March 6, 2012

Former State Rep. Mike Veon, serving a 6 year prison sentence for corruption, was again convicted yesterday.  He formed a non-profit corporation and steered state grants to it to insure his seat remained secure.  State legislators must be barred by statute from any involvement in non-profit organizations following the abuses we’ve seen with Veon and Vince Fumo.

While there are arguments for supporting the President’s re-election there are equally strong reasons not to, among them war crimes.  Authorizing the assassination of American citizens with no arrest, no right to counsel, no trial and no appeals is an impeachable offense.  AG Holder is actually attempting to justify such unconstitutional actions by citing statutes which are subsidiary to the Bill of Rights.

Rush Limbaugh keeps losing sponsors as he rants on against women.  Today he went off on “overeducated white women.”  His remaining sponsors need to hear from you and contacting them via Twitter makes your outrage public and embarrassing for them.  The list is here.

In Laurens County, SC you cannot be a Republican if you ever had pre-marital sex or watch porn.  That first criteria guarantees a total purge of LGBT Party members.  Can the GOP get any further radical or go further over the cliff?  I keep thinking they can’t get crazier but then I see more evidence they have.

Karen Handel, the right wing zealot who masterminded the Komen catastrophe, is blaming Planned Parenthood for her failures.  Again, the concept of personal responsibility doesn’t apply to conservatives.

Today is Super Tuesday.  Romney is closing in on the nomination…

Veon Gets 6-14 Years

Former State Representative and power broker Mike Veon of Beaver County was sentenced today on his 15 felony convictions in BonusGate.  The Judge gave him six to fourteen years in prison and he was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs to begin the sentence.  Veon was a powerful yet arrogant leader who thought he was above the law.  From his office an extensive political operation ran designed to elect or re-elect Democratic House members.  The House Republican caucus ran a similar operation but the Attorney General allowed them a two year holiday in which to destroy evidence and so no members of the GOP have been indicted for similar crimes.

Veon may have been most infamous for the midnight pay raise when he led the State House in a 2 AM vote which raised their salaries up to 37%.  He was the only vote against repealing the measure after a massive taxpayer revolt forced legislators to return the funds (well, most of them).  Today’s sentencing culminated in a quick and stunning descent from the halls of power.  It doesn’t appear he showed much remorse or contrition for his crimes and his supporters filled the courthouse with profanity after the hearing.  That shouldn’t aid him in his next trial where he will be facing charges he created a phony non profit called the Beaver initiative for Growth to aid his re-election efforts.  I can’t say I have any compassion for this man who steadfastly refused to admit or realize the crimes he committed against Pennsylvania taxpayers.  Yes Tom Corbett abused his powers and perpetrated a political prosecution but don’t allow that to distract you from the reality that Mike Veon was a crook who had no regard for ethics, rules and laws governing the electoral process.

Veon Convicted on 14 Counts

Tom Corbett and Mike Veon got a split decision in the BonusGate heavyweight trial in Harrisburg Monday.  The Attorney General was hoping for a knockout but only won a partial decision and Veon, the former House Democratic Whip, was acquitted on most of the charges Corbett aimed at him.  The surprising verdict came shortly after a juror was replaced on Friday after six days of what appeared to be tortured deliberation.  The Judge instructed them to resume at the beginning so observers believed a verdict wouldn’t be imminent.  It was.  Veon was convicted on 14 of the 59 counts against him.  Brett Cott 3 of 42 counts) and Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink 5 of 22 counts) were also convicted of using state money and resources for political campaign work while Steve Keefer (16 charges) was acquitted.  Corbett got convictions on only 38 of the 101 counts he filed but he still won because the headlines will only say Mike Veon is guilty.

DeWeese Cops the Fifth

Former State House Speaker Bill DeWeese took the Fifth Amendment yesterday in a session in Judge Richard Lewis’ chambers.  Mike Veon’s lawyers wanted to call him to the stand in the defense of the former Whip on trial for use of public resources for political purposes.  The BonusGate trial is in its sixth week and the defense is going through witnesses quickly.  I’m not sure what good it is parading character witnesses to the stand for politicians.  Do these attorneys really think the jury is going to be impressed by that?  These are politicians for crying out loud.

Still, the defense is trying to show campaign work wasn’t done inside the Capitol though the prosecution made that fact abundantly clear.  Whether Mike Veon is directly connected with all of it remains the question for the jury.  The staffers are dead meat.  The fact Veon was a hands on manager goes against him while testimony has shown DeWeese didn’t involve himself in details other than to instruct his staff to find lobbyist to take him to dinner.  These legislators were paid by the taxpayers for their meals while in Harrisburg.  DeWeese’s actions obtaining freebies wasn’t criminal.  Unethical but not criminal.  Still, he is also under indictment and copping the Fifth was probably essential.  DeWeese filed nominating petitions yesterday to run for re-election.

BonusGate Trial Implicates Veon

Mike Veon used taxpayer funds to feed his friends after basketball games and continued to collect his per diem meal allowances according to testimony yesterday in the BonusGate trial.  Several staffers have testified that the former House Democratic Whip hosted regular games and one of the responsibilities of his staffers (for whom taxpayers paid) was to organize these events.  Dinners were provided at your expense and Veon and the other State Representatives continued to bill you for their hotel and meal per diems in addition to having you pay for these after repasts.

Veon also frequently slept in his office in spite of getting the per diem allowances.  The entire point of per diems is to pay for hotel and meal expenses for legislators who live too far from Harrisburg to drive back and forth.  Of course every legislator gets them regardless of their distance from the Capitol.  Veon basically double dipped by also billing for meals after these basketball games.  It was a nice slam dunk on your pocketbook.

Emails are now directly implicating Veon in the staff work on campaigns.  In spite of all the destruction of evidence committed after the story broke emails survive where he directly responds.  This is the first really direct evidence saying he knew what was happening.  It isn’t credible anyway that someone as hands on as Mike Veon was didn’t know why he had such a large staff, why so many of them worked in an out of the way office on the sixth floor, or what they were doing.  It’s beyond the scope of any common sense to think he didn’t know and approve of what all these staffers were doing.  

Evidence also came in detailing how when staffers left “on leave” on the rare instances when they did they continued receiving their state benefits.  So even when they did do the right thing and leave the state payroll to campaign you paid for their health, pension and other benefits.  All they gave up were their salaries and the bonuses system reimbursed them for that from tax dollars.

Remember that even though this trial is about Democrats Republicans did the same things.  This was and is the culture of entitlement and abuse of the public which has reigned in Harrisburg for decades.  Even now the system remains irretrievably broken.  Leadership continues to have an iron grip on their Members.  They determine who gets what office, how much staff, how much money to run their offices, who gets campaign assistance and so on.  Anyone who steps out of line gets hammered and is likely to lose their next election.  The result is a corrupt system where reform is almost impossible.  

News & Notes February 25, 2010

The groundhog was correct, six more weeks of winter.  Will this snow ever end?

The White House is holding a summit on health care today.  Republicans have done nothing about this crisis and now health care is consuming 17% of our economy.  Their logic now tells them we cannot deal with the problem BECAUSE it is 17% of the economy.  That’s like having cancer and telling the doctor you don’t want any treatment until you’re terminal then complaining when you do become terminal.

Too many in Washington are tone deaf about health care reform, both Republicans and Democrats.  People don’t like this bill because it goes too far (the GOP argument) but because it doesn’t go far enough.  Americans want a single payer, Medicare for all plan with a robust public option as a fallback.  These plans have none of those so people aren’t supporting it, not because it’s too much.  I suspect these tone deaf politicians will get a robust public option wake up call in November.

The BonusGate trial continues in Harrisburg.  This litigation of corruption inside the State Capitol may go on until Easter at this rate.  The AG’s office provided testimony yesterday that a Veon staffer routinely ran errands for the Democratic House Whip such as getting his shoes shined, buying his cigars and campaigning for him on taxpayer’s time.  Witness after witness tells us how they campaigned for Rep. Mike Veon on state time but we’re to believe he knew nothing about this?

This was the culture in Harrisburg for many years and though only Democratic House members and staffers are on trial it happened on both sides of the aisle.  Attorney General Tom Corbett has these rats nailed but allowed his fellow Republicans off the hook.

WebcamGate roars along in Lower Merion.  The story has been front page in The Inquirer for days.  Today we learn the plaintiffs are $30,000 in arrears to PECO in spite of living in a $940,000 home.  They claim their income has dropped precipitously but why wouldn’t you dump the expensive home then and downsize?  

Republican hypocrisy knows no bounds.  Now they’re complaining about the use of reconciliation to pass health insurance reform.  Of course they used it numerous times including to pass the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

A new F&M poll shows only 25% of Pennsylvanians think Arlen Specter deserves another term.  The F&M polls are notoriously inaccurate but even at this number Specter’s days in DC are numbered.  Assuming the poll could be off by 5% that still means his goose is cooked.  On the other hand polls show him 17 points ahead of Joe Sestak.   I suppose the Congressman, a famous skinflint with campaign money, will wait until June to get his message out on television and radio.  Of course the primary is in mid May.

Sestak’s penchant for pinching pennies is coming back to haunt him:  Specter is accusing him of supporting a living wage but refusing to pay his staffers one.  Five campaign staffers have left the Sestak effort recently.  Joe has the money, I don’t understand why he doesn’t spend it,  hire a professional campaign manager with experience on these high level efforts, pay his good people so they stay and begin getting his message on the air.  At the beginning of his campaign PA2010 ran a column wondering whether his Senatorial campaign would do these things.  They argued, as did I, that if he failed to he would lose.  This is what we’re watching.  This is painful, I love Joe and think he’d be a great Senator.  He’s running a very bad campaign however.

We went to war when 3,000 Americans died on 9/11.  We’re losing 1,000/week because of a broken health care system but cannot summon the political will (or courage) to do anything about it.  Why are our priorities so screwed up?

The President announced a new task force on deficit reduction last week.  I’ll bet you all their proposals will center on cutting entitlement programs instead of reducing the Pentagon budget or the prison population.  We’re spending $2 billion a week on defense.  The next 50 nations combined don’t spend what we do on “defense” (I’m not sure it’s defense when we’re warmongers).

Mark Critz, John Murtha’s District Director, announced he is running to fill the late Congressman’s seat.  He has the support of Joyce Murtha, Jack’s widow.  Barbara Hafer and Mark Singel have both announced their candidacies.

ABC News wants to cut its staff by 20%.  Soon there won’t be any news, just entertainment masquerading as news.  By the way did you hear about Fox News’ new slogan:  “New and improved, now 100% fact free.”

Pat Toomey says he might vote yes on jobs bill.  The presumed GOP Senate nominee voted against every federal appropriations bill except Defense while serving as a Congressman.  He loves to say government cannot create jobs so why would he vote for a jobs bill?  Oh yes, Pennsylvanians won’t elect a Senator this year who votes against jobs for our massive number of unemployed voters.  I don’t believe him.

A new group is targeting Tom Corbett over the state’s infamous pigeon shoots.  These are “sporting” events where the bird are brought before “hunters” and released so they can be shot and killed right in front of the “men.”  PAShame.org will demonstrate against the GOP Gubernatorial candidate for not enforcing the state’s laws against animal cruelty.

Dick Cheney was released from the hospital.  Isn’t this a good time to waterboard him?

A new arrest in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.  I don’t understand why the feds are prosecuting this.  Under the Obama doctrine of justice I thought it was understood that no one goes to prison, we simply put the past behind us and move on.  Oh, that only applies to war crimes?

Bad news about New York Gov.David Patterson.  The New York Times reports he used his power to protect a top aide accused of assaulting a woman.  The Palinesque scandal shows someone who isn’t fit to be Governor.

News & Notes February 23, 2010

I was dealing with an insurance adjustor this morning at my sister’s house and then had a Planned Parenthood PAC Board call so I’m a bit late getting to the blog today.  I’m working on a major story about the DNC/OFA too and that is expending a good deal of time.

Dick Cheney had his fifth heart attack.  I suppose this puts the lie to that old “three time’s a charm” cliche.  He didn’t have an actual heart attack, that requires having one.  It was actually a bleeding heart which attacked him for being a heartless bastard.

BonusGate continues in Harrisburg.  The poor souls having to cover this endless trial must feel as if they are trapped in purgatory.  Several interesting revelations:  two of Mike Veon’s staffers flew to Utah to drive his motorcycles to South Dakota (Sturgis is my guess) before flying on to Boston for the Democratic convention.  Also, when the news media broke the story of the bonuses and legislative staffers working on campaigns panic broke out in the House Democratic caucus.  Fear of criminal charges and trials somehow belies the notion these idiots didn’t know that what they were doing was illegal.  Also, testimony keeps revealing there wasn’t anywhere nearly enough work for as many staffers as were employed.  Many did nothing but campaign work.  Before we begin laying off more state workers perhaps we should eliminate some of the legislative staff first.

Joe Hoeffel has a new web ad today:

Five Republican Senators broke with their Party to vote to end debate (end the filibuster) on the jobs bill.  The bill is quite small, just $15 billion, because that is all Harry Reid feels he can get through, and even at that most GOP Senators decided jobs for Americans are a bad thing.  Talk about being tone deaf…

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke came to Pittsburgh last week to announce a grant for expanding broadband access.  Access to faster internet speeds is crucial for productivity, educational opportunities and the enormous information now available for those online.  Unfortunately I’m not sure Pennsylvania is the best place to invest for this as so many here won’t spend the extra $5/month to save tons of time.  Too many of our people are so tightfisted they won’t spend a dime more than they absolutely necessary.

State Sen. Anthony Williams formally announced he is a candidate for Governor and says he has raised $2 million already.  That would make him a serious contender.

Mike Manzo Still Doesn’t Get It

Bill DeWeese’s former Chief of Staff finally finished his fifth day of testimony in the BonusGate trial of Mike Veon and others.  I’ve been following the trial via the Post_Gazette’s gifted Tweeter PgPoliTweets.  Very good stuff but I don’t know how she Tweets so fast and so accurately!  On the stand this morning Mike Manzo told of how House staff was so large in DeWeese and Veon’s offices that without the campaign work they’d have simply sat around and “played solitaire.”  He still doesn’t understand the waste of taxpayer money or why using constituent email addresses for political work was bad.  Let me explain.

Having twice the necessary staff costs taxpayers MONEY Mike.  Since, as you admit, there wasn’t enough legitimate legislative work for all these people they weren’t needed.  It is, and was, illegal to use public money and resources for political campaign work.  The answer was, and is:  fire the unneeded staff and save the taxpayer their salaries, benefits and bonuses.

As for the emails, it’s amazing how few people understand the ethics of using email addresses.  If someone in your District contacts you via email about a problem or issue they are NOT asking to be put on your campaign email list.  In fact using such addresses amounts to spam.  Every time one of these morons does this to my personal email account I report it as spam (are you listening Sen Specter?)  My blog email, of course, is for any elected official, organization or campaign to send me press releases.  My personal email account is off limits.  Sending someone unsolicited email is SPAM.  Unless they gave you express permission or you asked for their permission, using these addresses constitutes SPAM.  Mike Manzo doesn’t comprehend this basic function of the internet.

That isn’t the worst of his problems however.  Mr. Manzo may well return home today to find all his belongings on the driveway.  He had testified vaguely last week about the timing of his affair with a former beauty queen for whom he found a “make work” state job working on a campaign.  He sort of implied it ended around the time he got married.  Oops, today he testified it lasted well into his marriage.  Well into, for like three years.  I don’t want to be Mike Manzo today.  If he thinks five and a half days on the witness stand was bad he “ain’t seen nothing yet.”  I hope those domestic violence call centers are well staffed today in the Harrisburg area…

This has been an entertaining trial to follow and several journalists have been Tweeting it regularly.  You can also follow it daily in the state’s major newspapers.

Veon’s Lawyers Demand Mistrial, Allege Prosecutorial Misconduct

As former House Democratic staffer Mike Manzo took the stand and delivered devastating testimony of Mike Veon’s complicity in using public money and resources for campaigns the defense sat steaming and filing objections.  This morning when cross examination began we found out why:  it seems this all came as a blindside to the defense.  That isn’t supposed to happen in trials.  Though used for dramatic effect on television and in movie surprise witnesses are rare and the rules for trials require disclosure of all witnesses and facts so the other side can properly prepare for trial.  The defense in BonusGate is alleging that Attorney General Tom Corbett’s staff blindsided them with Manzo’s testimony.  They called for a mistrial on those grounds and this could provide them with a powerful basis for appeal.

Mike Manzo testified he had conversations with Rep. Mike Veon about using House staffers to work on political campaigns.  None of the slew of emails introduced prove Veon knew of this.  None of Manzo’s previous testimony contained such accusations and the defense was caught by surprise.  Surprises aren’t supposed to happen and the lawyers for the defendants claimed prosecutorial misconduct.  This could wind up being devastating to Corbett’s campaign for Governor.  If he cannot run his office properly how can voters expect he can run state government?  Corbett lost his first BonusGate trial and now is being accused of improprieties in this one.  Tom was counting on these political prosecutions to greatly influence the voters this year.  This very well may but not in the way he envisioned.

Veon in BIG Trouble

Echoes of Vince Fumo run through this new story about former State Representative Mike Veon.  Veon was in the House leadership until the midnight pay raise debacle toppled him from power.  Veon was the lone NO vote when the House repealed the scandalous pay raise.  At least he stuck to his guns.  Of course voters were gunning for his hide and ran him out of Harrisburg on a rail.  Now AG Tom Corbett is set to tar and feather the man.

Corbett tantalized us by indicating he would announce a big prosecution this week and Mike Veon is his target.  Isn’t it funny how the Republican Attorney General, already running for Governor, only targets Democrats?  News flash:  there are plenty of crooked Republicans too.

Corbett is going after Veon and Annamarie Peretta-Rosepink, a former staffer, for their involvement in the non profit Beaver Initiative for Growth (BIG).  The organization was funded with $10 million in state money.

Veon has also been under prosecution for BonusGate, the use of state paid staffers to perform campaign work on the taxpayer dime, a practice which was common in Harrisburg and done by both Parties.  Corbett is only prosecuting the Democrats however.