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

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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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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Saturday, March 22, 2008
Posted 6:19 PM by

DeNaples fights back; key lawmaker in trouble in Slotsylvania

Louis DeNaplesNow it's indicted slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples' turn to fight back.

On Thursday, the Dunmore billionaire gave a copy of his own FBI file to the state Gaming Control Board. He initially refused to do that during the background check for his license, even though he requested it through the Federal Freedom of Information Act.

Kevin Feeley, DeNaples' spokesman, blamed the discrepancy on the FBI's failure to release the entire file to DeNaples in a timely manner. Since then, the FBI has supplied the entire file to DeNaples' attorneys, Feeley said. In response to a recent request from the gaming board, the lawyers gave it to the agency.

DeNaples' lawyer, Richard A. Sprague of Philadelphia, told the Inquirer the perjury case against his client rests on lies told by reputed Northeastern Pennsylvania mob boss Billy D'Elia.

Sprague said D'Elia lied when he told the grand jury that the D'Elia-DeNaples family relationship ran so deep that DeNaples gave his father's rosary beads to D'Elia after the elder DeNaples passed away. The rosary beads were black, not green, and are buried with the elder DeNaples, Sprague told the newspaper's editorial board.

Sprague also attacked D'Elia's testimony cited in the grand jury's Jan. 30 presentment that D'Elia's predecessor, the late Russell Bufalino, gave DeNaples the ring he was wearing after DeNaples complimented it while the pair were at the C&C Club in the early 1970s.

It never happened, said Sprague, who had asked to meet with the Inquirer's editorial board to complain about the way the newspaper's editorials had characterized DeNaples, who maintains his innocence. He has been barred from his own casino - and its profits - pending the outcome of the criminal case.

State police filed the four perjury charges against DeNaples, 67, accusing him of lying to Gaming Control Board agents about the extent of his relationships with D'Elia, Bufalino and two men at the center of a federal probe into corruption involving Philadelphia City Hall.

And before you go thinking DeNaples' was framed, remember he pleaded no contest to a federal felony in a 1978 fraud case, gave more than $1.1 million to the state's top elected officials in the years before he received his license, and FBI wiretaps are being used as evidence against him.

None of that also explains whether DeNaples attended the 1999 wedding of D'Elia's daughter, as D'Elia has also claimed. Stands to reason that if there was no friendly connection between the two of them, DeNaples might just have sent a gift and well wishes.

Better hope the feds, state police and/or Dauphin County prosecutors are going through the wedding album right now looking for DeNaples in group shots.

Nor does it explain why Tad Decker, the former chairman of the gaming board, refused to call D'Elia as a witness before the board unanimously voted to grant him a license on Dec. 20, 2006.

Decker told the Allentown Morning Call that someone - he refused to say who - told him that D'Elia would merely have evoked his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination if called. It wasn't D'Elia's lawyer, who said his client is eager to testify on this matter.

Decker and other Gaming Control Board members knew or should have known that the state police were investigating DeNaples for perjury before they issued him a license, according to testimony state police commander Jeffrey Miller gave the Legislature during budget hearings last month.

Since then, you can understand why Republicans in the Legislature are salivating for an official probe into DeNaples' licensing by a bipartisan committee with subpoena power. They also want reform for the state's four-year-old slots law.

One of the biggest impediments to slots reform, though, has been state Rep. Harold James (D-Philadelphia), majority chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee. He has refused to move any slots-related legislation out of his committee for more than a year.

But the wheels in Slotsylvania go round and round - and James may now be hardpressed to win re-election this year.

State Rep. Harold James.According to the Inquirer: The state Supreme Court issued a three-sentence order Thursday overturning a ruling by Commonwealth Court Judge Doris A. Smith-Ribner and ordered her to consider a challenge against James's nominating petitions, seeking to have him thrown off the April 22 primary ballot.

The original deadline for submitting signatures was Feb. 12, and the deadline for challenging them was seven days later.

But a raging snowstorm in central Pennsylvania kept some candidates from reaching the state election bureau in time, and Gov. Rendell extended the filing deadline from 5 p.m. on Feb. 12 to noon on Feb. 14. Challenges were due seven days later.

James's opponent, Kenyatta Johnson, challenged James's petitions on grounds that he improperly listed himself as the person circulating his petitions, when in fact they were circulated by other people.

Johnson filed the challenge in mid-afternoon on Feb. 21. James's attorney, John Sabatina, contended that the challenge should have been filed before noon. Ribner-Smith agreed and dismissed the challenge, without hearing any of Johnson's evidence on the alleged petition problems.

The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling yesterday that the challenge had been "timely filed" and remanding the James case for a hearing next Wednesday.

There is no known direct connection between DeNaples and state Rep. James.

However, one of James' biggest political contributors over the years was former state Rep. Mike Veon, who gave him a total of $5,000. Although Veon is now a lobbyist in Harrisburg for gambling and other interests, as a lawmaker he received at least $60,000 in contributions from DeNaples.

Veon also was head of the House Democratic Campaign Committee and used that position to push for gambling expansion along with now-House Majority Leader H. William DeWeese, who reportedly received $5,000 in contributions from DeNaples.

James' committee is sitting on a bill DeWeese wrote, H.B. 2121, which would turn all of the state's 14 slots parlors - seven of which are already operating - into full fledged casinos.


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

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Friday, February 22, 2008
Posted 11:55 PM by

Follow-up Friday: Everything's connected in Slotsylvania


Look who's floundering now.First, they blew $7.5 million on executive bonuses, $2.2 million on promotional swag, $800,000 on lavish trips for themselves, and $108,000 renting out HersheyPark for a day, claiming they deserved the perks for doing such a good job.

Then, they fought three media outlets who sought to prove their out-of-control spending, paying lawyers $409,413 to battle the legitimate requests for public records all the way up to the state Supreme Court.

Now, the lawmaker-dominated board which runs the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority (PHEAA) - the largest provider of college loans and grants to students in the state - is crying poverty and plans to lobby federal officials for help with a "looming crisis in funding for student loans."

On the plus side, at least its chairman, state Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware County), said last week his agency won't appeal a Commonwealth Court decision saying it must now reimburse the media's $48,000 in legal fees. "We're going to pay the bill and move on," Adolph said.

If it can afford to.

PHEAA's board held an "emergency" summit Thursday which blamed the nation's subprime mortgage mess, and its resulting credit crunch, for the "failed auctions" of student debt it has experienced recently in the bond market for the first time in its history.

The authority's bond market woes are "substantially increasing its cost of borrowing and putting its ability to fund additional student loans at risk," Adolph said in a press release Thursday.

The agency doled out 162,502 awards in 2006-07, with students receiving an average of $3,135. The agency has declined to estimate next year's awards because of the credit problems.

"As many Americans face foreclosure on their homes, millions of college students may now face foreclosure on their plans for a higher education," Adolph said. "We must act quickly and we must act now - before our students are caught in a painful student aid funding crunch that could put their college plans financially out of reach."

He said the summit came up with a plan to ask the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, the U.S. Secretary of Education, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and the President of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh for help.

I kid you not.

Like they even have time to notice right now with the rest of the U.S. economy spiraling down the toilet.

The plea for help came from the same arrogant agency that claimed it could do no wrong just last year, and whose own board member, state Sen. Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia), had the audacity last month to accuse Auditor General Jack Wagner of playing politics with the state's first-ever audit of PHEAA.

Much like the authority he helps run, Fumo is now flat on his back or ample gut after undergoing lumbar fusion surgery on Tuesday. He did not attend the summit.


Sure, he's under federal indictment for allegedly extorting $17 million from PECO for a non-profit agency in his district and then trying to cover it up.

And it's more than a little mysterious that the city lost its property tax file on his $6 million Fairmount Place mansion sometime over the last two decades, letting him pay just $6,611 a year in property taxes instead of $165,000 annually.

But if the Vince of Darkness does stand for re-election on April 22, he may not have much to fear from self-termed "reform" candidate Lawrence M. Farnese Jr..

Farnese, a Philly attorney, submitted voter petitions with 1,800 signatures last week to run for office, however, hundreds of them were in the same handwriting - obviously forgeries, according to today's Philadelphia Daily News.

This from the same guy who promised a small group of supporters this week, "When I get to Harrisburg, transparent and accountable government is going to be one of the main priorities that I work on, right from Day One."

Not a great start. But hey, at least none of the forgeries came from dead people. That's an improvement right there.

Still, another Democratic rival John J. Dougherty, business manager of the Local 98 electricians union, sponsored a lawsuit this week challenging Farnese's petitions in Commonwealth Court. No word yet on whether Fumo and another Democratic candidate, community activist Anne Dicker will join the suit.

A total of 228 legislative seats - all 203 House seats and half of the 50 seats in the Senate - are up for grabs this year. And Farnese, a newcomer, isn't the only one in hot water over petitions.

There also were petition challenges to at least five incumbent state lawmakers: Rep. Frank Andrews Shimkus (D-Lackawanna County), Rep. Mauree A. Gingrich (R-Lebanon), Rep. Harold James (D-Philadelphia), Rep. Thomas W. Blackwell IV (D-Philadelphia) and Rep. Tony Payton Jr. (D-Philadelphia), according to the Associated Press.

James was accused of improperly signing petitions. He claimed he circulated them personally, but voters have said someone else had been circulating the petitions.

As majority chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, James has also been holding up legislation that could reform the state's seven slots parlors before the next seven open their doors.


As I wrote on Wednesday, one of James' biggest contributors over the years was former state Rep. Mike Veon, an outspoken advocate of gambling expansion in the state who wanted riverboast gambling legalized when he was in office.

In addition to being architects of the slots bill, Veon and House Floor Leader H. William DeWeese were the only two representatives to vote against repealing the 2005 legislative pay raise.

Veon, a former Democratic whip, got cracked when he lost his re-election bid in the fall of 2006, despite spending $2 million, and is now one of the 843 registered lobbyists roaming the halls in Harrisburg.

To help retire the rest of Veon's campaign debt, the House Democratic Campaign Committee gave him a total of $40,683 in November and December, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"I don't think it's appropriate for the campaign committee to be doing that," state Rep. Dan Frankel, (D-Pittsburgh), who is co-chairman of its fund-raising committee, told the newspaper. "The function of the campaign committee is to help elect Democrats; that's our mission, and I'm not sure this action helps advance that."

But state Rep. Todd Eachus (D-Luzerne County) said, "This is a decision I made and I stand by it. I would do the same thing for Dan Frankel if he lost tomorrow."

Lame-duck Gov. Ed Rendell has also given Veon $5,000 from his remaining $2.25 million in campaign funds.

Here's where things get fun.

Fast Eddie has been facing mounting criticism - including at least one call for his impeachment - for failing to get property tax reform passed in the Legislature. His inability to do so, just like the governors before him, has led me to call for mandated property tax reassessments statewide in order to prevent more tax cases like Fumo's and to correct long-ignored inequities.

Rendell's office this week quietly floated the idea of providing statewide property tax cuts averaging $185 per homeowner this summer out of the state's 55 percent rake from slots gambling, even though no such plan has been approved by the Legislature.

The move drew immediate derision from some lawmakers, including state Rep. Nick Kotik (D-Coraopolis), who said, "I don't think 185 bucks will make anyone happy. But it's the old story that something is better than nothing."

Expect calls to further expand gambling at the slots parlors to table games - thereby providing more tax relief - to begin this spring. And there's already a bill, H.B. 2121 penned by DeWeese, sitting in James' oversight committee to do just that.

"We started with slot machines and now we should complete the job because there is no practical difference between putting $10 in a slot machine and putting $10 on a blackjack or poker table," DeWeese said way back in 2005.

Once that happens, Slotsylvania may become known as Pai-Gow-Pennsy.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008
Posted 10:10 PM by

Report: Pa. slots parlor owners, wannabes spent $1.7M lobbying in '07

Now even the total amount of money gambling interests spent to lobby Pennsylvania lawmakers is being kept from public view.Citizens Voice Projects Editor Dave Janoski pulled off a statewide scoop Sunday, revealing in his Wilkes-Barre newspaper that lobbyists for holders and seekers of casino licenses spent nearly $1.7 million last year to influence state lawmakers.

It's a scoop because no one but the lobbyists and the legislators themselves know right now how much money was spent on their behalf. Public release of the total amount spent lobbying by gambling and other interests in the state appears to be purposely obfuscated behind bureaucratic process.

No offense to Janoski, who I worked with for years, but his total does not account for all the nameless middlemen and others who stand to make a killing off gambling here and are lobbying for their chance.

Although the House of Representatives passed a lobbyist disclosure bill on Oct. 24, 2006, and Gov. Ed Rendell signed it into law on Nov. 1 of that year, the total amount of money being spent by gambling lobbyists is still a closely held secret.

There is a lobbying expenditure database posted online. However, you have to know the name of the lobbyist or his/her client in order to get any detailed information out of it. Even if you went through it from "A" to "Z", there's no way to know for sure if you missed someone. Then you have to add all those numbers up.

This is what passes for public disclosure here in Slotsylvania. It's like trying to find a specific tree from within a tall, thick forest.

Previously, lobbying disclosure for the state Senate broke down the total amount of money given by the interests of the lobbyists' clients. While the online database is a step in the right direction, it's nearly meaningless without knowing the total amount spent by similar interests for similar goals.

A notice on the Web site of the state Department of State's Division of Campaign Finance and Lobbying Disclosure says the Lobbying Disclosure Regulations Committee has met for more than a year now - ostensibly to discuss how best to gather and release the information - but didn't publish its proposed regulations until the Jan. 19, 2008, issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The new regs are now in a 30-day public comment period. Any person with questions or comments may e-mail Louis Lawrence Boyle, deputy chief counsel for the Department of State, at , to state Attorney General Tom Corbett, the regulation committee's chairman, at , or to .

You may want to use those e-mail addresses after you finish reading this.

The rules are largely legalese but basically focus on the filing requirements the lobbyists must meet, not how the information is supposed to be released or in what form.

So why then are total breakdowns by category of lobbyist still being withheld from the public?

The regulations committee adopted interim guidelines on May 30 and the lobbyists have been filing reports for more than a year now.

Although the 2004 law legalizing slot machine gambling banned direct campaign contributions from anyone with gambling interests, it did not bar them from hiring lobbyists who can wine and dine lawmakers and make indirect political donations on their client's behalf.

In 2007, holders and seekers of casino licenses paid lobbyists $1.68 million to represent their interests in the capital, Janoski reports, without citing a specific source. However, he does quote extensively from Craig Christopher, counsel to federally indicted state Sen. Vincent Fumo (D-Philadelphia).

Christopher, who had a hand in drafting the state slots law, said no other state with gambling has barred lobbying from companies with an interest in it.

Then again, probably no other state gave a slots parlor license to a guy like Louis DeNaples. The Dunmore billionaire and federal felon was indicted for lying about his alleged mob ties a little more than three months after opening his Mount Airy casino. He has denied any wrong-doing.

While DeNaples faced a Dauphin County grand jury for months last year, his company, Mount Airy #1 L.L.C, spent $67,375 lobbying lawmakers for "casino gambling" through the Philadelphia firm of S.R. Wojdak & Associates LP.

That was on top of at least $679,375 and possibly more than $1 million in political contributions DeNaples gave to Rendell, Corbett, key lawmakers, judges and party groups to get slot machine gambling legalized and to obtain a slots parlor license between 2000 and 2004.

While I don't doubt Janoski's reporting, I think he has only seen the tip of the iceberg.

In 2006, the last year for which total corporate and lobbying expenses are currently available, gambling interests spent $3.1 million just to lobby the state's 50 senators. That was down from the $4.6 million spent in 2005 and the $4.7 million spent in 2004.

No figures are available for the state House, which has 203 members.

Despite the lack of lobbying disclosure the lobbying disclosure law has wrought, Majority Floor Leader H. William DeWeese introduced House Bill 2121 last summmer which would legalize table games at the slots parlors - in effect, turning them into full-fledged casinos.

State Sen. Sean Logan (D-Allegheny County) proposed in Senate Bill 658 to shut off the spigot of millions of dollars being spent annually by gambling interests to influence state lawmakers. But his bill hasn't made it out of committee since it was introduced nearly a year ago.

Now, here's the really scarey part.

"Lobbyists employed by gaming companies say tax laws, liquor laws and even Pennsylvania's new Open Records law, which expands public access to government documents, are of interest to the industry," Janoski wrote.

"There is an immense level of detail and private information provided in the licensing process. Our interest in (the Open Records law) was protecting that type of personal information," said Eric Schippers, vice president for government and public affairs for Penn National Gaming Inc.

Penn National opened the Hollywood Casino at its horse track in Dauphin County last week. It spent $238,458 on lobbyists in 2007, Janoski wrote.

To say I hate the lobbying disclosure law with the heat of a thousand suns, is to put it mildly. It was rammed through using some of the same tricks employed to pass the 2004 slots law and the now-repealed 2005 legislative pay raise.

Even when the new regulations are finally enacted, they won't require lobbyists to say specifically which lawmakers were lobbied and how much was spent on each. The lobbyists merely have to state the total amount of money spent on behalf of their client each quarter and briefly why - and even then only if it was more than $2,500.

To delay publicly releasing total lobbying expenditures by category until the new regulations for the law are complete - or even worse, not at all - is just adding further insult to injury to an already bruised, battered and bloodied body politic.

It's one of the reasons why I now call this state Slotsylvania, for we have the best government money can buy in secret.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008
Posted 4:59 PM by

Have lobbying and partisanship trumped public protection in Slotsylvania?

There's slots of bills pending to change Pennsylvania's fledgling gambling industry, including one that would stop their millions of dollars in lobbying.There are plenty of bills pending in Pennsylvania's Legislature that would have reformed the state's slot machine gambling law before the indictment of slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples last week.

None of them have yet to see the light of day, much less been voted upon.

And if ever two guys needed to be stuck in an elevator together to find common ground for the public good, it's state senators Jeffrey Piccola and Sean Logan.

Logan (D-Allegheny) voted for the law legalizing slot machine gambling (Act 71) in 2004, but introduced a bill on March 22, 2007, to stop the state's fledgling gambling industry from lobbying lawmakers and to prevent lobbyists from serving as a pass-through for outlawed campaign contributions.

In effect, Senate Bill 658 would shut off the spigot of millions of dollars being spent annually with no public scrutiny to influence legislators into expanding legalized gambling (see H.B. 2121) and who knows what else.

However, Logan's bill has gone nowhere since it was introduced, remaining stuck in the Senate's Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee.

Piccola (R-Dauphin), a former majority caucus administrator and whip, is a member of that committee and is no fan of the state's industry-written and hastily-passed slots law either - at least the way it exists currently.

Piccola voted against the slots law in 2004 and was one of 13 senators who fought in August 2006 for a package of 21 bills that would have: prohibited public officials and their families from holding any ownership interest in casino-related firms, created an entirely new Gaming Control Board with only five members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate, banned the board members from having any other salaried jobs, and rejected any slots license applicants who have felony criminal records (the 2004 slots law forgives convictions before 1991).

The senators urged the control board not to approve any more licenses - including one for DeNaples, a Dunmore billionaire who admitted a federal felony in 1978 - until their reform measures were heard. Some of them, including Piccola, even threatened to shut down the state government and all active casinos during budget wrangling in July 2007 to get their bills enacted.

They failed.

Piccola has since called DeNaples' indictment for lying to the control board about his allleged mob ties "a black eye on Pennsylvania" while standing on the floor of the Senate.

On Wednesday, the same day DeNaples was arraigned on the perjury charges, Piccola announced he will try again to reform the slots law.

Although his new bills have yet to be introduced, this time they appear far less sweeping. His proposed changes now include:

  • opening all portions of the application process relating to character and integrity of applicants, principals, and key employees to public scrutiny.

  • transferring the Gaming Board's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement to the Office of the Attorney General (a move the state police commander has said won't make any difference)

  • requiring all applicants to make Freedom of Information Act requests regarding their criminal file and providing all documents obtained to the Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement.

If Piccola wants to be seen as a true reformer, then why hasn't Logan's bill made it out of his committee? Is the fact that Logan is a Democrat, and Piccola is a Republican, the reason?

The chairperson of that committee is state Sen. Jane Earll (R-Erie), a former candidate for lieutenant governor who voted in favor of the slots law in 2004 but told Project Vote Smart that she is against expanding it to include riverboat gambling.

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."

Her refusal to act came after the FBI informed the control board that it wasn't a law enforcement agency and therefore could not see the information bureau agents had collected on DeNaples, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Logan's bill is not the only reform-minded measure stuck in Earll's committee. Also pigeonholed there is S.B. 856, which merely adds "former candidates" to the list barred from receiving direct campaign contributions from gambling interests.

I don't know how much money Earll has accepted in campaign contributions from gambling interests. The state's online database lists 1,177 contributions to her since Jan. 1, 2000, but many of the contributors's occupations and employers have been left blank.

She did receive a total of $875 from William J. Bleill, a consultant for First Presque Isle Corp. I don't know what relationship, if any that company has with MTR Gaming Group Inc., the parent company of Presque Isle Downs & Casino near Erie. Earll also accepted $175 from Edson R. Arneault, president, CEO and chairman of MTR.

Earll's committee is similarly stymieing:

  • S.B. 113, which would require the control board to take a public vote among all seven members - not just a supermajority consisting of the governor's appointee and four legislative appointees - on whether to take enforcement actions against a slots parlor license holder.

  • S.B. 423, which allows slots parlors to issue rewards cards to frequent gamblers, but also requiring each casino to issue monthly statements that list patrons' gaming winnings and losses.

  • S.B. 855, which requires all Gaming Control Board appointees to be confirmed by the Senate.

  • S.B. 600, which bars the Gaming Control Board from hiring relatives, requires all prospective board employees to submit their "complete criminal history" and to take a drug test, and subjects all control board employees "who, while on duty or off duty, engages in scandalous or disgraceful conduct which may bring the service of this Commonwealth into disrepute" to prompt disciplinary action and immediate suspension.

  • S.B. 1031 and S.B. 1032, which would prohibit the location of a slots parlor within 1,500 feet of a school, church or home.

None of those measures are nearly as controversial as S.B. 683, which state Sen. John Rafferty Jr. (R-Montgomery County) introduced on March 23, 2007. It would require a binding referendum be approved in any municipality where a slots parlor has been proposed.

Yet, none of those bills have moved out of Earll's committee in nearly a year.

Stumbling blocks toward reform are not limited to the state Senate and are not only being erected by Republicans.

On Jan. 30, 2007, state Rep. Michael O'Brien (D-Philadelphia) introduced House Bill 14, which like Sen. Rafferty's bill, would require approval of a slots parlor in a local binding referendum. It has been stuck in the House Committee on State Government ever since.

Bottled up in the House Committee on Gaming Oversight since March 6, 2007, is H.B. 567, which would prohibit further gambling expansion without the approval of a statewide referendum or by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly.

The chairman of the Gaming Oversight committee is Harold James (D-Philadelphia), who has been singled out for criticism by House Republicans for failing to move H.B. 1450. That bill would put the state police in charge of doing slots parlor licensee background checks (even though, again, the state police commander has said it won't make any difference).

James voted for the 2004 slots law. It was impossible to tell from the state's online database whether he received campaign contributions from gambling interests. It lists 337 contributions since Jan. 1, 2000, but many of the occupations, employers and even names have not been completed.

James' committee is also holding up:

  • H.B. 482, which would cut the pay of Gaming Control Board members to $64,178, except the chairman who would get $66,810. Currently, board members are paid $145,000 and the chairman gets $150,000. (There is currently no law or bill pending on what the board can pay its employees.)

  • H.B. 909, which would require an audit if a slots parlor fails to generate 85 percent of its anticipated revenue in a year.

  • H.B. 1181, which would reduce the potential number of stand-alone casinos from five to three.

  • H.B. 1477, which would prohibit the location of a slots parlor within 1,500 feet of a school, church or home.

  • H.B. 1715 and H.B. 1975, which would require $1.5 million to $3.5 million be transferred annually from the Pennsylvania Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund into the Compulsive and Problem Gambling Treatment Fund.

None of those measures are nearly as controversial as H.B. 2121, which would expand the state's definition of legalized gambling to include table games - including roulette, baccarat, blackjack, craps, big six wheel, mini-baccarat, red dog, pai gow, poker, twenty-one, acey-ducey, chuck-a-luck, fan-tail, panguingui, chemin de fer, sic bo, and any variations or composites of such games - in effect turning the slots parlors into full-fledged casinos.

The table games bill was introduced July 14, 2007, by Majority Floor Leader H. William DeWeese and immediately garnered 19 Democratic supporters. They include state representatives: James Wansacz (D-Lackawanna County), Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks County), Todd Eachus (D-Luzerne County), Florindo Fabrizio (D-Erie County), Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny County), Michael Gerber (D-Montgomery County), R. Ted Harhai (D-Fayette County), Patrick Harkins (D-Erie County), John Hornaman (D-Erie County), Deberah Kula (D-Fayette County), Frank Louis Oliver (D-Philadelphia County), John Pallone (D-Armstrong County), Eddie Pashinski (D-Luzerne County), Dante Santoni Jr. (D-Berks County), Frank Andrews Shimkus (D-Lackawanna County), John Siptroth (D-Monroe County), Majority Caucus Administrator Dan Surra (D-Clearfield County), Jesse White (D-Allegheny County), and Edward Wojnaroski Sr. (D-Cambria County).

House Bill 2121 would turn Pennsylvania's slot parlors into full fledged casinos.DeWeese has accepted 4,401 campaign contributions from individuals and political action committes since Jan. 1, 2000. Again, it's unclear from the state's online database how many came from gambling interests because many of the employers and occupations have been left blank.

Like the rest of the bills pending before the Gaming Oversight committee, DeWeese's table games bill has been tabled since it was first introduced.

But given the continued flow of lobbying money and in-direct campaign contributions to lawmakers, which bill do you think will pass first?

I can tell you this, DeNaples, who has said he never placed a bet in his life, predicted in 2006 that table games would be a reality within two years.

Finally, one slots gambling-related bill was introduced this week by state Rep. RoseMarie Swanger (R-Lebanon) after Gov. Ed Rendell announced a state funding package designed to help lure a professional soccer team to the city of Chester .

H.B. 2225 would prohibit any money in the Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund from beng used for multipurpose recreational facilities or sports facilities.


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

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Posted 9:20 PM by

Role reversal

Pennsylvania lawmakers fail at open records reform, but the state Supreme Court takes a big baby step in the right direction.

We may soon find out how much Penn State pays Joe Paterno to coach football, thanks to a state Supreme Court ruling today.One year after Democrats gained a majority in the state House amid calls for reform from disgusted voters, the lawmakers have actually managed not to change a bloody thing.

Unless you think talking about change suddenly counts as an accomplishment.

Personally, I think that's merely lowering the bar while maintaining the illusion of real reform. As Boss William M. Tweed of Tammany Hall said, "The appearance of the law must be maintained, especially while it's being broken."

For instance, the first draft of the first attempt to improve the state's open records law in 50 years failed to extend the public right to know to lawmakers' e-mails.

That not only ignores the indictment of powerful state Sen. Vincent Fumo earlier this year - which was reportedly based on e-mails authorities recovered after Fumo ordered them deleted - it ignores modernity and just plain commonsense.

"I don't know what the bill that we're drafting now will say, but I'm certainly not supportive of making every e-mail or letter or phone call record from my constituents to be public records," said state Rep. Glen Grell, R-Cumberland. "I think they have an expectation of privacy when they contact me."

They may indeed have that expectation, but as a legislator Grell should not have that priviledge and should explain to them that he doesn't.

Grell and other lawmakers are not being paid by taxpayers to be a lawyer, a doctor or a priest, and the last time I checked those professions are the only ones granted such confidentiality by law.

House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese says he hoped to resume the effort toward revising the open records law after the House returns from its Thanksgiving break on Dec. 3.

He hopes.

As if DeWeese, who voted against repealing the great pay grab of 2005 and just fired his chief of staff amid a $3.4 million bonus scandal, really wants legitimate reform?

Give me a break. Actually, the state Supreme Court did just that today, thanks to a loophole in the open records law exploited by the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

Reporters have long wondered how much legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is paid.

But because JoePa works for a state-related university, which gets less than half of its funding from the state, that information - along with the entire $3 billion-plus university budget - is not considered public record.

Here's the catch. Paterno pays into the state-run retirement system. And the justices ruled in a 4-2 decision today that it is subject to the open records law.

Ironically, Paterno has said he would have no problem if his pay was released, but the university kept fighting.

Penn State argued that releasing salaries would be unfair to those hired with an understanding their pay would not be public, and that disclosure might harm morale or make it harder to recruit and retain talent.

The ruling covers Paterno's name, service history and salary, but will not include his address, phone number or Social Security number.

"Individuals and private entities cannot reasonably expect the commonwealth to keep secrets from its citizens regarding the disbursement of public funds, past, present or future," wrote Justice James J. Fitzgerald III for the majority.

Pennsylvania Newspaper Association lawyer Melissa Bevan Melewsky said that aspect of Fitzgerald's opinion will probably make its way into future lawsuits over access to public records.

Of that, I have no doubt.

But in the dissenting opinion, retiring Chief Justice Ralph Cappy argued, "That information may become a public record at the time the retirement benefits are computed and paid by (the retirement system), but until that point, there has been no disbursement of public funds or even the anticipation of disbursement."

I hate to admit it, but he's right.

You can expect that comment will also show up in future decisions. Another crappy legacy from one of the worst justices in state history.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Posted 8:58 PM by

Pa.'s House of cards falling?

House Majority Leader Bill DeWeeseBefore I took a year off from this blog to focus on real work, Pennsylvania was in a state of disarray. Democrats had just taken control of the House and immediately put off doing any real reform.

Not much has changed since then, but the business as usual attitude may finally be catching up to legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Case in point,seven senior legislative aides including Mike Manzo, the longtime chief of staff to House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, were ousted Tuesday in the wake of an attorney general investigation into $3.4 million in legislative employee bonuses, which may have been veiled illegal compensation for campaign work.

Kind of makes former House Speaker John Perzel look brilliant for similarly paying for his aides' campaign work out of his campaign contributions, rather than sticking it to taxpayers.

Meanwhile, a grand jury on Wednesday accused ex-state Rep. Frank LaGrotta of installing his sister and neice in no-show state jobs that paid them a total of $25,000.

Prosecutors also said that House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese co-signed with LaGrotta a June 2006 agreement that backdated by four months the hiring of LaGrotta's sister as an education consultant.

DeWeese issued a statement saying an unnamed underling signed DeWeese's name, and that person resigned Tuesday.


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Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Posted 9:14 PM by

Congressional, Pa. legislative Web sites play hide-and-seek

Pennsylvania House Seaker John Perzel's lobbying reform bill was finally posted online Wednesday, a week after it was unveiled at a press conference, even though he plans to have it on Gov. Ed Rendell's desk by the end of the month.One week after Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel announced his lobbyist disclosure bill, the measure is finally online for voters to read - if they can find it - on the Legislature's Web site.

Perzel's proposal still isn't among the five categories of lobbyist bills listed on the Web site's topic index of pending legislation.

However, House Bill 2753, can be found by its number on a numerical index, and by searching the site for the keyword "lobby."

Although Perzel held a press conference last Wednesday to tout the virtues of his bill, "Bills are not given a number until they were introduced. It didn't get introduced until Monday evening," an aide to the lawmaker, who requested anonymity, told me today. "We were holding it for the people who wanted to co-sponsor it."

In the end, 94 of the 203 other state representatives asked to have their names appear atop Perzel's bill - including House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese.

One name conspicuously absent was that of state Rep. Gregory's Vitali. The Delaware County Democrat, long a proponent of lobbyist disclosure and other reform measures, called Perzel's bill "a major disappointment.

"Under this bill, the public still has no way to gauge the influence of lobbyists on individual legislators and the important issues they decide; there is no way for people to connect lobbyist spending with legislators or their votes; and no way to determine how the millions of dollars in special interest money being spent in Harrisburg is impacting policies on important issues such as education, gambling and tax reform," Vitali said in a press release.

"This legislation will not change the current culture in Harrisburg; it offers the illusion of reform, not real reform. It is much less substantive and effective than other lobbying reform bills that have already been passed by the General Assembly in previous years."

In Pennsylvania, that means it probably will become law.

Although Perzel has said he's open to suggestions for improving the legislation, he wants to have a lobbyist disclosure bill on Gov. Ed Rendell's desk by the end of the month. To track his bill's progress, click here.

Pennsylvania has been the only state in the nation without a lobbyist disclosure law since 2002, when the state Supreme Court struck down a 1998 law as unconstitional.

A state Senate rule has provided somewhat of a glimpse at what lobbyists are doing since 2003. Last year, 800 registered lobbyists spent $125 million to sway the state's 253 lawmakers.

And come July 1, under an order from Rendell any lobbyist who spends more than $2,500 to lobby the state's executive branch officers will have to disclose who they work for and how much they spent, not where the money went or why.

Still, that's more than what we know now about the hordes of lobbyists in Washington, D.C., hoping to sway Congress.

Although congressional lobbyists are required to electronically file their spending with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the public can only request to see those filings in person or with a Freedom of Information request by mail.

Lobbyists' expense reports are not available online. Neither are the financial disclosure forms members of Congress file annually. This year's forms were publically available for the first time Wednesday, but only to reporters and anyone willing to drive to the Capital.

Asked why they're not online like the forms Pennsylvania lawmakers and officials have to file, Jon Brandt, a spokesman for the U.S. House Administration Committee, said, "That's because Congress has not mandated they do that. That might be dealt with in some of the reform packages currently pending."

For an Associated Press synopsis of the financial disclosures of U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum and Senate hopeful Bob Casey Jr., click here.

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