Thursday, April 30, 2009


The Post-Gazette reports this week that the House Democratic Caucus is fighting a "bonusgate" defendant's motion to lift a gag order on grand jury witnesses.

We must admit, here at CasablancaPA, we were surprised. We had assumed that Attorney General/Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett had sought the gag order, which prevents House Democratic employees - and only House Democratic employees - from discussing their testimony outside the grand jury.

As the Post-Gazette explains, absent such an order, state law allows witnesses to discuss their testimony freely.

That the caucus sought and is fighting to maintain a gag order puts a new perspective on the case. What is the caucus trying to hide? Could its witnesses be contradicting one another? Is there a connection to the files Bill DeWeese is trying to shield from newly-elected Leader Todd Eachus?

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


By now it's pretty much accepted as gospel around the Capitol that Attorney General Tom Corbett's Bonusgate investigation is politically motivated to boost his gubernatorial campaign.

We here at CasablancaPA have a different theory: it was politically motivated to boost House Republicans.

Corbett's investigation of House Democrats began just a month after they assumed a slender one-seat majority. House Republicans, along with Senate Republicans, have contributed millions to Corbett's campaigns. And House Republicans desperately want the majority back.

Confronted with suspicious activity in all four legislative caucuses, Corbett in February 2007 launched an investigation against one caucus alone. The revisionist rationale usually offered in defense of the Democrats-only investigation is that Corbett believed the Democrats were destroying evidence. But Corbett didn't even hear such a rumor – false, as it turned out – until August. In fact, agents reportedly “rushed” to seize the records “after receiving a tip that they were about to be destroyed.” (Post-Gazette, 11/22/07) No one was charged with destroying evidence.

So much for that theory.

What did Corbett know in February of 2007? At the very least:

House Republicans gave out $350,000 in bonuses the previous two years (Tribune-Review, 2/2/07)

Senate Republicans gave out $919,000. Some of the largest bonuses of the four caucuses went to Senate Republican staffers who worked on campaigns. (Tribune-Review, 2/2/07)

Senate Republican political strategist Mike Long received a severance of $95,960 when he left the Senate payroll
(Tribune Review, 2/1/07)

House Republican campaign material was illegally stored on a government Web site funded by taxpayers. (Inquirer, 2/18/07)

A state representative's aide complained to Republican leadership in 2006 that she had been pressured to perform campaign work on state time in the run-up to the 2006 election. Lisa Deon's
"affidavit" outlining her complaints was widely circulated in September 2006 (Associated Press, 10/24/08)

Yet an investigation of House Democrats alone was launched with as much public fanfare as grand jury secrecy laws would allow – and possibly a bit more than that:

  • In April 2007, a “source with close ties to the law enforcement community" confirmed a grand jury had begun hearing witnesses. (Tribune Review, 4/12/07)
  • In August of 2007, "sources" told the Post-Gazette the grand jury was investigating "[former Rep. Mike] Veon, as well as a half-dozen other Democratic activists, state employees and former legislators." (Post-Gazette, 8/30/07)
  • -->
  • "As many as 100 people are expected to be called before the grand jury, a source close to the investigation told the Post-Gazette" in September 2007. (Post-Gazette, 9/21/07)
  • Sources close to the investigation” told the Post-Gazette that disgraced former legislator Frank LaGrotta “has given extensive details to the attorney general's office about inside dealings in the Democratic caucus.” (Post-Gazette, 10/7/07)
  • Sources with knowledge of the inquiry” told the Philadelphia Inquirer “the state attorney general has subpoenaed six more legislative staffers” (Inquirer, 10/14/07)
  • According to “several independent Capitol sources,” internal House Democratic Caucus documents were shredded in the summer of 2007. (Tribune-Review, 11/21/07) No charges related to destruction of evidence were filed.
  • The Morning Call reported in December 2007, without citing its initial source, that “more employees” of the House Democratic Caucus had been subpoenaed. A House attorney confirmed the report (Morning Call, 12/8/07)
  • The Tribune Review, without citing its source, reported in December 2007 that three House Democratic caucus employees were subpoenaed; one of them confirmed the report. (Tribune Review, 12/13/07)
  • Also in December 2007, e-mails that “are a key component in an investigation by Attorney General Tom Corbett” were “obtained” by the Post-Gazette (Post-Gazette, 12/16/07)
  • The Inquirer did not cite its initial source when it reported in March 2008 that the grand jury had issued a fresh round of subpoenas. “Spokesmen for Democrats and Republicans in the House confirmed” the tip. (Inquirer, 3/8/08)
  • Sources familiar with the probe said state investigators in recent weeks have issued subpoenas for records from the campaign committees of at least four current or former Democratic lawmakers.” (Patriot-News, 3/30/08)
  • "Sources close to the probe" in April 2008 gave the Post-Gazette a detailed account of what LaGrotta told investigators. (Post-Gazette. 4/11/08)
  • The Post-Gazette interviewed an intern who confirmed that he told the grand jury he'd shredded documents when he worked for the House Democrats. The newspaper did not disclose how it learned of the intern's testimony. In the same article, “sources close to the probe” said the shredding could complicate the investigation. (Post-Gazettte, 5/11/08)
  • A month later, the Post-Gazette interviewed four more grand jury witnesses, without disclosing how it learned of their testimony. (Post-Gazette, 6/8/08)
  • That same month, the Post-Gazette published more e-mails related to the investigation that it had “obtained” (Post-Gazette, 6/15/08 and 6/22/08)
  • The Tribune-Review did not cite any sources when it reported June 25, 2008, that the “first round of indictments,” focusing on House Democrats, was expected “within weeks.” (Tribune Review. 6/25/08)
  • In July 2008, “sources” told the Post-Gazette that “a statewide grand jury has returned a presentment recommending criminal charges against several former state aides as well as at least one high ranking former state legislator. (Post-Gazette, 7/10/08) Charges were filed the day the story was published.

  • Not only did July 10, 2008, mark the day Corbett filed charges in his then 17-month-old investigation, it also marked the end of such prolific anonymously-sourced reporting about grand jury activities. To this day, not a single witness to testify in a probe of Republicans has been identified or interviewed – even though nearly nine months have passed since Republican staffers reportedly were subpoenaed. In fact, no details about the probe have been reported since shortly after the election, in early December. (Post-Gazette, 12/4/08)

    That report, like nearly every account of Corbett's investigation of Republicans, followed closely on the heels of questions about Corbett's partisanship.

    The first to complain were State Democratic Party Chair T.J Rooney and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who later would challenge Corbett for his office. Their charges were dismissed as political posturing.

    But on October 22, 2007, a Capitolwire column suggested Corbett's political ties to the Republican legislature might inhibit Corbett's investigation. A Morning Call editorial the same day endorsed Morganelli's call for an independent prosecutor.

    The very next day, the Associated Press reported that House Republicans had at last received a subpoena for records. Newspapers around the state picked up the story for their Oct. 24 editions. Editorial writers in the following days nodded their approval. (Patriot News, 10/26/07; Herald Standard, 10/28/07; Beaver County Times, 10/29/07 ) It had, by then, been 10 months since Corbett announced his investigation. The House Republican Caucus had replaced all its computers months earlier.

    In January 2008, Morganelli announced his candidacy for Attorney General and accused Corbett of “conflicts of interest.” Shortly afterward, the news emerged that a subpoena for records had been issued to Senate Republicans (Patriot-News 2/13/08)

    In the frenzy over the July arrests, it didn't occur to anyone to remember Corbett's pledge until Aug. 3, 2008. The Patriot-News published an analysis headlined
    “Is state bonus probe partisan?” In a Tribune-Review article published three days later, Governor Ed Rendell urged Corbett to reveal by election day whether Republicans would be charged as well. The Chambersburg Public Opinion editorialized the next day that Rendell had a pretty good point.

    Lo and behold, on Aug. 8, both the Post-Gazette and the Tribune Review assured their readers that prosecutors had interviewed at least 20 House Republican staffers in the previous two weeks. Neither story identified any staffers by name. The Post-Gazette reported on Aug. 16 and the Tribune Review on Aug. 17 that “some” House Republican staff had been subpoenaed. Again, no names were mentioned.

    Corbett had to know he'd take some heat for scheduling a preliminary hearing for the Democratic defendants four weeks before the election, while simultaneously declaring a moratorium on indictments between Oct. 1 and Election Day to avoid influencing the election. The announcement was carefully couched with a reiteration in the Patriot-News on Sept. 10 that investigators indeed were interviewing unnamed House Republican staff, and a Sept. 11 Post-Gazette report that the grand jury was “investigating whether House Republicans used an expensive, tax-funded computer system for political purposes.”

    The Tribune Review, for its part, trumpeted a false rumor that unnamed Republicans could be indicted on unspecified charges that very week, before the Oct. 1 start of the moratorium. That story also included the rumor – founded – that Democrats would face charges related to the nonprofit Beaver Initiative for Growth.

    The hints about the Republican probe backfired: more than a dozen editorials across the state criticized Corbett's decision. The negative editorials, however, were by far worth the enormous flood of publicity of the preliminary hearing itself, and the absolute field day Republican House candidates had tarring their Democratic opponents with the “Bonusgate” scandal.

    The moratorium turned out to be a red herring. Nearly eight months later, Corbett has issued absolutely no indictments that conceivably could have influenced the election – only more charges against Mike Veon and a former top aide. And though Corbett's apparent gambit ultimately failed - Democrats increased their majority in the House - five Democratic incumbents were felled by Bonusgate smears.

    There's no doubt Corbett will use the results of the Bonusgate investigation in his campaign for governor, but his methods and his timing couldn't have worked out better for the House Republicans if he'd planned it that way.

    Monday, April 27, 2009


    A Captain Renault post:  Attorney General, Governor wannabe and the always hypocritical Tom Corbett has managed to author his own version of what has become a national story on "pay to play" politics.  The Wall Street Journal, the Houston Chronicle, the Legal News Line, and other national and state publications have all published stories or editorials on the controversial legal contract awarded by Gov. Rendell to the Texas law firm of Bailey Perrin Bailey after firm founder Kenneth Bailey gave significant campaign donations to Rendell.

    Thanks to some great research which we posted on our blog last week, we now know why Corbett was "not impressed" with the Bailey law firm and their strategy to sue a pharmaceutical company on behalf of the state of PA.

    It seems that Corbett was much more "impressed" with the hundreds of thousands of dollars contributed by national pharma companies to his own campaigns over the years.

    So our own Attorney General has managed to hypocritically compromise himself again by doing the very same thing others are calling on him to investigate.  Let's see if the Republican State House members add Corbett's version of "pay to (not) play" to the growing list of "ethical reforms" they want to enact as they pound away on Rendell and his administrations legal contracts.  And let's see if the media devotes any attention to the hundreds of thousands of dollars contributed by national pharmaceutical companies to Corbett and other Attorneys General around the country.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Psst...ix-nay on the vestigation-nay


    A friend of CasablancaPA asked me to post this email that was recently sent to House Democrats.

    House Democrats:

    Isn't Patrick Meehan just the cutest thing?

    Does he really wonder why Attorney General/Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett chose not to take legal action against Janssen Pharmacuticals, Eli Lilly or AstraZeneca? (Philadelphia Inquirer 4/19/09)

    Can he really be so naive?

    Doesn't he think just maybe it has something to do with $900,000 in campaign contributions?

    That's right: $900,000.

    While the Philadelphia Inquirer has been clutching its pearls over the corrupting influence of a $500 (that's two zeros, not five) contribution to a Democratic state lawmaker (Inquirer 4/16/09), no one seems to have a word to say about $900,000 in contributions (that's $900 multiplied by 1,000) from pharmacutical companies and their lawyers and lobbyists to Corbett directly and to Corbett's two most important PAC supporters, that have dumped at least $1.6 million into Corbett's campaigns.

    The Pennsylvania Future Fund is Bob Asher's PAC and the Republican State Leadership Fund is the arm of the Republican National Committee. Both have dumped a tremendous amount of money into Corbett's coffers.

    Here's the breakdown since 2003:

    For the record, in the same time period Pennsylvania Future Fund has contributed $349,000 to Corbett and the Republican State Leadership Fund has contributed $1.27 million.

    Yes, that's more than they got from the pharmacuticals. You want to get technical about how contributions to PACs weren't really contributions to Corbett? Then ask Corbett why he returned a $6,000 contribution in late 2007 from the Great Valley Leadership Fund, whose sole contributer was former Pa. Senate Majority Leader David "Chip" Brightbill. (Patriot News, 8/4/08)

    These guys are laywers, which probably means they were liberal arts undergrads, but the math is not that complicated. If there's something not quite right about Gov. Rendell awarding a contract to a firm that contributed $90,000 to his campaign, isn't there something not quite right about Corbett's refusal to take legal action - action that Patrick Meehan himself contends was warranted - against companies that have contributed more than 10 times that amount to Corbett?

     Brian Nutt, Corbett's chief of staff in the Attorney General's office also happens to be his tax payer funded campaign manager. (York Daily Record, 7/22/08) It isn't hard to believe that Nutt whispered in his ear, "Psst...ix-nay on the awsuit-lay. We get too much campaign money from these guys."

    So, when you consider all the money Corbett has received from Republican legislative leaders and those close to the Republican Party -- over a million dollars (Capitolwire 10/17/07) --it also isn't hard to believe that when it comes to the bonusgate investigation and Republicans, Nutt whispers, "Psst...ix-nay on the vestigation-nay."

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    A NEW AND NOTEWORTHY BLOG ON POLITICS IN PA is a new political blog on the scene in PA.  As the name implies, the blog is focused on the politics, candidates, and analysis of the 2010 campaigns in our state.  They provide some regular postings from Democratic and Republican party officials and some commentary from columnists on both the left and the right.  They also do some interesting original reporting.

    The political junkies should add to their bookmarks menu for daily reading.

    Here is their first post on AG Tom Corbett and his partisan Bonusgate investigation.  The reporter does a fair job of outlining the upsides and the downsides of the politics involved in the investigation.  To us, the article demonstrates that many observers and participants of PA politics now clearly believe that Corbett is determined to use Bonusgate to his political advantage and will try to milk it for all it's worth.  That seems to be a given fact reflected by sources quoted in this article and other recently published articles.  The questions that remain for many are: is Corbett's decision is right or wrong, does it serve justice or not, is it politically wise or not, and will it work?

    Corbett's hypocrisy is stunning.  He is now entering the third year of his Bonusgate probe of an entire branch of state government (at least that's what he claims).  At the core, Corbett is investigating whether or not the staff and members of the legislature used public resources for partisan political gain.  And now it's accepted fact by many involved in or observing PA politics that Corbett is using his public office and resources to make Bonusgate the linchpin for his own campaign for Governor.

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    A Translation for the DeWeese-Impaired

    Some portions of Bill DeWeese’s hysterical letter to the editor in response to Brad Bumsted’s April 12 column appear to be in desperate need of editing. Please, allow us:

    "I hired the commonwealth's former inspector general to
    ascertain what was really going on
    cover my ass. Different stories from different staff did not add up to the story I wanted to tell.

    "I cooperated with the attorney general's investigation, including turning over thousands of subpoenaed e-mails that my attorneys picked and chose to implicate others and not me-- even though some of them, taken out of context that slipped through accidentally, might appear really, really damaging to me.

    "I urged some 200 employees to cooperate fully with the investigation, and appointed them lawyers, answerable to me, who kept a very close watch over what they told investigators.

    "I fired several high-ranking employees -- most of whom later were charged by state prosecutors thanks to the evidence and testimony that I handed them -- after evidence of their misconduct was presented to me. tweezed out of the tens of thousands of e-mails my lawyers and I examined. I knew they might have every reason to try to implicate me as an act of revenge. justice.

    "The column correctly notes that Brett Cott is providing selective e-mails (which I accidentally turned over to prosecutors) to the media. Cott, whom I fired, is facing 42 criminal counts, with a possible penalty of 272 years in prison and $575,000 in fines. And someone actually believes his lament that because I "threw him under the bus"?

    "When a small group of employees decides to steal from the company, the last person they tell is the boss, which in this case is the taxpayers. We'll let the courts, with the evidence I provided and witnesses counseled by my lawyers, decide my version of the truth.

    "Bill DeWeese "

    Tsk, tsk, taxpayer-funded spin doctors! Try to be more careful next time.

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    Five Criminal Investigations That Took Less Time than Corbett's Bonusgate

    (With a tip of the hat to the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board, who pointed out that investigation of Bernie Madoff's $65 billion scam took way less time than Attorney General Tom Corbett's investigation of the legislature, which began in January 2007)

    1. Watergate
    The grandaddy of the modern political scandal. The break-in happened June 17, 1972. Nixon resigned August 9, 1974. Less than 26 months.

    2. My Lai
    The real investigation into the March 16, 1968 murders didn't even start until a full year after the killings, but charges were brought against Lt. William Calley and others on September 5, 1969. 18 months.

    3. Al Capone
    When President Herbert Hoover took office in January 1929, he directed Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon to investigate Al Capone for income tax evasion and violations of the Volstead Act. Capone pleaded guilty in June 1931. Less than 18 months.

    4. The Lindbergh Kidnapping
    The 20-month-old Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., was snatched from his crib March 1, 1932. Bruno Hauptmann was arrested in September 1934. 30 months. Okay, technically this isn't less time than Bonusgate, so far. If Corbett wraps it up in mid-summer we'll issue a retraction with a sincere apology.

    5. Abscam
    The FBI approved the undercover operation in March 1978. Indictments were brought in May 1980. Less than 26 months.

    And, because it's spring and we're in a good mood, here's a list to bring hope to certain legislative leaders:

    Five Notorious Outlaws Who Never Were Prosecuted For Their Crimes

    1. Bonnie & Clyde
    Spree: 1932-1934
    Crimes: robbery, kidnapping and murder
    Reason: killed in a shootout with police May 23, 1934. All things considered, they probably would have been better off turning themselves in. Not that we're suggesting anything to anyone.

    2. Jesse James
    Spree: 1866-1882
    Crimes: robbery, murder
    Reason: murdered by a fellow outlaw. Lesson? Don't trust your fate to a known scoundrel (a lesson the Bonusgate defendants appear to have learned all too well).

    3. Jack The Ripper
    Spree: 1888
    Crimes: gruesome serial murders
    Reason: identity never discovered

    4. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
    Spree: 1896-1908
    Crimes: robbery, murder
    Reason: killed by Bolivian soldiers November 3, 1908. Or, possibly, faked their deaths, returned to the United States and lived to a ripe old age under assumed identities in Utah.

    5. Eliot Spitzer
    Spree: 2008. At least.
    Crimes: patronizing a prostitute, first-degree hypocrisy
    Reason: unknown. Occasionally the subject of a thinly-veiled portrayal on Law & Order by that guy who played the drummer in That Thing You Do.

    Monday, April 13, 2009


    A Captain Renault post: I've mentioned before on this blog that we here at CasablancaPA are big fans of the Checking the Balance blog site. The author of that site has some keen insight on PA politics, writes well, opines on interesting stories, breaks some news at times, and most dear to our hearts, is very often critical of Tom Corbett and his Bonusgate investigation. CTB has been posting insightful comments and links on the Bonusgate investigation almost from the start.

    If you look around the internet you will see other blogs and even some Main Stream Media starting to cast a very wary eye on Corbett and his personal, political, and partisan motivations in the Bonusgate probe. Many of these bloggers and even some MSM reporters and editorial boards are now not only questioning Corbett's motives but also the quality and soundness of his investigation. We have posted many of those stories, links, and editorials here. We here at CasablancaPA are not alone in our distrust and criticism of AG Tom Corbett.

    Today we just want to provide some links to some of favorite recent Checking the Balance blog posts:

    CTB on DeWeese's truthfulness (or lack thereof).

    CTB on Corbett being as slow as molasses.

    CTB on Corbett biting off more than he can (or should) chew.

    CTB on DeWeese's absurd defense.

    CTB on DeWeese (and Corbett) needing a new storyline.

    There are plenty more Bonusgate posts where these came from. I highly recommend you double check the Checking the Balance blog site for interesting commentary and useful links to Bonusgate stories and other PA political news. My kudos to the author.


    A Captain Renault post: It's almost here! The Teabaggers are slated to start their Tea Parties on April 15th all over the state of PA. We're taking a quick and momentary break from our usual good and award winning work of pointing out the hypocrisy and partisanship of AG Tom Corbett to comment on the main political event to date of April 2009. Every day over the last few weeks the media brings us more stories about the Tea Party protests planned for many parts of the country -- including many sites in PA.

    Actually I'm not sure I can comment on the PA Tea Parties because I'm not exactly sure what the Teabaggers are protesting. I've read many news stories and website and blog postings about the Teaparties over the last few days and I'm still confused. Here are the options/choices/causes/rantings/theories I have seen so far as the rationale for the tea party protests by the Teabaggers.

    1. It's a protest about bonuses. Well in PA at least you get a twofer protest -- you can protest bonuses (Wall Street) and/or you can protest bonuses ( State Legislature).

    2. It's a protest about the bailouts of the banks and AIG. That may be a worthwhile cause for protest but I wonder what the Teabaggers think the alternatives should have been, let the banks fail?

    3. It's a protest about books and college professors brainwashing our kids?? As in burn all the books?? Hey don't ask me -- look at it for yourself:

    4. It's a protest about taxes and government spending. Alright! At least there's something we can all agree on and protest against! I mean who wants to pay taxes? Who needs all those liberal programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, unemployment benefits for the millions now unemployed, mortgage relief for out of work people losing their houses, veterans benefits, and public education??

    5. It's a protest in order to prove that "you are not alone" and to "send a message". At least those are some of the goals of the PA Commonwealth Foundation on the Tea Party page on their website. Those seem to be worthy goals. I don't like to be alone and I sure do like to send messages.

    6. It's a national promotional event for Glenn Beck and Fox News. Now there's something worth protesting.

    There seem to be as many goals, themes, and rationales for the Teabagging Tea Parties as there are Teabaggers who are organizing and attending these protest events across the country. I wish them all well whatever and whoever they're protesting. Protesting whatever you want, whenever you want and wherever you want is the American way. We do plenty of protesting right here on our blog. I think I'm mostly just envious that I didn't think of a teabagging, teaparty protest first -- before this national effort was launched.

    Yeah, teabagging AG Tom Corbett would have been such an appropriate protest.

    Speaking of Teabagging, this clip about the Tea Parties and Teabaggers from the Rachel Maddow show is just too good to miss. Rachel is having way too much fun. I share it with you here:

    Wednesday, April 8, 2009


    A Captain Renault post: Former US Attorney for Eastern PA and Republican David Marston published a very strong and critical OP-ED piece in today's Philadelphia Inquirer on Tom Corbett and his dangerous mix of politics and the power of a prosecutor. Marston calls on Corbett to make a choice: " He should be either a corruption-fighting prosecutor or a candidate for governor. But he should not be both at the same time."

    The club of former prosecutors is generally known to be very reluctant to speak out against or criticize active prosecutors or to comment on the way these prosecutors conduct themselves in public office. So former US Attorney Marston's strong criticism of Corbett is all the more remarkable because it just doesn't happen very often. It happens even less often when the former and the active prosecutor are both from the same political party.

    Marston uses some strong words when describing what's wrong with Corbett's decision to run for Governor and his Bonusgate investigation.

    From the Marston OP-ED piece:

    "What's the problem with a prosecutor wearing a politician's hat? Corbett argues that previous attorneys general in both parties have run for governor without resigning their posts. But none of those attorneys general had embarked on a years-long criminal investigation of an entire branch of state government. And Corbett's Bonusgate probe is arguably only about 25 percent complete.

    But Corbett doesn't seem to get it. He isn't probing routine consumer fraud or environmental misconduct; the subject of Bonusgate is political to its core."

    To date much of the criticism of Corbett's political and partisan motivation in the Bonusgate probe has come from blog sites like this one and Checking the Balance and an occasional editorial in a newspaper.

    Marston, as a former prosecutor, as a Republican with political experience (he ran for Governor and Mayor of Philadelphia in the late 70s), and as someone who has written and spoken on legal ethics, will not be so easy to dismiss by Corbett an his partisans. But we know Corbett won't take Marston's advice and will continue to use the Bonusgate investigation for his partisan and personal political gain. Corbett's investigation has already been compromised in many ways and he will ignore the advice and warnings Marston provides in this section of his opinion column:

    "Especially in this atmosphere, citizens will wonder about Corbett's exercise of his prosecutorial discretion in deciding which legislators to charge. Is he advancing the public interest in honest government, or his personal interest in becoming governor? Even the existence of such questions can undermine public confidence in the office of the attorney general and other law-enforcement agencies.

    Finally, one knee-jerk defense against charges of public corruption is that they are politically motivated. That was a central theme of Fumo's ultimately unsuccessful defense, and it is a charge that has dogged Corbett since the early days of Bonusgate.

    In this context, it is not helpful that everyone Republican Corbett has charged to date is a Democrat. But even if Republican indictments in Bonusgate are imminent, as they are rumored to be, they, too, could be dismissed as political in light of Corbett's campaign. Worse, the trials of cases brought in Bonusgate could very well take place during the heat of the gubernatorial race, presenting defense attorneys with a potent argument that it really is all about politics."

    Tuesday, April 7, 2009


    A Captain Renault post: On Monday the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article entitled : "Bonusgate records contradict DeWeese". The lengthy article adds to the mounting evidence now in the public realm that DeWeese was complicit and neck deep in the alleged activities for which 12 other Democrats, 10 of which were staff and not House members, were indicted by Attorney General Tom Corbett. Yes, Tom Corbett indicted 10 staff and not the Leader of the House Democrats despite what appears to be significant evidence that DeWeese not only knew what the staff members were up to but also actively participated in many of the same activities for which the staff were indicted.

    To say that the "records contradict DeWeese" is now surely an understatement.

    But to me the real story here is the walking and talking contradiction known as Attorney General Tom Corbett. You can't blame Deweese for not being indicted but you can blame Corbett for not indicting him. To me the more important story raised by the unraveling of Deweese's Sgt. Schultz defense is : "What did Corbett know and when did he know it?"

    The recent DeWeese revelations have added tremendous weight to the serious questions being raised about the quality and motives of Tom Corbett and his investigation. Did Corbett make some kind of secret/corrupt deal with DeWeese? What does Corbett's treatment of DeWeese mean for John Perzel and other Republicans supposedly now under investigation by Corbett and the grand jury? Will Tom Corbett indict former Republican Speaker John Perzel or other leading Republicans now that he has let the the former Democratic Leader off the hook? Will there be a sacrificial Republican lamb indicted to polish Corbett's image as he runs for Governor?

    We will look at and comment on these questions and others in more detail later today.

    Monday, April 6, 2009

    Three Bonusgate Claims You'd Have To Be An Idiot To Believe

    1) Bill DeWeese's political operative Kevin Sidella is a key witness against DeWeese.

    The Tribune-Review wrote back in October that Sidella had been cooperating with prosecutors for nearly a year. A year before that article was written, Sidella had just left the state payroll and had begun collecting more than $6,000 a month from DeWeese's campaign committee. As of December 2008, according to campaign finance records, he still was collecting that monthly fee. Would Sidella's lawyer allow him to continue to collect payments from DeWeese for more than a year after he supposedly agreed to be a witness in a criminal case against him? How would that compromise his testimony? Let us count the ways.

    2) "File 16" contains embarassing sexual information about House members.

    DeWeese has told colleagues privately that the file his lawyer Bill Chadwick refuses to turn over to current leadership - known around the Capitol as "File 16" - contains evidence of sexual liasons among House members and their staff. If that were true, why would the Attorney General's office be interested in the file? Chadwick copied Deputy A.G. Frank Fina on his response denying the Caucus leadership access to the file. What is the A.G.'s interest in cheap office gossip? None. DeWeese's actions have made him a pariah in the caucus and threaten his standing as a member of leadership. Whatever is in that file is more damaging to DeWeese than this ridiculous tantrum. DeWeese is not known for sacrificing himself to protect someone else's dignity. Just ask Mike Manzo.

    3) Someone other than DeWeese responded to emails thanking him for bonuses and kept them a secret from DeWeese.

    This hardly needs explanation. Someone DeWeese trusted to answer his email would, for some reason, keep the emails a secret from DeWeese? A double agent perhaps?


    A Captain Renault post: Another PA newspaper editorial board has weighed in with serious questions and doubts about the quality and motives of Tom Corbett's Bonusgate investigation. The Allentown Morning Call published an editorial on Sunday April 5 which began by reminding voters of the prescient warning of Corbett's opponent in the Attorney General race, John Morganelli.

    From the Morning Call:

    "When Democratic Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli was trying to oust Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett in last year's election, one of his campaign points was that the incumbent Republican had politicized his office. Exhibit A was the fact that Mr. Corbett's investigation into corruption in the state Legislature has led to the arrests of only Democrats. Worse than that, Mr. Morganelli said, by initially charging only members of one party, the attorney general allowed the others to destroy evidence and avoid trouble."

    John Morganelli is a seasoned prosecutor and he tried to warn PA's voters about the dangers of Corbett politicizing the Bonusgate investigation. Most people -- and newspapers -- dismissed his warnings and Corbett sailed to victory. But as the months have passed and the Bonusgate investigation now enters it's third year without a single Republican being charged with any crime many are starting to take another look at what Morganelli and others said from the start : Corbett is using Bonusgate as a political weapon.

    The Morning call editorial ended with this:

    "Mr. Corbett is like a lot of prosecutors in that he doesn't say much about working investigations. Earlier this year, however, he said the next round of Bonusgate charges will shock people because of how much money is involved. Much harder for him to handle will be skepticism about his impartiality if he doesn't find any of it passing through Republican hands."

    Several other newspapers have recently published editorials commenting on and criticizing Corbett's Bonusgate investigation. Read them here and here.

    Saturday, April 4, 2009



    The news that John Micek broke last night at Capitol Ideas that Paul Sunyak, the former editorial page editor of the Uniontown Herald-Standard, has accepted a position on Bill DeWeese's staff in Harrisburg has given the the folks here at CasablancaPA quite a chuckle.

    For years, Sunyak has made no bones about how abhorrent the state legislature and Bill DeWeese in particular were for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

    According to DeWeese's press secretary, Tom Andrews, Sunyak will be paid $67,000 a year with full-benefits (health care, pension, parking space, paid vacation, etc.) to work in DeWeese's Harrisburg offices to use "his 30 years of experience and master's degree in journalism/communications to help with messaging, research and policy development relative to the 50th District and Southwestern PA."

    No doubt "help with messaging" translates into preparing the newsletters and television public service announcements he vehemently opposed for years and years at the Herald Standard.

    Let's let Sunyak's editorials on the state legislature using taxpayer dollars to "help with messaging" speak for themselves:

    "We simply believe that if DeWeese wants to curry favor with any particular group of voters, or all of them at one time, he should do so at his own expense, not the taxpayers'. DeWeese apparently believes otherwise and, in a testament to his own arrogance, displays no qualms or reservations about continuing to pick your pocket to do whatever he pleases to satisfy his needs." (Herald Standard 9/18/06)

    "The Patriot-News reported that they've paid a Philadelphia public relations executive, Larry Ceisler, for years to perform similar work, albeit on behalf of rank-and-file members. Although no dollar figure was given for what you're paying for his services, even one red cent would be too much." (Herald Standard, 6/8/06)

    Given that Andrews already gets $86k for the work Sunyak was ostensibly hired to do, it's astonishingly hypocritical of Sunyak now to take nearly $100,000 taxpayer dollars (factoring in his fat benefits package) when you consider his editorials about the size of DeWeese's staff ("Big payroll" Herald Standard, 4/9/06) and regarding the cushy-ness of the life of a state employee in general. ("State jobs: Nice work if you can get it" Herald Standard, 7/20/07)

    Perhaps Sunyak thinks he will be part of the state's noble effort to create jobs and develop the economy. But, how does he square that with his attitude regarding the role of legislators and their ability to make a difference:

    "And what jobs can any elected official really protect? Did - or could - DeWeese protect all the coal mining jobs that have disappeared from Greene County during his 30-year tenure in Harrisburg? We're not blaming him for the demise of any industry, mind you; we're just pointing out that neither he nor any other legislator is capable of such all-encompassing powers. The most any of them can do is provide some tax money as an inducement for an industry to come or stay here, which in essence amounts to a subsidy using our tax dollars. It's no great accomplishment to toss around public money that way, using it to build their own image of omnipotence to mythological proportions." (Herald Standard, 5/3/06)

    Sunyak's role as DeWeese's most pointed and vociferous critic seemed to shift a few months ago from this:

    "Democratic state Rep. H. William "Bill" DeWeese has evolved into an arrogant, self-serving political insider after a mostly unchallenged reign of 30 years. It's way beyond time for him to go." ("Vote Hopkins for much needed change" Herald Standard, 11/1/06)

    To this:

    "In one of the most closely watched races in Pennsylvania, the Herald-Standard editorial board endorses Democratic state Rep. H. William "Bill" DeWeese for re-election over his Republican opponent Greg Hopkins - by a narrow margin." ("DeWeese over Hopkins in 50th district" Herald Standard, 10/28/08)

    What happened?

    For one, the newspaper industry has changed dramatically and Sunyak was looking for a steady job. For another, DeWeese needed some good PR through an endorsement and could provide a steady job.

    Sunyak himself knows what a hypocritical whore he is for taking a job with DeWeese. In this blow-job he gave himself in yesterday's Herald Standard, Sunyak fails to mention where he is headed.

    Makes sense. After all, do you think the little boy in the photograph accompanying Sunyak’s bon voyage piece figured he would grow up to be a hypocritical whore?