Sunday, June 28, 2009
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today reports that a grand jury is "poring over" a collection of e-mail printouts and campaign donation spreadsheets "recently discovered" in the former office of a top aide to Bill DeWeese.
The story tells us very little we don't already know and that Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett hasn't known for years: DeWeese directed his legislative staff to do campaign work on state time and top aide Kevin Sidella was a full-time campaign operative.
We'll set aside for now that Corbett obviously STILL is investigating the House Democratic Caucus after TWO AND A HALF YEARS and not so much the House and Senate Republicans as Corbett so often claims.
The one interesting fact is that these e-mails are "recently discovered." Wasn't DeWeese supposed to have turned over all that stuff to Corbett already? If these are caucus e-mails - and if they weren't they'd be of no interest to Corbett - they would have turned up in DeWeese's infamous "internal investigation" (Also known as The Great Scapegoat Hunt of '07)
This isn't the first batch of incriminating e-mails that DeWeese failed to turn over to Corbett even though they obviously resided on caucus servers. About 200 e-mails from Sidella and another DeWeese aide, Tom Andrews, to a taxpayer-funded contractor show the two "directing various political battle plans," and "green-lighting campaign mailings or Web postings." Although most of the e-mails were sent from their caucus accounts, DeWeese never surrendered them to Corbett. Corbett instead obtained them from the contractor's computer, which never passed through DeWeese's machiavellian hands.
If DeWeese was granted secret immunity back in October 2007, as we have long suspected, these lapses in good faith could invalidate the agreement. Or, Corbett could go after DeWeese for crimes not covered by the agreement.
If so, no one will laugh louder and longer at DeWeese's "perp walk" than Team CasablancaPA. But until we see some solid evidence that Corbett is doing a real investigation of House and Senate Republicans, we won't call it justice.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
The master sleuth at the Patriot News, Charlie Thompson, has caught a Democrat in the act again! The act of testifying to a grand jury, that is. Lurking outside the courtroom, Thompson has identified and publicized the identities of many House Democratic staff who have testified.
In a short item in Friday's newspaper, apparently unavailable online, Thompson noted that ex-chief of staff to ex-Majority Leader H. William DeWeese put in another appearance Thursday.
What's most interesting is Thompson claims in the same story, "In recent months, Corbett's prosecutors have focused most heavily on taking testimony from witnesses affiliated with the House Republican caucus."
Yet in all his lurking, Thompson apparently never has spotted one of these elusive Republican witnesses. He certainly never has identified one.
It's certainly odd that all of Thompson's stakeouts coincide with the appearance of Democratic witnesses only, when so many Republican witnesses supposedly are giving testimony.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Yesterday, he attended another tent revival where he joined Republican Jim Christiana in touting a database that tracks state spending.
In a bout of glossolalia for the Tribune Review, DeWeese opined that if such a database existed then the entire bonusgate scandal never would have happened (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 6/26/09).
Watching Bill DeWeese handle snakes in his effort to prove he is blameless in bonusgate is very entertaining. He is quite good at it...too bad he doesn't put the same effort to improve his table manners (but that is a different miracle for a different post.)
As with many of the most overtly religious and sanctimonious (think Sen. Ensign and Gov. Sanford), there is always a strong measure of hypocrisy lurking in the background. Bill DeWeese is certainly no different.
We stood in line at the Dauphin County Courthouse to get our copy of the Veon filing from earlier this month. It is a great read, especially when it comes to seeing specific examples of the arbitrary nature of partisan Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett's enforcement of what he considers the law.
DeWeese's latest effort to abdicate responsibility reminded us of one particular email in the Veon filing that really shows how big a hypocrite, and quite frankly, how big a liar Bill DeWeese is when it comes to reform and his use of state resources for political campaigns.
Take a look at the email for yourself here.
As you can see, DeWeese's political campaign was so intertwined with his legislative office that no one on his staff could tell the difference. "Special Leadership Account" funds were used to pay for political advertising. These very same Special Leadership Accounts were used to award legislative bonuses in all four state legislative caucuses.
It is outrageous for DeWeese to have used "Special Leadership Account" funds to pay for campaign advertising, but it is equally as outrageous to see that DeWeese is supervising and directing his campaign using state employees, during work hours using their state email accounts.
The greatest outrage is the fact Attorney General Tom Corbett had this email and the testimony of Kevin Sidella ("DeWeese aide was fundraiser" Tribune Review, 10/18/08), Mike Manzo ("Manzo testifies before grand jury" Inquirer, 10/17/08), and perhaps many of the other DeWeese staff on this caucus email. Yet, Corbett decided that this isn't the kind of evidence that would result in charges being filed against DeWeese.
What kind of investigation has Corbett conducted?
Everyone has seen and read about the emails that clearly show DeWeese was fully aware of the bonuses ("DeWeese email exchange damning evidence in bonus probe" AP, 3/17/09) and the campaign work being done by his state funded employees ("Bonusgate records contradict DeWeese" 4/6/09). Plus, everyone in the Capitol knows that numerous House Democratic employees testified to the grand jury about what DeWeese knew and what he ordered his staff to do for his campaigns.
DeWeese may have found religion when it comes to reform, but here at CasablancaPA we still consider him the Devil...and it seems like he has cut some deal with Corbett.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Almost two weeks ago, CasablancaPa pointed out that Corbett had, in response to Veon's motion for dismissal, abandoned his longtime practice of vaguely referencing possible future indictments. Instead, he dipped his toe in the water of actually defending his own actions (or inaction, in his case). Apparently, that didn't work out so well, so he darted back into his "investigation is continuing" sofa fort.
Will Corbett now indict Steve Stetler, just so he can prove Veon wrong? Considering the rate at which Corbett's investigations creep along, Stetler might not have to worry about it for at least another year or two.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Here at Casablancapa we're assuming the judge won't delay, so we're using July 14th as the date for making over/under bets on when partisan Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett will bring his long promised indictments against Republican members of the legislature.
A July 14th news splash regarding Fumo presents Corbett an interesting public relations problem.
On one hand, Corbett could hold true to his past practice and make a bonusgate related announcement only when there is unhelpful news or commentary regarding his conduct of his bonusgate investigation. If he does, then he'll wait for Fumo's sentencing (which will provide his gubernatorial rival Pat Meehan some good media attention) and then trump Meehan by bringing his Republican indictments afterward.
On the other hand, Corbett may not want to let the one year anniversary of his one-sided indictiments of Democrats to pass on July 10th. It is hard to imagine that the media, the chattering class and large numbers of voters won't notice that a year has passed without Corbett living up to his promise of indiciting Republicans.
If you remember, Corbett was adamant as early as September of 2008 that he was preparing to indict Republicans. Here he is telling Pete Jackson with the Associated Press how close he was to bringing indictments:
"Pennsylvania's attorney general says the next round of arrests in the 'Bonusgate' investigation will come either this month or after the election...Corbett said more arrests could be made this month 'if all the dominoes fall in the right line.''' (Associated Press, 9/8/08)
This is quite a public relations conundrum for Corbett. Let's face it...Corbett's handling of the bonusgate investigation has been one big p.r. cow to milk for his gubernatorial aspirations.
Either Corbett waits to announce Republican indictments until AFTER Fumo is charged on or around July 14th thus blunting good coverage for his rival Meehan, or he announces his long promised Republican indictments BEFORE July 14th so he doesn't let the one year anniversary of his hammering of Democrats on July 10th pass without living up to his promise of Republican arrests.
Of course, there are still a few holdouts here at Casablancapa who don't believe Corbett will make any Republican arrests (and certainly no charges that even come close to his hammering of Democrats a year ago.)
Let us know what you think! Tell us if Corbett makes his Republican arrests before or after July 14th.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Regular readers are well aware that Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett secretly granted a favored informant immunity under a sealed order in October 2007. It appears to be the second of only two immunity orders granted under seal.
Team CasablancaPa has long suspected that favored informant goes by the initials H.W.D. We have grown more convinced with the public release of thousands of pieces of evidence, which Corbett reviewed and turned over to defendants as part of the discovery process.
Our theory is controversial; after all, Corbett certainly had no reason to trust Bill DeWeese. But wouldn't he have every reason to trust a Republican former state Inspector General and campaign contributor? Bill Chadwick was paid at least $1.3 million in taxpayer loot to keep DeWeese out of jail, and certainly the ability to broker such deals was among his bag of costly tricks.
The problem with the "speeding car" analogy some invoke to defend Corbett's failure to charge DeWeese is that Corbett didn't just let the DeWeesemobile go zipping by. He stopped it, searched it, looked under the hood and kicked the tires. ("DeWeese is the most-investigated guy on the landscape," Chadwick says)
What we have here is: an obviously culpable person who inexplicably faces no charges, a sealed immunity order that - like Cinderella's slipper - fits no other foot but DeWeese's, and a secret, taxpayer-produced file DeWeese refuses to reveal to the rest of the Democratic Caucus. Occam's Razor applies.
Did DeWeese know the caucus apparently was awarding bonuses for political work? Check.
(Did he lie about it? All. The. Time.)
Did DeWeese's top aide testify that DeWeese was complicit in awarding bonuses for political work? Check.
Did DeWeese base personnel decisions on political work? Check.
Did DeWeese employ staff members solely to perform political work? Check.
Did DeWeese and his staff use state-funded resources for political work? Check.
As if all this weren't enough to throw suspicion on Corbett's failure to charge DeWeese, there's the matter of DeWeese aides Kevin Sidella and Tom Andrews.
Political operative Sidella left public employ in October 2007, just before DeWeese gave his chosen scapegoats the ax, and coinciding with the secret immunity order. Every month since his departure, Sidella has collected a payment from DeWeese's campaign committee, equal to the salary he had received as a state employee.
Evidence recently made public reveals Sidella and Andrews supervised and orchestrated the very activities at the center of Corbett's prosecution. Corbett examined nearly 200 e-mails demonstrating their direction of the "LCOMM" and petition challenge efforts for which others face multiple felony charges. These e-mails not only implicate Andrews and Sidella, they actually conflict with Corbett's allegations against the defendants. The only reason those e-mails came to light is because they were among the small percentage of evidence that didn't pass through DeWeese's hands on the way to Corbett.
A curious side note about "LCOMM": Corbett included a weird non sequitur in the grand jury presentment that DeWeese "always communicated with Buxton through his campaign account." Of course it doesn't matter whether DeWeese used a state e-mail account, a campaign account or a big box of crayons to assign political tasks to a taxpayer-funded contractor. So why even mention it? "Sure, he broke into your house, but he wiped his feet on the mat first!"
Sidella was granted immunity and has been "cooperating" with prosecutors though none of his statements yet have been presented as evidence against the defendants. Whether Andrews scored a similar deal is unknown - according to investigators' notes, he apparently was neither interviewed nor subpoenaed. Though he serves as DeWeese's press secretary, he largely has escaped press scrutiny regarding Bonusgate.
What is known is that it would raise inconvenient questions for Corbett to prosecute either Andrews or Sidella without prosecuting DeWeese.
Still not suspicious? Let's look at the timeline:
In August of 2007, Corbett seized files from the House Democratic Research Office.
DeWeese fought to prevent admission of the "privileged documents."
In September of 2007, Corbett subpoenaed seven staff members to testify to the grand jury.
DeWeese fought to quash the subpoenas.
During September and October, the Supreme Court refused to block the subpoenas, and a judge ruled the seized files admissible.
In October, Corbett granted secret immunity to his mystery informant. Kevin Sidella quietly left the state payroll and began collecting the equivalent of his state salary from DeWeese's campaign fund.
In November, DeWeese fired seven staffers, most of whom were later indicted, and delivered to Corbett thousands of carefully-selected e-mails and documents that would become a basis for those indictments.
DeWeese immediately launched a revisionist history campaign, declaring that he'd been cooperating with Corbett "since Day One." (Try to exclude evidence and quash subpoenas? Who, me?) He confidently predicted he would not be indicted. (Wonder how he could be so sure?)
Keep in mind, this is just the case an average blogger can make with information already public and documented. Imagine the case a prosecutor could make with the powers of search warrants and subpoenas. If he wanted to. Of course, none of this is proof of an immunity deal. There's always the possibility that Corbett is just astonishingly inept.
Another side note: As we reviewed more than two years of media coverage, it dawned on us that prior to Veon's motion for dismissal, editorialists across the state were nearly unanimous in calling for DeWeese's head. ("Is Time Running Out For DeWeese?"... "The wrong folks lost their jobs in Harrisburg this week" ... "More questions raised on DeWeese's role" ... "Burden of suspicion." )
No one could believe DeWeese would escape prosecution. ("It's hard to see how Mr. DeWeese survives "Bonusgate." ... "DeWeese's latest controversy just stirs up more questions." ... "There could be a whopper of a furball in his future.")
Now that it's clear Corbett has given DeWeese a pass, columnists and editorial writers are lining up to defend his decision. The Post-Gazette is so confused that it hyperventilated over events Veon had nothing to do with while simultaneously bashing Veon for pointing to events he had nothing to do with. "We have always been at war with Eastasia!"
"As more details become known -- such as the recent revelation that large magnets and hand drills were used to destroy House computer hard drives and backup tapes despite my directive to preserve evidence -- I believe that my team's cooperative efforts will ultimately lead fair-minded people to draw positive conclusions regarding my conduct."
Who was in the leader of the caucus in 2007 and 2008 when this supposed destruction of evidence occurred? Why, it was Bill DeWeese!
If this supposed destruction of evidence really happened or was illegal, wouldn't someone have been charged with a crime by Corbett by now?
Only Bill DeWeese could have ordered anyone to monkey around with hard drives and backup tapes...remember, DeWeese's scapegoat Veon was no longer a member of the caucus at that point.
Also keep in mind, the investigator notes mentioning the magnets and drilling were part of the investigation that resulted in the July 2008 charges against Veon and the Democratic staff. Among them Mike Manzo, the only staff person with authority to make that kind of call to the caucus computer geeks, and Steve Keefer, the head of the caucus computer department. Neither of them were charged for destroying evidence last July and Corbett certainly would have brought charges before now, nearly a year later.
The real question in this matter is why didn't Corbett charge anyone with a crime regarding this alleged destruction of evidence?
Perhaps because it is part of Corbett's wholesale disregard of mountains of evidence that implicates DeWeese. Last week, information provided to Veon's defense team by Corbett showed DeWeese and his staff, notably Kevin Sidella and Tom Andrews, did significant amounts of DeWeese campaign work on caucus time using caucus resources. Today's Patriot News has a great re-cap here.
And, don't forget that Mike Manzo, a key witness for Corbett, said under oath at the preliminary hearing in October 2008 that DeWeese knew about the allegedly illegal bonus program.
What kind of arrangement does Corbett have with DeWeese? How will this arrangement impact Corbett's campaign for Governor?
If Corbett does follow through on his promise to indict high ranking Republicans, how does he go back to the GOP faithful during his gubernatorial primary and tell them, "Hey, I indicted Jubelirer/Brightbill/Perzel but ignored obvious wrong doing by DeWeese"?
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
An Ugarte post:
Yesterday, the US Supreme Court handed down an important decision regarding the influcence of campaign contributions on the administration of justice in America.
In Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company, the ruling was made that elected judges must recuse themselves from cases where those involved spent large amounts of money to help them win their elections.
In the majority decision, Justice Kennedy wrote that when an interested party's contributions to a judge could have a "disproportionate influence" on a matter before the court, then the judge must disqualify him or herself.
This ruling deals with a situation that closely mirrors partisan Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett's bonusgate investigation.
For over a year, many here in Pennsylvania (and not just Democrats) have been asking the question, "How can Tom Corbett be impartial in his investigation of Republicans in the legislature if he has taken large amounts of campaign donations from the very people he is supposed to be investigating?"
Corbett has taken over a quarter million dollars in campaign donations from Republican legislators, Republican leadership committees and Republican legislative staff.
When you add in contributions Corbett has received from local Republican candidates and Republican Party committees his total take increases to $2,866,938.20. This is over one-third of all contributions Corbett has accepted since filing to run for Attorney General in 2002.
It isn't unprecedented to see prosecutors use their power to further political and personal agendas.
In the last few years, Alberto Gonzales ruined the reputation of the US Department of Justice, and right here in Pennsylvania Mary Beth Buchanan followed Gonzalez's example, most notably with the Wecht case. Even the Pittsburgh Tribune Review has documented Buchanan's one-sided bias toward prosecuting Democrats. ("Majority of defendants in corruption cases by Buchanan were Dems", 6/7/09)
If the United States Supreme Court thinks it is possible for a sitting judge to have their impartiality compromised by campaign donations, then what would they think of a prosecutor conducting an "active" investigation who receives one in three campaign dollars from the very people he is ostensibly investigating...Republican organizations and elected officials? Even more, a prosecutor who is running for Governor and needs the support of these very same Republican individuals and organizations?
Sunday, June 7, 2009
When confronted with proof that he'd reviewed hundreds of pieces of evidence that other House members engaged in political activity using state resources, he didn't hint that those members might face charges, as he has done so often in the past. Instead, he defended his decision not to charge them.
Until now, it's been easy for Corbett to maintain his facade that all members of the legislature were facing equal scrutiny, because the compliant capitol news corps has never challenged him.
Much to our amusement and Corbett's amazement, Veon and his co-defendants appear not to be as compliant. The Post-Gazette last week revealed that a judge lifted a gag order in the case after Veon's lawyers pointed out there's “no longer any justification” for it. Corbett, never questioned on this point outside the courtroom, was forced by Veon's lawyers to admit his investigation of House Democrats is over.
Brad Bumsted of the Tribune-Review appears not to have noticed these two important admissions, smugly predicting that a DeWeese arrest will render Veon's argument moot. Perhaps Bumsted doesn't read the competition.