Tuesday, August 12, 2008

PA Bonusgate Lists Helped 2006 Winners

Will the same "taxpayer funded" email addresses and listings (noted as a little known part of the Corbett bonus-gate investigation) - which were reportedly in 2006 used to help legislators' election bids according to this

$1.7 million Pa. spam scam outlined
Prosecutors say House Democrats used public funds for e-mail with campaign themes.
By Mario F. Cattabiani

and this 'Little fish' snag Pa. Bonusgate immunity By RICHARD FELLINGER Public Opinion Harrisburg Bureau

and according to the PA Bonusgate Grand Jury Report as summarized (posted by oldconservative hippie) here )

and details straight from the AG, accessible here

July 10, 2008

Attorney General Corbett announces charges in legislative bonus investigation - 12 suspects charged in 1st phase of the investigation


- be utilized again in this election cycle?

Were any incoming winners of the 2006 Pennsylvania General Election, freshmen, given any such allegedly taxpayer-funded lists by anyone in Harrisburg to help them win in their local districts, for instance, locally, Deberah Kula and Timothy Mahoney?

H. William DeWeese should be asked about the email address listings and whether these lists were used to help the campaign bids of anyone within his legislative representative district.

If these same lists remain accessible to state incumbents, (just because the lists are under investigation doesn't mean copies have not been made using high-tech methodology) should these same lists be subject to the current new and improved open records law? That legislation has been touted as making PA history, forever more. Let's test it.

There's more. What about political campaign websites as noted in a Tribune-Review article the state grand jury's report alleges were created/maintained using taxpayers' monies.

And summarized in part in the report (posted at the old conservative hippie site)...

Buxton testified that his contract appeared to be for legitimate legislative work performed by his company, but that the contract was for services completely unnecessary to the Caucus and was a vehicle for the House Democratic Caucus to pay for campaign e-mail communication.

From subpoenaed contracts, invoices and Buxton's records, the grand jury found that the House Democratic Caucus paid $420,000 to Buxton's company between August 2005 and October 2007. Additionally, the grand jury discovered a second vendor, Gravity Webb Media, who was engaged in campaign work by providing candidate websites and mass e-mails. This cost the taxpayers more than $82,000 in 2006. This amounted to more than a half million dollars in taxpayers' funds used solely for campaign work...


Where's the specific public report on all of these public matters? Whose political websites were created for political campaign purposes using potentially Pennsylvania taxpayers' monies? Name of domain creator, site, cost, what were or potentially remain as the contents of the political campaign websites created or maintained by firms or connected firms mentioned in the Bonus-gate Grand Jury material?

Many domains are pulled when they expire, but others are simply hidden from view. Were any Pennsylvania incumbents or wannabe legislators' political campaign websites maintained or created using taxpayers monies prior to 2006 Primary Election or General Election?

The Grand Jury could take years to wrap up an investigation into Bonusgate. It would be a shame if the public didn't have access to all of the information it needs to make informed choices for the 2008 statewide elections. Most notably, what is at stake the status quo, corrupted, vs real change.

We often wonder if such can become reality given the entrenched two-political party majority which in Pennsylvania salivates every time third party or independent equal access to the ballot is even whispered.

No matter which side did how much when, sometimes it's a matter of voters having a better choice than neither of the two, or none of the above.

Net the Truth Online

And don't forget to wonder just exactly who Veon may have helped to get elected... using taxpayer funded "resources." Whose campaigns exactly did Veon employees work on?

Veon's Capitol Campaign Organization
The grand jury found that Veon, who had one of the largest Capitol and legislative staffs of any member, ran an illegal campaign organization from his offices which included fundraising, opposition research, the preparation and distribution of campaign mailings, blast e-mail messages and nomination petition challenges.

The grand jury found that Veon, through Foreman and Cott, directed Veon's employees to "volunteer" for work on specific political campaigns. Veon's employees accumulated days or weeks of fraudulent comp time so they could spend time away from their legislative offices and still be paid their taxpayer-funded salaries while they worked on campaigns.

The grand jury also heard how Veon turned his Beaver County district office into a campaign machine. The office equipment including the copy machine, computers and printers were all used to create and print campaign material.


Don't forget to ask additional questions of Rep. DeWeese related to Democratic state House staffers who...

Top bonus recipients aided top Dems
80 of 100 largest raises went to staff who worked for or gave money to Veon, DeWeese campaigns
Sunday, February 11, 2007
By Tracie Mauriello and Jon Schmitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG -- Eighty of the 100 Democratic state House staffers awarded the biggest bonuses in their government paychecks last year either donated money to or worked on the political campaigns of the two powerful Democratic leaders who controlled the bonuses.

Those staffers, all of whom received bonuses of $5,700 or more, gave money to or campaigned for House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese of Waynesburg; his former second-in-command, Rep. Mike Veon of Beaver Falls; or the House Democratic Campaign Committee, which Mr. DeWeese chairs. Some gave to or worked for all three.


Forum: In praise of state bonuses
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader BILL DEWEESE says bonuses for Democratic employees reward hard work and save money long term
Sunday, February 11, 2007
In an effort to return the media and public focus on state government back to where it should be -- on important policy initiatives such as health-care reform, property-tax reductions, education and the development of alternative-energy sources, I offer the following background and explanation regarding House Democratic Caucus employee incentive compensation that was awarded under my watch...

First published on February 11, 2007 at 12:00 am


State corruption went high-tech, grand jury says
By Brad Bumsted
Saturday, July 19, 2008

High-tech corruption emerged at the Capitol in 2005, according to a state grand jury report.

House Democrats spent more than $1.7 million in taxpayers' money on "blast e-mails" for political purposes, for work on campaign Web sites and to acquire the e-mail addresses, the grand jury alleged.

The operation was so sophisticated that the company doing the work used a computer server in Michigan to hide the fact that the e-mails came from taxpayer-paid computers in the Capitol.

The computer-generated efforts to reach voters on behalf of Democratic candidates was a little-noticed aspect of the July 10 grand jury presentment that resulted in criminal charges against former Democratic House Whip Mike Veon of Beaver Falls; a sitting lawmaker, Rep. Sean Ramaley of Economy; and 10 legislative aides. They are charged with conflict of interest, theft and conspiracy.

Two owners of computer companies hired by the Democrats testified under grants of immunity. A Churchill businessman hired by the House Democratic Caucus to provide Internet technology for use in political campaigns was paid $82,500 in state tax money, according to the grand jury report. James Rossell, owner of Gravity Web Media, confirmed he testified before the grand jury but declined other comment.
Rossell replaced Eric Buxton and his company, Govercom, after Democrats became dissatisfied with Buxton's work. Buxton's company was paid $420,000 -- solely for campaign work, the grand jury report said. Buxton could not be reached for comment. He is the son of Rep. Ron Buxton, D-Harrisburg, chairman of the House Ethics Committee. His office said he was unavailable for comment...

... Investigators eventually recovered about 17,000 e-mails from Buxton's computer. "Indeed, every e-mail reviewed was for campaign purposes," the report said.

Virtually all of the campaign communication with Buxton occurred through use of the taxpayer-funded e-mail system, the grand jury alleged. DeWeese was an exception. He used his campaign e-mail account.

Ideas for the campaign e-mails came from Veon or staffer Brett Cott, who also is charged with crimes, the grand jury said. These would be crafted into a draft e-mail. The final product would be approved by Veon, Cott or Manzo, the report alleged.

The e-mails contained formatting that made it appear they were being sent by the House Democratic Campaign Committee or a candidate's campaign committee. They would be "blasted" to targeted voters. In 2006 alone, more than 300 group e-mails were created within the Capitol and sent by Buxton, according to the grand jury.

Veon, Manzo and Keefer became dissatisfied with Buxton between the primary and the general election of 2006, Bob Caton, Veon's former press secretary, told the grand jury.

That's when they turned to Rossell, to "contract with him to obtain his assistance on campaign Web sites and blast e-mails for the caucus leadership," the grand jury said. Rossell testified the state officials insisted on preparing the contract themselves. The contract made no reference to campaign work.

Dan Reese, the Democrats' program Web supervisor, told the grand jury he was "unaware of any legitimate work ever performed by Gravity Web Media."

Rossell told the grand jury that Keefer bragged about a large budget for information technology, with no oversight...


Posted on Sun, Jul. 27, 2008
$1.7 million Pa. spam scam outlined
Prosecutors say House Democrats used public funds for e-mail with campaign themes.
By Mario F. Cattabiani
Inquirer Staff Writer

HARRISBURG - They cost only a dime each, but it added up quickly.
Over more than two years, as they toiled in the minority, Democrats in the state House allegedly purchased millions of e-mail addresses to send campaign-related propaganda to Pennsylvania voters who were stuck paying the political tab - $1.2 million.

And that's not including several hundred thousand more in public funds that went to a tech consultant - the son of a state representative - who allegedly made it all look like a legitimate legislative endeavor.

Details of the conspiracy were laid out recently in the 74-page grand-jury indictments against a dozen Harrisburg insiders in what has become known as Bonusgate.


'Little fish' snag Pa. Bonusgate immunity
By RICHARD FELLINGER Public Opinion Harrisburg Bureau

For some aides with firsthand knowledge of the inner workings of the House Democratic caucus, the truth will apparently keep them free.

As Attorney General Tom Corbett pursues the "Bonusgate" case against 12 House Democrats, including former House Minority Whip Mike Veon, several staffers have been granted immunity to tell their stories about campaigning with public resources.

Chief among them is Eric Webb, former director of member services for House Democrats and a driving force behind the bonus scheme that sparked the case.

A grand jury report states that Webb was granted immunity and provided "extensive and detailed" testimony about a list of staffers who did campaign work for House Democrats and were rewarded with taxpayer-funded bonuses.

The 72-page report also details Webb's testimony about opposition research conducted on state time by Democratic aides, and increased efforts by aides who helped Democratic lawmakers in the 2006 elections that followed the 2005 pay raise.

At least four other Democratic staffers were given immunity, according to the grand jury report. They testified before the grand jury about being assigned to work on the campaign trail with bogus leave time and receiving state-funded contracts for campaign work, among other things...


4/30/2006 donation to Veon campaign from Eric R. Buxton


Political bonuses under fire
Attorney general might investigate if campaign work led to staffers' bonuses
Harrisburg bureau
Article Last Updated: 07/10/2008 10:26:31 AM EDT


Next blow to one-time 'rising star' Mike Veon
By Debra Erdley
Friday, July 11, 2008

Friends and foes describe Mike Veon as the consummate political strategist, and organized labor's best friend.
On Thursday, a state grand jury recommended prosecution of Veon, 51, and 11 other Harrisburg insiders on multiple counts of theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest for spending millions of taxpayer dollars on political campaigns, ghost employees, bonuses for political work and perks...

... Voter resentment began building in 2005 when Veon championed the controversial legislative pay raise that boosted his salary by 33 percent.

When the shell-shocked Legislature repealed the pay raise in November 2005, Veon was the sole member to vote no.

"He gave his word on the pay raise. He did what he thought was right," said Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik, who has known Veon for years.

Veon's heavily Democratic district was considered "safe." But a safe district and a million-dollar campaign could not surmount the voter discontent. In November 2006, voters ousted Veon in favor of Republican unknown Jim Marshall.

DeWeese was stunned by the loss of his longtime lieutenant. But gratified by Veon's final gift -- a campaign strategy that produced a Democratic House majority for the first time in 12 years -- he dubbed Veon "the lion of the Legislature."

Although Veon disappeared from public view after his defeat, his name surfaced a couple of months later when news reports revealed members of the House Democratic legislative staff had drawn hefty bonuses. The four legislative caucuses paid $3.6 million in bonuses in 2005 and 2006, with $2.2 million going to staffers with the House Democratic Caucus.

At 50, with 22 years in the Legislature, he took a $126,000 lump sum payout, began drawing $50,000 a year from his state pension and moved to Harrisburg.

He partnered with Colleen Kopp to start a lobbying firm and promptly attracted a stable of prestigious clients, including Independence Blue Cross and PNC Bank, among others. The firm closed in April amid reports of the grand jury investigation.


Veon indicted on 59 counts
J.D. Prose, Calkins Media

State Rep. Sean Ramaley of Economy, a state Senate candidate, and former state Rep. Mike Veon were two of 12 people connected to the state House Democratic Caucus charged Thursday after grand jurors concluded that millions of taxpayer dollars were illegally used to support political campaigns...


July 10, 2008

Attorney General Corbett announces charges in legislative bonus investigation - 12 suspects charged in 1st phase of the investigation


Saturday, February 23, 2008
Posted 9:35 PM by Dave Ralis

Connect the Mike Veon dots in Slotsylvania


Democratic panel pays off Veon's campaign debt
By Brad Bumsted and Debra Erdley
Thursday, February 21, 2008


Veon loss pays off for aides
Ousted legislator handed out $80,000 in bonuses
Sunday, November 11, 2007
By Tracie Mauriello and Dennis Roddy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG -- At the close of a 22-year legislative career derailed by voter anger over a midnight pay raise, departing state Rep. Mike Veon last year dispensed payroll bonuses of nearly $80,000 in state funds to a dozen staff members at his district office in Beaver Falls, one of whom had spent only three months on the job.

The bonuses, which ranged from $250 to more than $20,000, were part of a nearly $2 million payroll bonus package that is now the subject of a state grand jury investigation into whether state money was used to pay for campaign work, which would be illegal.


Nov 8, 2006 6:25 pm US/Eastern
Long-Time State. Rep. Veon Loses Re-Election
BEAVER FALLS (KDKA) ― It appears that voters in Beaver County didn't forget about the pay raise state legislators gave themselves in July 2005.

Democrat Mike Veon, who served in the State House for 22 years, lost his bid for re-election to Republican Jim Marshall by a little more than 1,500 votes.

Veon was the second-ranking Democrat in the House and was the only legislator who voted against repealing the pay raise.

Marshall made the pay raise a major campaign issue.

Veon was known for using his strong political position to bring money into the county.

But Marshall attacked Veon on other issues, including the struggling financial state of the district, the size of his staff and the bookkeeping and use of funds by the Beaver Institute of Growth, a development company run by Veon.


Veon renominated


(this post was inspired by fellow citizen investigators who encouraged us with their insight and pertinent questions)

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