Tuesday, April 07, 2009

PA: Rep. Bill DeWeese in April PI Scope for Bonusgate emails leaked

The Philly Inquirer article Bonusgate records contradict DeWeese
By Mario F. Cattabiani and Angela Couloumbis Inquirer Staff Writers
brings to mind a few we hope most pertinent questions.

Why doesn't the public have access to all of the records obtained by H. William DeWeese during his in-House investigation back in March 2007 conducted by Chadwick & Associates? Some many thousands of emails were reportedly uncovered by the investigation and turned over to Tom Corbett, PA's Attorney General.

So all was turned over to Corbett for his investigation. The open records legislation was supposed to apply to the state legislature, right?

And the Senate bill authored by Sen. Pilleggi thankfully altered the House version in two key ways:

Pilleggi's bill applied to past records, and included legislative emails.

The original House open records bill as introduced by Rep. Tim Mahoney didn't apply to past records, and after an amendment which would have removed language enabling blanket exemptions for legislative emails failed (with help of DeWeese's vote) the Mahoney bill included those blanket exemptions for legislative emails.

(See our site archives for the chronology and rundown of all of that)

So why now isn't the public able to see every single scrap of emails - blast and otherwise - complete with names, names, and more names.

We shouldn't have to wait for leaks to be able to see all the emails - online - as public records, right?

Net the Truth Online

Discussion of PI Bonusgate records contradict DeWeese
By Mario F. Cattabiani and Angela Couloumbis Inquirer Staff Writers

George · 16 hours ago

I think this is what you are referring to. This is from the Patriot on 10/17/07 --
Seized files ruled relevant

BY CHARLES THOMPSON / Of The Patriot-News, 10/16/07 10:52 PM EDT UPDATED: 10/17/07 12:24 AM EDT

"In a separate development in the bonus probe Tuesday, case files showed a second person connected with the probe has been granted immunity from prosecution. The immunity order was sealed, so it was not known to whom it applied. Such applications are generally made to guarantee testimony from a witness worried about incriminating himself."


Posted as is for discussion purposes:

Bonusgate records contradict DeWeese
By Mario F. Cattabiani and Angela Couloumbis
Inquirer Staff Writers

HARRISBURG - Since the Bonusgate corruption probe was launched two years ago, Rep. Bill DeWeese has adamantly and repeatedly denied knowing that taxpayer money secretly had been used to underwrite political campaigns. But records turned over to defendants in the case by Attorney General Tom Corbett appear to paint a different picture of the onetime House Democratic leader, who has not been charged in the ongoing investigation.

Documents show that in 2006, facing a stiff challenge in an election that DeWeese nearly lost, his campaign tapped a state-paid computer consultant - a key figure in the Bonusgate probe - to perform a long list of political tasks.

Among other duties, that consultant crafted fund-raising invitations and sent out blast e-mails to constituents in DeWeese's district in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania.

The documents, provided to The Inquirer by a defendant, also indicate that the Greene County Democrat exchanged campaign-related messages with his legislative staffers on state e-mail accounts.

"I love it," DeWeese responded in September 2006 to a legislative aide of his who had just drafted a letter for a constituent to send to the local newspaper supporting the representative's campaign.

"Great work," DeWeese wrote with 44 exclamation points when told by campaign operatives in April that party canvassers had knocked on nearly 600 doors.

State law prohibits public money from being used for campaign-related purposes.

DeWeese, who has served in the House for three decades and is now majority whip, declined to be interviewed. In a statement, he said it would be inappropriate to comment on individual documents.

He called the e-mails "a desperate attempt by the criminal defendants to try their case in the media by cherry-picking documents they received in discovery and leaking them."

The documents - more than 100 in all - were given to The Inquirer by Brett Cott, a former top aide to House Democrats who faces 42 corruption counts. As required by law, state prosecutors provided the documents to Cott and the other defendants as part of the discovery phase of the case.

Cott was among a dozen caucus insiders charged in July in the first wave of Bonusgate indictments. The 12 are accused of carrying out a conspiracy to use millions in state resources and staff to further the campaigns of House Democrats.

His attorney, Bryan Walk, said the documents "speak for themselves."

Asked to elaborate, Walk said: "We're disappointed that Brett is charged for allegedly doing political work on state time when it appears that there were other people who did the same - or more things - on state time who weren't charged."

DeWeese, in his prepared statement, said prosecutors had decided not to charge him "based on the totality of the evidence over a two-year period, which included thousands of e-mails and other documents that we turned over to them and the sworn testimony of hundreds of witnesses whom we urged to cooperate."

Corbett has said that the fact that DeWeese was not charged does not indicate he is in the clear and that the investigation continues. Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley reiterated that last week, but declined to comment further.

Democratic push Fall 2006 was a critical period for Democrats who had been toiling for a decade to reclaim the majority in the state House. The Bonusgate indictment alleges that they pulled out all the stops, even paying a computer consultant, Eric Buxton and his Harrisburg company, Govercom Strategies, hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars for political work.

Prosecutors have argued that Buxton, son of a longtime state representative from Harrisburg, was paid with tax dollars for government services while in reality he only worked on campaigns.

Cott and three others were charged with theft stemming from the Govercom arrangement.

DeWeese was mentioned in the indictment, but only in passing. It noted that virtually all dealings with Buxton among House Democrats were done through the state e-mail system. DeWeese was one of the few exceptions, because he used his campaign account to correspond with Buxton. But his legislative aides who worked on his campaign did not.

The documents Cott provided show that several of those aides were in regular contact with Buxton, using their state e-mail accounts to task the consultant with campaign work.

Staffers Tom Andrews and Kevin Sidella had Buxton send fund-raising e-mails and news releases, update the campaign Web site, and help solve computer glitches.

On Oct. 31, 2006, Andrews sent Buxton an e-mail telling him to drop everything and create a document with a photo of DeWeese receiving the NRA's defender of freedom award.

"It will go to all 50th District MALES," Andrews, DeWeese's legislative press secretary, instructed Buxton.

In some cases, such blast campaign e-mails backfired.

"Do not send any more e-mails," constituent Karen Zgela wrote DeWeese, demanding a month before the November 2006 election that he take her off the e-mail list. "It is just a waste of taxpayers money."

Sidella and Buxton are cooperating with prosecutors under grants of immunity.

Sidella left the state House to open a private consulting business in 2007 and was immediately hired to help guide DeWeese's campaign.

In an interview last week, Andrews said he took time off from his state job to help DeWeese's campaign. Asked to provide documentation, however, Andrews did not respond.

He also said he didn't know how Buxton was being paid.

State records show the DeWeese reelection campaign paid Buxton's firm only $530 in 2006 - $500 to buy a database and $30 for a domain name - even though the e-mails suggest he did a lot more work than that.

For most of 2006, Buxton was paid $16,875 monthly under a state contract with House Democrats.

Buxton's attorney, Ed Spreha, declined to comment.

Nick Rodriguez-Cayro, Sidella's attorney, said his client had cooperated fully with the probe.

"Let me make it clear: He was an employee - not a manager - who followed the directions he was given by his supervisors," he said of Sidella. Asked who those supervisors were, Rodriguez-Cayro said DeWeese and his former chief of staff.

Campaign matters Other documents in the case that are now part of discovery show that DeWeese at times used his state e-mail account to respond directly to campaign-related matters. Unlike his penchant for loquacious floor speeches, DeWeese's e-mails are almost always pithy and to the point.

In a December 2004 e-mail exchange, caucus research analyst Karen E. Steiner wrote DeWeese, "I can't thank you enough for the bonus for campaigning." To that, DeWeese replied, "UR welcome."

Steiner received a $1,600 bonus that year. DeWeese has previously told reporters he did not recall writing that e-mail to Steiner and that other staffers sometimes responded for him using his e-mail account. DeWeese has said he didn't know of the government bonuses, with the exception of smaller ones given each Christmas.

In another case, Mike Manzo, DeWeese's former chief of staff, asked his boss for approval to extend a state employment contract for an aide to a state representative from Allentown.

Manzo, whom DeWeese fired and who is among the dozen charged, wrote in summer 2005 that the aide was "knocking on doors for our candidate" and that the state representative had donated $3,500 to the campaign arm of the caucus.

DeWeese responded, simply: "OK."

http://www.philly.com/philly/n ews/homepage/42514192.html?page=1& c=y


Note: Net the Truth Online does not approve of unsubstantiated taglines or headlines, but we see no reason to not post this one referencing DeWeese OK'd extending Peter Schweyer's employment, records show since the subtitle of the piece does include the words, records show.

We accept, that's what the records show.

Rep. Mann, a top aide surface in Bonusgate e-mails
DeWeese OK'd extending Peter Schweyer's employment, records show
By John L. Micek | Call Harrisburg Bureau April 7, 2009
HARRISBURG | - In 2005, then-House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese kept a top aide to Rep. Jennifer Mann, D-Lehigh, on the job after getting an e-mail extolling the aide's campaign work for another Democrat, records show.

''He is knocking [on] doors Â… and has helped Jenn put together a fundraiser for our candidate,''

DeWeese's then-chief of staff, Michael Manzo, wrote of Peter Schweyer, then a contract worker for the House Democratic Caucus, and now an Allentown city councilman and still one of Mann's top aides. His contract was about to expire.

''Jenn Mann is asking that you consider extending the employment of Peter Schweyer for 60 more days,'' Manzo wrote that June. ''She said she is working very hard to find him a job.''

Mann said Monday that her efforts to find Schweyer a job had nothing to do with politicking.

At the time, Schweyer was among scores of House Democratic staffers working on a special election between Democrat Linda Minger and Republican Karen Beyer for a Lehigh Valley House seat.

Manzo also told DeWeese that Mann had donated $3,500 to the House Democratic Campaign Committee toward the special election.

A day after receiving Manzo's message, DeWeese wrote back with a single-word answer: ''Ok.'' Within hours, Manzo e-mailed another House staffer and told him to keep Schweyer, Mann's aide since 2004, under contract.

Minger, the ''our candidate'' in Manzo's note, lost to Beyer in a district that includes parts of Lehigh County and a sliver of Northampton County.

What DeWeese knew about campaign work by state employees is an open question as a probe continues into whether House Democrats used tax dollars to elect their candidates. DeWeese, of Greene County, has said he knew nothing about any such practice.

Asked about Manzo's e-mail Monday, Schweyer said his work for Minger was done on his own time. He received no bonus for helping, state records show.

Mann said she wanted to hire Schweyer full time or find him work elsewhere in the Democratic Caucus, based on his performance, not any politicking.

''I didn't write it. I didn't receive it,'' Mann said of Manzo's e-mail to DeWeese. ''I can't control the nature of it. Pete was hired to do his legislative duties, and that's what he did. If he wanted to work on a campaign or get a part-time job at a department store, he was free to do that.''

The e-mails were provided to The Morning Call by Brett Cott, one of a dozen people once connected to the House Democratic Caucus who face criminal charges stemming from an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption.

Attorney General Tom Corbett is probing allegations that public money was used for political work, which is illegal. The probe has been dubbed Bonusgate because some employees received taxpayer-funded bonuses.

The e-mails were among many turned over to defense attorneys by Corbett's office as a part of the discovery phase of the legal proceedings against Cott and others. Cott's former boss, ex-Rep. Mike Veon, D-Beaver, was among those charged, as was Manzo, who has since pleaded guilty and implicated DeWeese.

The race between Minger and Beyer figured prominently in a grand jury presentment brought by Corbett in July 2008.

In it, the Republican attorney general alleged that the Minger race became known as an easy place for legislative staffers to make extra cash. Some 170 Democratic staffers signed up to help Minger and some were illegally rewarded with taxpayer-funded bonuses, it is alleged.

DeWeese, now House majority whip, has not been charged in connection with Corbett's nearly two-year-old public corruption probe. In a statement, DeWeese's spokesman, Tom Andrews, said nothing improper had occurred regarding extending Schweyer's state role.

''On its face, the e-mail shows Rep. DeWeese responding to a request from one of his members,'' Andrews wrote. ''To suggest anything more has no basis in fact.Â…State law does not preclude caucus employees from doing political work on their own time.''...


Meanwhile Herald-Standard report on the Philadelphia Inquirer report

DeWeese blasts release of e-mails
By Amy Revak, Herald-Standard
Updated 04/08/2009 12:06:06 AM EDT

Newly disclosed e-mails that appear to raise questions about former House Democratic leader Bill DeWeese's claim that he did not know taxpayers' money was used to run political campaigns are merely an attempt by defendants to try their case in the media, the Greene County lawmaker said Monday.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently obtained more than 100 e-mails from Brett Cott, one of the 12 people connected to the House Democratic Caucus who have been charged so far in the state attorney general's ongoing investigation into alleged legislative corruption.
The use of state money to reward aides for campaign work became known as Bonusgate. An ensuing investigation led to 12 arrests in the Democratic caucus. DeWeese, D-Waynesburg, has not been charged with any wrongdoing, and has maintained he did not know of any illegal bonuses being given out.

The newly released documents show DeWeese used a state-paid computer consultant to perform political tasks that included crafting invitations to political fundraisers and sending mass e-mails to DeWeese's constituents in 2006 when he faced a tough re-election challenge, the newspaper reported.

Brett Cott, the former House Democratic aide who provided the documents, obtained them from prosecutors as part of the discovery phase of the case. DeWeese, who headed the caucus during the period under investigation, has not been charged.

In a statement, DeWeese blasted the release of the e-mails. DeWeese said Cott is facing 42 charges and 272 years in prison.

"Let's call this what it is: a desperate attempt by the criminal defendants to try their case in the media by cherry-picking documents they received in discovery and leaking them to the media. Prosecutors made their charging decisions based on the totality of the evidence over a two-year period, which included thousands of e-mails and other documents that we turned over to them and the sworn testimony of hundreds of witnesses whom we urged to cooperate," DeWeese said.

DeWeese added, "It would be inappropriate to comment on individual documents that the criminal defendants have chosen to publicize. We have nothing further to say because this is a pending criminal prosecution."

DeWeese also exchanged campaign-related messages with his legislative staffers on state e-mail accounts, the newspaper account said.

Responding to a state-paid legislative aide who had drafted a letter supporting DeWeese's re-election that a constituent was to send to a local newspaper, DeWeese said, "I love it."...


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