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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pennsylvania Infected By Culture of Corruption

Two years ago, at a booth inside the Nazareth Diner, I had a meeting with a source who was upset over Attorney General Kathleen Kane's handling of a Grand Jury investigation into pay-to-play at the Pa. Turnpike Commission. Eight people, including a former State Senator and the ex-CEO of the Turnpike Commission had been charged, and Kane piously condemned these men for lining their pockets, but when the dust had finally settled, no one went to jail. They got slaps on the wrist. One of the participant was local engineer Matt McTish, but I ultimately decided against writing about it. Obviously, I made a mistake. I overlooked a culture of corruption that extends far beyond Allentown and Reading, and appears to have infected the entire state.

Let's back up a second and look at that Turnpike investigation. Consultants and contractors looking for work showered gifts on turnpike officials, including trips to Florida, golf outings, use of a Las Vegas condo and gist certificates. McTish admitted that he gave a $4,000 travel voucher to the Turnpike Commission CEO. Though he had "no reasonable explanation," he knew it wasn't "the right thing to do."

The turnpike commission investigation was finished by an Attorney General with ties to Ed Rendell. She even employs his former spokesperson. She didn't start it, and it was beginning to point in directions she did not want to go. So she cut sweetheart deals and ended the case before some of her supporters were dimed.

McTish not only got a free pass, but his firm continued to be awarded contracts by the state. He continued doing the wrong thing. His lawyer tried to paint him as a victim, but the facts reveal him as a willing participant in bribery who already had dodged one prosecution.

An example of this is his $5,000 contribution to AG Candidate Josh Shapiro a few months after his firm received a $1 million construction inspection services contract in Montgomery County. Why Shapiro accepted money from someone who admitted to bribery is a question that Republican nominee John Rafferty might want to ask.

Maybe McTish was buying insurance from another political hack. Whatever his motive, his luck has run out. The feds, unlike political prosecutors, don't play that game.

In recent days, they've been awful busy. On Friday, Governor Rendell's former Chief of Staff, John Estey, pleaded guilty to stealing $13,000 of $20,000 in sting money provided to him by the FBI. He donated the remaining $7,000 to then State Rep. Josh Shapiro ($2,500), State Rep. Dwight Evans ($1,000), State Sen. Vincent Hughes ($2,000), State Sen. Larry Farnese ($1,000) and State Sen. John Yudichak ($500). All either are or were Philadelphia politicians with deep ties to Ed Rendell and Dem party boss Marcel Groen.

One of these donees, Larry Farnese, has been indicted, too. On Tuesday, he was charged with misusing campaign funds in a vote-buying scheme to get himself elected to a ward leader position in Philly. The feds are obviously trying to roll him to name other people who have participated in a pay-to-play culture that was so apparent in the turnpike investigation that Kane ignored.

Evans is now running for the U.S. Congress, having beaten Chakah Fattah in the primary. Fattah is currently on trial for political corruption.

And Josh Shapiro, believe it or not, is the Democratic nominee for Attorney General.

He is connected to Estey and McTish and is an active participant in the pay-to-play culture that has gravitated out of Philly and extended its tentacles into Allentown and Reading.  But don't worry. He has an "integrity agenda."

Feds are doing their best to eradicate the rampant bribery and extortion going on between vendors like McTish and public officials like Pawlowski..This is a statewide problem, not just a local nightmare.

Getting closer to home, feds are reportedly looking at vacation stays by Fed Ed and his family at the Florida Keys home of Richard Somach, a partner in the Norris, McLaughlin law firm known as "Law Firm #4."

Jennifer Mann reportedly also spent time at Somach's Florida Keys home when she was a State Representative.

Neither Fed Ed nor Mann disclosed these vacations on their Statements of Financial Interests.

Also, in the first real sign of his involvement in this mess, NIZ developer J.B. Reilly also made his summer home in New Jersey available to Fed Ed. .

Instead of integrity agendas and other such bullshit, Pennsylvania needs to take a much harder line on campaign finances than it has ever done. But its legislative branch is a big part of the problem.

Updated 10:00 am: Does this culture of corruption include the rest of the Lehigh Valley? In Nazareth, we have a mayor charged with $8,000 in felony theft, and he and his Council think it's perfectly OK for him to stay in office. Bethlehem politicians are largely funded by CRIZ developers. In Easton, where its Mayor has used at least two false names to manipulate public opinion at lehifh Valley Live, we watch as the City forefeits $500,000 in billboard rent in a settlement with entrepreneur Abe Atiyeh. Only one Council member, Pete Melan, recuses himself. Decimated newspapers miss most of these stories, or purposely avoid writing about them for fear of losing access.

The McTish- Mann connection: - McTish was using former State Rep. and NIZ Queen Jennifer Mann as a "consultant" until the end of 2015, when he realized he as going tets-up. He also contributed $5,000 to Mann's dishonestly named "For the People" PAC. She also raked in $2,000 from Ramzi Haddad, who pleaded guilty to bribery.  she paid approximately that amount for lunches between January and March, and charged it to "For the People."

71 comments:

Don't care anymore said...

These are the reasons why people don't give a fuck anymore. It's as if everything you are taught growing up is a lie.

Anonymous said...

The Church on the Move will be implicated soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Judging from results to date, our statewide Republican operatives have been much better at hiding things.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

BO I don't know how true this is but I heard that Jennifer Mann represented mctish?

Anonymous said...

The only reason Wolf isn't on this list because he hasn't been in office long enough.

Or maybe it's because he's more incompetent than corrupt;

Anonymous said...

So because your elected, you can't have friends and visit them at their homes in jersey or Florida? Why? Did they get free airfare to go on these trips, free food, free gas to drive. This is just becoming stupid. If I run for office I will have to report everything I do to everybody all the time because of a possible scenario that some fed can come up with and say that I am on the take. No wonder no one wants to run, or vote anymore!

Anonymous said...

7:05 Yes. Being honest and ethical is hard. Perhaps you shouldn't run for office.

Anonymous said...

7:05 Politicians when elected live in glass houses. If you want your private live back, then get out of politics

Anonymous said...

Politicians who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones! Vote incumbents out!

Anonymous said...

The name is Church on the Run?! There are also palumps profiteer campaign donors that flipp properties and the legal people involved than last but far not least the insurers there of, the home owner dream teams or in other words nightmares for home owners still surviving there reign of terror?!
The first are the actors of this circus that work for there plea deals with the latter parts colluding together all as one!?!?!
Re;publican redd

Anonymous said...

http://illegaleldredtwplanduse.blogspot.com/

on a smaller scale - but part of the culture

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

EXACTLY, 7:59 AM!

It's no longer possible to tell the "good guys from the bad guys." I don't care if your representative in office now is a Democrat or a Republican, same as you. With some of these politicians you can win, yet LOSE all at the same time.

Think about it. When ants overrun your patio, you don't just spray half of them!

We need fresh faces in government. Can't wait another decade to clean-up this mess. Doesn't matter if your vote goes to a Democrat, Republican, or any other party. Just give someone else a chance.

Vote against your incumbent politician. If they make it through, they'll still get an important lesson.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

Good article. Would love to see MANY of these "politicians" hit with more than a slap on the wrist. So blatant.

Jen Mann went from her father's Pawn Shop business to politics. Now a consultant with a nice BIG house in Allentown's West End by the Rose Gardens. Aint politics great!

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

Don't be too sure the feds want to sully the democratic reputation in pa before the November election, if you think the feds are upright you are dead wrong, what has happened to IRS corruption, fast and furious, Hillary's emails, The corruption is widespread, it is a national problem. Obama may very well put everything on hold till after the election.It will not be corrected until the people demand it. I remember when Rendell was in office and allowed one of his administration to buy Philadelphia waterfront property for $100,000, who then resold it for millions. because Rendell had a nice smile and was an eagles fan, he could do no wrong. American voters are much like young women, tell them you love them and promise them fancy things and they will follow you anywhere.

Anonymous said...

The stink from the Democratic Party goes from the bottom to the top of the ticket

Anonymous said...

Reduce the PA House of Representatives by 50% then at least, there will be 50% less corrupt politicians accepting bribes to do business in PA...

Bernie O'Hare said...

No question that most of the people mentioned here are Democrats in one-party towns. But do not delude yourself into thinking only Dems are afflicted. There are numerous GOP examples. It seems to go in cycles. In the western part of the state, we recently had have Senator Orie and Justice Joan Orie Melvin. We had Justice Larsen, House Speaker Purzel, a Republican, briefly sharing a cell with Bill DeWeese, a Democrat. Overall, Dems take the lead. I think that nonpartisan local races might help this one-party town mentality, but would like to see how it works in other communities. Maybe I'll tell the legislature I'm a consultant and have them send meon a fact-finding mission.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Don't be too sure the feds want to sully the democratic reputation in pa before the November election"

It's safe to say it's already sullied.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:28, Let's not anonymously smear another official unless you have specific fact to add to your comment. I aminterested in good government, not political hay making.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"http://illegaleldredtwplanduse.blogspot.com/

on a smaller scale - but part of the culture "


Absolutely. Water is the new gold.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So because your elected, you can't have friends and visit them at their homes in jersey or Florida? Why?"

Do you think Fed Ed and Somach or Reilly are really friends? They are receiving free lodging for vacations and should have reported it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"BO I don't know how true this is but I heard that Jennifer Mann represented mctish? "

She did. He was a clientof hers until the end of the year. he duped her when he realized he was going don.he also contributed $5,000 to her PAC, which she dishonestly named "For the People."

Anonymous said...

704..the Mcall reported Fleck, Pawlowski and a developer had a meeting after the primary where an attempt to muscle then candidate Wolf for an appointment and other support. As sources stated and Mcall reported, Wolf left the meeting in disgust stating he never wanted to meet with them again. He saw right through themy. I have that conversation was on tape. It appears Wolf had some moral sense to reject Pawlowski.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You have that conversation on tape, do you? Unless you had clearance from a federal judge, you broke the law. Stop the nonsense.

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear a tape of wolf and teachers union, I bet that would be an eye opener.

Anonymous said...

Can I assume that if the FBI "calls me in for a conversation" I can define what questions they can ask?

Yeah...sure!

Anonymous said...

10:10 I bet I know who would be directing the conversation and giving the orders...

Anonymous said...

And the big question remains unanswered....how much revenue did the digital billboards generate between time of construction and when they were quickly divested after the Pawlowski investigation was revealed? Did all those in-kind advertisement with true monetary value benefit the City in any way? Let's not forget these exist because council gave the Supreme leader super powers to override city ordinance with a simple stroke of his pen. The same billboards that were constructed over night with permits that allowed a diesel generator to be placed in a riparian buffer with no secondary containment? Was the overnight construction meant to circumvent public objection to these billboard? We know there were objections to the one on southside. The benefits to the city are still unknown.

Patriot2 said...

Might want to look into McTish/Bob Donchez relationship as I understand he served on Donchez public works transition team. Sooner or later this investigation will move from Allentown/Reading to Bethlehem where Lisa Boscola rules supreme & Donchez/Reynolds carry the water for CRIZ developers bullying their way over constituent objections.

Ron Beitler said...

The reason why we don't vote out incumbents en masse in state government is the "Every other representative is the problem not mine, mine is different!" mentality. "Mine is the exception to the rule."

Take the 131st. An incumbent who broke a term limit pledge gets re-elected in a primary by huge margins. Now, the challenger was weak but I think this rep is secure in his seat for as long as he wants. In the general there will be a write in opponent I believe, but regardless the district is so gerrymandered it will never swing in a general.

This isn't unique to the 131st. As you get to know someone you build relationships. People trust those they are familiar with. This is why we need term limits now. To protect incumbents against themselves. The convoluted logic to break term limit pledges is hysterical. But people both the candidate and the voters actually believe it. For the record I think this legislator does a decent enough job, but that doesn't supersede inflexible my belief in term limits.

In Harrisburg we need right now:
1. Term limits now and tweak the terms. (3) four year terms for reps. (2) 6 year terms for Senate. 2 years is entirely too short. State reps start campaigning for next election virtually the day after they win.

2. Reduce the size of PA government so state rep districts to have 85k people within. Still small enough to maintain constituent services at current level which people (esp seniors) are accustomed to. But still large enough to eliminate 52 positions entirely. I think this is the right number.

3. Eliminate pensions for elected officials. I'm OK with the salaries since I believe in a FT state leg but they should be adjusted to be the median for the district represented. It is a FT job, but it's not a career. Pension = career.

4. Enact resign to run rules. (should apply to any full time elected position that draws a taxpayer funded salary)

5. End gerrymandering. Take the politics out of redistricting.

Anonymous said...

When will this madness end? Fed Ed needs to resign NOW!!

Anonymous said...

BOH. Apparently, autocorrect changed "hope" to "have" and I regret and apologize for that. I have no knowledge of any tape. The meeting was reported in the Mcall on Aug 18th and was based on multiple sources according to the paper. The article stated Wolf said he would not be making any promises as he made his way to the door. My point was that Wolf had enough sense not to play into any request.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Damn auto-correct. Thanks for the explanation. That makes much more sense than what appeared initially.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ron Beitler, I think it might be a good idea to list a number of reforms and begin to advocate them. And since a person like you and especially myself will not be taken seriously, we need to enlist good government groups like CommonCausePa, the Committee of Seventy and the LWV. I am going to begin work on listing reforms.

Anyone who wants to add to Ron's list, please chime in. This is participatory journalism. I can put it all together.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Patriot2, Bob Donchez did receive $ from McTish as well as numerous city developers and vendors. Without question, this illustrates a culture of corruption even though I have the highest regard for Bob's personal integrity. My question to you is what changes would you make? Would you limit contributions? Ban them altogether? I am aware of what the problem is, bit would like possible solutions, and ones that would be accepted in the courts.

Anonymous said...

Poster at 9:05, again we have a winner. 9:05 wins the golden teabag award for being the first poster to mention Obama and Clinton on a post that has nothing to do with them. You golden teabag is in the mail;.

Congratulations and keep on swinging!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have just deleted six anonymous personal attacks at Ron Beitler. You need to ID yourself if you want to slam him for being critical of Justin Simmons. And his comment was in the context of improving government. Do you have any concrete suggestions? If so, you can share them anonymously, but I want to stick to the main topic and you are detracting from it.

JoAnn Kennedy said...

I wish this article had a like button, I Have been asking this question on my blogs for years now, along with other notables like Lou Jaskoff of the WB Independent Gazette and Sanity Check Radio, and Mike Ferrance of the Trib. (Pittsburgh) . Other's like Joel Sucher, and Clinton Kirby Independents who contribute articles on white collar criminal crime, who write and then the media complains about loosing advertising dollars. Ben Garrison is an independent cartoonist and illustrates his befuddlement (last week one of his cartoon buddies got fired for a cartoon that media found offensive ) Like the sticker gang, any opinions that are expressed but not appreciated will be met with swift consequences sans Constitutional rights

Anonymous said...

And they are all good church going members within their communities. All DEVOTE CHRISTIANS-

Anonymous said...

Did I read the article in the MCall this morning correctly? McTish's current criminal defense attorney is the same woman who was supposedly prosecuting him for the Turnpike scandal?

That was the case when everyone admitted massive amounts of bribery, but NO ONE SPENT A DAY IN JAIL. They just promised not to do it again. That promise apparently didn't last long.

Anonymous said...

The Republic is doomed. Thank your corrupt politicians for selling our manufacturing jobs to mexico and korea. The taxpayers bailed out GM and they built a new $400 million facility in Mexico. Detroit looks like a war zone and your neighborhood is next.

Ron Beitler said...

That did not take long for the trolls to come out. :)

The whole thing is only in part critical of Justin. Moreso the system... I also know who the anons are and they reflect poorly on Justin.

Back to subject of reform..Here is an example. I went to a debate where Simmons talked about (paraphrasing) something along the lines of "freshman junior reps are the ones getting the diet sodas for those with seniority"... It was I suppose an argument to not elect a new rep. That since Simmons put in his time, now he is finally in a position to get things done...

Meaning fall in line. Learn your place. Don't make waves. Right there, that is the problem. And term limits immediately and totally wipes out the do nothing power structure.

Turn the whole legislative body over every few years. Yes, there will be casualties of losing some truly good public servants but the positive benefit of avoiding and flushing out all the do nothing career placeholders is well worth it.

Anonymous said...

So, Beitler can attack Justin. Yet, no one can comment back. The biased opinions are showing.

Anonymous said...

PA is the most corrupt state in the Union.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_state_and_local_politicians_convicted_of_crimes#Pennsylvania

Great list and it doesn't even cover people who were investigated, but let off with a slap on the wrist.

Hank_Hill

Agent 99 said...

You can attack only if you have the courage to sign your own name

Bernie O'Hare said...

Exactly. Sign your name. And don't hijack this blog with all kinds of irrelevant comments.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Did I read the article in the MCall this morning correctly? McTish's current criminal defense attorney is the same woman who was supposedly prosecuting him for the Turnpike scandal?

That was the case when everyone admitted massive amounts of bribery, but NO ONE SPENT A DAY IN JAIL. They just promised not to do it again. That promise apparently didn't last long."


McTish was not even prosecuted in that matter, despite admitting to his guilt.

Anonymous said...

None of it would have worked without Public Official No.5.

Ron Beitler said...

Donna you constantly fail to see the bigger picture. I go out of my way to praise Justin as a decent enough legislator who is mostly grounded in a lot of the same principles I believe in. But you choose instead to focus on the one (valid) criticism I've made. That is the broken term limit pledge but moreso in the grand scheme the lack of term limits that would negate the need for pledges. It's big picture. Nothing is personal. Even though you constantly make things personal. I talked about term limits long before Justin broke his pledge.

If you want to tell us why you don't believe in term limits please do that. But stop making everything so personal. It's exhausting. And pointless. BOH's post was about the culture of corruption in Harrisburg. No, I don't think Justin is corrupt but I think the system fosters corruption. And I think term limits is one of many reforms to address it.

Harrisburg should be a calling not a career. It's not a vocation. If a state Rep. does a good job than run for the state senate (with a term limit). Or better yet take your talents to congress. The cream rises. Placeholders go away. I have no problem with continued service. Just not in the same position where one can get stale. Preferably not in the same legislative or governmental body. I've seen what happens when career minded pols get comfortable and stale in the same position. Status quo.

Also:
-Less time in office means less likelihood your influenced by special interests and lobbyists.
-Reduces the influence of money in politics in general.
-Scales back the fact that careers who are most adept at "politics" (as opposed to governing) are usually the ones who get prized committee appointments which are usually also based on seniority rather than talent. It becomes a sticks and carrot game.
-And most important as laid out by the founders.... even the best of us, when given power, most will eventually be corrupted by it. It's simple human nature. Term limits protect us against ourselves. The longer your in a position of power the easier and easier it becomes to convince yourself that the ends justify the means if you have "good intentions". For ex. Allentown, Mayor.

Peter J.Cochran said...

BERNIE, IF I COuld be dictator or a month --I would have all the people that VIOLATED PUBLIC TRUST in court --and IF found GUILTY I would have them hung from bridges ,with a sign that would say ,-'I SCREWED YOU THE TAX PAYER'.

Peter J.Cochran said...

I WOULD HAVE the Clinton arrested tomorrow for example . Mrs. Clinton is a criminal that will not get indited ,because we- the AMERICAN PUBLIC have to go throu OBAMA ,FEMALE appointees TO get her indited . This is horse crap. She hung out those EMBASSY people and did not run the MARINES in froM ROTA,Spain that could have stopped THIS issues. She wanted them dead,the dead don't tell- as result, because they knew WE were doing 'business ' with folks that had been know to kill our troops in past. This was over the hand held missiles that we wanted back from Libyans . WELL FOLKS take it from me STINGER missiles -DEGRADE and become useless after time.

Anonymous said...

Peter with you speaking of this screwing of the tax payers!?!? That brings to mind in today's news LVHN formally the great Allentown hospital circus sideshow pedotrition?!?!
I seem to Re:member a recent incident in admittance were attending order rent a pig up for wandding in room 5.?!? What the hell is wandding and what the hell was the attending and rent a pig riding in there chairs?!?!
Re:publican redd

Anonymous said...

This is why I enjoy your articles about Hanover Township, Northampton County. There are some well run local governments in Lehigh Valley with honest elected officials and competent management that deliver quality services with modest tax rates.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have just deleted several additional OT anonymous personal attacks, as well as a reply from the target. Stick to the subject or be deleted. I have made that clear.

Anonymous said...

Who is Public Official #5???

Bernie O'Hare said...

I've already indicated, in the post immediately below this one, that Public official #5 is most likely Fran Dougherty.

Anonymous said...

Bernie there was no mention of public official 4 yet. Do u know anything relating to that?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Not yet.

Anonymous said...

Bernie do you think others will plead guilty soon?

Anonymous said...

The same people who bitch and moan about these criminals will once again vote for them , financially support them, and vote a straight party ticket regardless of the crimes. I am not sure what is more vile and disgusting,, the so called public servants and their crimes against the People or the fools who keep voting them in to office. What will it take for a majority of the people to wake the hell up ?
Only in govt does a person who commits these crimes get slaps on the wrist and reelected and given more power and authority and control to impact our lives.

Anonymous said...

Yall dont kno the half of this story, mayor got some serious nutz taking handouts without makin good on his promises...good thang ya boy got it all on tape! Rob Ford? Mayor Ed's bigscreen debut will make Marion Barry look good lol
]
Nate Whips

Anonymous said...

Fleck made sure the wheels were greased.
Number Five made sure the deals came through, or didn't.

JoAnn Kennedy said...

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/05/district_judge_accused_of_stea.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

JoAnn Kennedy said...

http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-allentown-fbi-fran-dougherty-resigns-20160418-story.html Any relation ?? and how about that new Supreme court justice and the Philly union boss -- cousins? perhaps ??

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dougherty, like Kennedy, is a common Irish surname. There could be a connection. Or not.

Anonymous said...

I think somewhere in the list of public officials are Sara Hailstone & Cynthia Mota. Sara may be more of a witness. Cynthia definitely changed her vote after receiving an expensed paid trip to NJ for her Delta Thermo vote change.

Anonymous said...

Bernie...you might be the only one I know of that can flip a coin and have it land on it's edge.

I've read your self deprecating remarks and how some folks call you a slug or slime but you can crawl along the razors edge and not get hurt.

You got "big medicine", I don't know how you do it.

I have always thought a good person is the aberration, and that corruption is the norm, and just how everything works. But why shouldn't I think that, I grew up in PA.


Anonymous said...

Maybe it is just a human weakness like drug use, some can resist, but the stakes keep getting higher and may involve personal danger until one relents.

Perhaps these expensive homes and vacation destinations used in the commission of these crimes should be confiscated the way it's done to drug dealers. Liquidate the personal assets and companies and add them to the public treasury.

Anonymous said...

What is done in the dark will be brought to the light. Thank you Bernie for holding the light.

Anon said...

Bull McTish knew what he was doing! Hills excuse he knew it was wrong is baloney! Make him pay just like the others. He got off on the previous scandal in 2013. Don't let him walk again! The newspapers reported that the company had enacted a ethics training program. Well that was only after the fact that he got caught! Good luck McTish.