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Did Corbett’s State Department Cross Post-Bonusgate Ethics Lines?

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editors

Staffers in Harrisburg were confused last Monday when the Department of State dropped off reams of nominating petitions in every office in the Capitol.

So surprised, that Eric Fillman, Legal Counsel on the House Committee on Ethics, issued a warning to all staff that they leave them alone.

“I need to emphasize that it is highly important that we take no affirmative action with these forms to either begin filling them in or to sign them (for those who may live in their Member’s district),” he wrote, in a copy of the memo obtained by PoliticsPA.

In the wake of the Bonusgate investigation, people in the Capitol have tread very carefully with regard to any activities considered political in nature. Those activities include the circulation of nominating petitions.

“Do not mail these to the district office, and be absolutely sure to do nothing to fill out any portion of the forms. (Doing so is a matter for the Member and his/her campaign only.),” Fillman continued.

Ronald Ruman, Press Secretary at the Department of State, explains that the practice was instituted to save the cost of postage.

“Petition packets are sent by UPS to people who request them, at a cost of $6.30 per packet.  Assuming 203 representatives and 25 senators (half of Senate up for election), this could cost up to $1,436 to mail the packets,” he said. “Thus the decision was made years ago to save this cost by placing the packets in the mailboxes in the capitol.”

“No advantage is gained by anyone from this practice, it is simply to save on costs.”

Each staffer PoliticsPA spoke to said that the petitions, for the first time in memory, were delivered to members’ offices. Petitions in mailboxes are the norm.

Update: State Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) says the petitions-to-offices practice is the norm.

“This is my 4th election cycle, and every time that petition packet was delivered to my office by the Dep’t of State,” he said.

One former staffer close to the proceedings said it was a show of poor form by Governor Tom Corbett, who lead the Bonusgate investigation as Attorney General.

“In the old days, big deal. But Corbett made it 100 percent clear that nominating petitions were a 100 percent political activity. The House Dems spent millions training all staff and members to have nothing to do with petitions in their offices,” said the staffer. “Now, the Corbett led DOS has everyone in the Capitol confused because this 100 percent political packet is delivered right to their offices, during work hours.”

State Rep. Bill DeWeese, whose Bonusgate trial begins on Monday, was similarly critical. PoliticsPA obtained his reply to Fillman’s email, which was also sent to all members and staff:

Isn’t this interesting: A state agency led by Tom Corbett is using taxpayer paid staff to deliver campaign material during the work day.

“Hope those folks have leave slips! Can’t wait to read this grand jury report!


P.S. – Maybe next week they’ll be helping us put up yard signs.

4 Responses

  1. If the issue is saving money why weren’t the petitions sent by UPS to the member’s campaign address?

  2. It’s worth $1,436 to prevent violations of the law. The alternative is to spend millions prosecuting the crimes, as Corbett ought to know better than anyone.

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