Sunday, November 18, 2012


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


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


"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


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 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.