Wednesday, October 21, 2009
One thing we can say about Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett: at least he's consistent.
Throughout the nearly three years of the Bonusgate investigation, leaks to the media regarding any investigation of Republicans have always followed closely on the heels of accusations or questions about Corbett's partisanship.
Today is no exception. "Lawyers with knowledge of the investigation" told the Inquirer that former Republican House Speaker John Perzel, his former chief of staff Brian Preski and " as many as 10 other current and former House Republican aides" have received letters inviting them to testify to a grand jury.
Although the Inquirer story calls the letters "akin to 'target letters' that federal prosecutors often use to advise people that they are likely to face criminal charges," some Democrats who received similar letters last year were not charged, and some of those who now face charges never received them.
While the story marks the first time the names of any Republicans called to testify have been leaked, it's otherwise the same old schtick.
Activists yesterday held a party in the Capitol Rotunda to celebrate "1,000 days of Bonusgate," and called upon Corbett to resign. Questions about Corbett's ability to conduct an impartial investigation are growing louder. John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News asks, "should Corbett run investigations & run for guv, too?" ABC27 paired news of the "celebration" with the revelation that Corbett and his campaign manager have spent a lot of time on the phone with state workers on state phones during state time.
Corbett has followed this pattern for two years almost exactly to the date. The first revelation that any Republicans had been suboenaed was reported by the Associated Press on Oct. 23, 2007, the day after a Morning Call editorial called for a special prosecutor in the case and Capitolwire suggested Corbett's political ties might inhibit his investigation. The investigation by then was 10 months old.
In late January 2008, the Tribune-Review reported an accusation that Corbett's "conflicts of interest" could jeopardize the investigation. News was quickly leaked to the Patriot-News that Corbett had subpoenaed records from House Republicans.
The Patriot-News' Aug. 3, 2008 analysis, "Is state bonus probe partisan?" inspired a revelation that prosecutors had interviewed "20 to 30" House Republican staffers.
Concurrent with Corbett's announcement that a Bonusgate preliminary hearing would be held just weeks before Election Day, news about interviews with House Republican staff was leaked to the Patriot-News and the Tribune-Review trumpeted a false rumor that charges against Republicans could be filed that very week.
Corbett has promised two things about his next round of charges: that they would "shock the conscience" and that they would make clear why the investigation has taken so unbelievably long. Charges against Team Perzel in connection with "a $9 million taxpayer-funded database" have been expected for more than two years, so they'd hardly qualify on either count. Yet those are precisely the charges to which the Inquirer story alludes.
We believe Corbett originally expected to charge only Democrats in Bonusgate and be done with it. We believe he was caught off-guard by the near-universal expectation that Republicans also would be charged. Any further charges in this case can be chalked up to damage control.