Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Severson's Mudslinging & Deception Outlined

Dauphin County Prison was the setting for today's preliminary hearing on the Attorney General's deceptive campaign practices prosecution against political consultant Tom "Scissorhands" Severson. As I've already told you, ALL charges were bound over for trial by District Judge Steven M. Semic. That includes 55 counts of what The Express Times calls "fraud and deception."

It was a strange place for a hearing. Peering through a doorway, I could easily see the bars of a county jail. Unlike any local magistrate, this judge had a guard and two clerks sit with him throughout the five-hour hearing. Eleven witnesses were examined by Senior Deputy AG Mark Constanzo, accompanied by six agents and boxes full of files. Prominent Defense Attorney George Heitczman represented Severson, who sat quietly, even though Ron Angle was right behind him.

(1) Agent Kevin Carney, who has worked in law enforcement for about a gazillion years, laid out the background concerning Severson's anonymous smear campaign against Brian Monahan. In 2007, when Monahan ran for magistrate, Severson sent out three mailers slamming him. None of them identified Severson as the person who paid for these ads. Carney also testified to a "John Doe" independent expenditure report, which was filed after the election.

(2) Priscilla Jroski, a notary for thirty-five years and legal secretary with Bethlehem law firm Leeson & Leeson, described seeing Severson sign a document she was asked to notarize. Instead of seeing Severson''s signature, the name "John Doe" was scrawled on an independent expenditure report. She notarized the document after being assured "It's OK" by Attorney Joe Leeson. But in her notary journal, she noted that Severson had signed the document as John Doe.

(3) Cheryl Dorschutz is a gum-chewing graphic designer employed at Severson's Precision marketing. She prepared the anonymous mailers slamming Monahan, using copy supplied by Severson. Severson told her he had talked to a lawyer and was allowed to send anonymous mailers. He also told her he had permission from Pat Vulcano to use his bulk mailing permit.

(4) Mary Lou Yarnell prepares the bills at Severson's Precision Marketing. He paid her cash for the anti-Monahan mailers and she put the money in petty cash. There is no record that the invoice was paid.

Yarnell also describes Severson's practice of using other companies to bill clients for his work. He supplied her with stationary from an outfit called Political Strategies, a California corporation, and had invoices for Severson's services sent to Democrats under that letterhead. When she receives checks made out to Political Strategies, she stamps them for deposit in Precision Marketing's account.

At Severson's direction, she instructed then state rep. candidate Tony Rybak to pay what he owed Severson to Printex, a company owed money by Severson for work involving other candidates.

(5) Pat Vulcano is the owner of the bulk mailing permit used to slime Monahan. He told a grand jury that Severson had denied using his permit, but now he's singing a different tune. He now claims that Severson admitted to him that he used his bulk mailing permit. He explained he suffers from a sleep disorder and that's why he gave the grand jury a different story. Vulcano's wife, Sandy, must have the same disorder. She had to change her story, too, and did so in a letter to the AG. I believe this disorder is called fibberitis.

Vulcano now claims Severson had "carte blanche" to use his permit and "didn't have a problem" with the sleaze mailers directed at Monahan. When he spoke, he denied knowing who had used the permit and condemned the sleaze campaign. He must have been suffering from fibberitis when he spoke to me, too.

(6) Bethlehem City Council Prez Bob Donchez has been using Severson since 1995, and acknowledged paying Severson bills on MJR and Political Strategies letterheads. He assumed these were other Severson companies. He emphatically denied ever asking Severson to bill him in any special way that would make it difficult for the public to know that Severson was running his campaigns.

(7) Steve Goodsoozian, Judge Jack Panella's campaign treasurer, acknowledges paying Severson invoices from companies like MJR and Political Strategies, thinking they were Severson companies. Like Donchez, he denies that he or anyone in Judge Panella's committee ever asked Severson to bill him in any way that disguised Severson's involvement.

(8) Beverly Rossetti happens to own a small mail house known as MJR Services. She actually leases space from Severson and runs his mailroom, but when he asked her to use her company as a front for some of his billing, she told him she'd have to get back to him. Then she got a few checks made out to MJR, which were delivered to her home in Phillipsburg. She gave them to Severson and asked him to stop billing in her company's name. But those checks kept coming. She eventually stopped handing them over. "I was upset. I just felt a little used. The whole thing was distasteful to me."

Call me cRaZy, but I have a feeling that Rossetti's lease with Severson has the shelf life of a loaf of bread at the beach.

(9) Northampton County Controller Steve Barron really lawyered up for his appearance. He was flanked by two attorneys as he walked into the courtroom. He was asked about his pre-Controller activities, when he was Treasurer for the local Dems. He took in the bills and donations, made deposits, paid the bills and filed campaign finance reports.

At one point in '07, Lamont McClure gave him a $12,000 bill from Political Strategies. McClure told him to pay what he could and record the rest as debt. So Barron, who had no idea that Political Strategies was connected to Severson, sent two checks to California. When he later looked at the bank statements, he noticed those checks were endorsed and deposited by Severson's Precision Marketing. He called party bossman Joe Long, but got no explanation.

(Blogger's Note: McClure's connection to Severson's work resulted in a subpoeana being sent to McClure late last week. Because McClure had a scheduling conflict, he was released from the subpoena. But knowledge of his deep involvement has only recently come to light.)

10) Anthony Rybak did himself no favors in his testimony. He acknowledged paying Severson's bills directly to Printex, assuming that was one of Severson's spinoffs. But he had no explanation for his failure to itemize phone calls and campaign signs. He never reported those expenditures. His mommy financed his unsuccessful campaign for the state house in 2006.

11) Precision Marketing's Tim Butler is Severson's right hand man. As he delicately put it, "I am number two." He proceeded to prove that point by being unable to recall any knowledge of any specifics about anything.

George Heitzman gave a detailed closing argument involving criminal intent and the Constitution. AG Mark Constanzo's basic reply? "Hey, we're the Commonwealth." Severson will face a jury.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's a lot of enablers.

Anonymous said...

I thought this is the way political fund raising is to be

Anonymous said...

Bernie, Students should be required to print this blog word for word as an example of "corruption corrupts completely." Yeeeee.

Anonymous said...

The notary knew better.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they had the hearing at a jail so the attendees could take a one of those disinfectant showers they give new inmates, after being in such close proximity to all those sleazy characters.

Anonymous said...

District Attorney John M. Morganelli has allowed this type of campaign nonsence for many, many years. Could be political and/or allegience to his lawyer pals. Always runs away from these campaign issues

LVCI said...

Good reporting Bernie.

No wonder certain TMC writers (Carpenter) are down on bloggers. Kinda forces their 'reason for being' to kick it up a notch

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVCI,

The ET had Sarah Cassi there and she wrote an excellent report. In my view this is newsworthy. A major investigation into deceptive campaign practices is under way. It's becoming very clear it extends beyond Severson. People like Joe Long and Lamont McClure are obviously being looked at by the AG. Long has been called back before the rand jury, nity a good sign. People are beginning to lawyer up. Long has hired Larry Otter, the same lawyer who represented Registrar Debbie DePaul and tried to get himself appointed to Norco Council. McClure is now under subpoena.

Anonymous said...

Great service to the community, Bernie. I see the Express Times has a great article on it too. I don't see anything in the Call though. Someone should have let an abused stray kennel dog loose in the courtroom, the Call would have been there in a flash.

WhetherVain said...

FIBBERITIS

The latest additions to America's lingual archives were just released by Merriam-Webster a day or so ago.

Fibberitis was not amongst them...but with its inherent definition, I think it's a good candidate. You should submit it for consideration.

Google has already cached your use of this word!

Anonymous said...

Does he go to tennis prison or pound-you-in-the-ass prison?

Anonymous said...

When Pat Vulcano's name pops up, you know something stinks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to attend the hearing. I was afraid the Lehigh Valley would not have anyone to report back on what happened.

I don't think the big two papers have a handle on how important this is. I appreciate your detail by witness and your comments.

This prosecution is a big deal because it goes beyond the Lehigh Valley. Although we seem to be at the center, Severson's antics have been wide spread.

Can you add any details on his demeanor during the 5 hours?

Marc Grammes said...

Sad that these vultures are paid at all. And to show the disrespect for a family and display the kind of conduct at the funeral mass...well... he should have been flogged. Enough said. Never paid any of these "consultants" to do any of my mailers. Or polls or whatever else it is that they do. But I know plenty who have used this outfit. I designed my own mailers, and went through an independent printer, and an independent mail agent. It can be done. And you can still win.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, what are the chances that these people that testified and others can be in serious trouble as accomplices or whatever. You know what I mean.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 3:36, The account written by Sarah Cassi for the ET is excellent, much better than mine. She includes details like the 10% discount, which I neglected.

Severson looked tired, to be honest. Instead of sneering at the AG, as he did in the first Preliminary Hearing, he looked very concerned. He displayed very little emotion and I actually felt a little sad for the guy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Marc, we need people like you.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:44,

Almost nil. The AG called them unwitting accomplies in a scheme to deceive the public. Donchez & Judge Panella had no idea that Severson was playing a shell game and believed those invoices were for companies in which Severson would be identified. Rossetti, who owns MJR, never authorized the use of her business and actually tried to stop it.

But there are unresolved questions concerning exactly what Severson did for Northampton County Dems and how he was paid. He ran three campaigns for McClure, Maher & Branco. The amount of $ paid to him in no way represents the cvalue of the services rendered. And as much as he may hate local Rs, Severson must be paid. I suspect we will be hearing more about this as time goes on. I am already informed that one of his bills shows $17k and not $12k presented to Barron. I think the actual cost is much higher.

Severson, McClure & Long appear to be the persons who have answers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 2:26, Pat Vulcano came across as a slimy piece of shit who changes stories like the wind. Those who vote for him deserve what they get.

Anonymous said...

Well Bernie this is why Republicans want Shuman to go. If he wants to give Stoffa a pass fine, to late now anyway. But what about Barron. I know you like the guy but he is a Long protege just like McClure and Dertinger. The guy was the freaken Demo County Treasurer when this was going on and he said,"gee, I just signed the checks.". This guy is our Controller. If the Party can't field a better Republican alternative, Shuman must go.

This will expose the entire slimy bunch even the guys you give a pass to.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Are you saying the treasurer should also be a controller? Incidentally, Barron is the person who first noticed that checks being made payable to Political Strategies were, in fact, being deposited into Severson's accounts. That was quite damaging.

All Dressed Up said...

Bernie,

I am confused. Who was it quite damaging to? Barron or Severson?

By the way, next time I run into either Vulcano, I am going to ask them to explain how their stories changed. Until then, they lost my confidence in their abilities to manage anything. I still can't believe that they would go on record in a complete turn around of their previous stories.

Peace, ~~Alex

Anonymous said...

I think Barron is an upstanding guy.I feel bad for what this will do to his reputation. But he volunteered to be a treasurer for the Longdems on his own volition. If you're going to hang out with pigs, you'll find yourself muddy sooner or later.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Alex, That info is damaging to Severson. It proves those companies were shells.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
What was Vulcano's explanation for the 180 in testimony?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:18

Why, are you stepping up to run for something? It's easy to type in a blog.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Vulcano claimed to suffer from a sleep disorder that disoritned him and caused him to say things that are untrue. His wife must have the same sleep disorder bc she changed her story, too.

When I spoke to Vulcano, and this was as the shit was flying, he adamantly denied that Severson had his permission to do any sort of negative mailer. He insisted he would never approve of that kind of politics. He also told me he had no idea who was doing it.

Now he is claiming that the mailers were not so bad after all and that Severson had his blessings.

He is a liar, and not a very good one. he is friendly w/ Severson and is trying to cover for him.

Anonymous said...

This is a great incentive for people to join the already intensive care bound Longdem Norco Party. "Come, join our group, volunteer, then get subpoenaed and risk your career and reputation. Long's going to have them beating down the door now to join.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:54, It doesn't matter because the Northampton County Republicans have nothing. They have conceded on Morganelli forever, they punted on Stoffa. The Council candidates will get crushed.
With true Long Dems like McClure, Dertinger and Barron you would think the GOP would be in high gear. The Party has sold out to some slick talking Dems and its soul is gone.

Anonymous said...

Why wasnt Morganelli called? Donchez Leeson etc Panella they all have Morganelli to thank for introducing them to his consultant. He has been the gatekeeper to severson for years. And add Jerry Seyfried who knows how Severson can move money around

Bernie O'Hare said...

Morganelli, you may recall, ran against Corbett last election cycle, using Severson. You can rest assured that if there is a reason to call Morganelli, he will be called.

Anonymous said...

HEY BERNIE
THE NEXT GRAND JURY SUBPOENA WILL HAVE YOUR NAME ON IT
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
YOUR PAL

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd be delighted and would need no subpoena.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is many pol's have used Severson. He was the darling of the Republican Party for many more years than he worked for Dem's. Morganelli was the guy who had to give the thumbs-up for Severson to help you if you were a Dem, at least at one time.

Hopefully, the innocent will be spared an further problems. The officers of the Democratic Party have to be held accountable either for participation or lack of competence in their actions during the Severson games.

Anonymous said...

I can understand why Northampton County Republicans are frustrated. You would think with all these scandals and people involved the party could make gains.

It is always about the leadership.

Anonymous said...

The leadership is what got the Democrats all the scandals.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 6:02

Are you personally engaged in getting Republicans elected to office? How many people have you registered lately? How much family time have you given up? Have you run for office? Have you gone door-to-door in the recent past? Just wondering...

Anonymous said...

It was Schimmel who used Severson, not Barron even though Barron was Democrat Treasurer. Ut makes me wonder how good is Severson really, especially when he can't play dirty.

Anonymous said...

There are still some Republicans that have not sold out to slick talking Democratic pitchmen.

The Champagne Republicans that expect the ground troops to work for them will be sadly disappointed.

The New Republicans will run a Party that has been hijacked by Democrat wannabes.