State Attorney General Tom Corbett just announced that he has filed charges against state Rep. John Perzel, a one-time Speaker of the state House from Northeast Philadelphia, and his former chief of staff, Brian Preski, along with eight other people involved in the Republican House caucus. Click here to read Corbett's press release for a full listing of the defendants and charges, along with links to the grand jury presentments.
Corbett said Perzel conspired with Preski and others to use more than $10 million in state tax money for campaign work. He did so by using state-funded technology to gain a "competitive advantage" for himself and other Republicans in the House to "help launch his quest for power," Corbett said. This all came, Corbett added, after a close-call 2000 election in which Perzel nearly lost his Northeast Philadelphia seat to a Democrat.
Among the other allegations unveiled today, Corbett said Perzel used a series of "dirty tricks" against fellow Republicans who refused to vote with him on certain issues. That included a dozen critical "robocalls" made to constituents of those Republicans, which cost $3,200 in tax funds each time the tactic was used.
Corbett charged 12 Democratic legislators and staffers in July 2008 with theft, criminal conspiracy and conflict of interest. He has been assailed by critics, both Republican and Democratic, for campaigning for governor while overseeing the massive political corruption investigation. Read more about that in today's Daily News.
Corbett’s ongoing probe, which started in February 2007, is also examining $3.6 million in state money doled out in 2005 and 2006 to General Assembly staffers who did work on political campaigns. He said today that the Democrats broke the law using bonuses while Perzel and the GOP used technology for corrupt purposes.
After the jump, read Perzel's statement on the charges:
State Rep. John Perzel's statement: "First and foremost, I am innocent of the charges against me. I have faithfully served the people of my district, my city and my state for more than 30 years, and I have never used public funds for my personal or political gain. Second, this investigation has lasted for nearly three years, and it’s only now, on the eve of his gubernatorial campaign and in response to claims that he was unfairly pursuing only Democrats, that Attorney General Corbett has decided to bring charges against 10 Republicans, including me. It smacks of political opportunism at the expense of my reputation, and I am going to fight very aggressively to prove my innocence.