Bonus Scandal Update
Campaigning for re-election in Indiana County, Attorney General Tom Corbett affirmed, as a matter of policy, that he will make no announcements about the Bonus Scandal between October 1 and Election Day, November 4. The stated reason is not to influence the elections. Click here for the story in the Indiana Gazette.
This is a difficult problem. No one wants an attorney general to play politics with prosecutions. But neither should we want voters to find themselves electing a candidate on November 4 only to learn soon thereafter that he or she is being charged with a crime. Nor should we want candidates who may be innocent to be disadvantaged by charges that later cannot be proven.
Whose interest is it more important to serve? The prosecutor, who is not disinterested when he is up for election himself? The candidate who may lose election unfairly because of unproven allegations? Or the citizens who need information so that they can make their own judgments about timing and the likelihood of a prosecutor proving a case?
Special Session Update
As of today, 11 senators and 42 representatives have signed the petition that would require Gov. Ed Rendell to convene a Special Session on Public Integrity. That's up one senator and 16 representatives from our last update, but still short of the Constitution's requirement of 26 senators and 102 representatives.
Although it is unlikely that a special session could occur this year, support for it is an important measure of lawmakers' commitment to reform. That's because a special session could occur when the new legislature convenes on January 6.
In a recent poll, 76% of PA voters wanted Rendell to convene a special session this summer. Both he and legislative leaders refused to call lawmakers back from their two-and-a-half-month summer recess.
There were two main excuses for this failure to heed tree-fourths of our citizens. Click here to visit the No Excuses! section of DR's web site to see the excuses and why they are bogus.
The Costs of Corruption
Newspaper stories recently revealed once again that corruption has its costs. Federal prosecutors now estimate that taxpayers are out $3.5 million if the prosecutors prove charges of public corruption against state Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia.
Add to that the $3.6 million paid in bonuses to legislative staffers during the 2006 election campaigns. Then add at least another $1.8 million in legal bills to outside law firms to help the four caucuses of the legislature respond to the investigation of the Bonus Scandal. Click here to read the gory details in a column by Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Baer.
But wait! There are more costs of corruption:
- If the Bonus Scandal allegations are proven, lawmakers will have spent tens of millions of dollars illegally campaigning and rigging elections at taxpayer expense.
- $750 million for discretionary grants (known as WAMs) controlled by lawmakers. Citizens are not allowed to know how lawmakers decide who gets how much money and why.
- $241 million, at least, in surplus accounts in the legislature, money that is unaudited and concealed from taxpayers. Meanwhile, programs that serve citizens go begging for funds, resulting in waiting lists for vital services.
- $7.5 million in bonuses and $2.2 million in give-away items by PHEAA, the state's student loan agency. That was enough to provide full grants for 2,700 students at four-year colleges or 5,400 students at community colleges.
- $500,000 for polling by legislative caucuses. Only the House Democrats have released some of their polls. The others have kept theirs secret. According to Rutgers University, PA is the only state that spends tax dollars for partisan political polling.
This billion-dollar list is far from exhaustive. The cost of corruption is huge, resulting in misplaced priorities, unnecessary taxes and a lack of confidence by citizens in their government.
- Why aren't lawmakers falling all over themselves to prevent this waste of money from occurring in the future?
- Why aren't lawmakers enacting the highest standards of public integrity in America and the toughest punishments for violations?
DR in the News
Last Sunday The Sentinel, Cumberland County's daily newspaper, published a guest editorial by DR President Tim Potts. The column questioned why we do so much for lawmakers, yet they do so little for us. It also questioned what citizens have received in return when Attorney General Corbett allowed two lawmakers convicted of crimes in office to keep their pensions. Click here to read Potts's guest editorial.
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