The Office of Attorney General is one of the most important offices in all of government. The Attorney General, as the chief law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth, is responsible for the safety and security of all of the residents of Pennsylvania. The Attorney General has the power to file criminal and civil charges that can end a person’s life, lock someone in prison away from family and friends, and impose penalties that can eradicate a life’s savings.
It is therefore incumbent upon the Attorney General to not only impartially prosecute the laws of the Commonwealth, it is vital that he avoid even the appearance of bias.
In the last few weeks Attorney General Tom Corbett has come under almost daily criticism for appearing to be using the Office of Attorney General for political gain. Among the criticism are the following:
· Corbett has politicized the Office of Attorney General by joining in a highly partisan lawsuit to repeal the recently passed federal healthcare reform legislation. Corbett agreed to join the lawsuit before the bill was even written, meaning he made his decision before reading the legislation. Most constitutional law professors think this suit is frivolous and a politically-motivated waste of taxpayers’ money.
· Questions have been raised about the appearance of selective prosecution of legislators who may have used their legislative staff and offices to run political campaigns. Corbett has pursued the prosecution of mostly Democrats in what has become known as the “Bonusgate Scandal.” Recently, it has been reported that Corbett’s office did not investigate allegations against Republican State Senator Jane Orie. Sen. Orie was indicted by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala after Corbett’s office did not follow up on a complaint by a former Orie intern of her office using legislative staff for the campaign of her sister, now PA Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.
· Corbett’s campaign staff has admitted that they had been planning to file their suit against the healthcare reform legislation even before he had read the bill, sending out a fundraising mailing in February saying that he is "leading the fight" against "government-run socialized medicine."1,2
· Corbett has been accused of using his office and staff for his campaign for governor—the same charges he has brought against mostly Democratic lawmakers. The accusations come in a motion filed by the attorney for former State Representative Steve Stetler. The motion also accuses Corbett of selective prosecution, prosecuting Democrats while ignoring similar actions by Republicans. According to the York Daily Record, the allegations in the motion say that “Corbett improperly took control of the grand jury, illegally revealed details of its deliberations to the media, found targets that, if toppled, would benefit his re-election campaign in 2008 and current run for governor, illegally gave key campaign staffers jobs in the Attorney General's office between campaigns, had staffers do campaign work on state time and used campaign resources to further the Bonusgate investigation.”3
· Keystone Progress filed a Right to Know request on March 26 seeking correspondence between the Office of Attorney General and outside entities, seeking to determine if there were political motives behind the Corbett’s decision to join the lawsuit against healthcare reform. To date the AG’s office has not provided that information. 4
When there are so many concerns being raised it puts the integrity of the Office of Attorney General in serious question. The Attorney General’s judgment and actions cannot be doubted. His performance must be beyond reproach. That is why so many attorneys general, including Virginia Republican Bob McDonnell, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, and even New York’s ethically-challenged Democrat Elliott Spitzer , have resigned when seeking a higher office.
After taking all of these factors into consideration, we have come to the conclusion that it is time for Mr. Corbett to resign as Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The people of the Commonwealth need to trust that the justice system will work impartially, but the clouds of doubt and suspicion that are engulfing Mr. Corbett are raising too many doubts.
We therefore urge Mr. Corbett to resign immediately. www.corbettmustresign.org
We are not alone in our questions about the recent actions of Attorney General Corbett.
· The DuBois, PA Courier-Express has called Corbett’s anti-healthcare suit “grandstanding,” “specious,” and “showboating with taxpayer money.”5
· The Chambersburg Public Opinion said that the “accusations of hypocrisy warrant investigation.”6
· The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board says his lawsuit “clearly looks like a political ploy and a waste of state tax dollars.”7
· The York Daily Record said “his [Corbett’s] decision to join a lawsuit seeking to undo the recently passed health care reform package looks a lot like using state resources to make political hay.”8
· The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News editorial board declared that “Corbett has gone too far” by joining the anti-reform lawsuit.9
· The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that even some Corbett loyalists are questioning his motives. “’He's not representing the people of Pennsylvania, he's representing the Republican Party,” said Ruth Kahn of Warminster.” Kahn is described as a “former Corbett supporter.”10
1 Philadelphia Daily News, April 2, 2010 http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/cityhall/Election_2010_Serendipity_In_The_Mail_For_Tom_Corbett.html
2Philadelphia Daily News, March 31, 2010 http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/89580282.html
3York Daily Record, March 27, 2010 http://www.ydr.com/ci_14770694
4PA2010.com, March 26, 2010 http://www.pa2010.com/2010/03/liberal-group-wants-information-on-corbett-health-care-suit-rendell-says-drop-it/?utm_source=PA2010.com+First+Read+Opt-In+List&utm_campaign=364b81ed86-The+First+Read+3/29&utm_medium=email
5Courier-Express, March 27, 2010 http://www.leader-vindicator.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=20419132&BRD=2758&PAG=461&dept_id=572980&rfi=6
6Chambersburg Public Opinion, http://www.publicopiniononline.com/ci_14773094?source=most_viewed
7Philadelphia Inquirer, March 25, 2010 http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/89095067.html
8York Daily Record, March 26, 2010 http://www.ydr.com/ci_14764186
9Patriot-News, March 26, 2010 http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/index.ssf/2010/03/out_of_bounds_attorney_general.html
10Philadelphia Inquirer, March 28, 2010 http://www.philly.com/philly/news/homepage/89343487.html