Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Does Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett raise any money from people he's not supposed to be investigating?
We know it's an old habit dating back to his prosecution of Jeff Habay. He was caught again soliciting Steve Stetler while Stetler was under investigation. He allowed former House Republican chief of staff Brian Preski to host a fund-raiser while the caucus was under investigation for the period when Preski ran the caucus. PA Turnpike Vice-Chairman Tim Carson also hosted a fund-raiser, even though Corbett is actively investigating the Turnpike. And most recently, he solicited indicted Rep. John Perzel - at his Capitol office, no less.
Despite the fact that Corbett declared contributions from legislators off-limits, it turns out that campaign cash can be safely laundered through the coffers of his running mate, Jim Cawley.
According to Capitolwire, "Cawley’s campaign finance reports also show more than $104,000 in contribution since the May primary from state lawmakers – a group from whom Cawley’s running mate has declined to accept contributions.
"Most of those funds came through two donations of $50,000 apiece – one from Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, and another from the Senate Republican Campaign Committee."
Y'all know, not a single member or staffer from the Senate Republican Caucus has been tarnished in Corbett's never-ending investigation of the legislature, despite the fact that the Senate Republicans handed out the largest individual bonuses - much of it to staffers who spent half the year working on political campaigns.
Although Corbett claimed he had no idea lawmakers were contributing to Cawley, "Drew Crompton, Scarnati’s chief of staff, said there was 'an acknowledgement' from the Corbett camp that a contribution from Scarnati to Cawley would not be returned."
Crompton also said Scarnati was “more than happy to give to his campaign,” and that Cawley has participated in events with various Senate Republican candidates. Some mailers also have been printed that list Senate candidates as well as the governor and lieutenant governor. The contribution toward Cawley’s campaign expenses recognizes those “shared efforts,” Crompton said.
That's Drew Crompton, taxpayer-funded legislative employee, acting as campaign spokesman for Scarnati and other Senate Republican candidates.
That would be the same Drew Crompton who received a nearly $20,000 taxpayer-funded bonus in a year when he spent most of his time working on Lynn Swann's failed gubernatorial campaign.
Need we point out that the Senate Republican Campaign Committee also represents Sen. Jane Orie, whom Corbett steadfastly refused to indict despite the fact she allegedly ran a campaign operation out of her district office right under the nose of Corbett's staff during his alleged investigation?
Kudos to Capitolwire for practicing actual journalism among the usually-compliant Capitol Stenographers Corps. But with less than a week until Election Day, it's too little, too late.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
"We, too, are concerned at the length of time this process is taking. If this goes much further Corbett risks being accused of using it to launch what many expect will be a gubernatorial bid in 2010." (Patriot-News, 7/12/09)
"The investigation is not completed." (Tom Corbett, Gubernatorial Debate, 10/16/10)
"We endorse Corbett." (Patriot-News, 10/17/10)
Monday, October 18, 2010
In a surprise reversal of position, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett said Saturday that he would not consider making workers contribute more of their paychecks to help the state repay a $3 billion loan from Washington to cover the cost of unemployment benefits. (Allentown Morning Call, 10/16/10)
The Morning Call has a really low threshold for surprise. Next, they'll be reporting that the sun surprisingly rose this morning.
Ol' "Weather Vane" Corbett routinely changes direction with the slightest gust of wind.
For years, advocates begged Corbett to investigate questionable decisions by the Hershey Trust board of trustees, including a shady real estate deal that benefited a trustee. As recently as a few weeks ago, Corbett belittled their concerns and called their allegations "nothing new." Then, poof! a front-page story in the Inquirer spun him in the opposite direction, and suddenly he's announcing an investigation.
After a former aide to then-chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee Steve Stetler testified in July 2008 to a grand jury that Stetler authorized campaign work by legislative employees on state time, Corbett was perfectly content to let it slide. He even allowed Stetler to ignore a subpoena with no consequences.
A year later, the Post-Gazette revealed the aide's testimony and the Tribune-Review the subpoena. In short order, Stetler was facing indictment.
After nearly two years of investigation, Corbett saw no need to indict Rep. H. William DeWeese, despite evidence of his complicity in awarding bonuses for campaign work, use of a state-paid contractor for campaign work, and supervising staff working on campaigns around the state.
Although Corbett never did charge DeWeese for his involvement in the caucus-wide activities at the center of Bonusgate, public revelations of the evidence put enough pressure on Corbett that he - whoosh! - finally dredged up a separate case
Charging Republicans in connection with Bonusgate was so far from Corbett's mind in the summer and fall of 2007 - in the thick of his investigation of House Democrats - that he allowed the House Republicans to replace all their computers. He thought nothing of meeting privately, with no attorneys present, with the Republican former House Speaker John Perzel. A fund-raiser hosted by the former chief of staff of the caucus he was supposed to be investigating? No problem!
But then editorial pages started throwing around phrases like "if not corruption then certainly politicking," (Lebanon Daily News)," and ""skepticism about his impartiality," (Allentown Morning Call) and "politics creeps into everything," (Harrisburg Patriot-News), and even fellow Republican Sen. John Eichelberger called the investigation "a joke," creating enough gust to airlift Corbett into Republican indictments.
It's not surprising for Corbett to "reverse position" ("I use two phones! No, one phone! Two! One! No, definitely two!" ... "We won't campaign on Bonusgate! No, we will campaign on Bonusgate!" ... "A fee is a tax! It's a fee, not a tax!)
What's surprising is that he gets away with it.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
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.