Sunday, November 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

DeWeese the Inquisitor

While most Democratic lawmakers question budget cuts to schools in their districts, DeWeese used a budget hearing to question cost regarding himself.

DeWeese the Inquisitor

(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

JB: You catch Bill DeWeese's moment at the close of House budget hearings yesterday?

BE: I know there's nothing more exciting than budget hearings, but I missed it, what with Libya, Japan, federal government shutdown, Philly schools going down the drain.

JB: Well, speaking of schools, most Democratic lawmakers used the budget hearings to quiz Corbett administration officials about cuts to schools and services in their districts. Rep. Steve Samuelson, D-Northampton County, for example, yesterday told Corbett's budget secretary, Charles Zogby, school cuts are "unconscionable."

BE: DeWeese went another way, I'm betting.

JB: He did. Using a tradition that allows any House member to address the House Appropriations Committee at the end of hearings, DeWeese yesterday raised questions about, well, his own problems.

BE: If I recall, these problems include awaiting trial on corruption charges stemming from the then-AG Corbett's broad investigation of legislative misdeeds with tax dollars when DeWeese was House majority leader.

JB: Your powers of recall remain intact, boss.

BE: So he had questions for the committee.

JB: Indeed. And they had little to do with his constituents. From the witness chair (maybe he's practicing), he asked what Corbett's multi-year investigation of the legislature had cost taxpayers, what percentage of staff time went to the probe and how many employee hours did it take.

BE: Were these questions asked as a state represtative or as a criminal defendent?

JB: HAH! That's exactly what the AG's office said! How do you do it?

BE: Did he get any answers?

JB: Not exactly. In fact, it's his second bite. He tried to get appropriations committee members of both parties to ask these same questions of the AG's office when it was testifying on its own budget. He passed out a list of questions to members and to the press.

BE: And?

JB: Well, to quote House Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph, "Neither side wanted to ask those questions."

BE: Wait. I seem to remember that DeWeese et al spent a zillion dollars on outside counsel during the investigation, using tax money to defend and protect their interests before they were charged.

JB: I think it was a zillion point 2. But you're right. Lots of money spent on both sides.

BE: So prosecutors need to prosecute and the accused are entitled to a defense.

JB: And we pay for both, no matter the outcome. Grrrr.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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