Monday, May 23, 2011


Bill DeWeese's reputation as a lazy, self-absorbed showboat served him well in early 2007, when then-Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett was beginning his investigation of House Democrats.

Corbett claimed in February 2007 he was investigating the entire legislature, but he was lying. He wouldn't begin investigating House Republicans until much later, in response to accusations of partisanship, and apparently never did investigate the Senate at all.

In 2007, Corbett's main rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination would be U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan, then garnering statewide headlines for his high-profile Vince Fumo prosecution. "Bonusgate" appeared to be Corbett's ticket to the show.

The problem was, Bill DeWeese was being a pain in the ass. He sought to quash subpoenas and claimed "legislative privilege" on materials seized through a search warrant.

He vowed to fight "all the way to the state Supreme Court." That could take months - maybe more than a year. Corbett's reelection and the unofficial launch of his gubernatorial campaign were imminent.

Enter "risk management" consultant (and Corbett campaign contributor) Bill Chadwick. Chadwick is the "Republican former prosecutor" DeWeese is always raving about having "hired to cooperate" with Corbett. Only DeWeese can fully explain why he continually harps on Chadwick's political affiliation.

But it may explain why Chackwick was able to negotiate an arrangement in which DeWeese turned over emails and documents incriminating his former colleague Mike Veon and others - including DeWeese's own Chief of Staff and other high- and mid-level DeWeese staffers.

DeWeese, in turn, was not charged in the Bonusgate scandal. And everyone got to pretend the previous months of legal challenges and obstructionism never happened. "I've been cooperating since Day One!" DeWeese lied, and no one corrected him.

We're not lawyers, but there doesn't appear to be anything illegal about such an arrangement. But it's hugely embarrassing for both parties. If DeWeese admits he engaged in machinations to avoid being indicted, he admits there was cause to indict him. And Corbett risks the appearance of sacrificing the integrity of his investigation for political expediency.

At first blush, the arrangement probably appeared risk-free for Corbett. It wasn't until after Corbett received the incriminating evidence that DeWeese's involvement in Bonusgate became apparent. And then there was DeWeese's reputation as a passive figurehead more interested in being wined and dined by lobbyists than managing the legislative or political affairs of the caucus.

It didn't help matters that one of Corbett's main sources of information about the workings of the caucus apparently was Frank Lagrotta, then desperately battling misconduct charges of his own. The same Lagrotta who recently pleaded guilty to drug charges.

The general public wasn't as gullible as Corbett. Before the indictments were announced, everyone expected DeWeese to go down. "It's hard to see how DeWeese survives Bonusgate" ... "The wrong folks lost their jobs in Harrisburg" ... "Is time running out for DeWeese?"

When the indictments failed to include DeWeese, the pundits were sure it was just a matter of time: "Cat-like DeWeese probably on his ninth life" ... "More questions raised on DeWeese's role."

Corbett found himself in a quandary. The evidence clearly showed letting DeWeese off the hook was a big mistake, and it didn't appear the public was going to overlook it.

Nor would Mike Veon's lawyers, who filed a massive pre-trial motion outlining DeWeese's involvement in the crimes for which Veon was accused.

Nor did it help that during a court proceeding, former DeWeese chief-of-staff Mike Manzo listed DeWeese as one of the legislators who had knowledge of the bonus "scheme." Oops! To guard against future slip-ups, sentencing of Manzo and his wife, Rachel, has been postponed - evidently until after DeWeese's trial. Has anyone ever heard of a defendant being offered a deal not to testify against his boss?

So, almost three years after launching his investigation, Corbett indicted DeWeese - not on charges involving bonuses or petition challenges or the use of a state-paid consultant for political work, all of which was detailed in media reports and Veon's pre-trial motion - but on less-serious accusations that his district office staff performed political work on state time and using state resources, and that he employed a full-time political operative using taxpayer funds.

Lest this be seen as some investigative triumph, Corbett could've chosen the name of any pre-2007 legislator out of a hat, subpoenaed records and questioned staff under oath, and had a better-than-average chance of discovering similarly questionable campaign activity. In fact, all he had to do was answer his phone.

It's no secret that DeWeese is apoplectic with chagrin over Corbett's perceived betrayal. And that's now a huge problem for Corbett.

It's clear that DeWeese would like nothing more than to harm Corbett politically, and admitting what happened back in 2007 would certainly accomplish that in spades. But DeWeese still believes he has a political future to protect. If the Attorney General's office is successful in convicting DeWeese of felony charges - and DeWeese is subsequently forced to resign from the House - it will remove the one incentive DeWeese has to keep mum. Unless, of course, there is a formal, legal immunity agreement which requires DeWeese's silence, but a DeWeese with nothing to lose might consider a contempt of court charge a fair price to pay for embarrassing his nemesis.


Anonymous said...

Can anybody answer when the Statute of Limitations runs out on Senator Jubelier, LaValle and Brightbill on the ghost investigations of the senators on campaigning on state time and bonusgate of there own?

This should be Attorney General’s Linda Kelly Priority since time is running out.

What Newspaper will be the first to report what is happening and when the SOL will run out and why it happen?

Did any senator that voted to approve Linda Kelly ever ask her about these investigations, and if not, why not?

Anybody know anything about the questions above?

Anonymous said...

Arneault: Grand jury misled
By Mike Wereschagin
Saturday, June 4, 2011

The lawyer for one of the applicants for a Lawrence County harness race track license -- who was called "a crook" in a recent grand jury report -- accused investigators of hiding evidence beneficial to his client and demanded the state attorney general look into the matter.

The report from the grand jury, which spent two years investigating the state Gaming Control Board, said Ted Arneault, former CEO of MTR Gaming Group, was suspected of bribes and kickbacks, doing business with a man with mob ties and making a "questionable political contribution." The report recommended no charges, however, and did not include evidence beyond the allegations of investigators.

Arneault's lawyer, John Mizner, of Erie, said investigators and the attorney general's office unfairly targeted Arneault. He said the office ignored Arneault's offer to testify and intentionally kept information favorable to him from the grand jury.

The board renewed Arneault's gambling license last year. Arneault remains a stakeholder in MTR, parent company of Presque Isle Downs, of Erie.

He also is a stakeholder in a group trying to take over a bankrupt Lawrence County racetrack and casino project, Valley View Downs. The group has to be approved by the state Harness Racing Commission, then by the Gaming Control Board, before the deal goes through.

"It is inexcusable that people who are specifically mentioned in the grand jury report were never given the opportunity to appear before the grand jury to provide documents or even to provide information to the investigators," Mizner said. He sent a letter to Attorney General Linda Kelly on May 27, the day she took office, demanding an investigation into how prosecutors selected evidence to present to the grand jury.

Mizner represents Arneault and Erie developer Greg Rubino -- whom the board banned from doing business with Presque Isle -- in their lawsuit against the gaming board. It says negative allegations against them by the board tarnished their reputations and led to millions of dollars in lost business opportunities.

Mizner said the lawsuit and Valley View Downs bid are unrelated. Gaming board spokesman Doug Harbach declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Attorney general's office spokesman Nils Frederiksen defended the two-year grand jury investigation, saying it included thousands of documents and hours of testimony, all of which could not fit into a 102-page report.

"The report itself is not the entire record of two years of investigation," Frederiksen said. "So to point out that some things may or may not be in the report, and try to argue about things on that micro level ... rings very hollow."

After Arneault's license renewal hearings last year, the gaming board's chief enforcement counsel, Cyrus Pitre, wrote that Arneault had "established, by clear and convincing evidence, your good character, honesty and integrity." Mizner said the grand jury "could not have had the information" about Arneault's re-licensing and endorsement from Pitre and still come to the same conclusions about his client.

"I am willing to bet everything that this information was never brought to their attention," Mizner said.

Frederiksen declined to comment on specific evidence or testimony presented to the grand jury.

"To attack the grand jurors or those involved in this process is an insult to the people of Pennsylvania," Frederiksen said.

Read more: Arneault: Grand jury misled - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Anonymous said... the investigation into the Senate continuing? Or whatever happened to the Eachus target letter? And how do those implicated in gaming grand jury report not get charged?

Anonymous said...

Rumor around Strawberry Square that Corbett conducted many flawed Grand Juries and may come under Federal Investigations of its own.

This is not limited to Sandusky but many others such as the Cyber school, Lawmakers, and Gaming.

Apparently, Corbett was using it as a Campaign Device to garner more contributions while running for Governor than Grand Jury Reports ended up not indicting anyone after funds were raised.

Anyway, whether it applies to the Sandusky Grand Jury is now being closely watched.

The big talk is how the Grand Juries were conducted and omitted exculpatory evidence that showed no crimes were committed but Corbett ordered Grand Juries anyway and kept such evidence from the jury.

A review of William Wards actions as a Lawyer and connections to campaign contributions is something else to look into and why Ward is Corbett's Chief of Staff today.

The Mother or Mothers in the Sandusky cases may be the loudest if no charges brought after 18 month investigations.

Anonymous said...

How about the sentencings for LaGrotta and the Manzos? Apparently LaGrotta did not lose his pension - even though he plead guilty to ghost employees - but neither did most of the bonusgate defendants.

Anonymous said...

What is the difference between the case against John Edwards (using campaign funds for noncampaign personal purposes) and what PA candidates do all the time? I get that one is federal law and the other state laws, but they are similar in that both require use of campaign funds for campaign purposes. Patriot News recently wrote about a candidate who used campaign funds to pay his credit card bill monthly for years, which showed him eating/drinking on the card like 189+ times in 1 year. That should be investigated, because it's really income that these guys should be paying state and fed income tax on. But sometimes they get away with anything.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous said...June 8, 2011 12:58 PM.

Talk about misuse of Campaign Money, Tom Corbett Campaign Manager in Beaver County, Commissioner Charlie Camp actually used his Campaign Funds to pay for Tuition to go to School on County Time.

Yet, Tom Corbett is about to appoint him as soon as his job as Commissioner is over in December.

After it went public, Charlie paid back the money to his Campaign Account, but never was investigated whether he went to school on county Time, by the Office of Attorney General, none other than Tom Corbett.

Even worse, Tom Corbett held Two Grand Juries of the Pennsylvania Cyber School giving out jobs to political bigwig’s wives, relatives, and sons such as Charlie Camp's Wife????

It met for 2 years too, but so far not one Report, or Indictment, or even a Presentment has been seen, heard, or published?

However, the Head of Pennsylvania Cyber School was a Big Contributor along with many paid by his school with jobs to Tom Corbett.

So, one can see Tom Corbett used Grand Juries to quite well for his own campaign and ignored those supporting him.

Where is the PA Cyber School Grand Juries’ Reports?

This is why a Federal Investigations of PA OAG under Corbett is now required.

Anonymous said...

There are two dilemmas... that rattle the human skull within the Prosecution Offices.

How do you hold onto someone who won't stay?

And how do you get rid of someone who won't go?

Anonymous said...

Size, cost of Pennsylvania's auto fleet criticized

By Brad Bumsted
Sunday, June 12, 2011

HARRISBURG — More than 2,600 state employees, from Cabinet secretaries to lawmakers and midlevel bureaucrats, have taxpayer-paid cars they can take home, records show.

The vehicles are part of a state fleet estimated to be almost 16,000, with a cost to taxpayers of at least $72 million, when all vehicles are counted — from PennDOT's snowplows and heavy equipment to state police cruisers.

The number was part of a 2009 audit by Auditor General Jack Wagner, whose cost figure covered everything related to vehicles: from purchase and maintenance to fuel and insurance.

He said he suspects the number has gone up because of higher gasoline and diesel costs.

"How could one state government need 16,000 vehicles?" asked Joe Foytick, 81, a retired teacher from the Whitehall area.

"What are they doing with all of them? The public doesn't know, and the public is paying for them."

State-paid cars were front and center last week after state police purchased four new Chevrolet sport utility vehicles for Gov. Tom Corbett of Shaler, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley of Bucks County, first lady Susan Corbett and Cawley's wife, Suzanne.

It was "hypocrisy at its worst" because Corbett campaigned last year on reducing the state vehicle fleet, said Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn of Millvale.

"Candidate Corbett wanted to cut the car fleet.

It was in his commercials. Now Gov. Corbett has added four new vehicles," Burn said.

"The actions certainly don't match the rhetoric," said Chuck Ardo, former press secretary to Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

"He made such an issue of it that people are somewhat taken aback."

It's ludicrous to suggest, as some critics have, that Corbett's actions belie his efforts to cut state spending, said Republican consultant Charlie Gerow. The cars are at best "symbolic," Gerow said.

"The governor has focused on real cuts, real savings" across state government, he said.

"If this is the best the governor's opponents can come up with, they need to think again."

Corbett remains committed to reducing the fleet by 10 percent over the next four years and 20 percent overall, said press secretary Kevin Harley. Law enforcement vehicles are exempt, he said.

An inventory and cost-effectiveness study are under way.

"This was never something we said would be done in the first five months," said Harley.

The initial focus for fleet reduction is on state-provided vehicles by employees who commute, he said.

State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, Corbett's appointee, said he decided to replace three older SUVs with high mileage for security reasons.

Read more:

Anonymous said...

Today's LaGrotta sentencing makes me wonder how they hand out these sentences. LaGrotta admitted to having relatives as ghost employees, and got house arrest and no loss of pension! He spits in the face of the Court by pleading guilty, then saying he wasn't and violates probation. Then he has several big drug violations and gets 3-12 months, meaning he'll serve 3 months. How did Veon get 6 years? Why do some lose pensions and not others? I thought the big issue was repeat offenses.

Anonymous said...

At least five defandants (Moseley, LaValle, LaGrotta, Ms. Brubaker and Ms. Manzo) got no jail time, and did not lose pensions. Three others got jaikl time, even consecutive sentences, and lost pensions. Veon got much more time than Fumo. Very arbitrary.No LaGrotta, after a felony conviction and multiple felong drug offenses, gets 3 months?

Anonymous said...

Mike Veon and Brett Cott sentences were a joke compared to number of convictions versus charged counts.

Even the Jury thought a light sentence was going to happen and said if they knew such a sentence was going to be given out as Judge Lewis ruled, they would have voted Not Guilty.

Meanwhile, Corbett flew to the Governor’s Mansion on 34 Grand Juries with many never given even a Report, soon once other knew they will not fly crooked as predicted?