Saturday, September 3, 2011
HOW MUCH CAN POLITICAL SUPPORT BUY?
[Governor Tom] Corbett reminded reporters today that he received campaign contributions from former House Speaker John Perzel in 2004, adding: "It didn't do him any good, did it[?] (Patriot-News, 9/1/11)
Or did it?
Back in early 2007, when media reports revealed that all four caucuses had awarded questionable bonuses, Corbett declined to begin investigating Republicans (despite his public statements to the contrary.) That was pretty good for Perzel and other Republicans who supported Corbett.
When House Republicans wanted to replace all their computers in July of 2007, in the midst of Corbett's so-called "investigation," Corbett told them to go right ahead. That was pretty good for Perzel and other Republicans who supported Corbett.
When Corbett executed a search warrant for documents, he seized only House Democratic documents, giving House Republicans the opportunity to destroy evidence and hide documents. That was pretty good for Perzel and other Republicans who supported Corbett. (Are judges really "laughing out of court" applications for search warrants and subpoenas that don't include probable cause that evidence sought is being destroyed? What's laughable is that no one questioned this lame explanation.)
Eight months into the "investigation," Corbett and his campaign manager met with Perzel. Subpoenas were issued three weeks later, suggesting that, had the meeting gone another way, subpoenas might not have been issued. That opportunity could have been great for Perzel (and any for other Republicans who supported Corbett, who may have had meetings we don't know about that did go another way.)
And even though House Republicans apparently didn't bother to comply with those subpoenas (could it be they had reason to believe Corbett wasn't serious about investigating them?), contempt hearings "held for the purpose of forcing the caucus into compliance with subpoenas and court orders" did not take place for an entire year. That was pretty good for Perzel and the other Republicans who supported Corbett.
Ten months into the "investigation," Corbett accepted a campaign contribution from Perzel's former chief of staff and allowed him to host a fundraiser, something he would never have done if Perzel and his former chief of staff were under investigation. Not being under investigation was pretty good for Perzel and his former chief of staff and the other Republicans who supported Corbett.
And even though investigators learned when they executed the warrant on House Democrats that House Republican records also were stored in the basement, Corbett never executed a search warrant for them. That was pretty good for Perzel and the other Republicans who supported Corbett.
And even when Corbett finally got around to issuing a subpoena for those records in February 2008, and immediately learned the boxes had vanished, Corbett didn't bother interviewing House Republican staffers about them until late July 2008. That, also, was pretty good for Perzel and the other Republicans who supported Corbett.
Finally, facing 82 felony counts for his alleged theft totaling $10 million (out of $20 million misappropriated; apparently no one is responsible for the other $10 million), Perzel was permitted to plead to just 8, fewer even than Mike Manzo, a staffer, who was charged with 47 felony counts in a $2 million crime. That's pretty good for Perzel (though we don't know, and may never know, what he promised to reveal - or not to reveal - in exchange for that deal. Up to now, this humble blog is the only outlet commenting on the glaring holes in Corbett's "investigation" of the House Republicans. A full-blown trial would make it hard for even the Capitol Stenographers Corps to avoid reporting on them.)
Did Perzel's political support for Corbett do him any good? In the end, it wasn't enough to get him off scot-free, but it took him pretty far. He supported Corbett for Attorney General in 2004, and that appears to have bought him some goodwill early in the "investigation." But after that meeting in October 2007, when Corbett was lining up support for his gubernatorial campaign - which he never got from Perzel - that goodwill appeared to dry up. Even lukewarm support might not have been enough to counteract the mounting pressure to prove the "investigation" wasn't partisan.
As we have seen with the so-called "investigation" of Corbett's longtime ally LeRoy Zimmerman, political support might have staved off investigation - watchdogs had been begging Corbett to investigate for six years. But when the state's largest newspaper, a month before the election, exposed the alleged corruption Corbett had been overlooking, he was forced at least to pretend he would investigate. And Zimmerman is a far more valuable ally than Perzel ever was.
Oh, by the way: has the more than $1.6 million in contributions Corbett received from natural gas drillers done them any good?