Saturday, October 9, 2010
CORBETT: INVESTIGATING POLITICAL ALLIES IS UNETHICAL! - I MEAN, OK, IF IT HELPS MY CAMPAIGN!
Time for another quiz! What do legislative Republicans and two Republican District Attorneys have in common with The Hershey Trust?
The investigative arm of the Tom Corbett for Governor campaign announced this week it is investigating the Hershey Trust - more than four years after its purchase of a failing golf course, for as much as triple its value. The purchase directly benefited a trustee who was an investor in the club.
Activists have been begging Corbett to investigate the trust for this and other questionable decisions for six years.
It was only after a scathing front-page article appeared in the state's largest newspaper, a month before the gubernatorial election, that Corbett grudgingly announced he will investigate.
Watchdog group Protect the Hershey's Children called the announcement "political theater:"
“A month ago, the Attorney General issued a public statement belittling our concerns and calling PHC’s allegations ‘nothing new,’ just as he has done for six straight years. Now he claims that he was actually investigating at the time and asks us to believe that the timing of his ‘investigation’ has nothing to do with his election bid. This is political theater at its most absurd. We hope that Pennsylvania voters, Republican and Democrat alike, will see through this flimsy ruse.”
Why did candidate Corbett wait so many years to initiate an investigation?
For starters, the Chairman of the Board of the Hershey Trust is Republican former Pennsylvania Attorney General Leroy S. Zimmerman.
In January, Campaigns & Elections named Leroy Zimmerman one of the Top Republican Influencers in Pennsylvania. PoliticsPA describes GOP fundraiser Zimmerman as "a power broker in Central Pennsylvania" who "contributes heavily to state and national Republicans."
Zimmerman, who earns $500,000 a year as Chairman, isn't the only prominent Republican raking in Hershey School-related dough. According to the Inquirer, Philadelphia investment manager James Nevels was compensated $325,359 on two Hershey-related boards. Former Gov. Tom Ridge earns $200,000 a year on the Hershey Co. board, and former gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann makes $100,000 a year on the board of the company that operates Hersheypark.
So, once again, candidate Corbett finds himself in the position of "investigating" political allies accused of wrongdoing. But, again - only after negative publicity forced his hand.
News that Corbett had subpoenaed House Republicans was leaked only after Capitolwire and Morning Call editorials questioned Corbett's partisanship in the Bonusgate investigation. Only after Corbett's opponent in the Attorney General race accused Corbett of conflicts of interest did news emerge of Senate Republican subpoenas.
News that that Republican staff had been interviewed appeared only after a Patriot-News analysis mused, "Is state bonus probe partisan?" Governor Rendell called on Corbett to come clean about investigations of Republicans, and the Chambersburg Public Opinion agreed with Rendell.
Even though Corbett and his taxpayer-funded political operatives are savvy enough to create the illusion of "investigating" political allies, such investigations rarely amount to much: Corbett exonerated Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins of a rape accusation. Accusations of malfeasance and misconduct against York County District Attorney Stan Rebert "did not warrant any charges." And state Senator Jane Orie allegedly continued to direct a campaign operation out of her district office with impunity even as Corbett claimed to be investigating the Senate Republican Caucus.
What does Corbett think of a prosecutor investigating his own political allies? It's "unethical!" It creates "the appearance of impropriety!" It's an "ethical conflict" and a prosecutor who does it should apologize for "the appearance that the top law enforcement office in Pennsylvania is for sale in exchange for political and legal favors."
But that's only when someone else does it.