Democratic senator criminally charged with abusing office

Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-Montgomery) has been charged criminally with using her legislative office to her own political and financial benefit by the state attorney general.

 

Attorney General Kathleen Kane said a grand jury investigation into the suburban Philadelphia senator found that Washington directed legislative staff “to conduct extensive and time-consuming political work, including substantial fundraising efforts, in Senate offices and by using Senate equipment — all for her personal and political benefit and financial gain.” Doing campaign and political work using taxpayer-funded legislative resources (such as offices, staff, time, equipment), is not permitted under Pennsylvania law.

Staffers testified that the Washington docked salaries and work hours and fired some employees when they did not complete tasks they knew were improper, like organizing a “political campaign birthday fundraiser.”

The presentment includes testimony from Washington’s former chief of staff, who confronted the senator about his discomfort working on the event, and encouraged her to stop handling political activity using legislative resources. He testified that Washington replied: “I have been doing it like this for 17 years. So stop trying to change me.” In the months that followed, the former chief of staff went to county law enforcement and was fired by Washington.

Washington has not responded to the allegations. The charges were detailed in a statement by the attorney general’s office release shortly before noon Wednesday but after the state Senate adjourned for the week. Attorney General spokesman Joe Peters declined further comment.

The grand jury’s presentment alleges the activity spanned eight years, and cost the commonwealth from $30,000 to $100,000, thought it notes the “true financial impact… is not easily calculated.”

The presentment also points out an irony that Washington was among the co-sponsors of a resolution to adopt ethical policies for members of the Senate. It was drafted in the wake of the so-called Bonusgate charges, when scads of legislators were convicted for using their political offices for personal gain.  The Senate Ethics Code Resolution was passed in 2010.

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