Our mission has been to point out the hypocrisy of partisan Republican Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett. Particularly related to his handling of the bonusgate investigation. And, oh boy, has he given us lots of material with which to work.
However, we've also taken the time to point out hypocrisy from any other source in the Capitol and there is one instance of that from this weekend that we just can't let go.
Democratic Appropriations Chair Dwight Evans' spokesperson, Johnna Pro, attempted to wax eloquent regarding the sacrosanct institution of the Pennsylvania General Assembly:
"'This institution has survived for 300 years,' said Johnna Pro, a spokeswoman for Evans, the House Appropriations Committee chairman. 'There's no doubt that the actions of some individuals in recent years has damaged the institution as a whole. I would like to think it will survive. I'm not sure it will. Will it be here? Sure. But can it be an institution that accomplishes something for the greater good of the people?'" (Patriot News 10/11/09)
That's poor grammar and a poor choice on the part of the ironically named Pro.
Earlier this year, the Morning Call's John Micek reported the House Democratic Caucus awarded a no-bid contract to a Florida "headhunting firm" in 2008 to search for employees to fill vacant positions. (Morning Call 3/5/09)
It also turns out that this same firm was a major contributor to Evans and Evans' allies in Philadelphia. (Micek Blog 3/6/09)
That's called pay-to-play, Ms. Pro, and we're sure that "[accomplishing] something for the greater good of the people" wasn't what Evans had in mind when he told Majority Leader Bill DeWeese to create a bogus need so it could be filled by a no-bid contract awarded to the company owned by campaign contributors.
While we're on the subject of scratching the backs of campaign contributors, it doesn't get any more blantant than a recent example of Evans' use of his non-profit, Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation.
Evans has WAM'd OARC with more than $23 million dollars in the past eight years. You can click on the following to see just a few of the most recent WAMs:
Make no mistake. OARC is controlled by Evans. He created it, he provides nearly all its funding and everyone associated with it are there because of Evans. In fact, we're not sure how the House Ethics committee allows Evans to circumvent House Rule 47 that expressly prohibits all these WAMs going to OARC:
"A member shall not create, maintain or cause to be created or maintained a legislative nonprofit organization. A "legislative nonprofit organization" means a nonprofit corporation or other entity whose primary purpose is to receive funds under the General Appropriations Act or another appropriations act at the discretion or by reason of the influence of a member for the use at the direction or discretion of the member."
Given that Evans controls OARC, it is disturbing to see that in March of this year it spent nearly a million dollars to pay the back taxes on a bankrupt nightclub called North by Northwest and subsequently to buy the property outright. (Philadelphia Inquirer 8/7/09)
It is even more disturbing to learn that all the failed partners of North by Northwest -- Hugh Clark, Carl and Rose Singley, Ina Walker and Ahmeenah Young -- have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Evans' political campaigns. You can see their most recent contributions here.
We're not sure buying a decrepit, failed nightclub with state funds "accomplishes something for the greater good of the people," Ms. Pro. And, we shouldn't have to remind you that Mike Veon was charged with multiple felonies for allegedly using Beaver Initiative for Growth Funds in the very same manner as this example from Evans. (Tribune Review 3/27/09)
The whole arrangement between Evans, OARC and North by Northwest was so unseemly that it led the Philadelphia Inquirer to editorialize:
"But remember, without Evans, there are no taxpayer dollars. And without taxpayers' dollars, there is no OARC. Without OARC, Young & partners are stuck with a failed business and paying their back taxes. Here's one opinion of how it all looks: Bad." (Inquirer 8/17/09)
While we're on the topic of similarities between Veon's BIG and Evans' OARC, we point out to Ms. Pro that Corbett charged Veon with multiple felonies for directing BIG to rent offices that were then shared with his legislative district offices. You can read that section of the grand jury presentment here.
Guess what other non-profit rents to and shares space with the legislative district office of their benefactor? That's right, Ms. Pro, OARC.
Evans' district office is located at 7174 Ogontz Avenue. He uses legislative funds to rent the space from ZAG. You can see from this Federal Form 990 that ZAG is a subsidiary of OARC. ZAG was and still may be in the same building as Evans' district office at 7178 Ogontz Ave.
Here's a picture of the entire ZAG/Evans district office complex. Anyone who ever went to the BIG/Veon district office on 7th Avenue in Beaver Falls will find the Evans set-up quite similar.
We want to be clear. We aren't calling Dwight Evans a hypocrite. From the beginning of Corbett's bonusgate investigation, Evans has said nothing publicly to disparage any of his former colleagues indicted by Corbett. Why whould he?
Evans knows that the largest bonus awarded to a House Democratic staff person was made by him to Miriam Fox, the Executive Director of the Democratic Appropriations Committee. (Post-Gazette 2/17/07)
Evans knows that he dodged a bullet when Corbett decided to not drag his two six-figure salary district office employees, Kim Turner and Terri Grantham, into a grand jury and question them under oath about how much work they've done on Evans' campaigns on state time using state phones, computers and equipment.
Evans knows there are so many more things that Corbett could blow the lid off of involving the use of his staff, his campaigns, contributions to his campaigns, WAMs and the passage of legislation. It would only take a few subpoenas and grand jury appearances.
While we're not calling Evans a hypocrite, we won't stand by and let an ill-informed loudmouth on his staff take a cheap-shot at those who Corbett has decided to investigate for the very same activity her boss has engaged in for years.
Keep up the good work, Dwight! The legislature is a better place with you in it...just tell Johnna Pro to put a sock in it.