Friday, June 8, 2012


"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.


Anonymous said...

"I know for a fact, Seth would love if you could attend!" ... even though Seth supposedly doesn't know anything about this. Jeebus.

Anonymous said...

You are right about the violation - but wrong that Blessington, or the Office of Attorney General, would have brought charges if it were a legislator. Remember, when defendant/staffer P. J. Lavelle testified against Veon, as an OAG witness, he admitted under oath that after Veon left he continued to do precisely the same political fundraising and campaign work as a staffer for his new boss, then House Speaker Keith McCall. McCall is now making something like $120,000 a year as a member of the quasi-judicial State Gaming Board, a job he was appointed to after Levelle testified he committed the same conspiracy with him.

Anonymous said...

The word around the Capitol is Frank Dermody's office hurriedly gathered staff to correct a slight mistake. It seems the new head of HDCC publicly thanked staff for writing an issues book for HDCC, a book that is being produced by legislative staff during working hours. It was corrected that the book is being produced for current members to remind them about the issues. That makes it legal. If the book happens to fall into someones else hands and they make copies of it, that is beyond their control. Not, of course, that anyone knows in advance about anything like that.

Well, as long as it is all legal Wait, isn't that what Steve Stetler is on trial for, at this very time? I guess the lessons of the past--or, in this case, current news---are soon forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Won't anyone in the press cover this? Cover the politica work done by Mike Long and the Senate Rs, pretty much publicly? Cover the Senate D political operation - without even the cover of an outside office or operation, under Mellow? How about Sen. rie's parting statement that every office and every staff did it?

Anonymous said...

I know this is a bit off topic but, I see Sandusky's adopted son has come forward during jury deliberations. Does anyone think that Tom Corbett could ever be held accountable for what he knew? This only seems to get worse.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, House Democratic staff members who prepared a campaign book during staff time. I guess no one really did expect Stetler would be convicted. Remember, if everyone says they knew nothing, then everyone gots off free. Besides, the Attorney General's office has a shortage of investigators and we know no one from the press or Republican campaign reads this. So, all several dozen who were thanked by HDCC, just keep quiet, and you will all be safe.