Thursday, February 18, 2010
WHOM TO BELIEVE?
If immunized prosecution witness Eric Webb is telling the truth, then John Estey, former Chief of Staff to Governor Edward G. Rendell, asked House Democratic staff to do opposition research on state time.
According to the Post-Gazette, "Mr. Webb testified that John Estey, former chief of staff to Gov. Ed Rendell, ordered opposition research to be conducted on 2006 Republican gubernatorial hopefuls Bill Scranton and Lynn Swann. Mr. Webb said that work was assigned to state workers who on state time had been digging up court filings, voting records and other material on political foes."
Estey apparently was far from unique. Prosecutors introduced as evidence an e-mail in which Rep. Mike Gerber asked Brett Cott for opposition research, and Cott forwarded the request to Webb. Incredibly, the e-mail was introduced as evidence against Cott, not Gerber.
Cott's facing felony charges for being the apparent middleman in this alleged transaction, and others like it. Webb was threatened with prosecution for being third in the line. Estey and Gerber, however, and the many other elected officials who allegedly relied on state employees to do political work, remain unscathed.
It's possible, of course, Eric Webb isn't telling the truth. He testified that political volunteerism soared in response to the alleged bonus scheme. Defense attorneys showed that the number of volunteers inched by just 31 people out of hundreds during the time of the alleged scheme.
Webb testified both that he knew his political work was wrong, and that he was completely baffled as to whether it was legitimate: "It would have been nice to have a lawyer on staff give some guidance," he said.
Estey vehemently denies Webb's accusation.
Whether he realizes it or not, Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett faces a dilemma (or, he would, if anyone actually cared about his integrity): He must either admit his witness is a liar, or explain why Estey and Gerber aren't facing the same charges as Cott and Veon. After all, he swore to follow the evidence.