Dozen Democrats indicted in Pennsylvania corruption probe
Close political allies of Gov. Ed Rendell face criminal charges in a case involving misuse of $4M in taxpayer dollars.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett announced the filing of criminal charges Thursday against 12 current or former state officials involved in what had been dubbed the "Bonusgate" scandal.
The indictments are the culmination of a year-long investigation in what may turn out to be Pennsylvania's biggest public corruption scandal of the past 30 years.
The case involved the use of $4 million in taxpayer dollars to provide bonuses to state employees who allegedly conducted campaign work on state time.
The biggest names under indictment are former state Rep. Mike Veon, who was the No. 2 ranking House Democrat until he lost re-election in 2006, and state Rep. Sean Ramaley, a Democrat from Beaver County.
The other big name on the list of indictments is Michael Manzo, former chief of staff for Democratic Majority Leader Bill DeWeese. You can't get much closer to DeWeese than his chief of staff.
In other words, DeWeese dodged a bullet, but watch out for the ricochet.
The key to Thursday's indictments was a statement by Corbett saying the charges were part of the first phase of the investigation. Corbett said he expects more arrests to follow.
Gov. Ed Rendell issued a statement saying he was "saddened" by the indictments of his fellow Democrats.
"I am saddened by the allegations presented today. I have known and worked with some of the individuals, and I understand that they and their families are going through a difficult time.
"But make no mistake about it, these allegations are serious and outline a course of conduct that is completely unacceptable. Such actions as alleged in these indictments destroy public confidence in the General Assembly and its proceedings.
"These allegations accentuate the need for better internal management controls and continued reforms of the legislative process. Some important steps have been taken but more can and should be done. I urge the General Assembly to move swiftly to accomplish this."
Thursday was not a good day for the Manzo family. Rachel Manzo, executive director of the House Democratic Policy Committee and wife of Michael Manzo was also indicted.
Another Harrisburg power couple got hit hard by the indictments. Jennifer Brubaker, director of the Legislative Research Office for the House Democratic Caucus and her husband, Scott Brubaker, the former director of staffing and administration for the House Democratic Caucus, were also charged.
And now that the dozen people named in the indictments are facing prison terms, will they cooperate with authorities and give up bigger fish? You better believe it. Everyone is out to save their own skins.
Read more about the indictments at the Attorney General's Web site.
As Corbett reminds us at the end of the detailed press release, "A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty."
That doesn't mean you can't hold public officials accountable on Election Day. The only way to end the culture of corruption in Harrisburg is to clean house.
All of the alleged illegal activity occurred under the watch of Bill DeWeese, who won re-election in 2006 by just 1,000 votes. If DeWeese can avoid legal trouble, he still faces angry voters who are tired of the corruption in Harrisburg.
Tony Phyrillas is a leading conservative political columnist and blogger based in Pennsylvania. He is a veteran journalist with 25 years experience as a reporter, editor and columnist for several newspapers. Phyrillas received recognition for column writing in 2010 from the Associated Press Managing Editors, in 2007 from Suburban Newspapers of America and in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists, Keystone Chapter. A graduate of Penn State University, Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pa. In addition to The Mercury website (www.pottsmerc.com), his columns are featured on more than a dozen political websites and blogs. Phyrillas is a frequent guest (and occasional host) on talk radio and has been a panelist on the "Journalists Roundtable" public affairs TV program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). Phyrillas was named one of the '10 Leading Greek-American Bloggers in the World' in 2007 by Odyssey: The World of Greece magazine. BlogNetNews.com ranked Phyrillas the Most Influential Political Blogger in Pennsylvania for three consecutive years (2007-2010). You can follow Phyrillas on Twitter @TonyPhyrillas