Fate of Corbett’s sweeping investigations as AG now raising questions

    As state Attorney General, Governor Corbett’s investigations into the state House netted dozens of prosecutions. 

    Now, charges filed against members of the Senate are coming from other authorities, raising questions about the fate of the sweeping investigation Corbett once headed up.

    The understanding was the investigation continued even after then-Attorney General Tom Corbett ascended to the governor’s office.But so far, corruption charges against three state Senators — past and present — have been filed by federal and county prosecutors, not the state.Former Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy of Bucks County, one of two Democratic candidates for Attorney General, questions where the state’s investigations are going.”I think it’s fair to ask why the Attorney General, or the local district attorney got beat to the punch by the feds,” said Murphy. But Terry Madonna, pollster and political scientist at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster County, says at this point there’s no good answer.

    “There is just no certainty that an investigation is underway, and even if there were, that it would lead to any prosecutions,” said Madonna. Dave Freed, Cumberland County district attorney and Republican candidate for Attorney General, says the state could be involved in investigations — but just collaborating with local and federal authorities. The Attorney General’s office declined to comment. 

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    Pennsylvania has been given a C-minus when it comes to openness and accountability in state government.  Mary Wilson reports from the state Capitol on the nationwide survey.  

     

    19MWCORR                       1:01

     

                    The overall grade puts Pennsylvania 18th in the country.

    The study has been conducted by the Washington D-C based nonprofit, the Center for Public Integrity.

                    But PA isn’t average in everything.  

                    It got an F for the state judiciary branch’s insularity and an F in redistricting because of the lack of transparency.

    Peter Durantine (DUR’-an-tyne), a Harrisburg paper editor and the reporter who compiled the Pennsylvania report, says years of one corruption scandal after another haven’t spurred a great amount of clean-up in state government. 

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    19MWDUR00                     :08

    There’s a culture there and it’s been there for decades if not centuries, that doesn’t want to be transparent. 

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    But steps have been taken recently to make the state’s government more open.

    The Independent Fiscal Office was created to offer neutral economic analysis to be used for the sake of state budgeting — a process that also got an F in the report.

    Durantine, who reported in the state Capitol for 15 years, says it remains to be seen whether the I-F-O will really be an independent body.

    MW in Hbrg.

     

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    Pennsylvania’s an average student in Government Corruption Prevention 101. 

    The C-minus grade is from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., which put reporters to the task of assessing the accountability and transparency of all 50 states.

    Pennsylvania ranks 18th.

    Peter Durantine (DUR’-an-tyne), a Harrisburg monthly paper editor and the reporter who compiled the Pennsylvania report, says citizens shouldn’t settle for being in the top half of the corruption bracket.

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    19MWDUR4                       :07

    I think a better question is, Pennsylvania’s the cradle of American democracy and, shouldn’t things be much better than they are? 

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    Abysmal rankings for the state’s judiciary, redistricting effort, and state budget process are offset by good grades on internal auditing, public access to information about state contracts, and a stronger than usual open records law.

                    Durantine says more than 300 questions were asked of past and present lawmakers, state officials, and staff, as well as various watchdog groups.  

                    Every answer had to be sourced – whether on or off the record – and the report was peer-reviewed. 

     

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    Peter Durantine (DUR-an-tyne), a Harrisburg weekly paper editor and the reporter who compiled the Pennsylvania report, says years of one corruption scandal after another haven’t spurred a great amount of clean-up in state government. 

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    19MWDUR1                       :19

    There’s a culture there and it’s been there for decades if not centuries, that doesn’t want to be transparent.  And particularly today, with all the technology we have, there is no reason for them not to be transparent.  There is no reason for them not to provide all these records that people can easily access.

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    Durantine says although Pennsylvania has one of the strongest open records laws in the country, the office that takes record requests has no enforcement power.  Durantine calls it toothless.

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    19MWDUR2                       :08

    The Office of Open records is doing its job.  It just doesn’t have enough tools to do its job.  And if it has tools, I think that ranking would change a lot.

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    State agencies are still able to deny that a record is public, requiring anyone requesting information to take the agency to court.

     

    Durantine says there are more than 300 questions asked of past and present lawmakers, state officials, and staff, as well as various watchdog groups.  The answers to those questions are then ranked to determine the level of a state’s transparency.

     

    Durantine says the state’s budget process got an F grade because of a lack of independent analysis of what the state’s budget needs are.

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    19MWDUR3                       :09

    Because it just got created, isn’t even off the ground, and you don’t know what’s going to happen to it yet.  I mean, we have to see if it’s going to be really independent or not.

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    Pennsylvania ranks 18 among all 50 states.  Durantine says citizens shouldn’t settle for being in the top half of the corruption bracket.

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    19MWDUR4                       :07

    I think a better question is, Pennsylvania’s the cradle of American democracy and, shouldn’t things be much better than they are? 

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    Judiciary got an F grade – Durantine says it’s because the branch is so insular.  In 2000, he says it decided it would be its own watchdog.

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    19MWDUR5                       :17

    So there’s no real independent body watching the state judiciary. I’m not saying they’re doing anything wrong there, I’m not saying — I don’t think anyone’s saying that. They’re saying, there should be an independent body overseeing the judiciary. And critics point to the “kids for cash” scandal as an example of this insularity.

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    The “kids for cash” scandal refers to the two Luzerne County juvenile court justices found guilty of accepting bribes from a detention center owner in return for giving juveniles harsher sentences.  

     

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