Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Here at CasablancaPA headquarters, we're fielding lots of questions from readers about why the media has virtually ignored the trial of former House Republican Whip Brett Feese and his aide, Jill Seaman.

We did a quick Internet search, comparing press coverage of the trial of a former House GOP whip accused in a $20 million scandal with the trial of a former House Democratic Whip accused in a scandal involving less than $2 million, and discovered the following:

  • The Tribune-Review published about 70 stories during the trial of former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon, compared with about 16 during the Feese trial.
  • The Post-Gazette published about 53 stories during the Veon trial, compared with about 5 during the Feese trial.
  • The Inquirer published about 57 stories during the Veon trial, compared with about 8 during the Feese trial

We must admit, those results were worse than even we expected. But we're not surprised at the dearth of media coverage.  Governor Tom Corbett, who conducted both "investigations," wanted this outcome, engineered this outcome, and the media happily complied.

The Capitol Stenographers Corps no doubt disagrees with our assessment, though we've yet to hear a cogent explanation for the disparity in coverage.  We're sure they don't even realize they're being manipulated.

But the fact is, even though Corbett claimed for months beginning in February 2007 that he was investigating all four legislative caucuses, we now know that he didn't begin investigating House Republicans in earnest until October 2008.  That was when contempt hearings were held to force the caucus to comply with subpoenas issued a full year earlier.

The Capitol Stenographers Corps has yet to grasp the significance of the delay in the investigation, even as they backhandedly acknowledged that Corbett was lying throughout 2007 and early 2008 about a four-caucus investigation.  They continued to explain away the delay with another lie: that Corbett had to investigate House Democrats first because he thought they were destroying evidence.  We know Corbett didn't act on that erroneous belief until August of 2007, six months into a Democrats-only investigation, all the while insisting he was investigating all four caucuses.

It astounds us how smoothly the pack narrative slid from the false "he's investigating all four caucuses" to the equally false "he had to investigate House Democrats first," without even a pause to acknowledge the months of lying or to point out how absurdly incompetent and self-destructive it would be to conduct a highly-publicized investigation of one caucus with the intention of going after the other caucuses at some point in the future.

Only Democratic Attorney General Candidate John Morganelli pointed out that even a fool would expect evidence to disappear:  "If I have four potential targets, and I think they all might be involved in the same thing, and if I go to house A and take all the evidence out and wait two years to go after B, C and D, there’s not going to be any evidence in B, C and D,"  he said.

He was right, of course, as Corbett's presentment against John Perzel and House Republican staff makes clear, though don't hold your breath waiting for anyone in the mainstream media to acknowledge it.

But nobody, not even the Capitol Stenographers Corps, can possibly believe that Corbett was stupid enough to expect House Republicans and both Senate caucuses to sit on their hands and wait more than two years for investigators to come a-calling.

Throughout 2007 and most of 2008, Corbett had no intention ever of pursuing charges against anyone in the House Republican Caucus or the Senate. There is simply no way he would have allowed House Republicans to replace their computers if he had. He would not have blithely continued to accept fundraising help from Brian Preski. He would not have held political meetings with Perzel. He would not have waited an entire year to force compliance with subpoenas that were issued three weeks after such a meeting with Perzel. He would not have accepted indirect campaign contributions from Senate Republicans. These actions, if Corbett indeed had intended to pursue charges against Republicans, would be both breathtakingly stupid and undeniably corrupt.

The only alternative explanation is that Corbett never intended to pursue charges against House Republicans or anyone in the Senate. He believed that he could get away with indicting one sitting rank-and-file Democratic representative who just happened to be running for a competitive Senate seat, one former representative already reviled statewide for the pay-raise controversy, and 10 staff members and be hailed as the conquering hero of legislative corruption.

At first, Corbett thought he could deflect suspicion about his partisanship by leaking hints about a nascent investigation of Republicans. In October 2007, a Capitolwire column suggested Corbett's political ties to the Republican legislature might inhibit Corbett's investigation, and a Morning Call editorial endorsed Morganelli's call for an independent prosecutor. The next day, the Associated Press reported that House Republicans had at last received a subpoena for records. We now know Corbett and his campaign manager had met with Perzel three weeks earlier. It had, by then, been 10 months since Corbett announced his investigation. The House Republican Caucus had replaced all its computers months earlier.

But the pressure continued to mount. In January 2008, Morganelli accused Corbett of “conflicts of interest” in a Tribune-Review article, which also detailed contributions from Republican lawmakers to Corbett's campaigns. Shortly afterward, the news emerged that a subpoena for records had been issued to Senate Republicans (Patriot-News 2/13/08)  The turning point appears to have come around Aug. 3, 2008, when the Patriot-News published an analysis headlined “Is state bonus probe partisan?” In a Tribune-Review article published three days later, Governor Ed Rendell urged Corbett to reveal by election day whether Republicans would be charged as well. The Chambersburg Public Opinion editorialized the next day that Rendell had a pretty good point. By October, Team Corbett was explaining to House Republicans that no, they really were serious about those subpoenas they'd issued the year before.

It's easy for the Capitol Stenographers Corps to avoid seeing the patterns of Corbett's politically-motivated prosecutions when they're stretched out over five years.  And prosecutors have been fairly successful in leading the press to treat the $20 million, eight-year House Republican corruption scheme as an afterthought to the House Democrats $1.4 million, four-year bonus program. But a full-blown dog-and-pony show the likes of last year's "Bonusgate" trial might have laid out the facts in a pattern too obvious even for the Corps to deny.  That's why prosecutors were so motivated to get Preski and Perzel to agree to plea deals. They certainly didn't need them to testify - although Perzel got on the stand, the best he could do against defendant Feese was, "He had to know because everyone knew." Hardly a smoking gun. We doubt the public will find out anytime soon how sweet Preski and Perzel's deals are. Almost two years after entering a plea in the "Bonusgate" case, Mike Manzo, former Chief of Staff to craven liar Bill Deweese, has yet to be sentenced. But the deals were motivated by Corbett's desire to deflect media attention to the trial. And it worked.

We at CasablancaPA have a theory about why the Capitol Stenographers Corps are so willing to turn a collective blind eye to Corbett's ethical lapses and political opportunism.  When a child suspects there's a monster under her bed, she hides her head under the covers rather than lean over to see. Because once you're looking it square in the face, what are you going to do about it?


Anonymous said...

Smith spends $9 million of our money and has no idea where its going, right.

Why exactly did Smith think he needed to spend millions of tax payer dollars on computers that track the habits of only people that vote Republican?

Did Smith ever wonder why it cost that much to "improve interactions between members and constituents?"

Maybe spending less on computers and more on job creation would have improved the interactions a little better?

The AG's star witness said everyone at the top know this was purely political.

Sounds like perjury.

Does the AG's office have the kahunas to go after him?

I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break - Speaker Smith testified for only 1 hour, You've got to be kidding me. He was the gate keeper of the taxpayers cash that went to pay for this illegal computer program. And he "didn't know" - and how he's in charge of the entire State House.

I've never been more disappointed in government than today. These Republican so called leaders have no shame - and they certainly won't let the truth get in the way of a good story.

And then AG Corbet put Veon in jail - Smith, Turzai, Perzel, and all the republican caucus should be in jail, ALL - old and new. The republicans used taxpayer money for elections, then and now, and they're getting away with it.

I only wish I had access to such a pool hipocracy. I've been a moderate republican all my voting life and never voted for a democrat - forget it now, the republican party has lost me forever and it looks like any democrat is better than these so called "good republicans". I'll be pulling the D lever from now on.

Anonymous said...

I know it's been said over and over, but what bothers me the most is the complacency in the media.

The Speaker of the House just committed perjury on the stand of a statewide corruption trial, and no one cares.

We get the government we deserve people.

As for good journalism...
Those days are gone. There is no such thing anymore.

Anonymous said...

Right on CasablancaPA.

If I signed an illegal contract that stole $10 million from the taxpayers I'd already be in Muncy prison with a brand new girlfriend cellmate.

Slick Smitty is still collecting a very fat paycheck while claiming he was too stupid to know what he was signing?!@#!! He's now blaming his lawyers.

The AG's office headed by Tommie Corbett bought this story?

Smith never once wondered why this computer contract was for freakin' $10 million????

What did he think it was for??

I can't decide which is more incredible, Smith's story, or the AG lawyers believing it, and both look like they did criminal acts and the Newspapers condone it.

Anonymous said...

Well, CasablancaPA would be the first to scream if the case was brought and after spending a half-million or so the verdict was "not guilty."

Being stupid is not a crime -- happily.

And unless the AG's office can prove something, as opposed to merely suspecting it, it has no business bringing criminal charges.

These trials don't come cheaply, and taxpayers foot the bill when public officials are charged.

Anonymous said...

People have gone to jail on less evidence of corruption than the computergate presentment lays out on Smith, and that's a fact.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, how can the Sergeant Shultz defense ("I know nothing, nothing...") work in this case, even Hogan would wink?

The note taking secretary goes to jail but the person who authorized payment is our Speaker of the House.

The public, media, and democrats should not be pleased with this result, and demand an investigation into Tom Corbett's misuse of justice to become Governor.

The Republican's cry out of course Smith didn't know.

The only ones who did anything wrong were Corruptbutt's political enemies.

After all, Political Science 101, always remember to reward your friends and crush your enemies in politics.Need we say who was who to Tom "forest dump" Corbett.

They don't call Tommy the silver fox for nothing....I think there is a stench comming from Harrisburg and it is not the Susquehanna river and the EPA would do a better job of clean up than the DOJ, it looks like now.

Tommy must have given Smith some" chocolate" because he "see's nothing" "knows nothing" ...I thought I saw a picture of Tom Corperate wearing a monicle...HOOOOOGANNNNN!!!

Anonymous said...

Here is a review of the current government that occupies the Pennsylvania General Assembly in Harrisburg and their legislative initiatives this year:

Acquire Harrisburg Bill

Private School Voucher Bill

New Seat Belt Bill

Anti-Spanish Voter ID Bill

Pro=English as the Official Language Bill

Immigrations Bill

Hunting on Sunday Bill

Divide Electoral College Bill

There seems to be a pattern here.

There are no jobs creating bills, no transportations bills, or no Marcellus Shale Field tax bills.

The argument of these eight non-important, non-job creating, and non-revenue enhancement bills are of any real importance to the citizens of Pennsylvania.

They address absolutely nothing.

This proposed law exists as a premeditated terror campaign to a minute segment of Pennsylvania citizens.

Throw in how the Press is promoting the debate of this worthless non-job impact legislation.

Then wonder how the Media ignores the crimes the Republican Judges, Senators, House Members, and Attorney General now Governor did while running for election?

All from a Computer Data Base those Pennsylvania Taxpayers paid $20 million for, but Sam Smith and the Attorney General never knew, but they used it to be elected?

The liberty of the press is a blessing when we are inclined to write against others and a calamity when we find ourselves overborne by the multitude of our assailants.

The press is not only free, it is powerful. That power is ours. It is the proudest that man can enjoy, but they are corporations that no longer care about man's rights so long as they make a profit from taking them by remaining blind, silent and turning their heads to ignore.

Anonymous said...

Corbett is participating on a coordinated Republican strategy to suppress job growth until after the presidential elections in an effort to unseat Obama.

That is why all of these Republican governors decided that they had to balance the budget during a recession.

A stupid idea.

He will pass a bill that will not result in job until a year from now.

We need a Governor who puts Pennsylvania first and does not take orders from others, like Oil-Gas Companies, Waste Management, and Gaming Mobsters.

Corbett said that balancing the budget would create jobs. Unemployment has gone up in Pennsylvania and income tax revenue has gone down as a result.

Construction costs are down as much as 20% due to the recession. Now is the time to spend on infrastructure.

We will save a lot of money in the long term but this jerk could care less. We have a Governor who thinks that all government is bad.

Yet Corbett had been a government employee for years with gold plated health care and a fat pension.

Anonymous said...October 28, 2011 5:27 AM

Do the math on Marcellus Shale Wells coming in at 60% higher than any place in the nation.

Pennsylvania could have an additional $16 Billion to fixing our Infrastructure from a Marcellus Shale impact fee, but Corbett refuses to tax it, just debates it.

Where is Mike Veon when you need him? Oh, that is right, Corbett trumped up Criminal Charges on Ethical Violations, but let Republicans skate and drill.

Anonymous said...

I met with various media personalities in the lead up to Corbett's election. One TV reporter was very interested in the material I provided concerning Corbett's testimony about fraud and corruption in the Office of the Attorney General's office concerning the private collection agency's. This TV personality came back later after he took the story to the higher ups and said they won't run it.
If you're guessing the TV station is owned by Republican's you would be correct. It never ran, it was never even allowed to be independently investigated by this reporter. That in a nut shell is why you'll never see the same coverage about "computergate" that you saw in "bonusgate".
It will be interesting to see if the media goes back to doing their job when DeWeese's trial occurs.

Anonymous said...

Fumo's re-sentencing case is getting more press coverage than the Republican/Perzel/Smith theft of over $20,000,000.00 for campaign computers. Fumo's case was less than $2.5 million and even if you accept the Republican Prosecutor's version it was about $4.3 million and he gets more press coverage than the Republican Perzel/Smith $20,000,000.00 theft of taxpayer money & computergate.

The Republican owned and/or controlled media in Pennsylvania is sad.

Perzel and Preski fessed up - now it's time for Sam Smith, Mike Turzai and all the so called "do gooders" and "newbees" to fess up; all of whom benefited from this theft of tax dollars.

The republican motto, "I'll say anything that the polls and you (the voters) want me to say, but I'll as I dam well please and that which is politically advantageous for ME!"

Anonymous said...

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Vincent Fumo has written what prosecutors call “an explosive trove” of prison emails, suggesting to them he plans to seek revenge and resume a lavish lifestyle.

Fumo is serving a 4-1/2-year term for defrauding the state senate and two nonprofits of more than $2 million. But he could get more time at a Nov. 9 hearing after an appeals court threw out his below-guideline sentence.

In the e-mails, the longtime state power broker calls his 2009 conviction on all 137 counts “a travesty of justice.” Prosecutors believe they show he is itching to exact revenge on his enemies.

In one email, the Philadelphia Democrat talks of how he misses his jet but gets to keep his boats.

Prosecutors will again seek at least a 15-year sentence.