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

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Posted 7:02 PM by

Subprime mortgaging our future

If you've got a dime, how about another $1 trillion?You just knew George W. Bush wouldn't leave the White House without yet another calamity befalling our nation.

Now, Bush and his cronies want taxpayers to pay for the bad lending practices of investment bankers - to the tune of nearly $1 trillion.

You may quibble that the quoted price of backstopping Wall Street is actually an estimated $700 billion. But that's just the legislative limit.

Pessimists say absolving financial firms of their red ink could cost at least an additional $300 billion or possibly another $1.1 trillion.

And none of that money will go toward helping folks stay in their homes or prevent new foreclosures.

You might even say it can't be helped. That the plan is needed to avert a depression rivaling the great one that hobbled our nation in the 1930s.

I say that's not only inevitable now, but was highly predictable given the Enron and Worldcom scandals during Bush's first term and his continuing to hypocritically espouse "free markets" and deregulation while letting credit card companies charge usery rates and nearly eliminating personal bankruptcy protections.

Bailing out Wall Street at the expense of Main Street is yet another serious mistake from an administration that only makes historically big ones - like invading Iraq based on a lie.

After eight years of squandering our treasury and mismanaging our country with almost no Congressional oversight, Bush has already nearly doubled the national debt. And that's before this latest fiasco.

Don't believe me?

On the day Bush was sworn in, Jan. 20, 2001, the national debt stood at $5.7 trillion ($5,727,776,738,304.64 to be precise), according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Today, the debt stands at $9.7 trillion ($9,785,866,165,910.40).

We're told we can't afford to build new schools.

We're told we can't afford highway improvements and that we should sell them off to foreign companies.

We're told we can't afford national health care, and to push for it is tantamount to communism.

Yet, Bush is willing to print money and devalue the dollar to nothing - not to mention risk rampant inflation - for this?

But while Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson are busy greenmailing Congress for the bailout - as if the $4.3 million Goldman Sachs spent lobbying this year wasn't enough - even members of the President's own party aren't buying the lie this time.

"This massive bailout is not a solution. It is financial socialism and it's un-American," Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky, said today.

The Hall of Fame pitcher (and former Philadelphia Phillie) certainly should know a spit ball when he sees one.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Posted 1:27 PM by

Where the hell have you been?

Dear readers,

Sorry I haven't written sooner. Been a bit busy. Changed real jobs recently, moving from to

There were lots of reasons for the change and I won't go into them all here. If you know me, ask me sometime over a beer.

Needlesstosay, I've gone from the suburbs of my youth to the city of my birth after years in the gun and Bible clinging hinterland of northeast Pennsylvania. Thanks Barack Obama for reducing my career even more than I did.

President Bush takes a laissez-faire approach with the economy (except when banks threaten failure after making bad loans.)

I used to take one with my career.

Que sera, sera.

I'll be back writing again soon. We've got lots to talk about.


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Monday, July 14, 2008
Posted 11:59 PM by

I apologize Mr. DeWeese

House Majority Leader H. William DeWeese (left) has not been charged with any wrongdoing. His former top aide and former House minority whip Mike Veon (right) have.Only my second blog back from a long hiatus and I find myself unprecentedly apologizing to the still-somewhat-honorable H. William DeWeese, majority leader of the Pennsylvania House.

Not bad.

DeWeese was not indicted by a state grand jury last week as another blogger predicted he might be.

Instead, state Attorney General Tom Corbett completed the first phase of his investigation by filing charges against former Beaver County legislator Mike Veon, Rep. Sean Ramaley, D-Beaver, and 10 former or suspended House Democratic staffers for taxpayer-funded bonuses paid to legislative staffers for campaign work as well as other political work done on the taxpayers' dime.

All were arraigned in Harrisburg on Friday.

Among them was Mike Manzo, DeWeese's former chief of staff, who also faces charges of handing a do-nothing job to Angela Bertugli, a former office intern he was "shtupping," as Inquirer columnist Stu Bykofky called it.

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review has even run a profile of the former small-town beauty queen. In that article, DeWeese, the loquacious House party leader and family friend who brought Bertugli to Harrisburg, was at a loss for words. "I'm heartbroken," he said Friday in an e-mail to the newspaper.

Before you go feeling sorry for the guy, factor this into your thinking:

  • DeWeese and Veon were the only two state representatives who voted against repealing the pay raise lawmakers gave themselves in 2005.
  • They have also been among the chief supporters of casino gambling in Pennsylvania and were important cogs in the fledgling industry's lobbying and campaign contribution efforts.
  • DeWeese has said he acted aboveboard in all matters and expects to be cleared. He has portrayed himself, in public statements and through subordinates, as a hands-off leader who left the details to Veon, according to the Tribune-Review.

That's karma, Bill. What you put out into the ether will inevitably come back and bite hard.

I don't know whether to congratulate Corbett for not overreaching and arraigning DeWeese without the Bonusgate evidence to back it up, or whether another prosecutorial shoe may eventually drop from the Feds.

Lord knows, it would be long overdue. Slotsylvania needs an anema, not just a sex scandal.

That's because Corbett, who eyes the governors' mansion himself, accepted at least $35,000 in campaign contributions from a now-indicted slots parlor owner, Louis DeNaples, while running for attorney general.

Corbett says he won't give the money back unless DeNaples is convicted of lying to the state Gambling Control Board about his association with two mob bosses and two political fixers.

The Bonusgate scandal is but an ice cube compared to the titantic iceberg of legalized corruption the DeNaples case represents. Not only did Corbett, the state's top law enforcement officer, take money from DeNaples, so did Gov. Ed Rendell, judges, lawmakers and party leaders on both sides of the aisle.

In fact, DeNaples spread more than $1 million in campaign cash around in the years running up to the midnight passage of the 2004 law that legalized slot machine gambling in Pennsylvania and his eventual state license to operate the $415 million Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos.

However, the Dauphin County District Attorney's case against the Dunmore billionaire isn't proceeding nearly as fast as DeNaples' case against him and the media.

To prove their assertion that grand jury leaks have tainted the case against their client, DeNaples' lawyers have subpoenaed 15 reporters from six news organizations - including 10 from The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. Lawyers for the news organizations have asked the judge to throw out all the subpoenas for journalists, saying that the state's shield law protects them from having to identify confidential sources.

The shield law states that no reporter "shall be required to disclose the source of any information procured or obtained by such person, in any legal proceeding, trial or investigation before any government unit."

On top of this travesty taking place in a mysteriously closed court, DeNaples' attorney, former federal prosecutor Sal Cognetti Jr., was able to legally obtain the cell phone records for the Dauphin County district attorney, his chief deputy, and two troopers assigned to an organized-crime unit without telling the prosecutors or police.

Francis Chardo, the first assistant prosecutor in Dauphin County and one of the prosecutors whose records were disclosed, was outraged. "This could get somebody killed," Chardo said of the precedent being set.

Cognetti successfully prosecuted DeNaples for felony fraud as an assistant U.S. attorney back in the '70s. He was also one of two law enforcement officials to vouch for him when he applied for his slots parlor license.

The other was U.S. Attorney Thomas Marino, who was supposed to be building a new federal case against DeNaples when the former felon used him as a reference for his casino license. Marino then quit his public post and joined DeNaples' legal team.

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Monday, July 07, 2008
Posted 8:43 PM by

The biggest story never told?

If a Pennsylvania novelist is correct, the state House Majority Leader H. William DeWeese (left) and former House Minority Whip Mike Veon - the two architects of the state's slots law - have both been indicted.Pssst. Hey Slotsylvania, I'm back. No, that isn't the big news. Just thought I'd give myself a plug for a second.

The biggest news story ignored by the state media over the July 4th holiday weekend was the reported indictments of state House Majority Leader H. William "Bill" DeWeese and Mike Veon, a former House Minority Whip and Democratic rat-fucker turned casino and tobacco lobbyist after voters threw him out of office.

So far, blogger and writer Bill Keisling is the only one to have part of the story, noting, "Prosecutors are expected to make public the charges against Majority Leader DeWeese and others within the next week or so."

Guess, they didn't want to interfere with all those good news cycles over the holiday weekend about Pennsylvania leaders actually passing a budget on time for a change. Or step on the tear-stained shoes of departing state Sen. Vince Fumo, who left the public stage last week amid health concerns and a federal indictment of his own to fight.

Of course, that could just be my "the incompetent media is a conspiracy" theory. Nobody else has printed a glimmer about the potential grand jury indictments since last month, according to a Google news search.

But I'm willing to give Keisling the benefit of the doubt on this - and apologize later if need be. The novelist and owner of previously broke the news that Gov. Ed Rendell had secretly hired his former law firm, Ballard Spahr, to handle the closed-door bidding and now-dead long-term leasing of the Turnpike.

According to Keisling, a grand jury investigation into legislative bonuses has blossomed into a wide-ranging inquiry throughout state government.

DeWeese and Veon, the only two nitwits to vote against repealing the 2005 legislative pay raise (before DeWeese caved and left Veon hanging), are probably being named because of allegations they paid taxpayer-funded bonuses to their legislative staffers for performing political work.

If true, the two main architects behind slot machine gambling in Pennsylvania - and the chief forces pushing for full casino gambling - are now both politically tainted. And suddenly, the governor finds himself and his staff answering a lot of tough questions about corruption.

DeWeese has said he acted aboveboard in all matters and expects to be cleared. He has portrayed himself, in public statements and through subordinates, as a hands-off leader who left the details to Veon, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

I should be ecstatic. For years now, I've been calling for someone - preferably the Feds - to do this very same thing. However, I'll stop just short of singing Handel's "Hallelujah!" chorus.

That's because state Attorney General Tom Corbett, the guy who may be driving this freewheeling grand jury with an eye on the governor's chair (You reading me Pat Meehan?), has already painted himself with the same corrupt brush with which Rendell has become a master.

Rendell, a Democrat, and Corbett, a Republican, both accepted large political contributions from Dunmore billionaire and former federal felon Louis DeNaples in the run-up to the awarding of his slots license.

A Dauphin County grand jury indicted DeNaples last year for lying to the state Gaming Control Board about his alleged ties to organized crime figures. The local prosecutor was given Corbett's blessing, even though the state's chief law enforcement officer has a seven-attorney corruption taskforce in part because of legalized slots gambling.

State campaign finance records are shoddy even though they're computerized public records. But my research found Gov. Ed Rendell received at least $115,000 from DeNaples in campaign donations between 2000 and 2004, and Corbett, the state's top prosecutor, accepted at least $35,000.

Spokesmen for both officials have said they won't give the money back unless DeNaples is convicted. Other recipients of DeNaples' contributions included top state lawmakers, party groups and judges.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Posted 9:04 PM by

Cappy: High court collusion claims 'preposterous'

Former state Supreme Court Justice Ralph Cappy calls allegation that he traded the slots law for judicial pay raises 'preposterous.'Slotsylvania former chief justice Ralph Cappy plans to vigorously defend himself from a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters, telling the Associated Press its allegation that he negotiated a deal to exchange judicial raises for state Supreme Court approval of a 2004 law legalizing slot machines is "preposterous."

The lawsuit filed Monday by the League reiterates many of the assertion raised in a 2006 suit filed by the League and Common Cause, alleging the high court played tit-for-tat with lawmakers, bartering favorable rulings for more funding and pay hikes.

That case was chucked out by a federal judge, who erroneously claimed the issue was made moot when the pay raises passed in 2005 were rescinded after a public outcry. However, the Supreme Court later ruled that the while the Legislature had the power to raise judicial salaries, it did not have the power to lower them. So, the state judges got their pay raises after all.

The League's new suit cites comments from an anonymous state senator as proof that the one or more justices traded or used as leverage a favorable ruling in the previous lawsuit as part of secret negotiations between Cappy and legislative leaders.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille said in a statement that the League's new suit "slanders the entire Supreme Court of Pennsylvania with baseless and irresponsible charges." House Republican leader, Sam Smith of Jefferson County, said the league "should be ashamed to be involved in this kind of speculation and abuse of process."

The evidence may be flimsy, but I have no doubt it happened.

Cappy was way too involved with the pay raise issue, openly admitted to closed door discussions with top lawmakers, wrote opinion pieces for newspapers in favor of it and eventual had to recuse himself from the judicial pay raise case.

Why else do you think the Supremes let stand the slots law, whose passage clearly violated the state Constitutional provision requiring a public comment period and three approvals on the floor of the House?

The 145-page slots bill was inserted into an unrelated two paragraph measure requiring background checks for harness racing employees which had already been approved twice by the House. It was then brought to the floor late at night, without any debate on the eve of a July 4 holiday recess.

That's the main reason why I now call this state Slotsylvania, because we have the best justice and laws that lobbying money can buy.

But don't take my word for it. To read the lawsuit for yourself in pdf format, click here.

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Monday, May 19, 2008
Posted 9:20 PM by

Highway robbery

Gov. Ed Rendell is foisting a 75-year lease of the turnpike on Pennsylvania.Sorry folks. I was forced to take the last month off from blogging here to concentrate on some work projects as well as to fix some server issues.

And although I'm dead dog tired tonight, it seems fitting for me to make my return on the very day Gov. Ed Rendell flouted Pennsylvania's normal processes by accepting secret bids to lease the turnpike away for 75 years.

Fast Eddie did more shoveling during his press conference Monday to "unveil" the three bids than he would have if he was breaking ground for a new highway.

Not that the state will ever gain enough money to do that from the $12.8 billion high bid submitted by Abertis Infraestructuras, a Spanish group that operates highways in Europe, and Citigroup Inc., the biggest U.S. bank by assets.

Rendell openly admitted the state won't get anywhere near the $1.7 billion annually it needs to fix its decrepit highways and bridges - a testament to how poorly Rendell and the Legislature have run things.

Yet, Rendell said, "To me it seems like a slam dunk." Kind of like the Bush Administration's initial assessment of invading Iraq.

Only in Pennsylvania could the governor get away with bypassing the voters without a referendum, run a secret bidding process and then make legislators choose between accepting the winning lease or new tolls on Interstate 80.

Although this is the largest highway ever to be privatized, we still don't know how many unionized state workers will be laid off instead of actually fixing the turnpike.

What a bad joke. Here's hoping the lawmakers see through this scheme that only enriches the bond counsels - and the lawyers of Rendell's former law firm - while turning Pennsylvania into a banana republic.

LWV files another federal lawsuit over slots

The League of Women Voters is once again alleging that former state Supreme Court Justice Ralph Cappy cut a deal with lawmakers - if they approved judicial raises he and the supremes would rubberstamp the state's slots law.The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania sued Ralph Cappy, the former state Supreme Court chief justice on Monday, alleging that the high court upheld the state's slot-machine gambling law in exchange for approval of a judicial pay raise, according to the Associated Press.

The 17-page suit cites an allegation by an unnamed senator that Cappy told legislators of one particular caucus during a meeting that "he needed the pay raise to secure the votes of Republican justices" on cases important to them.

Cappy, who was too chicken to stand for a retention election and retired from the bench on Jan. 6, did not immediately respond to a message left at his Pittsburgh law office Monday.

This isn't the first time this allegation has been raised. The league joined with Common Cause in suing Cappy, Rendell and top lawmakers in 2006, arguing that they played tit-for-tat, exchanging pay raises for a judicial rubberstamp on a 2004 law legalizing slot machines that was illegally approved.

State lawmakers gutted an existing bill that had already been approved twice and then forced the bill to the floor for a vote without the required public comment period late at night on the eve of a July 4 holiday recess in 2004.

But U.S. Middle District Judge Yvette Kane dismissed the case without prejudice and without ruling on its merits. Instead, she said the whole matter was moot because the Legislature was forced to rescind the pay raises after a public outcry.

She was wrong.

While the lawmakers' pay raises were rescinded later in 2005, the state Supreme Court - sans Cappy who recused himself - forced the state to continue them for all judges, including themselves.

The League was dead-set against slots gambling and remains firm against further expansion. Its lawsuit comes as the House may take up a bill (H.B. 2121) next month from Majority Leader H. William DeWeese that would turn the state's 14 slots parlors into full fledged casinos.

The effort to approve table games is moving forward even though perjury charges have been filed against slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples for lying about his ties to mob bosses and political fixers.

DeNaples, a Dunmore billionaire and former federal felon, reportedly gave more than $1.1 million to the campains of top state politicians - including at least $115,000 to Rendell, at least $35,000 to state Attorney General Tom Corbett and hundreds of thousands more to key lawmakers and party groups on both sides of the aisle, including some publicly opposed to slot machines - to get slots gambling legalized in 2004 and to buy enough influence to get his own license two years later.

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Friday, March 28, 2008
Posted 9:06 PM by

Reputed mob boss likely turning state's evidence in Slotsylvania

Mob boss Bill D'Elia has apparently copped a plea to testify against slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples.I've long dreaded this weird, but important moment in Slotsylvania history - and I'm not talking about the nation's temporary focus on this state for the heated Democratic primary in the U.S. presidential race.

Reputed Northeastern Pennsylvania mob boss Billy D'Elia pleaded guilty today to just one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of witness tampering. He had been facing nearly two dozen counts as a result of a federal investigation.

D'Elia, 61, was charged in May 2006 with laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds and five months later additional charges were added after he tried to have a witness in the case killed.

His attorney, James Swetz, declined to tell the Associated Press whether there was a plea agreement or whether D'Elia agreed to cooperate in other cases.

However, D'Elia has testified once already, in front of a Dauphin County grand jury last year. It then recommended perjury charges against Mount Airy Casino Resort owner Louis DeNaples and took the unusual step of asking for reforms to the state's slots gambling system.

The DeNaples case is beginning to rock Slotsylvania to its political core, leading some Republican state lawmakers to call for a special bipartisan committee with subpoena power to investigate his licensing.

Indicted slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples.The Dunmore billionaire and former federal felon reportedly gave more than $1.1 million to the state's top politicians - including at least $115,000 to Gov. Ed Rendell, at least $35,000 to state Attorney General Tom Corbett and hundreds of thousands more to key lawmakers and party groups on both sides of the aisle, including some publicly opposed to slot machines - to get slots gambling legalized in 2004 and to buy enough influence to get his own license two years later.

Asked by the Scranton Times-Tribune in 2006 why he gave so many campaign contributions to the state's top brass, the landfill owner, banker and auto parts dealer replied, "It's more like building a customer base and spreading goodwill. It's business."

To date, the governor and the state's top prosecutor have publicly refused to return DeNaples' money, saying through their government-hired spokesmen that DeNaples is innocent until proven guilty.

Meanwhile, DeNaples spent $67,375 last year on lobbyists to sway lawmakers into passing a bill to turn the state's 14 slots parlors into full fledged casinos. That bill, H.B. 2121, was written by House Majority Leader H. William DeWeese but has been stuck in the Gaming Oversight Committee for more than a year.

Corbett and his seven-attorney government corruption unit are not prosecuting DeNaples. Instead, Corbett says he let Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marisco do it.

DeNaples, 67, has long been rumored to have had mob connections, and was even cited in a report of the now-defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission. He has denied any wrong doing.

DeNaples has hired high-priced lawyers and a spokesman with ties to the governor to defend him. They've launched a public smear campaign with lead defense attorney, Richard Sprague of Philadelphia, citing grand jury leaks to the media as proof Marsico is headline grabbing. The county prosecutor denies the assertion.

Swetz, D'Elia's attorney, has previously said his client would have been willing to testify before the Gaming Control Board before DeNaples was licensed, but was never subpoenaed.

Tad DeckerFormer control board chairman Tad Decker, a college buddy of Gov. Rendell who appointed him, has said he was told D'Elia would refuse to cooperate if called, but refused to say who told him.

Decker has also publicly denied testimony from state police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller that he knew or should have known state police were investigating DeNaples for perjury before the Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to grant him a license on Dec. 20, 2006.

Decker's old law firm, Cozen O'Connor, which he has since returned to head, was subsequently hired by DeNaples to handle the financing of his slots parlor.

DeNaples was indicted Jan. 30, 2008, three months after opening his $412 million slots parlor at the site of the former Mount Airy Lodge, a once-famous lover's resort. The Gaming Control Board has since barred DeNaples from his own casino and his share of its proceeds until the charges are resolved.

The grand jury found DeNaples lied to the control board behind closed doors about his relationship with D'Elia; D'Elia's former boss, the late mafia don Russell Bufalino; and two corrupt political fixers in Philadelphia, based partly upon D'Elia's testimony and federal wiretaps.

D'Elia is said to be a mediator among mob families. The Feds say he met frequently with Philadelphia mobsters and had frequent contacts with western Pennsylvania and New York families.

DeNaples told the Gaming Control Board that he and D'Elia were merely acquaintances. But D'Elia told the grand jury they've been long-time friends, even to the point where DeNaples attended his daughter's wedding.

Attorneys for DeNaples dispute D'Elia's assertion, claiming he lied to the grand jury. As proof, Sprague has cited D'Elia's claim that DeNaples gave him his late father's rosary beads as a symbol of their friendship. The beads were buried with the elder DeNaples, Sprague told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DeNaples' spokesman, Kevin Feeley, on Friday accused prosecutors of giving D'Elia a sweetheart deal in exchange for his testimony against DeNaples.

"It's clear to us that he's getting a deal to cooperate because he's the foundation of their case," Feeley said. "It is stunning that the government would agree to give a deal to a guy who allegedly tried to murder a witness."

Feeley also called D'Elia a liar. "It's clear he's willing to say anything if it helps him get a deal."

U.S. Attorney Martin Carlson declined to respond to Feeley's accusations Friday, issuing a press release that thanked state and federal law enforcement officials but said little about D'Elia's plea. He cited "sealing orders" entered by the court as his reason.

DeNaples' perjury case has yet to be scheduled for trial. His attorneys have asked the state Supreme Court to intervene, arguing Marsico overstepped his authority and the grand jury that issued the indictment was not properly empanelled.

D'Elia will be sentenced in June, when we may find out what, if any, deal he cut. He now faces up to 30 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

On DeNaples' legal team, but away from the criminal case involving DeNaples, are four former federal prosecutors.

One of them is former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Cognetti Jr., who successfully prosecuted DeNaples for a government fraud conspiracy 30 years ago. He is now defending DeNaples' friend, the Rev. Joseph Sica, who also faces perjury charges. The grand jury claimed the Scranton priest lied to them about DeNaples' mob ties.

Former U.S. Attorney Tom MarinoDeNaples also hired former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino, Carlson's predecessor. who was supposed to be building a federal case against DeNaples in 2006 when he secretedly vouched for his good character as a law enforcement reference on DeNaples' slots parlor license.

Marino recused himself from the federal probe when word of his support of DeNaples leaked last year. He later resigned to take a job as DeNaples' in-house counsel.

DeNaples also hired Peter Vaira, a former U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, and J. Alan Johnson, a former U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, to assure the control board that DeNaples had no relationships with organized crime figures.


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

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