The defenders of former Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina recently bent the ear of Philadelphia Inquirer commentator Michael Smerconish. It appears that intrepid crime fighter Fina really wasn't trying to nab just any ol' bad guys in the sting Attorney General Kathleen Kane deep-sixed. Instead, Fina wanted to use controversial confidential informant Tyron Ali to troll Harrisburg "to see what would happen":
"However, these five individuals were never the investigation's focus, according to a person close to the investigation with whom I spoke last week: 'We could have done that until the cows came home.' Instead, the investigation had a broader, long-term focus predicated on relationship-building, 'not pinching individual legislators,' said this individual. Indeed, investigators say this wasn't about individual lawmakers, which is why they take umbrage with Kane having played the race card. Their effort was born of frustration that, despite having racked up 23 convictions of both Republicans and Democrats in Bonusgate and Computergate, there was no change in the culture of Pennsylvania politics. So they set their sights larger, intending to let Ali spread money around, ingratiate himself, and see what would happen if the faux lobbyist set up offices in Harrisburg." (Philadelphia Inquirer 3/30/14)
Well, if they didn't really want to nab the now-infamous four Democratic state legislators caught on tape, who exactly did they want to entrap to end this nefarious "culture" of Pennsylvania politics? A sitting leader in the legislature? All members of all four legislative caucuses? What does it really mean to say they wanted an open-ended sting to "see what would happen?"
Apparently, Fina didn't want to grab a sitting Speaker of the House for using his taxpayer-funded staff for his campaign. Pre-trial documents filed by former State Representative Mike Veon show that Fina had in his possession reams of fundraising databases and emails used by then-Speaker Keith McCall for his campaign and those of other House candidates. (Veon pre-trial filing exhibits) In fact, McCall had multiple state legislative staff working on his fundraising, including a former Veon staff member who testified under oath during the "Bonusgate" trial that he was doing precisely the same kind of illegal political work for McCall that he did for Veon:
"Lavelle also did not dispute the assertion that he continued fundraising after joining the staff of then-Democratic Whip Keith McCall in 2007, who has not been charged with wrongdoing. 'You continued to do fundraising as part of you job with Speaker McCall?' defense lawyer Dan Raynak asked. 'You continued to send out memos and e-mails during the work day with Speaker McCall?' 'That's correct,' Lavelle replied." (Associated Press 2/19/2010)
McCall isn't the only sitting Speaker of the House that Fina let off the hook. He was untroubled by Speaker Sam Smith's deep involvement with the "Computergate" scandal in the House Republican Caucus. Page after page of grand jury testimony documents Smith's knowledge and participation in the scheme that defrauded the taxpayers by at least $10 million. (9/27/11)
Nor did Fina and his crew seem concerned about the Republican State Senate Caucus' 40% share of the illegal 60/40 scheme that determined who got Pennsylvania Turnpike contracts and jobs. Only the State Senate Democratic 60-percenters were investigated by Fina's team for Kane to ultimately indict:
"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." (Grand Jury presentment)
We'll be hearing quite a bit about the 60/40 rule this spring during the Turnpike corruption trial, but only the State Senate Democratic Caucus...not Governor Ed Rendell, Senator Chip Brightbill, or Senator Bob Jubelirer.
Let's face it...Fina and his defenders are blowing smoke about trying to end corruption in Harrisburg. They certainly wanted to make arrests and glorify themselves, but only by carefully selecting who to go after and who to indict...regardless of their own evidence and witness testimony.