During a campaign stop this week, Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett called for some changes in the law.
Problem is, he's already charged someone with violating this new law that he hasn't invented yet.
Capitolwire reporter Laura Olson wrote yesterday:
"[Corbett] also pointed to the accusations against [former state Rep. Mike] Veon as an example of the need to switch the legislative daily expense system from a flat amount to reimburse only for actual expenses. Veon and others allegedly used taxpayer funds to pay for meals after weeknight basketball games. 'They double-dipped' by taking per diems and charging meals to legislative accounts, he said."
If there's a need to change the law, then what Veon did must not be illegal yet. But Corbett charged him with a crime (quite a few, actually), so what he did must already be illegal. But if it's already illegal, there must not be a need to change the law.
Oh, politically-motivated criminal prosecutions are so confusing!
Many members of the House, who commonly used contingency accounts to purchase meals and still collected full per diems also were confused, so House Comptroller Alexis Brown issued a memo to clarify:
"We have received an advisory opinion from a tax attorney assuring us there are no tax consequences for members receiving a per diem when the employer (the House)provides a meal for the benefit of the member on the employer's premises [as all Veon's Tuesday night dinners were]. Thus, when the Chief Clerk provides meals in the rear of the chamber due to our session schedule, or when a meal is provided during a caucus or committee meeting [such as a meeting of the deputy whips], there are no tax consequences for members, and thus, no need to adjust any per diems for that day."
The memo was issued September 8, 2008, two months after Veon was arrested for abiding by the very advice contained in the memo.
And now, nearly two years after indicting Veon for claiming per diems after consuming House-paid meals, Corbett calls for outlawing the claiming of per diems after consuming House-paid meals.
We're pretty sure Corbett attended law school (though perhaps not a "Top Ten" school like one of our recent commenters); did his law professors ever mention that prosecutors can charge people with violating only existing laws, not imaginary laws that the prosecutors wish existed?
And it shouldn't take a law professor to recognize that if a prosecutor wants to pretend that the law already exists, (since he's already charged someone with violating it) perhaps he shouldn't go around the state demanding that it be created.