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.