Tuesday, November 17, 2009

PA Corbett Investigation House Republican Staffers

Grand jury report details state GOP election mischief
By Brad Bumsted and Debra Erdley
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

HARRISBURG -- In April 2006, five months after former state Rep. Jeff Habay of Shaler was convicted of diverting public resources to his political campaign, House Republican staffers went to his district to help keep the seat in GOP hands, a state grand jury concluded.

Although their efforts failed, the grand jury said House Republicans used taxpayer-funded equipment and computer programs to work on that special election.

On the election's eve, two House Republican information technology employees, with taxpayer-paid computer equipment stacked in their hotel room, "discussed how truly 'weird' it was to be about to use all these public resources to fill the seat of a guy who just went to jail for 'illegal campaign activities,' " said the grand jury report.

Based on the report released last week, Attorney General Tom Corbett, a Republican, accused former House Speaker John Perzel of Philadelphia, who remains a House member, and nine other Republicans of diverting $10 million in taxpayer money to campaigns, spending most of it on sophisticated computer programs to gain an edge in elections. Perzel, facing 83 felony charges of theft, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and conflict of interest, says he will prove his innocence in court.

Corbett said he is guided in the Perzel case and earlier charges against Democrats by a Superior Court ruling from the Habay case, which held that a legislator cannot use state-paid employees for campaigns or fundraising during state time, for personal benefit.

The grand jury report details at least a dozen state House districts in which Perzel and his aides are accused of using state-purchased equipment and computer programs to boost election-day turnout and analyze voting patterns.

Republican candidates said they had no idea which computer programs were used to assist them, and they didn't always work.


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