Sunday, November 18, 2012

A JUNIOR MEMBER OF THE MINORITY PARTY CAUCUS?

State Representative Jesse White is under fire for recently revealed email exchanges with Range Resources, a company extracting natural gas from the portion of the Marcellus Shale formation underneath his district.  The gas company released the emails in an effort to portray White as a craven politician forcing favors like Super Bowl perks and campaign contributions in exchange for support for Range Resources and the gas industry in general. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/15/12)

Perhaps that is the case.  The emails exist.  Contributions were solicited.  Policy positions were staked out.  Votes were cast.  More votes are to come.

On the other hand, it can be argued just as easily that Range Resources is simply trying to discredit a state official who had the temerity to change his mind.  White appears to have gone from an ally of the industry to an increasingly vocal skeptic.  Once he crossed the line from being helpful to antagonistic, Range Resources sent a not too subtle message to other legislative allies to think twice about changing their minds (and votes) about the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania.

We think Range Resource's smear campaign is at least as interesting a story as that of a state legislator soliciting funds from an industry with business before the legislature.  As damnable as White's emails may appear, do they surprise anyone?  What is more troubling is that other legislators who may be inclined to change their minds (and votes) about natural gas drilling will be too afraid of a potential public relations jihad launched against them from the wealthy natural gas industry.

With that said, it isn't CasablancaPa's raison d'etre to defend one side over the other.  White may have crossed the line.  Range Resources may be engaged in a massive, collective blackmail of the Pennsylvania state legislature.  What interests us is the potential for yet another hypocritical investigation that could erupt from Range Resource's campaign against White.

State Representatives Stan Saylor and Brian Ellis, both members of the GOP House Leadership team, are calling for a criminal investigation of White:

"'I'm appalled,' said Majority Whip Stan Saylor, a York County Republican, who cited one email in particular in which White appeared to link fundraising and legislation.  'I think this calls for a criminal investigation.'...'We have an attorney general coming in with guns blazing, and maybe it is something she would look at," said Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler County." (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 11/22/12)

Saylor and Ellis are calling for an investigation because Range Resources released emails and documents related to a single legislator. We wonder how urgently Saylor and Ellis would be calling for a criminal investigation if it meant the Office of Attorney General would subpoena not just White's office, but every legislator and every natural gas company for emails and documents (and testimony from staff) related to campaign fundraising and their positions on legislation affecting the natural gas industry.

Are Saylor and Ellis (and their political and state House staff) willing to answer subpoenas or testify under oath before a grand jury about the thousands of dollars they've taken from the Range Resources and the votes Range Resources has asked them to make?  It's highly unlikely that a Range Resources lobbyist hasn't visited their offices or sent them letters or emails on some date very close to a vote they've made on natural gas industry legislation.  Neither man has been shy about taking thousands of dollars from Range Resources since the company formed a PAC in 2009. (Range Resources Campaign Finance Reports)

If there is a criminal investigation, it must be comprehensive, including the most powerful faction in the legislature - the Senate Republican caucus.  Not only has its leader, Senator Joe Scarnati, accepted a free Super Bowl trip from the gas industry (or at least it would have been free if bad publicity hadn't forced him to pay full freight), but between his personal and Republican State Senate Campaign Committee accounts he has accepted campaign contributions from the gas industry - including Range Resources - that dwarf those to White. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2/14/11)

Furthermore, an investigation should target Governor Tom Corbett's fundraising operation and his policy positions.  Shouldn't the tens of thousands Range Resources has contributed to Corbett raise eyebrows as high as the $10,000 given to White does?(Campaign Finance Reporters - Range Resources to Corbett)  Especially given Corbett's refusal to tax the natural gas industry and giving the state authority to override local zoning laws when it comes to drilling?  Will  Corbett's campaign fundraisers and policy staff receive subpoenas?

We aren't holding out hope.  A very clear precedent has been set on how Pennsylvania's elected officials are investigated, and Saylor alluded to it in his call for an investigation of White:

"White's emails are reminiscent of recent scandals that rocked the legislature, Saylor said, referring to eight former House and Senate leaders from both parties convicted of public corruption.  Email evidence was key to several of the investigations, guilty pleas and trials.  Even if White did nothing illegal, his actions leave an impression that reaffirms the public's view that 'we are all a bunch of slimeballs,' Saylor said." (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 11/22/12)

That's right.  Any investigation of White likely will mirror the Bonusgate investigation - only a select few will be scrutinized while the vast majority of the legislature will be let off the hook.  Corbett's own grand jury said as much about Bonusgate in the report it issued regarding members of the legislature using taxpayer resources for political campaigns:

"An interesting item in the report noted that while 25 legislative staffers and lawmakers were indicted in connection with Corbett's probe of the General Assembly, 'hundreds of legislative employees who, although paid by taxpayer dollars to do legislative work, do campaign work on state time.'  The numbers seem to bolster claims that selected legislative staffers who did campaign work on the taxpayers' dime have been indicted.  'It struck me that the grand jury was sending a message to the attorney general that 'We're not really happy because everyone does this and why are you picking these people?' [PA ACLU Executive Director] Walczak said." (Patriot News 5/25/10)

If there is an investigation of the relationship between campaign contributions and natural gas industry legislation, it should include the state government players who hold the power over legislative calendars and wield a veto pen.

Subpoenas should be issued for not only emails but for the testimony of campaign staff, legislators, legislative staff, and lobbyists regarding their communications dealing with campaign donations, legislative votes and activity.

Range Resources released emails that may put the cross-hairs on White.  He may have crossed a line, and  an investigation may be warranted. But Range Resources has chosen to single out White, a critic.

Range Resources should be forced to answer subpoenas regarding all its dealings with every government official it supports financially.  Every legislator who took campaign contributions, along with his or her staff, should answer subpoenas about their dealings with the company.  How can anyone pretend to justify an investigation of targeting only State Representative Jesse White, junior member of the minority party caucus?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

WE'VE HEARD THIS BEFORE

Governor Tom Corbett seems to be unraveling a bit, and in a quite familiar way.

The former Attorney General of Pennsylvania's vigorous denial of slow-walking the Jerry Sandusky investigation and welcoming of Attorney General-elelct Kathleen Kane's investigation is quite similar to a very well-known proclamation from another prominent politician.




Here's Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Angela Couloumbis' report on remarks Corbett made yesterday:

"'But for a true investigation, there has to be some criminal act.  I know I didn't commit any criminal act.  None. Zero.'[said Corbett]...Corbett then launched into another impassioned defense of his handling of the Sandusky probe, saying he never asked anyone to slow it down - nor did anyone ask him to do so - for political or other reasons." (Inquirer 11/10/12)

Here's the Patriot News' Charlie Thompson's report on the "impassioned defense" Corbett then "launched":

"There is no communication from to anybody to slow down an investigation.  There is no communication from anyone to me that they were going to slow down for any political reason, and I wouldn't want them to." (Patriot News 11/9/12)

The Sandusky investigation took way too long.  Riots following the firing of Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno illustrated the political risks then-gubernatorial candidate Corbett faced in bringing charges before the 2010 election.  Is it a coincidence?

Maybe not, and if not a political calculation on Corbett's part, then the 33-month investigation to take a child sexual predator off the street must be chalked up to extreme incompetence.  Either way, Kane has strong, credible reasons to investigate how Corbett and his deputies conducted the investigation of Sandusky.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

TOM CORBETT THINKS YOU'RE AN IDIOT


"I know Linda Kelly very, very well.  She doesn't do anything political." - Governor Tom Corbett (WHTM 11/2/08)

Sure ... unless you count her more than $9,000 in contributions to Corbett's political campaigns. (PA Department of State Campaign Finance Records)

... unless you count her politically-motivated defense of Pennsylvania's overtly partisan Voter ID law. (Patriot-News, 9/9/12)

... unless you count the politically-motivated legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act. (Patriot-News, 6/28/12)

... unless you count absolving the Senate Republicans in the Bonusgate investigation who gave some of the largest bonuses to staffers who worked on political campaigns - a move that even some GOP State Senators believe was politically motivated. (Tribune-Review 7/12/12)

Speaking of Bonusgate:

"Back in the Bonusgate investigation, the attorneys said pretty much the same thing: it's politically motivated." - Governor Tom Corbett (WHTM 11/2/08)

You know who else said pretty much the same thing? Governor Tom Corbett. He scoffs when others label an investigation politically-motivated, but he was the first to cry "playing politics" when the investigative eye turns on him:

"This [the call for Federal investigation of Sandusky investigation] is all politics being played by the other party." (Patriot-News 10/25/12)

Why does Tom Corbett say such ridiculous things? Because he gets away with it. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

ONLY AN INVESTIGATION WILL SORT THIS MESS OUT

Is there anyone out there who doesn't believe Governor Tom Corbett should be investigated over his conduct  in the tardy Jerry Sandusky investigation?

If so, then today provides even more rationale for a probe of then-Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Corbett's lack of action that allowed a violent child-predator to walk the street for years after his heinous crimes came to light.

Agent Randy Feathers tells the Patriot News today that:

"'Anyone who sat through that trial knows it was a thorough investigation,' he said.  'I don't care what it looks like.  I know because I was there.  There was no holding back.'" (Patriot News 11/1/2012)

Yet, just hours later at the news conference to announce charges against former Penn State University President Graham Spanier, a reporter paraphrased State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan regarding why only one state trooper was assigned to the investigation for more than a year:

"Noonan:  does not wish, in hindsight, for more personnel.  'there would have been nothing for them to do.'" (Ganim Tweet 11/1/2012)

Well, what was it? Was it the no-holds barred, aggressive, turn-over-every-stone, pursuit of a dangerous sex offender that Feathers described?  Or, the leisurely investigation Noonan describes where only one trooper was enough?

It's tough to tell, given even Feathers contradicts himself nearly in the same breath:

"'I didn't want a whole lot of investigators on this case,' he continued.  'You don't want 20 different investigators going after a bunch of kids.  You want to keep it as small as possible.'" (Patriot News 11/1/2012)

No holding back or keeping it as small as possible?  Which was it?

Furthermore, it is becoming murky now as to who was actually calling the shots.  Feathers clearly is fall guy Corbett will use if an investigation is initiated in 2013.  Here is Feathers taking responsibility for the assignment of a single trooper to the Sandusky case:

"Feathers also says he, not Corbett, made the decision to limit personnel on the case until January 2011.  Until then, there was one state police trooper working with his supervisor, plus an agent working under Feathers.  Feathers was supervising a unit out of Altoona and also worked on the case himself.  'I was asked weekly if I had enough personnel,' Feathers said.  'I never asked for help until 2011 when we had more subpoenas and more evidence.  Then, I got eight more troopers and four more agents.  If anyone wants to criticize, I'm the one to criticize because I made that decision weekly." (Patriot News 11/1/2012)

But, in Victim #1's book, the brave young man and his psychologist make it clear that at every turn they were told it was then-Attorney General Tom Corbett who was the final authority on all things Sandusky:

"Gillum writes about conversations with [Senior Deputy Attorney General] Jonelle Eshbach, and how she kept promising that an arrest would come - first in March 2010, then in the summer of that year, and continuously until it finally happened in November 2011.  Each time, Gillum writes that Eshbach wouldn't give a straight answer for a delay, but instead says that her 'hands were tied' or that her boss, Corbett, makes all the final decisions." (Patriot News 10/25/2012)

Under oath, will Eshbach stick with her original story, or shift to Feathers' newly found sense of responsibility?

Perhaps the most telling bit of information is the biggest "no-shit-sherlock" statement out of the Office of Attorney General up to this point.  Again, here is a reporter's paraphrase via tweet from today's Spanier news conference:

"Grand jury process was much more effective after the Nov. 5 charges [against Sandusky] were filed last year." (Ganim tweet 11/1/2012)

Of course the investigation got easier and more victims came forward...Sandusky was "off the street" and under supervision.  Very vulnerable victims for the first time could finally feel safe to step forward and know they were not alone...as with all similar investigations.

Was the investigation aggressive and robust or slow and incremental?  Was Feathers calling the critical shots or did the buck stop with Corbett?  And, how was the OAG so daft not to understand a quick arrest of Sandusky would make the investigation go so much more smoothly?

Only an investigation in 2013 will sort this mess out.

Friday, October 26, 2012

"INSIDERS WALK" ... RIGHT INTO THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE


Committee for Justice & Fairness, the political action committee of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, has raised Republican hackles with a new ad pointing out that candidate David Freed defended Tom Corbett's inexcusably lengthy investigation of serial child rapist Jerry Sandusky.

It also inadvertently shines a light on a forgotten chapter in the career of contentious Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley

The ad begins, "When David Freed refused to prosecute campaign violations, one of  Harrisburg's most corrupt politicians walked."  It accuses Freed of "letting insiders escape accountability."

The campaign violations Freed refused to prosecute are the anonymous "robocalls" former House Speaker John Perzel unleashed against fellow Republicans in 2008. Freed said he would investigate, but never followed through. Perzel "walked," but he didn't get far, as Corbett later incorporated those charges into his 2009 indictment of Perzel. (Capitolwire 12/21/08)

Another "insider" who "walked" on identical charges - using the very same crooked consultant as Perzel - was Kevin Harley.

In 2000, Harley was one of five candidates in the Republican primary for the 37th House District in Lancaster County. On the eve of the election, the district was blanketed with illegal, anonymous robocalls targeting two of Harley's rivals.


Just like Perzel, Harley refused to take responsibility for the calls.  Harley claimed his campaign consultant, Don Raymond, "took it upon himself," to order the calls, and Raymond's lawyer issued an apology on his behalf. (Lancaster New Era 4/14/00 & Intelligencer-Journal 4/27/00)


Just as in the Perzel case, the local district attorney initiated an investigation, and just as in the Perzel case,  he dropped it without filing any charges. (Lancaster New Era 5/13/00 & 5/25/00)

In the aftermath of Raymond's "apology," Intelligencer-Journal columnist Jeff Hawkes wondered, "Does he think he'll work again as a political consultant? What candidate is going to hire a consultant that can't be trusted to consult with the candidate?" (Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal 4/27/00)

Raymond was named executive director of the House Republican Campaign Committee before the ink was dry on his "apology" and he maintained his prosperous relationship with House Republicans right on through the Perzel robocall scheme that now dogs Freed.

Hawkes admitted,
"Boy, was I naive."

The editorial board of the Intelligencer-Journal was not, so much:

"Before everyone believes the only explanation given -- that a political consultant, acting on his own initiative and without a candidate's knowledge, initiated 2,800 smear calls at great expense -- some people might want to ask a few more questions. Among them:
'Even if the courts eventually threw out this case, wouldn't it be worth presenting it simply to determine all facts? Right now, ideas vary about who is ultimately responsible for this dirty deed. Are some innocent people still being smeared?
'Within weeks of the election, why has Don Raymond landed a top political job working for House Republicans?
Raymond served as political consultant for losing candidate Kevin Harley and has taken full responsibility for ordering the calls and has apologized for them through his attorney. But some people believe a consultant does not do such things without authorization.
Some people might think that a consultant who could initiate these negative calls all by himself could not be trusted to work responsibly as executive director of the House Republican Committee, a campaign oversight and coordinating group.
Some people might even think that Raymond received this plum job in exchange for falling on his sword and protecting others in relation to the smear campaign." (Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal 5/31/00)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

NOTHING TO SEE HERE

It started with a clandestine deal to build a politically-motivated criminal case against Democrats, who'd recently taken the majority in the House. It led to a three-year delay in taking a child rapist off the street. And House Republicans appear willing to go down with the ship to protect their captain's secrets.

Yesterday, Rep. Tim Briggs attempted to use a parliamentary maneuver to force the House to vote on a resolution calling for a review of Tom Corbett's shockingly lengthy investigation of child rapist Jerry Sandusky.  Rather than follow procedure and debate HR 520, which Republicans have kept bottled up in committee for nearly a year, Speaker Sam Smith abruptly shut down proceedings and House Republicans fled the chamber.   

Now with a solid majority in the House, Republicans have more than enough votes to defeat the resolution and maintain their wall of silence on the politics behind Corbett's inexcusable delay.
But despite trotting out their spokesman to make their lame excuses, Republicans don't have the courage of their purported conviction.  If HR 520 is bad policy, as their spokesman claims, why not simply vote it down and move on?


Because Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly disapprove of the way Corbett handled the Sandusky case, and they desperately want answers to the questions behind the years-long delay.


The conundrum House Republicans now face is how to protect their party's leader from scrutiny that would reveal Corbett's shockingly self-serving and callous motivation for putting the investigation of a child rapist on the back burner, while still protecting themselves from consequences of an unpopular vote.


But, as the song goes: if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.  A vote to kill the resolution probably would've made House Republicans appear slightly less ridiculous than fleeing the chamber in terror did.


In March 2009, when the original Sandusky complaint landed on Corbett's desk, the Office of Attorney General was reeling from the public revelation of a "smoking gun" email implicating House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese in awarding taxpayer-funded bonuses for campaign work.


Any examination of Corbett's actions at that point in history would inevitably lead to the reason why DeWeese had not been charged in the "Bonusgate" scandal - a shady "negotiation" between Corbett and DeWeese that resulted in DeWeese turning over thousands of documents and e-mails to implicate others while abandoning a legal crusade to quash subpoenas and exclude evidence in the case. DeWeese previously had vowed to fight "all the way to the Supreme Court" and the legal wrangling could've taken a year or more.


In 2007, Corbett made a political decision to spare DeWeese in the "Bonusgate" investigation so he could make a splashy indictment in time for the 2008 elections.  In 2009, Corbett made a political decision to pursue DeWeese - instead of Sandusky - so he could make a splashy indictment in time for the 2010 election.


As a result of those political decisions, a child rapist remained on the street for years. Whether Corbett ever has to face the consequences of his craven self-dealing depends in part upon the willingness of House Republicans to continue to act as human shields.

Monday, October 1, 2012

YOU CANNOT ARGUE WITH A CONVICTION RATE

"The jury verdict is a vindication of the thoroughness of that investigation. 45 of 48 counts cannot be argued with." Kevin Harley, spokesman for Governor Tom Corbett, Scranton Times-Tribune, 9/27/12

As criticism mounts of the creeping pace of Tom Corbett's nearly 3-year investigation of child rapist Jerry Sandusky, Corbett's go-to defense is that Sandusky was convicted on nearly all 48 counts.

According to Corbett, this fact alone justifies the investigation's many, many flaws.

As Attorney General Candidate Kathleen Kane points out, there's no reason to believe Sandusky wouldn't have been convicted on most - or all - counts if the case had been brought years earlier. How the investigation was served by waiting nearly two years even to begin interviewing witnesses is unclear.

But if a conviction rate alone is proof of an unimpeachible criminal investigation, what then should we infer from the fact that defendants affiliated with the House Democratic Caucus who went to trial were acquitted of 117 of the combined 139 charges against them?

If Corbett thinks conviction on a majority of charges means an investigation was pure and ethical, what does he think acquittal on a majority of charges means?

We don't need the dismal conviction rate to know the investigation of Mike Veon and a crew of staffers was flawed, starting with the fact that the Leader of the House Democratic Caucus, H. William DeWeese, was permitted to pick and choose what evidence to turn over to Corbett.

DeWeese himself was not charged in connection with any of the evidence he turned over, nor were his top aides Tom Andrews and Kevin Sidella, despite the fact that emails in the case directly implicated them.

Virtually every witness in the case against Team Veon was represented by a lawyer hired and paid by Caucus Leader DeWeese. The very prosecutor who carried out Corbett's case against Veon acknowledged - in another case - that such an arrangement represented a conflict of interest "because the lawyers ... were being paid by the [institution] while advising potential witnesses whose testimony could hurt the [institution] and its leaders."

"You don't have to stretch your imagination to see the chilling effect that will have," the prosecutor said.

The witnesses' lawyers in the case against Team Veon were being paid by the Caucus while advising potential witnesses whose testimony could hurt the Caucus and its leaders. But Corbett wasn't concerned about any "chilling effect" on the witnesses in that case, because he'd already decided not to charge DeWeese before even examining the evidence (that DeWeese himself had personally selected) or hearing from those witnesses (who were counseled by lawyers hired and paid by DeWeese).

That decision to spare DeWeese would, of course, come back to haunt Corbett in 2009 when a "smoking gun" email surfaced, in which DeWeese acknowledged awarding taxpayer-funded bonuses in exchange for campaign work. That revelation was followed by a wider examination of an abundance of evidence implicating DeWeese and his aides.

His scheme to spare DeWeese now exposed, Corbett became desperate to build a separate case against DeWeese as a distraction.

Corbett already was facing accusations of partisanship, having charged only Democrats in his signature corruption case, and was on an equally desperate mission to build a case against deposed Republican Speaker of the House John Perzel.

Corbett had to bring both indictments by the end of 2009, or "he risks being accused of using [the investigation] to launch what many expect will be a gubernatorial bid in 2010," according to the Patriot-News.

It was precisely when DeWeese's "U R welcome" email surfaced, in March 2009, that the Sandusky complaint landed on Corbett's desk. Faced with a choice of trying to salvage his politically-motivated legislative investigation in politically-expedient time, or taking a serial child rapist off the street, Corbett chose politics over protecting children.

Kane says she will review Corbett's Sandusky investigation, precisely to determine where Corbett went wrong.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

PERSPECTIVE


In 2008, then-journalist Dennis Roddy, using leaked evidence, exposed the use of state resouces to research political enemies.

In 2012, now-state employee Dennis Roddy is using state resources to research political enemies.

As the American Working Families Action Fund pointed out in a press release:

"...an employee working inside the office of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett had researched the backgrounds of people who appeared in our organization's Facebook page. Dennis Roddy, who is a Corbett communications staffer, used some of that research to post political comments on a blog dedicated to politics while apparently working on state time."

In 2008, Roddy quoted a target of the research saying challengers are "already up against the establishment, and now they're using our own tax dollars to investigate us. That's incredible. I pay my tax dollars to have someone investigate me."

In 2012, Roddy is part of the establishment using tax dollars to investigate the opposition.

In 2008, Roddy's boss, Tom Corbett, said researching political enemies on state time is a crime, and indicted the staffers who allegedly did it.

In 2012, Roddy says, "There is nothing inappropriate" about it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

AT LEAST TRY TO COME UP WITH MORE BELIEVABLE LIES


No matter how many times we have pointed out that it's a lie, the Tribune-Review's Brad Bumsted just can't break his addiction to the "Democrats were destroying evidence" fable.

In a little-noticed item in July, the Tribune-Review reported, "The state attorney general’s investigation of legislative corruption that began in 2007 found no substantial evidence of wrongdoing among Senate Republicans."

Bumsted does not waste the opportunity to trot out, yet again, Tom Corbett's thoroughly-debunked excuse for launching a highly-publicized investigation of one caucus - House Democrats - in early 2007 while giving the other three a year or two to get their ducks in obstructive formation.

Corbett "needed to focus on House Democrats first" Bumsted writes, because they "tried to destroy evidence."

But Corbett didn't receive a tip about evidence being destroyed until six months after he began his House-Democrats-only investigation.

In a breathless account of Corbett's "surgically executed raid" on the House Democratic Office of Legislative Research in August 2007, Post-Gazette reporters Tracie Mauriello and Dennis Roddy (now "special assistant" to Corbett) make it clear that investigators "rushed" to seize the evidence immediately after receiving the tip. The agents were in such a hurry they met with a judge at an airport at 7:30 a.m. "to press their case for an expedited decision."

In August.

By August of 2007, Corbett had been investigating House Democrats, and House Democrats alone, for six months.

The fact that it's a blatant lie is just one problem with the "destroying evidence" excuse. It contradicts Corbett's original claim that he was investigating all four caucuses in 2007. And it acknowledges his own incompetence.

As Corbett's opponent in the 2008 Attorney General race, John Morganelli, pointed out:

"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. What you do is you have to swoop in all at one time."

That is, if you really do have four potential targets. Even some Senate Republicans believe Corbett was politically motivated to spare their caucus:

Republican Sen. John Eichelberger, a fiscal and social conservative from Blair County who requested the investigation, told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday that he believes the lack of action by the office is politically motivated.

Monday, September 10, 2012

TRUTH, BUT NO CONSEQUENCES

The public corruption cases against Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin and her sisters have been in the news lately because of recently issued court orders to try two sisters together and to suspend Orie Melvin's salary pending the outcome of her trial.

One aspect of the Orie case we expect never to be in the news is the Senate Republicans' apparent coverup of Sen. Jane Orie's crimes and then-gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett's cheerful tolerance of their lawbreaking.

Former Sen. Jane Orie was convicted in March and sentenced in June on five felonies and nine misdemeanors in connection with illegal campaign work at taxpayer expense, and a subsequent attempt to cover up her crimes.

The Patriot-News reported in February of 2008 that Senate Republicans had been supoenaed (a full year after the start of the investigation) for "evidence of campaigning on state time or using state resources."

The Allegheny County presentment accusing Jane Orie of her crimes 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."

We also know that political material was in Jane Orie's senatorial office at least until November 1, 2009, when her chief of staff Jamie Pavlot testified that she removed it.

These records were created during Jane Orie's 2002 and 2006 campaigns, so they were on the hard drives when Senate Republicans received a subpoena for them. So, at the very least, Senate Republicans failed to comply with a subopoena. When Corbett learned, through an investigation not his own, that Senate Republicans did not turn over evidence which he supposedly had subpoenaed, did he take legal action?

Perhaps the Senate Republicans believed that Corbett issued the subpoenas simply for show, in response to criticisms that he was not investigating all four caucuses. After all, he did nothing for a year after House Republicans ignored the subpoenas he supposedly issued in October 2007.

It's interesting to note that during nearly two full years when Tom Corbett allegedly was investigating all four caucuses, even after her caucus was subpoenaed, Jane Orie felt perfectly comfortable maintaining political material on state-owned computers. It was only when she learned that someone other than Tom Corbett was investigating - Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, Jr. - that she became concerned enough to remove political material from her computers and her office.

Why, we wonder, did Corbett's investigation inspire no such concern?

Perfectly timed be be buried by release of the Freeh Report, the Tribune-Review dutifully reported in July that Corbett "found no substantial evidence of wrongdoing among Senate Republicans."

Sen. John Eichelberger never was interviewed, even though he has said that he could name times and places where he saw aides of former Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, R-Altoona, campaigning in Cambria County races, including his own.

Eichelberger says the lack of action is politically motivated; it's hard to believe that Corbett wouldn't have found reason to indict someone in the Senate Republican Caucus, if only he had been looking. Of the bonuses that triggered the investigation, Senate Republicans awarded the largest, to staffers who worked on political campaigns.

Monday, July 30, 2012

DOUBLETHINK



“There was never a Bonusgate leak investigation because there were no leaks - or until you wrote about it yesterday - any allegation that the AG’s office leaked information.” -- Keven Harley, spokesman for Governor Tom Corbett, in an email to Capitolwire's Pete DeCoursey.

Pete Decoursey went on to eviscerate Harley's bogus claim in a July 23rd column  (subscription required). But the fact that it even occurs to Harley to spew such obvious nonsense is evidence of Corbett's clear confidence that his word is unlikely to be questioned.

Anyone who paid attention to the media coverage of Corbett's partisan propaganda exercise known as "Bonusgate" knows the grand jury leaked like a sieve. 

CasablancaPA documented more than a dozen leaks to former Post-Gazette reporter, now high-ranking Corbett aide (what a coincidence!) Dennis Roddy, alone. Harley's straight-faced claim "there were no leaks" is a breathtakingly bold lie.

Harley claims as fact that none of those ....  whatever he wants to call them, since "there were no leaks" - came from the Attorney General's office. How does he know? He doesn't, because no one ever tried to find out where they came from. And why didn't then-Attorney General Tom Corbett - who, DeCoursey noted, "is death on leaks" and "says often the letter of the rules must be followed" on grand jury secrecy - ever try to find out who was leaking grand jury information?

Apparently because  -- despite the repeated and constant publication of intimate details from a grand jury -- no one ever claimed there were leaks.

Harley called on DeCoursey to "Name the leaks [Pssst! Over here!] and prove the attribution or back off that one.”

"I not only believe it to be true, I have multiple sources over the years from your past and present colleagues who said it to me," DeCoursey responded. "I stand by what I wrote.”

The question of whether the observations of convicts  (or anonymous bloggers) are "b.s." in this case may be irrelevant, since DeCoursey - who is not a convicted criminal , as far as we know (though we suppose he could be an anonymous blogger;  we never issued a subpoena to find out) - makes the same observation. And while we commend DeCoursey for practicing actual journalism in the face of obvious lies from Corbett's office, Harley's audacity is the direct result of getting away with lying far too often, for far too long.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

NO "LIKE" BUTTON FOR THIS

Who could fail to be amused by Governor Tom Corbett's recent rant defending his investigation of sexual predator Jerry Sandusky?

"You are disparaging the reputation of the men and women in that office who have worked very hard to get to the result - that justice was served and a monster was taken off the street." (Philadelphia Inquirer 7/14/2012)

The burning question has been why it took so long for Corbett to put investigators onto the monster's trail. But if Corbett wants to bring up the work these investigators eventually got around to doing, we're happy to take a look at the top-notch, professional, probing interrogation his key lieutenant put to Joe Paterno - who, it turns out, was Sandusky's chief enabler.  Here's how tough and relentless Jonelle Eshbach was in getting to the truth:

"State investigator was a fan: If that was the culture that permeated Penn State, could it have affected the investigation by state attorney general’s office? Jonelle Eshbach, the senior deputy attorney general who interviewed Paterno, several of Sandusky’s victims and Penn State officials when they appeared before the grand jury, has not been shy about her loyalty to the late coach. After Paterno’s divisive firing, her Facebook page showed she took a survey about the board’s decision. Her page says she answered that she would have let Paterno finish the 2011 season, then retire as he planned. Freeh’s team concluded that Paterno’s firing was warranted. Eshbach didn’t return a message at her office. Attorney general spokesman Nils Frederiksen declined to comment on it...When she interviewed Paterno, Eshbach specifically told him to explain what he knew about the McQueary incident, 'without getting into any graphic detail.' She also never followed up when Paterno hinted that something about an earlier claim might have been discussed in his presence prior to that. 'You did mention — I think you said something about a rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody,' Paterno said at the grand jury. 'I don’t know. I don’t remember. I could not honestly say I heard a rumor.'” (Patriot News 7/12/2012)

Wow.  Specifically asking a witness before the grand jury to withhold details? No follow up to key parts of the witness' story?  In fact, in December of 2010, Eshbach turned down interview requests from the York Daily Record, saying it would be inappropriate at that time, yet she conducted a Facebook survey about Paterno and made supportive comments about Paterno while the investigation presumably was still in progress?

There was nothing tough or professional in how gushing Paterno fan Eshbach handled her idol.  For Corbett to use Eshbach and other members of his team as examples to excoriate journalists for doing their jobs in a tough, insistent, professional manner - tougher and more insistent than Corbett's team -  is shameful.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

BY LUCK, OR BY DESIGN?


We don't know who leaked emails implicating Joe Paterno in a coverup of Jerry Sandusky's crimes, but we know of only one person who benefited from the leak: Tom Corbett.

Six days before CNN reported on the emails, the Altoona Mirror reported that the Regional Director of the Attorney General's State College Office admitted Corbett's obsessive investigation of the legislature created a shortage of investigators, impeding the effort to put Sandusky behind bars.

Corbett already was in the midst of a national campaign to defend once again the shocking, nearly 3-year length of the Sandusky investigation.

What were people saying before the emails were leaked?

ESPN:
"As Pennsylvania's attorney general, he investigated Sandusky for nearly two years but failed to make an arrest" ... Corbett had agressively pursued prosecution of sexual predators, "But this time, he assigned just one investigator to the Sandusky case, say lawyers with knowledge of the arrangement..."

"While the current Sandusky investigation was in its second year, Corbett spent much of his time focusing on the sweeping public corruption inquiry of Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg nicknamed “Bonusgate.” He also crisscrossed Pennsylvania campaigning for governor, pledging to cut runaway spending and 'restore trust in Harrisburg.' State campaign records show he accepted contributions of nearly $650,000 from current and past board members of Second Mile and their businesses."


Buzz Bissinger in The Daily Beast:
"...the way his office handled the investigation raises inevitable and legitimate questions about why an alleged sexual predator was allowed to remain at large for nearly three years while the grand jury investigated. The question of political considerations cannot be avoided.

"Not only that, but Corbett’s gubernatorial staff approved—yes, approved—a $3 million grant to Second Mile, the foundation for kids that, according to the grand jury, served as a repository for potential sex-abuse victims. Corbett knew about the grant and let it through last July for reasons that seem absurd.

"...in any case where authorities know of an alleged sexual predator believed to have committed a crime, the first obligation is to make an arrest. The risk of Sandusky committing another act against a minor child was too great to wait three years for a report,...

"...it’s no wonder that the ooze would eventually touch Corbett. Add him to the lengthening list of those who’ll have to scrub awfully hard to cleanse themselves of the stain."


Deadspin:
"Past And Present Board Members Of Sandusky’s Charity And Their Businesses Or Families Gave $641,481.21 To Gov. Tom Corbett"

The Nation:
"...the governor is far from an innocent bystander .. Although his office denies it, there are multiple confirmations that Corbett assigned no one from his office to follow up on the charges: just one state trooper, a state trooper “not authorized to bring charges against Sandusky.”

"In addition, when Corbett was sworn in as governor in 2011, he still had not informed the Second Mile Foundation that their founder was under investigation. Instead, as a candidate for governor, he took $650,000 in donations from members of the Second Mile’s unsuspecting board, even allowing the chairman to hold a fundraiser for his campaign.

"Upon being elected, Corbett then moved deftly from doing nothing to immediately trying to deflect the entire weight of the scandal onto Joe Paterno and Penn State itself, using his recently appointed position as a member of the school’s Board of Trustees (an automatic appointment for all Pennsylvania governors) to do so."


WJAC-TV:
“There have been allegations of political arm twisting and strong lobbying against lawmakers who have raised questions” about alleged “foot-dragging” on behalf of Corbett."

Philadelphia Weekly:
"...some have openly wondered whether Governor Tom Corbett, while he was attorney general of the state, did enough to investigate and prosecute the former Penn State football coach."

The Examiner:
"Corbett appears to have contradicted himself by stating that he wanted to keep a "hands-off" approach of the pending Sandusky investigation, despite the fact that Corbett was front and center in the firing of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier late last year."

Philadelphia Daily News:
"Pennsylvania taxpayers have underwritten nearly $1.4 million in contributions to The Second Mille, the disgraced charity founded by convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky where testimony showed he groomed some of the boys he later molested. The taxpayer-subsidized donations — which support The Second Mile's summer camp and an annual Leadership Institute — come through a controversial scholarship program called the Educational Improvement Tax Credit..."

Disclosure of the emails successfully diverted attention away from Corbett's role in the scandal.

There are signs of hope, however, that it won't be forgotten. A Bloomsburg Press-Enterprise editorial this week headlined "Scandal questions surround Corbett," noted, "...no governor in memory has been enmeshed in a scandal as big, as emptional, as polarizing as the one that''s enveloped Penn State University since Sandusky's arrest. Corbett's involvement figures to be very much an issue in the 2014 gubernatorial race."

Saturday, June 30, 2012

DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO

“It was a calculated risk,” that Jerry Sandusky still could be victimizing boys as the investigation languished.  -- Tom Corbett, who indicted Penn State officials Tim Curley and Gary Schultz for failure to stop Sandusky.

"As Governor Tom Corbett stated, 'If we were going to do this case, we had to have the best possible case  ... the responsible and 'humane' thing to do was, like Governor Corbett (said), to carefully and responsibly assess the best way to handle vague, but troubling allegations."  Curley and Schultz, through their lawyers, pointing out that they took precisely the same "calculated risk" as Corbett.

Newly disclosed emails make it clear that Penn State head football coach  Joe Paterno dissuaded Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley from reporting serial child rapist Jerry Sandusky to law enforcement in 2001. The emails reveal that they, along with former Penn State President Graham Spanier, also were aware of a 1998 allegation of abuse.

Schultz, Curley and Paterno all allegedly lied to a grand jury about what they knew. Their inaction allowed Sandusky to go on to abuse at least four more boys, probably more.

These disclosures are horrifying, and everyone involved should be held accountable for their failure to act. Including Tom Corbett.

As Curley and Schultz point out, they did nothing that Corbett himself didn't do after allegations came to Corbett's attention in 2009. Corbett knew that Sandusky could be continuing to abuse children while he and his investigators did nothing to stop him for nearly three years.  He admits he took a "calculated risk" with the safety of children, while he figured what course of action would be most politically advantageous.

If Curley and Schultz face criminal charges for failure to stop a child rapist, why shouldn't Corbett?  A resolution buried in the House Rules Committee since December 2011 could answer that question. Rep. Brandon Neuman this week announced a discharge petition to force a vote on the resolution.

By now it's clear that prosecuting others for doing just what Corbett himself has done was Corbett's signature move as a prosecutor.

He prosecuted legislators and staff for working on political campaigns on state time using state resources, and putting political operatives on the state payroll when Corbett himself put his campaign manager and other campaign operatives on the state payroll and OAG staff spent hours working on Corbett's campaign on state time using state resources.

Now he's prosecuting others for taking a "calculated risk" that a serial child rapist would continue to rape children. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"WE HAD A SHORTAGE OF INVESTIGATORS"

"During the Bonusgate investigation, we had a shortage of investigators in Harrisburg." -- Randy Feathers, Regional Director, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, 6/24/12.

While Attorney General and candidate for Governor, Tom Corbett first received a sexual abuse complaint against Jerry Sandusky in March of 2009, agents from the Attorney General's Office were not assigned to the case until just before the election in November 2010.

Sandusky was not arrested until a year after that.

Ever since Patriot-News reporter Sara Ganim revealed these unfortunate details, Corbett's feeble propaganda machine has desperately sought to persuade an increasingly skeptical public that a three-year investigation of child rape is perfectly normal.

In a moment of uncharacteristic candor, Randy Feathers - a narcotics investigator, not a child abuse or sex crimes expert, by the way - blows Corbett's reassurances out of the water.

Feathers confirms what most Pennsylvanians already knew: When Corbett should have been trying to take a serial child rapist off the street, he was scrambling to fix his botched "Bonusgate" investigation in time for the election.

No one would argue that John Perzel and Bill DeWeese should not have been prosecuted for their crimes (DeWeese never was prosecuted for his most serious crimes). But by the time Corbett received the Sandusky complaint, he'd been "investigating" the legislature for more than two years.

The only reason he was chasing after Perzel and DeWeese in 2009 is because he'd deliberately left them out of the original investigation - just as he deliberately left out the state Senate. Politics, not justice, forced him to revisit the legislature.

If Corbett were conducting a real investigation of House Republicans in 2007 and most of 2008, would he have allowed them to replace their computers? Would he and his campaign manager have been meeting with Perzel? Would he have allowed the House Republican Chief of Staff to organize a campaign fund raiser for him? Would he have waited more than a year to enforce subpoenas for documents?

Fact: Corbett was not investigating House Republicans throughout 2007 and most of 2008. He was lying about that.

If Corbett were conducting a real investigation of Bill DeWeese in 2007 and most of 2008, would he have allowed DeWeese himself to select what evidence to turn over to investigators? Would Corbett have disregarded a mountain of evidence linking DeWeese to the activities at the core of the "bonusgate" case?

Fact: Corbett may have been investigating DeWeese in the first half of 2007, while DeWeese was desperately fighting to quash Corbett's subpoenas and shield evidence. But he most definitely was not after Deweese agreed to turn over hand-selected evidence and drop his legal challenges to the probe.

Months before receiving the Sandusky complaint, Corbett was feeling the heat for his failure to investigate Republicans. He convened hearings to force House Republicans to respond to subpoenas he'd let languish for a year. Just as he realized that he'd need to indict a token Republican or two to appear impartial, it was becoming clear that House Republicans hadn't sat on their hands for most of the previous two years. Missing evidence made the investigation more difficult, sucking up more manpower and resources.

As investigators were struggling with missing documents and well-prepared witnesses to make a case against Perzel, a bombshell hit: The Tribune-Review revealed that Corbett was in possession of a smoking-gun email in which Bill DeWeese acknowledged that bonuses were awarded for campaign work.

Three weeks later, the Inquirer laid out a comprehensive case linking DeWeese to bonuses and other illegal campaign activities.

Facing accusations of partisanship, it would have been unseemly to charge another Democrat without first indicting a Republican or two. But remember: missing documents and well-prepped witnesses were hindering the investigation of Republicans.

Is it any wonder there was a shortage of investigators in Harrisburg?

Who's to say how Corbett would have handled the Sandusky investigation even if he hadn't tied up all of his agents playing catch-up on "bonusgate?" Even after Perzel and DeWeese were safely indicted, at least 10 agents from the OAG were spotted in the courtroom during each day of Mike Veon's trial, while others were busily trying to unmask Corbett's anonymous critics.

When Corbett and his cronies talk about how long the Sandusky investigation took, they're talking about the year between the time OAG agents first were assigned to the case and Sandusky's November 2011 arrest. They've studiously avoided a thorough accounting of the investigation's progress between March 2009 and Election Day 2010.

Friday, June 22, 2012

"ONE THING YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO AS A PROSECUTOR IS ...."

The credibility of Tom Corbett's pathetic excuse for waiting 18 months to begin a serious investigation of accused child rapist Jerry Sandusky suffered another blow today.

The sports journalism website Deadspin reports that prosecutors are standing by with the complaints of additional victims, ready to file charges in case Sandusky is acquitted.

But Corbett, who was Attorney General when the first complaint about Sandusky surfaced, claimed the investigation took so everlastingly long precisely because he wanted to avoid filing additional charges after an acquittal.

“[If] you were to lose that one case, it would be much more difficult to bring charges in other cases because it would be seen by you, by the public, as vindictive,” Corbett told the Pennsylvania Press Club in November.

Corbett claimed "the one thing you do not want to do as a prosecutor" is make an arrest on a single complaint (even though prosecutors, including Corbett himself, do it all the time). But Corbett made almost no effort to identify any other victims until 18 months later, when investigators from the Office of Attorney General finally were assigned to the case

Does Corbett think the prosecutors are making a huge, vindictive mistake? Do the prosecutors think the former Attorney General's legal strategy is full of hooey?

Or was Corbett just talking out of his ass, as usual, when he scrambled to make excuses for why he allowed an accused serial child rapist to remain free for nearly three years after receiving the complaint?

After all, could Corbett admit that he gave the Sandusky investigation short shrift because his investigators and his attention were tied up fixing his botched investigation of the legislature in time for the gubernatorial election?

We're not surprised that Corbett lied. We will be surprised if he gets away with it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

DOUBLE STANDARDS, PHILLY STYLE

"How many times do you have to get hit in the face with a brick to know what's what?" – Prosecutor Patrick J. Blessington, during closing argument in "Bonusgate" trial.

How many times, indeed, Patrick J. Blessington?

According to the Legal Intelligencer, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams's campaign improperly sent an email to his deputies on their public email addresses, inviting them to a fundraiser.

Patrick J. Blessington, the former deputy Attorney General who prosecuted state officials and staff for precisely this kind of abuse of office, is one of those deputy district attorneys.

Did Blessington - who proclaimed unequivocally that "It's against the law, a crime, to use taxpayer money to help somebody win an election" - open an investigation into this abuse of authority?

He did not. Which is not surprising, given his long history of overlooking illegal campaign work when it's performed by his own employer.

His office prosecuted state legislators for putting political operatives on the state payroll, but Blessington looked the other way when his own boss did the same thing.

His office prosecuted state legislators and staff for doing political work on state time, using state equipment, but Blessington didn't seem bothered by his own colleagues' political work on state time, using state resources.

John J. Contino, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, specifically compared the email to the "Bonusgate" case that Blessington prosecuted. He said the conflict-of-interest clause in the state Ethics Act has been interpreted to prohibit political activity when the public official uses aspects, benefits or attributes of the currently held incumbent office to advance those political or pecuniary interests.

Public election law expert Gregory M. Harvey said the fund-raising email could be construed as a violation of the "criminal prohibition of the use of public resources to carry on political activity.

Another lawyer called it "political macing" and said it could be a violation of both the state Ethics act and the federal Hatch Act.

Another said the email could be construed as "coercion."

Make no mistake, a similar email from a state legislator would have prompted Blessington to investigate. But when the perpetrator is Blessington's boss, Blessington sees no evil.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

DOUBLE STANDARDS

An especially mean-spirited editorial in the Beaver County Times (we won't link to it) highlights the incredible double standard the Times applies to former Rep. Mike Veon and to his successor, Jim Marshall.

Yes, the Times' favorite whipping boy Veon was convicted of using state resources for political campaigns. But so was Republican John Perzel - and no one benefited more from Perzel's nefarious interventions than Marshall.

After Perzel directed a veritable tsunami of both legitimate spending and ill-gotten resources to Marshall's campaign in 2006, the very first vote Marshall cast upon assuming office was for Perzel for Speaker.

Marshall accepted Perzel's illegal campaign assistance in exchange for his vote for speaker. Make no mistake: Perzel never would have committed the resources to Marshall's campaign were he not assured of Marshall's Speaker vote. Marshall was a willing participant in the very same game the BCT finds so repugnant when Veon is the player.

And, of course, the mixing of politics and state work continued after Marshall assumed office.

Tom Corbett's own grand jury called the House Republican Office of District Operations "a wholly-owned subsidiary of the House Republican Campaign Committee." It was that taxpayer-funded Office that supported Marshall's campaign, with Marshall's full knowledge and consent.

And while there's nothing illegal about Marshall selling his vote for Speaker, can we honestly argue that Harrisburg would be better off if Marshall had gotten his way and Perzel had been re-elected Speaker?

Monday, June 4, 2012

TO REIMBURSE, OR NOT TO REIMBURSE


Former Sen. Jane Orie has been sentenced to 2-½ to 10 years on crimes Tom Corbett refused to investigate.

It's undecided whether she should repay the taxpayers $1.3 million in legal fees.
Her attorneys argue she shouldn't have to reimburse the state, because Bill DeWeese, John Perzel and Mike Veon never had to repay legal fees incurred by the taxpayers.

There's a good reason Veon never was asked to repay legal fees - the taxpayers never spent a dime on Veon's legal fees. Veon was deposed from office long before the prosecutorial arm of the Tom Corbett for Governor Campaign even dreamed of the word "bonusgate." It was widely reported (then apparently forgotten) that Veon's lawyers unsuccessfully tried to have the House Democratic Caucus cover his legal fees.

DeWeese is another story. He paid a well-connected legal dealmaker at least $1.7 million in taxpayer funds to insulate himself from Corbett's initial investigation. He also used taxpayer dollars to pay the legal fees of staff members who agreed to testify against DeWeese's chosen targets.

Your taxpayer dollars nearly succeeded in keeping DeWeese out of hot water, until a leaked email revealed that Corbett had evidence of DeWeese's wrongdoing, and Corbett put the Sandusky investigation on the back burner while he scrambled to put together a belated, ass-covering indictment of DeWeese (suspiciously, not on bonus-related charges).

Because the House did not directly pay DeWeese's legal fees in connection with those non-bonus-related charges, DeWeese has not been asked to reimburse the taxpayers.

DeWeese's ability to bleed the taxpayers will not be hindered by his incarceration. His refusal to remove his name from the ballot, even though he will be ineligible to serve if he is elected, could cost the state another $150,000 for a special election. It's possible that before all is said and done, the citizens of the 50th Legislative District will have gone an entire year without representation in the House. Who will reimburse them?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?

Bill DeWese just cannot believe what is happening to him.

He puts on the bluster when tv cameras are around, boasting that he'll make new friends and stay fit behind bars, but behind the scenes, trust us: he is apoplectic with indignation.

This wasn't supposed to happen. DeWeese paid a former Republican prosecutor $1.7 million in taxpayer funds to make sure DeWeese wasn't swept up in gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett's politically-motivated "investigation" of the General Assembly.

Though he initially rebuffed Corbett's efforts, DeWeese in the fall of 2007 abruptly dropped his legal challenges, fired seven staff members and handed over to Corbett documents and emails intended to implicate the fired staffers and a former colleague.

On the jubilant day the colleague and staffers were indicted, DeWeese was sure he was in the clear. And he would have been, but for one tiny email that was leaked to the media.

It's unclear whether DeWeese turned over the email inadvertently, or he was convinced nothing he turned over would have any adverse consequences for him. Although he didn't realize it at the time, DeWeese's fortune turned on March 16, 2009, the day the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review revealed that Corbett was in possession of an email DeWeese sent to a staffer who explicitly thanked him for the bonus she received for campaigning.

U R welcome.

DeWeese, whose signature was on the letter accompanying the bonus checks, claimed he hadn't sent the email. If investigators ever had believed it, the implausibility and sheer idiocy of the excuse finally dawned on them. What's worse, now the entire state knew that Corbett knew DeWeese had acknowledged bonuses were awarded for campaigning.

How would Corbett ever explain why DeWeese hadn't been charged in the bonus scandal? Fortunately for him, no one ever asked. And when Corbett belatedly covered his ass by charging DeWeese with unrelated crimes nine months later, everyone assumed justice had been served.

Everyone but DeWeese, that is. Whatever the actual terms of DeWeese's agreement to turn over evidence and drop his legal challenges, DeWeese clearly believed that agreement covered the crimes for which he eventually was indicted in addition to the crimes at the heart of the bonus investigation.

Why else would DeWeese so carelessly admit to a grand jury that his staffers did campaign work during business hours from their desks in legislative offices? DeWeese felt no need to choose his words carefully; he was sure the law couldn't touch him.

Pennsylvania will have to wait to learn whether DeWeese's interpretation of his agreement with Corbett is legally sound. As long as there is even a shred of a chance DeWeese will triumphantly return to elected office, he will cling to the fiction that lack of evidence is the reason he wasn't indicted in connection with bonuses.