"What's black and white and read all over?"

Monday, April 10, 2006
Posted 10:29 PM by

Brightbill's motive questionable in slots money give-back

Why did Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill chose now to return $20,000 he accepted from a Dunmore businessman two years ago? Could it be the giver's felony conviction and alleged ties to organized crime figures? Gov. Ed Rendell and Attorney General Tom Corbett took money from him too and didn't pay it back.I was all set to praise Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader David "Chip" Brightbill today for doing the right thing by returning $21,000 in campaign donations from contributors with gambling ties.

I was going to say Gov. Ed Rendell and every legislator should follow his example. It would go a long way to mollify angry voters like me, who feel that special interests corrupted the lawmaking process until slot machines could be legalized.

It was an unusual move to be sure, coming at a time when the state's new Gaming Control Board is meeting in Philly to hear testimony on applications for slot parlors.

So I decided to do some more checking. I'm sure glad I did.

The guy who gave most of the money to Brightbill - and more than $1 million to most of the state's top elected officials, including the governor and attorney general - is a slots parlor hopeful and reportedly a felon with alleged ties to mob figures.

Meanwhile, the senator's motives for giving the money back seem less than pure too.


The Associated Press reported Sunday that Brightbill, who opposed the 2004 bill legalizing slot machines, said he gave back two checks for $10,000 each from D&L Realty, of Lackawanna County; he also returned a $1,000 check from the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association.

"I've decided because there are still other votes to occur and we still have some important things to do on gambling legislation that I should not take gambling money," the Lebanon County Republican said, adding he supports lobbying reform.

But before you get the idea that Brightbill's a standup guy, better read the Keystone Review. Run by the former campaign manager of Brightbill's primary opponent, a March 23 blog on that Web site says Brightbill accepted more than $52,000 from lobbyists and individuals with ties to gambling interests since August 2003.

Brightbill told the Lebanon Daily News his staff would review his campaign finances and return any other pro-gambling monies he received.

Besides the primary challenger, Brightbill had another reason to turn back the money - a public relations problem courtesy of Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Gene Stilp.

Stilp will stage a lengthy walk Wednesday to demand that Brightbill return tens of thousands of dollars he has taken in the form of per diem expenses, even though the senator lives well within commuting distance of the Capitol.

The state House has a rule that no legislator can receive a per diem if the member lives within 50 miles of the Capitol. However, Senators can take a per diem - up to $143 per day - no matter how close they live, Stilp said in a press release Monday.

In recent years, Brightbill has collected as much as $8,000 to more than $10,000 per year in extra income from the per diems. "He does not stay in hotels in Harrisburg, he merely pockets the money," Stilp said.

To prove his point, Stilp will walk from Brightbill's home in Mt. Gretna, Lebanon County to the senator's Capitol office. The distance: exactly 26.2 miles.


The $20,000 in checks D&L Realty gave to Brightbill were donated in October 2004 and March 2005. They will go back to that company's owner, Louis DeNaples, who has applied for one of the 14 state licenses to operate a slots parlor at the former Mount Airy Lodge in the Poconos.

DeNaples is president of DeNaples Auto Parts, the Keystone Landfill, vice president of F&L Realty Corp and chairman of the Board of First National Community Bancorp Inc., according to

On Thursday, the Pocono Record reprinted a report from the Philadelphia Inquirer that says DeNaples pleaded no contest to felony fraud in 1978 on federal conspiracy charges that he attempted to defraud the government for clean-up work after Tropical Storm Agnes. He received a suspended sentence.

The Inquirer also cited three reports issued by the now defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission between 1983 and 1990, in which DeNaples was associated with suspected mob figures including William "Big Billy" D'Elia, the alleged head of the Bufalino crime family in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Yet that didn't stop most of the state's top elected leaders from taking more than $1 million in campaign contributions from him, D&L Realty and another company he owns, RAM Consultants, between 2000 and 2005, according to a review of his contributions by the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Those who took donations included Gov. Ed Rendell and every top House and Senate leader, candidates for representative and other state offices including judgeships, campaign committees with ties to the legislative leaders and the Democratic and Republican House and Senate campaign committees.

DeNaples is partial to Democratic candidates and causes, giving them $810,950 compared to $192,000 for Republicans. But two members of the GOP did stand out.

One of those was Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, who I wrote about two weeks ago for accepting $20,000 from DeNaple's two businesses even though he voted against the slots law.

The other was state Attorney General Tom Corbett, whose campaign committee, Friends of Tom Corbett, accepted $10,000 from D&L on Jan. 27, 2004 and another $25,000 on April 15, 2004 - two months before the slots law was passed.

By the way, Jubelirer recently praised Corbett for starting an anti-corruption task force, saying, "Gambling has never proved to be a corruption-free enterprise, no matter which state tries it, and no matter how strong the regulatory oversight is designed to be. So there is no question there is trouble ahead for Pennsylvania. The only questions seem to be when, where, and how much trouble hits."

For a complete listing of contributions from DeNaples and his companies since 2000, click here.

Labels: , , ,

 |  0 comments  |  |  RSS Feed | Add to Technorati Favorites

This Week's Rants | The Daily Rant Archives

Creative Commons License
The Daily Rant by Dave Ralis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.