Saturday, January 7, 2012
FOXES GUARDING THE HENHOUSE
Caucus-paid lawyers, hired by legislative leaders, actively steered witness testimony away from the leaders who hired them.
Not a single legislative leader was charged in the original investigation.
In a lawsuit, former House Republican staffer Al Bowman claims caucus-paid lawyers blocked his efforts to give prosecutors testimony against caucus Leader Sam Smith.
What a surprise.
It doesn't take a genius to see the overwhelming conflict of interest presented by allowing the ostensible targets of an investigation to choose, hire and pay the lawyers for the witnesses in that investigation. In fact, in any other instance, Corbett's office would have objected to such an arrangement.
In a case involving the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, former Deputy Attorney General Patrick Blessington, who prosecuted the "Bonusgate" case, was outraged by such an arrangement:
"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."
Last year a judge, too, noted the conflict in a case where the Archdiocese agreed to pay an accused priest's legal bills, but only if the case turned out the way Archdiocese officials wanted. It was obvious to Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes that the Rev. James Brennan had a financial incentive not to incriminate the people paying his legal bills.
But even though Team Corbett objected to the arrangement in other cases, they had no problem with allowing caucus leaders to foot the bill for legal representation for the very witnesses who might testify against them. And that's because they had no interest in hearing testimony against any of the legislative leaders.
Even when Corbett was accidentally presented with evidence against legislative leaders, he never acted on it. Evidence in the "Bonusgate" case implicated not only then-Whip, former Leader Bill DeWeese, but also Leader Todd Eachus and Speaker of the House, Keith McCall, Evidence in the "Computergate" case implicated Leader Smith. A former legislative intern implicated former Senate Republican Whip Jane Orie. Corbett responded to exactly none of it.
Barring his ass-covering belated indictment of DeWeese, Corbett targeted only two sitting legislators, both rank-and-filers. He had no intention of antagonizing the very legislative leaders who would be acting upon his agenda when he became Governor.