OAG table displays campaign lit

Late to the game on this one, but a picture distributed by Team Onorato caused a bit of a stir yesterday. The campaign blasted out a photo taken at a Bradford County fair. The picture shows an Office of the Attorney General table with “Corbett for Governor” literature and buttons on it.

That’s  a bit of a problem for an office busy prosecuting people for using state resources to conduct campaign work.

“It’s unfortunate,” OAG spokesman Nils Fredericksen told Capitol Ideas. “What this incident will do is cause us to limit access to the materials we have.” He says he doesn’t know who put the campaign swag on the table, and that agents removed it as soon as they noticed.

PA2010 was first with the story.

DeWeese to face corruption trial

Former House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese told a Grand Jury that public employees doing campaign work out of the Capitol was “part of the culture” in Harrisburg.

Prosecutors read from the transcript during this morning’s preliminary hearing, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Tracie Mauriello. The Attorney General’s office told a judge the case is clear-cut — that DeWeese essentially admitted to ordering staffers to raise money and organize campaign efforts from their legislative offices.

But DeWeese’s lawyer, Bill Costopoulos, argued the Greene County Democrat thought staffers were doing the work on personal and comp time, and had no idea they were earning public money by electing Democrats to office.

DeWeese has been at the center of the “Bonusgate” storm since January 2007, when the Patriot-News first reported House Democrats were handing out tax-funded bonuses to staffers who volunteered on campaigns. DeWeese disavowed all knowledge of the bonuses-for-campaigning scheme, and was never charged with crimes related to it.

Instead, Attorney General Tom Corbett accused DeWeese of overseeing fundraising and campaigning within his own office. The judge bound DeWeese for trial. A date has not been set yet.

More from the AP and Tribune-Review.

Stetler ordered to stand trial

Photo from PennLive

Report I filed for PA public radio stations earlier today:

A District Judge has ordered a former member of the Rendell Administration to stand trial for allegedly doing campaign work on state time.

The ruling came after Stephen Stetler’s preliminary hearing in Dauphin County.

Scott Detrow reports from the state Capitol.

6 to 14 years for Veon

Former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon will spend six to fourteen years in state prison for conducting campaign work with public resources. The ex-lawmaker was also ordered to pay $37,000 in fines.

Judge Richard Lewis told Veon his “thirst for more power and prestige…caused him to ignore the very laws and regulations he had a hand in creating.” Lewis said, “hard earned tax dollars were essentially prostituted for political ambition” in the tax-funded bonuses for campaign work scheme.

Veon did not testify during his winter trial, but he made a statement during the sentencing hearing. He acknowledged making mistakes, and said he apologized.

Veon said he was proud of what he accomplished as a lawmaker, saying “I had an unusual, incredible work ethic.”

Veon’s one-time aide, Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, was sentenced to three to six months in county jail, and nearly four years of probation.

Lewis denied bail for Veon. The onetime legislative leader was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom at the end of the hearing.

Point, Counterpoint

Yesterday afternoon, the Capitol witnessed one of its more entertaining press conferences in quite some time. (That’s according to reporters who were there. I was at a decidedly not entertaining hearing on the Clearfield County gas spill.)

According to reports from podcast partners PoliticsPA and Capitol Ideas, Republican Congressional candidate Pat Meehan called a presser to link Democratic opponent Brian Lentz to Bonusgate. “This is a crime scene,” said Meehan, referencing the Capitol. The crux of Meehan’s argument: a state employee named Ann Collis received a state-funded bonus briefly worked on Lentz’s state House campaign in 2006.

As Capitol Ideas’ John Micek reports,  ” then things kind of fell apart. Meehan stumbled when he asked how it was possible to Lentz to rubber-stamp anything Veon did — especially since Veon was voted out of office in November 2006 and Lentz didn’t take office until January 2007. He also said he couldn’t provide any proof that Lentz knew that Collis was working on the taxpayers’ dime or that Collis even knew that bonus came from somewhere other than campaign money.”

Once Meehan was finished, Lentz strode to the podium to counterattack. “If you drove to Harrisburg for this, I apologize,” he said, calling the press conference “nonsense.” Lentz denied knowing anything about Collis’ bonus, saying he assumed she was a volunteer. He said he never had any conversations with Mike Veon or others about state-funded employees working on his campaign effort.

Corbett’s team wants Veon behind bars for at least 12 years

Prosecutors want former House Minority Whip Mike Veon to sit in jail for at least a dozen years. They’ll ask for a 12 to 17-year sentence during Veon’s Friday hearing, according to a Post-Gazette report. The Office of the Attorney General is seeking a 19 to 24-month sentence for former Veon aide Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, as well.

The news comes on the same day Brett Cott appeared in court to request a reduction in his 21 to 60-month prison sentence.

Grand Jury “appalled” by Capitol culture

The Grand Jury that spent two years listening to testimony about legislative corruption has issued a scathing report calling for sweeping changes in Harrisburg.

The report charges the “overwhelming majority” of lawmakers with putting personal gains ahead of serving constituents.

The jurors say they’re “appalled” by the amount of staffers assigned to state representatives and senators. The report quotes testimony from a former House Republican staffer who conducted a study that found only 289 of the caucus’475 staffers were actually needed to conduct legislative work.

In addition to shrinking staff, the Grand Jury recommends routine independent audits of legislative spending, the elimination of the per diem payments lawmakers receive when they’re in Harrisburg, and legislative term limits.

The jurors also say Republican and Democratic caucuses should combine their printing, technology and HR staffs.

Here’s the full report. It’s worth the read.

DeWeese faces uphill fight in reelection

Bill DeWeese on the campaign trail

Onetime top House Democrat Bill DeWeese is facing corruption charges for allegedly conducting campaign work with state resources. But he’s still running for reelection, and faces a tough primary challenge from Greene County Commissioner Pam Snyder.

Scott Detrow visited the 50th Legislative District, and has this report on one of the tightest primary contests in the state.

Another Veon mistrial motion, and other #bonusgate news

The long-running trial of former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon and three one-time aides may not be done yet.

On Monday, Veon, Brett Cott and Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink were convicted for doing campaign work on state time. But the next day, a juror wrote a (since-deleted) blog post detailing how he and other panelists took an unauthorized field trip to the state Capitol, in order to scope out the scene of the crimes.

That raised a red flag for Perretta-Rosepink’s lawyer, Michael Palermo. He’s filed a motion for mistrial.

Palermo says the trip may have been innocent, but he wants Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis to call the jury back to ask about it.

This is Palermo’s second mistrial motion. The first one — based on Judge Lewis swapping in an alternate for a sick juror and then restarting deliberations — was rejected. A spokesman for Attorney General Tom Corbett says he’s confident the verdicts will be upheld.

And in other #bonusgate  news, the attorney for Steven Stetler and Brett Feese is now calling for an investigation into whether Corbett is doing just as much state-funded campaigning as the people he’s charged. Earlier this week, I asked Corbett how lawmakers running for office should draw the line between their official duties and their campaign efforts.

Stetler’s  preliminary hearing was initially scheduled for this morning, but that court date has been postponed.

Here’s the mistrial motion:

Veon guilty on 14 counts

Former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon is guilty on 14 counts of theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest for using public money to conduct campaign work.

Onetime staffer Steve Keefer was cleared on all charges, while two other former employees are guilty on several counts.

The jury found Veon guilty on charges related to bonuses for campaign work schemes in 2004, 2005 and 2006. He’s also guilty of conducting campaign work on state time, financing campaign communications efforts with tax dollars, and ordering legislative staffers to cart his motorcycles around the country while on the clock.

Veon’s wife cried while the verdicts were read, but the ex-Beaver County looked straight at the judge, showing no emotion. He spoke to reporters afterward.

Veon’s lawyer, Dan Raynak, says they’ll appeal the verdicts. He says he’s still convinced Attorney General Tom Corbett’s investigation was politically motivated.

Steve Keefer walked on all sixteen counts he faced.

Both Brett Cott and Annamarie Perretta Rosepink are guilty of doing campaign work on state time.

The jury deliberated for more than a week – though Judge Richard Lewis ordered them to re-start their discussions on Friday, when a sick panelist was replaced with an alternate juror.

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