Saturday, October 1, 2011


For the third time in two years, (not the second, Inquirer) the Commonwealth is being treated to a parade of witnesses trotted into court to testify that yes, legislative employees worked on campaigns, often between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., often using state equipment, and yes, some of those-state paid employees did nothing but campaign, and yes, much of that equipment was purchased solely for campaigns.

Each time, these now-commonplace admissions are treated with breathless urgency, as though the Capitol Stenographers Corps have not been fully aware for at least a decade that the practice ran rampant among hundreds of employees in all four legislative caucuses.

News flash: WE KNOW.

What we don't know is why some employees were prosecuted, some given immunity to testify, and the vast majority left alone completely, and more importantly why nearly every single elected official who supervised, sanctioned and paid for the political work with taxpayer dollars was given a free pass by then-Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett.
(Well, we do know, but the Capitol Stenographers Corps are constitutionally unable to report "it's raining," simply because they see with their own eyes that rain is falling from the sky. They must wait for a person in authority to say "it's raining," and then - for balance - they must find someone, anyone, to declare that it's not raining. That's called "reporting the news.")

When Speaker of the House Sam Smith takes the stand in the "Computergate" trial, Pennsylvanians will for the very first time have the opportunity to gain some insight  -- Insight into the the reasons why Corbett's investigation bypassed most of the legislature and landed mainly on a relatively small group of staffers, and not a single legislative leader (the only legislators with the authority to allocate caucus funds)

Former House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese, who was not charged in "Bonusgate" (as he desperately wants us all to know) essentially admitted his guilt in that very scheme when he pleaded the Fifth rather than testify.

Smith, whose fingerprints are all over "Computergate" no longer feels as bulletproof as he did when he said:

"I think anything as big as that [bonus] program they had going, I think he [DeWeese] was aware of it. … As the Republican leader, I know that ultimately the buck stops with me, and I’m responsible for the actions, even if I really wasn’t. … As leader you’re aware of most things. Some minor details I don’t see that go on from day to day that go on in terms of operations. But I think anything as big as that program they had going, I think he was aware of it.” (Tribune-Review, 12/20/07)

Smith had every reason to believe that statement, about an alleged criminal enterprise less than one-tenth the scope of "Computergate," would never come back to haunt him. House Republicans had - with Corbett's blessing - replaced all of their computers months before.  Investigating House Republicans was so far from Corbett's mind then that he was happily accepting Brian Preski's fund-raising support and holding political meetings with John Perzel.

But the pressure to indict an expendable Republican finally overwhelmed Corbett, much to Smith's humiliation (but significantly, at no legal or legislative cost to him). Keep in mind that the grand jury identified $20 million in taxpayer funds diverted to political use, but apparently were able to pin only $10 million of that on Perzel.

Now Smith risks perjury if he doesn't testify truthfully.  If he pleads the Fifth, he can't count on the Capitol Stenographers Corps - or the voters in his district - remaining as blasé about it as they've been about DeWeese.

This dilemma is rendered moot, however, if attorneys don't ask the right questions when they finally get Speaker Smith on the stand, under oath.         


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know who testified Thursday and Friday and the content of their testimony? Every word uttered by "bonusgate" witnesses was transcribed on twitter and used in a story, some stories updated several times in a day. Too bad the press isn't as enthusiastic to cover the misuse of $20 million. Also, too bad cameras aren't allowed in the courtroom. Watching Sam Smith's face turn red is fun.

Anonymous said...

Only days of trial last week were Mon, Tues, Wed. While "computergate" deals with over $20 million in comparison to "bonusgate's" not quite $2 million, Perzel is no longer on trial. Thus, the media's attention isn't as piqued as with Veon's trial.

Anonymous said...

Casablancapa Should put up the right questions even more on PENNLIVE so Media ask them too!

Anonymous said...

China: Leading Civil Rights Lawyers Face Threats to Licenses

Government Should Guarantee Independence of the Legal Profession
May 26, 2009

“A Great Danger for Lawyers Walking on Thin Ice”

Control over the yearly renewal of professional licenses remains one of the main obstacles to the independence of China's legal profession.

Even when law firms that have been pressured decide to stand by their lawyers, this kind of interference has a chilling effect on the legal profession.

(New York) - More than 20 of China's most prominent civil rights lawyers face the possible loss of their right to practice law as an apparent official reprisal for their rights advocacy efforts, Human Rights Watch said today.

Under Chinese law, lawyers and law firms must get their licenses to practice renewed annually, a process sometimes marred by political considerations.

These civil rights lawyers say that in recent weeks the Beijing judicial authorities have been trying to pressure their firms not to endorse their re-licensing applications.

The lawyers say that the firms' heads have been warned by judicial officials in meetings and telephone conversations about possible adverse consequences for their business if they continue to employ lawyers who take up rights cases.

"Control over the yearly renewal of professional licenses remains one of the main obstacles to the independence of China's legal profession," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

"Even when law firms that have been pressured decide to stand by their lawyers, this kind of interference has a chilling effect on the legal profession."

According to an official April 14, 2009, notice from the Beijing Judicial Bureau detailing the registration procedures, lawyers must present their annual applications prior to the end of the registration period on May 31.

Lawyers who fail to renew their professional licenses are in effect temporarily disbarred.

A number of the lawyers currently targeted have been involved in some of the most high-profile efforts to date to litigate on behalf of victims of human rights abuses and press for greater accountability from the government.

They have represented families of victims of the melamine milk-powder scandal, parents of children killed during the Sichuan earthquake who are pressing for an investigation into the causes of the disproportionately high rate of school collapses, and Tibetans arrested in connection with the massive crackdown in Tibet.

Others have been involved in representing HIV/AIDS patients, victims of police abuses, farmers evicted from their land, and Falungong practitioners.


Anonymous said...


Over the past few years, Human Rights Watch has extensively documented abuses of lawyers, widespread violations of the right of the defense in legal procedures, and a pattern of interference and political control in cases viewed as politically sensitive by the authorities.

Although the government vowed to establish new procedural protections for lawyers in June 2008 when it promulgated revisions to the Law on Lawyers, those efforts have been inadequate.

No efforts have been made to effectively safeguard the security of lawyers discharging their functions or to allow the government-controlled All-China Lawyers Association - the country's bar association - to play such role.

Human Rights Watch pointed out that instead of the promised reforms to protect the independence of lawyers, detention and physical abuses against lawyers by law enforcement officials have multiplied.

In one such incident on May 13, 2009, lawyers Zhang Kai and Li Chunfu were arrested and beaten in police custody in Chongqing after meeting with the family of a man who had died while in a re-education-through-labor camp.

The authorities have so far refused to investigate the incident.

"Interference and retaliation against lawyers are direct attacks on the rule of law," said Richardson. "Such actions perpetuate injustices, undermine confidence in legal institutions, and negate the government's own commitment to governing the country according to law."

Beijing lawyers who have reported concerns over the renewal of their license include

Li Heping, Cheng Hai, Jiang Tianyong, Li Xiongbing, Li Chunfu, Wang Yajun, Tang Jitian, Yang Huimin, Xie Yanyi, Li Dunyong, Wen Haibo, Liu Wei, Zhang Lihui, Peng Jian, Li Jinglin, Lan Zhixue, Zhang Kai and Liu Xiaoyuan. Two lawyers who practice outside of Beijing, Wei Liangyue and Yang Zaixin, have also reported threats over their licenses.

You can see that what’s done in Communist China, is exactly the same thing, unbelievably, that officials do in Pennsylvania.

Because I have pointed out failings i.e. I have criticized (in a responsible courteous way) some judges and certain judicial processes I am being threatened and mistreated. So are my clients.


Anonymous said...

The Twitter coverage of this trial is horrible.
Where is Tracie Mauriello?
She was practically a twitter stenographer from beginning to end at Bonusgate!
It's shameful that the media is largely ignoring this.
Bonusgate lead the 6:00 news almost nightly. Computergate barely gets a mention, if at all.

Wake up media and do your job!

Are there no hungry investigative reporters left in Central PA??

Anonymous said...

What gives? The Republican sponsored "computergate" spent in excess of $20 million which is far more than the "bonusgate" fiasco and the Republican Right Wing Media ignores it - not a story or headline about the Republicans and their Computergate.

Also, since the money spent on “Computergate” to purchase the campaign strategy system, including data base and related information was paid for with public tax dollars, doesn't it follow that the taxpayers own the system, program & data base and that regardless of party affiliation, any Pennsylvania Taxpayer or candidate for office in PA should have access to that program and data base for use in future campaigns?

Why are the Republicans permitted to illegally spend public tax dollars on the computer program, system & data base and then get to keep it for their own sole use?

If I were a candidate for office or current elected official, I'd be screaming to the end to have access to that publically financed campaign program and data base of information. It would certainly create a level playing field for all candidates regardless of party membership. Where are the Tea Baggers on this abuse and wasteful spending by the Republican Organization?