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Monday, March 10, 2008
Posted 9:30 PM by

D.A. to Slotsylvania A.G.: Return DeNaples' money

Tom Corbett (left), John Morganelli (right)Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli is calling on state Attorney General Tom Corbett to return all campaign contributions he received from now-indicted slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples.

"It is completely unacceptable to have the state's chief law enforcement officer financially tied to a person who is under indictment by a Pennsylvania grand jury for perjury, allegedly for lying about his ties to the mob and organized crime in order to obtain a gaming license," Morganelli wrote in a press release that arrived uninvited in my e-mail this morning. "Mr. Corbett's recalcitrance compromises the integrity of the Office of Attorney General."

Now put what Morganelli wrote through this prism: Morganelli is the lone announced Democrat running for state Attorney General. Corbett, the Republican incumbent, has already announced he's seeking re-election.

Corbett has refused to return DeNaples' campaign contributions to his first campaign, saying through his spokesman that DeNaples has not been convicted of perjury.

DeNaples did, however, plead no contest to a federal felony 30 years ago on a charge that he defrauded the federal government of $525,000 for cleanup work associated with Hurricane Agnes - a crime that did not bar him from obtaining a slots parlor license from the state Gaming Control Board.

Before he got the license, though, the Dunmore billionaire spread a lot of money around among the state's top elected officials. My research flound contributions from DeNaples of at least $679,375, but the state's records online are incomplete - perhaps purposely so. Some newspapers have reported that DeNaples' contributions topped $1.1 million.

At least $35,000 of DeNaples' money went to Corbett's campaign, state records show. Morganelli cites an additional $5,000 contribution to Corbett on Jan. 20, 2005, which I've been unable to verify. He also cites a Philadelphia Inquirer report that says Corbett received $55,000.

Regardless of the amount, Morganelli is troubled that Corbett has not given the money back because the Attorney General's position is one in which even the appearance of a potential conflict of interest can cause problems.

While I agree with Morganelli's premise, I think he's playing politics with an issue that should transcend politics. This is about doing the right thing ethically, whether or not the law says the contributions were legal.

Corbett should never have accepted the money from a known felon with long-rumored mob ties, no matter how rich and generous he is. But since he did, Corbett should have given the money back as soon as DeNaples was indicted. To do less calls into question his character and the character of his office.

Now, Corbett's opened himself up to political games and, dare I say, possible federal investigation.

And before you ask, I am a registered Democrat but not an ardent one. I am, however, a rod-ass when it comes to issues of good government and ethics, something I have in common with many Republican friends.

That's why I'm also calling on Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, to give back the money DeNaples gave him, which amounted to at least $115,000. Fast Eddie set the bar by accepting that cash and is still sitting on $2.25 million even though he can't run for a third straight term as governor.

It's also why I agree with the Harrisburg Patriot-News blogger Brett Lieberman, who admonished Morganelli for failing to disclose his candidacy for attorney general in the same e-mail he sent statewide this morning attacking Corbett.

Rules are rules. As a district attorney, Morganelli should know that better than most.

Finally, it's also why I stand firmly against slots gambling in this state. Not because I'm anti-gambling, I actually love blackjack and poker, but because the law was passed in such an underhanded manner, bypassing all public comment, and then rammed through the Legislature by some of the state lawmakers who took campaign contributions from DeNaples.


I've been around a while as a blogger, but I must admit I was unfamiliar with the Web site until today.

On it, writer Bill Keisling posted today, "Gov. Ed Rendell has awarded his former law firm an extremely lucrative contract to act as special counsel in the proposed privatization of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and related matters, including the proposed change of Interstate 80 into a toll road.

"The law firm, Ballard, Spahr, Andrews and Ingersoll, of Philadelphia, has billed the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania approximately $1.8 million for turnpike privatization and related legal work from March 1, 2007 to January 8, 2008, state records show. An additional invoice has been submitted in February, bringing the actual total costs to date closer to $2 million."

I won't ruin the rest of it for you, other than to say Kiesling calls it a "no-bid, no-contract contract." Nice.

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