Thursday, December 22, 2011

"STRETCH YOUR IMAGINATION"

Former Deputy Attorney General, now Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington must have a very vivid imagination.  One that can stretch into some seriously conflicted spaces when asked by his old boss, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett.

Apparently, when an institution that's being investigated pays the legal bills for withesses in the investigation, the investigation can be compromised. But only sometimes.

This week Blessington was wringing his hands over the way the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has inserted itself into the investigation of child molestation involving its priests by asking everyone involved to check in with Church attorneys before communicating with the Philly DA probe:

"Blessington told Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina that the request posed a conflict because the lawyers, Robert Welsh and Catherine Recker, were being paid by the archdiocese while advising potential witnesses whose testimony could hurt the church and its leaders.  He said the lawyers want to sit in on all meetings between the employees and law enforcement. 'You don't have to stretch your imagination to see the chilling effect that will have,' Blessington said." (Inquirer 12/18/11)

"...Welsh's representation of at least four employees whose testimony could hurt the church and its leaders poses a clear conflict of interest, as the archdiocese is paying his legal bills, Blessington maintained." (Inquirer 12/22/12)

Blessington's and his boss, Seth Williams', position seems to make sense.  Whistle blowers and other witnesses who get their legal bills paid by the Church could have a very large conflict of interest regardless of what the Church says:

"We want these people to cooperate because it's in the archdiocese's benefit," [Archdiocese attorney Robert Welsh] said. "We stand here today eager to bring them in to talk to the D.A. They are going to provide compelling testimony." (Inquirer 12/22/11)

Blessington really had to "stretch his imagination" then, when he was working as a Deputy Attorney General under Tom Corbett's supposed investigation of the Pennsylvania State Senate...another influential organization in Pennsylvania.  The  Senate GOP's response to the "Bonusgate" investigation is exactly the same as the Church's response:

"Senate Republicans 'have done everything possible to cooperate with the Attorney General's office,' said the statement from Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County...A law firm the caucus hired interviewed 55 current and former caucus employees and provided the information learned in those interviews to the attorney general. The Senate Republicans have paid $2.5 million for outside legal fees in the bonus investigation.No one has been subpoenaed, said Senate GOP spokesman Erik Arneson." (Tribune-Review 9/13/11)

Everyone in Harrisburg knows that the Senate GOP was just as politically active using taxpayer resources as the other caucuses swept up in Corbett's investigation. Yet, there has yet to be a single indictment in the Senate GOP, let alone an aggressive investigation. No subpoenaed witnesses? Not even Mike Long, the man who received the single largest amount of legislative bonus money (Tribune Review 2/1/07) or Drew Crompton, who raised eyebrows after receiving a $20,000 bonus for working months on Lynn Swann's campaign in 2006 (Tribune Review 2/4/07)?

Corbett's alleged four-caucus investigation of the Pennsylvania General Assembly has been a joke.  Very powerful Republican allies (past and present) have been given a complete pass.  If it weren't so disgusting, we would get a chuckle out of Corbett's  banana-republic-level of brazenness. It doesn't take much stretching to see how crooked it's all been.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

LIES, DAMNED LIES AND STATISTICS ABOUT CORBETT'S CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS

We can't take it anymore.

Earlier this month, the Patriot-News falsely reported that Tom Corbett "refused any campaign contribution that had a state lawmaker’s name attached."

Now, Philadelphia Magazine repeats the lie in Patrick Kerkstra's column, saying Corbett "eschewed campaign donations from state lawmakers, lest it taint his Bonusgate investigation."

This is pure prevarication. Senate Republicans gave Corbett's campaign at least $90,000.

Here's how they did it:  Senator Joe Scarnati gave $50,000 to Corbett's running mate, Jim Cawley, who gave $40,000 of it to Bob Asher's PAC, Pennsylvania Future Fund, which gave $36,000 directly to Corbett.  Meanwhile, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee gave $50,000 to Cawley. Cawley gave the $50,000 to the state Republican Party, which spent nearly every contribution it received on Corbett's campaign. Asher's PAC also gave $5,000 to the state party days after receiving Cawley's contribution.

These contributions are not easily explained away.  The $50,000 from Scarnati and the $50,000 from SRCC are not only the largest contributions Cawley received, they're among the only significantly large contributions he received. And contributions to the state party and Asher's PAC are among the largest contributions Cawley gave.

The same pattern of contributions was nowhere to be found in Lt. Gov. candidate Jim Matthews campaign finance reports from 2006.

A few media outlets reported the Senate Republicans' contributions to Cawley, but not how Cawley directed the contributions to Corbett. Not that contributions to Cawley should be considered anything other than contributions to Corbett.

Furthermore, Corbett allowed former House Republican Chief of Staff Brian Preski to contribute to his campaign and host a fund-raiser in December of 2007.  When confronted, Corbett claimed "we didn't have all the facts in front of us"  .... because it was a big secret that Preski was Chief of Staff.

If a Democratic politician had been the beneficiary of such financial shenanigans, legislative Republicans would be denouncing him from the rooftops, and the Capitol Stenographers Corps would be dutifully lapping up every indignant word.

Need we remind anyone that Corbett never subpoenaed a single witness from the Senate Republican Caucus during his politically-motivated investigation of the legislature and overlooked clear evidence of illegal campaigning in a Senate Republican office?

Caught red-handed accepting lawmakers' contributions through his running mate, Corbett claimed ignorance, but Scarnati's Chief of Staff, Drew Crompton (Swann campaign aide and recipient of a $20,000 taxpayer-funded bonus) ratted him out, saying, there was 'an acknowledgement' from the Corbett camp that a contribution from Scarnati to Cawley would not be returned."

By the way, both the Patriot-News and Philadelphia Magazine were presented with the facts of Cawley's finance reports, and both have chosen to ignore them.

THICK AS THIEVES

This is what we know about the Orie sisters.

Senator Jane Orie used her taxpayer funded office and staff for her re-election campaigns.  Read the presentment here.

Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin used her taxpayer funded office and staff for her political campaigns going back twenty years.  Read the presentment here.

What do the two have in common beyond their penchant for illegally using taxpayer funded resources and a family connection?

They use the same political consultant, former State Senate GOP political guru Mike Long.  The man who received the single largest amount of legislative bonus money (Tribune Review 2/1/07)  The man universally recognized for his political activism and for doing it while at work as a state senate employee.  Read a few excerpts here.  Oh, and the man gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett's supposedly four caucus investigation has yet to indict...mainly because not a single Senate staff person was subpoenaed by gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett. (Tribune Review 9/13/11)

It is humorous to see how closely related the scandal plagued Orie family is to the one un-indicted person all of Harrisburg continues to scratch their heads over.  Check it out for yourself -- here's Senator Orie paying LN Consulting for her primary campaign and here's the Senate Republican Campaign Committee paying LN Consulting for her general election mailings.  Here's Justice Melvin paying Commonwealth Campaigns for her campaign efforts in 2009.

Is there anything wrong with these arrangements between the Ories and Long?  We guess not.

Although, given that no one in the Democratic Party has questioned Corbett over his non-existent investigation of the Senate, it is incredible to see the handiwork of Long on behalf of the sisters, especially the aggressive nature of calling into question the motives of a prosecutor (and paid for by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, no less).  Hat tip to the blog North Pittsburgh Politics for posting this assortment of Long's work for Senator Orie calling Allegheny County District Attorney Steve Zappalla corrupt here, here and here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

IF NOT YOU, THEN WHO?

Many CasablancaPA readers have been asking us what's up with the Pennsylvania Democratic Party's silence on the explosive revelations found in Friday's grand jury presentment revealing the massive amount of illegal campaign work ordered by Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.  If you haven't had a chance to read it, check it out here.  It rivals everything found in the bonusgate presentments from 2008 and 2009.

Why is there no call for her immediate resignation?  There is no gray area when it comes to judicial staff and resources being used for political purposes.  It is strictly verboten.  Judicial staff can't even volunteer for political campaigns.  Period.  (Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, In Re: Prohibited Political Activity By Court Appointed Employees)


The only comment from any sort of Democratic leader is found today in the Tribune Review, and it is a desultory shrug:

"State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin's name appears more often in a recent grand jury report than the report's target, her sister Janine Orie. Testimony in the report suggests Melvin, whose 2009 election gave Republicans a one-vote majority on a court that could determine the shape of Pennsylvania's congressional districts, could become ensnared in the widening criminal case against her sisters Janine, 57, her former aide, and Jane, 50, a Republican state senator from McCandless. Janine and Jane Orie are charged with using state-paid staff to perform campaign work. An Allegheny County grand jury presentment released last week includes testimony from one witness saying Melvin did the same thing. Melvin, 55, of Marshall, has not been charged...State House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, led the prosecution of Larsen in the Senate. Dermody declined to comment, but his spokesman, Bill Patton, said he's "closely following" the Ories' case." (Tribune Review 12/20/11)

The collective yawn from the Democratic Party so far is especially curious given how quickly many members of the House Democratic Caucus were so quick to call for then-Majority Leader Bill DeWeese to resign his post as caucus leader after the first bonusgate arrests were made in July of 2008.

There was now-Senator John Yudichak, Representatives Bill Keller, Dan Frankel (Capitolwire 7/16/08), Harry Readshaw (Capitolwire 7/17/08), Matt Smith (Post-Gazette 7/18/08), Josh Shapiro (Capitolwire 8/8/04), Eugene DePasquale (Capitol Ideas blog 8/6/08), Jesse White (Jesse White blog 8/6/08), Jared Gibbons (Beaver County Times 8/8/08), and, yes, even Frank Dermody. (Tribune Review 8/21/08)

Remember, DeWeese wasn't even mentioned in the first bonusgate presentment, and this was a year and a half before the presentment was handed down against him in December of 2009.  At the time all these calls for resignation were happening, DeWeese was less culpable according to the grand jury report than Orie Melvin has been shown to be in the two presentments released by Allegheny County District Attorney Steve Zappalla so far.

What's the hold up now?

Orie Melvin is part of the GOP establishment who has ripped away at efforts to reform health care, wants to strip collective bargaining rights away from workers, wants to end prevailing wage laws, make it harder to hold accountable big corporations who put profits over all else, gut public education, oh, and gave us the latest reapportionment maps.

And, it turns out that she used illegal methods to get onto the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in order to make rulings that will stick it to Pennsylvanians at every turn.

The time to act is now.  If someone in the Pennsylvania Democratic Party establishment doesn't call for Orie Melvin to resign, then no one else will.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"WELL, IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE IT..."

The hubub over the Penn State scandal preliminary hearings last week has overshadowed some very big and very important news.

In an explosive grand jury presentment issued Friday afternoon, Allegheny County District Attorney Steve Zappalla describes in great detail how Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin ran her political campaigns for nearly 20 years from her taxpayer funded judicial offices using her taxpayer funded judicial staff.  Most incredibly, the illegal activity occurred during her successful 2009 Supreme Court campaign...after the first "bonusgate" arrests in 2008.  You can read the entire presentment here.

The law is crystal clear.  At no time can judicial staff work on political campaigns, even as volunteers.  Period.  And, of course, as with all taxpayer offices, at no time are taxpayer funded judicial office space, material or equipment to be used on campaigns:

"And now, this 24th day of November, 1998, the prohibition against political activity by court-appointed employees is hereby reaffirmed..."partisan political activity" shall include, but is not limited to...working at a polling place on Election Day, performing volunteer work in a political campaign, solicitiing contributions for political campaigns..." (Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, In Re: Prohibited Political Activity By Court Appointed Employees)

Yet, Friday's grand jury presentment announcing further charges against Orie Melvin's sister, Janine, for directing the Judge's staff to work on the campaigns of her sister, showed blatant disregard for the law.  Make no mistake...Janine Orie wasn't a rogue element operating outside the Judge's knowledge.

On page after page of the presentment, grand jury witnesses describe how Orie Melvin directly ordered them to do campaign work, was in the presence of her judicial employees at campaign events, and even used judicial resources for her campaigns herself:

"Sasinoski also described a period of time in 2003 when she overheard Orie Melvin in her chambers on her office telephone soliciting multiple Republican committee people in furtherance of her own campaign for Supreme Court Justice.  Sasinoski stated that she knew that the judicial telephone within Orie Melvin's office had been used for these political contacts that she had overheard being done by Judge Orie Melvin because several months later she, Sasinoski, was berated by Janine Orie about the high telephone bills that had been incurred by the office; Janine blamed those high bills on Sasinoski and the other law clerks.  As a result of this chastisement, Sasinoski subsequently requested detailed billing records for those phone calls.  The records that were received displayed the billing in greater detail and those records reflected that the overwhelming majority of the additional billed calls were from both Orie Melvin's office extension and the additional telephone line that had been installed by the court at the residence of Orie Melvin.  Those billing records further indicated calls to telephone numbers across the state during the very same time period in which Orie Melvin had been overheard by Sasinoski as Orie Melvin telephoned various Republican committee people.  Sasinoski advised that there were between 280 and 400 committee people, and it was her understanding that Orie Melvin contacted each on of them during that time." (Pages 6 and 7)

When a staff person directly addressed all the illegal activity with Orie Melvin directly, that staff person was summarily fired:

"On a Monday in early December 2003 (after Orie Melvin's failed bid for a seat on the Supreme Court), Sasinoski approached Orie Melvin and told her that the political activities that had occurred in the office in the past need to cease, and that she (Sasinoski) could not do them anymore.  According to Sasinoski, Orie Melvin stated, 'Well, if you can't handle it...' then turned to answer an incoming telephone call.  Sasinoski then got up and left the office and went back to work...the following day, Sasinoski was directed by Janine to turn in her building ID card and her court ID, and to clear out her desk.  When asked why, Janine reportedly advised Sasinoski that she would need to talk to Orie Melvin...and her employment with Orie Melvin ceased at that time." (Page 9 and 10)

Friday's presentment is no different than those issued by gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett in 2008 and 2009 against members of the state legislature.  Last October, Pittsburgh television station WPXI ran a report that said Orie Melvin would be arrested for illegally using Senator Jane Orie's state legislative staff for her 2009 Supreme Court race. (WPXI 10/13/10) Now, this detailed expose of Orie Melvin's own staff being illegally used for her campaigns can only mean it is a matter of days before she is finally arrested.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"MY WHOLE PRACTICE DEPENDS ON OPERATING ETHICALLY AND TRANSPARENTLY"

"My whole practice depends on operating ethically and transparently." -- Bill Chadwick

Chadwick markets himself as an investigator above reproach, but he's functioned more as a shadowy "fixer" for two prominent Pennsylvania public officials while paid with taxpayer money.  Rather than impartially investigate, Chadwick has used taxpayer funds essentially to extricate his clients from sticky situations -- former Speaker Bill DeWeese during the "bonusgate" investigation and Chief Justice Ronald Castille in the ongoing Family Court building scandal.

In both cases, Chadwick has followed a nearly playbook-like pattern:

Step 1 -- "White hat" Chadwick hired to impartially investigate

"DeWeese (D., Greene) brought in Chadwick Associates, a Washington-based consulting firm, before State Attorney General Tom Corbett launched a grand jury probe to examine whether government bonuses were handed out to legislative aides from both parties last year as a reward for off-the-books campaign work. Through the end of August, DeWeese has paid the consulting firm $180,000 from a state discretionary account he controls. DeWeese said the effort was aimed at finally ending a 'culture of causality and politics as usual' that has existed in Harrisburg for decades...William Chadwick, who runs the consulting firm, said his mission was to serve as a set of independent eyes focused on 'evaluating the practices, policies and procedures of the caucus, to make recommendations for improving internal controls and to ensure compliance with the law and promote public confidence in the operations of the caucus.'" (Inquirer 10/5/2007)

"Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille has hired a longtime adviser and colleague to conduct what he said would be an independent investigation of a troubled Family Court project in Center City. William G. Chadwick, a lawyer who worked as Castille's top deputy in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office in the 1980s, was hired to do a 'thorough, independent, and objective' review of the project, now terminated, for construction of a Family Court building at 15th and Arch Streets...Chadwick said Tuesday night he would figure out what went wrong in the deal even if his examination found mistakes by Castille. 'I told him going into it I am not going to pull punches,' Chadwick said. 'My whole practice depends on operating ethically and transparently.' Castille could not be reached for comment. He said in his statement he wanted Chadwick to develop a chronology of events, including an examination of any conflicts of interest and 'misrepresentations by any parties that resulted in losses to the court.'" (Inquirer 6/9/10)

Step 2 -- Chadwick is paid millions to pin wrongdoing on anyone but his clients

"A source close to Mr. DeWeese's office said yesterday the mass ousters [Manzo, Brubaker, Cott, Mosely, Webb, Keefer, McClure] followed an internal report by William G. Chadwick, an attorney whose firm was hired by the Democratic caucus earlier this year." (Post Gazette 11/14/07)

"Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille says he was the victim of fraud and legal malpractice by attorney Jeffrey B. Rotwitt, who was paid by the court to put together a deal for a new Family Court building at 15th and Arch Streets - and ended up as the codeveloper of the project." (Inquirer 11/2/2011)

Step 3 -- Chadwick feigns cooperation with prosecutors

"The caucus also has paid about $800,000 to Chadwick Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C., firm that is helping it respond to the state attorney general's investigation into the bonuses. 'We understand that this is a substantial expenditure of public funds, but we believe strongly that it was entirely appropriate under the circumstances to facilitate the truthful cooperation of the caucus' staff with the attorney general's investigation,' said Bill Chadwick, a lawyer and president of the Washington firm." (Associated Press 7/31/2008)

"'DeWeese is the most-investigated guy on the landscape,' said attorney William Chadwick, a consultant for House Democrats. The grand jury 'turned over every stone' in July and did not implicate DeWeese in any wrongdoing, Chadwick said" (Tribune Review 10/16/2008)

"Castille has hired William G. Chadwick, his former top deputy in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, to conduct a review. Stalberg says that won't be good enough to reassure the public, noting that Chadwick also has been serving as Castille's press spokesman. 'Many of the recent quotes didn't sound like a guy who was objectively investigating the situation,' he said. 'It sounded like a guy who was trying to explain the chief justice.' Chadwick said again that his role is to review the deal and cooperate with the real investigation being conducted by the FBI. (Inquirer 7/2/2010)

Step 4 -- Chadwick keeps taxpayer-funded work product secret

"A former lawyer for state House Democrats who was paid $1.3 million by taxpayers won't give caucus leaders a file on a public corruption investigation. Bill Chadwick, who represented the caucus as a legislative bonus scandal unfolded, said Tuesday that House Majority Whip Bill DeWeese instructed him not to provide the file to the caucus. Chadwick represented the caucus and DeWeese while DeWeese was majority leader through 2007 and 2008." (Tribune Review 3/11/2009)

"When a Family Court deal blew up last year, after the payment of millions in fees, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille hired an investigative consultant and pledged a 'full public accounting' of what went wrong.  But now, Castille's lawyer says there will be no report released to the public. Instead, the findings of Chadwick Associates, paid $780,540 so far, will be used to support a lawsuit seeking to recover the lost public money. "(Inquirer 11/4/2011)

Sadly, there were big problems with Chadwick's "cooperation" while in DeWeese's employ .... not all the documents in Chadwick's "investigation" were turned over to the Attorney General...

"A state grand jury is poring over the contents of a recently discovered box of files from a Capitol office, a find that has triggered renewed prosecutorial interest in longtime state Rep. Bill De-Weese, D-Greene. The files, described by those who have seen them as a collection of e-mail printouts, discuss political operations apparently from inside Mr. DeWeese's office at the time he served as state House minority leader...The data in the box also include campaign donation spreadsheets that appear to have been assembled on a state computer...The latest round of inquiries into the activities of Mr. DeWeese, who has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, came as a seeming accident: a newly appointed Democratic caucus employee moving into an empty office earlier this year stumbled across a box of records left by a predecessor. Sources close to the investigation say the documents appear to suggest widespread campaign activity inside Mr. DeWeese's Harrisburg and district offices during state work hours." (Post Gazette 6/28/2009)

...DeWeese turned out to know much more than Chadwick repeatedly asserted...

"A trail of e-mail messages has surfaced suggesting that former House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese may have known all along that tax dollars were being used to reward aides for work on political campaigns. Mr. DeWeese maintains he knew nothing about the scheme to use state money to reward campaign work, which became the focus of an ongoing grand jury investigation that so far has resulted in 12 arrests. 'I can't thank you enough for the bonus for campaigning. I am speechless as most of us are,' research analyst Karen Steiner wrote in a December 2004 e-mail message to Mr. DeWeese, D-Waynesburg, and former House Whip Mike Veon, D-Beaver Falls. She received a $1,000 bonus that year, according to grand jury documents. A short response, 'UR welcome,' came from Mr. DeWeese's e-mail account." (Post Gazette 3/17/2009)

...DeWeese was eventually found by the Attorney General to have broken campaign and ethics rules while Chadwick repeatedly insisted his "investigation" had cleared DeWeese ...

"A statewide grand jury recommended the prosecution of former state House Speaker Bill DeWeese, one of Pennsylvania's most colorful politicians, for running political campaigns for years out of his Capitol and district offices...'The grand jury showed that DeWeese's legislative staff and campaign staff were virtually one and the same,' said Corbett, a Republican candidate for governor, who oversees the grand jury." (Tribune Review 12/19/2009)

What does this mean for Castille?  Especially when you consider the FACT, that before Castille began to pay Chadwick with taxpayer funds, Castille admitted he was aware of Rotwitt's role as a co-developer on the the Family Court building project:

"When Castille was first asked about Rotwitt's codeveloper role, he didn't seem upset with Rotwitt at all. Instead, he was angry at being questioned about it. With an Inquirer writer pushing court officials for an explanation, Rotwitt met with Castille, then e-mailed him a suggested 'clear statement of the facts': Yes, Rotwitt and Donald Pulver were codevelopers, the statement said, without suggesting it was any sort of problem. Castille ordered it sent to The Inquirer as his own opinion - word for word as Rotwitt had written it, e-mails show. In a Family Court saga filled with twists, there are few more jarring than court officials' shifting response to the revelations about Rotwitt's working on both sides of the courthouse deal. A review of e-mails and other records from April, when Rotwitt's partnership deal first came to light, show that Castille and other court officials reversed themselves on the project within a month. At first, they denied knowing such a partnership existed. Then they acknowledged it, but defended it."  (Inquirer 7/25/10)

Bill DeWeese's corruption trial is scheduled for next month (here at CasablancaPA, we still aren't sure the case will ever make it to trial). Will Bill Chadwick's opaque "investigative" methods be mentioned in the trial? Or, will Attorney General Linda Kelly put Chadwick off-limits to save the Chief Justice (and fellow Republican) from having to answer uncomfortable questions about Chadwick's work for him?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

COMPROMISED

Here at CasablancaPa, we always found it odd that gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett allowed Kevin Sidella, his chief witness against Bill DeWeese, (Post-Gazette 6/28/11) to take cash payments for campaign work from DeWeese.  These payments lasted almost up to the very day of DeWeese's arrest. You can see all the payments to the WS Group, Sidella's company, here.

Just like clockwork, every month, Sidella received a payment equal to his old salary as a taxpayer-funded caucus employee whose primary responsibility was political fundraising for DeWeese. (Grand jury presentment)

After DeWeese's arrest, it appears the payments stopped - as well they should have, considering how unseemly and problematic it might be for the Commonwealth's star witness still to be so intimately involved with DeWeese's raison d' etre -- re-election to the state house.

Except, Sidella and the WS Group didn't stop working for DeWeese after Corbett's indictment in December of 2009.

A young gentleman named Kevin Warner worked for Sidella at the WS Group from December 2008 to September 2010.  You can see Warner's resume on his LinkedIn profile here.

While in Sidella's employ, Warner was reimbursed nearly $4000 by DeWeese for consulting and campaign expenses AFTER DeWeese was arrested by Corbett.  Check out the reimbursements here.

Did Corbett and his investigators know Sidella's company kept working for DeWeese after his arrest?  Does current AG Linda Kelly?  What does it mean for Sidella's testimony in next month's trial?  Will Sidella be tempted to downplay DeWeese's crimes in hopes that DeWeese will be acquitted and the gravy train can keep on rolling? It appears Sidella already has succumbed to the temptation: while witnesses testified to the grand jury that Sidella's job was 100 percent campaign work for DeWeese, Sidella's own testimony at DeWeese's preliminary hearing downplayed it to a more modest "more than 40 percent" - at times.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

SMOKE = FIRE

While we're still chuckling over GOP Attorney General candidate Senator John Rafferty's hypocritical "abhorance" of things like bonuses and legislative staff doing campaign work, we thought we'd check a little deeper into just what Rafferty's legislative staff has been doing for his campaigns over the years.

And, unsurprisingly to anyone who is familiar with the Pennsylvania state legislature going back to, well, forever,  Rafferty's staff received quite a few campaign reimbursements.  Especially, his District Office Director, Betty Randzin, and his former Director of Outreach, Alex Charlton.  Check it out for yourself here.

If there is one thing we've all learned since 2007, campaign reimbursements have always led back to illegal campaign activities IF a prosecutor issues subpoenas and investigates.

House Democrats? Yep. After gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett brought over 100 staffers into the grand jury to testify. (Post-Gazette 10/21/07)

House Republicans? Yep. Corbett called their Office of District Operations led by John Hanley "a wholly owned campaign subsidiary of the House Republican Campaign Committee." (Page 157, Grand Jury presentment 11/09)

Senator Jane Orie?  Yep.  After the Allegheny County District Attorney, Steve Zappala, followed up on the whistle-blowing intern Corbett ignored with subpoenas and a grand jury. (Post-Gazette 2/19/11)  Check out Orie's expenditures to Senate staff here...lots of familiar names from her trial.

The much ballyhooed grand jury report on how evil the state legislature concluded:

"In the eyes of this grand jury, it is beyond dispute that numerous legislative employees have for years spent an enormous amount of time working on political campaigns when they were supposed to be performing their legislative duties." (Grand jury report)

Corbett and his successors at the OAG have yet to subpoena any Senate Republican staffers, (Tribune Review 9/12/11), so why should anyone trust that Rafferty and his staff are any different?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"IT'S OBVIOUS [HE] DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE LAW"

Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed  yesterday announced he will run for the Republican nomination for Attorney General.  Tricky family connections required him to make an important statement regarding how he would handle any conflicts of interest:

"Attorney General Linda Kelly is in the midst of a civil investigation into actions taken by the board of the Hershey Trust Co., which [Freed's father-in-law Leroy] Zimmerman has chaired since January 2006...the probe is aimed at transactions that occurred under his leadership, creating the potential for a huge conflict for Freed. Freed said Monday that it is a manageable problem....If there are issues pending from the investigation that involve the conduct of Zimmerman, he would recuse himself and hand the case over to a special prosecutor, he said." (Patriot 12/6/11)

Sounds like a good plan!  Oh, wait.

"[Democratic Attorney General candidate John] Morganelli called on attorney general staffers who have handled campaign tasks to resign their state jobs, and he urged Corbett to appoint a special prosecutor in the case accusing House Democrats of campaigning with public resources...As for Morganelli's call for a special prosecutor, [Corbett taxpayer-funded spokesman Kevin] Harley said state law does not allow it, and 'it's obvious John Morganelli doesn't understand the law.'" (York Daily Record 7/22/08)

Will anyone ask Harley, the Office of Attorney General, or Governor Tom Corbett whether Leroy Zimmerman's son-in-law "obviously doesn't understand the law?"  Or, was Harley just spouting nonsense on the taxpayer's dime to protect his boss politically?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

MAYBE RAFFERTY WILL GIVE US A BONUS, TOO

"Rafferty said he had 'zero tolerance' for political corruption.  He said he 'abhored the illegal use of tax payer dollars to enhance political positions,' a reference to 'Bonusgate' the other celebrated case pursued by then-Attorney General Tom Corbett and now by his successor Linda Kelly." (Inquirer 11/30/11)

GOP Attorney General candidate Senator John Rafferty knows that there is still a four-caucus investigation going on regarding the bonuses that he so abhors, right?  As recently as September, an active investigation of the Senate Republican Caucus by a state wide grand jury was still in progress. (Tribune Review 9/12/11)

Perhaps not, but why should this matter to Rafferty anyway, a man who just abhors those bonus payments?

For one thing, his newly-minted Attorney General campaign's chief consultant is the Senate Republicans' former taxpayer-funded "campaign guru" Mike Long.  Long's businesses -- Commonwealth Campaigns and LN Consulting (both located at 121 State Street ) -- have been part of the Rafferty campaign team since 2010.  Check the relevant copies of expenditures in Rafferty's campaign finance reports for yourself here.

Long received more legislative bonus money than any other staffer of either party. (Tribune Review 2/1/07)  Not only did he perform an incredible amount of campaign work over the years, he was renowned solely for his political skills.  As a senior staffer who received enormous bonuses and with a long history of campaign work, Long is one of the suspects the state wide grand jury is still examining.

Furthermore, one of the "associates" in Long's operation is Megan Crompton, the wife of Drew Crompton.  Mr. Crompton is the poster boy for the political bonuses doled out in 2006 by the Senate GOP caucus after receiving a $20,000 taxpayer-funded bonus for working four months on the Lynn Swann for Governor campaign in 2006. (Tribune Reveiw 2/4/07)

Beyond merely surrounding himself with some of the largest beneficiaries of the legislative bonuses he abhors, Rafferty seems to have a more significant problem than just schizophrenic taste.

How does it look for a candidate for Attorney General to hire as a leading member of his campaign team a current target of an on-going grand jury investigation?  What signal does it send to the investigators at the OAG who are still investigating the Senate Republican Caucus' operations during Mike Long's leadership?  Are they sitting over at Strawberry Square worried about doing something to embarrass someone who has better-than-even odds of becoming their next boss?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"MANY OF THEM WILL BE LYING"

"Imagine if the Pennsylvania Turnpike asked every state resident with a driver's license to file a form each year, stating the number of miles traveled on the highway and remitting the proper tolls. That's crazy, right?...The latest scheme out of Harrisburg -- from the ostensibly anti-tax Corbett administration -- will apply that flawed methodology to sales tax on items purchased online. It won't work...Gov. Tom Corbett's Revenue Department is planning to include a new line on the 2011 income tax forms that will require filers to report what they spent on online purchases that went untaxed. Pennsylvanians who don't want to do the math will be allowed to use an estimate based on their income. What's likely is that many taxpayers will report zero, which means many of them will be lying. That's been the experience in other states, including Ohio, where just 46,476 of its 5 million households complied last year." (Post-Gazette 11/4/11)

This is pretty powerful stuff from the Post-Gazette editorial board earlier this month. Calling millions of average, otherwise law-abiding Pennsylvanians liars is quite shocking.

So, where's the skepticism regarding a small, insular group of people being similarly asked to self-report illegal activity that could land them in prison?

Just like his plan counting on internet shoppers to self-report their on-line sales tax bills, Corbett has allowed the State Senate Republican caucus to self-report on their illegal political activities and bonuses.

Corbett and his Republican Attorney General successors have allowed the Republican State Senate Caucus to self-investigate and self-report any evidence of campaigning illegally by its members and staff. In fact, the only contact between the Office of Attorney General and the Senate GOP has been the two voluntary appearances of former General Counsel Stephen MacNett, one of the very Senate staff members who performed campaign work on the state's dime over his many years as an employee of that caucus.  In fact, not a single State Senate employee has been subpoenaed by Corbett or his successors in the supposedly four-caucus investigation supposedly approaching its fifth year of existence. (Tribune Review 9/12/11)

Corbett and his successors expect us to believe that MacNett can be trusted to tell the truth voluntarily.  This is the same MacNett who has had past campaign run-ins with a grand jury. (Inquirer 5/9/1995)

Raise your hand if you think Mike Long will waltz in un-bidden by a subpoena to recount how he came to be known as the Sentate GOP caucus' "campaign guru"?

Does anyone really believe the Senate Republicans are going to turn over the emails and documents that explain how Drew Crompton earned a fat bonus from the taxpayers for spending a huge chunk of 2006 as a top adviser to GOP gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann? (Tribune Review 2/4/07)

Everyone knows that the Senate GOP culture was just as partisan and political as both House caucuses.  The Orie investigation by Allegheny County District Attorney Zappala bears that out.  It took subpoenas to get to the bottom of that mess.  Meanwhile, Corbett didn't even follow the lead of a confidential informant who literally called him up on the phone. (Post-Gazette 2/19/11)

We're not lawyers here at CasablancaPA, but it is quite possible the statute of limitations clock on activities in 2006 is ticking away.  Expecting the Republicans in the State Senate to honestly report their illegal activities is just as ludicrous as expecting Pennsylvanians to self-report their on-line sales tax bills.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"BIG" SIMILARITIES

"Corbett said that the efficiency of non-profits is often measured by the percentage of its budget that goes to programs or projects. Of the $4.7 million spent by [Beaver Initiative for Growth] from 2004 to 2006, only 23 percent (less than $1.1 million) was used toward actual program expenses. The other 77 percent went to salary, consultants and administrative costs." (OAG press release 3/25/09)

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett stirred up outrage in 2009 against the Mike Veon-led non-profit Beaver Initiative for Growth by pointing out that 77 percent ratio.  That ratio alone, according to Corbett, was  proof positive that BIG was rotten and corrupt.

Now, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Jon Schmitz reports this morning that Jerry Sandusky's Second Mile non-profit charity spent 73 percent of its total revenue for the year ending in 2010 for salaries and benefits to employees, including the husband-wife team who earned the top two salaries. (Post-Gazette 11/27/11)

This follows Schmitz's earlier report that a large chunk of the $3 million grant Corbett awarded to the Second Mile in 2010 was headed straight for the pocket of the charity's long-time chairman and Corbett campaign contributor, Robert Poole. (Post-Gazette 11/17/11)  The heat is obviously troubling to all involved based on the evasiveness and curtness shown to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"How the Second Mile decided to award the center's construction contract to Poole, its board chairman, remains unclear.  He did not return numerous calls for comment. Representatives of his company - Poole Anderson - said they were not authorized to discuss the deal. And sometime within the last month, the company removed the project from its website. Second Mile chief executive David Woodle also declined to talk about the Poole Anderson contract in detail, saying only: 'There was a competitive bid done.'  Even so, said Otten, a charity awarding such a large contract to a member of its own board gives the appearance of a conflict of interest." (Philadelphia Inquirer 11/27/10)

Remember, candidate Corbett brought felony charges against prominent Democrat Mike Veon based on allegedly corrupt spending decisions and awarding of contracts.  The case was so flimsy that it had to be brought before a district justice twice - the second time in truncated form due to the outright erroneous conclusions his investigators originally drew. (Post-Gazette 5/28/09)

This seems to be one more reason Corbett delayed his investigation into Sandusky in 2009 and 2010.  Not only did he want to avoid blowing apart the vaunted Penn State football program before the 2010 elections, but neither did Corbett want to create major problems for campaign donors associated with Second Mile.

This morning the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeremy Roebuck goes into great depth on the convoluted ties between the Second Mile and Penn State. (Inquirer 11/27/11)  Unfortunately, he doesn't take the next step linking those ties to Corbett via campaign donations as the sports blog Deadspin did earlier this month.

Maybe Corbett is right when he says Veon's decisions to spend of millions of BIG's funding on salaries and contracts rose to the level of criminality.  As the official entrusted with oversight of non-profits, Attorney General Corbett was in a position to determine such criminality.

If so, we expect to see him call for the arrest of Robert Poole and other campaign contributors on  Second Mile's board who personally approved spending 73 percent of the funds on salaries and benefits, and directing state funds into their own pockets over the past several years, including a $3 million dollar grant Corbett personally approved.

While Attorney General and a candidate for Governor, it sure looks like Corbett wanted to delay investigating Sandusky so he wouldn't have to make such a call until after the election.

Friday, November 25, 2011

EVEN MORE CORBETT FAKERY

“The one thing you do not want to do as a prosecutor is go on one case. ... You want to show a continued course of action.”  Governor Tom Corbett, 11/20/11, Pennsylvania Press Club

Corbett is under harsh criticism for his failure to investigate promptly an allegation that former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abused a Central Mountain High School student.

The complaint was referred to Corbett, then Pennsylvania Attorney General, in March of 2009.  Investigators from the Office of Attorney General were not assigned to the case until October 2010, just before Corbett was elected governor.

Sandusky was not arrested in connection with the Central Mountain boy, and seven other alleged vicims, until earlier this month.  This week, Corbett defended the length of the investigation, saying, "The one thing you do not want to do as a prosecutor is go on one case." In other words, the investigation took so long because he had to go searching for other victims (which he didn't bother to do) before he could file charges.

Unsurprisingly, Corbett is lying. Again.

A six-year-old Northampton County girl told police in February 2010 that she had been assaulted. By December, the rapist already had been sentenced. He was arrested immediately after the complaint of a single victim.

In a case that was prosecuted by Corbett's own office - in the midst of the Sandusky investigation -  Delaware County District Judge Gerald C. Liberace was sentenced earlier this year on a sex abuse conviction involving a single victim. Remember, as a prosecutor, you never want to go on just one case. Except when you do.

In March of 2009, around the same time Corbett received the Sandusky case, state police charged Butler County physician and Boy Scout leader David Allen Evanko with sexually abusing two scouts.

Less than six months later, Corbett himself announced additional charges related to additional victims.

Just to be clear, even though the doctor already had been arrested on the original complaint, Corbett's office was able to continue the investigation and file additional charges - a procedure Corbett claims he went to great lengths to avoid in the Sandusky case. And, he managed to complete the Evanko investigation in one year.

Even cases involving multiple victims over several years - cases that were taken to a grand jury - have never taken anything close to three years to investigate. Marysville borough officials first received complaints about officer Robert J. Pavlovich Jr. in early March of 2007. The initial complaint involved two girls. By late October, investigators had identified at least 14 victims. All in just over six months.

As Attorney General, Corbett bragged that his Child Predator Unit made 250 arrests. Most of the defendants were arrested on the basis of their contact with a single "victim" - who wasn't even a child but an agent posing as one.

Is there no limit to the outrageous dishonesty Corbett can get away with?

UPDATE, 6/22/12: Journalists awaiting a verdict in the Sandusky trial report that "Prosecutors have more victims ready to come forward if Jerry Sandusky is acquitted." - precisely what Corbett claimed he could not do: "[If] you were to lose that one case, it would be much more difficult to bring charges in other cases because it would be seen by you, by the public, as vindictive."

Monday, November 21, 2011

TWO YEARS LOST

"If you think I delayed [the child rape investigation of Jerry Sandusky] for any reasons, you're wrong." -- Pennsylvania Governor and former state Attorney General Tom Corbett, Nov. 17, 2011

It is beyond question that the investigation of Jerry Sandusky was delayed. Three years between complaint and arrest is simply incomprehensible. We don't yet know how many more children may have been victimized between the time Corbett received the complaint and his successor finally brought charges against Sandusky.

It's also very clear why Corbett didn't aggressively pursue the Sandusky case. He was frantically trying to fix his botched investigation of the legislature before launching his gubernatorial campaign.

Corbett received the Sandusky complaint in March of 2009. A single state trooper was assigned to the case. Investigators from the Office of Attorney General weren't assigned to the case until the fall of 2010 - assuring that no charges could be brought until after the election.

By March of 2009, Corbett had spent two years investigating the General Assembly. He'd had plenty of time and resources to devote to it long before the Sandusky allegations came along. But, as Corbett's opponent in the 2008 Attorney General campaign pointed out, Corbett "botched" it by failing to investigate all four caucuses at once - not that he ever had any intention of investigating all four caucuses.

"A series of contempt hearings before the Supervising Judge of the grand jury from October 2008 to December 2008, which was held for the purpose of forcing the [House Republican] caucus into compliance with subpoenas and court orders."

That's right. Corbett didn't get serious about investigating House Republicans until October 2008, nearly two years after announcing that he was investigating all four legislative caucuses.

Corbett had issued subpoenas to House Republicans as early as October 2007 - or at least, someone told the Associated Press that he did. The subpoenas were, as reporter Mark Scolforo wrote, "the first tangible evidence that the probe has extended to any of the other three caucuses ... House Democrats have complained that the focus in recent weeks has appeared to be on them."

It wasn't just House Democrats complaining. Days before the leak to the AP, Capitolwire Bureau Chief Peter L. DeCoursey had published a column suggesting Corbett's political ties to Republican politicians might inhibit the investigation. A Morning Call editorial called for Corbett to turn over the investigation to an independent prosecutor - "someone who is not seeking re-election."

But House Republicans didn't respond to the October 2007 subpoenas, which appear to have been issued merely to provide "tangible evidence" that the investigation wasn't partisan. And Corbett remained unconcerned about their lack of response for an entire year. But by the fall of 2008 scrutiny of Corbett's partisan investigation was growing more specific. The Patriot-News revealed that Corbett had allowed House Republicans to replace all their computers in the summer of 2007, confirming that he'd never had any real intention of investigating the caucus at all.

That decision would come back to haunt him when he realized the political reality that he would need to indict a Republican.

As he scrambled to play catch-up in the face of mounting accusations of partisanship, Corbett discovered, to absolutely no one else's surprise, that House Republicans hadn't obediently preserved evidence of their crimes for the two years Corbett had waited to go looking for it.

Imagine the growing panic that consumed the investigative arm of Corbett's gubernatorial campaign. "If this goes much further Corbett risks being accused of using it to launch what many expect will be a gubernatorial bid in 2010," the the Patriot-News opined in July of 2009. By then, Corbett was scrambling to recover lost evidence. The grand jury presentment outlining charges against House Republicans is rife with lamentations about the difficulty of hunting for missing documents.

Even as Corbett  desperately was chasing down a nice shiny Republican indictment he could wear as an emblem of impartiality, more embarrassment beset the investigative arm of his campaign. In March, 2009, precisely when Corbett received the Sandusky complaint, the Tribune-Review published an email, which Corbett had turned over to defendants' lawyers, in which a House Democratic staffer thanked caucus Leader Bill DeWeese for "the bonus for campaigning." DeWeese responded, "U R welcome." Three weeks later, the Philadelphia Inquirer outlined evidence that DeWeese also used a state-paid contractor for poltical work. Unable to explain why DeWeese hadn't been charged for these offenses, Corbett frantically dispatched investigators to pull together some kind of case against DeWeese.

Meanwhile, the Sandusky complaint, shielded from public eyes as it was, posed no threat to Corbett's campaign. It received a proportional amount of Corbett's attention.

As if overwhelmed OAG investigators hadn't enough to do playing catch-up on both House Republicans and DeWeese, more embarrassment hit in June 2009 - when Corbett should have been in the thick of a Sandusky investigation, if not making an arrest - as the Post-Gazette revealed that Corbett failed to act on testimony that Steve Stetler, then chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, authorized illegal campaign work.

Corbett managed to put together indictments of House Republicans, Bill DeWeese and Steve Stetler just under the wire. So surely he was able to devote his full attention to the Sandusky complaint in early 2010, right? Nope. The trial of Mike Veon and three aides, from jury selection to verdict, lasted nearly nine weeks, the longest trial in recent Dauphin County history. At least 10 agents from the Office of Attorney General were present in the courtroom all day, each day of the trial.

After the trial ended (with 117 acquittals) did Corbett then turn his attention to the Sandusky complaint? Nope, again. Instead of using the grand jury to investigate Sandusky, Corbett was using it improperly to gather information he hoped would maximize the sentence of someone already convicted, and to subpoena Twitter for the identities of his online critics.

Investigators from the Office of Attorney General weren't assigned to the case until the fall of 2010. By then, Corbett's victory in the gubernatorial race was virtually assured.

Corbett's failure to conduct an impartial and sincere investigation of the General Assembly in 2007 and 2008 forced him to compromise the Sandusky investigation in 2009 and 2010.  As conservative activist Chris Freind points out, "Giving priority to children who are at risk of rape and molestation is a no-brainer. But inexplicably, that wasn’t done."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Former gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett tells the Patriot-News this morning why he green-lighted in July a $3 million grant for alleged child molester Jerry Sandusky's Second Mile:

"Yes I knew this (Sandusky investigation was under way), but I could not act publicly on this without saying certain things that would have possibly compromised the investigation" (Patriot 11/17/11)

First of all, we're not sure what would have been compromised given that the Patriot had let the cat out of the bag on the investigation four months earlier. (Patriot 3/31/11)

We wish he would just admit that the construction of the new building was very important to a large campaign contributor.

The Post-Gazette's Jon Schmitz reports this morning that The Second Mile's long-time chairman Robert Poole's company, Poole Anderson Construction, was to be the construction manager of the project. (Post-Gazette 11/17/11)

Unsurprisingly to anyone who follows how Corbett operates, Robert Poole has contributed over $12,000 to Corbett's campaigns.  Given that the construction business isn't what it used to be, we can only imagine that Poole's ability to steer this bit of business his way was helpful to his bottom line (BTW -- Corbett has a habit of ignoring how his political allies run the non-profits they are associated with).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

HARTFORD COURANT: CRIPPLING QUESTIONS ABOUT CORBETT'S INTEGRITY

Norman Pattis of the Hartford Courant:

"I'm wondering why there is no investigation of the governor ... In 2009, the case involving former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sundusky landed in his lap. He convened a secret grand jury to gather evidence, including the role of university officials. He cared more for his political ambitions, however. With the case still open, he was elected governor in 2010. As governor, he joined the Penn State board of trustees. A lawyer, Corbett is presumably familiar with the loyalty he owes to Penn State as a board member. He would have us believe that he served as board member with nary a peep about the grand jury investigation of senior university administrators for their role in covering up the consequences of Sandusky's alleged lust. Perhaps he did say nothing. But there is no question that knowledge of the investigation colored his perception and influenced his judgment.


"A lawyer cannot represent both sides of a conflict. You can be loyal to only one side. When a lawyer cannot serve both masters, he is supposed to serve neither. You don't pretend all is well.

"That is what Corbett did. He should have stepped down as a trustee until the investigation was finished. He is now on a board that is paying the legal fees of administrators accused of lying to a grand jury, but firing a man who has not been accused of any crimes.

"The true north of [Corbett's] moral compass is set firmly in the direction of the press release.

"Instead of integrity, we get the release of a secret grand jury report and the governor's urging prompt and decisive action against Paterno. Corbett postures as the poster boy for integrity in a year in which all politicians are roundly condemned.

"The New York Times abandoned its role as critic to become a cheerleader. Its puff piece on Corbett reports: "The grand jury indictment had been filed under seal, but because of a computer glitch it had mistakenly been made public." Oh, really? I guess Pearl Harbor was just a training mission gone bad."

Read the column in the Hartford Courant.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

RAMALEY: CORBETT TARGETED ME BECAUSE I WOULDN'T CONFIRM HIS THEORY

BREAKING:
 


"I met with with the Attorney General's office before I was charged ... Because I didn't confirm their theory, the guns focused on me. They had a complete misunderstanding of the process. They refused to listen." -- Sean Ramaley on KDKA

Listen to the full interview on KDKA radio.

Friday, November 11, 2011

DOORMATS

Tom Barnes of the Post-Gazette reports today on a coalition of good government groups complaining about the amount of energy company money flooding into the campaign coffers of Pennsylvania politicians. (Post-Gazette 11/11/11)

We love ya, fellas, but don't expect to ride this issue on a wave of voter outrage.  The 2005 pay-raise backlash - the uproar every activist hopes to replicate - was a rare perfect storm. Generally, a regular ho-hum attitude reigns over the antics of the knuckle-heads in the State Capitol (many people actually conflate their state legislators with their Congressman and vice versa).

There are some very, very hinky things going on in Harrisburg by specific people in power.  Yet, very rarely, if ever, do you - you, the activists, the gadflies, the agitators - single them out and call them what they are: thieves, crooks, liars, etc.  Instead, you make broad stroke indictments of "the culture" without ever singling out the bad actors and going for the jugular.  Only when you've isolated them and brought as much pressure as possible upon them, will you capture anyone's attention in a big enough way to effectuate change.

Here is a perfect example from today's Post-Gazette story:

"The liberal groups said they are hearing that House Republican leaders are using redistricting threats to line up members' votes for the 'weak' gas regulation bill. Mr. Kauffman said if a House Republican doesn't vote for the bill, he may end up 'with a thousand more Democrats in their new district.'"

There are two - and only two - individuals that have that power among the House Republican leaders - Speaker Sam Smith and Majority Leader Mike Turzai.  Why didn't you specifically call them out, by name, for what is nothing less than blatant blackmail?  Their names aren't even mentioned in the story.

Inexplicably, you even threw into the mix Congressional members of both parties who have practically no ability to do anything about the perils of hydraulic fracturing.  Ho-hum.

There are three villians in the story you want to tell -- the blackmailers Smith and Turzai who carry the (frac) water of Governor Tom Corbett, the President Harding of this generation's Teapot Dome scandal, who sold his soul for $1.6 million from the energy companies.

You accuse two politicians of blackmail, without specifically naming them or their crime, yet no one will ever hear from you again about it.

Kind of like how you filed a stunning lawsuit accusing those in the highest levels of the state legislature and the state judiciary of colluding to connect the 2005 payraise for the judiciary with protection of the newly passed gaming legislation from judicial scrutiny.  (Inquirer 2/7/06) Then, a few years later, Corbett uses a grand jury to investigate how the gaming law came into being and issues a report (with no indictments) that doesn't mention any of those listed in your lawsuit -- former GOP Representatives Ed Krebs and Scott Chadwick, former Republican Senator Bob Jubelirer, conservative activist Matthew Brouillette, ex-wife to state senate GOP campaign guru Mike Long, Suzanne O'Berry, and Mike Long himself.

Where was the outrage when Corbett completely ignored sworn statements given by some of those listed above?  We're guessing O'Berry wasn't called before the grand jury,  nor Brouillette or Krebs or Chadwick.  These people were part of a stunning chain of events you uncovered yet there was no mention of it in what was supposed to be a bombshell of a grand jury report.

Where is your outrage this week when a secretary, Jill Seaman, is convicted of 40 felonies in connection to the computergate scandal, yet the Speaker of the House Sam Smith (who signed millions of dollars in contracts, was on emails about the illegal activity and in meetings about the illegal activity) isn't even subpoenaed by the prosecution?

Until you specifically call out, by name, the few bad-actors who have the real power to change things to the carpet aggressively, you're going to continue being treated like doormats by the wider group of people you chastize instead.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

HIGHER STANDARDS, MIXED MESSAGES, PHONE CALLS, AND CUFFS

A few quick observations surrounding this week's big news stories.

In the wake of the earth-shattering events unfolding in Happy Valley, the Patriot-News' editorial demanding the resignations of Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier is a great example of statewide editorial opinion regarding "higher standard" to which those in positions of great authority need to be held.


"The attorney general has determined that Paterno and Spanier did everything the law required. But a university president must be held to a higher standard. The most famous coach in college football history must be held to a higher standard." (Patriot 11/8/11)

We couldn't agree more, but we can't help but notice the sad lack of editorializing about the higher standard to which Speaker Sam Smith should also be held, for what occurred under his watch in the "Computergate" scandal.  Sure, Smith says he was duped by others and given incomplete information, but isn't that what Paterno and Spanier have been saying this week, too?

Deputy Attorney General Frank "Anybody who violated the law is going to get it" Fina loves to talk about how the "Bonusgate" and "Computergate" trials should be sending messages to the legislature:

"'I sure hope the message is getting delivered over there -- that they're there for the best interest of the people, and the best interest of the people only, and they should not be using the money of the people for personal efforts,' Fina said." (Associated Press 11/9/11)

Yet, we think the actions of gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett's probe of the legislature has sent a mixed message to the members of the General Assembly.  Especially when you consider that contrary to all the tough talk from Fina about ne'er-do-wells "getting it", former State Representative Matt Wright has yet to be indicted for running a political operation exactly like the belatedly-indicted Representative Bill DeWeese's. It's all here in the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission's 2009 decision fining Wright $10,000. We bet Mike Veon, John Perzel, Brett Feese and Steve Stetler wished they could get the same deal as Wright.

Speaking of Ethics opinions, in a recently published opinion, we couldn't help but notice the prominence the Ethics Commission gave to a series of phone calls a township supervisor made in a illegal scheme for his personal benefit:

"Palmiero and other people involved in the project made multiple calls to Kaltenbaugh -- but not the other two supervisors -- before and after the vote, the ruling says." (Tribune Review 11/9/11)

So, rougly two dozen phone calls are proof of malfeasance concerning a roughly $9,000 scheme, but the hundreds of phone calls made by gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett and his campaign staff made to and from the taxpayer funded offices of the Attorney General using their campaign cell phones have yet to be examined for either ethics or campaign finance violations.

Finally, there is more handcuff hijinks from the Office of Attorney General.  Senior Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Brown was quite adamant after catching flak for how bonusgate and computergate defendants were being paraded around that everyone arrested for a felony is shackled:

"A felony is a felony, and if it is a felony, you get cuffed.  The law makes no distinction for white collar crimes, and neither do we." (Patriot News 11/13/09)

It's the law! Or, is it? Some of those arrested in relation to gubernatorial candidate Corbett's legislative investigation were cuffed and some weren't. Now, check out the picture accompanying this post. That's the now-infamous duo of Curley and Schultz walking into their arraignment on Monday...uncuffed.

Brown is either full of poop or an ignorant jackass. Either way, how did he ever get to become a Senior Deputy Attorney General when he has blatantly allowed the law as he adamantly interprets it to be broken or just makes it up as he goes along?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

LETTING THE BIG FISH OFF THE HOOK - AGAIN

Once again, Tom Corbett lets the people at the top off the hook. Only this time, the world is watching.

"Paterno wasn't charged, but if Sandusky is guilty he would be guilty," writes Mike Wise of the Washington Post. "Joe Pa knew, if the charges are true. They all knew. And they never told police."

"The chief question is this: If Curley, Schultz and Spanier believed it was no longer appropriate to allow Sandusky to bring children onto the Penn State campus – an act that suggests some concern over his behavior – how could they possibly believe his actions didn’t warrant a full police investigation?" Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports asks.


Inquirer columnist Bob Ford: Joe Paterno is done.


The Post-Gazette's Gene Collier: It's truly staggering that these professional academics -- including Paterno -- when faced with an allegation so serious and so sanctimoniously mishandled by the Catholic church almost simultaneously, somehow knew only the wrong thing to do.

Around the country, everyone wants to know: if Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz are charged for failure to report a crime, why aren't Paterno and Spanier?

Welcome to Pennsylvania, and Tom Corbett's Office of Attorney General.

Paterno and Spanier aren't charged for the same reason Speaker Sam Smith  wasn't charged in "Computergate." The same reason Bill DeWeese wasn't charged "Bonusgate."  The same reason LeRoy S. Zimmerman wasn't charged in the Hershey Trust scandals. The list goes on.

The reason is that Tom Corbett's OAG simply doesn't charge the truly powerful and influential. (Until and unless he absolutely has to in order to protect his political career)

Joe Paterno, millionaire, friend of George H.W. Bush and father of Republican congressional candidate Scott Paterno - does anyone really think Corbett's OAG  in a million years was going to charge that guy?

No, Corbett's OAG only charges public figures who are already unpopular, whose guilt the public already is predisposed to believe.

While the sports pundocracy sees heinous crimes in Paterno's and Spanier's failure to act upon their mere knowledge of a crime, no one seems bothered by Smith and DeWeese's actual participation in crimes. Smith signed the checks that paid for illegal software contracts, sat in on meetings about their use, was included on emails about the progress of the illegal scheme. DeWeese authorized the allocation of caucus funds to award bonuses, acknowledged that they were for political work, was implicated in the scandal by both his top aide, and his legislative assistant, and directed a state contractor to perform political work and on and on.

The case against Jerry Sandusky makes it clear that Paterno and Spanier knew about Sandusky's crimes and never reported them, and an outraged public demands to know why they're not arrested.  The Computergate and Bonusgate cases reveal far more culpability from Smith and DeWeese, but no one even notices, much less cares.