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

Sunday, March 09, 2008
Posted 7:19 PM by

Something stinks in Slotsylvania

Pennsylvania Attorney General won't give back the $35,000 he accepted from Louis DeNaples, nor will he recuse himself from investigating DeNaples, his spokesman says.The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is now calling on state Attorney General Tom Corbett to conduct "a thorough investigation" into whether it was the state police or the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board that screwed up before Louis DeNaples was issued a slots parlor license.

"Everybody's pointing fingers at everybody else. But, clearly, the truth is not being served," the newspaper's Saturday editorial says.

I doubt the truth would be served if Corbett did launch a probe with his unproven seven-attorney gambling corruption unit.

That's because Corbett accepted at least $35,000 in campaign contributions from DeNaples, a Dunmore billionaire and admitted felon who now stands accused of perjury for lying about his alleged ties to two reputed mobsters and two political fixers.

Corbett, who is up for re-election this year, has "no plans to give the money back," his spokesman, Kevin Harley, told the Harrisburg Patriot News little more than a week ago.

Pressure is beginning to build, though, on him, Gov. Ed Rendell, state lawmakers and judges to give back the $1.1 million DeNaples gave their campaigns until he got his slots parlor license, according to the Tribune-Review.

My research says DeNaples contributed at least $679,335. The Scranton Times-Tribune puts DeNaples' contributions at $1,002,950.

"There was never anything hidden about" the contributions, DeNaples' spokesman Kevin Feeley told the Tribune-Review. "They were ... recorded under the proper campaign election law guidelines. They are perfectly legitimate."

They were also recorded shoddily by high-ranking state officials, the Department of State or both. For instance, newspapers often quote the amount of DeNaples' money that went to Corbett as $25,000.

However, a $10,000 donation by D&L Realty, one of DeNaples' many companies, to Friends of Tom Corbett on Jan. 27, 2004 does not appear in the state's online contribution database. It does, however, show up in that campaign committee's finance report with no mention in subsequent reports of the money being returned.

"There's only one good rule," Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia, told the Tribune-Review, "Return the money by certified mail, immediately."

But Harley insists Corbett won't return the cash, nor will he recuse himself from any investigations involving DeNaples. "If an issue came up ... we would investigate it," he told the Tribune-Review.

Corbett has denied a conflict of interest exists and said he opted to let Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico pursue the perjury case against DeNaples because he had already prosecuted a couple of slots parlor applicants who illegally gave contributions after the state passed the law legalizing slot machines in 2004. They each received civil fines.

Corbett has a seven-lawyer corruption unit, which was established with slots gambling in mind. But it has yet to prosecute a single casino-related corruption case in two years.

Yet, Corbett said on Feb. 28, 2006, "By creating a Public Corruption Unit, the Attorney General's Office is putting a spotlight on investigating and prosecuting public corruption cases at a crucial time in our state's history when slot machines and casino gaming is about to become reality."

By the way, the Feds were also interested in DeNaples. But while his office was probing DeNaples, Tom Marino, the U.S. Attorney for Central Pennsylvania, was one of two legal references that DeNaples used on his slots parlor application. Marino recused himself when the information leaked publicly, resigned his office and now works directly for DeNaples.

Former Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey summed the situation up nicely in the Tribune-Review, "To have contributions going to people who could have an influence on a license and have the gaming board ignore all signs along the way just stinks."

State Sen. Jake Corman told the newspaper that Corbett should probe, if necessary, but first Corman wants the state Senate to take a whack at finding out if either the state police or Gaming Control Board was being untruthful in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee about DeNaples.

"At a minimum someone has not been honest with this committee," said Corman, a Centre County Republican. "Someone made a decision to turn a blind eye on this DeNaples matter."

Sen. John Rafferty, whose Law & Justice Committee oversees the state police, is planning a hearing. He wants to do it with Sen. Jane Earll, R-Erie, who chairs a gambling oversight panel. Rafferty, R-Chester County, is viewed as pro state police. Earll, who has a casino in her district, is viewed as pro-gaming.

Earll stopped an effort last October to put state police in charge of slot licensee background investigations, saying, "I don't see any glaring problems that have been brought to light by today's testimony that we need to rush to fix."

She also has not let any slots reform legislation out of her committee in more than a year now.

It shouldn't be such a shock considering lawmakers are still being lobbied hard by the gambling industry - to the tune of at least $2.6 million last year, my research shows.

That includes the parent company of DeNaples' slots parlor, Mount Airy #1 L.L.C, which spent $67,375 lobbying lawmakers for "casino gambling" through the Philadelphia firm of S.R. Wojdak & Associates LP.


For more about Louis DeNaples and to read my complete take on this long-predicted Slotsylvania snafu, click here.

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