The worst kept secret in Harrisburg – that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is infested by Pay to Play rats – came as no surprise. While we await the other shoe to drop, where’s Tom? The same Tom Corbett who strode atop an anti-corruption platform and marched into the Governor’s Mansion has been conspicuously silent about corruption at the Turnpike.
Pinstripe Patronage and Pay to Play did not stop at the Turnpike when Mr. Corbett was Attorney General from 1995-1996 and 2005 to 2011. Corbett was appointed to the job on October 3, 1995 to fill out Ernie Preate’s term. You’d think Mr. Corbett would have checked for rats in his shop and elsewhere after his predecessor was indicted for federal racketeering, pled guilty to mail fraud and served a year in prison.
Candidate Clean-Up Corruption has morphed into Governor Privatization. But that’s no excuse for silence about indictments that passed by his desk as Attorney General. You can’t have it both ways. As a candidate, Mr. Corbett pledged to change the Pay to Pay culture. As Governor, he has been silent. To say nothing is to consent to the status quo.
Is it realistic to believe that Mr. Corbett knew nothing about the shenanigans at the Turnpike when he was Attorney General from 1995-1996 and 2005-2011? Is it possible that Attorney General Corbett was unaware of cronyism at the Turnpike, PHEAA’s gift and getaway packages as well as the systemic corruption embodied by Senators Fumo, Mellow and Orie?
• No bid contracts: The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the Turnpike’s behavior back in 1997 in a series entitled, “Turnpike run as a sty for patronage, inefficiency.” The Editorial Board concluded on October 29, 1997:
Political considerations are routinely a factor in the turnpike’s selection of bond underwriters, turnpike documents show. The documents list turnpike bond deals with the name of the underwriting firms, their share of bonds and their profits, and the political party that sponsored them. The commission has issued or refinanced more than $2b in bonds to pay for road projects since 1986 [without bids]. Turnpike officials said the bonds were split 50-50 between the parties…Several studies have concluded that municipal bond issuers pay significantly higher costs on negotiated under writings, such as the turnpike’s, than on competitively bid offerings.
Ok, maybe Mr. Corbett doesn’t read the Inquirer.
• Pinstripe Patronage: Legislative audits in 1987, 1989, and 1997, as well as the Turnpike’s internal review in 1996, found serious flaws in hiring practices, noted that human resources did not always play a significant role in labor decisions, and concluded “sponsor hirings” were common practice.
Translation: Nepotism was a prevalent hiring practice, and “Pinstripe Patronage” (a term coined by David Levdansky, D-Pittsburgh), knew no party boundaries. Attorney General Corbett was in office in 1996 when the Turnpike indicted itself. He did nothing.
• U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan’s indictments: Mr. Meehan established that the Turnpike’s CEO, Joe Brimmeier, arranged a monthly contract of $10,000 for 22 months to Senator Vince Fumo’s (D-Philadelphia) close associate Michael Palermo. Mr. Fumo’s 139-count federal indictment stated that the Pennsylvania Turnpike “has no records reflecting that any work was ever performed…[Rubin] did little or no actual senate work at all.” (Federal Grand Jury Indictment of Vincent J. Fumo, (February, 2007)
Tough to miss federal indictments in your back yard. Why wasn’t Attorney General Corbett looking for “ghosts” at the Turnpike Commission in 2007?
You can’t have Pay to Play unless somebody “pays” to play and another body makes the deal while nobody enforces the law.
Why are the people who paid to play viewed as victims? Why are Senate staffers who made the deals immune from prosecution as they were in Bonusgate? Why are former Attorney Generals – who were charged with protecting the people’s bank – not investigated for negligence?
Why is Governor Corbett silent?
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