Saturday, April 10, 2010
ORIE & DEWEESE: PARTNERS IN INFAMY
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.