Sunday, March 28, 2010
WHAT'S THE BUZZ?
It may not mean much as a legal argument, but the "everybody does it" defense seems to be putting Tom Corbett in the hot seat. Proceedings against former House Democratic Campaign Chair Steve Stetler have been delayed while the prosecutorial arm of the Corbett campaign scrambles to answer charges that Corbett himself used state resources to campaign.
As reported by ABC 27 back in October and again by the Patriot-News in February, taxpayer-funded state Attorney General staff exchanged hundreds of phone calls during work hours on their state phones not only with Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett himself, but with campaign workers Marie Conley and Joe Murzyn.
Curiously, Corbett has chosen to defend himself against accusations of one crime - using state resources for campaign purposes - by confessing to another: using campaign funds for non-campaign purposes. “This has nothing to do with using government resources for campaign purposes. It’s the exact opposite of that,” [Corbett spokesman Kevin] Harley said. Yeah, that's a crime, too, Kev. There are laws restricting the use of campaign funds to, you know, campaign work.
The defense is not only ludicrous, but incomplete: "As for why calls appear to be made from others in Corbett’s campaign staff to state phones, Harley said he didn’t know."
Six months' worth of itemized bills from Marie Conley's campaign phone and two months' worth from Joe Murzyn's phone show hundreds of calls to and from at least a dozen state phones during work hours - not only in the Office of Attorney General, but also the state offices of Sen. Domenic Pileggi, Sen. Jeff Piccola and Rep.Dan Moul. View the itemized bills and copies of the campaign checks here.
The Corbett campaign may think it's plausible enough that Corbett could have been discussing state business with state workers on his campaign-funded phone (did we mention it's a crime to spend campaign funds for non-campaign purposes?), but we are just dying to know what these state workers were discussing with campaign staffers.
Whether Corbett will face charges based on the accusations remains to be seen. But the blatant hypocrisy could and should be a factor Corbett's gubernatorial campaign. After all, those taxpayer-funded state OAG workers probably weren't discussing the weather during their hundreds of phone calls on state time with campaign operatives.
What were campaign operatives Marie Conley and Joe Murzyn discussing with state workers on state time on their state phones? Will we ever get more than a feeble "I don't know" from the Corbett campaign? (Or from Pileggi, Piccola and Moul, for that matter?) If they worked for anyone in the Capitol other than Tom Corbett, they'd have been hauled before a grand jury and forced to answer under oath.
Side note: While it may not rise to the level of a crime, we're disturbed by Corbett's repeated and disputed claim that he uses two phones - one for state work and one for campaign work. He first made the claim to ABC 27 in September. Then in November, under questioning from the Associated Press, he claimed he uses his "personal" cell phone for both state and campaign business, and he doesn't even know the number of his state-issued cell phone. But in January he again made the claim on WITF-FM ("I carry two, by the way"), and then denied it again to the Patriot-News, saying he uses his "personal/campaign Blackberry" to make and receive all calls (did we mention it's a crime to spend campaign funds for non-campaign purposes?) If he thinks it's all hunky-dory to use one campaign-funded phone for both state and campaign calls (it's not), why does he keep claiming to use two?