Thursday, December 17, 2009

Will Rep. DeWeese Face Newspaper Questions?

A local (Dec. 2009) news report Charges against lawmaker detailed (Jennifer Harr Herald-Standard) concerning the state filing of charges against Pennsylvania state Rep. H. William DeWeese appears to convey the overall details pertaining to Attorney General Tom Corbett's filing of charges against H. William DeWeese but is missing the localized angle one would expect of the Herald-Standard's coverage of the state legislator.

While there's nothing wrong with focusing on Corbett's press release of information, other articles via the AP would have been adequate and the local reporting could have provided potentially an interview with H. William DeWeese since the newspaper endorsed the legislator in his last re-election bid.

Once Rep. DeWeese announced he was a changed man and on board with legislation pertaining to Pennsylvania's Right to Know otherwise known as open records law, the Herald-Standard seemed to find every which way to support Rep. DeWeese in his re-election bid.

The problem with that situation is the Herald-Standard never asked DeWeese about his support of the House version of open records contents/exemptions and a particularly worrisome clause which gutted the legislation's application to past records, nor did the Herald-Standard request explanation of DeWeese's no vote on an Amendment (Babette Josephs) which would have reversed a House Committee's action that made the General Assembly electronic communications inaccessible to anyone.

Vote Listing

It's telling that the passopenrecords site in fact bashed House Bill 443 for the House Committee's acceptance of "blanket email exemptions.

What’s the matter with HB 443 (part 2)?
Nov 7th, 2007 by JamieB

Obviously, if it takes two days to outline a partial list of problems, there is a lot wrong with House Bill 443.

Yesterday, we wrote about the exemption of all – yes, all – emails from the open records law, as well as about blanket exemptions that create exceptions so large that they effectively neutralize the much touted – and critically important – “flipping” of the presumption of access. And we noted that the bill also exempts performance audits, those pesky investigations that use public funds to see how agencies are using other public funds.

Speaking of the “presumption of access,” in the current version of HB 443, it would not apply to most records created prior to the new law. In what Tim Potts of DemocracyRisingPa calls the “cover-up provision,” pre-existing records, with very limited exceptions, would continue to be governed by the old, restrictive standard. Not only would this create a complicated, two-tiered system for evaluating open records requests, it would effectively make them unavailable to the public. If the point of the new law is to “open Pennsylvania government” – and it is, isn’t it? – this doesn’t do that.

Yet the site did not acknowledge when the opportunity arose for House members to gut the Amendment (with Babette Josephs Amendment) Rep. Bill DeWeese voted No on the Josephs' Amendment!


The site does provide this material

Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) introduced an amendment to remove the e-mail exemptions. It lost 127 to 69. That is almost 2-1...

so it's not as if the local newspaper did not have access to the material on the site at this time since the Herald-Standard had linked to the site from its homepage.

Subsequently, when the House version of open records passed with these measures retained, and with other exemptions, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association pulled its support from the House Bill Open Records legislation (Rep. Mahoney's HB 443) and turned to the Senate version which needed tweeked in the area of its application to the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, around that time, Rep. DeWeese made the plug for the House Bill to the Herald-Standard Editorial Board. An interview wherein Rep. DeWeese was never asked why he continued to support the 'blanket exemption for legislative emails.'

Sen. Pileggi complied with the PNA demand for the so-called "flip of presumption", in other words, all records were open unless exempted, and further action in the Senate removed the language from the Democrats' House version pertaining to keeping past public records and those legislative emails out of the public's sight. Thus, the Senate version retained a major feature in the relevant Open Records House Bill, its application to the state General Assembly, but it rejected non-application to past records and off-the-table legislative emails.

The Herald-Standard and its reportage lacked such inquiry and no commentary appeared in the local newspaper regarding DeWeese's NO vote on Babette Josephs' Amendment and support of denying the public access to past public records.

Now it appears the local newspaper has distanced itself from inquiring directly from the legislator to explain or answer a few questions.

The least that could be asked of DeWeese directly by the Herald-Standard is whether DeWeese is aware (or ever had been) of any websites created by any of his staff members (or others) which were related to his own political campaign or the campaign of any district area Democrat candidates during pertinent election and re-election efforts.

We've asked these questions for many months. Check out material we compiled on the situation available in our archives.

Among them our comprehensive

Tuesday, August 19, 2008
DeWeese Not Asked to Open Closed Bonusgate Blast Email Website Contracts

Tuesday, August 12, 2008
PA Bonusgate Lists Helped 2006 Winners

Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Bonusgate PA Spam Scam

Also see grassrootspa commentary by PA Citizen Investigator Anonymous

Local Reps Reps. Daley, Kula and Mahoney voice support for DeWeese…

See casablancapa for this material showing the Herald-Standard endorsed DeWeese in 2008

Sunyak's role as DeWeese's most pointed and vociferous critic seemed to shift a few months ago from this:

"Democratic state Rep. H. William "Bill" DeWeese has evolved into an arrogant, self-serving political insider after a mostly unchallenged reign of 30 years. It's way beyond time for him to go." ("Vote Hopkins for much needed change" Herald Standard, 11/1/06)

To this:

"In one of the most closely watched races in Pennsylvania, the Herald-Standard editorial board endorses Democratic state Rep. H. William "Bill" DeWeese for re-election over his Republican opponent Greg Hopkins - by a narrow margin." ("DeWeese over Hopkins in 50th district" Herald Standard, 10/28/08)

And Rep. DeWeese's clip

Herald Standard: DeWeese over Hopkins in 50th District
In one of the most closely watched races in Pennsylvania, the Herald-Standard editorial board endorses Democratic state Rep. H. William "Bill" DeWeese for re-election over his Republican opponent Greg Hopkins - by a narrow margin.

We believe DeWeese has responded appropriately to the loud wake-up call he got in 2006, when as an out-of-touch incumbent, he lost in his native Greene County and beat the upstart Hopkins by only 1,000 votes in the 50th District.

As House majority leader since 2007, DeWeese has used his clout to shepherd a new open records law to fruition - an unthinkable role for him just a few years ago

What we're asking in light of the charges brought against Rep. DeWeese in December 2009: Were any state staffers employed by Rep. DeWeese working on DeWeese's political campaign website wherein the endorsement was clipped and presented? Working on the political campaign website at any time? Assigned to work on any other local area political candidates' campaign websites? Will the Herald-Standard ask any of those or other similar questions of the legislator they formerly endorsed?

Net the Truth Online

Charges against lawmaker detailed
December 17, 2009 02:51 AM By: JENNIFER HARR
Herald Standard
State Rep. Bill DeWeese required legislative staffers to perform campaign work while taxpayers were footing the bill, and hired someone whose sole function was to perform campaign-related tasks, according to grand jury findings.

The presentment was made public Tuesday when state Attorney General Tom Corbett filed charges against DeWeese; his legislative assistant, Sharon Rodavich; and former York County Rep. Steve Stetler.

The gist of the allegations are that DeWeese and Stetler used government employees and resources to run campaigns on work time. Rodavich allegedly ran DeWeese's campaign out of his Waynesburg office.

Each is charged with conflict of interest, theft and conspiracy.

All three were arraigned Wednesday morning, and released on $50,000 unsecured bonds. The district judge ordered them to surrender their passports and refrain from contact with potential witnesses in the case.

The presentment found that DeWeese conducted fundraising from 2001-2007 "primarily at the expense of Pennsylvania's taxpayers."

To do so, he employed Kevin Sidella on his legislative staff. DeWeese's former chief aide, Michael Manzo, testified that it was clear from the get-go that Sidella's real job was work on campaign fundraising and other election-related issues.

Manzo was indicted in the first round of "Bonusgate" arrests, but testified before the grand jury in accordance with a plea deal.

Under a grant of immunity, Sidella told the grand jury the same thing - and said his campaign work was done with DeWeese's knowledge.

During the six years he was employed, Sidella told the grand jury that he raised "millions of dollars" for DeWeese's campaign.

As part of his job, Sidella told the grand jury that he created donor lists, which including tracking what donations were given to other political candidates. Armed with that list, Sidella testified that DeWeese would leverage those donors for equal or greater donations.

When Sidella raised concerns about his political duties, he indicated DeWeese replied that "our saving grace is that everyone does it."

A policy analyst testified that he never saw Sidella do anything other than campaign work. Between 2001 and 2006, Sidella was paid in excess of $275,000.

The grand jury was privy to thousands of pages of documents that dealt with campaign fundraising, the presentment indicated.

"These documents were all recovered from the publically funded computers and computer network of the House Democratic Caucus," the findings indicated.

Also included in what the grand jury received during their session were e-mails about fundraising that Manzo sent to DeWeese and Sidella, praising the amount raised...

December 15, 2009

Attorney General Corbett announces additional charges in ongoing public corruption investigation

DeWeese Fundraising Activities
The grand jury found that from 2001 until 2007, political fundraising work for DeWeese was conducted from within the Capitol, primarily at taxpayer expense.

According to the grand jury, DeWeese hired Kevin Sidella onto his Capitol legislative staff in 2001. It was clear, even from his job interview that his primary function was to be DeWeese's campaign fundraiser.

DeWeese's former Chief of Staff, Michael Manzo, testified that Sidella, "handled every aspect of Bill's fundraising," and stated that Sidella did the work during the legislative work day and with DeWeese's knowledge

Sidella testified before the grand jury and provided details that he raised millions of dollars for DeWeese's political campaigns while being paid by the taxpayers as a member of DeWeese's Capitol staff.

Sidella said his work included identifying, tracking and targeting significant campaign contributors, as well as scheduling DeWeese fundraisers. Sidella used a specialized fundraising database on the state computer system which tracked donors, contribution amounts and campaign expenses.

In addition to hearing testimony from witnesses, the grand jury also obtained documents from the publicly funded House Democratic Caucus computer network, which contained thousands of pages of lists of DeWeese campaign donors, potential donors and campaign expenditures.

The grand jury also obtained e-mails sent from the publicly owned House Democratic Caucus e-mail system that reveal the fundraising efforts and participation of DeWeese, as well as employees and leaders of the House Democratic Caucus.

One email exchange from Thursday, November 4, 2004, at approximately 3:00 p.m. is particularly telling. Then Chief of Staff Manzo sent the following e-mail to DeWeese and Sidella:

Now that the dust has settled, I want to up date you on your efforts this year. At $460k to candidates in HDC this year, you broke your personally record by over a $100k. You were the HDCC's single largest contributor, beating Nundell by a good $400k. Veon likely comes in at about $350k. And now for the good have $95k on hand right now. And some in the pipe line. It is a very real possibility that you are sitting on over $300k by June 2005, in an off year!!!!!!!!! You have separated yourself from the field on that front. You are now nearing Fumo-status. You and Kevin have done an incredible job.
Michael Manzo.

Several minutes later DeWeese responded to Manzo and Sidella, as follows: Could not do without Kevin and CHIEF...Our Chief!!!!!!!!!

To which, Manzo immediately responded: The sky is the limit with this team. I really believe that.

Corbett said the grand jury found that from 2001 to 2006, Sidella was paid more than $275,000 in salary by the taxpayers as a legislative employee of DeWeese, but in reality he spent the majority of his time raising millions of dollars for DeWeese's political campaigns.

DeWeese's Use of Legislative Staff for Campaign Work
The grand jury heard testimony from numerous past and present members of DeWeese's legislative staff from his district offices. Each testified that campaign work for DeWeese was expected and detailed years of political and campaign work performed at the direction of DeWeese. They testified that they were directed to do campaign work as part of their jobs, often during the work day, in the legislative office.

The grand jury found that DeWeese's legislative staff and campaign staff were virtually one and the same. DeWeese's former Chief of Staff Manzo testified that DeWeese had no campaign apparatus beyond his legislative staff. The core group of legislative staffers DeWeese used for campaign work was from his legislative district offices in Greene County.

The campaign work included obtaining signatures for DeWeese's nominating petitions; preparing, printing, copying and sending political and campaign letters to voters; reviewing and copying street lists of voters; helping to arrange campaign meetings and campaign events; helping to arrange and staff fundraising and campaign events; and conducting door to door campaigning for DeWeese.


...And Counting.(media coverage of H. William DeWeese)(Brief Article)
By Shekhtman, Lonnie
Publication: American Journalism Review
Date: Monday, October 1 2001

Readers picking up the August 30 issue of the Uniontown Herald-Standard were surely not surprised by the cute little caricature of H. William DeWeese, Pennsylvania's Democratic House leader, on the editorial page. DeWeese, after all, was leaning on a scroll with the number 88 written on it, the number of days the paper had published the likeness with an accompanying critical editorial.

Why feature the lawmaker day after day after day? The Herald-Standard says it is pressuring DeWeese to keep his promise to make public the expense records of a $10.83 million state fund.

from posting at grassrootspa

PA Citizen Investiga · 69 weeks ago

DeWeese and Mahoney got Open Records passed. It would never have happened had Perzel been Speaker or Rs in the majority. bob guzzardi

The original Mahoney HB 443 open records bill and the subsequent HB 443 the House passed and sent on over to the Senate did not apply to past records.

Pennsylvania pushes to open records By Brad Bumsted Tribune Review Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lawmakers said they are working on the exemptions to records that would be publicly released, such as those containing trade secrets, Social Security numbers, credit reports and details of ongoing police investigations.

Advocates are concerned about a provision in Mahoney's bill that would limit release to future records, Wilson said.

Any records from the past would be covered by existing law, Mahoney said. "Why do we want to go backward when we should go forward?" he said.

Pennsylvania pushes to open records By Brad Bums...

Also see:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

PA Open Records Re...

And, the House version offered by Mahoney originally contained approximately two-dozen exemptions. In October, 2007, Tim Potts, Democracy Rising PA, tagged HB 443, The "Corruption Protection Act." It's unclear whether he made the statement just prior to the House State Government Committee action, or shortly after action. The action expanded the e-mail exemption clause to "blanket exemptions for electronic communication."

Brad Bumstead's Shh! More State Secrets published November 11, 2007 points out a little known amendment to HB 443 presented by Rep. Babette Josephs. Had the measure passed, it would have removed the language from the bill regarding "blanket exemptions for electronic communication."


Rep. Babette Josephs, chairwoman of the House S...

Here's the punch-line: Fayette representatives who voted yes on the amendment included Kula, Daley, and Mahoney. So Mahoney voted yes on the amendment because a yes vote would have removed the blanket exemptions for e-mail language.

The lone "No" vote from the Fayette contingency: Rep. H. William DeWeese.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

PA House Leader DeWe...

Bumstead's Shh! More State Secrets November...

Meanwhile back in 2006 Absence of re-elected DeWeese's name from a...

Now take a look at 2006 close election results.

Around October, 2007 the PA Newpaper Association pulled its support from 443 and cast its attention to Pileggi's efforts in the Senate per Senate Bill 1. Per that pressure, changes were made to SB 1 - Pileggi too saw the value of the "flip of presumption..."

Key Pa. Senate leader backs wider state open-rec...

The PA Newpaper Association and its project Brighter Pennsylvania was satisfied and Pileggi's bill went forward to passage. Importantly, SB 1 reversed the House's presentation and its non-application to past records, and removed the blanket exemptions for electronic communication.

Meanwhile, in the House, there were still grumblings, but House members had no recourse but to sign on to the Senate bill.

last time I checked, Senator Pileggi is a Republican.

Senator Pileggi's Open Records Bill Unanimo...

Senator Pileggi's Open Records Bill Approve...

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