Tuesday, October 25, 2011

PUT UP YOUR PERJURY ANTENNAE

Tomorrow, Speaker Sam Smith will take the stand in the "computergate" trial along with his long-time chief of staff, Tony Aliano.  Everyone's perjury antennae need to be up for both of them.

Prior to their appearances, Sheila Flickinger, a $58,000 a year "special projects coordinator" in Smith's office during the peak years of the "computergate" shenanigans, provided testimony regarding her time as Finance Director of the House Republican Campaign Committee (Associated Press 10/24/11)

It's not apparent from the media coverage of her testimony  whom Flickinger's supervisors were for her "official" caucus job, nor that she was (and perhaps still is) in charge of Smith's personal leadership political committee -- Keystone Leader's PAC.

Much of the coverage of the trial so far has centered around the computer programs and the contracts with vendors that established a $20 million criminal enterprise.  What hasn't been mentioned very much or very clearly is the function of the House Republican Caucus' Office of District Operations (pages 157-172 grand jury presentment)

The combination of Flickinger's intimate roles in both the illegal computer contracting and the rampant illegal campaign work of the Office of District Operations make it so very hard to believe that Smith will take the stand tomorrow and say he had no idea that massive illegal campaign operations were conducted right under his nose for nearly a decade or more.

Flickinger's prominence in the computer contracts scheme and the Office of District Operations is well documented in Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett's grand jury presentment:

  • "...GCR had detailed consultations with Sheila Flickinger due to her lengthy experience in the nominating petition process in Pennsylvania." (Page 65 grand jury presentment)
  • "John Hanley and Sheila Flickinger both testified that it was clear and well known that HRCC was not paying GCR for any of this work." (Page 73 grand jury presentment)
  • "Steve Dull testified that, while attending one of the HRCC meetings, he overheard a private conversation between several people including John Hanley, Al Bowman and Sheila Flickinger.  The participants were quietly discussing their concerns over the fact that GCR was doing a tremendous amount of campaign work for the HRCC without adequate compensation." (Page 89 grand jury presentment)
  • "After assisting the Republican candidates with properly completing and filing their petitions, various [District Operations] staffers were assigned by Hanley and/or Sheila Flickinger to review the nominating petitions of Democratic incumbents.  The reveiw of these petitions, which occurred at the Department of State (if no copies were made) or either HRCC or the District Operations headquarters in the State Capitol (if copies of the petitions were requested, required the time and assistance of most of the Regional Coordinators as well as the Harrisburg staff.  These reviews happened both during and after the normal legislative day..." (Page 162 grand jury presentment)
  • "Adam Maust and Tom Weeter actually moved boxes full of binders and other 'questionable' material from District Operations to HRCC.  The two of them used Sheila Flickinger's car (Ms. Flickinger has a parking space under the Capitol) to make at least two trips to take the material to HRCC." (Page 170 grand jury presentment)
  • "After [illegally gathered campaign information] was analyzed by Republican Caucus leadership (Perzel Feese, Preski) and senior staffers (Hanley, Bowman, Tomaselli,  Dull, Seaman, Flickinger), the leadership and senior staffers would allocate resources or engage in other activities with one goal in mind: to get Republican candidates elected to office." (Page 172 grand jury presentment)
Are we to believe that at no time did Flickinger discuss with her direct supervisors, Smith and Aliano, the "well known" illegality of the millions of dollars of computer contracts Smith signed over the years?  Or, that she never once mentioned all the political work taking up the majority of her time while under their supervision?

Of course not.  Smith and Aliano knew fully well what was going on, and until it became clear that Corbett really was going to investigate the House Republican Caucus (after having given the GOP the green light to replace their hard drives and servers and continuing his cozy political relationship with them), things were cruising along after Smith took complete control of the caucus in 2007 just as they did in the years before.

Flickinger said yesterday on the stand that "the willingness of House employees to work as campaign volunteers for House shrank markedly after rules governing the practice were tightened in 2008 while the state attorney general’s investigation intensified into the alleged use of taxpayer-paid resources for electioneering."  Maybe that is true -- for 2008 -- but definitely not 2007.

In 2007, when Smith was completely in charge of the caucus, there was absolutely no change in the amount of political campaign work the Office of District Operations was performing.  Just compare the Perzel era DO staff activity here with the Smith era activity for 2007 here.

The grand jury presentment lists emails and meetings that included Smith's participation surrounding the political work of the computer contractors.  It also relates how Smith knowingly parked notorious campaign operatives in the Office of District Operations (page 170 grand jury presentment)

Corbett even goes to great lengths to mention how Aliano authorized the use of taxpayer resources to pay for a party held in honor of the campaign work the District Operations staff did in 2005 (page 171 grand jury presentment)

There have been some Smith apologias over the past month similar to this:

"As whip, Smith mostly did what he was told, since while he had some concerns about Perzel, he also, like any fair-minded person, was in awe of the sheer skill of the man, and of Perzel’s incredible deal-making ability.  And Smith needed Perzel to rise in the House as much as Perzel needed him. But since Perzel tended to be a huge power hog, Smith got titles but not much power, both as whip and as majority leader...Did Smith probably have an idea Perzel did some hinky things? Yes. Did he have legal proof of the way the campaign stuff was used? Almost certainly not." (Capitolwire 10/19/2011)

No one could have written that after reviewing Corbett's grand jury presentment or following the "computergate" testimony thus far.  It is all there.

Smith knew.  Witness after witness says "everyone" knew, especially those at the highest levels (not to mention the dozens and dozens of caucus staff working on campaigns daily).  He was at the meetings.  He was on the emails.  Sheila Flickinger was his direct employee for years.  He parked political operatives in the Office of District Operations.  Most importantly, he signed many of the contracts and many of the checks knowing full well what was going on in the caucus.

There are many criticisms made of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, but electing and then putting into the very top leadership positions literal jellyfish with no backbone and no brain has never been one of them (figuratively? Maybe.)  To believe that Smith, a veteran member of the House and son of a veteran member, and right hand Aliano floated aimlessly around the Capitol, bumping into walls, unaware of all the activity buzzing around him for years is simply absurd.

Perhaps Smith and Aliano will follow DeWeese's lead and plead the Fifth tomorrow.  But if they don't, any answer short of acknowledging they were aware of the political nature of the computer contracts Smith signed, and that the Office of District Operations was a front for campaign operatives performing taxpayer funded campaign work, will be a deliberate act of perjury.


15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is there any scenario anyone can imagine where Smith doesn't plead the 5th?
I can't come up with one, and I imagine the defense attorney knows this as well.

My question is, why even bother calling him as a witness? What good does it do?

Anonymous said...

Smith is going to say he was duped by Perzel even though he signed many of the contracts. If Smith can be duped, then it makes it plausible that Feese was duped, too. The more witnesses, especially those in high places that say it was Perzel, the better it is for Feese's defense that Perzel ran it all and called all the shots.

Remember, everyone the Attorney General has called is saying that Feese knew, but are doing so because they got deals, etc, etc. Smith will be a witness who is going to say he was duped and Perzel was in charge...just like Feese will contend in his defense.

Anonymous said...

So you think Sam Smith, the sitting Speaker of the House is going to open himself up to cross examination and God only knows what line of questioning...
All to help Brett Feese?

Even if he wanted to do that, I can only assume his lawyer would tell him not to.

Why would he take that chance?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2:06 -- that is Smith's conundrum. He perjures himself by saying he had no idea. Thus, helping Feese. Or, fearing having to tell the truth under oath, he takes 5th. Thus, signaling to the world that he is just as culpable as everyone else in computergate.

Given that the Attorney General isn't interested in going after perjurers in these trials (see Manzo's testimony about the timing of his affair with his mistress in bonusgate trial), it is quite possible that Smith and Aliano are going to try to lie about what they knew and when.

The trouble for those two is that Sheila Flickinger has already taken the stand to talk about how much she knew. Hard to believe that Smith, let alone Aliano, were completely and utterly clueless about what Flickinger was doing. Most importantly, people like Scott Migli, Flickinger, Daphne Uliana and John Hanley were doing all the same things in 2007 as they were doing on the taxpayer's dime in 2006.

Smith was all alone at the top in 2007.

bobguzzardi said...

The Forgotten Taxpayer wonders if Speaker Smith will testify when the House Republicans will reimburse us $20 MILLION dollars.

Are the House Rs still using the computer programs the taxpayers paid for?

Anonymous said...

Where is Steve Miskin? Is he innocent? Didn't he work with Flickinger? Is Flickinger testifying under immunity? The plot thickens and I hope it boils over!

Anonymous said...

Well, he's on the stand...
Already claiming he basically new nothing.

Follow @inkyamy on Twitter for play by play

Anonymous said...

How in the hell is it possible that the sitting Speaker of the House is on the witness stand - being questioned in a statewide corruption trial and all we hear is crickets.

Barely a trickle of reporting on Twitter.

It's inexcusable from the media!! Where the hell is miss Politweets? She sat through every single second of the Bonusgate trial and tweeted it in real time.

Shame on you Post Gazette, Patriot, Tribune, Inquirer, etc...

Signor Ferrari said...

"Where the hell is miss Politweets? She sat through every single second of the Bonusgate trial and tweeted it in real time."

It's our understanding that Tracie Mauriello has been transferred to the Washington, D.C. bureau of the Post-Gazette and no longer covers Pennsylvania politics.

That may explain the lack of Tweets, but not why the Post-Gazette has published only about 5 stories on the "Computergate" trial, compared with 53 about the "Bonusgate" trial.

Anonymous said...

No Cross Examination by thye Defense, Smite skates!

Anonymous said...

The Forgotten Taxpayer wonders if Speaker Smith will testify when the House Republicans will reimburse us $20 MILLION dollars.

Are the House Republicans still using the computer programs the taxpayers paid for to date and did theys hare it with Corbett's campaign?

How did Mike Long get away with hiring Private Detectives with State Funds for Campaign work for the Republicans Senate and never was investigated as he worked on Corbett Campaign?

This is Smith's conundrum but so far is protected by the PAOAG.

Smith looks like he perjures himself by saying he had no idea. Thus, helping Feese.

Or

Thus, signaling to the world that he is just as culpable as everyone else in computergate.

Given that the Attorney General isn't interested in going after perjurers in these trials (See Manzo's Testimony About The Timing Of His Affair With His Mistress In Bonusgate Trial), it is quite possible that Smith and Aliano are going to try to lie about what they knew and when.

The trouble for those two is that Sheila Flickinger has already taken the stand to talk about how much she knew.

It is hard to believe that Smith, let alone Aliano, was completely and clueless about what Flickinger was doing. Most importantly, people like Scott Migli, Flickinger, Daphne Uliana and John Hanley were doing all the same things in 2007 as they were doing on the taxpayer's dime in 2006.

Smith was all alone at the top in 2007.

Oh, we forgot Corbett was alone at the top of the OAG with Mike Long working on his Campaign, forgive us.

Where is Steve Miskin?

Is Miskin innocent?

Didn't Miskin work with Flickinger? Is Flickinger testifying under immunity?

The plot thickens and I hope it boils over!

How is it that Newspapers have published only about 5 stories on the "Computergate" trial with $20 million spent illegally, compared with 53 about the "Bonusgate" trial with just 1.8 million?

Anonymous said...

I agree the prosecutors need to answer some difficult questions about how they chose who to prosecute.

The Bonusgate Prosecutions are looking more selective by the minute.

This Smith guy signed the checks and they are going after a secretary who took notes?

Really?

Something is rotten in the state of Harrisburg and the biggest crimes may actually be in the Pennsylvania Attorney Offices?

Anonymous said...

Let's hope the rumors of US Attorney Peter Smith looking into this are true.

He might be our last bit of hope for justice to be served.

Anonymous said...

ONE THING GREAT ABOUT THIS WEBSITE, MOST DECENT PEOPLE ARE SEARCHING FOR THE ANSWERS ON HOW CORBETT MISUSED THE PAOAG TO BECOME GOVERNOR, BUT AT LEAST THE RIGHT QUESTIONS ARE BEING ASKED HERE!

Anonymous said...

Under questioning by Seaman’s attorney Bill Fetteroff, Smith said in 2004 he expressed concern about the nature of the GCR contract and asked Perzel’s chief of staff Brian Preski - who also made a plea deal in the case - to explain the purpose of the contract.

Smith said that he only found out the data had been used for campaigning after then-Attorney General Tom Corbett launched his legislative corruption probe in 2007.

Smith appeared to contradict testimony from Perzel who on the stand last week said “everyone knew” that the computer data was being used for campaign purposes.

Records show GCR was paid a total of $9 million by House Republicans between 2003 and 2008.

When chief prosecutor Frank Fina asked Smith whether Feece ever told him who was paying for the contracts, he said he did not until “sometime post-investigation.”

It was only as the state investigation was unfolding, Smith said, that “he told me [the House Republican Campaign Committee] was not paying.”