Perhaps to prove a point - no one is above the law.
For years, Severson has made our electoral system a mockery. He has thumbed his nose at nearly every disclosure requirement. By his own admission, this is the largest political consultant in the state. He's pretty much had a free ride, too. The District Attorney charged with the responsibility of enforcing our elections laws - John Morganelli - is a big Severson pal and customer. In fact, after yesterday's guilty verdict, the Northampton County District Attorney amazingly assumed the role of defense attorney. Severson's trial attorney, George Heitczman, had no comment. But Morganelli did his best to downplay the reality that his friend and political consultant is now a criminal.
Severson and Morganelli go back at least to 1991, when Severson ran John's campaign against then incumbent DA Don Corriere. That race, incidentally, turned nasty.
Morganelli has continued to use Severson, even after Scissorhands was charged in the funeral fracas. He stuck by Tom even after it became known that Severson was the subject of a statewide grand jury. He has even enlisted Severson's services for political allies seeking office. These include former first assistant DA Paula Roscioli, who used Severson's services when she ran for judge, and won.
In his seventeen years as DA, I can't think of a single elections law prosecution. Knowingly or not, he has given Severson a green light to run wild. In the process, he has created a monster.
In 2001, Moore Township resident Robert Welsh was the victim of a defamatory anonymous mailer when he sought public office. Morganelli told him his hands were tied. "[I]t is perfectly permissible for any citizen to distribute anonymous literature to voters." He refused to investigate.
Under Morganelli's tortured interpretation of our election laws, there's no need to place a disclaimer on a campaign mailer. If that is so, there's really no reason to file campaign finance reports at all. Why bother?
Ironically, Morganelli was all over AG Corbett when the Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom (CFI) began a "public education" effort obviously designed to promote a candidate for the state high court. He demanded an injunction to force CFI to file a campaign finance report, the only remedy that would prevent irreparable harm in the closing days before the election.
But amazingly, Morganelli refused to lift a finger when local political consultant Tom Severson began an anonymous sleaze campaign against local magisterial candidate Brian Monahan in Spring '08. He remained silent in July '08, when Severson started a push poll against county councilman Ron Angle, even though that expense appears nowhere on any campaign finance report, even as an in-kind corporate contribution. When anonymous robo calls began in earnest against council candidates Angle and Peg Ferraro, Morganelli was MIA, even though campaign finance reports fail to reflect the amount of money being spent.
John properly feels it would be a conflict to investigate Severson. But whenever he has referred a question to the state AG, it has always been a half-hearted request at best that frames the facts in a light favorable to Severson. It has been a recipe for disaster in local Lehigh Valley races.
So yesterday's verdict was meaningful. Disorderly conduct and misdemeanor harassment are criminal offenses. There is no Severson exception in the Crimes Code. Victims of those offenses certainly have a little more peace of mind when those offenses are prosecuted.
Whether it's a political consultant in the pocket of a local DA or a cop who beats his wife, all of us are entitled to a criminal justice system in which nobody is above the law.