Monday, May 25, 2015

Activist Asks Feds To Investigate AG Tom Corbett

Harrisburg good government activist Gene Stilp called on the U.S. Attorney's Office out there to investigate state Attorney General Tom Corbett, based on a Daily News story from last Thursday. That story described a meeting Corbett had with state Rep. John Perzel in October 2007 and a fund-raiser organized two months later for Corbett's campaign for governor by Brian Preski, Perzel's former chief of staff.

Activist Asks Feds To Investigate AG Tom Corbett

Harrisburg good government activist Gene Stilp today called on the U.S. Attorney's Office out there to investigate state Attorney General Tom Corbett, based on a Daily News story from last Thursday.  That story described a meeting Corbett had with state Rep. John Perzel in October 2007 and a fund-raiser organized two months later for Corbett's campaign for governor by Brian Preski, Perzel's former chief of staff. 

Corbett's office was investigating Perzel and Preski along with other state House Republicans at the time.  Perzel, Preski and eight others were charged on Thursday by Corbett's office in the second phase of the "Bonusgate" investigation, which is examining the use of state money to pay for campaign costs by Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly.

"The chief Pennsylvania law enforcement officer, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, was clearly involved in a conflict of interest by meeting with people he is investigating and working with people he is investigating while they are raising money for his campaign at that time," Stilp wrote. "The investigation into this must be conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Were there other conflicts of interest no one knows about?"

Stilp also today called on Corbett to resign as Attorney General if he wants to run for governor.  Corbett has rebuffed similar demands, including from some other candidates in the race for governor.  He acknowledged the contacts with Perzel and Preski last week but said they happened "at a time when we didn’t have all the facts in front of us."

“There has been very little contact with these individuals since that period of time, once we understood where everything was going with this investigation," Corbett said.

After the jump, you can read Stilp's letter.

NOVEMBER 16, 2009

TO: OFFICE OF THE U.S. ATTORNEY

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

FEDERAL BUILDING

HARRISBURG, PA 17101

FR: GENE STILP

1550 FISHING CREEK VALLEY ROAD

HARRISBURG, PA 17112

RE: REQUEST THAT A SPECIAL INVESTIGATION BE INSTITUTED AND THAT A FEDERAL INVESTIGATOR AND/OR FEDERAL PROSECUTOR BE APPOINTED TO INVESTIGATE CONFLICTS OF INTEREST THAT HAVE BEEN EXPOSED RELATING TO THE PENNSYLVANIA BONUSGATE SCANDAL INVESTIGATION BECAUSE OF RELATIONSHIPS THAT HAVE BEEN EXPOSED BETWEEN SERVING PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL TOM CORBETT AND BONUSGATE SCANDAL DEFENDANT FORMER SPEAKER OF THE PENNSYLVANIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY JOHN PERZEL.

This is a request for a Federal investigation and the appointment of Federal special investigator and/or Federal prosecutor into a matter that involves the current Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett and actions that Mr. Corbett has taken while investigating certain persons during the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s investigation that the public and press has titled the legislative Bonusgate Scandal.

On January 26, 2007, the fact that bonuses were being paid to Pennsylvania legislative staff was released in an article in the Harrisburg Patriot News. On January 29, 2007, Gene Stilp, asked the Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett to begin an investigation of the legislative bonuses alleging for the first time, that the large bonuses had been paid using taxpayer money for political and campaign work by the legislative staff. On January 29, 2007, Gene Stilp also filed a request for an investigation into the matter of large bonuses allegedly being paid for political work in this Pennsylvania matter with the Office of the U.S Attorney in Harrisburg.

The amount of the bonuses paid to legislative staff in all caucuses was approximately $3.6 million dollars.

Subsequently, the First Grand Jury Presentment on July 10, 2008 clearly stated that the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Tom Corbett had started an investigation in February, 2007 (no exact February date was cited) into the bonuses paid in the four legislative caucuses because the Office of Attorney General had taken notice of the newspaper articles on the bonuses, the legal case filed in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on January 29, 2007 by Gene Stilp alleging for the first time that large bonuses were paid for political work and demanding that any and all bonus money given to legislative staff member for their alleged campaign and political work be paid back to the Pennsylvania taxpayer and the request by Senator John Eichelberger for an investigation. (A copy of the First Grand Jury Report is available from the PA Office of Attorney General.)

The investigation led to twelve indictments on July 10, 2008 and nine indictments on November 12, 2009.

The indictments on November 12, 2009 included current member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives John Perzel, and a former aide of Perzel’s, Brian Preski.

On that same day, November 12, 2009, an article by Chris Brennan in the Philadelphia Daily News, which is attached, documents an October 2, 2007 meeting between then Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett who was at that time also a candidate for Attorney General for the 2008 Attorney General primary and general election, and Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Emeritus, John Perzel. This was approximately nine months after the Bonusgate Scandal investigation was launched

The article notes that John Perzel’s chief aide, Brian Preski, organized a fundraiser for then Attorney General Tom Corbett on December 11, 2007. This was approximately eleven months after the Bonusgate Scandal investigation was launched.

The article also notes that another aide to former Speaker Emeritus John Perzel named John Zimmerman, who was called before the Grand Jury to testify in the Bonusgate Scandal, set up the October 2, meeting between Perzel and then and now Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett and his aide Brian Nutt who is currently his campaign manager in Corbett’s campaign form governor.

Mr. Nutt has also held a top position in Attorney General Tom Corbett’s Office at taxpayer expense. In the last few years there are dates when Mr. Nutt was Corbett’s campaign manager and when Mr. Nutt was a chief officer in the Corbett’s Office of Attorney General.

At the time of the meeting on October, 2, 2007and the fundraising event on December 11, 2007, the Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett was by his own admission investigating Republican House staff and membership in the Bonusgate Scandal matter.

I am sure you see my point. The chief Pennsylvania law enforcement officer, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, was clearly involved in a conflict of interest by meeting with people he is investigating and working with people he is investigating while they are raising money for his campaign at that time.

The investigation into this must be conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Were there other conflicts of interest no one knows about?

There is no other office in the Pennsylvania government that can investigate this type of conflict of interest. Usually Pennsylvania citizens would turn to the highest investigating office in the Commonwealth to conduct such an investigation. That office, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, has been compromised by the unfortunate actions of Attorney General Tom Corbett by the meeting on October 2, 2009 with Perzel and the December 11, 2009 fundraiser organized on his behalf.

Tom Corbett cannot investigate himself.

Someone outside his office and campaign and someone outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must conduct this investigation for it to have any credibility.

The U.S. Attorney must start an investigation because Pennsylvania citizens cannot make an ethics complaint on this matter to the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission because the State Ethics Commission has a major conflict of interest in this matter because Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett handles the prosecutions in court for the State Ethics Commission.

Tom Corbett cannot set up an in-house investigation into this matter because all of his staff is highly involved in the Bonusgate Scandal prosecution.

The U.S. Attorney must investigate this because part of the funds raised by the fundraising efforts of the Tom Corbett campaign for Attorney General for the 2008 election involve donations from individuals from outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Also, the U.S. Attorney must launch an investigation because there may have been more fundraising events that may have been organized by the defendants above or involve the defendants noted above or there may have been more fundraising events or campaign related activity by other defendants and other parties involved in Bonusgate starting with the most recent group of defendants.

The Department of Justice must launch an investigation to also ascertain if there have been any other meetings, memos, emails, events, fundraising and any and all other communications between any of Corbett and/or Corbett’s people in the Office of Attorney General and Corbett and/or Corbett’s campaign people in his campaign for 2008 Attorney General campaign and/or Corbett’s current campaign for governor, and any person who has become a defendant in the Bonusgate probe and /or any person who has been subpoenaed during the Bonusgate investigation, anyone who has been given a grant of immunity in the Bonusgate investigation, any one who has voluntarily testified in the Bonusgate investigation, anyone who has worked in any capacity for the House Republican staff or the House Republican Campaign Committee and anyone else that a Federal investigator would see as a practical source of knowledge along these lines of investigation.

The U.S. Attorney should review the 188 page Grand Jury presentment that was announced by Attorney General Tom Corbett in his November 12, 2009 indictment press conference and take note of the computer systems and campaign structures that form a major part of the presentment. The U.S. Attorney must launch an independent investigation because the 2004 and the 2008 Tom Corbett campaign for Attorney General campaigns may have actually benefited by the computer systems and residual campaign structure that were placed in operation through the efforts of the defendants in the latest indictments because some form of taxpayer funded campaign operation apparently existed for most of that time period to enhance the election of Republicans. The Federal investigators can determine the exact beneficial start and stopping dates of the $10 million taxpayer funded operation and if anyone connected with the Corbett campaigns had any knowledge of benefits which were directly or indirectly beneficial to the Corbett campaign from the ongoing illegal House Republican campaign effort. I would suggest that the Federal investigation look at political hires during the affected years.

Attorney General may have been acting stupidly and naively but this must be determined and the only way is for an outside investigation by Federal authorities into this conflict of interest. 

About this blog
William Bender, a Drexel graduate who landed at the Daily News in 2007, has covered everything from South Philly mobsters to doomsday hucksters. He occasionally writes about local food trucks and always eats everything on his plate, whether it be a bloody rib eye or a corrupt politician. E-mail tips to benderw@phillynews.com
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David Gambacorta, has been a reporter with the Daily News since 2005, covering crime, police corruption and all of the other bizarre things that happen in Philadelphia. Now he’s covering the 2015 mayor’s race, because he enjoys a good circus just as much as the next guy. He’s always looking to get a cup of coffee. Send news tips and other musings on life to gambacd@phillynews.com
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