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 doubt...it 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.