corbett wants you to believe that it just doesn't matter that Migli was included in the presentment while not being charged:
"As to why he (Migli) was included in the presentment, 'I would leave that to the attorney general to answer.' Corbett's spokesman Kevin Harley would say only that the presentment names several people who were not charged."
But, it does matter. Grand jury presentments shouldn't be used to score political points and provide campaign fodder for future campaign mailings and television commercials. What is the over/under on either Corbett or an independent group using the information about Migli and the grand jury?

Corbett wants you to believe that it just doesn't matter that he had a private meeting with John Perzel with only his chief political adivisor, Brian Nutt, present while an investigation of Perzel was in effect or that Brian Preski was aggressively raising money for Corbett while under an active investigation:
"Corbett on Thursday said that the Perzel meeting and Preski fundraiser came 'at a time when we didn't have all the facts in front of us' but that he has no concerns about the propriety of those events. 'There has been very little contact with these individuals since that period of time, once we understood where everything was going with this investigation,' Corbett added." (Daily News 11/17/09)
But, it does matter. Corbett's excuse makes absolutely no sense and is devoid of any ethical rationale.

Perzel and Preski were allegedly under investigation and any political contact was inappropriate. Did the subsequent investigation of Perzel result from his not being sufficiently supportive of Corbett's gubernatorial asperations at their private meeting? After all, at the time, Easterner Patrick Meehan was still in the running. Did Preski's arrest result from insufficient performance of raising money?

Corbett wants you to believe that it doesn't matter that PA Turnpike Vice-Chairman Tim Carson is a prominent fundraiser for his campaign even though Corbett is actively investigating the Turnpike:
"Brian Nutt, campaign manager for the Corbett campaign, responded that Carson’s name was on a fundraising invitation last month. He added those names can be for a variety of reasons, sometimes as a courtesy, and that the campaign sees no conflict." Capitolwire 11/23/09)
But, it does matter. Carson is one of the five ultimate decision makers at the Turnpike and any investigation of any decision the Turnpike commissioners have made would lead to him.

In fact, Tollroadsnews.com has posted an internal PA Turnpike email listing documents pertaining to individuals/organizations that must be retained due to Corbett's investigation. ("Penn Pike employees get order to preserve documents for corruption investigations" 11/16/09) Not only is Carson's law firm, Saul Ewing, on the list, but Carson's very small and very exclusive lobbying firm, CHH Partners, is among those being closely investigated by Corbett.

Will Carson's fundraising ability influence whether or not he is indicted by Corbett? How much campaign largess from Carson and Carson's contacts (i.e. wealthy Turnpike contractors) is enough to keep out of a grand jury presentment? For that matter, will the tens of thousands in campaign contributions to Corbett already made by another Turnpike Commissioner, Pasquale Deon, be enought to keep Deon out of hot water?

It is disingenous for Corbett to say that he can be trusted to not let his political ambitions influence how his investigations are conducted and resolved. The Feds require US Attorneys to step down before running for office, and as the Chris Christie campaign in New Jersey illustrates, even then things can still remain unacceptably political in the prosecutors office. (TPM, 10/20/09)

And, it isn't accurate for Corbett to compare himself to Mike Fisher, another Attorney General who ran for Governor, because Fisher wasn't running an active and politically charged investigation of other politicians concurrently with his gubernatorial bid.

The numerous questions that will continue to arise as Corbett continues his investigation and continues to arrest other politicians.

Corbett and his taxpayer funded flaks will continue to say "it just doesn't matter" whenever confronted with questions of obvious conflicts of interests between Corbett's campaign and his investigations. His path to the Governor's mansion will be clear unless someone steps in his way and forcefully makes it clear to Corbett and the rest of Pennsylvania that it does matter.

We now present to you the CasablancaPA Players in a dramatic interpretation of Corbett hypnotizing the Pennsylvania press corp with his mantra of "it just doesn't matter" when asked about his campaign's conflict of interest with his investigation:

And...scene.

Monday, November 23, 2009

RIGHT UNDER HIS NOSE


Plenty of pundits think it's suspicious that former House Speaker John Perzel's taxpayer-funded electioneering shenanigans took place right under the nose of House Republican Leader Sam Smith.

"[W]ho told GCR to stop giving the caucus members access to all that info and data in February and August of 2007? ... If [Chief of Staff Tony]Aliano and Smith didn't do it, who did?" (Capitolwire, via The Public Opinion)

"...But it is difficult to hear the accusations, without questioning either Smith's conduct or his judgment/competence. (Courier-Express)

"But Smith is the leader of the caucus and most of the events occurred on his watch." (Tribune-Review)

But no one seems to think it's suspicious that the shenanigans happened right under the nose of Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett. Which it did. If he's telling the truth about when he started investigating the caucus.

According to the presentment, Perzel's access to taxpayer-funded campaign information was cut off "about" August 2007. That's six months into Corbett's investigation. If Corbett is telling the truth about when he started investigating the caucus.

It was either pretty ballsy or incredibly stupid for the House Republican Caucus to go right on using a taxpayer-funded resource for campaigning even while Corbett was investigating the caucus for the use of taxpayer-funded resources for campaigning. If, indeed, he was investigating the caucus.

If Corbett is telling the truth about when he started investigating the caucus, surely the caucus members would have some little clue that was happening. Like when, in February 2007, Corbett said he was investigating all four caucuses. And yet, the caucus members were strangely unfazed.

If Corbett is telling the truth about when he started investigating the caucus, surely he would have had some little clue about Perzel's role when he met with him privately in October 2007. And yet, Corbett claims "we didn't have all the facts." He was eight months into his investigation and didn't have a clue that Perzel might be involved in taxpayer-funded electioneering?

That is, if he's telling the truth about when he started investigating the caucus.

ANOTHER DEWEESE IMITATOR


Partisan Republican Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett's latest grand jury presentment has spawned quite a few impersonators of Democratic Whip Bill DeWeese:

"I was lied to!"

"I had no idea!"

"I never saw that happening!"

"I compensate for certain physical limitations, so I use big words and constantly remind everyone that I was a Marine!"

Oh, wait. Maybe not that last one.

The latest DeWeese imitator is former Republican State Rep. George Kenney from Northeast Philadelphia. Corbett's grand jury presentment goes into great detail about how Kenney assisted his buddy John Perzel in housing former Rep. Sue Cornell as a ghost employee in Kenney's district office. Mario Cattabiani with the Philadelphia Inquirer recounts in an item from this weekend:
It was 2006, and Cornell, a freshman state representative, had just been booted from office by Montgomery County voters, and she needed a job.

She turned to the person who had recruited her to run - then-Speaker John M. Perzel.

Perzel found her work, assigning her to the office of his fellow Philadelphia Republican, then-Rep. George Kenney, for the same $72,187 salary she had as a legislator.

"I'll sit and answer phones. I'll pick up your dry cleaning," she recalled telling Kenney when she first approached her new boss.

How did Kenney, a legislative veteran, respond? He "just kind of laughed," said Cornell.

For a month and a half, Cornell collected a state paycheck without doing any work or setting foot in Kenney's office. testimony from Pa ghost employee, Inquirer, 11/22/09)
When Cattabiani asked Kenney about the arrangement, we are treated to some classic, grade A, DeWeesian obfuscation:
Kenney, Cornell's oh-so-brief boss, said in an interview last week that he hadn't known beforehand that Perzel put Cornell on his staff, and that he hadn't approved of it after learning of it.

"I didn't need anybody. I had a full complement of staff," he said, adding that it was one of many things Perzel did in secret without telling others.

Kenney wouldn't elaborate on that point, other than to say, "There was a lot going on that many members didn't know anything about, and I was one of them." (Inquirer 11/22/09)
Oh, George. You're busted. Why lie?

Having a ghost employee is just one of the indictable offenses in which Kenney is implicated. Just like countless other members of both parties in the PA General Assembly, his district office staff did a tremendous amount of campaign work from his district office using state equipment on the tax-payers' dime.

From 2004 to the time Kenney left office, Claire Casey, Vince Furlong, Rosemary Lynch, Tom Pomrink, Jeanne Sgro and Henry Shain were remimbursed for over $110,000 in campaign expenses. And, as we've seen with Corbett's grand jury presentments that kind of campaign activity from district office staff is a clear indicator of allegedly illegal activity.

So, George, rather than lie about how you knew nothing, just keep your trap shut. It is unbecoming especially since you are so culpable on so many other levels.

Contrary to disingenuous public comments, no one in Harrisburg is shocked by any of the revelations in the presentments because what Corbett outlined is and was common and acceptable among every elected official in Harrisburg from time immemorial. In fact, using staff and state resources is such a common practice that Corbett himself parks his staff on state payroll and they have no qualms about using their phones and computers in their state offices on state time to work on his campaigns.

Allegedly having "ghost employees" working on campaigns is a common practice for which Corbett has cravenly chosen to indict only two sitting legislators - one washed-up and one back-bencher - while allowing every influential member off the the hook for the same crime...DeWeese and Kevin Sidella...Majority Leader Todd Eachus and Michael Thomas...former Rep. and current Secretary of Revenue Steve Stetler, former Rep. Tom Tangretti and Paul Martz.

Corbett's investigation and presentments aren't about uncovering the truth or punishing those for allegedly breaking the law.

Otherwise, Republican Leader Sam Smith would be indicted for his clear complicity in all the charges against Perzel, or DeWeese would be in shackles for his obvious involvement in awarding bonuses to staff, or Stetler would be among those arrested for directing caucus staff to work on campaigns, or Eachus would have been paraded in front of the media before an arraignment for using caucus resources for political purposes.

Corbett doesn't want justice. He wants headlines for his gubernatorial bid without upsetting the applecart in the Capitol.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

THE CARE AND FEEDING OF MYTHS


Since obviously our brethren in the Fourth Estate need a bit of a refresher, allow us to refer to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.
Journalists should:

— Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.

Within that context, let us examine the Patriot-News' use of the term "whistleblower" to refer to immunized Republican grand jury witness William Tomaselli. We don't know what dictionary the Patriot-News uses to define whistleblower, but someone who engages in allegedly illegal conduct right up until the moment he's threatened with prosecution unless he informs on his cohorts probably doesn't qualify. There are a lot of words to describe someone like that, but "whistleblower" isn't one of them.

It's actually quite hilarious that Tomaselli thinks the Capitol might be uncomfortable for someone like him. The Capitol is full to the brim of staff who engaged in conduct Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett considers felonious and who informed on their co-workers in exchange for immunity from prosecution. They probably have a support group. We advise Tomaselli to consult Steve Webb, David Bliss, Paul Martz and Karen Steiner to see how they manage to struggle through their days. Far from reprisals, they've received promotions and raises in exchange for informing on their co-workers at Leader Bill DeWeese's behest.

Also in need of a journalistic ethics refresher is the Tribune-Review, which today repeats the blatant lie that "because there allegedly was evidence that records were being destroyed in the House Democratic Caucus, Corbett focused on that first."

As we have repeatedly pointed out, Corbett himself claimed to be investigating all four caucuses since February 2007.

But he did not encounter "evidence that records were being destroyed in the House Democratic Caucus" until August 2007, six months after he launched his Democrats-only investigation.

We're just one little blog, trying to keep the record straight. How about a little help, Capitol press corps?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

CROCODILE TEARS


David Patti, president and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Business Council, says he is sad. We can just imagine his tears hitting his keyboard as he typed out the missive that appeared in yesterday's Central Penn Business Journal.
"I am sad for Pennsylvania. Yet another round of indictments for public corruption has rocked the Capitol...It makes me sad....What saddens me most about public sector corruption is the taint it puts on government service and public policy." (Central Penn Business Journal 11/20/09)
After reading that, you'd think that Patti was a pure and virginal observer of Pennsylvania politics. He does make an oblique mention of having participated in "public service," but he doesn't mention exactly how he conducted himself while employed by the Commonwealth.

What Patti fails to mention is that while a staff person for the State Senate Republican caucus, he was doing the exact kind of activity that he is so sad about now:
"David Patti, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Business Council, said legislative staffers have worked on political campaigns in both parties for generations...As a staffer in the Senate Republican Policy Development and Research Office in the 1980s, Patti said he embraced the chance to join campaigns. 'It’s what we loved to do,' he said." (Patriot News 9/22/07)
Everyone who worked with Patti at that time knew him to do massive amounts of campaign work in the Capitol on state time and using taxpayer paid resources. He is lying if he contends otherwise.

We're getting a kick out of the blubbering and denials emanating from the Capitol in the wake of Corbett's grand jury presentments. Patti's editorial filled with crocodile tears is one of the best examples of this hypocrisy yet.

Friday, November 20, 2009

REVISIONIST HISTORY



Last Saturday, Associated Press reporter Mark Levy put together an interesting post-Republican bonus indictment news item. Levy obtained quotes ranging from the top of the GOP caucus heap like Republican House Leader Sam Smith to the bottom of the barrel like State Representative Karen Beyer. (Associated Press 11/14/09)

Basically, Levy captured the prevailing sentiment among the Republican caucus that they were "shocked, shocked, that politics was happening in the Capitol."

Their feigned incredulousness is a lie.

We addressed how implausible Smith's cluelessness is when examined through the prism of the grand jury presentment.

Smith is a liar, but Beyer is a lying hypocrite.

Here she is in 2008 reacting to the Democratic grand jury presentment outlining how Democratic caucus resources were allegedly used against her in her 2005 special election:
"It's outrageous. The problem is, they tried to buy an election using taxpayers' money." (Tribune-Review 7/19/08)

"I couldn't keep up. I didn't have the resources to spend what she was spending." (Morning Call 7/11/08)
Boo-hoo! Except she is lying and she knows it. Corbett's grand jury presentment last week outlined how hundreds of thousands of dollars in technical and staff (through the Office of District Operations) assistance were provided to her.

After her first election and after she spent some time in Harrisburg, there is no way that Beyer (or any other Republican member who received this type of assistance) didn't have the intellectual capacity to put two and two together and figure out that the dozens of people who worked on her campaign were actually full-time House employees.

CasablancaPA received this entertaining campaign commercial that made a point about that liar Beyer in 2005 that still holds true today (be sure to turn the volume up):





Don't just take our word for it when we say that every member of the Republican caucus knew a massive political operation was being run out of the Capitol.

The grand jury presentment went into depth about how most of the House Republican Campaign Committee fundraising was conducted by staff in the Capitol. A close examination of Republican campaign finance reports shows that rank and file members were aware of this and knew where to send their campaign checks.

Note the addresses where these campaign contributions to the HRCC were sent. It doesn't get more blantant and obvious than this:

Rick Geist -- 2004 and 2007
Gordon Denlinger -- 2004
Adam Harris -- 2004
David Millard -- 2006
Katie True -- 2006 and 2007 and again in 2007. (Note that Perzel was no longer in charge in 2007!)
Nick Micozzie -- 2004 and 2005 and 2007 (Again, Perzel wasn't in charge in 2007!)

These pale in comparison to how much money and how many times 2010 Republican Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidate Tom Killion sent to the HRCC campaign operation at its Capitol building offices:

January 2004
May 2004
August 2004
October 2004
December 2004
May 2005
September 2007 (uh, wasn't Smith in charge by this time?)

We dare any of these Republican members to say they had no idea that the House Republican Campaign Committee was operating out of the Capitol using caucus resources and caucus staff. Every elected member of the House and Senate used their staff and their offices to get re-elected. Any member who says otherwise is a liar.

Don't believe us? Then ask Lt. Governor Joe Scarnati why he sent this large campaign contribution to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee to (you guessed it!) the State Capitol Building in 2006.

Or, ask Scarnati about reimbursing his campaign staff via their Capitol office in 2006.

For that matter, look below that entry for Casey Long and someone should ask Scarnati why he bought tickets to a Sam Smith campaign event by sending his contribution to Smith's district office at 527 E Mahoning Street in Punxutawny. Was Smith's district office staff organizing a campaign event at his office using state computers on state time? Hmmm.

Since the time Ben Franklin was sitting in the Speaker's Chair, members of both parties (even the Federalists and Whigs) were using their staff and offices to get re-elected. It was and is an acceptable and pervasive part of the Harrisburg culture. Even partisan Republican Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett uses his taxpayer funded staff and taxpayer funded phones for his campaign.

There is a tremendous amount of faux shock from both Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg surrounding Corbett's grand jury presentments last week and in July of 2008. Don't believe them for a second...it is just a pitiful attempt at revisionist history.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A TALE OF TWO INVESTIGATIONS


*Attorney General Tom Corbett is looking at "the entire bonus issue," which includes payments awarded to hundreds of staffers in the House and Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses, said spokesman Kevin Harley. (Harrisburg Patriot-News, Feb. 14, 2007)

*A change in [House Republican] computer systems coincided with word that an investigation was underway ... all GOP desktop computers were replaced from July 17 to Sept. 6 last year at the Capitol and from Sept. 24 through Nov. 2 at district offices. (Harrisburg Patriot-News, Aug. 3, 2008)

*The attorney general's investigators were consulted about the changeover of computers... (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Oct. 16, 2008)

*Democratic attorney general candidate John Morganelli's charge that House Republicans probably destroyed records in the investigation of legislative bonuses is borderline slander, the state House GOP leader [Sam Smith] said Wednesday. (Ibid.)

*Agents and attorneys traveled to New Orleans and Washington, DC as part of the efforts required reconstructing the extensive amounts of pertinent evidence that was reportedly missing from the Caucus. (28th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Presentment, page 3, footnote)

*The full extent of RIT’s work and expenditures on behalf of campaigns may never be fully realized due to the significant amount of missing emails and documents. (Ibid., page 48)

*The grand jury obtained important testimony from the operators and employees of GCR and significant evidence – missing or not produced by the Caucus – was recovered from GCR. (Ibid., page 50)

*Missing and incomplete information from within the Republican Caucus has led to the exercise of significant efforts to acquire pertinent information from sources outside of the Caucus. (Ibid., page 178)

*State Attorney General Tom Corbett, now running for governor, met with state Rep. John Perzel, of Philadelphia, at a Harrisburg hotel in October 2007. Two months later, Brian Preski, Perzel's former chief of staff, organized a campaign fundraiser for Corbett. (Philadelphia Daily News, Nov. 12, 2009)

*The Perzel meeting and Preski fundraiser came "at a time when we didn't have all the facts in front of us ... There has been very little contact with these individuals since that period of time, once we understood where everything was going with this investigation," Corbett added. (Philadelphia Daily News, Nov. 17, 2009)

Once again, we are faced with the question of whether Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett is full of bovine excrement, or simply breathtakingly, mind-numbingly incompetent.

On the one hand, there is the possibility that he was, in fact, conducting an earnest, thorough investigation of the House Republican Caucus throughout the summer and autumn of 2007, as he claims, and actually told them, "Sure, go ahead and get rid of your computers. I'm sure there's nothing on there we'll need."

It's also possible that he was eight months deep into his investigation of House Republicans when he met privately with Perzel in October 2007, and ten months deep when Preski hosted his fundraiser in December 2007, but Corbett didn't quite understand who the heck Perzel and Preski were. He didn't "have all the facts in front of" him, after all.

Or, there's the possibility that he simply was not investigating the House Republicans when all that happened, despite his claims to the contrary.

The 28th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, which indicted Perzel and Company, didn't even convene until March 2008.

The realization that indicting Republicans (or at least creating the illusion of a real investigation) would be a political necessity appears to have crept upon Corbett gradually. It wasn't until Oct. 23, 2007, the day after critical editorials appeared on Capitolwire and in The Morning Call, that the Associated Press reported that Corbett had issued subpoenas for House R records.

As the presentment makes clear, the records were long gone by then - thanks to Corbett giving House Republicans the go-ahead to ditch their computers three months prior.

The subpoenas were issued about three weeks after Corbett and his campaign manager met privately with Perzel.

It's hard to know whether the announcement represented a sincere effort to gather evidence - since Corbett knew by then the computers had been replaced - or whether it was simply intended to dampen the flickering suspicion about the evenhandedness of his investigation.

Contempt hearings "held for the purpose of forcing the caucus into compliance with subpoenas and court orders" did not take place until October 2008, a full year after the subpoenas were issued.

About two months before issuing suboenas for House Republican records, Corbett executed a search warrant on the House Democratic Caucus. The boxes of documents, which were the object of the search, had recently been moved from a basement storage room in order to create more office space. Republican documents had been stored in the basement as well; Corbett's investigators had to have learned that when they interviewed Democrats about the boxes. But Corbett never executed a search warrant for those. Instead, he waited six months and issued a subpoena for them in February 2008.

Even though Corbett immediately learned the boxes had vanished, it doesn't appear that House Republican staffers were interviewed until late July 2008, at the earliest, according to the Post-Gazette.

We're willing to believe that by then, Corbett was intent on finding a way to indict some Republicans. At some point he must have realized his gubernatorial hopes would be dashed if he didn't. We only wish we could have seen the expression on his face when he realized he was going to need all that data he allowed the House Republicans to discard the year before.

The Fourth Estate is only beginning to view Corbett with the skepticism appropriate for political candidates rather than the reverence reserved for heroes, but it may be too late ever to learn the truth. The words of Tom Knox bear repeating: "Unfortunately, Pennsylvanians will never know who was not charged or investigated as the attorney general seeks to solidify GOP support in his primary campaign for governor."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

SMITH: THIS SEASON'S DeWEESE


For all the swooning over John Perzel's indictment, we feel the need to point out that partisan Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett did not indict a Speaker of the House. He did not indict a caucus leader. He didn't even indict an influential sitting member.

It's no coincidence that Corbett chose to indict another infamous but washed-up House member, while creating the illusion of drama by piling on lots of staff. Just as in the Democratic indictments, Corbett has ignored influential elected officials who are clearly culpable in the crimes he alleges others have committed.

The fact is, out of 22 people charged, only one sitting member was charged in any significant, ongoing wrongdoing. Sean Ramaley was practically an afterthought, who just happened to be running for the State Senate in a seat the Senate Republicans hoped to pick-up.

In choosing whom to indict in July of 2008, it's clear through Veon's pre-trial motions that Corbett ignored reams of evidence that incriminated active and influential Democrats, namely then-Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, then-Majority Policy Chairman Todd Eachus and Secretary of Revenue Steve Stetler.

History repeats itself with Corbett's Republican indictments. The most egregious example is how Corbett lets House Republican Leader Sam Smith slide by.

How can Corbett grant immunity (which implies she committed crimes for which she would otherwise be charged) to former full-time Smith employee Sheila Flickinger, yet not charge her boss Sam Smith?

Flickinger was a full-time "Special Projects Coordinator" for Smith in 2006, earning $58,539. She appears over and over in the Republican presentment as an insider who knew everything that was going on under Perzel's and Feese's watch at both the House Republican Campaign Committee and the Republican Caucus' Office of District Operations.

Yet, we're supposed to believe that not once did Flickinger discuss any of it with her direct boss Sam Smith?

Did Smith actually say to Corbett, "I had no idea," and did Corbett actually believe him?

This is simply not plausible.

This is just more of the same from Corbett. He is a tough guy when it comes to arresting staff people and a washed-up member or two, but when it comes to any elected official with juice you can just imagine the shrinkage going on in the collective shorts of the Office of Attorney General.

Corbett's efforts in the presentment to excuse Smith's conduct are eerily similar to his bizarre aside in the Democratic presentment, in which he admits that DeWeese did in fact, direct a state contractor to perform campaign work, but he used his campaign e-mail address to do it.

Smith and his supervision of the post-Perzel Office of District Operations:
"After issues regarding legislative bonuses paid for campaign work came to public attention in early 2007, a gradual shift in the culture in District Operations occurred, for the first time in many years placing a specific focus on a stark separation between legislative work and campaign work. For example, in the 2008 campaign cycle Ms. Uliana only was aware of one or two District Operations employees who worked on a campaign." (Page 172 of the Republican Presentment)
That's a lie and Corbett knows it.

The Office of District Operations did not skip a beat after Smith took over. A quick analysis of campaign reimbursements to the director of the office, John Hanley, and the Regional Coordinators he supervised didn't change one iota from when Perzel oversaw the office. Compare Perzel-era expenditures here with post-Perzel expenditures here.

Daphne Uliana is shameful liar who not only escapes prosecution by Corbett but continues greedily gobbling up money from the House Republican Caucus with her $5,500 per month contract with the House Republicans.

Will Smith cancel this contract now that Uliana has admitted that most of her work for the caucus was political? Remember, DeWeese never fired Angela Bertugli after she admitted she did no work for the caucus. These payments were apparently felonious when others were responsible, but they go on with impunity.

More importantly, we may never know why some people were charged and others were not.

Did Corbett have a meeting with Smith just like the one with Perzel (Philly Daily News 11/12/09), but the result of the conversation was different?

Monday, November 16, 2009

WOULD YOU BUY A USED CAR FROM THIS MAN?

Just as we predicted, the media is slavering over Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett's "bipartisanship" now that he has indicted a single Republican legislator.

At the same time the pundits hail Corbett as a hero, they point out how much he gained politically by bringing the indictiments.

"Why, yes; it is true that I slept with the casting director. And yes, it is true that I got the part. But sleeping with the casting director had nothing to do with why I got the part."

In this country, we don't rely on politicians to pinky swear that they won't abuse the power of their offices, then sit back with our fingers crossed. Would any other politician be allowed to get away with "just trust me?"

Everyone acknowledges that indicting Perzel gives Corbett a political boost. Yet no one seems to care if he indicted Perzel in order to gain a political boost.

One of Corbett's rivals in the gubernatorial race, Tom Knox, stated the obvious:

"Unfortunately, Pennsylvanians will never know who was not charged or investigated, as the attorney general seeks to solidify GOP support in his campaign for governor."

The Philadelpia Daily News' Chris Brennan dug deep and discovered that Corbett met privately with Perzel while Perzel supposedly was under investigation, and allowed Brian Preski to host a fund-raiser for him.

Was Corbett really conducting a serious investigation as he claimed?

Why does he excuse the meeting by saying he didn't yet have all the facts?

Does that mean (contrary to every public pronouncement by Corbett prior to the meeting and fundraiser) Perzel and Preski weren't really under investigation at the time?

Did Corbett and Perzel discuss the investigations?

Did he ask for Perzel's support for Governor? ("Corbett's run for governor probably came up during the meeting, [Brian] Nutt [Corbett's campaign manager and meeting attendee] said. 'I'm sure somebody said something like: 'How are your chances? 'he added." -Daily News 11/12/09)

Did Perzel decline?

Does Perzel's indictment against have anything to do with that meeting?

How many other meetings with legislators under investigation don't we know about?

Don't ask Corbett. Just trust him.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

LIES AND LYING LIARS



We are endlessly fascinated by the pure, unadulterated arse biscuits that fall from the lips of Tom Corbett and his lackeys. Is it pathological? Can they simply not help themselves?

Here's a recent whopper from Senior Deputy Attorney General K. Kenneth Brown II:

“A felony is a felony, and if it is a felony, you get cuffed,” Brown said. “The law makes no distinction for white collar crimes, and neither do we.”

As his quote was preceded by the description of Brett Feese freely walking to and fro unencumbered by handcuffs, we hardly need elaborate.

But we will. Jeff Foreman, charged with 25 felonies, was never handcuffed. Scott Brubaker, charged with 22 felonies, was never handcuffed. Jennifer Brubaker, charged with 17 felonies, was never handcuffed.

And while it may seem a petty detail, the Republican defendants were handcuffed with their wrists in front, rather than behind their backs as the Democrats were. One Democratic defendant reports that he was originally cuffed in front, but a supervisor who spotted him angrily berated the agent handling his arrest: "What are you doing? Don't you remember how we said we were going to handle this?" He was marched back into the police station and recuffed, hands behind his back, before being paraded before the media.

No distinctions, our ass.

Here's another gem:
Democrats arranged bonuses and "used labor ... The Republicans, under Perzel, used technology."

Corbett's own press release called the House Republican's department of District Operations "a subsidiary of the House Republican Campaign Committee."
"The grand jury found that most of the District Operations employees hired during this time were hired because of their campaign and or fundraising skills. For the majority of the new hires, who worked out of their homes, it was clearly understood that as part of their legislative job that they would work on campaigns."

Sounds like labor to us. Does he even know what he's saying?

One of our favorite examples of blatant mendacity is Corbett's apparent confusion over his cell phones.

In a story that aired September 23 on ABC27 News in Harrisburg, Corbett said he carries two cell phones:

"He says he has a separate BlackBerry for his campaign work and one for his 'work' work. Separation of government and campaigning is big with this attorney general."




But when ABC27 News obtained cell phone bills showing hundreds of phone calls between OAG staff and Corbett's campaign cell and the campaign's other cell phones, including his campaign manager's, he changed his story:

"It's easier to keep it on one that the taxpayers are not paying for. That's the most important thing: taxpayers aren't paying for this. Either the campaign or myself are paying for this."


He didn't explain what state business his campaign manager might have been discussing with his OAG stafff (and the staffs of Republican legislators).



He deviated even further from his original story at Thursday's press conference when AP reporter Mark Scolforo asked him about the calls, claiming he uses his "personal" cell phone for both state and campaign business, and he doesn't even know the number of his state-issued cell phone.

If that's true, why make up a story about using two different phones? Why didn't he just say that in the first place?

Or is he just making it up as he goes along?