Thursday, October 18, 2007

Campaign evidence found in Dems' files

Campaign evidence found in Dems' files It is illegal for campaign work to be done in state offices, on state equipment or by state employees on work time.
Darn tootin' it is illegal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

full article:

Campaign evidence found in Dems' files
Judge allows Pa. House documents to be considered in grand jury probe of illegal work
Thursday, October 18, 2007
By Tracie Mauriello, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG -- Files seized from a Democratic House research office were laden with campaign and other political documents, according to a judge who reviewed them.

Contents of the 20 boxes were "overwhelmingly and patently non-legislative in nature," said Judge Barry Feudale, who allowed the documents to be considered in a grand jury investigation into whether taxpayer-funded resources were used to run elections. The grand jury also is looking into whether state employees received substantial state bonuses for work on political campaigns.

It is illegal for campaign work to be done in state offices, on state equipment or by state employees on work time.

The boxes -- taken by search warrant from the House Democratic Office of Legislative Research on Aug. 23 -- included files with labels such as "opposition research," "incumbent protection plan" and "memo on challenger in election."

Other files, mostly from the 1990s, included confidential campaign plans, analyses of political attitudes prepared for the House Democratic Campaign Committee, records of Republican and Democratic candidates' criminal histories and a description of domestic abuse allegations involving a state representative who was not named in the court document.

The documents "appeared to be an effort to track and/or keep a 'book' on certain legislators and/or candidates for office," wrote Judge Feudale, a senior judge assigned to Commonwealth Court who is acting supervisor of the grand jury.

Many other files contained innocuous material already in the public domain such as old press releases and biographies of lawmakers, he wrote.

Twenty files were deemed outside the scope of what the grand jury should see. Those files contained memoranda discussing proposed legislation and an 11-page document describing a domestic dispute and marital misconduct involving a state representative, who is not named in the court papers.

Robert Graci, attorney for the Democrats, had argued that the boxes contained privileged legislative information that should not be disclosed and that the execution of the search warrant violated the constitutional provision for separation of powers. The attorney general's office, which executed the warrant, is part of the executive branch, while the House is part of the legislative branch.

Judge Feudale rejected Mr. Graci's arguments.

"I do not see this case as one that implicates a constitutional crisis," he wrote.

Mr. Graci did not return a phone call yesterday.

Tom Andrews, spokesman for House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Waynesburg, said: "We're respecting the state law and the secrecy of the grand jury proceedings. We're not going to comment on every step of this process."

In requesting the search warrant in August, Attorney General Tom Corbett's office had said the boxes could contain evidence of potential crimes including theft, misapplication of entrusted property of government or financial institutions, dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activities, obstructing administration of law and criminal conspiracy.

The attorney general's investigation was spurred by news reports that the Democratic caucus secretly gave out $1.9 million in bonuses last year. Most of the largest amounts went to employees who had worked on or contributed to campaigns, according to a review of records by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Other caucuses gave bonuses, too, but the amounts were much smaller. Overall, Senate Republicans gave $180,000 in bonuses to 16 employees last year, House Republicans gave $270,000 to 45 staffers and Senate Democrats gave $41,000 to 12.

Mr. Corbett has said he is investigating all four caucuses.

Legislative leaders have asserted that the bonuses -- which ranged from $65 to more than $28,137 -- were not tied to campaign work.
First published on October 18, 2007 at 12:00 am
Tracie Mauriello can be reached at or 717-787-2141.