Friday, August 27, 2010
Bill DeWeese is accused of using taxpayer funds to employ a full-time political fund-raiser, Kevin Sidella, and directing his taxpayer-funded staff to work on his own campaigns.
Steve Stetler is accused of using taxpayer funds to employ a full-time political fund-raiser, Erin Madison, and directing taxpayer-funded caucus staffers to conduct opposition research on political candidates.
The charges were recommended in separate grand jury presentments (DeWeese presentment, Stetler presentment). Neither is accused in participating in the alleged criminal activity of the other. Prosecutors do not allege that Stetler was involved in the employment of Sidella, or in directing DeWeese's staff to work on DeWeese's campaigns. Neither do they allege that DeWeese was involved in directing legislative staff to work on opposition research for other candidates, or in the employment of Erin Madison. They are not charged in the same "criminal episodes," to use Deputy AG Marc Constanzo's term.
Trying DeWeese and Stetler together makes as much legal sense as trying either one of them together with John Perzel, who also is accused of using taxpayer funds for political purposes.
One thing the Stetler and DeWeese cases do have in common is that both were charged only after Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett was embarrassed by public revelations that he ignored evidence against them.
So why does Corbett want to join the two cases? Because he hopes that linking the cases will confuse voters into thinking DeWeese is charged in the caucus-wide activities at the center of "Bonusgate."
After Corbett's inaction on evidence against Stetler was revealed, the eventual charges were based on that same evidence.
Not so with DeWeese.
DeWeese was not charged in connection with bonuses, despite e-mails showing he knew about the bonuses, despite the testimony of his former top aide that he knew about the bonuses, and despite the testimony of his assistant that he approved the bonuses.
DeWeese was not charged with employing anyone other than Sidella based on political work, despite e-mails showing he based personnel decisions on political work.
DeWeese was not charged with directing state contractor Eric Buxton to do political work, despite e-mails showing DeWeese directed Buxton to do political work, and aides Sidella and Tom Andrews directed Buxton to do political work. (Corbett blatantly acknowledged this transgression in the presentment against the original 12 defendants, noting, DeWeese "always communicated with Buxton through his campaign account.")
He is not charged with directing staff other than Sidella and his district office staff to do political work, despite e-mails showing he actively supervised caucus staff working on campaigns through the House Democratic Campaign Committee.
Corbett has never explained his failure to charge DeWeese in the caucus-wide activities, instead hoping that the charges related to Sidella and his district office employees would distract the public.
As we have noted before, 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.
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.
Corbett won't say whether his failure to charge DeWeese in the scandal is related to DeWeese's decision to drop the legal challenges and turn over evidence implicating others.
And he's hoping no one will ask.