Wednesday, March 4, 2009


A Captain Renault post: One of the interesting and ongoing Bonusgate stories we want to explore over the next few weeks is a subject that is still being whispered about in the halls of the Capitol and the taverns throughout Harrisburg even 7 long months after Corbett's indictment last July of 12 Democrats in the Bonusgate investigation. The subject: How did Bill DeWeese escape indictment?

There has been much speculation in the PA political community on why DeWeese wasn't indicted with the other Democrats. DeWeese has, as we know, loudly proclaimed his innocence and has steadfastly stuck to his "Sgt. Schultz" defense: "I know nothing!". DeWeese claims that even though he was the man in charge of the Democrat caucus and the ultimate legal authority for the administration of caucus staff, budgets, and contracts, he knew absolutely nothing about what any of the 12 Democrats were accused of doing in the indictments. This DeWeese public defense is offered despite the fact that he worked in the same building with the accused, one of them was his Chief of Staff, one of them was his principle Caucus personnel director, he presumably attended many meetings and events with them, he likely saw many of them every day, and one of them (Veon) was described as his closest ally in the legislature.

You have to give DeWeese credit for largely pulling off this incredible public defense. The Main Stream Media has (mostly) accepted the DeWeese Sgt. Schultz defense and the voters in his district re-elected him last November. You have to assume that if the voters believed that DeWeese was anything other than the stumble-bum Schultz they wouldn't have re-elected him. A review of the public record and a careful listen to the public chatter among staff, legislators, and lobbyists over the last few months leads one to conclude that DeWeese had perfected the Sgt. Schultz defense long before there ever was a Bonusgate. DeWeese had long had a knack for taking public credit for things that went well and always had a ready explanation for things that didn't work out so well. His explanations: "I know nothing". "It was somebody else's fault". DeWeese, it seems, was always ready to explain to anyone who would listen that he didn't know about whatever mistake or problem was presented to him. And, if he had known about it, he still wouldn't know about it.

But the whispers in the halls of the Capitol continue despite DeWeese's adept public performance and his ability to remain unindicted to date. One of the theories quietly making the rounds since last summer is that DeWeese and Corbett made a secret and corrupt deal of some kind. The theories about the nature of the secret, corrupt deal range widely and include:

*DeWeese and his legal team provide all the necessary incriminating evidence and information to make it possible and certain that Corbett can indict anyone he wants in the Democrat Caucus --anyone but DeWeese.

*Corbett doesn't indict DeWeese and the Democrat party would offer no organized opposition to Corbett in the 08 election and no organized support for Corbett's Democrat opponent.

We of course have no idea whether or not Corbett and DeWeese made some secret, corrupt deal. But many people in the PA political community do find it rather fascinating and interesting that despite evidence already in the public realm (Mike Manzo's testimony at the preliminary hearing), and newspaper stories with first hand accounts from grand jury witnesses that seem to implicate DeWeese, he was not indicted with the other 12 Democrats.

Now that AG Corbett appears to be focusing more on the House Republicans, DeWeese must be breathing sighs of relief. But any House Republicans who may think they are Corbett's cross hairs must be wondering how DeWeese escaped being charged with any crimes while Corbett eyes up the House Republicans for possible indictments.

Over the next few weeks, we will highlight some of the news stories and facts found in the public realm here on CasablancaPA which would appear to implicate DeWeese in activities for which the 12 Democrats were indicted. You can draw your own conclusions -- and share with us your own theories.

Is DeWeese implicated and yet not indicted?

Most people following the Bonusgate story are familiar with the sensational news articles that resulted from DeWeese's former Chief of Staff Mike Manzo's appearance at the Bonusgate preliminary hearing. Manzo testified at the preliminary hearing that DeWeese was aware of the bonus payments to staff. We will have more on Manzo's testimony later.

But the first article we want to highlight is this one written by Pittsburgh Tribune Review reporters Brad Bumstead an Debra Erdley on October 16, 2008. In the excerpt below, a Pittsburgh businessman who claims he was a grand jury witness appears to implicate DeWeese in having his staff do campaign work on state time.

Sidella while a state employee handled campaign fundraising for DeWeese, Pittsburgh businessman Jamie Rossell told the Trib. Rossell, who held a technology contract with House Democrats, said he didn't know Sidella was a state aide when he dealt with him on campaign finance matters during regular business hours in the Capitol in 2006. He said he assumed Sidella was a private contractor like himself.

Rossell, who claims House Democrats owe him money, said DeWeese told him to deal with Sidella on fundraising matters.

The article explains that Kevin Sidella was on DeWeese's caucus staff until October of 2007. From the article:

Sidella was DeWeese's campaign treasurer, a job he held while drawing a paycheck as a research analyst on DeWeese's staff. He is now a consultant to the DeWeese campaign with WS Group, a company he founded after leaving DeWeese's staff in October 2007. His company handles fundraising for DeWeese.

From our reading of this article and our reading of the indictment against the 12 Democrats it would appear that this businessman, in his grand jury testimony, implicated Bill DeWeese and at least some of DeWeese's unindicted staff in activities for which others were indicted.

So how did Bill DeWeese escape indictment? Is it still possible that DeWeese will be indicted in the future or has Corbett moved on to the House Republicans and now DeWeese is in the clear?

We'll explore more of this part of the Bonusgate story -- the unindicted Bill DeWeese -- in future posts.

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