Former Deputy Attorney General, now Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington must have a very vivid imagination. One that can stretch into some seriously conflicted spaces when asked by his old boss, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett.
Apparently, when an institution that's being investigated pays the legal bills for withesses in the investigation, the investigation can be compromised. But only sometimes.
This week Blessington was wringing his hands over the way the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has inserted itself into the investigation of child molestation involving its priests by asking everyone involved to check in with Church attorneys before communicating with the Philly DA probe:
"Blessington told Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina that the request posed a conflict because the lawyers, Robert Welsh and Catherine Recker, were being paid by the archdiocese while advising potential witnesses whose testimony could hurt the church and its leaders. He said the lawyers want to sit in on all meetings between the employees and law enforcement. 'You don't have to stretch your imagination to see the chilling effect that will have,' Blessington said." (Inquirer 12/18/11)
"...Welsh's representation of at least four employees whose testimony could hurt the church and its leaders poses a clear conflict of interest, as the archdiocese is paying his legal bills, Blessington maintained." (Inquirer 12/22/12)
Blessington's and his boss, Seth Williams', position seems to make sense. Whistle blowers and other witnesses who get their legal bills paid by the Church could have a very large conflict of interest regardless of what the Church says:
"We want these people to cooperate because it's in the archdiocese's benefit," [Archdiocese attorney Robert Welsh] said. "We stand here today eager to bring them in to talk to the D.A. They are going to provide compelling testimony." (Inquirer 12/22/11)
Blessington really had to "stretch his imagination" then, when he was working as a Deputy Attorney General under Tom Corbett's supposed investigation of the Pennsylvania State Senate...another influential organization in Pennsylvania. The Senate GOP's response to the "Bonusgate" investigation is exactly the same as the Church's response:
"Senate Republicans 'have done everything possible to cooperate with the Attorney General's office,' said the statement from Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County...A law firm the caucus hired interviewed 55 current and former caucus employees and provided the information learned in those interviews to the attorney general. The Senate Republicans have paid $2.5 million for outside legal fees in the bonus investigation.No one has been subpoenaed, said Senate GOP spokesman Erik Arneson." (Tribune-Review 9/13/11)
Everyone in Harrisburg knows that the Senate GOP was just as politically active using taxpayer resources as the other caucuses swept up in Corbett's investigation. Yet, there has yet to be a single indictment in the Senate GOP, let alone an aggressive investigation. No subpoenaed witnesses? Not even Mike Long, the man who received the single largest amount of legislative bonus money (Tribune Review 2/1/07) or Drew Crompton, who raised eyebrows after receiving a $20,000 bonus for working months on Lynn Swann's campaign in 2006 (Tribune Review 2/4/07)?
Corbett's alleged four-caucus investigation of the Pennsylvania General Assembly has been a joke. Very powerful Republican allies (past and present) have been given a complete pass. If it weren't so disgusting, we would get a chuckle out of Corbett's banana-republic-level of brazenness. It doesn't take much stretching to see how crooked it's all been.