Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Fw: DR News: Orie Sisters Charged

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From: Tim Potts Democracy Rising PA <>
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 2010 17:55:48 -0400 (EDT)
To: <>
Subject: DR News: Orie Sisters Charged

Democracy Rising Pennsylvania


Orie Sisters Charged

Senate Republican Whip Jane Orie, R-Allegheny, and her sister Janine Orie, an aide to another sister Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, have been arraigned on charges of orchestrating illegal campaign work using tax-funded resources in the senator's district office. The accusation covers election campaigns from 2001 through 2009, including last year's election of Justice Melvin, who was not charged today. Sen. Orie has resigned from her leadership position.

Click here for today's story by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dennis Roddy. Click here for the grand jury's presentment.

The 66-page presentment involves the same kind of illegal campaigning at taxpayer expense that has resulted in the conviction of 10 House Democrats and the pending trials of 10 House Republicans, whose preliminary hearing is now scheduled for April 21. The presentment accuses Orie of 10 counts of theft of services, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, criminal conspiracy and ethics violations.

Specifically, Orie is charged with directing tax-funded Senate staff, using tax-funded time and equipment to:

  • Draft letters, make phone calls and keep a database of past and future campaign contributors
  • Create campaign-related materials
  • Drive Orie to politic al events
  • Delivering campaign-related materials
  • Get campaign contributions from a campaign-related post office box and record campaign contributions

According to the presentment, political activity in Orie's office, on behalf of Justice Melvin, was such a focus that staff were reprimanded for failing to complete their official duties timely.

The case has had an interesting provenance. Last October 30 an intern in Orie's district office, Jennifer Rioja, resigned her internship, explaining to Orie's chief of staff, Jamie Pavlot, that Rioja was uncomfortable with the political work occurring in the state office and on state time. The next day, Rioja called Attorney General Tom Corbett's office, which referred her to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, Jr. From the beginning, Orie's attorneys have cast the investigation as a political vendetta of the Zappala family against the Orie family. However, Zappala became involved only after Corbett's office directed Rioja to Zappala.

When Rioja resigned her internship, Pavlot testified, Orie immediately began a cover-up that included creating phony documents to serve as a cover for campaign documents and posting a sign to indicate that Orie's campaign office was somewhere else, even though there was no other campaign office.

Orie also tried to discredit Rioja with the University of Pittsburgh. In a letter to Rioja, with copies to the faculty supervising internships and to Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, Orie accused Rioja of having a political agenda. Pavlot also telephoned the internship faculty, at Orie's direction, and threatened to discontinue placing interns from Pitt.

Rioja was not the only staffer who testified against Orie. As the investigation proceeded, 15 staffers testified to their knowledge of illegal campaigning or their participation in it, at the direction of Orie, Pavlot and sister Janine during the 2009 campaign and before.

One former intern described working, during tax-funded time, at a phone bank on behalf of former President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. He testified that he was instructed how to block the source of the call and to use the fictitious name "Austin." Others testified that campaign work would consume as much as 50% of the work day and include making as many as 1,000 copies at a time on tax-funded copiers.


  • How much of the cost for the most staff-heavy and nearly the most expensive legislature in America is the result of having the capacity for political work, such as making 1,000 copies at a time?
  • Why does the Supreme Court continue to permit nepotism anywhere in the court system, much less in the Supreme Court itself?

A New Reality

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