Thursday, April 15, 2010

Keystone Progress Calls for Corbett's Resignation

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.

Keystone Progress

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

2Philadelphia Daily News, March 31, 2010

3York Daily Record, March 27, 2010, March 26, 2010

5Courier-Express, March 27, 2010

6Chambersburg Public Opinion,

7Philadelphia Inquirer, March 25, 2010

8York Daily Record, March 26, 2010

9Patriot-News, March 26, 2010

10Philadelphia Inquirer, March 28, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Just a question about Corbett and Orie-gate

Why is no one reporting on the fact that Jerry Orie, the brother of Republican State Senator Jane Orie and Republican Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, works for Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett?

Jerry Orie is the Deputy Attorney General in the Insurance Fraud Section.

Corbett is being accused of selective prosecution for not investigating Jane Orie's use of her Senate staff for her sister's 2009 campaign for Supreme Court. Corbett is running for governor this year, largely on the basis of his record in prosecuting mostly Democrats for using their staffs for political campaigns. Jane was indicted this week by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala after Corbett ignored complaints about the Orie sisters.

We're not suggesting that there's a connection, but I'm surprised that this Orie relationship to Corbett hasn't been reported in any stories related to this issue. At least none that we've seen.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Corbett Uses Legal Loophole to Delay Providing Information on Partisan GOP Health Reform Lawsuit

Corbett Uses Legal Loophole to Delay Providing Information on Partisan GOP Health Reform Lawsuit

Right to Know request delayed up to 30 days to “determine whether the records requested are subject to access.”

(HARRISBURG)—Keystone Progress filed two Right to Know requests with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office on March 26, seeking copies of all correspondence concerning Tom Corbett’s joining in a lawsuit with 12 other Republican Attorneys General to block the federal Affordable Health Care for America Act signed into law last month by President Obama.

Corbett’s office responded by claiming that “a legal review is necessary to determine whether the records requested are subject to access under this act and the extent and nature of the request precludes a response within the required time period. As provided by in the above statute, the Office of Attorney General will require up to an additional 30 calendar days, or until April 30, 2010, in which to provide a final written response to your request.”

Corbett’s response was signed by Robert A. Mulle, Chief Deputy Attorney General and Right to Know Officer for the Office of Attorney General. Mulle was called by Keystone Progress to clarify their position, but has yet to reply. Mulle’s response was dated April 1, but was postmarked April 3, two days after the deadline under PA’s Right to Know Law.

“What is Corbett hiding?” asked Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress. “This is a straightforward request for information that has nothing to do with the case itself. Our request is for information about the political aspects of how they determined whether to file a suit on a law that hadn’t even been written. This 30 day delay is not necessary if the AG’s office has nothing to hide.”

Corbett has come under increasing criticism in recent days for politicizing the Office of Attorney General. In addition to the obviously political lawsuit challenging healthcare reform, Corbett has been accused of selectively prosecuting mostly Democrats in the “Bonusgate” scandal, while ignoring Republican malfeasance such as Senator Jane Orie’s alleged use of public funds to help elect her sister, state Supreme court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

The Right to Know request asked for all correspondence to and from Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett and the Attorney General’s staff with individuals inside and outside of Pennsylvania urging Corbett to file the Republican-orchestrated frivolous lawsuit. Corbett’s announcement of filing his suit occurred before anyone had a chance to read the legislation.

The first request is seeking any correspondence between Corbett and his office and entities outside of the Commonwealth. The Attorney General has coordinated his activities with other attorneys general, even before there was legislation to challenge.

The second filing seeks correspondence between Corbett and his office and Members of the General Assembly and their staff. Legislators were encouraging the Attorney General to file a suit, again even before there was legislation.

Keystone Progress created an online petition ( asking Corbett not to file this lawsuit. More than 10,000 people have signed that petition to date.

Great chart on jobs numbers, and more...

While Congressional Republicans are spinning themselves sick today disparaging the encouraging economic news that 162,000 jobs were created in March, including 123,000 jobs in the private sector -- desperately trying to justify their near unanimous opposition to the President’s stimulus program that has since created over 2 million jobs and continuing to shrug off any responsibility for enabling the failed Bush policies that led to the Great Recession in the first place – see below roundup of quick takes from actual economic experts…



Associated Press: 162,000 Jobs Added in March, most in 3 years; Private employers added 123,000 jobs, the most since May 2007

“There’s a lot of good news in this report,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida, who had the closest forecast for payrolls. “We’re clearly on the recovery path. We expect to see this continue to build. We’re on our way.”

"The job market is slowly but surely turning the corner from job declines to job gains. Most encouraging is the improvement across more industries," said Mark Zandi, the chief economist at forecaster Moody's "With corporate profits and stock prices up strongly, hiring will revive in coming months."

“Good Friday is apparently a good release date for the U.S. employment report. The last time, the BLS published the employment report on a Good Friday was in April 2007. Back then, nonfarm payrolls rose another strong 239,000 and the unemployment rate fell to a cyclical low of 4.4%. While the overall economic situation couldn’t be more different this time, today’s employment report is the strongest in more than two years. – Harm Bandholz, Unicredit

"While the unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent, this was a fundamentally good report, indicative of a slightly improving economy, and potentially, an earlier emergence from the job-less recovery than had been previously anticipated," said Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics LLC of Austin, Texas.

"The labor market has turned," Nigel Gault an economist at IHS Global Insight. “Today’s report suggests that the economy has broken through to sustained job creation.”

"It looks like the recovery has finally reached the point where it is actually boosting employment," said Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist with Capital Economics of Toronto.

"It's the first month of really solid growth," said Bart van Ark, chief economist at the Conference Board, a business-membership and research organization in New York. "We see the job gains spreading across the economy."

"The labor market is on the cusp of generating a sustained but moderate increase in new jobs," said Steven Wood, economist at Insight Economics, in a note.

The top economist at the U.S. Treasury Department said the job growth suggests the labor market is stabilizing and that federal policies targeting the jobs crisis are working. "The report confirms that our policies are helping to improve the jobs picture," said Treasury Chief Economist Alan Krueger, although he noted the report at the same time "makes us aware of how much damage the recession has caused."

“The most salient insight to be gleaned from these data is the net gain excluding weather and census effects, and that is positive. Despite the distortions in these data, the labor market definitely improved in March, and the trend in the payroll statistics is decidedly positive. The March nonfarm payroll data was slightly weaker than expected and the revision to the prior two months, January and February, was positive.” –Ray Stone, Stone & McCarthy

“Jobs grew 162,000 in March with important signals of improvement in services (trade/transportation, business services, leisure & hospitality) and manufacturing (up 3 months in a row) sectors.”– John Silvia, Wells Fargo

“Particularly encouraging was the increase in hiring in the service sector, which always lags the overall recovery. We attach particular importance to hiring in the trade and transport sector which are leading indicators of a resurgence of growth. Recent manufacturing data strongly suggest that increasing production should stimulate future job growth and three consecutive months of new hiring in the trade and transport sector do provide a useful leading indicator that the economy should see a modest boost in private sector employment going forward. – Joseph Brusuelas, Brusuelas Analytics

“The third increase in jobs in the past five months indicates that the labor market has begun to stabilize. The increases were broad-based with 60 percent of the industries hiring. Manufacturing has turned the corner adding 45,000 jobs so far this year. More than 58 percent of the manufacturers have increased employment along with more overtime and hours worked. Temporary employment, a good sign of an improving labor market, continues to increase.” – Sung Won Sohn, Smith School of Business and Economics


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