Partisan Republican Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett's latest grand jury presentment has spawned quite a few impersonators of Democratic Whip Bill DeWeese:
"I was lied to!"
"I had no idea!"
"I never saw that happening!"
"I compensate for certain physical limitations, so I use big words and constantly remind everyone that I was a Marine!"
Oh, wait. Maybe not that last one.
The latest DeWeese imitator is former Republican State Rep. George Kenney from Northeast Philadelphia. Corbett's grand jury presentment goes into great detail about how Kenney assisted his buddy John Perzel in housing former Rep. Sue Cornell as a ghost employee in Kenney's district office. Mario Cattabiani with the Philadelphia Inquirer recounts in an item from this weekend:
It was 2006, and Cornell, a freshman state representative, had just been booted from office by Montgomery County voters, and she needed a job.When Cattabiani asked Kenney about the arrangement, we are treated to some classic, grade A, DeWeesian obfuscation:
She turned to the person who had recruited her to run - then-Speaker John M. Perzel.
Perzel found her work, assigning her to the office of his fellow Philadelphia Republican, then-Rep. George Kenney, for the same $72,187 salary she had as a legislator.
"I'll sit and answer phones. I'll pick up your dry cleaning," she recalled telling Kenney when she first approached her new boss.
How did Kenney, a legislative veteran, respond? He "just kind of laughed," said Cornell.
For a month and a half, Cornell collected a state paycheck without doing any work or setting foot in Kenney's office. testimony from Pa ghost employee, Inquirer, 11/22/09)
Kenney, Cornell's oh-so-brief boss, said in an interview last week that he hadn't known beforehand that Perzel put Cornell on his staff, and that he hadn't approved of it after learning of it.Oh, George. You're busted. Why lie?
"I didn't need anybody. I had a full complement of staff," he said, adding that it was one of many things Perzel did in secret without telling others.
Kenney wouldn't elaborate on that point, other than to say, "There was a lot going on that many members didn't know anything about, and I was one of them." (Inquirer 11/22/09)
Having a ghost employee is just one of the indictable offenses in which Kenney is implicated. Just like countless other members of both parties in the PA General Assembly, his district office staff did a tremendous amount of campaign work from his district office using state equipment on the tax-payers' dime.
From 2004 to the time Kenney left office, Claire Casey, Vince Furlong, Rosemary Lynch, Tom Pomrink, Jeanne Sgro and Henry Shain were remimbursed for over $110,000 in campaign expenses. And, as we've seen with Corbett's grand jury presentments that kind of campaign activity from district office staff is a clear indicator of allegedly illegal activity.
So, George, rather than lie about how you knew nothing, just keep your trap shut. It is unbecoming especially since you are so culpable on so many other levels.
Contrary to disingenuous public comments, no one in Harrisburg is shocked by any of the revelations in the presentments because what Corbett outlined is and was common and acceptable among every elected official in Harrisburg from time immemorial. In fact, using staff and state resources is such a common practice that Corbett himself parks his staff on state payroll and they have no qualms about using their phones and computers in their state offices on state time to work on his campaigns.
Allegedly having "ghost employees" working on campaigns is a common practice for which Corbett has cravenly chosen to indict only two sitting legislators - one washed-up and one back-bencher - while allowing every influential member off the the hook for the same crime...DeWeese and Kevin Sidella...Majority Leader Todd Eachus and Michael Thomas...former Rep. and current Secretary of Revenue Steve Stetler, former Rep. Tom Tangretti and Paul Martz.
Corbett's investigation and presentments aren't about uncovering the truth or punishing those for allegedly breaking the law.
Otherwise, Republican Leader Sam Smith would be indicted for his clear complicity in all the charges against Perzel, or DeWeese would be in shackles for his obvious involvement in awarding bonuses to staff, or Stetler would be among those arrested for directing caucus staff to work on campaigns, or Eachus would have been paraded in front of the media before an arraignment for using caucus resources for political purposes.
Corbett doesn't want justice. He wants headlines for his gubernatorial bid without upsetting the applecart in the Capitol.