- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) | State prosecutors added more defendants Tuesday to their expanding legislative corruption case, accusing a longtime House Democratic leader and former legislator serving in the governor’s Cabinet of illegally using taxpayer-paid employees to perform campaign work.

State Rep. Bill DeWeese, the former House speaker and now majority whip, and former Rep. Stephen Stetler, who resigned as Pennsylvania’s secretary of revenue hours before the charges were announced, face four counts of theft and one count each of conspiracy and conflict of interest. A district office aide to Mr. DeWeese, Sharon Rodavich, also was charged.

Mr. DeWeese is the second former House speaker ensnared in the probe. Former Speaker John M. Perzel of Philadelphia is among 10 people with ties to House Republicans who have been charged. Attorney General Tom Corbett also has charged 12 other people associated with the Democratic caucus in the three-year-long investigation.

With the latest filings, 25 people connected to the House of Representatives have been charged.

Mr. DeWeese, 59, issued a written statement late Tuesday afternoon saying he had cooperated with Mr. Corbett’s investigation and worked to change the culture of the caucus by implementing ethics training and whistleblower provisions. Obviously, I’m disappointed by today’s action.

Mr. Stetler, 60, is a former campaign strategist for the House Democrats who left the legislature in 2006. Messages left at his home and at the office of his lawyer, Josh Lock, were not returned.

It was not clear whether Ms. Rodavich, 53, had an attorney, and a phone message left at her Carmichaels home was not returned.

According to Mr. Corbett, Mr. DeWeese is said to have employed a legislative staff member in the Capitol from 2001 to 2007 primarily to raise campaign money. Kevin Sidella testified under a grant of immunity that he raised millions of dollars for Mr. DeWeese’s political campaigns while being paid by taxpayers, Mr. Corbett said.

Sidella recounted an occasion when he raised concerns to DeWeese about the political nature of his own work, the grand jury wrote. DeWeese responded that ‘our saving grace is that everyone does it.’

The grand jury report also said Mr. DeWeese’s former chief of staff, Mike Manzo, testified that Mr. DeWeese had no campaign apparatus outside his state-paid staff. The report said his employees circulated nominating petitions, sent out campaign mailings, organized campaign events and canvassed door to door, often during the workday and from legislative offices.

Mr. Corbett’s investigation has focused on the blurring of the lines between political work and legislative jobs in the Capitol, and he said Tuesday that some state lawmakers have been slow to get the message.

The evidence here is clear that they were using public resources for political purposes. That’s illegal. It’s a conflict of interest, common sense will tell you, he said.

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