Wednesday, April 28, 2010


We don't know if exonerated Bonusgate defendant Steve Keefer will sue the House Democratic Caucus for back pay, or whether such a suit would be successful.

But his case points out a gaping hole in the caucus' logic - not to mention the monumental hypocrisy of one H. William DeWeese, who has yet to be indicted for his role in the events that led to Keefer's dismissal.

After all, DeWeese allegedly fired Keefer not because he was indicted, but because DeWeese dug up some e-mails that appeared to implicate Keefer in the use of a taxpayer-funded contractor for political work.

As details emerged, DeWeese's profound dishonesty was exposed. Evidence in the Bonusgate case included more than 200 emails showing DeWeese aides Tom Andrews and Kevin Sidella directing and supervising the state contractor's political work. Further, not only e-mails but the very same grand jury presentment outlining the allegations against Keefer show that DeWeese himself used the state consultant for political work.

The Corbett campaign has never explained why it felt the need to mention, in the presentment, that DeWeese "always communicated with Buxton through his campaign account," since it was illegal to use the taxpayer-funded consultant for political work no matter how they communicated.

While we wait for the Corbett campaign to explain why DeWeese and Andrews were not charged (Sidella was granted immunity in exchange for grand jury testimony), we'll let the caucus explain why Andrews and Sidella were not fired along with Keefer. Instead, DeWeese quietly moved Sidella off the state payroll and continued to pay him the equivalent of his state salary out of campaign funds.

The Sidella and Andrews e-mails were not among the evidence that DeWeese turned over, although they certainly would have turned up during DeWeese's search for evidence against his chosen scapegoats. Still, when they became public through court proceedings, consistency would dictate that Andrews be fired and the caucus sever its associations with Sidella. Fat chance.

As the scandal unfolded, the caucus' hypocrisy multiplied. When the Corbett campaign found it politically necessary to find something other than "Bonusgate" with which to charge DeWeese, Corbett also indicted DeWeese aide Sharon Rodavich. Keefer hadn't even been charged when he was fired, but Rodavich continues to draw a caucus paycheck despite facing charges of Conflict of Interest, Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition, Theft of Services, Theft by Deception, Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds Received and Criminal Conspiracy.

While Andrews is merely implicated and Rodavich indicted, the caucus continues to employ staff who actually admitted guilt in open court.

For example, aide to Speaker Keith McCall Karen Steiner Blanar testified that she campaigned on state time and destroyed evidence. Research Manager Steve Webb not only admitted campaigning on state time, but confessed in court to perjury. McCall's press secretary, Bob Caton, said he believed his campaign work on state time was a crime even while he was doing it, and he believed his bonus checks were illegal payments for committing those crimes. House staffer Dan Wiedemer, while director of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, oversaw what he said was an illegal opposition research operation, staffed by state employees.

If Keefer was fired merely because of the appearance of wrongdoing, how does the caucus justify the continued employment of those who admitted wrongdoing?

If Keefer manages to get the caucus leaders on a witness stand under oath, perhaps we'll get an answer. But in the meantime we won't hold our breath.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


In an item in today's Post-Gazette, gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett told Dennis Roddy he will be using his bonusgate investigation as part of his campaign:
"...Mr. Corbett gained name recognition and some criticism for an aggressive series of grand jury investigations into the legislative spending scandal that came to be known as Bonusgate. His first round of grand jury presentments snared a collection of former state legislators, including former House Minority Whip Michael Veon, D-Beaver. Amid criticism that he was targeting only Democrats, he later unloaded scores of criminal counts against the Republican former state House Speaker, state Rep. John Perzel, R-Philadelphia. He has made it clear he'll run on that record, but to date, the primary challenge from Mr. Rohrer has pushed Mr. Corbett to shore up his conservative credentials, leaving little time for internal party messages about crime-busting. 'You might see that coming,' Mr. Corbett said, 'but right now we don't need that for the primary.'" (Post-Gazette 4/27/2010)
This is the first and most blantant admission from Corbett that bonusgate is a major piece of his campaign and that he will use it when he feels the "need."

Here at CasablancaPA, we don't find this shocking. However, many others who have been following the gubernatorial campaign may find it big news, especially since Corbett directly contradicted one of his key strategists who made a fairly adamant promise just last month:
"John Brabender, Mr. Corbett's chief media strategist, insisted that, 'I can tell you now that we will not be talking about Bonusgate -- ever -- in the governor's race.'" (Post-Gazette 3/24/10)
We guess Brabender better start putting that bonusgate tv spot together now. He has probably already checked in with Mike Long who used the bonusgate issue aggressively in the state senate campaigns he managed in 2008.

Monday, April 26, 2010


A comment gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett made regarding his supposedly on-going bonusgate investigation over the weekend while campaigning in Westmoreland County caught our attention:
"This investigation we're doing was probably not in my best interest. There are some very powerful people out there who want to get even with me." (Tribune-Review 4/26/10)
Oh, really? Who are these mysterious "very powerful people" that want to get even with him? Because from our vantage point, no one with power has yet to be indicted by Corbett or has any quarrel with him.

Former Representatives Mike Veon and Brett Feese can't be who he's referring to. Both were no longer in office when indicted and it is laughable to believe either still has any power or influence.

Representatives John Perzel, Bill DeWeese and Sean Ramaley were all still in office when he indicted them, but no one would argue they held any appreciable power beyond their single votes in the legislature by the time they were arrested.

Former Representative Steve Stetler was the sitting Secretary of Revenue when indicted, but no one would call that position "very powerful" and no one would say Governor Rendell has been vociferous in criticizing Corbett for the arrest.

Corbett seems a bit paranoid to us when you consider he's done nothing to anger those currently in power. In fact, those in power appear to owe their political lives to Corbett at the moment.

The Majority Senate Republicans have no ax to grind with him. Their fight is with Allegheny County District Attorney Steve Zappala, not Corbett, who ignored the whistleblower who started Zappala's investigation of Senate Majority Whip Jane Orie.

The same can be said for the Majority House Democrats. Corbett hasn't arrested Speaker Keith McCall even though PJ Lavelle testified under oath at the Veon trial that McCall hired him to do the exact same job as he did for Veon (Associated Press 2/19/10). And, Majority Leader Todd Eachus has yet to be arrested even though Corbett has sent a "target letter" to him (Post-Gazette 12/4/09) and the very same evidence used against Veon showed Eachus was aggressively involved in using taxpayer resources and staff for political campaign work.

Even the most cursory reading of Corbett's grand jury presentment against Perzel and Feese would leave one wondering why Corbett didn't arrest House Republican Leader Sam Smith, so Smith has nothing to complain about.

Finally, Corbett hasn't done anything to Senate Democratic Leader Bob Mellow warranting revenge even though it is well documented that Mellow has abused his legislative expense accounts and campaign accounts for his own personal benefit (Scranton Times Tribune 11/1/2009).

Until Corbett through his bonusgate investigation indicts someone who actually has power, he is creating these "very powerful" enemies out of wholecloth. He's stooped to a new low...or maybe he's always been a fan of the tinfoil hat.

In the meantime and back by popular demand, we present to you the CasablancaPA Players portraying Corbett's announcement of who is lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce:

And, scene.

Friday, April 23, 2010


We've learned about the hundreds of calls between Tom Corbett's campaign staff and his taxpayer-funded staff at their taxpayer-funded phones in their taxpayer-funded offices on taxpayer-funded time. (Post-Gazette 3/26/10)

Now, it appears Corbett's campaign wasn't the only GOP business being conducted in the Offices of the Attorney General under Corbett's watch.

The Sunbury Daily Item reports today that in October of 2007, a political phone call between Brian Nutt, Corbett's Chief of Staff and taxpayer-funded campaign manager, and Union County Republican activists may have been recorded illegally:
"According to Corbett's then chief-of-staff Brian Nutt, who is presently serving as campaign spokesman in Corbett's bid for governor, he received a phone call from Haas prior to the November 2007 election asking the attorney general to withdraw the endorsement of Johnson.

'I explained to (Haas) that I would be the wrong person to talk to and that Tom Corbett was a personal friend of Pete Johnson,' Nutt said Thursday. 'I remember that he was not happy about that response.'

According to the October 2007 minutes of the Union County Republican Committee compiled by secretary Carolyn Conner, Haas informed members he called Nutt and recorded the conversation in the presence of others. If so, that would be a violation of the state Wiretapping Act, prohibiting one person from taping another without his knowledge ... Nutt said he was told at one point that his 2007 telephone conversation with Haas may have been recorded without his knowledge, but he never pursued the issue." (Sunbury Daily Item 3/23/10)
Why would the Chief-of-Staff to the Commonwealth's highest law enforcement official NOT pursue an investigation of being surreptitiously and illegally recorded?

Perhaps it is because an investigation and possible prosecution would reveal that this political phone call took place on Nutt's taxpayer-funded phone in his taxpayer-funded office while he was on taxpayer-funded time...Nutt didn't start on the Corbett re-election payroll until June of 2008. (Campaign finance reports)

We're looking forward to learning what number for Nutt the Union County Republicans called and when they called him. Of course, the only way to get the truth is for a brave District Attorney somewhere in the state to subpoena the phone records of all involved. Otherwise it is awful easy for everyone involved to not remember...or worse.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Let's set aside the fact that Senator Jane Orie and her family are wack-a-doodles who do things like trying to gaslight their employees (Post Gazette 1/6/10) and make threatening phone calls to their political opponents in the middle of the night. (WTAE TV 4/7/10)

Let's set aside the fact that Representative Bill DeWeese is one of the most flawed and warped human beings to have ever served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. (Tribune Review 12/22/09)

Love'em or hate'em, their lawyer makes a very compelling case as to why Pennsylvania's conflict of interest statutes, which have led to multiple indictments and prosecutions of state legislators and their staffs, are overly vague and open to abuse by politically motivated prosecutors like gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett:
"Unless the courts intervene and strike down the current version of the conflict-of-interest statute as unconstitutional, we will continue to see individual prosecutors pursuing their own agendas and creating de facto ethics codes and policy rules for elected public officials through the criminal justice system -- just as they are in the instant cases." (Post Gazette 4/20/10)
Corbett's taxpayer funded campaign mouthpiece Kevin Harley retorts that all this gnashing of teeth over the vagueness of the statute in question "has already been tested by the state's Supreme Court and found constitutional." (Post Gazette 4/20/10)

Wrong! The Supreme Court hasn't even heard an argument, let alone "test" the statute. Corbett's own lawyers said on the same day Harley shot his mouth off that the Supreme Court refused to take the Habay appeal. (Tribune Review 4/20/10)

[How much longer are Corbett's political operatives going to be allowed to make blatantly erroneous statements that further Corbett's political ambitions? How much longer are the professional legal "dogs" in the OAG like Fina going to put up with being wagged by the political "tail" of Corbett's taxpayer-funded campaign operatives Brian Nutt and Harley? But, we digress.]

When the Superior Court (not the Supreme Court, Kevin) ruled against Habay, they left in place a very vague and very confusing landscape for prosecutors to navigate. It was confusing to begin with and the reason why the Habay defense appealed on this issue. There is no better example of this than a comparison of how the Ethics Commission concurrently dealt with the Habay case and an ethics complaint against former Representative Jim Lynch.

Habay was found to have violated the law when he "utilized Commonwealth facilities, equipment, materials and employees during normal office hours" for his political campaigns. As a result, the Ethics Commission referred the matter "to the appropriate law enforcement authority for review as to the institution of a criminal prosecution." (Order #1313, 3/11/04)

Three months later, the Ethics Commission found Lynch to have "utilized his legislative district employees in the district office to perform political/campaign related work during normal state office hours." Yet, while the findings against Lynch were identical to those against Habay, the commission let Lynch off with a $5,381.23 fine and no referral to law enforcement. (Order #1334, 6/8/04)

Why the difference? Both findings regarded felonious amounts of resources being diverted for political campaigns. The Ethics Commission was the exact same group of commissioners.

The Habay/Lynch situation isn't an anomaly. The discrepancies in how law enforcement and the Ethics Commission proceed with cases against public officials and employees has persisted since the initial decision by the Ethics Commission in 2004.

In 2006, Corbett investigated York County DA Stan Rebert based on extensively documented campaign activity and sworn depositions. Corbett ignored the violations entirely. (York Dispatch 1/27/06)

Again in 2006, Venango County Sherriff Gene Price was found by the Ethics Commission to have "utilized county employees, office equipment and supplies during regular working hours for election campaigns." Again, no referral to law enforcement, just a $3,000 fine. (Order #1409, 10/4/2006)

Perhaps the most egregious discrepancy is the post-Bonusgate Ethics Commission decision that found former Representative Matt Wright "used staff, office space, equipment and materials of his legislative District Office and his Capitol Office to further his re-election campaigns." There was no referral to law enforcement (just a $10,000 fine) and no indictments from Corbett even though Corbett crowed repeatedly about having an active grand jury investigating the House Republican Caucus at that time. (Order #1541, 12/15/09)

And, what about the staff? Corbett decided to indict numerous staff persons while letting dozens of elected members of the General Assembly off the hook for rampant violations of using state employees and resources for campaign purposes (as the Veon trial showed.) Nearly all of them were found to have violated the conflict of interest laws.

Again, the Ethics Commission has been arbitrary in how it treats public employees who violate the law. While Corbett has indicted legislative employees with multiple felonies based on the Habay decision, the Ethics Commission has handled multiple others with kid gloves while at the same time using their Habay ruling in the rationale for their decisions.

Terry Bryant "utilized Commonwealth facilities, equipment, personnel, and supplies in support of his outside employment with real estate companies" and was fined $2,000 with no referral to law enforcement. (Order #1367, 6/6/05)

Jem Pagan "utilized computer hardware and software, which was the property of the commonwealth, for his personal use" and was fined $5,921.39 with no referral to law enforcement. (Order #1466, 4/28/08)

Replace "outside employment with real estate companies" or "his personal use" with "campaign" or "political" and there are no difference between Bryant or Pagan and any of the bonusgate staff defendants.

Even though we find DeWeese and Orie repugnant -- for either their politics or how they treated their staff or both -- we agree wholeheartedly with their lawyer when he writes:
"What in fact has happened in [Orie's] case and others, is that precisely because of the facial vagueness of the conflict-of-interest statute ... implied authorization and encouragement has been given to prosecutors to enforce such conduct arbitrarily and in a discriminatory way against a number of politicians." (Associated Press, 4/19/2010)
Pennsylvanians have to look no further than gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett for the best and most blatant example.


Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina is wrong. He is so wrong we believe that he is being forced by gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett to erroneously interpret an otherwise straightforward campaign law.

Corbett made over a hundred calls (that can be documented) from his campaign funded cell phone to taxpayer funded staff at the Office of Attorney General while they were on state time in their taxpayer funded offices. (Patriot News 2/5/10)

Based on Corbett's very own broad interpretation of the Habay decision, these phone calls show that Corbett is violating the very same laws he has indicted and prosecuted multiple state legislators and their staff members for breaking.

In a cynical move to avoid being prosecuted himself, Corbett, his campaign and his crack legal team have repeatedly said that, while those phone calls were made from a campaign cell phone, the calls were not campaign calls. Rather, the calls were official taxpayer business.

Here is Fina last Friday regarding the legality of Corbett using his campaign funded phone to conduct anything other than campaign business:
"Using a campaign telephone to call home, to call for a pizza, to call your office to check in or to call your mother is not a crime." (Post Gazette 4/17/10)
Well, Frank, you're wrong. Here is Charlie Young, the official spokesperson of the Pennsylvania Department of State, saying how wrong you are:
“If they’re using campaign funds for anything other than to influence the outcome of an election, then they’re violating campaign finance and reporting law.” (Norristown Times Herald 4/19/10)
It doesn't take a genius to read this statute and understand how very right the Department of State is and how very wrong Frank Fina is, but don't take our word for it. Read it for yourself.

Section 1634.1 of the Pennsylvania election Code, 25 P.S 3254.1 provides that:
No candidate, chairman or treasurer of any political committee shall make or agree to make any expenditure or incur any liability except as provided in Section 1621 (d).
"Expenditure" is defined in Section 1621(d) of the Election Code as follows:
(1) the payment, distribution, loan or advancement of money or any valuable thing by a candidate, political committee or other person for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election; (2) the payment, distribution, loan, advance or transfer of money or other valuable thing between or among political committees; (3) the providing of a service or other valuable thing for the purpose of influencing the outcome of a nomination or election of any person to any public office to be voted for in this Commonwealth; or (4) the payment or providing money or other valuable thing by any person other than a candidate or political committee, to compensate any person for services rendered to a candidate or political committee.
We are shocked that an Ivy League educated attorney like Fina can't read this fairly simple law correctly. That's why we're pretty certain Corbett's taxpayer funded campaign manager Brian Nutt or his taxpayer funded spokesman Kevin Harley are pulling his strings on this.

We wonder if Fina will continue selling out to Corbett's political ambitions or if he'll listen to his conscience and report Corbett, Nutt and Harley to the US Department of Justice.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Most of the media coverage of Steve Stetler's Motion to Dismiss is focused on the hundreds of phone calls between Corbett's campaign phones and workers in state offices. Corbett claims he used his campaign phone to discuss state business (a violation of campaign finance law), but so far he has refused to discuss the hundreds of calls between state workers and campaign staffers (who have no state business to discuss, and even if they did - which they didn't - using their campaign phones for non-campaign purposes is a violation of campaign finance law)

But the motion contains several other serious allegations against Corbett - notably that he not only violated grand jury secrecy by his many, many public pronouncements about the grand jury's activity, but that he actually influenced the grand jury's conclusion with those statements.

Of course he did.

Consider that Corbett first began promising that Republicans would be indicted in September of 2008 - not long after a Patriot-News article questioned, "Is Bonusgate Probe Partisan?"
"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)
As we know from the presentment issued against Republican Rep. John Perzel and others in November 2009, Corbett hadn't even started investigating House Republicans in earnest until October 2008, a month after he made that statement.

Although Corbett subpoenaed House Republicans for documents in October 2007 - three weeks after Corbett and his campaign manager met with Perzel - according to the presentment, contempt hearings "held for the purpose of forcing the caucus into compliance with subpoenas and court orders" weren't convened until October 2008, a full year after the subpoenas were served.

Yet, before those hearings even began, in response to questions about whether Republicans would be indicted, Corbett told the Lancaster Intelligencer:
"It's one of those times -- I hate to say it, but I almost feel like saying, 'Trust me -- we're going to get there, and when we're finished there are going to be a lot of people with egg on their face,'"-- Lancaster Intelligencer 9/25/08

"Trust me."

By February, a full nine months before the grand jury issued its presentment (and only four months after Corbett had begun proceedings to force House Republicans to comply with subpoenas), Corbett was declaring not only that Republicans would be charged, but that he knew what the charges would be:
"[The charges will] shock the conscience of people. You will be stunned. It's the amount of money involved."
Remember, Corbett was prohibited by law from discussing grand jury proceedings, and here is is revealing not only that the grand jury would indict, but what the substance of the charges would be [and how the public would react to them. How prescient!].

Corbett's response to accusations that his prosecutions have been politically-motivated has been a Pilate-like "It was the grand jury's decision to indict, not mine!"

But on April 5, 2009, the Allentown Morning Call reported that Corbett said nobody but he knows where the investigation is going and who else will be charged.

Nobody but Corbett knows .....

Thursday, April 15, 2010


"If there's one thing in all of this that annoys me? Obstruction's the worst. You're interfering with people finding out what truly happened." -- Attorney General Tom Corbett at announcement of bonusgate charges against John Perzel

Something just isn't adding up.

How is it possible that Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett's three-year investigation of the state legislature missed the political operation Republican Senator Jane Orie was running out of her district office? An operation that rivals the one Mike Veon was convicted of running from Room 626 of the state capitol.

There are the conflicting and dubious excuses from the Corbett campaign that either a receptionist at the Office of the Attorney General referred the Orie whistleblower to the Allegheny County (according to Corbett) or that the whistleblower is a liar and didn't call the OAG (according to Kevin Harley).

We don't believe either excuse - in fact, phone records contradict Harley's story - but let's give Corbett the benefit of the still doesn't add up.

Corbett's investigation should have uncovered the Orie operation long before the whistleblower even picked up the phone in late October of 2009.

The Senate Republican caucus was first hit with subpoenas from Corbett on February 8, 2008. ("Black Ops in the legislature," Tribune Review, 2/17/08) We assume the subpoenas were identical those served on the House Democratic caucus, which required electronic data including emails and other documents on servers to be turned over. ("AGs office issues subpoenas for bonus hearing," Associated Press, 10/3/08)

In fact, we don't have to assume because top Senate Republican lawyer Stephen MacNett said as much after the subpoenas were served on his caucus:
“'The Senate Republican caucus has fully complied with the Attorney General’s previous requests for information,' MacNett wrote. 'We will, of course, do the same with regard to the subpoenaed information.' Republican leaders have directed caucus staffers to retain any potentially relevant records, both paper and electronic, until the investigation is complete, MacNett added." (Lebanon Daily News 2/13/08)
The Orie Grand Jury presentment outlines the extensive political material and emails on the taxpayer-funded Senate Republican computer system -- some residing there until the middle of 2009!

Emails among Orie and her staff regarding both Orie's and her sister's judicial campaign are mentioned repeatedly in the presentment. (Pages 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, 36, 38, 40, 41, 45) On page 17, Orie is described as having sent a campaign email from her BlackBerry.

But, emails can be deleted. What is more disturbing is to learn of the documents that were saved on the taxpayer-funded Senate Republican servers through a system of drives maintained by the Senate Republican Caucus' IT department:

Page 23 --
"Testimony reveals that up until late spring of 2009, some of those very campaign and political records of Orie's were maintained on computer hard drives that were part of the state computer system; these were identified by Orie's staffers as 'O' and 'S' drives, at various times. Testimony from these staffers further revealed that in the late spring or early summer of 2009, Orie directed that these political files -- specifically thoase still remaining on the 'S' drive -- be transferred to a 'thumb drive' and the non-legisltaive data that was previously being maintained on the Senate's system was then removed from the drives that up until that time were then on the state's computer system."
Page 34 --
"Kerner testified that she was provided with a new senate laptop from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, within which political and fundraising data was to be entered...According to Kerner, the 'O' drive was Orie's own private drive, which contained political and/or campaign files, including folders labeled 'FR' and 'FR Harrisburg.' Kerner said that 'FR' meant 'fundraiser.' She further testified that her computer access to the 'O' drive was facilitated through Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but only certain legislative staffers had access."
Everyone who has worked in an office environment with shared drives in remote locations (i.e. Harrisburg and McCandless) knows that if "Harrisburg" (i.e. Senate Republican Caucus IT) facilitated the setting up of the Orie shared drives, then the Senate Republican Caucus IT had to have had access to the Orie drives containing the political material. In fact, the entire Orie system of drives were backed up to servers completely under the Senate Republican IT department's control.

How is it then, that Corbett's investigation missed the Orie political operation even though it subpoenaed the Senate Republican Caucus in February of 2008 for the very political material which was sitting on the Orie drives well into 2009?

Perhaps Corbett received this material and simply ignored it, just like he ignored the call from the Orie whistleblower. After all, the Senate Republicans have said repeatedly that they have answered all of Corbett's subpoenas to the fullest extent possible.

But, for the sake of argument, let's give Corbett the benefit of the doubt again, and allow that perhaps the Orie material wasn't provided to him via his subpoenas.

The only other possible excuse for Corbett having missed the Orie operation is that the Senate Republicans egregiously obstructed justice by not turning over to Corbett what they turned up in their search pursuant to the subpoenas...or worse yet, the Senate GOP didn't even bother to search for political material.

Either way -- Corbett ignored the evidence or the Senate Republicans never turned over subpoenaed evidence -- something just doesn't add up in the Senate Republican Caucus.

Monday, April 12, 2010


The Corbett campaign can't seem to settle on a story to explain why it ignored an intern who tried to report evidence of illegal Senate Republican electioneering.

(It hasn't yet bothered to explain why Corbett's own three-year "investigation" of Senate Republicans didn't turn up this evidence long before the fall of 2009)

Corbett told WTAE last week that the intern spoke to a receptionist in his office.

But Corbett's press secretary Kevin Harley later told the Tribune-Review and the Philadelphia Daily News there's "no record" the intern ever called at all.

Dude, that might have been a good ploy if a) your boss hadn't already admitted your office took the call and b) phone records prove your office took the call.

The more important question, of course, is the one that John Baer poses today:

"I ask, since Corbett spent years investigating (he says) all four caucuses, why a fellow-Republican senator in leadership never shows up on his radar."

The grand jury supposedly subpoenaed the Senate Republicans for documents in February 2008 (conveniently just after electoral opponent John Morganelli alleged that Corbett is "mired in conflicts of interest as he tries to do a balancing act between investigating public corruption while at the same time not offending political and financial supporters.")

According to the grand jury presentment, Orie's political documents weren't removed from the Senate Republican servers until late spring of 2009.

Orie staffers testified they had been performing political work during her entire eight-year tenure in office, including the last three while Corbett was conducting his "investigation."

Why did it take a whistle-blowing intern to bring Orie's alleged crimes to light in the middle of a three-year, multi-million dollar, highly-publicized investigation? And what goes on in Senate Republican offices that never had the bad luck to employ whistle-blowing interns? If we have to rely on the Corbett campaign to find out, we may never know.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


WITF reporter Scott Detrow today notes that former Democratic House Leader and Whip H. William DeWeese and former Senate Republican Whip Jane Clare Orie share a dubious distinction: both lost their leadership positions due to criminal charges against them.

The two share another, more sinister distinction as well: Tom Corbett ignored evidence of their wrongdoing in furtherance of his political ambition.

In Orie's case, Corbett likely couldn't afford to alienate a powerful ally. In DeWeese's case, Corbett almost certainly bartered for evidence on others. (In both cases, Corbett might just be a drooling idiot too incompetent to hold the post of Attorney General, but we're betting on "politically ambitious" over "drooling idiot." Others may disagree)

The Orie scandal - not only that Corbett's office brushed off an intern who tried to report evidence of Orie's behavior, but that the evidence never emerged in Corbett's own three-year "investigation" of the Senate Republicans - already is is gathering steam and threatens to disrupt his campaign. There's even a Facebook page calling for his resignation.

The DeWeese scandal so far hasn't generated as much publicity. Corbett hoped that charging DeWeese for unrelated campaign activity within his own office would, like magical fairy dust, obscure the fact that Corbett overlooked a plethora of evidence against DeWeese in the caucus-wide issues at the center of "Bonusgate."

E-mails show DeWeese knew about the bonuses.

DeWeese's former top aide testified DeWeese knew about the bonuses.

DeWeese's assistant told the grand jury DeWeese approved the bonuses.

E-mails show DeWeese based personnel decisions on political work.

E-mails show DeWeese used a state-funded consultant for campaign work.

E-mails show DeWeese aide Kevin Sidella ordered and directed the state-funded contractor to perform political work.

E-mails show DeWeese aide Tom Andrews ordered and directed the state-funded contractor to perform political work.

Emails show DeWeese actively supervised caucus staff working on campaigns through the House Democratic Campaign Committee.

The Corbett campaign ignored every bit of this evidence against DeWeese. The only reason DeWeese faces any charges at all is because letting him off the hook completely turned out to be too much of a political liability for Corbett. But the charges do not relate to bonuses, the "LCOMM" operation, or the use of caucus resources for campaigns other than his own.

Why would the Corbett campaign ignore all the evidence against DeWeese, who's hardly a political ally? In the fall of 2007, DeWeese was waging a furious legal battle over the admissibility of evidence seized and subpoenas ordering staff to testify to the grand jury.

Resolution of DeWeese's court challenges could have taken months - perhaps even years. The Corbett campaign needed to make a big splash soon.

Suddenly, in November, DeWeese dropped his legal challenges, then made great fanfare of firing seven staffers and delivered to the Corbett campaign enough hand-picked evidence to indict those staffers.

Even though plenty of evidence against DeWeese slipped through in the mix, the Corbett campaign ignored it. As DeWeese had to know it would.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Dare to criticize Tom Corbett, and you can expect an intimidating visit from law enforcement agents.

According to an astounding item by Chris Brennan in today's Philadelphia Daily News: Corbett was so incensed by a Feb. 2 article in the Bucks County Courier Times, in which Rep. John Galloway accused him of "playing politics," that he sent agents to Galloway's office the day the story appeared.

Corbett mouthpiece Kevin Harley would not confirm that Corbett himself dispatched the agents, but Corbett had confronted Galloway in the Capitol about the article shortly before the visit.

Hilariously, Harley defended the intimidation tactics, saying Corbett's office takes it seriously when someone suggests he is missing evidence of corruption.

That interview must have taken place before the Orie scandal revealed that Corbett isn't just missing evidence of corruption, but deliberately ignoring it.

Even as the agents were making their way to Galloway's office, a county grand jury in Pittsburgh was investigating evidence of corruption against Sen. Jane Orie - evidence that Corbett not only refused to investigate when it was brought to his attention, but which his own "investigation" of the Senate Republicans should have uncovered months earlier.

By the time Corbett's goons visited Galloway, three months had passed since Corbett gave the brush-off to the Orie intern who tried to report her suspicions.

Galloway joins former candidate for Attorney General John Morganelli and conservative political consultant Jeff Coleman in having been attacked by Corbett's team for statements that turned out to be all too true.

Attorney Matt Haverstick, who represents dozens of immunized informants to Corbett's grand juries, wigged out in December when Coleman suggested on PCN that Senate Republicans were misusing state resources for campaign activity. Just a little over three months later, Senate Republican Orie was charged with misusing state resources for campaign activity.

House Republican Leader Sam Smith in December 2008 threatened to sue Morganelli over his suggestions that Corbett's long delay in initiating an investigation against House Republicans might result in destruction of evidence. Eleven months later, House Republicans were indicted on charges of destruction of evidence.

We've heard some breathtaking tales of abuse of office out of the Office of Attorney General over the last three years, but this takes the cake. Sending agents of the state to intimidate critics?

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The Democratic candidates for Governor may be too cowed to criticize the opponent with the power to prosecute them, but Jonathan Saidel has set the bar for fortitude among candidates for Lieutenant Governor.

"If Attorney General Tom Corbett was on trial for politicizing the office that the people of Pennsylvania entrusted him to hold, he would be looking a guilty verdict square in the eye," Saidel said. "Attorney General Corbett had the opportunity to boldly show his non-partisan credentials by taking up the case against Senator Orie, a high profile Republican leader from his home county. Instead, he did nothing to give us faith in his impartiality."

While many have called for Corbett to resign to avoid a conflict of interest, Saidel is among the first to acknowledge that it's too late or that. The Orie scandal is a "partisan outrage,"

Conflict of interest is no longer something we can call on Corbett to avoid; he's waist-deep in it and sinking fast.

"It is clear that he cannot keep partisan political considerations from influencing the serious work the Attorney General has to do for the people of our Commonwealth," Saidel said.

"The statue of Lady Justice in Tom Corbett’s office is only blind in one eye.


From the very beginning of his bonusgate investigation Gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett has begged state legislative staffers to give his office a call to report any illegal campaign activity by their bosses:
"...Corbett said whistle blowers or a smoking gun will be needed to prove a public corruption case, which is notoriously difficult without direct witness testimony, e-mails or other evidence to show a clear link. ‘People have to come forward,’ Corbett said Friday night. ‘We need evidence. If people have evidence, pick up the phone and call. Come and see my agents.’" (Patriot News 2/12/07)
Yet, when a whistle-blower does just that, Corbett's office ignores her. Here is his exceedingly lame excuse:
"Before going to the district attorney, the former intern who blew the whistle on Sen. Orie first called the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, who's running for governor as a Republican. Corbett said the receptionist at his office referred the intern to the district attorney's office. 'For some reason, it did not get reported to our criminal division at that point in time,' Corbett said. 'And when we finally did learn of it, the district attorney's office was already running with it.'" (WTAE TV 4/7/10)
That is absurd! The idea that a "receptionist" makes decisions about possible illegal activity and makes referrals is utterly and unequivocably absurd. This is how Corbett runs the Office of Attorney General? A whistle-blower calls in about alleged criminal activity (that has been in the front pages and television newscasts for over two years) and a receptionist declines to take the case? It doesn't even pass the bare minimum smell test.

Corbett needs to answer some very serious questions about his "investigation" of the Republican State Senate Caucus.

After reading in yesterday's presentment how Orie maintained political material on the Senate Republican servers well after Corbett's investigation allegedly began, Patriot-News columnist Laura Vescey asks a very good question:
"If the Bonusgate probe did what the Attorney General’s office said—that is, probed all four caucuses of the state legislature—how come Senate Republican computers were allegedly still storing campaign files?" ("Orie indictment could raise questions about Corbett's probe" 4/7/10)
State Democratic Party Chairman asks even more bluntly:
"Whether or not an Allegheny County Grand Jury has indicted Sen. Jane Orie, as published reports have indicated it has, the public is entitled to know why Corbett's office apparently refused to investigate the allegations against her. Furthermore, it's curious that an investigation by the county District Attorney apparently discovered allegations of wrongdoing that Corbett's investigation overlooked." (Press Release 4/7/08)
We're looking forward to Corbett's answers.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Most of the allegations of illegal campaign activity contained in the grand jury presentment against Sen. Jane Orie are pretty banal. It does take a hilarious turn when Orie starts to think she might get caught and tries to gaslight her staffers.

But for the most part what went on in Orie's office went on in most legislative offices. The difference is that it all stopped in January of 2007, after Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett announced he was investigating electioneering in all four caucuses.

But at least one Senate Republican kept on keepin' on, almost as though she knew the Corbett campaign would look the other way.

To us, the most interesting portion of the Orie presentment is what happened after intern Jennifer Knapp Rioja tried to report her suspicions to the Corbett campaign:

"Rioja was told by the person with whom she spoke at the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General that her complaint should be directed instead to the Office of the District Attorney of Allegheny County."

Here's Corbett in the Patriot-News in February of 2008, begging the public to do exactly what Rioja tried to do: "People have to come forward. We need evidence. If people have evidence, pick up the phone and call. Come and see my agents."

And here's Corbett on PCN in January 2009: "As we obtain additional information, we always consider other charges against other individuals. And, that being the case, I would suggest to you, Larry, if you do have that information you forward it to the office of attorney general ... I can get very tired when I hear these people complain about that we haven’t charged other individuals if they have information and they haven’t passed it along. So, I’m going to urge you, Larry, to pass that information along.”

It's obvious that the Corbett campaign simply has not been conducting any sort of investigation of Senate Republicans for the last 3 1/2 years. News that Senate Republicans had been subpoenaed for records was leaked in February of 2008. According to the Orie presentment, Orie's campaign material resided on caucus servers until November 2009. If the Corbett campaign were looking, there's no way they wouldn't have found it. Ergo, they weren't looking.

According to the Orie presentment, staff and former staff clamored to reveal what they knew about illegal campaign activity in Orie's office after word leaked out about the investigation. If the Corbett campaign had interviewed a single one of these staffers, there's no way they wouldn't have heard what they eventually told the Allegheny County grand jury. Ergo, they never interviewed the staffers.

It's disturbing that the Corbett campaign has been lying about investigating the Senate Republicans. Really, really disturbing. But what's even more disturbing is that Orie clearly knew that Corbett wasn't investigating the caucus, or she never would have been so brazen.

We at CasablancaPA often chide the Capitol press corps for their laziness and gullibility. But, if they let Corbett slide on this one, they are guilty of nothing less than participating in conspiracy to obstruct the truth.


Republican State Senator Dave Argall's congressional bid against incumbent Democrat Tim Holden may have some explosive problems hidden away.

First, the bonusgate trial of Mike Veon showed that gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett is doggedly determined to arrest and prosecute legislators who use their legislative contingency accounts to purchase meals without making a corresponding decrease in the daily legislative per diem they collect.

Will Corbett arrest Argall for "double-dipping" over $10,000 using his Republican Whip contingency account between 2005 and 2008? CasablancaPA was provided the comparison of Argall's contingency account expenditures for meals and the days he collected a per diem. Check it out for yourself here.

Second, a grand jury has uncovered rampant political activity in Senator Jane Orie's taxpayer funded offices on behalf of Orie's sister's Supreme Court campaign last year ("Grand jury accuses state Sen. Jane Orie" Post Gazette 4/6/10) that appeared to be directed by her sister's campaign manager, Mike Long. ("Sister's use of Orie office for election denied" Tribune Review 12/30/09)

Mike Long is also running Argall's congressional campaign and we wonder if he has been advising Argall to use his taxpayer funded offices, too? ("Argall declares for Congress" Capitol Ideas 1/11/10)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


It's not official, but Rep. Mike Vereb may be the first Republican across the starting line when it comes to ridiculous whining about partisan persecution in the possibly pending indictment of Sen. Jane Orie.

Thanks to an eagle-eyed commenter for pointing out a couple of particularly savory "Tweets" from Vereb's feed:

"amazing how a source can tell KDKA that SenOrie will be indicted. Hire Lou Denaples attorneys to find out the leak, it worked for him."

"Never once was there a grand jury leak in bonusgate, just speculation. But not in this case, I wonder why ??"

Never once? Never once?? Did your keyboard sputter to a halt in protest of having to produce such a profoundly ignorant statement, Mike?

As our eagle-eyed commenter noted, CasablancaPA catalogued a deluge of leaks that gushed from Corbett campaign's grand jury investigation of House Democrats.

Here's what has Vereb's panties in a bunch: "The grand jury's findings are expected to become public sometime this week, according to sources close to the case. Charges are expected against both Ms. Orie and one other person who is not believed to be a member of her staff." (Post-Gazette, 4/6/10)

And here are the reports that Vereb apparently slept through:

"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, sources said. (Post-Gazette, 7/10/08)

"A statewide grand jury investigation into public corruption, spawned by a once-secret $3.6 million bonus program controlled by legislative leaders, could result in criminal charges within weeks, perhaps even days." (Tribune-Review, 6/25/08)

Not to mention:

"More than 80 e-mails obtained by the Post-Gazette show ..." (Post-Gazette, 6/15/08)

"Establishing a case ... became more difficult, said sources close to the probe..." (Post-Gazette, 5/11/08)

"In addition to testimony, the Attorney General has obtained multiple in-house e-mails ..." (Post-Gazette, 6/15/08)

"Sources familiar with the probe said state investigators in recent weeks have issued subpoenas for records ... " (Patriot-News, 3/30/08)

"A grand jury ... recently issued a fresh round of subpoenas to House leaders." (Inquirer, 3/8/08)

"The messages, obtained by the Post-Gazette..." (Post-Gazette, 12/16/07)

"Reever is one of three House Democratic staffers ordered to testify this week before the grand jury..." (Tribune-Review, 12/13/07)

"A grand jury has issued subpoenas to more employees...." (Morning Call, 12/8/07)

"...documents were shredded as a grand jury investigation was under way late this summer, according to several independent Capitol sources." (Tribune-Review, 11/21/07)

"...the state grand jury has subpoenaed six more legislative staffers ... sources with knowledge of the inquiry said." (Inquirer, 10/14/07)

"Sources close to the investigation say Mr. LaGrotta likely will be charged with ethics violations..." (Post-Gazette, 10/7/07)

"As many as 100 people are expected to be called before the grand jury, a source close to the investigation told the Post-Gazette." (Post-Gazette, 9/21/07)

"One person familiar with the raid said..." ((Post-Gazette, 9/30/07)

"Two sources, one of whom received a subpoena and another with close ties to the law enforcement community, confirmed that witnesses have been called to appear before a grand jury ..." (Tribune-Review, 4/12/07)

Never once a leak from the grand jury! Never once!

Does Mike Vereb actually think that this:

"The grand jury's findings are expected to become public sometime this week, according to sources close to the case." not precisely identical to this?

"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, sources said"

Or is it more likely that he believes in a double standard when it comes to the prosecution of Republicans versus Democrats?

Someone in the House Democratic Caucus must be praying Voltaire's very short and only prayer: "O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Not that anyone will bother to ask the Corbett campaign, but if Jane Orie is indicted this week, as KDKA reports tonight, how will Tom Corbett explain how his three-year investigation missed what District Attorney Stephen Zappala's found in just five months?

How will he explain why the prosecutorial arm of his campaign refused to investigate when an intern tried to report the questionable activity? ("Ex-Orie intern:'I knew I had to do something'" Post-Gazette 1/6/10)

How will he explain why Orie apparently felt free to engage in questionable campaign activities in 2009 despite a supposedly active and ongoing investigation of the Senate Republican Caucus?

Just what kind of investigation can he have been conducting when this sort of activity goes on right under his nose?

Despite the acquittal of Mike Veon and his co-defendants on a majority of the politically-motivated charges against them, the Veon prosecution has been paraded around Harrisburg as a sacred symbol that conduct like Orie's would Not Be Tolerated. Or, at least, that politicians would take more care in keeping up appearances.

But if intern Jennifer Knapp Rioja is telling the truth, Orie behaved as if she had nothing to fear. And Corbett's refusal to investigate her claims indicates Orie had good reason to believe it.

It's easy to understand why Orie mistakenly believed the Corbett campaign was the last word in law enforcement in Pennsylvania, since that's how the Capitol press corps has treated it.

But it appears that they - and she - were wrong. Wonder what else they've been wrong about?

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Forgery. Perjury. Tampering with records. Identity theft.

In a just world, the chairman of the Upper Darby Republican Party and at least one of his cronies would be facing those charges. As the Philadelphia Daily News reported today, chairman John F. McNichol listed himself as the circulator on Tom Corbett gubernatorial petitions, containing hundreds of signatures, that actually were circulated by Steve Valero. ("Can Corbett be unbiased in probe of Delco nominating petitions?" Daily News, 4/3/10)

That's illegal and Corbett should be leading the way in bringing charges against McNichol.

But we don't live in a just world. We live in Tom Corbett's world.

In Tom Corbett's world, Democrats are prosecuted for petition fraud ("Ex-Pa. lawmaker, aide plead in election fraud case" AP, 8/5/08), while Republicans who do the very same thing are not. ("Challenger accuses Gingrich of forging nominating papers" Lebanon Daily News, 3/20/08)

Just last month, the District Attorney right there in Delaware County, where McNichol and Valero blithely committed their fraud, appears willing to prosecute a Republican. ("District judge faces charges in forged signatures" Philly Daily News 3/30/10) (Perhaps it's worth noting that he's a former Democrat, and he was trying to get on the Democratic ballot)

Will Corbett do the same?

It is highly unlikley. Corbett's reputation for allowing his Republican cronies to skate on issues for which Democrats are prosecuted is so pervasive, the Daily News reporter opens today's story with skepticism: "Can state Attorney General Tom Corbett's agents conduct an impartial investigation of Delaware County GOP officials who submitted nominating petitions for Corbett's gubernatorial campaign?"

If past is prologue, the answer is no.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Since his election to the State House in 2006, Congressional candidate Bryan Lentz has had a front row seat for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett's transparent show of political expediency when deciding whether or not to investigate fellow Republicans. We're guessing that is why he is calling on the US Department of Justice to investigate his opponent's apparent nominating petition chicanery. ("Meehan opponent asks feds to probe forged petitions" Philadelphia Daily News, 4/2/10)

Lentz is well aware of Corbett's proven selective priorities when it comes to investigating petition irregularities. He watched Corbett use his state-wide grand jury to investigate ("Former lawmaker from Erie target of grand jury inquiry" Post-Gazette 11/4/07) and prosecute his Democratic colleague, Linda Bebko-Jones for her illegal petition gathering methods ("Ex-Pa. lawmaker, aide plead in election fraud case" AP, 8/5/08)

Yet, when Corbett was presented with extensive evidence of Republican State Representative Mauree Gingrich's petition irregularities, he ignored it outright. ("Challenger accuses Gingrich of forging nominating papers" Lebanon Daily News, 3/20/08)

Lentz knows he can't depend on impartial justice when Corbett's taxpayer funded political mouthpiece Kevin Harley says "We will conduct a criminal investigation and follow it wherever the evidence leads." ("Lentz seeks federal probe of Meehan's ballot petitions" Inquirer, 4/2/10)

After all, Corbett has shown repeatedly that he will ignore GOP misdeeds in order to further his political ambitions, especially when potential targets are campaign donors or political allies.

Oh, and don't think for a minute that State Representative John Perzel didn't blow his chance at avoiding the investigation that resulted in his ultimate arrest when the subject of the gubernatorial campaign came up during a highly improper meeting with Corbett and his taxpayer funded campaign manager, Brian Nutt, in 2007 while an active investigation of the state legislature was under way. ("Corbett guv run tainted by conflict of interest charges?" Philadelphia Daily News 11/12/09) Perzel is rumored to have plenty to say in upcoming court filings about what Corbett asked of him in regard to his gubernatorial bid and what Perzel refused to do in exchange for a wink and a nod.

Lentz is making a smart move in his effort to have an impartial investigation of Meehan's petitions. Corbett has proven over and over and over he won't touch those who have helped or can help or will help his political aspirations.