Sunday, February 27, 2011


Earlier this month, CasablancaPA remarked upon how well Dennis Roddy's anonymously-sourced reporting served the Tom Corbett for Governor campaign, and how Roddy was rewarded with a cushy administration job.

An intrigued reader has drawn our attention to one of Roddy's stories from September of 2008 - shortly after Corbett had decided charges against Republicans would be a political necessity.

The story, headlined "Pa. House GOP's use of computer investigated," does not explain how Roddy learned the subject of the grand jury's investigation, or how he knew that, the previous month, "six House Republican technology staff members were summoned before the grand jury and asked about the use of House computers and possible political work."

But what's most interesting is that the original story, posted to the Post-Gazette's website on Sept. 11, 2008, contained this sentence:

"Among questions was an inquiry about one top Republican aide who prosecutors believe received a free communications wiring upgrade at his home."

By the next day, that sentence had been excised from the story.

(The only other difference was the truncation of a long Steve Miskin quote.)

Did Roddy show a little too much initiative for Corbett's taste when reporting that story? Why would he remove that particular sentence unless the OAG asked him?

Back then, Corbett may have worried that inconvenient questions might arise if the voters learned about the huge discrepancies between what Corbett knew and the charges that he filed.

In September of 2008, Corbett was facing increasing criticism for the partisan nature of his investigation.

"Is state bonus probe partisan?" a news analysis in the Patriot-News asked.

Governor Rendell also suggested partisanship was guiding Corbett's hand:
"I don't understand why after two years you only could make your decision on Democrats," he told the Tribune-Review.

"...the pressure's on to demonstrate a bipartisan dedication to reform ...If he fails to charge Republicans between now and November, he will certainly open himself up to claims that he's politicized the reform movement..." the Chambersburg Public Opinion opined.

With Election Day approaching, and his opponent in the Attorney General race accusing him of "botching the investigation," Corbett needed to convey that he was now investigating Republicans.

Because he'd spent most of the previous year schmoozing House Republicans at fund-raisers, secretly meeting them with his campaign manager, giving the go-ahead to swap out computers, there was no way he'd be ready to announce indictments in time for Election Day.

(And besides, that might hurt the Republicans' chances of recapturing the House.)

He needed stories like Roddy's to counteract accusations of partisanship. But he couldn't reveal too much about the evidence he was gathering until he had decided whether or not he would act upon that evidence.

The complications for Corbett of too much independent reporting about the evidence later would be revealed. For example:

When fellow Post-Gazette reporter Tracie Mauriello developed information that campaign aide Dan Wiedemer had implicated Steve Stetler to the grand jury a year earlier, Roddy scrambled to insert into the story - anonymously sourced, of course - Corbett's ludicrous, face-saving contention that investigators were still deciding, a year after the fact, whether to indict Stetler.

With the cat now out of the bag, Corbett did indict Stetler - nearly a year and a half after he was implicated and the original indictments had been announced.

Was it a coincidence that it was Roddy's rival at the Tribune-Review who broke the story that Corbett had ignored the implications of an email in which Bill DeWeese responded to a staffer who thanked him for a bonus "for campaigning," with "U R welcome?" (The Trib also was skeptical enough about Roddy's motives to link to our previous post.)

And although Corbett's failure to pursue charges against Sen. Jane Orie - even turning away an intern who tried to report Orie's activities to the OAG - has raised eyebrows at other news outlets ("Orie charges political dynamite;" "Orie indictment could raise questions about Corbett’s probe") the Post-Gazette has raised no such concern.

We've no doubt that "sources" indeed told Roddy in Sept. 2008 that investigators were pursuing allegations of a "top Republican aide" receiving a communications wiring upgrade at his home at taxpayer expense. The question remains, who then told him to keep it quiet, and why?

Friday, February 25, 2011


As if there were any question remaining, the trial of Sen. Jane Orie has laid absolutely bare the politically-selective nature of Tom Corbett's so-called investigation of legislative corruption.

It doesn't take a genius to connect the dots: Fearing hackers, a paranoid Orie in 2008 asked Corbett's office in to examine her computer network - the same network where county investigators discovered that political material resided until 2009. ("Testimony reveals that up until late spring of 2009, some of those very campaign and political records of Orie's were maintained on computer hard drives that were part of the state computer system.")

At least one member of the mainstream media has finally begun to face the facts. Not every reporter is angling for a job in the Corbett administration. (Just watch out for the goon squad, Laura.)

Orie was so confident that she had nothing to fear from Corbett's "investigation" that she not only continued overt taxpayer-funded political activity long after the "Bonusgate" scandal frightened nearly everyone else into going legit -- she actually invited the cat-in-chief to rummage around in the mouse-hole.

It was only after she learned a law-enforcement agency other than Corbett's had been tipped off that she made even the slightest effort to keep up appearances.

We wouldn't put it past Corbett's cronies in the OAG to rustle up some charges against a Senate Republican or two (or at least an ex-legislator and a crew of staffer) now that his selectivity has been so undeniably exposed.

After all, he got away with a belated, cover-yer-ass "investigation" of House Republicans after spending the better part of the previous year schmoozing them at fund-raisers, secretly meeting them with his campaign manager, giving the go-ahead to swap out computers and who knows what else?

He got away with dredging up some after-the-fact, unrelated charges against Bill DeWeese after it became apparent that letting him slide on "Bonusgate" was the political and prosecutorial screwup of the decade.

He got away with indicting Steve Stetler months after he was embarrassed by the revelation, a year after the fact, that he had ignored incriminating testimony and let him blow off a subpeona (did you know they were optional?).

He got away with letting Todd Eachus off the hook after going to the trouble of making it appear as if charges against him were imminent.

He got away with announcing an investigation of years-old Hershey Trust shenanigans only after he was embarrassed by an Inquirer expose. He has gotten away with cozying up to those self-same trustees in the midst of the so-called investigation at an establishment owned by the very charity they manage.

And if he announces, at this incredibly late date, more than four years after "launching an investigation," indictments of Senate Republicans to cover his ass yet again, he'll probably get away with that, too.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Admitted felon Robert Powell handed "cash-stuffed envelopes" to a "prominent state lawmaker" as the two walked off Powell's plane together in late 2006, according to a witness in a Luzerne County corruption trial.

The witness claimed Powell has testified to a grand jury about "paying off" the lawmaker.

The prominent state lawmaker was not identified.

There may be plenty of prominent state lawmakers who've flown in Powell's plane; it could be anyone. Really. However, we know of only one who has admitted it.

Former House Majority Leader Todd Eachus said last year that he flew with Powell on Jan. 31, 2007. He initially lied about the flight, saying he accepted it because he had to rush back to Harrisburg to cast votes, and later backtracked when confronted with the facts. He has refused to respond to a report that he has flown with Powell more than once.

At the time, Powell was trying to develop a cargo airport and Eachus supported legislation that would have allocated $495 million in taxpayer dollars for the project. Eachus abandoned support for the project after Powell admitted paying judges to sentence juveniles to a detention center Powell co-owned.

Eachus accepted $18,000 in campaign contributions from Powell, according to the opponent who defeated him in November's election.

A little over a year ago, Eachus allegedly received an invitation to testify before a state grand jury investigating legislative corruption.

Though they were originally not indicted in then-Attorney General Tom Corbett's gubernatorial campaign-launching investigation, Eachus, former Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, and former Campaign Committee Operations Chair Steve Stetler drew widespread attention after press leaks revealed that Corbett had ignored or overlooked evidence implicating them. Corbett later attempted to gloss over his embarrassment by belatedly indicting DeWeese and Stetler (DeWeese on unrelated charges), but Eachus remained untouched.

It's not clear whether Powell is supposed to have testified before the investigative arm of the Corbett for Governor campaign or some other grand jury, but an active federal investigation might explain why Eachus was not part of Corbett's December 2009 attempt at damage control.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Under questioning from Costopoulos, Contino said the commission found that several politicians in the state have violated ethics laws over several years but were not charged criminally. (Tribune-Review, 7/20/10)

"Anybody who violated the law is going to get it." - Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina (Patriot-News, 8/3/08

Monday, February 7, 2011


Everyone does it.

It's a statement that was met with mocking scorn when Mike Veon raised it to highlight flaws in Corbett's investigation, and with shocked indignation when presented as the conclusion of a grand jury. Bill DeWeese said it would be his "saving grace."

When Veon argued selective prosecution in a pre-trial motion, some likened his arrest to a speeding ticket. It's true that police know they can't possibly ticket every speeder, but the main purpose of issuing speeding tickets is to serve as a deterrent.

Is that what Governor Tom Corbett intended? To prosecute a few in order to deter the rest?

The Office of Attorney General has gone to great pains to declare quite the opposite:

"Anybody who violated the law is going to get it," deputy AG Frank Fina told the Patriot-News.

That's a blatant and shameful lie, as CasablancaPA has documented time and time again. And again.

Was it a desire to punish "anybody who violated the law" within the legislature that led Corbett launch an investigation of one caucus only (while claiming to investigate all four), only to have to go back and initiate a real investigation of another after questions of partisanship threatened to derail his political plans?

(For the last time, the lame rationale that Corbett investigated only one caucus because he suspected evidence was being destroyed is not only false, but makes no sense. Corbett didn't hear such a rumor until August (Agents “rushed” to seize the records “after receiving a tip that they were about to be destroyed.”) - months after launching the Democrats-only investigation. Even as Corbett's lackeys brandish this discredited theory to defend his investigation of only one caucus, they conveniently ignore that it contradicts his claim that he was, at the time, investigating all four caucuses.

That Corbett's original intention was to indict only a few select Democrats, despite evidence of misconduct in in all four caucuses, is obvious beyond question. As Corbett's 2008 opponent for Attorney General John Morganelli said, "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."

In response, Corbett's spokesperson unbelievably claimed he couldn't go after "B, C and D" - also known as the House Republicans, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans - because he didn't have reason to believe that "B,C and D" were "destroying" evidence. Which raises two important points. First of all, we're not lawyers, but do you have to have probable cause that evidence is being destroyed in order to seek that evidence? Ironically, Corbett later did discover - long after serving subpoenas on the House Republicans, that they, and not the House Democrats, did destroy evidence. Just as Morganelli (and the rest of the sentient world) predicted. However did Corbett obtain subpoenas for House Republicans if he never learned that they were "destroying evidence" until long after the they were served?

And secondly, the only reason Corbett developed that particular (false) information on one caucus and not the other three is precisely because he was investigating only one caucus at the time. Even though he didn't develop the information that they were destroying evidence - which would have allowed him to initiate an investigation - until six months after starting an investigation. Which apparently he couldn't start until he learned they were destroying evidence. Despite the fact that he claimed in February 2007 that he was investigating all four caucuses.

If Corbett had really intended to probe all four caucuses (eventually?), it would have been nothing short of idiotic to launch a loud and leaky investigation of only one without taking any action on the others for months on end. And we really don't believe Corbett is that much of a idiot. Others may disagree.

He certainly seems determined to make us believe that he is; in October 2007, he and his campaign manager met privately with eventual defendant John Perzel. And in December 2007 he allowed eventual defendant Brian Preski to host a fund-raiser for him. Even though he supposedly had been investigating all four caucuses since February 2007, "we didn't have all the facts in front of us." The caucus' highest-ranking member and his chief of staff, involved in any caucus shenanigans? Is there anyone who couldn't have guessed this maybe could be the case even without interviewing a single witness or subpoenaing a single document (which apparently you can't do until you have probable cause that evidence is being destroyed)

And even though he claimed he wouldn't accept contributions from legislators while conducting his investigation, Senate Republicans happily laundered their contributions through the campaign of Corbett's running mate, with Corbett's knowledge and approval.

If he had intended to prosecute all four caucuses from the beginning, he'd have investigated all four caucuses from the beginning; it's that simple. He didn't. And it matters why.

The fact that "everyone does it" is significant not because of what it says about the defendants, but what it says about Corbett.

Friday, February 4, 2011


The Bill DeWeese public relations machine, led by former human Paul Sunyak, is running in overdrive.

Resplendent in a Marine Corps jacket, (was it his idea to shoot from that angle to make him look more heroic?) DeWeese "soldiers on," breathing "rhetorical fire" with a "certain bravado." (Seriously? Retch.)

The swooning Inquirer article makes scant mention of the charges against him - and none at all of the charges he escaped, and why he escaped them.

If DeWeese wants attention so badly, let's give him some. But let's get the facts straight:

Sept. 19, 2007: DeWeese fights probe of bonus payments
Attorneys for House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese sought to pre-empt subpoenas requiring several caucus employees to appear before a statewide investigating grand jury.

Oct. 16, 2007: DeWeese loses motion to exclude seized files
DeWeese's attorneys appealed Feudale's order to the state Supreme Court, citing federal and state "legislative privilege" protections for the seized material.

Oct, 27, 2007: DeWeese loses motion to quash subpoenas
The state Supreme Court denied DeWeese's petitions to block subpoenas compelling seven staffers to testify to the grand jury.

November 2007: DeWeese "negotiated" with Corbett to turn over emails implicating others
"It was negotiated through representation from the House ... specifically Mr. Chadwick." It's unclear what considerations DeWeese received in exchange for the evidence or why Corbett agreed to the arrangement.

11/18/08: DeWeese insists he's not a target
DeWeese said he's been cooperating with Attorney General Tom Corbett's investigation of legislative practices "Since Day One." He was not asked how his attempts to quash subpoenas and motions to exclude evidence qualified as "cooperating."

Big fat lies to the contrary notwithstanding, DeWeese obviously was not cooperating with Corbett's investigation well into October of 2007. But by mid-November at the latest, he'd "negotiated" an agreement to turn over emails, fired the staffers implicated in the emails, and arranged to provide caucus-paid attorneys for staff who testified to the grand jury.

Nov. 18, 2007: Bill DeWeese, ahead of the avalanche
"He has the goods on every single member of that [Democratic] caucus, and right now they are scared,'' Mr. Potts said. "He knows what everybody is afraid of and could tell tales if he wanted to and everybody knows it. It's every man for himself."

What changed between October and November? What did the "negotiations" entail? And do they explain why DeWeese was never charged in the caucus-wide activities at the center of the Bonusgate case? Big fat lies to the contrary notwithstanding, the evidence against him was undeniable:

February 2008: DeWeese admits he never delegated authority to award bonuses
DeWeese is visibly shaken when he realizes what he just admitted to KDKA's Jon Delano. The admission contradicts earlier statements about bonuses.

July 13, 2008: DeWeese's legislative assistant testifies DeWeese approved awarding bonuses for political work
Manzo came to Bill and said several epople were coming up for their annual evaluations. They were gung-ho, go-getters, always volunteer ... they volunteered to do campaign work. Bill said, craft something you think is appropriate.

Oct, 9, 2008: Ex-aide accuses DeWeese in probe
DeWeese "had full knowledge of the bonuses. He directed that certain bonuses be given."

March 16, 2009: E-mail may tie DeWeese to scandal
Karen Steiner thanked DeWeese for a "bonus for campaigning." DeWeese responded with "U R welcome."

April 7, 2009: DeWeese OK'd extending Peter Schweyer's employment, records show
Rep. Jen Mann sought, and received, permission from Bill DeWeese to keep an aide under contract after a Democratic staffer pointed to his campaign work.

April 6, 2009: Bonusgate records contradict DeWeese
Documents show that DeWeese's campaign tapped a state-paid computer consultant - a key figure in the Bonusgate probe - to perform a long list of political tasks...exchanged campaign-related messages with his legislative staffers on state e-mail accounts ...replied "UR welcome" to an email thanking for a bonus "for campaigning" ...and approved the extension of a legislative aide's contract based on his campaign work.

The media haven't always been so willing to overlook the implications of the evidence against Deweese.

April 7, 2009: Persistent cloud: More questions raised on DeWeese's role
Time and again, though, information comes forward that seems to contradict Mr. DeWeese's assertions regarding his knowledge of taxpayer money being used to underwrite political campaigns.

Inevitably, though, as time went on and predictions about DeWeese's imminent arrest on bonus charges fell flat, scrutiny of DeWeese's role in Bonusgate led to questions about Corbett's failure to charge him.

And so far, nobody's been willing to open that can of worms.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


When we learned the news that intrepid Post-Gazette reporter Dennis Roddy had accepted a lucrative job in newly-elected Governor Tom Corbett's administration, we couldn't help but reflect on the Post-Gazette's plethora of anonymously-sourced Bonusgate reporting.

For example:

In August of 2007, "sources" told the Post-Gazette the grand jury was investigating "[former Rep. Mike] Veon, as well as a half-dozen other Democratic activists, state employees and former legislators." (Post-Gazette, 8/30/07)

"As many as 100 people are expected to be called before the grand jury, a source close to the investigation told the Post-Gazette" in September 2007. (Post-Gazette, 9/21/07)

"Sources close to the investigation” told the Post-Gazette that disgraced former legislator Frank LaGrotta “has given extensive details to the attorney general's office about inside dealings in the Democratic caucus.” (Post-Gazette, 10/7/07)

"Sources close to the investigation" told the Post-Gazett that Corbett was "deciding whether to pursue obstruction charges against those thought to be responsible" for ordering the shredding of documents. (Post-Gazette, 11/22/07)

Also in December 2007, e-mails that “are a key component in an investigation by Attorney General Tom Corbett” were “obtained” by the Post-Gazette. (Post-Gazette, 12/16/07)

"Sources close to the probe" in April 2008 gave the Post-Gazette a detailed account of what LaGrotta told investigators. The sources also described an investigation into whether campaign checks to Democratic lawmakers from a Lackawanna County partnership were legal. It was unclear what law the contributions might have violated. (Post-Gazette. 4/11/08)

The Post-Gazette interviewed an intern who confirmed that he told the grand jury he'd shredded documents when he worked for the House Democrats. The newspaper did not disclose how it learned of the intern's testimony. In the same article, “sources close to the probe” said the shredding could complicate the investigation. (Post-Gazettte, 5/11/08)

A month later, the Post-Gazette interviewed four more grand jury witnesses, without disclosing how it learned of their testimony. (Post-Gazette, 6/8/08)

That same month, the Post-Gazette published more e-mails related to the investigation that it had “obtained.” (Post-Gazette, 6/15/08)

In July 2008, “sources” told the Post-Gazette that “a statewide grand jury has returned a presentment recommending criminal charges against several former state aides as well as at least one high ranking former state legislator. (Post-Gazette, 7/10/08)

After Corbett was embarrassed by the revelation that a House aide had implicated unindicted former House Democratic Campaign Committee Operations Chair Steve Stetler, the Post-Gazette helped soften the blow, citing "sources close to a continuing investigation," that "investigators are trying to decide whether they have enough to build a case against Mr. Stetler." (Post-Gazette, 6/19/09)

A "recently discovered box of files," according to "sources close to the investigation," appear to suggest widespread campaign activity inside Mr. DeWeese's Harrisburg and district offices during state work hours. (Post-Gazette, 6/28/09)

"Sources connected to the probe" revealed that the grand jury had invited Revenue Secretary Steve Stetler, former House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese and then-Majority Leader Todd Eachus (who never was charged) to testify. (Post-Gazette, 12/4/09)

According to the Grand Jury Act, persons sworn to secrecy during grand jury proceedings shall be held in contempt of court if they reveal any information which they are sworn to keep secret. Each participant in the grand jury proceeding: the prosecutor, the jurors, and the investigators, must take an oath not to reveal anything that occurs inside the jury room.

And what does the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists have to say about anonymous sources? "Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability ... Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity."

What could possibly be the motive behind leaking damaging information about Democrats in the months before a critical legislative election, and upon the unofficial launch of a Republican prosecutor's gubernatorial campaign? The prolific anonymously-sourced reporting mysteriously dried up during Corbett's ass-covering investigation of House Republicans.

Enjoy your new job, Mr. Roddy. You've earned it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


As the trial of Republican state Sen. Jane Orie begins next week, we wish - but are not hopeful - that someone would ask our intrepid Governor how his so-called investigation of his friends in the Senate Republican Caucus managed to miss such a blatant misuse of state resources for political purpose.

Then-Attorney General (now Governor) Tom Corbett supposedly subpoenaed the Senate Republicans for records on Feb. 8, 2008.

There are several possible scenarios:

1) No subpoenas were issued, and both the source who leaked the information and the Senate Republican staffer who confirmed it were lying.

2) The subpoenas were issued, the Senate Republican Caucus did not comply, and Corbett never pursued its refusal to comply -- even after learning through an Allegheny County grand jury presentment the full extent of the information the caucus withheld.

3) The subpoenas were issued, the Senate Republicans fully complied, and Corbett did nothing with the information he obtained.

We can't imagine a plausible scenario that does not put Corbett deeply, deeply in the wrong, but we're nothing if not open-minded. We're always willing to entertain the possibility that Corbett isn't corrupt, but simply mind-blowingly incompetent.

Keep in mind that more than a year after the Senate Republicans were subpoenaed for records, Corbett's office turned away a whistleblower who tried to report the shenanigans in Orie's office.

And despite Corbett's ban on contributions from legislators, it turns out Senate Republicans had been forking over cash all along - laundered through the coffers of Corbett's running mate, but with Corbett's knowledge and approval.

Corbett's "investigation" of Senate Republicans smells to high heaven. Even Corbett sycophant Brad Bumsted thought so at one time. But getting all worked up about injustice is just so exhausting for the Capitol Stenographers Corps. Fortunately it doesn't happen often and it doesn't last long.