Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ever Dance With the Devil in the Pale Moonlight?

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

That's what the Joker would ask his prey before finishing them off. I wonder whether Senior Deputy AG E. Marc Costanzo poses similar questions to witnesses appearing in his grand jury investigation of Northampton County deceptive campaign practices. That grand jury, incidentally, is meeting somewhere today.

Ever dance with Severson in the pale moonlight?

During Monday's preliminary hearing at Dauphin County prison, Costanzo laid out a prosecution theory that hones in on a web of deceit - a conspiracy to keep the public in the dark about Severson's involvement in various political campaigns. Severson had told his staff that Democrats asked him to disguise his involvement in their campaigns, but the candidates called so far vociferously deny that. "Absolutely not," is how Bethlehem City Council Prez Bob Donchez responded to a question asking whether he had asked Severson to prepare bogus invoices. Costanzo calls them "unwitting" co-conspirators who unknowingly and innocently deceived the public. But what about those candidates who knew all about Severson's scheme to keep the public in the dark?

Ever dance with Severson in the pale moonlight?

Let's go back to 2003, when Paula Roscioli desperately wanted to trade in her Assistant DA's badge for a judge's black robe. Local Republicans got wind she was using Scissorhands Severson as her campaign consultant. In fact, her boss - DA John Morganelli - had just paid Severson $9,600 in dirty drug money for 20,000 newsletters. Naturally, those included portrait of Roscioli quadruple the size of other pictures.

When Express Times reporter Joe Carlson asked whether she was using Severson, Roscioli gave two answers. First, it would be a "poor strategic decision" to identify a consultant before being required to file campaign finance reports. Second, "I'm running my own campaign." Morganelli backed her up, denying that Severson's Precision Marketing was involved. "They're not allowed to do Democratic candidates. They can only do Republicans."

Were Roscioli and Morganelli dancing with Severson in the pale moonlight?

It sure looks that way. According to available campaign finance reports, Roscioli made seventeen payments to MJR Services, totalling $105,252.06. This is one of the shells Severson used to deceive the public concerning his involvement in political campaigns. Roscioli and Morganelli were obviously well aware that Severson's involvement in Democratic campaigns was quite controversial. Morganelli himself went along with paying his own MJR bills the previous year. They went along with a Severson scheme to hide his involvement from local Republicans. In the process, they deceived the public.

Fast forward from 2003 to 2007. LongDems desperately wanted to rid Northampton County Council of Ron Angle, once and for all.

Did LongDems start dancing with Severson in the pale moonlight, too?

In July, Severson began his dirty work with a push poll. Telephone calls from 484-548-6413 asked whether voters would be less likely to vote against Angle if they knew certain negative things about him, which were listed, one by one. Although this poll has been estimated to cost $3,000, its cost is listed nowhere in any campaign finance reports. But that telephone exchange has been used by Severson to conduct political polling and robo calls.

The next month, Charles Dertinger bought a postal permit for the Northampton County Democratic party, which was subsequently used by Severson for vicious smear mailers against Ron Angle and Peg Ferraro. They were also besieged by anonymous robocalls like this one from 484-548-6400 and 484-548-6413, the same number that had been used for the July push poll. It also is the same exchange Lamont McClure used for his robo calls. His consultant? Tom Severson.

In October, Lamont McClure handed Steve Barron, who was then Northampton County Democratic Party Treasurer, a $12,000 bill from Political Strategies, another shell Severson used to deceive the public concerning his involvement in political campaigns. McClure provided detailed instructions about how that bill was to be paid and how in-kind contributions were to be noted. But when Barron asked McClure to identify Political Strategies, all Lamont would say was that it is a consulting company. Barron later reviewed bank statements, and learned that checks to Political Strategies were being deposited by Severson's Precision Marketing.

Bossman Joe Long was similarly secretive about Political Strategies and the smear campaign being engineered against Angle and Ferraro. In fact, when The Morning Call condemned the anonymous robocalls, Long quickly responded with his typical threats in a letter to the editor. "This borders on libel and slander," he huffed. "[T]o my knowledge, the Northampton County Democratic Party has not made any so-called negative robocalls."

Long was clearly trying to hide Severson's involvement in the failed smear campaign against Angle and Ferraro. Long, McClure and Dertinger were clearly dancing with Severson in the pale moonlight, conspiring to keep the public in the dark.

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight? It sure looks like Deputy AG Costanzo will be posing that question to Roscioli, Morganelli, Long, McClure and Dertinger.


Anonymous said...

I agree. I wouldn't be surprised if it's not really Severson they're after, but the politicians who used him. Now that all charges were bound and Severson's scared $#@#less, he'll plea bargain and serverson will sing like a bird about his clients. THere are some defense lawyers that will make a pretty penny this year.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I can't tell who recorded the anti-Peg call? Was it Waylon Flowers or Charles Nelson Reilly?

lighthouse said...

It is interesting that your post implicates several whom my "gut" has never felt good about in their public role: Morganelli, Roscioli, McClure, and Dertinger.

I guess it goes to show that a gut feeling--intuition--is often times accurate (enough).

Bernie, this case is rather specific in its scope. Is there a potential for others being investigated and/or charged? or is Severson the only fish to be caught?

Also, could the net ever spread to contributors who may have helped finance some of this, such as out of town unions and lawyers? or would they fall into the "unwitting" category?

As a P.S., I have to commend you for being objective with Morganelli on this. I know you respect him in his role as a DA, but his political activities outside of that direct role have long bothered me. I specifically remember the Roscioli flier you reference, as just such an example.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Knowing co-cospirators may very well be targetted, so I think this begins with Severson. John M is my friend, but I think he has to explain his activities. It is harder for him and Roscioli, given what they've said and the tenor in 2003, to pretend they were ignorant. It may extend well beyong the people I mention.

Lady Rep said...

You know, Morganelli has been very disingenuous about all of this. Anyone with half a brain knew what Severson was up to and Morganelli was a complete apologist for him. He turned the other cheek, blew off the original complaint and stood by his bud through it all. I have no idea if he's "done" anything, but he sure didn't DO anything to stop the madness either. Behavior not becoming to a DA.

Anonymous said...

You go out of your way to protect Barron but as part of the Long regime, an objective observor would find it hard to believe the Party Treasurer would just do as he was told.

If he was suspicious he should have refused to follow through or report concerns to authorities, that didnot happen.

I hate to single out Mr. Barron but as detailed as you are trying to be your own predjudice is showing. The entire officer corps of the Long Northampton County Democratic Committee is stained." I was just following orders", is no defense.

Bring back John Schimmel and Bill Brackbill!

Anonymous said...

When will voters tire of Morganelli's sleaze? Shame on the MSM (and this blog, at times) for the soft glove treatment on this huge ethical question mark. He's been grimy for a while and has had lots of enablers.

Not so casual observer said...

That fluttering sound you hear is chickens coming home to roost. Thank you Bernie, this is a huge step forward toward good government

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:46, Your objection to Barron seems more related to his political affiliation than any culpability. Schimmel, you may recall, used Severson. Perhaps you forgot that. I laid out the facts as i know them. You can reach the conclusions you wish to make.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that the comments bad mouthing Barron are from Long Dems. There is a real divide between them. Barron was going to run against McHale for Excutive if Stoffa did not, so that must have pissed off the Long, Lamont, Charles! and the rest of the LongDems.

I think Morganelli, Roscioli, Lamont, and Leeson all knew who they were dealing with and understood what Severson was doing and they went along with it. These are all smart people, all lawyers.

Anonymous said...

"these are all smart people. All lawyers" What makes you think all attorneys are smart?

Anonymous said...

I don't think they knew what Severson was doing because they were "smart." I don't find them smart. If they were smart, they wouldn't be in such danger now. I think that what they all have in common is that they are conniving and shifty and such people are always able to sniff out the same behavior in others, i.e. Severson.

Anonymous said...

I should have said "supposedly smart people." Obviously, any joe off the street cannot make it through law school. I am sure Bernie will confirm this. You need to have some smarts.

Also, the people of Northampton County trusted them and thought they were intelligent enough to elect them to positions of importance.

Anonymous said...

OT re: baseball:

Obama wears pressed ladies' jeans and throws like a girl.

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you who absolutely knew they were using Severson but who reported invoices from one of his entities on their expense report.

That would be state Senator Lisa Boscola.

Stanley Spadowski said...

I learned very early in the seminary that there are many alternate views of life. Each one is different, but not totally wrong.

I always thought that a person was judged regarding the acts that he or she committed. Good and bad.

But another viewpoint demonstrates the flaw in that theology, that if you sat on your hands all day, even though you did nothing wrong; you can't claim that as honorable or a path to sainthood.

In that theory, we are judged not by the wrong that we didn't commit, but by the time that was wasted. Instead, regarding this alternate viewpoint, we are judged by all of the good that we did not do or did not attempt to accomplish.

Thus, regarding this blog thread, there are some that wish and some that do not wish that this above-mentioned theory be applied.

Mens rea versus actus reus. In this instance, knowledge is key. And the lack of not acting on this knowledge seems very much to borderline a breach of acting not only morally but ethically. Unfortunately, common law and its standards, most of the time, do not take this higher road regarding a standard of morals and ethics. From a sociological standpoint, the current society, mores, culture, and etcetra have to demand this higher standard be implemented for the governing body to put this into action. "We the People!" cannot sit back and allow this to happen. This is a breach of the very fundamentals of our free and democratic society. We must demand a higher standard from the bodies that "govern" us. These instances are a failure with the very fundamentals of "our" government.

Peace be with you, ~~Alex

Alan Earnshaw said...


Love the "UHF" references. It's not high cinema, but it sure did crack me up!

"Help! Help! Let me out of this box! I can't breathe! Help!"

Stanley S.'s Clubhouse said...


If you go to my profile page, there is an audio link. If you click on it, it will redirect you to youtube. The video it will play is when Stanley gives his speech about, "Life is like a mop!" Enjoy!

One of my favorites since I was 15 years old.

Peace, ~~Alex

Anonymous said...

i havent't danced with the devil, but have boogied with a balrog in partly cloudy conditions...

that being said, i presume scissorhands has the right to create and operate as many corporate entities as he wants, so long as all other campaign disclosure laws are adhered to.

what's the actaul crime(s) they're focusing on?

Anonymous said...

It is all BS, wait till they investigate Angle.