Thursday, July 23, 2009
LESSONS LEARNED SO FAR
Nobody cares if you do it.
Nobody cares if you get "caught."
They only care if you get indicted.
While the 31-month-and-counting Bonusgate saga holds many lessons for Capitol denizens, the public reaction to Mike Veon's ill-fated motion to dismiss the case based on "selective prosecution" has taught one of the most interesting.
The judge denied the motion, saying not that Veon wasn't singled out, but that singling him out isn't illegal. C'est la vie. This isn't a lesson in the law.
In support of his motion, Veon filed hundreds of pages of evidence, which he obtained from prosecutors through the discovery process, showing other lawmakers and staff aides did what Veon and others are indicted for doing.
These "revelations" were greeted by press and public alike - the same press and public clamoring for Veon to be hanged from the highest tree - with a collective yawn.
Are there consequences - and we're not talking about indictment - for doing what Veon did? Only if you're Veon.
The evidence shows that - among other, more chilling misdeeds - Bill DeWeese approved bonuses for political work and used a state-funded contractor to campaign. Veon and others face multiple felony charges - not for similar activities, but for these very bonuses and this very contractor. Has DeWeese been drummed out of his leadership position? Has he faced the outrage of his colleagues? Has he endured even a single negative editorial from his hometown newspaper (whose former editorial page editor now receives a state paycheck to sing DeWeese's praises)? He did it. He got "caught." But he didn't get indicted. So, who cares?
The evidence shows that Revenue Secretary Steve Stetler, while running the House Democratic Campaign Committee, used legislative staffers to conduct opposition research. Veon and others face multiple felonies - not for similar activities, but for this very opposition research. Has Stetler been asked to resign? Have his colleagues denounced him? Has Gene Stilp floated his giant inflatable pink pig outside Stetler's office? He did it. He got "caught." But he didn't get indicted. So, who cares?
Veon's motion included evidence that Sen. David Argall, while a House member, held political meetings in his district office and kept nominating petitions on hand for constituents to sign when they visited the office, seeking his assistance. According to the documents: Argall and Reps. Merle Philips, Dick Hess, Mario Civera, Paul Clymer, Richart Geist and Mike Turzai collected full per diems while using their contingency accounts to purchase meals. Geist and Rep. Nick Micozzi accepted campaign contributions in their state offices. Rep. Dan Frankel supervised staff coordinating political work with a state contractor. Dozens of other staff and members engaged in political work using state resources and on state time.
Pink pigs? Public denouncements? Indignant editorials? Shunned by colleagues? Demands for resignations? Nope. They did it. They got "caught." But they didn't get indicted. So, who cares?
Months ago, when evidence of DeWeese's complicity first came to light, editorial writers across the state seemed convinced that his indictment was imminent. They didn't seem to realize that, although they were learning of this evidence for the first time, Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett had been aware of it for more than a year. When the indictment failed to materialize, were they outraged? They're not even curious.
Corbett isn't the only one with double standards. As this is CasablancaPA, we'll just say we're shocked - shocked - to find that hypocrisy is going on all over the state.