Carl Romanelli Fights Pennsylvania Democrats with a Federal Lawsuit Related to "Bonus-gate" Convictions.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – "Bonus-gate" in Pennsylvania has resulted in numerous convictions of public officials for theft, conflict of interest and conspiracy with more trials yet to come. "Bonus-gate" convictions include efforts to challenge the nominating petitions of candidates Ralph Nader in 2004 and Carl Romanelli in 2006 using state employees and state resources.
"The two most outstanding examples of misappropriation of taxpayer resources in petition challenges were found in the challenges of Ralph Nader, for President in 2004, and Carl Romanelli, for US Senate in 2006," announced Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania attorney general, July 10, 2008, in his presentment which led to the arrest of two recent state representatives and ten legislative staffers.
Ralph Nader filed 51,273 petition signatures to be on the 2004 Pennsylvania ballot for president as an independent but was denied a ballot spot as a result of the petition challenge. Pennsylvania courts ruled, after the 2004 election, that Nader must pay $81,802 on fees to cover the administrative costs of the petition challenge. That was the first time in US history that a candidate has been assessed fees for losing a petition challenge trying to run for office. No other state has such a policy and Pennsylvania had never done this prior to 2004.
Carl Romanelli filed 95,544 petition signatures, well over the 67,070 valid petition signature requirement, to be the 2006 Green Party of Pennsylvania candidate for US Senate. Those signatures were challenged in court and Romanelli was denied a place on the ballot. In January 2007 a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge ruled that Carl Romanelli must pay the state $80,408 in fees because he lost the petition challenge. Nader and Romanelli have not paid the fees assessed by the courts and are asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reconsider the penalties in light of criminal convictions connected to their petition challengers.
"Getting a bill from the state for more than $80,000 because you tried to run for political office is a crime against democracy," said Christina Tobin, founder and CEO of the Free and Equal Elections Foundation. "I can't believe this is able to happen in the United States of America. What makes this situation even worse is that Democratic Party operatives worked on these petition challenges while they were being paid by the state and using state resources. The Democratic operatives involved in this should be paying those costs, not Ralph Nader and Carl Romanelli."
Romanelli filed a lawsuit, July 12, against the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and their House Democratic Caucus. The lawsuit, filed in US District Court, additionally names Rep. William DeWeese, former Rep. Michael Veon and a number of former and current House Democratic staff employees found to have worked on the petition challenge that removed Carl Romanelli from the 2006 ballot for US Senate. Romanelli alleges in the lawsuit that state employees were paid to do political work while using state resources and equipment in that effort to challenge his petitions.
Romanelli backs up his allegations by pointing to the recent convictions of several defendants in this lawsuit including former House Democratic Minority Whip, Rep. Michael Veon who received a 6 to 14 year sentence on June 18, 2010 and Brett Cott, a former policy analyst for Rep. Veon and Rep. DeWeese, who was sentenced from 21 months to 60 months in May 2010. Michael Manzo and Jeff Foreman were given deals to testify against Cott and have not been sentenced. Rep. William DeWeese faces trial in the coming months.
"I hope Carl Romanelli gets the justice he deserves from our courts," Tobin said. "If this stands it will have a chilling effect on democracy. This will scare candidates away for fear of not making the ballot and being penalized with large fees because they tried. We've invited Carl to help educate the public about this new threat to our democratic election process on our Free and Equal BlogTalkRadio show Tuesday, July 20."
Free and Equal is broadcasting a live radio show from 10 p.m. to midnight ET each Tuesday night that can can be listened to live at the Free and Equal website or at BlogTalkRadio and is immediately archived for later listening.
Christina Tobin, founder and CEO of Free and Equal Elections Foundation