"There's a 'significant difference' in having a campaign adviser at the Capitol and paying a campaign operative with state money." -- Widener University political science professor J. Wesley Leckrone.
In an attempt to demonstrate that Tom Corbett's taxpayer-funded political activity isn't as bad as the taxpayer-funded political activity he prosecuted as a campaign stunt, Tribune-Review reporter Brad Bumsted includes the above nugget of wisdom in today's account of political meetings held in the Governor's Office.
The problem with this feeble defense is that not everyone Corbett sent to prison was guilty of "paying a campaign operative with state money." Staff who went to prison were convicted of nothing more than engaging in political activity while on state time - a crime Corbett and his operatives committed again and again, even as they prosecuted political adversaries for the same behavior.
Political meetings in the Governor's Office are hardly the most blatant example:
- While Attorney General Corbett put campaign manager Brian Nutt on the state payroll as "chief of staff," and two other campaign operatives, Joe Murzyn and Becky Myers, on the payroll as "executive assistants."
- During his re-election campaign in 2008, Corbett's state-paid Attorney General staffers exchanged hundreds of phone calls with campaign staff, on state time and using state phones.
- Corbett repeatedly solicited campaign contributions from ostensible targets of his own criminal investigations.
- State employees distributed campaign materials while on official, taxpayer-funded Attorney General assignment.
- Corbett used his government position to protect his political allies over and over again.
Remember, these are just the offenses we know about. None of Corbett's staffers were dragged before a grand jury and threatened with prosecution if they didn't cough up damaging testimony about their boss and co-workers. No one went digging for incriminating information in their emails - not even the guy whose job it was to determine if political considerations affected prosecutions. This is just the wrongdoing that accidentally spilled out, even though no one actively was looking for it.