Sunday, February 27, 2011
QUESTIONS FOR A GOVERNOR'S SPOKESMAN
Earlier this month, CasablancaPA remarked upon how well Dennis Roddy's anonymously-sourced reporting served the Tom Corbett for Governor campaign, and how Roddy was rewarded with a cushy administration job.
An intrigued reader has drawn our attention to one of Roddy's stories from September of 2008 - shortly after Corbett had decided charges against Republicans would be a political necessity.
The story, headlined "Pa. House GOP's use of computer investigated," does not explain how Roddy learned the subject of the grand jury's investigation, or how he knew that, the previous month, "six House Republican technology staff members were summoned before the grand jury and asked about the use of House computers and possible political work."
But what's most interesting is that the original story, posted to the Post-Gazette's website on Sept. 11, 2008, contained this sentence:
"Among questions was an inquiry about one top Republican aide who prosecutors believe received a free communications wiring upgrade at his home."
By the next day, that sentence had been excised from the story.
(The only other difference was the truncation of a long Steve Miskin quote.)
Did Roddy show a little too much initiative for Corbett's taste when reporting that story? Why would he remove that particular sentence unless the OAG asked him?
Back then, Corbett may have worried that inconvenient questions might arise if the voters learned about the huge discrepancies between what Corbett knew and the charges that he filed.
In September of 2008, Corbett was facing increasing criticism for the partisan nature of his investigation.
"Is state bonus probe partisan?" a news analysis in the Patriot-News asked.
Governor Rendell also suggested partisanship was guiding Corbett's hand:
"I don't understand why after two years you only could make your decision on Democrats," he told the Tribune-Review.
"...the pressure's on to demonstrate a bipartisan dedication to reform ...If he fails to charge Republicans between now and November, he will certainly open himself up to claims that he's politicized the reform movement..." the Chambersburg Public Opinion opined.
With Election Day approaching, and his opponent in the Attorney General race accusing him of "botching the investigation," Corbett needed to convey that he was now investigating Republicans.
Because he'd spent most of the previous year schmoozing House Republicans at fund-raisers, secretly meeting them with his campaign manager, giving the go-ahead to swap out computers, there was no way he'd be ready to announce indictments in time for Election Day.
(And besides, that might hurt the Republicans' chances of recapturing the House.)
He needed stories like Roddy's to counteract accusations of partisanship. But he couldn't reveal too much about the evidence he was gathering until he had decided whether or not he would act upon that evidence.
The complications for Corbett of too much independent reporting about the evidence later would be revealed. For example:
When fellow Post-Gazette reporter Tracie Mauriello developed information that campaign aide Dan Wiedemer had implicated Steve Stetler to the grand jury a year earlier, Roddy scrambled to insert into the story - anonymously sourced, of course - Corbett's ludicrous, face-saving contention that investigators were still deciding, a year after the fact, whether to indict Stetler.
With the cat now out of the bag, Corbett did indict Stetler - nearly a year and a half after he was implicated and the original indictments had been announced.
Was it a coincidence that it was Roddy's rival at the Tribune-Review who broke the story that Corbett had ignored the implications of an email in which Bill DeWeese responded to a staffer who thanked him for a bonus "for campaigning," with "U R welcome?" (The Trib also was skeptical enough about Roddy's motives to link to our previous post.)
And although Corbett's failure to pursue charges against Sen. Jane Orie - even turning away an intern who tried to report Orie's activities to the OAG - has raised eyebrows at other news outlets ("Orie charges political dynamite;" "Orie indictment could raise questions about Corbett’s probe") the Post-Gazette has raised no such concern.
We've no doubt that "sources" indeed told Roddy in Sept. 2008 that investigators were pursuing allegations of a "top Republican aide" receiving a communications wiring upgrade at his home at taxpayer expense. The question remains, who then told him to keep it quiet, and why?