Pennsylvania corruption probe indicts top Democrats

posted at 9:24 am on July 13, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Democrats in the Pennsylvania state legislature face multiple counts of corruption as a probe by the state’s Attorney General continues.  Representatives Mike Veon (formerly second in House leadership), Sean Ramaley, and 10 former aides allegedly used government offices for Democratic Party fundraising and activities.  One aide had no other job but fundraising, and the rest got bonuses for the amounts of money they brought in — paid by Pennsylvania taxpayers:

When you worked for former Rep. Mike Veon, the No. 2 Democrat in the state House, two things were certain, prosecutors said: You would work hard on political campaigns while on the government clock; and if you did a “rock star” job, you would get something extra in your paycheck.

All compliments of the taxpayers, of course.

That illegal culture of underwriting political campaigns with public dollars was spotlighted yesterday in sweeping indictments of Veon, 10 former and current legislative aides, and a sitting lawmaker.

The allegations strike at top party staffers in the House, and more charges are expected, say prosecutors. Court documents suggested that hundreds of Democratic staffers might have been involved in illegal work.

AG Tom Corbett says that the probe will continue, and the rumor is that Republicans shouldn’t get too excited by these charges.  More are coming, and some Republican lawmakers may need legal representation as well.  As with most large-scale political corruption, everyone tends to get their taste.

However, the charges Corbett revealed are breathtaking for their hubris.  Democrats in the House used taxpayer money to pay bonuses for political work, and used government-paid aides for personal business.  Veon had two of his aides drive motorcycles owned by he and his wife to the annual biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, so he could fly there to attend it.   The bonuses for 2006 came to almost $2 million in taxpayer money, which could have paid for a lot of trips to Sturgis.

Ramaley ran his general-election campaign from Veon’s office.  After winning the primary for his House district, Veon hired Ramaley as an aide — but the only work Ramaley did was to run his campaign from Veon’s office.  He used computers, phone lines, and fax machines funded by Pennsylvania taxpayers as his own campaign communication center.

This comes at a very bad time for Democrats.  They need to hold Pennsylvania in November if they want to win the Presidency, but a massive corruption scandal makes that a lot less likely.   It means the end of Ed Rendell’s hopes for a VP slot on the ticket this year, too.  Unless a lot of Republicans start getting indicted, this could tip the Keystone State into the red column for 2008 — and possibly several more cycles beyond that.


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No offense to the good people of Pennsylvania but what is going on there? One district keeps sending someone like Murtha back to Washington now their state government is oozing with corruption. Strange.

lowandslow on July 13, 2008 at 9:31 AM

Now for the media reaction and outrage…(crickets)

RobCon on July 13, 2008 at 9:31 AM

This comes at a very bad time for Democrats. They need to hold Pennsylvania in November if they want to win the Presidency, but a massive corruption scandal makes that a lot less likely.

I hope you’re right, Ed. I’m just not sure what the magnitude of the impact will be. I’m afraid it will amount to little when compared to gas prices, the economy, immigration and the war. I just hope that the bitter, gun clutching statements which were played up by the Hillary campaign just prior to the Penn. primary have left a bad taste in the voters’ mouths.

trubble on July 13, 2008 at 9:34 AM

Pennsylvania politicians, corrupt? Impossible! Just look at Fast Eddie. I’m surprised there aren’t any Republicans being investigated. Here, corruption is a bipartisan tradition.

rightwingprof on July 13, 2008 at 9:38 AM

lowandslow on July 13, 2008 at 9:31 AM

Not just Pennsylvania, widespread corruption throughout our political environment. Look at the politics in New Orleans, Chicago, Las Vegas, New Jersey, Los Angeles; just to name a few.

“Tax payer dollars”, those are the key words here. That is OUR money folks. American tax payer dollars. Corruption, and the promise to end it is exactly what the DEMOCRATS used as their platform for victory in 2006. Pathetic!

Keemo on July 13, 2008 at 9:41 AM

But Lolly Peloser told us that only Republicans are corrupt. She never fibs, does she? This must be a misprint or from a PA version of ‘The Onion’, right?

GeneSmith on July 13, 2008 at 9:42 AM

So can Murtha set a new World’s record on trying to flat out blame this one and condemn Bush or The Marines?

UncleOlaf on July 13, 2008 at 9:43 AM

No offense to the good people of Pennsylvania but what is going on there?

Oh, this goes back centuries. We’ve always had plenty of rogues and bounders in charge of the state legislature.

The House Ds really, really wanted the majority back after 12 years of a GOP majority, and the way they ran their caucus this was ripe to happen.

albo on July 13, 2008 at 9:43 AM

Just the kind of story to make my morning coffee taste like it was brewed inside a jack boot.

If you get caught stealing from the public purse you should have to pay back $10 for every penny you took. If that means you wear an orange jump suit and swab toilets until you are 307 I don’t care.

Limerick on July 13, 2008 at 9:43 AM

Rendell is a thug and his machine is heavy handed and corrupt. Let the sun shine in!

petefrt on July 13, 2008 at 9:45 AM

Court documents suggested that hundreds of Democratic staffers might have been involved in illegal work.

It seems winning elections now a days is like winning the lottery, with the state/federal treasury as the grand prize.

I can’t wait for the AG to get down to the local level. That criminal activity is “business as usual” for the low-life democraps and a measurable portion of the GOP as well. Throw the book at them all.

Zorro on July 13, 2008 at 9:46 AM

No big deal. Al Gore did a lot of fund-raising when he was VP from the White House, & he was rewarded with reelection & a Nobel Peace Prize.

jgapinoy on July 13, 2008 at 9:52 AM

Obama sits for 20 years in Wright’s church, is pals with Rezko, supporter of Farakahn, Dorn, etc, doesn’t know squat about international relations or governing, or legislating, or being an executive, has radical marxist and black lib. theology beliefs, and you think it’s problems in the PA statehouse that will do him in?

If you need add’l scandals to beat Obama, he’s already won.

JiangxiDad on July 13, 2008 at 9:55 AM

Politicians and corruption seem to be normal. It’s the honest non-corrupt politician that is unusual. Even honorable people seem to become corrupt once they
enter politics. We need more people like Davy Crockett (don’t laugh…read the story about his conversion when he was a congressman). All politicians should read and heed this story.

WildBillK on July 13, 2008 at 9:58 AM

One district keeps sending someone like Murtha back to Washington…

lowandslow on July 13, 2008 at 9:31 AM

Rep. Murtha brings lots of pork home to his district. Few people are going to vote against a Representative who is brining home the bacon. Many of his people don’t care what else he does as long as the projects and grants keep making their way to 12th District.

talking_mouse on July 13, 2008 at 9:59 AM

Rep. Murtha brings lots of pork home to his district. Few people are going to vote against a Representative who is brining home the bacon. Many of his people don’t care what else he does as long as the projects and grants keep making their way to 12th District.

Yeah, and now it looks like state and federal investigations are making their way to the 12th District as well.

Not saying this is a bad thing, of course.

pilamaye on July 13, 2008 at 10:09 AM

talking_mouse

“Spend millions of other people’s dollars on us!”
Only the government can steal legally.

jgapinoy on July 13, 2008 at 10:10 AM

I thought these guys were all republicans?

benrand on July 13, 2008 at 10:23 AM

Taxes are demanded at the point of a sword. Whether at the tip of a bureaucrat’s pen or the muzzle of a sherrifs firearm.
We are defacto thrall with little to no recourse without organization or self riches.
These politicians see us as their serfs and have no compunction about robbing the public purse.

Beto Ochoa on July 13, 2008 at 10:28 AM

Something similar has been happening in NC the past few years. Now the governor’s wife is under scrutiny for an almost $80,000 pay raise she received as an employee of a state university after she and democrat husband took a trip to Italy on the taxpayer dime, and the democrat-controlled legislature did little to give state employees a raise. Ha. Welcome to scandal nation, Pennsylvania!

SouthernGent on July 13, 2008 at 10:33 AM

Yikes! I am a former Pennsylvanian democrat who switched parties back in 2003 because of things like this. ugh!

We got rid of BoB Jubelier a few yrs back because of the pay raise. NOw we have these bozos. hmm

Of course we have Murtha and does anyone remember Bud Shuster? He left politics after some shady dealings. NOw his son, Bill Shuster seems to be doing a good job..so far.

I am not surprised. sigh

becki51758 on July 13, 2008 at 10:44 AM

Here’s a blog page with a picture of the hot blonde concubine one staffer kept above a cigar store.

Tinian on July 13, 2008 at 10:45 AM

I wish I could say that this corruption is limited to the Democrats but the Republicans are doing their “fair” share. However, playing Pollyanna it’s not the system that’s corrupt but the people in the system.

TooTall on July 13, 2008 at 10:45 AM

Darn I thought they were finally hauling Murtha off in handcuffs.
Hows’ William “cold cash” Jefferson doing or Chris “nice home loan” Dodd, Chuck “I caused a bank-ruptcy” Schumer.
Or for that matter Barack “Rezko home payment” Hussein Obama?

dhunter on July 13, 2008 at 10:45 AM

This reminds me of the kind of problems the Republicans faced in Ohio and the Democrats in Louisiana. It seems that once a party starts getting too comfortable it has a tendency to do some pretty unethical stuff.

Terrye on July 13, 2008 at 10:56 AM

I think they took “public financing of elections” a bit too far…

Harry Schell on July 13, 2008 at 11:17 AM

Let me propose a modest reform that would heighten public reaction to criminals like these:

Stop income tax withholding. Get the employer OUT of the tax collection business, and make the state & federal bureaucrats collect tax payments directly from the workers on a quarterly time schedule. If the workers don’t pay on time, assess a fee. If they underpay, assess a fee. If they overpay, keep the money.

You want to see the citizens of Pennsylvania get off their asses and throw these thieves out of office? Make them personally write the check. They will seethe. Blood would shoot from their eyes.

The democrat thugs would quickly pack their bags, don the fake noses and glasses, and run for sanctuary in a nearby socialist country!

Yes, sir. FDR was a smart cookie. He knew his democrat voters were susceptible to socialist propaganda and too infatuated with it to figure out they were being fleeced. For the love of God, rescind this despicable payroll withholding deception and let justice run its course!

jeff_from_mpls on July 13, 2008 at 11:21 AM

What about California? How about the County and City of Los Angeles? Plenty of corruption in these places. Mostly Democrats. Where is the MSM coverage of this fleecing of the American taxpayers????

DfDeportation on July 13, 2008 at 11:21 AM

Rep, Veon WAS thrown out of office due to the pay raise that happened a few years back..along with Bob Jubelier and some federal judges. The Pa citizens did get off their asses for that.

It was a little to late apparently.

becki51758 on July 13, 2008 at 11:29 AM

ha ha ha The information in this article is considered as potential SPAM on the California Democratic Party Website. Too funny…

DfDeportation on July 13, 2008 at 11:31 AM

Somehow I don’t think the democrat voter cares. It seems that the democrat voter believes that the purpose of government is to reward yourself, your friends and family, and to use the power of government to punish your enemies.

Health care, public education, unemployment, job training, university scholarships and grants; the democrat view of government is entitlement paid for by someone else.

Those politicians who deliver get re-elected.

rockhauler on July 13, 2008 at 11:34 AM

Good grief! The Pitsburgh papers are doing a much more thorough job than the Philly papers describing this sordid mess. This operation also used state employees to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot in PA in 2004! Bush might well have won thie state if Nader had been on the ballot. It was a well publicized, ruthless campaign to disqualify thousands of signatures on technicalities and get judges to rule that ballot petitions had been turned in too late. Nader sued over it and lost. It makes me nauseous to think that my tax dollars paid for this!!!

The same people apparently were also involved in keeping Carl Romanelli, a liberal independent, off the ballto for U.S. Senate in 2006. Democrats were terrifed that Romanelli would siphon votes away from Bobby Casey from liberals who did not like Casey’s pro-life and pro-gun views. While Casey beat Rick Santorum by a huge margin, had Romanelli been in the race it might have been an entirely different campaign. And the four House races that flipped from Republican to Democrat by very thin margins might have come out differently too.

This is just beyond revolting.

The grand jury said the ballot challenge efforts against Mr. Nader, who sought a place on the Pennsylvania ballot in 2004 as a Green Party candidate for president, was essentially divided between Mr. Veon’s Beaver Falls district office and his Capitol office in Harrisburg.

Mrs. Peretta-Rosepink, the Beaver Falls office manager, directed the western Pennsylvania portion of the effort and Mr. Foreman and Mr. Manzo coordinated Harrisburg efforts.

More than 34,000 signatures were challenged and Mr. Nader was kept off the ballot. It was generally assumed at the time that Mr. Nader’s presence on the ballot could siphon votes from Democratic nominee John Kerry.

Mr. Veon issued a congratulatory e-mail to staff on Oct. 13, 2004: “You have given John Kerry an even better opportunity to win this state,” Mr. Veon wrote.

The grand jury identified 36 state employees who were involved in the Nader ballot challenge, 29 of whom received state bonuses for 2004.

Two years later, the same tactic was used to keep Carl Romanelli, an independent candidate, off the ballot for U.S. Senate.

“Brett Cott assumed the laboring oar in organizing and orchestrating the operation,” the grand jury wrote. Once again, Mr. Foreman assisted in directing the contribution of Veon’s office staff “which worked day in and day out on the petitions, while being paid by the taxpayers.”

Larry Otter, Mr. Romanelli’s lawyer in the petition challenges, today said he was “sick” at the extent of state labor involved.

“God knows what was going on the behind the scenes to get Romanelli off the ballot. It’s beyond outrageous. It’s a subversion of Democracy. It makes Pennsylvania’s ballot access a joke,” Mr. Otter said.

rockmom on July 13, 2008 at 12:02 PM

Here’s more from AG Corbett’s news release:

The grand jury found that employees and resources of the House Democratic Caucus were historically and routinely used to conduct petition challenges against candidates who were opponents of Democratic House candidates or the Democratic Party. This effort was typically led by Michael Manzo or Cott. Employees were not required to, and did not, take leave for the time spent during their regular work hours on challenging nominating petitions.

These efforts were by no means limited to House races. Two outstanding examples of misappropriation of taxpayers’ resources on petition challenges were the Ralph Nader for President of the United States in 2004 and the Carl Romanelli for the United States Senate in 2006.

The grand jury found that as many as 50 Democratic House Caucus staff members participated in the Nader petition challenge and contributed a staggering number of man-hours. A House Democratic employee testified before the grand jury that “everybody was working on this.” It was virtually a caucus wide endeavor and many of the employees spent an entire week on the Nader petition challenge.

Upon the successful challenge to the Nader petition, Veon sent an e-mail to his staff stating:

“FYI .great job by our staff! This would have never been successful without your work. You have given John Kerry an even better opportunity to win this state.one of the 5 most important states to win this year.”

“This is a very significant fact and significant contribution by each one of you to the Kerry for president campaign.you should take great pride in your efforts.”

The Romanelli petition challenge was led by Cott, who announced it was very important to “leadership” that Romanelli not appear on the ballot. Staffers were told “not to worry about leave,” but to focus on getting the petition challenges done as soon as possible.

Unbelievable!!

rockmom on July 13, 2008 at 12:07 PM

Romanelli was also told by the court he had to repay $80,000 in costs for the nomination petition challenge. Plus interest.

Another excellent example of Democrat political thuggery.

Tinian on July 13, 2008 at 12:10 PM

Darn I thought they were finally hauling Murtha off in handcuffs.
Hows’ William “cold cash” Jefferson doing or Chris “nice home loan” Dodd, Chuck “I caused a bank-ruptcy” Schumer.
Or for that matter Barack “Rezko home payment” Hussein Obama?

dhunter on July 13, 2008 at 10:45 AM

Nope. And, today’s news about Bush’s bundler soliciting bribes will take all that out of the public eye with the help of the MSM.

a capella on July 13, 2008 at 12:23 PM

Throw them in the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.

(Obama’s bus undercarriage is getting too crowded.)

profitsbeard on July 13, 2008 at 12:24 PM

It’s inconceivable that Ed Rendell knew nothing about this, especially the ballot challnge stuff. Harrisburg’s a small town.

rockmom on July 13, 2008 at 12:27 PM

I am beyond sick! ugh

But on a good note. Foxnews just did a segment on the marines who were vindicated and were asking why it hasn’t been reported in the MSM.

sigh..but no mention of traitorous Murtha.

becki51758 on July 13, 2008 at 12:29 PM

To my Pennsylvanian friends to the south of me, I only wish we had an AG willing to take on the rampant corruption in both our assembly and state senate in Albany. After all, he did some prying into Spitzer’s activities. But alas, nothing going. Perhaps it’s because his last name is Cuomo.

Sorry Pennsylvania, but we’re corruption pros up here. It’s New York. Enough said.

Pope Linus on July 13, 2008 at 12:58 PM

Uh….Ms. Pelosi and Ms. Boxer…..which party is now the “Culture of Corruption”?

That’s what I thought.

Winebabe on July 13, 2008 at 1:42 PM

When Democrats do something wrong, it will inevitably be “balanced” in the media or in what passes for our legal system, by something every bit as wrong the Republicans did (whether or not it actually is).

However, if a Republican is caught (or more likely, has some trumped up, baseless charge brought against him), it’s a problem with the entire party. Democrats are presented with furrowed, concerned brows, wearing halos. Even when they are every bit as dirty.

This will be whitewashed. If 100 Democrats are caught on tape accepting suitcases full of cash from the mafia, it will be “balanced” by the one Republican who turned in a library book a day late.

NoDonkey on July 13, 2008 at 1:51 PM

You know how they say one “oh sh**” wipes out 10,000 “attaboys?”

Replace the quoted statements with “Republican appearance of corruption” and “Democrat crimes” and you have a pretty solid example of the rules the MSM lives by.

Almost makes me wish I had gone into Journalism, except I know I wouldn’t have any influence over the corrupt newsrooms even if I had.

Merovign on July 13, 2008 at 4:21 PM

Well,I thought the most powerful women in the
universe was going to clean house,”It might
just take a woman” Nancy Pelosi!

Lets do a mini review,according to Pelosi,who
ran on eliminating corruption,still doesn’t
have a clean house,and with less than 4 months,
it appears Nancy won’t get the job done,and to
think,all she had to do is start in the kitchen,
and clean Jefferson’s freezer,and go from there!

canopfor on July 13, 2008 at 6:14 PM

Veon had two of his aides drive motorcycles owned by he and his wife to the annual biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, so he could fly there to attend it.

Now that right there is awsome!

Big John on July 13, 2008 at 6:36 PM

Don’t count on PA turning red as long as Filthadelphia is a part of the state. And as far as I’m concerned, it would have been a blessing for the Republican party to have Ed Spendall as the Dem VP. The scumbag deals involving him and the state gaming commission alone would provide plenty of fodder for the elections. Let alone him campaigning purely on reducing property taxes, then when elected trying to raise the state budget by 33%. Then there’s the pay raise scandal. And him handing out 200 some million for a soccer stadium in Philly…who doesn’t have a soccer team. And so on and so forth.

rmb263 on July 13, 2008 at 11:47 PM

rmb263 on July 13, 2008 at 11:47 PM

Agreed!!

becki51758 on July 14, 2008 at 7:09 AM

Somehow I don’t think the democrat voter cares.

That’s true in Pennsylvania. Look at the 06 primary results, after the pay raise scandal. The primaries were a blood bath, but only if you look at the Republican races. Few Democrats were tossed out because of the illegal pay raise.

rightwingprof on July 14, 2008 at 7:44 AM

Ed Rendell is on Fox and Friends…and no mention of these arrests. They keep asking if he has been vetted! ugh Give me a break!

becki51758 on July 14, 2008 at 8:20 AM

Gambling going on in this casino? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.

Pa is such a beautiful state.

So sad.

HonestConservative on July 15, 2008 at 9:49 PM