At least that is what partisan Republican Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett and his taxpayer funded campaign flaks would have you believe when questioned about the propriety of conducting his bonusgate investigation while running for governor.
But, it does matter and not just for appearance's sake. Unlike any other elected official, the Attorney General has the power to indict other politicians...and more importantly the power to intimidate using his perogative.
Perhaps this is why gubernatorial rival Congressman Jim Gerlach has been such a wet noodle when it comes to criticizing Corbett on this point:
“I’ve not said [Corbett’s] unethical, I’ve not said he’s in any way dishonest – and don’t believe that he is,” Gerlach said. “But I do believe that conflict exists, and I do think for Pennsylvania and for that office that conflict needs to be resolved.” (Capitolwire 11/23/09)Get some stones, Congressman. Or, are you just a tad worried about calling Corbett exactly what he is -- unethical and dishonest -- since Corbett has already gratuitiously (and opportunistically) featured your campaign manager, Scott Migli, in his latest grand jury presentment. (Tribune Review 11/13/09)
Corbett wants you to believe that it just doesn't matter that Migli was included in the presentment while not being charged:
"As to why he (Migli) was included in the presentment, 'I would leave that to the attorney general to answer.' Corbett's spokesman Kevin Harley would say only that the presentment names several people who were not charged."But, it does matter. Grand jury presentments shouldn't be used to score political points and provide campaign fodder for future campaign mailings and television commercials. What is the over/under on either Corbett or an independent group using the information about Migli and the grand jury?
Corbett wants you to believe that it just doesn't matter that he had a private meeting with John Perzel with only his chief political adivisor, Brian Nutt, present while an investigation of Perzel was in effect or that Brian Preski was aggressively raising money for Corbett while under an active investigation:
"Corbett on Thursday said that the Perzel meeting and Preski fundraiser came 'at a time when we didn't have all the facts in front of us' but that he has no concerns about the propriety of those events. 'There has been very little contact with these individuals since that period of time, once we understood where everything was going with this investigation,' Corbett added." (Daily News 11/17/09)But, it does matter. Corbett's excuse makes absolutely no sense and is devoid of any ethical rationale.
Perzel and Preski were allegedly under investigation and any political contact was inappropriate. Did the subsequent investigation of Perzel result from his not being sufficiently supportive of Corbett's gubernatorial asperations at their private meeting? After all, at the time, Easterner Patrick Meehan was still in the running. Did Preski's arrest result from insufficient performance of raising money?
Corbett wants you to believe that it doesn't matter that PA Turnpike Vice-Chairman Tim Carson is a prominent fundraiser for his campaign even though Corbett is actively investigating the Turnpike:
"Brian Nutt, campaign manager for the Corbett campaign, responded that Carson’s name was on a fundraising invitation last month. He added those names can be for a variety of reasons, sometimes as a courtesy, and that the campaign sees no conflict." Capitolwire 11/23/09)But, it does matter. Carson is one of the five ultimate decision makers at the Turnpike and any investigation of any decision the Turnpike commissioners have made would lead to him.
In fact, Tollroadsnews.com has posted an internal PA Turnpike email listing documents pertaining to individuals/organizations that must be retained due to Corbett's investigation. ("Penn Pike employees get order to preserve documents for corruption investigations" 11/16/09) Not only is Carson's law firm, Saul Ewing, on the list, but Carson's very small and very exclusive lobbying firm, CHH Partners, is among those being closely investigated by Corbett.
Will Carson's fundraising ability influence whether or not he is indicted by Corbett? How much campaign largess from Carson and Carson's contacts (i.e. wealthy Turnpike contractors) is enough to keep out of a grand jury presentment? For that matter, will the tens of thousands in campaign contributions to Corbett already made by another Turnpike Commissioner, Pasquale Deon, be enought to keep Deon out of hot water?
It is disingenous for Corbett to say that he can be trusted to not let his political ambitions influence how his investigations are conducted and resolved. The Feds require US Attorneys to step down before running for office, and as the Chris Christie campaign in New Jersey illustrates, even then things can still remain unacceptably political in the prosecutors office. (TPM, 10/20/09)
And, it isn't accurate for Corbett to compare himself to Mike Fisher, another Attorney General who ran for Governor, because Fisher wasn't running an active and politically charged investigation of other politicians concurrently with his gubernatorial bid.
The numerous questions that will continue to arise as Corbett continues his investigation and continues to arrest other politicians.
Corbett and his taxpayer funded flaks will continue to say "it just doesn't matter" whenever confronted with questions of obvious conflicts of interests between Corbett's campaign and his investigations. His path to the Governor's mansion will be clear unless someone steps in his way and forcefully makes it clear to Corbett and the rest of Pennsylvania that it does matter.
We now present to you the CasablancaPA Players in a dramatic interpretation of Corbett hypnotizing the Pennsylvania press corp with his mantra of "it just doesn't matter" when asked about his campaign's conflict of interest with his investigation: