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Pennsylvania: 12 pols and staffers charged in "Bonusgate" arrests, some for work on anti-Nader case

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: Grand jurors here [Harrisburg] and in Pittsburgh cataloged what they described as a culture of corruption that allowed former state Rep. Michael Veon, current Rep. Sean Ramaley and 10 current and former Democratic staffers to divert millions of dollars in state resources, including more than $1 million in illegal pay bonuses.

The jurors said Mr. Veon and the staff members conspired to arrange hefty year-end pay bonuses to House employees who worked on political campaigns over a three-year period, while Mr. Ramaley is accused of working full-time on his 2004 House campaign in Beaver County while drawing a taxpayer salary as a member of Mr. Veon's staff.

The findings ran from the political to the salacious.

It found that tax money was used to bump third-party candidates Ralph Nader and Carl Romanelli from the Pennsylvania ballot in 2004 and 2006. Grand jurors said state money was used to provide a no-work job to a high-ranking House aide's mistress. -- 12 face charges in bonus scandal

Lancaster Online reports: The Harrisburg Patriot-News previously reported that all four legislative caucuses paid nearly $4 million in bonuses to state employees over the last few years. The grand jury investigating the allegations, dubbed Bonusgate, found that House Democrats paid the most $1.2 million in bonuses for campaign activities from 2004 to 2006. ...

According to the grand jury, Paul Resch, of Columbia, Darlene Zerbe, of Lancaster and Jonathan Price, of Clay Township, were among at least 36 caucus employees who worked to challenge independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's nominating petitions in 2004. The three local Democrats were not charged.

Democratic challenges resulted in Nader being knocked off the ballot, giving Democratic nominee John Kerry a better chance at winning the state that year. The grand jury report says none of the supervisors of a "veritable army of caucus staffers" ever asked the workers to take unpaid leave, and that the bulk of the research was done in the Capitol complex and in Veon's Beaver Falls district office.

The grand jury said Resch and Zerbe received unspecified bonuses for the Nader work; Price did not. Elsewhere in the report, the grand jury says Price, a Clay Township supervisor, was one of about 17 caucus employees assigned to work against state Senate candidate Mike Diven, a "thorn in the side" of Veon, in a 2005 special election in Allegheny County. -- Scandal touches 3 other Demos

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