Tuesday, May 11, 2010
WILL DEWEESE GET THE FINAL DOUBLE CROSS?
Perhaps now that Mike Veon's trial is over, everyone can stop pretending that anyone ever claimed "everyone did it," as a legal defense and take a good long look at why Tom Corbett chose the targets he chose.
If things had gone the way Corbett had planned, the original 12 Bonusgate indictments would have been the only Bonusgate indictments. No one who's paying attention believes the indictments of Steve Stetler, Bill DeWeese, and the John Perzel gang were anything but damage control (so far, extremely effective damage control).
If things had gone the way Corbett had planned, the only sitting member of the legislature indicted would have been a sophomore rank-and-filer who just happened to be the Democratic front-runner for a competitive state Senate seat. He wasn't even charged in the caucus-wide political activities at the center of Bonusgate, and he was acquitted of all charges.
Corbett spent a year and a half building a case that state legislative resources were systematically misused to elect Democrats to the House, and decided that not a single sitting elected official was responsible.
The sole person with the authority to spend caucus funds was not responsible.
The chairman of the caucus campaign committee was not responsible.
The operations chair of the campaign committee was not responsible.
The dozens of elected officials whose names appeared on documents presented as evidence of the scheme were not responsible.
Somehow, the only elected official who could be held responsible was no longer in office, could not cast a vote in the legislature, held no influence in state government and just happened to be the poster boy for an unpopular legislative pay raise.
How convenient for a future governor.
How utterly unbelievable. Corbett misjudged exactly how unbelievable, but only by a little.
Because Corbett had no clue how the legislature operates, it didn't occur to him that the case he'd spent a year and a half constructing was impossible without the imprimatur of one man: H. William DeWeese.
That DeWeese was criminally involved was so obvious to those who knew more about the legislature than Corbett (i.e., everyone), his impending arrest was simply assumed. E-mails and testimony demonstrating DeWeese's culpability weren't interpreted as evidence of a blunder on Corbett's part, but simply as harbingers of DeWeese's eventual indictment.
That indictment never came. Despite clear evidence of DeWeese's involvement in awarding bonuses for campaign work, directing state employees to conduct opposition research and petition challenges and using a state contractor for political work, DeWeese never was charged for any of it.
It's clear how he escaped indictment. DeWeese paid for his passage by dropping his legal challenges against Corbett's inquiry, and handing over a silver platter of hand-selected evidence against his former colleagues.
And Corbett had to see the advantage of having a sitting majority leader so deeply in his debt.
What's less clear is why that escape hasn't raised more eyebrows. Corbett gambled that charging DeWeese in a handful of lesser crimes would divert attention from DeWeese's free pass on Bonusgate. And it worked (so far).
But the red-herring charges against DeWeese represent an even dicier gamble for Corbett. For DeWeese to admit he was double-crossed would be to admit that he was culpable in the first place. Although he came dangerously close to that admission by taking the Fifth in the Veon trial, DeWeese still has a political image to uphold. But if he loses re-election, all bets could be off.