Wednesday, October 21, 2009


ABC27 News yesterday revealed that Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett's campaign has exchanged hundreds of phone calls with his taxpayer-paid staff - and the taxpayer-paid staffs of Republican legislators and campaign contributors - on state time at their state offices.

Corbett would not say what the phone calls concerned. Corbett stammered, "It's easier to keep it on one that the taxpayers are not paying for. That's the most important thing," when asked about the use of his campaign phone to call Attorney General staff on their state phones during state time. "Taxpayers aren't paying for this. Either campaign or myself are paying for this." So he admits it wasn't legitimate state business. But as ABC27 pointed out, "what about the person taking the call on a state phone, in a state office, on state time?"

Reporter Dennis Owens used telephone bills from the campaign to reveal that hundreds of calls have been made to and from Corbett's campaign phone and those of other campaign staff and his state offices. The campaign confers with state AG staff on their state phones, several times a day, during business hours.

The story is especially ironic coming just weeks after Corbett made a point of boasting to the same news organization that he always carries two phones because he's so very careful to keep state business strictly separated from his campaign. (Minute 2:25 below)

But when confronted about the phone calls, he said the campaign phone is his "main phone." The reporter didn't ask, and Corbett didn't volunteer to explain what his campaign staff might be discussing during the hundreds of phone calls with his taxpayer-funded state staff.

We'd love to tell you how shocked we are, but we're not in the least surprised. Corbett's use of his office as a parking lot for campaign workers is already widely known. The Bonusgate investigation itself is a more outrageous use of state resources for political puposes than anything he might dream of uncovering in the legislature.


Anonymous said...

Tsk, Tsk, Tsk, I Fear We Are All On An Abyss.

My prediction?

This whole scandal is swept under the rug after the election next month.

No way has a Republican AG gone after the Republican leader of the state legislature.

Corbett might nail one or two underlings, but the big boys are in The Club and will not be nailed.

Anonymous said...

So.... your evidence of malfeasance is that he has used his own phone to call his office?

And you think that is like using the Office of Legislative Research's on-the-clock employees to do opposition research... how?

Desperation is a stinky cologne.

Anonymous said...

What legitimate business have those staffers to be speaking to Corbett's campaign manager during business hours?

Anonymous said...

Five in Bonusgate scandal to cooperate

Will plead guilty to lesser charges, forfeit pensions

Friday, October 23, 2009

By Tracie Mauriello, Post-Gazette
Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG -- Five of the 12 defendants in the government corruption scandal known as Bonusgate have agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors.

The plea agreements also require the defendants to forfeit their state pensions as a way to make partial restitution. The agreements were provided earlier this week to attorneys for the defendants, who were expected to go to trial in January.

They are accused of conspiring to divert tax dollars from legitimate government purposes to the re-election campaigns of incumbent legislators. The funds in question include millions that were dispersed as bonuses to Democratic caucus staffers, allegedly in exchange for their work on campaigns.

Michael Manzo, who prosecutors say was one of the ringleaders of the bonus scheme, was charged with 45 criminal counts and could have faced a maximum of 311 years in prison and $660,000 in fines. Instead, his plea agreement calls for dropping all but five charges, which carry a maximum combined sentence of 26 years imprisonment and $55,000 in fines plus restitution.

The pension he gives up would have been roughly $45,000 a year at full retirement age of 60, according to calculations by the Post-Gazette based on salary and service data provided by the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System.

Mr. Manzo, 40, is the former chief of staff to Bill DeWeese, D-Waynesburg, the former Democratic leader and current Democratic whip. Mr. Manzo already has testified in a preliminary hearing that he believes Mr. DeWeese was aware of the bonus scheme.

Mr. DeWeese has not been charged and insists he knew nothing of a plan to use bonuses as rewards for campaign work.

Mr. Manzo's wife Rachel also is among the defendants but she has not entered a plea agreement, according to documents provided to defendants this week. She was an aide to Rep. Todd Eachus of Luzerne County before he became House Democratic leader.

Like most defendants in the case, she faces several charges including theft, conflict of interest and conspiracy.

Others who agreed to plead guilty are Jeff Foreman, Scott Brubaker, his wife Jennifer and Patrick "P.J." Lavelle.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Foreman already has appeared as a witness for the prosecution in hearings on a related corruption case against former Democratic Whip Mike Veon, who represented Beaver Falls. Mr. Veon, who at one time was the second highest ranking Democrat in the state House, faces 55 criminal counts relating to the Bonusgate scandal.

Mr. Foreman, 58, was charged with 22 criminal counts. His agreement with prosecutors requires him to plead guilty to just four felonies -- two counts of failure to make required disposition of funds received, one count of conflict of interest and one count of criminal conspiracy.

In exchange, Mr. Foreman, like the others who entered agreements must "provide all information concerning knowledge of, and participation in, public corruption, the improper use of resources and any other crimes about which he has knowledge."

Guidelines call for a maximum of 21 years in prison, $45,000 in fines plus restitution. If found guilty of all of the original charges, Mr. Foreman could have faced a maximum of 160 years imprisonment and $240,000 in fines.

Sentencing is at the discretion of Dauphin County Common Pleas President Judge Richard Lewis.

Mr. Brubaker, 44, former director of staffing and administration, agreed to plead guilty to four felonies including theft, criminal conspiracy and conflict of interest.

That's down from 22 counts in the original criminal complaint filed by the state attorney general. Those charges called for a maximum sentence of 144 years in prison and $310,000 in fines.

Instead, the plea agreement calls for no more than 21 years in prison, $45,000 in fines plus restitution.

The pension he agreed to give up would have amounted to roughly $47,000 a year beginning at age 60, according to Post-Gazette calculations.

Ms. Brubaker, 37, was the director of the House Democrats' research office, which staffers have said was a center of political work inside the Capitol.

Originally facing 17 counts, Mrs. Brubaker has agreed to plead guilty to three felonies that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, $20,000 in fines and restitution. Under the original charges, she could have faced a prison sentence of up to 113 years and $240,000 in fines.

The annual pension she gives up would have amounted to roughly $28,000 a year beginning at age 60.

Mr. Lavelle, a former legislative aide who is accused of spending virtually all of his state-paid time coordinating fundraising efforts for political campaigns, agreed to plead guilty to criminal conspiracy and conflict of interest.

The agreement calls for a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, $20,000 in fines plus restitution. Mr. Lavelle, 31, originally was charged with six counts and faced up to 40 years imprisonment and $85,000 in fines.

Pension figures for Mr. Lavelle and Mr. Foreman were not immediately available.

Anonymous said...

Has Tom Corbett doled out $1.9 million in taxpayer money to staffers as bonuses for campaign work?
Has he dispatched state staffers to transport his motorcycle to South Dakota, like one of the key Bonusgate defandants is alleged to have done?
It appears Corbett has kept his only Harley (spokesman Kevin) parked where it should have been.

Signor Ferrari said...

If you are paying people taxpayer money to do political work, does it matter if you call it "bonus" or "salary?l

Anonymous said...

"Signor Ferrari said...If you are paying people taxpayer money to do political work, does it matter if you call it "bonus" or "salary?October 23, 2009 9:35 AM"

Six Defendants gave up their pensions and have already answered that question.

They will testify to a jury on that very point too.

Anonymous said...

U.S. attorney defends role in tapped jail calls
Buchanan says possible breach of client-attorney privilege resolved
Saturday, October 24, 2009
By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan yesterday defended her office against criticism raised by the federal public defender for its handling of a potential breach of attorney-client privilege.

Federal Public Defender Lisa Freeland sent an e-mail on Wednesday to members of the local defense bar, informing them that the Allegheny County Jail had been recording telephone calls between inmates and their attorneys and then turning over those recordings to the U.S. attorney's office.

Ms. Freeland, who immediately contacted federal prosecutors when she learned of the situation on Oct. 8, complained in the e-mail that it didn't seem the U.S. attorney's office took her concerns seriously.

Yesterday, Ms. Buchanan said that her prosecutors did everything possible to remedy the situation.

"If counsel walks away dissatisfied, I can't do anything about it if she doesn't call," Ms. Buchanan said. "It was incumbent upon the public defender to pick up the phone and call me. And unfortunately, that didn't happen."

But contacted yesterday afternoon, Ms. Freeland said she didn't think she had to call Ms. Buchanan directly.

"There was never a moment in my conversations with either [the first assistant U.S. attorney or chief of the criminal division] that I thought for a second that Mary Beth had not been informed of what was going on and that she would have been in on those calls herself had she been available," Ms. Freeland said.

Further, she continued, she couldn't complain about the U.S. attorney's response because she doesn't have it.

"I still haven't gotten it, so it's hard to say if I'm satisfied with it or not," Ms. Freeland said.

All outgoing calls made from the jail are recorded as matter of jail policy -- except those to inmates' lawyers. And it is common practice for prosecutors to request those recordings as part of their investigations.

Jail officials have said that during the conversion to a new telephone system, some attorney phone numbers that would generally be blocked from the jail recording devices may have been omitted.

In the meantime, already yesterday at least one defense attorney filed a motion in federal court asking that a judge require the U.S. attorney's office to inform him if any calls between his client and legal counsel were recorded and turned over.

"It is of little consequence or solace that possible violations of the attorney-client privilege have occurred 'inadvertently,' " attorney Warner Mariani said in the motion.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Mariani said the attorney-client privilege "goes to the heart of the criminal justice system and adversarial system."

He believes that there should be an outside investigation by the Department of Justice to ensure that no laws were violated.

A spokeswoman there said she couldn't comment on whether any such inquiry would be held.

Ms. Buchanan said that she believes the situation involving recordings between inmates at the jail and attorneys is rare.

But Mr. Mariani said that in July he received information in another case which included recorded conversations between his client and another attorney where the man was seeking legal advice.

"It betrays every principle out there on receiving a fair trial," he said.

Anonymous said...

Typically, in a situation where a lawyer inadvertently receives privileged information, something called a "taint team" is put together.

What should happen first, is that the attorney receiving the questionable information immediately stops reading or listening to it and goes to a supervisor, said practicing lawyer David Berardinelli.

The supervisor will then put together a team of attorneys who are in no way related to the case in question. They are then tasked with reviewing the material to determine if it is in fact privileged.

"The ultimate goal is to ensure that the attorney-client privilege is kept as pristine as possible, understanding that it has already in some way been encroached upon," said Mr. Berardinelli.

If the information is privileged, it is then the duty of the team to report the situation to the opposing attorney and allow that person to dictate how the privileged material is handled -- whether turned back over or destroyed.

Mr. Berardinelli, who worked as a federal prosecutor for five years in New York, said the concept of a taint team is not exclusive to criminal law.

"It's a prophylactic measure to protect and hold sacrosanct the attorney-client privilege," he said. "It's a well-known legal concept, but in reality it doesn't come into play that often."

Ms. Buchanan estimated that a taint team is put together in her office about three times each year.

In this instance, though, she said it wasn't necessary.

When the assistant prosecutor recognized that three of the recorded calls provided by the jail had been made to the federal public defender's office, he didn't listen to them.

Instead, he contacted the jail to inform officials there what happened and then discussed the situation with First Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Cessar, Ms. Buchanan said.

"He didn't call the public defender's office because the public defender was not counsel of record for this defendant," she continued.

Technically, that was true. The defendant, who originally was represented by the federal public defender, had instead chosen to represent himself.

However, the public defender was still his standby counsel and was still copied on the man's competency evaluation when it was sent by doctors from the Federal Medical Center at Devens, Mass.

"My assistant did absolutely everything he could have done and should have done," Ms. Buchanan said.

But Ms. Freeland disagrees, saying that the U.S. attorney's office had an obligation to contact her about the recordings and to take steps to make sure the problem didn't occur again.

Ms. Buchanan has ordered all assistant prosecutors in the office to canvass their files to see if this situation has come up in any other cases.

"I don't believe it's something that's occurred with any degree of frequency," she said.

Read more:

Anonymous said...

It was a dream,conjecturable as heaven,resembling no life we knew.

We were trained with one object-to win elections.

We had only one hope-to win by any means necessary.

When it was over we had to start again.

I do not complain of this.

It was a fine introduction to life

Anonymous said...

Let your tongue speak what your heart thinks.