Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Following the resignation of Bob Kerns as Montgomery County Republican Chair, the GOP power brokers of the Philadelphia suburbs have announced that State Representative Mike Vereb will be their party's new leader (Philadelphia Inquirer 11/17/13).

There was a time when this news would raise nary an eyebrow in Harrisburg, but that was before the bonusgate investigations. Investigations that led to Vereb himself to call for a special, new "public integrity commission." (Repvereb.com 7/26/10)  

We are very curious as to how Vereb will shoulder the tremendous number of  new political campaign responsibilities. Vereb said it himself just a few days ago -- "It's a busy job." (Philadelphia Inquirer 11/13/15)  We don't doubt him for a second. Montgomery County is ground zero for swing voters in statewide elections.  Governor Tom Corbett will need things to go well here if he has any hope of being re-elected.  Plus, the Philadelphia suburbs are prime territory for state legislative pick-ups for the Democratic caucuses next year.  It is a big, busy job indeed.

Yet, how will Vereb find the time to do all this extra work without breaking the law a la bonusgate?

In addition to his responsibilities to the taxpayers and his constituents as a state legislator, Vereb is also the House Majority Caucus Secretary.  Vereb has been very clear about the importance and the time commitment required of the position:

"As caucus secretary, Mike is responsible for helping to establish a legislative agenda and recording all official legislative activities in the House of Representatives." (Repvereb.com Bio)

In fact, when Vereb was first elected caucus secretary he outlined just how busy his new job would be:

"Vereb said because he had been elevated to a leadership post he would lose his committee assignments on the judiciary, insurance and gambling oversight committees.  He will be spending more time in Harrisburg during the legislative session because the secretary has additional duties." (Times Herald 11/11/11)

Oh, and for his extra responsibilities and effort, Vereb gets paid $8,000 more dollars a year on top off his $83,000 base state legislative salary.

We're wondering how will he do it?  How will Vereb give the taxpayers their money's worth?  How is this guy going to steer the most important county for Pennsylvania's Republican Party while at the same time give an honest days work to the taxpayers who elected him - and who pay him a big, fat paycheck, along with gold-plated health and pension benefits?

Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman should keep a sharp look-out to track Vereb's operation and his use of perks.  Will he be using his taxpayer funded vehicle for tooling around the county on Republican Party business?  Who will monitor how much political campaign work his taxpayer funded staff in both Harrisburg and Montgomery County may end up doing - even "after hours."

As we've all seen, even after bonusgate, elected officials including State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin still used taxpayer resources for campaign purposes.  Even after the scandals from 2008 and 2009, state legislators like J.P Miranda still hire ghost employees.  For Vereb to say he is different just won't cut it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


It doesn't look good for Montgomery County Republican County Chairman Bob Kerns.  The news broke last night that a grand jury may be investigating allegations that Kerns sexually assaulted a female associate last month:

"According to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, MCRC Chairman Robert J. Kerns, partner in the Lansdale law firm Kerns, Pearlstine, Onorato & Hladik, LLP, allegedly got drunk the night after a major GOP power-broker dinner last month and sexually assaulted a female with whom he worked.  Rumors are also circulating that a grand jury is being convened and Kerns' law partner was subpoenaed.  'Somebody alleged that he was drinking and sexually assaulted her, and if he did, he ought to be arrested, tried and properly disciplined,' said the source." (Philadelphia Inquirer 12/13/13)

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and it looks like a grand jury will sort this out to determine if charges should be filed against the GOP leader.  What has piqued our interest is that these accusations against the leader of Pennsylvania's second largest Republican County have landed before a grand jury.  

It has yet to be revealed if Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, a Republican, is leading the investigation before the grand jury.  It would be surprising if she were because of the obvious political conflict of interest for Ferman.  In situations where political links have been this close, District Attorneys almost always turn investigations over to the Pennsylvania Attorney General.  

Whether it is Ferman or Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane leading the investigation, one thing is clear.  A prosecutor is using a grand jury to investigate an important political figure for an alleged rape involving alcohol.  Witnesses are being put under oath and evidence is being gathered to put before an impartial group of citizens to determine whether or not there is probable cause to bring charges.

In contrast, recall the actions of then Attorney General Tom Corbett after an a nearly identical rape allegation landed in his lap in 2008 against Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins, a Republican and close Corbett political ally.  (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 8/27/08)  The two cases are amazingly similar:

"The woman alleges that she drank with Higgins at the Carriage House restaurant at a Republican committee meeting before she met with him at his office a few miles away.  The woman claimed that she was highly intoxicated and could not remember anything that took place.  Higgins has maintained that the sex was consensual."  (Altoona Mirror 4/10/10)

Yet, unlike the apparent investigation of Kerns that will use an impartial grand jury to determine whether or not to bring charges, Corbett took it upon himself to decide whether or not to not bring charges against his political ally, personal friend, and campaign contributor. He didn't. (Altoona Mirror 2/27/2009)

When the alleged victim tried to appeal Corbett's decision, Corbett himself actively stood in the way of her appeal by refusing to turn over any of the investigative material to her.  Her appeal was so hampered that the judge ruled against her:

On Friday, [the woman's attorney] said there were 'several issues' with [the judge's] ruling, including being unable to see the investigation materials and not having a hearing to prove that Higgins and Corbett are 'good buddies.'  In addition, [the woman's attorney] said, there is probably cause to show that a crime did take place. 'If a victim says 'Mr. Higgins had sex with me' and she says 'I did not consent,' that's probable cause,' [the woman's attorney] said. 'This is not rocket science stuff.'" (Altoona Mirror 4/10/2010)

Corbett's repeated refusals to turn over any investigative materials to the woman spiked her appeal efforts throughout the process. (Braman v. Corbett 5/5/11) Eventually, Higgins was never charged with a crime. Not surprising given that at no point were the allegations against the Bedford County DA ever given an impartial hearing before a grand jury that required sworn testimony and some form of a written record.

Instead, Higgins' fate was decided by Corbett personally and behind closed doors.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


We understand why deluded attention-whore Bill DeWeese is trying to remain in the spotlight.  What we don't understand is the recent rash of blow-job profiles portraying him as a jovial fitness enthusiast making the best of a bit of bad luck. Brian O'Neill of the Post-Gazette, John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News and now Dennis Owens of ABC27 appear to be willing participants in DeWeese's campaign to rehabilitate his public image.

Let's start with some facts:

H. William DeWeese, in addition to the crimes for which he was convicted, was as complicit as anyone in Harrisburg in awarding taxpayer-funded bonuses as a reward for campaign volunteers.  We know this, first of all, because of the way the legislative caucuses operate: no caucus money can be released without the authorization of the Leader. More importantly, we know this - and Tom Corbett, then attorney-general and gubernatorial candidate, knew in the fall of 2007 - because DeWeese turned over incriminating email  (including the infamous "U R welcome" email)  in which he explicitly acknowledged paying a bonus "for campaigning."

The cache of evidence was turned over as part of a "negotiation" between Corbett and  DeWeese. The terms of the negotiation have never been revealed - and apparently no journalist in Harrisburg is the least bit curious about it.  We know that DeWeese dropped the legal challenges he'd sworn to take all the way to the Supreme Court, which could have delayed Corbett's investigation of the caucus for years. We know that DeWeese quietly removed campaign fundraiser Kevin Sidella from the state payroll and began paying him, from campaign funds, the equivalent of his state salary. 

We know DeWeese used a state-paid contractor for political work.

And we know that DeWeese never was charged in connection with any of the evidence turned over as part of the "negotiation."

Journalists never have asked DeWeese about the terms of the "negotiation," his reasons for dropping the legal challenges, or the circumstances of Sidella's sudden move from state payroll to campaign contractor.

Despite the fact that DeWeese spent months obstructing Corbett's investigation, in the aftermath of the "negotiation," DeWeese began claiming that he'd cooperated from the beginning.  No journalist ever has pointed out the contradicition.

Although DeWeese steadfastly has maintained his innocence in the crimes for which Mike Veon was tried, he was excused from testifying at Veon's trial under the Fifth Amendment. If he's innocent, why did he plead the Fifth? That's a question we've never heard a Harrisburg journalist ask.

In response to a Tweet, Dennis Owens today asked us, What questions did you want asked? Here's a list:
  • What were the terms of the 2007 negotiation with Corbett's office? 
  • What were the terms of the 2007 negotiation with Corbett's office? (We really want to know the answer to this one)
  • Why did you drop your legal challenges to the investigation?
  • How can you claim you cooperated with Corbett when you tried to block the investigation?
  • Why did you move Kevin Sidella from state payroll to campaign funds just before firing other staffers, and why were you paying him the exact equivalent of his state salary? 
  • Why did you plead the Fifth during Veon's trial? 
  • Do you still consider Veon's indictment "one of the best days of [your] life?
  • Have you found anyone to balance your checkbook and buy your condoms for you?
Add your own questions in the comments.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


As the deck chairs continue to be re-arranged on Governor Tom Corbett's sinking ship of state, we were interested to see that Corbett  named former GOP Representative Katie True as his new Secretary of Legislative Affairs. (AP 8/13/13)

Perhaps as True makes her way around the Capitol re-acquainting herself with staff and old colleagues, at least one person - member or staff - in the Democratic caucuses will get a chance to ask her why they were subpoenaed, dragged before a grand jury and perhaps even threatened with arrest by then Attorney General Tom Corbett for doing campaign work on state time in the Capitol building, while she was left alone.

Campaign finance reports filed by True herself show that she was well aware and a willing participant in illegal campaign activity in the Capitol, but did nothing to stop it.  In fact, she repeatedly sent checks to the House Republican Campaign Committee in "Suite B 6 Main Capitol. You can see the reports for yourself here, here, and here.

And, the same type of activity was going on in the Senate Republican Caucus with Senate President Joe Scarnati's complete knowledge...otherwise why would he direct a $5000 contribution to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee in the "Main Capitol Building?" You can see it in black and white right here.  Take a closer look at just this one page of Scarnati's campaign report and you will also see that he sent a reimbursement check for campaign work to Casey Long at a State Capitol mailbox, and sent money for tickets to a fundraiser for House Speaker Sam Smith to Smith's district office at 527 E Mahoning Street in Punxsutawney.

These are just two examples of members of the legislature using Capitol offices and staff for campaign work, but left untouched by Corbett.  Check some of the others out for yourself here.

Everyone knows the Pennsylvania state legislature is incredibly unpopular.  As Corbett begins his campaign for re-election, you can be sure he'll want to tout his prosecution of members of the body while he was Attorney General.  Maybe folks in Harrisburg will ask why he did so in such a selective fashion?

Monday, August 12, 2013


As Kevin Harley's many years of taxpayer-funded political work come to an end (at least for now), we at CasablancaPA look back at his most outrageous, pants-on-fire public lies of the last decade and a half:

5. "[T]here were no leaks or ... any allegation that the AG’s office leaked information.”   July 23, 2013

4. As for Morganelli's call for a special prosecutor, Harley said state law does not allow it, and "it's obvious John Morganelli doesn't understand the law." July 22, 2008

3. There's "no record" that an intern for former Sen. Jane Orie called Corbett's office to report illegal electioneering.  April 11, 2010

2. “This [722 calls between phones registered to Corbett's campaign and the phones in his taxpayer-funded state offices on state time]  has nothing to do with using government resources for campaign purposes. It’s the exact opposite of that.”  February 5, 2010

And the Number One biggest lie of Kevin Harley's career:

1. "I had no knowledge of those phone calls. I had nothing to do with those phone calls. My campaign did not pay for those phone calls ... and my campaign did not authorize those phone calls." April 4, 2000

Thursday, August 8, 2013


There is some debate over whether or not Governor Tom Corbett's use of a state helicopter to go hang out with friends in an "official" capacity at Pocono Raceway should be regarded as a big deal (Inquirer 8/8/13).

Well, it is.  Why?

Because Tom Corbett arrested Mike Veon for hanging out with other legislators in his office over dinner after a regular basketball game.  (Trib 12/14/08).  Keep in mind that Corbett brought these charges, used valuable investigative resources to prove them, then pushed hard to convict Veon all while he allowed Jerry Sandusky, a now convicted child molester, to walk the streets freely.

A jury eventually found Veon not guilty on all these counts related to the "basketball dinners" after finding star prosecution witness, Karen Steiner Blanar, completely lacking credibility.  Besides the fact that despite Corbett's best efforts, eating dinner paid for and accurately reported on financial accounting forms...after a basketball game with other legislators...in State Capitol offices...discussing legislative business....is not illegal.  And, for the sake of argument, if it was against the law, then Corbett failed to arrest a tremendous number of other legislators for doing the exact same thing.  In fact, following the charges being filed, the House Comptroller released a memo that clearly stated members are not breaking the law by using their contingency accounts in the Capitol in the exact same manner as Veon.  You can read that memo here.

So, it matters.  Corbett made arrests, wasted valuable resources trying to prove the charges even though he knew before the rest of us what could be lurking (quite literally) around unexamined in the guise of Sandusky.

Corbett has always wanted it both ways as a prosecutor and a politician.  Giving him any more of a free pass needs to end.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Attorney General Kathleen Kane once again has been called upon to respond to accusations of partisanship by the very same political hacks who spent the previous six years scoffing at the very idea of partisan prosecution.

Truth be told, we're almost relieved to see disgraced former supervising grand jury judge Barry Feudale kicking up such a fuss. He rubber-stamped so many of gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett's ridiculous requests - of questionable legality -  we had begun to wonder whether he even was paying attention.

Now we know that he knew exactly what he was doing when he supervised the grand jury that allowed Corbett to conduct a blatantly political and self-serving "investigation" of House Democrats while lying about investigating all four caucuses.  He stood by and watched as Corbett allowed House Republicans to replace their computers while publicly claiming the caucus was under investigation. He signed subpoenas that were purely for show and then presided over hearings that weren't convened until a full year later "for the purpose of forcing the caucus into compliance with subpoenas and court orders."

He stood silently by when it was revealed that Corbett and his campaign manager privately met with a potential gubernatorial primary rival who supposedly was under investigation at the time. He said nothing about Corbett accepting campaign contributions from supposed targets of the investigation. 

He was not moved to protest when he learned that Corbett's taxpayer-funded Office of Attorney General staff had spent hours conferring on the phone with Corbett's campaign staff  in 2007 and 2008 while Corbett was prosecuting House Democrats for identical activity.

As supervising grand jury judge, Feudale was well aware not a single witness from the Senate Republican Caucus was subpoenaed to testify and did nothing when Corbett pretended to have conducted a full investigation. He allegedly signed subpoenas in February of 2008 for evidence that remained undiscovered on Senate Republican computers until spring of 2009,  but never blinked an eye.

After presiding over six years of  Corbett's blatantly political, corrupt and incompetent abuse of the grand jury, what finally moved Feudale to clutch his pearls and cry "politics?

An attempt to learn why a child rapist was allowed unfettered access to children for nearly three years after the abuse was reported to the top law enforcement authority in the commonwealth.

Ongoing systemic abuse of the judicial system for political gain and petty score-settling doesn't raise his eyebrow, but concern for the safety of children offends Judge Barry F. Feudale.

We have no idea whether Kane really is determined to unearth the reasons for Corbett's unforgivable neglect of the Sandusky investigation, but the hysterical response of those most closely involved  is a clear sign they don't want them unearthed.

Friday, May 10, 2013


The news that Pennsylvania's first elected Democratic Attorney General decided to not to press charges against the political insiders who used the Hershey Trust to line their pockets and set up lucrative deals for yet more insiders isn't much of a surprise.

Many will say it is vindication for GOP stalwarts like former Attorney General Leroy Zimmerman who let executive compensation and questionable real estate deals worth millions proliferate under his watch.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

However, it is important to note that there were enough shenanigans going on for Kane to demand reforms in how the Trust operates into the future.  But, some non-Pennsylvanian non-profit charity experts went so far as to call the Kane report "a joke" and "a whitewash." (Patriot News 5/10/2013)  Again, maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

It is also important to note, though, that Kane's top deputy is Adrian King.  King just happens to be the brother-in-law of current Hershey Trust officer John Estey. (Patriot News 1/9/2013 and Post Gazette 10/17/2011)  A relationship not too far removed from the controversial situation where the GOP's 2012 Attorney General candidate Dave Freed would have been investigating his father-in-law, Zimmerman.  And, for that matter, no less unseemly as then Attorney General Tom Corbett investigating Zimmerman, one of his closest political allies. (Inquirer 12/19/2010)

So, is Kane's report on how the Hershey Trust misspent millions of dollars meant for disadvantaged children just another example of nepotism and insiders taking care of one another?  Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Ah, the sweet smell of reform in the State Capitol!  Those "Gate" trials and the prosecution of the Orie sisters sure cleaned things up in Harrisburg.

Or have they?

Based on a very well-done bit of investigative reporting by Philly's Channel 29 reporter Jeff Cole, looks like State Representative J.P. Miranda is going to be facing an indictment very, very soon.  (Channel 29 5/7/2013)

Miranda was caught red-handed by Cole for keeping a ghost employee on staff.  This same practice led to charges against Bonusgate defendant Mike Manzo in 2008 after he hired his lover (and former Miss Rainy Day), Angela Bertugli (Post-Gazette 2/9/2010).  The grand jury presentment for the John Perzel prosecution in 2009 also went into great detail about the practice of hiring illegal ghost employees like former State Representative Sue Cornell (Patriot-News 11/24/2009).

Miranda was just elected in 2012, and yet immediately started his career in the House breaking the law by hiring a campaign aide to a $36,000 a year no-show job (with very good benefits worth tens of thousands more).  So much for the House of Representatives' vaunted reforms that were to keep such practices from ever happening again.  What the heck are the Human Resources staff (some of whom are paid in the six figures) even doing to let this kind of egregious abuse happen right under their noses in this age of "reform"?  There were months worth of unsigned time sheets in the Miranda situation ... were they merely for show or are the HR employees no better than ghosts, too?

How soon will newly minted Attorney General Kathleen Kane arrest Miranda?  When will the House Leadership ask for the resignations of the ethics compliance and human resources staff who were specifically given the task to never let this type of activity happen again?  We're counting the days.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Professional fame-whore Eric Epstein last night shared with ABC 27 his mock outrage that a Senate staffer who testified against his former boss in the PA Turnpike "pay-to-play" scandal still has a job.

Sometimes, people who come clean on wrongdoing within their organizations are called "whistleblowers," and there are laws to protect their jobs. But in Harrisburg, it seems we reserve the sympathetic term for staff who testify against Republican lawmakers.

Not that there appear to be any in the PA Turnpike "pay-to-play" case.

Where is Epstein's outrage over the fact that Republican staffers - who did exactly what the Democratic staffer did, let's not kid ourselves - still have their jobs? Even more importantly, where is his outrage over the fact that Republican senators who accepted bribes and the contractors who bribed them have not even been inconvenienced, much less charged or publicly humiliated?

Staffers have borne the brunt of Tom Corbett's obsession with the legislature. Of the 25 people charged in the investigation that began with "Bonusgate," 20 were staffers or former staffers when they were charged. Judging by the grand jury presentments, only staff were forced to testify to the grand juries, and  save for Sam Smith, no sitting legislators were forced to testify at trial - despite  evidence of legislators' complicity. 

Charging - and subpoenaing - staff instead of legislators allowed Corbett to tell a tale full of sound and fury, with minimum disruption to the legislators whose cooperation he would need to advance his agenda as governor.  He quite pointedly did not charge Speaker of the House Smith, whose signature was on the illegal contracts that sent Perzel to prison. And Bill DeWeese, whose approval was needed on all caucus expenditures, was conspicuously absent from the original "Bonusgate" indictment. Had public pressure not forced his hand, the only sitting legislator Corbett would have charged was an ultimately-acquitted, sophomore rank-and-filer - not so coincidentally also a candidate for a competitive Senate seat.

Corbett repeated this pattern in the "pay-to-play" investigation, charging the PA Turnpike personnel who facilitated the scheme, but - with the exception of former Senate Minority Leader Bob Mellow -  not the legislators or contractors who benefited from the scheme.

The reason for this outcome is clear. Corbett didn't launch an investigation of corruption at the PA Turnpike. He launched an investigation of the Senate Democratic Caucus, after attention by federal investigators prompted suspicion about Corbett's original legislative corruption investigation. But then, Corbett never really launched an investigation of illegal campaign practices in the legislature - he launched an investigation of the House Democratic Caucus, which had just taken the majority.

The best way to damage the Democratic caucuses enough to put or keep them in the minority, but retain enough goodwill from individual legislators to protect his agenda? Focus on easily-expendible, non-voting staff.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


"Officially, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission had up-front ways of deciding which companies deserved turnpike contracts, but major contractors figured out the back-door method for persuading turnpike officials of their worthiness.  Once they figured campaign contributions to the right people unlocked the commission treasury, contractors turned the contributions into a cost of doing business. 'We look at it as basically it is a marketing expense in a way,' the unnamed president of Traffic Planning & Design Inc. told the grand jury. 'It still is something that we need to do in order to be able to pursue these type of projects and that is why I said it is marketing.'" [Times-Shamrock 3/15/13]

Borys Krawczeniuk of Northeast Pennsylvania's Times-Shamrock News group followed up on Attorney General Kathleen Kane's grand jury presentment of the pay-to-play culture at the PA Turnpike by looking more closely at the contractors mentioned in the presentment.  Krawczeniuk placed particular emphasis on turnpike contractors' belief that contributing to the right political committees was a cost of doing business.

The grand jury presentment focused on Traffic Planning and Design's contributions to the thinly disguised "Senator 6" -- easily unmasked as former State Senator Vince Fumo.  We took a step beyond the presentment and examined exactly how much Traffic Planning and Design gave to ALL Pennsylvania political committees.  What we found was quite interesting and should portend further arrests in the future.

The company's executives were generous to Democrats, with a total of $58,000 in contributions to Democratic candidates and committees at every level since January 2000, including all contributions to Fumo, former Governor Ed Rendell, and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato.

However, during the same time period, Traffic Planning and Design's executives gave a whopping $239,000 in contributions to Republican candidates and committees - and that's just to GOP state senators, GOP county committees and GOP gubernatorial nominees.  The total grows when contributions to Republican House and local candidates are counted.

The same company that considered political contributions marketing expenses in order to score lucrative Turnpike contracts gave at least $15,000 to Governor Tom Corbett's committees.  The Pennsylvania Future Fund, a PAC controlled by Corbett's powerful political patron Bob Asher, collected over $28,000 from Traffic Planning and Design executives.

More startling is the amount of Traffic Planning and Design money that found its way to Republican County Committees in Southeast Pennsylvania: Suburban Philadelphia GOP county parties received more than $134,000 in contributions from the company's executives, including $96,000 to Chester County alone.

When it comes to the now-infamous "60/40" rule for awarding contracts at the Turnpike, Traffic Planning and Design clearly falls into the Republican side of the equation.  Why else would it make sure 2002 GOP gubernatorial nominee Mike Fisher got at least $13,500 and 2006 nominee Lynn Swann at least $18,000.  Executives at Traffic Planning and Design even gave Congressman Jim Gerlach's short-lived gubernatorial campaign $4,500.

While powerful individual GOP Senators like Bob Jubelier ($1,000), Joe Scarnati ($2,500), and Dominic Pileggi ($3,900) didn't receive quite nearly as much to their individual accounts, it's obvious the money sent to county committees (and Bob Asher) in the GOP's most challenging area of Pennsylvania was directed primarily to GOP State Senate campaigns.

All of these campaign contributions are outlined here.

Does anyone actually believe Senate GOP spokesmen (who received large taxpayer-funded bonuses) when they insist that Scarnati and Pileggi didn't know about the corrupt contracting arrangement at the Turnpike?

"Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, 'doesn't have any knowledge of the so-called 60-40 split,' said staff attorney Andrew Crompton.  The same is true for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware county, said his spokesman, Erik Arneson." (Tribune-Review 3/14/13)

Before swallowing Crompton and Arneson's absurdity, read the very detailed 2005 reporting by the Tribune-Review's Brad Bumsted  on the chokehold both parties in the State Senate had over the Turnpike.  It's ridiculous to believe Jubelirer, Brightbill and their former staff leader, Mike Long, didn't pass along the tricks of the trade to Scarnati and Pileggi:

"They've got a friend in Pennsylvania" (Tribune Review 1/3/05)
"Well-connected firms get no-bid legal work" (Tribune Review 1/3/05)
"Turnpike practices likely to be unchecked" (Tribune Review 1/9/05)

And, of course, Traffic Planning and Design's "marketing expenses" didn't end following the 2006 loses of former State Senate GOP leaders Jubelirer and Chip Brightbill.

Friday, March 15, 2013


"So the presentment says Brimmeier and six others broke the law to benefit legislative leaders and governor, but the legislative leaders and governor are not charged. Kane said that was because there was no evidence that showed those folks knew what was happening on their behalf." -- Capitolwire Bureau Chief Pete DeCoursey, "Turnpike probe results in alleged 'Immaculate Corruption," Capitolwire 3/13/13 (subscription required)

Could someone please run over to the offices of the Senate Republican leadership and check to see if the doors are marked with the blood of a spring lamb?

Decoursey  wonders why only one legislative leader was charged in a corruption scandal in which witnesses plainly testified that contracts went to campaign donors for former Governor Ed Rendell, ex-Sen. Vincent J. Fumo,  ex-Senate Majority Leader Robert Jubelirer and others.

The presentment is riddled with lists of contributions to Rendell and Senators #1, #2, #3, #4 and #6 - and those are only the contributions of those contractors whose records were examined.  Senators #1, #2, #3, #4 and #6 aren't charged - and who knows who else may have benefited from the pay-to-play scheme?

Attorney General Kathleen Kane and said no other elected officials were charged because investigators found no evidence of wrongdoing. We ask the same question we have asked before: did they look?

While the presentment is heavy on the testimony of Mellow's former Chief of Staff, there appears to be not a single reference to testimony from any Senate Republican staffers:

"A former Chief Operating Officer of the Turnpike explained, “the choice of who the - - which firms they are, as I said, typically, there was always a 60/40 rule, . . . that selection, depending on what year, and who the governor was, and who was on the State Senate, it would either come out of the Senate leadership or out of the Governor’s office.” In practice, the Senate provided direction to the Commission through their staff persons." 

Assuming that 60% of the contracts went to Democratic donors during the Rendell Administration - though Republicans had and retain a majority in the Senate - why is there no testimony about how 40% of the contracts were awarded? Why is the Democratic Chief of Staff the only legislative employee named in the presentment? Did any other staff member testify?

Throughout Tom Corbett's politically-motivated investigation of illegal campaign work among the General Assembly, his failure to charge certain suspicious officials consistently was glossed over with the pseudo-excuse that the Grand Jury found no evidence of their culpability.

That's because no one brought it to them. Not a single Senate Republican staffer was subpoenaed to testify in that case.
In 2008, prosecutors at least made a (hilarious and clumsy) attempt to justify why no charges were filed against Bill DeWeese regarding the use of a state-paid contractor for purely political work, despite emails from DeWeese and his top aides Tom Andrews and Kevin Sidella blatantly directing the state-paid contractor to perform purely political work: DeWeese had used his campaign email account, and not his official House account, to misappropriate the taxpayers' money (we told you it was hilarious and clumsy).

Not even a token effort was made in the Turnpike investigation explain why no Senate Republicans were charged in a scheme which was directed in part by Senate Republicans and clearly benefited Senate Republicans.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Laurel Brandstetter - who began the investigation under then-AG Corbett just prior to the launch of his gubernatorial campaign - and who prosecuted the politically-motivated B.I.G. case against Mike Veon - appears to have given Corbett's friends and supporters a pass yet again.
"If you say, as this presentment does, that governors and senators created a climate of corruption at the Turnpike commission, how is it that Kane admitted to having no proof or insufficient proof to name any of them but Mellow?

I guess it is appropriate that on the day the new Pope was named we have the miracle of a presentment that outlines an entire culture of corruption where the middlemen are named and charged with crimes but the folks they were allegedly obeying while doing the crimes, are neither named nor charged.

Up until now, especially in Pennsylvania, I had never heard of Immaculate Corruption."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


"We didn't find anything," is not an excuse for never looking.

That hasn't stopped Tom Corbett from offering it as an excuse for not one, but two colossal blunders: his failure to indict any Senate Republicans during his wide-ranging investigation of the General Assembly, and his failure to indict Jerry Sandusky for nearly three years.

Whenever he has been confronted with the staggering length of time between receiving the first Sandusky complaint in March 2009 and arresting Sandusky in November 2011, Corbett's stock excuse has been, "We needed to find more victims."

But Team Corbett never found another victim through its own efforts. Of the eight victims whose cases were prosecuted, none was discovered by an investigator. Victims 1 and 6, or their mothers, approached investigators on their own initiative. Victims 3, 4, 5, and 7 were identified by the mother of Victim 6. Victims 2 and 8 were not identified before the trial. 

It's of course a lie that Corbett couldn't proceed on the complaint of one victim - he did it often when he was Attorney General. But even if you accept that he needed more than one victim to proceed, it doesn't explain what on God's green earth he was doing with the case for nearly two long years.

And even though the first "big break" in the case finally came right after the gubernatorial election in November of 2010 (through no efforts of the Attorney General's office) the lead (and for a long time, sole) investigator (a narcotics agent, not a child predator expert) says, "I never asked for help until 2011."  

Corbett, by then,  already was safely ensconced in the Governor's Office.

The "we didn't find anything" excuse is even lamer in the case of the Senate Republicans, because we know that a whistleblower tried to give Corbett evidence on former Sen. Jane Orie, and Corbett's office turned her away.  After some initial scrambling, Corbett settled on the story that a receptionist in his office told the whistleblower to call the Allegheny County D.A.'s office. Not only are we expected to believe that a receptionist is the one who makes the decisions about which cases the state Attorney General's office will and won't investigate, but this whopper followed months of Corbett faux-begging the public to call his office to report suspected the legislative wrongdoing his investigators just could not seem to find:

"People have to come forward. We need evidence. If people have evidence, 
pick up the phone and call. Come and see my agents." -- Corbett in the Patriot-News in February of 2008

 "As we obtain additional information, we always consider other charges against other individuals. And, that being the case, I would suggest to you, Larry, if you do have that information you forward it to the Office of Attorney General ... I can get very tired when I hear these people complain about that we haven’t charged other individuals if they have information and they haven’t passed it along. So, I’m going to urge you, Larry, to pass that information along.” -- Corbett on PCN in January 2009.

Furthermore, Corbett allegedly  subpoenaed the Senate Republicans for the very evidence that the Allegheny County D.A.'s office used to indict Orie  in February of 2008.  Yet there it remained, on the Senate R servers, until the spring of 2009.

On top of the Orie fiasco, Senate Rs awarded the largest bonuses in the General Assembly to employees who did campaign work:

  • $22,500 to Mike Long, former top aide to then-Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer. 
  • $19,647 to Drew Crompton, then a top lawyer on Jubelirer's staff.
  •  $15,000 to Erik Arneson, former chief of staff to then-Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill.
Despite all this staring him in the face, Corbett never subpoenaed a single Senate R member or staffer. 

And he still thinks the question is whether he found any evidence on either the Senate Rs or Sandusky? The question is why didn't he look.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


"If we’d found anything, we’d have prosecuted." -- Tom Corbett, during a Feb. 20 meeting with the Patriot-News editorial board, on his "mind-boggling" failure to prosecute any Senate Republicans during the apparently six-year-long investigation of the General Assembly (the grand jury still meets).

The problem is that there was something to find. We know, because Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala found it. And he didn't even have to look. Intern Jennifer Knapp Rioja called him up to tell him so.

Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, sister of convicted former Senator Jane Orie, today was convicted of illegal campaigning as a direct result of a tip that Rioja tried to give to Tom Corbett, but was turned away.

Former Sen. Orie was convicted nearly a year ago of the very same type of illegal campaign work for which Corbett prosecuted House Democrats and (belatedly) House Republicans. Evidence of her crimes was stored on Senate Republican hard drives until late spring of 2009, a year after Corbett supposedly subpoenaed the Senate Republican caucus for evidence of illegal campaigning. Not a single Senate Republican member or staffer was subpoenaed to testify before Corbett's grand jury.

In 2008, when Corbett's widely-publicized investigation of the legislature was in full swing, a hacker-fearing Orie - knowing full well that evidence of illegal activity was stored there - asked Corbett's office to examine her computers.

Was a guilt-stricken Orie subconsciously trying to get caught? Or was she merely supremely confident she had nothing to fear from Corbett or his investigators?

The question, dear Governor, isn't whether you would've prosecuted if you'd "found anything." It's how you managed not to find what was staring you right in the face.

Friday, February 1, 2013


“[W]e felt like we had no shot” winning in court with just a single victim testifying against Mr. Sandusky, who “walked on water” as an assistant for 31 years to the famous Penn State head coach, Joe Paterno.
So they looked for other victims. “You very rarely find a predator in those circumstances who only molested one kid,” said Mr. Feathers, now retired. “Our job was to find those kids.”  -- "Investigation to Focus on Governor’s Handling of Penn State Abuse Case,"  New York Times, 1/29/13
"Our job was to find those kids." But they didn't. Not one.

The now-retired narcotics agent assigned to manage the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case never tracked down a victim. From March 2009 to December 2010 - for 21 long months - not a single victim was identified. 

It was journalist Sara Ganim who prompted the mother of Victim 6 to contact investigators in December 2010, and it was Victim 6's mother who identified Victims 3, 4, 5 and 7 using Sandusky's autobiography - apparently it hadn't occurred to investigators to read it, if they even were aware of its existence.

Victim 6 was the boy whose complaint against Sandusky was dismissed by Centre County District Attorney's office in 1998. But Corbett's investigative team (by then, all of two investigators) never found him. His mother found them - 21 months after they claim to have started looking.

Victim 2, the boy whom then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary saw in the shower with Sandusky in 2001, was not identified before the trial. An anonymous email tip to the Centre County D.A.'s office in November 2010 alerted investigators to the incident. Victim 2 has since contacted lawyers and intends to sue Penn State. (Note; media accounts differ on the date the Centre County D.A.'s office received this email. According to the Inquirer's account of Investigator Anthony Sassano's testimony, it was in 2010. According to Time magazine, it was 2008. Other accounts do not list the date. McQueary testified that he was interviewed by investigators in November of 2010.)

Victim 8, the boy whom Penn State janitor Jim Calhoun witnessed engaged in a sexual encounter with Sandusky in 2000, has never been identified.  Another janitor contacted investigators in March 2011 to report the incident.

Eight victims. None of whom was discovered by an investigator. Victims 1 and 6, or their mothers, approached investigators themselves. Victims 3, 4, 5, and 7 were identified by the mother of Victim 6. Victims 2 and 8 were not identified.

According to Not PSU's timeline of the case, based on news accounts, the Freeh report and Victim 1's book, Silent No More, Corbett's office learned of the 1998 investigation involving Victim 6 in June 2009. How is it possible investigators never contacted Victim 6's mother until she called them 18 months later?

It's a blatant lie that Corbett couldn't arrest Sandusky on the complaint of a single victim. Prosecutors, including Corbett, do it all the time. But if he's insisting that he needed to identify more victims, why didn't he try to find them? 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


We're baffled by Governor Tom Corbett's suggestion that incoming Attorney General Kathleen Kane use "outside counsel" to conduct her probe into Corbett's own bungling of the Jerry Sandusky case. (Times-Tribune, 1/11/13)

After all, Corbett has said the use of outside counsel to investigate fellow politicians is illegal. (York Daily Record, 7/22/08)

"It's obvious [he] doesn't understand the law," Corbett's spokesman and ex-political candidate Kevin Harley sneered when John Morganelli (and pretty much everyone else) suggested that Corbett appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the legislature.

For the record, we're also baffled why the Times-Tribune editorial board didn't ask Corbett about the contradiction.

But they're just following tradition. No one blinked when Attorney General candidate David Freed suggested that, if elected, he could assign the case against his father-in-law, Leroy Zimmerman, to a special prosecutor. (Patriot-News, 12/6/11)

Tell us, Kevin Harley, does anyone in Pennsylvania, even our Governor, understand the law?

Sunday, January 20, 2013


 From March 2009 through November 2011, did Sandusky molest any young boys who were unknown to prosecutors and weren‘t part of the trial? It seems unlikely given the international news focus on the Sandusky case and litigation by victims well under way. ~~ Tom Corbett apologist Brad Bumsted,  “Now comes the Kane probe ... Tribune-Review, Jan. 19, 2013

International news focus? Litigation by victims? Between March 2009 and November 2011?

 The Patriot-News was the first to report, on March 31, 2011, that Penn State football legend Jerry Sandusky is the subject of a grand jury investigation into allegations that he indecently assaulted a teenage boy.

The first civil litigation brought by a victim in the case was filed in November 2011, after Sandusky's arrest, by "John Doe A."

How, exactly, did international news focus and litigation by victims, which didn't happen until 2011, influence Sandusky's behavior in 2009 and  2010?

Tom Corbett is certainly no less guilty of leaving a door wide open if no one walked through it, but given what we know about the behavior of sexual offenders, what are the chances that a lifelong predator in his 60's, whose victims likely number in the hundreds, simply ... stopped ... for more than two years?  Especially given that the "international news focus and litigation by victims" that Bumsted imagines might have inhibited him would not occur for another two years? (does anyone proofread Bumsted's column?)

If only Corbett had had access to experts, who might know a little something about the behavior of sexual offenders. Experts, perhaps, like the members of Corbett's much-vaunted Child Predator Unit.

Whether Sandusky continued to molest children after Corbett received the first complaint is what Bumsted calls "the gazillion-dollar question." Given that Corbett is guilty of the same offense whether Sandusky did or didn't, we appraise that question at slightly less than a "gazillion" dollars and propose instead a more valuable one: Why was an investigative unit that Corbett created specifically to respond to accusations of child abuse not involved in investigating the most explosive allegation of child abuse in Corbett's entire tenure as Attorney General?

Unfortunately for Corbett and his media cheerleaders like Bumsted, the obvious answer to that question -- they were too busy scrambling to indict  the previously ignored John Perzel and Bill DeWeese before Corbett formally announced his gubernatorial campaign  -- leads to an even more inconvenient one:  Why was Corbett scrambling to indict House members in 2009 when he'd supposedly spent the previous two years investigating all four caucuses?