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20090317 Post Gazette Emails Suggest DeWeese Knew of Bonuses

20090317 Post Gazette Emails Suggest DeWeese Knew of Bonuses

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Published by: Rock Quarry on Dec 11, 2011
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11/14/2012

Emails suggest DeWeese knew of bonuses Former House Democratic leader's spokesman denies knowledge of taxpayer-funded rewards

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 By Tracie Mauriello and Dennis B. Roddy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette HARRISBURG -- A trail of e-mail messages has surfaced suggesting that former House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese may have known all along that tax dollars were being used to reward aides for work on political campaigns. Mr. DeWeese maintains he knew nothing about the scheme to use state money to reward campaign work, which became the focus of an ongoing grand jury investigation that so far has resulted in 12 arrests. "I can't thank you enough for the bonus for campaigning. I am speechless as most of us are," research analyst Karen Steiner wrote in a December 2004 e-mail message to Mr. DeWeese, D-Waynesburg, and former House Whip Mike Veon, D-Beaver Falls. She received a $1,000 bonus that year, according to grand jury documents. A short response, "UR welcome," came from Mr. DeWeese's e-mail account. Mr. DeWeese's spokesman, Tom Andrews, said yesterday his boss doesn't remember the e-mail message. Because it was sent just before the holidays, Mr. DeWeese would have assumed it was for "the usual small Christmas bonuses" that were as little as $65, he said. That, however, doesn't explain the response to two other e-mail thank you messages sent to Mr. DeWeese and Mr. Veon in August 2006. Copies of those messages, along with those between Ms. Steiner and Mr. DeWeese, were provided as part of the discovery process for one of the defendants who faces trial in Dauphin County Common Pleas Court in the alleged bonus distribution scheme. The messages were furnished to Bryan Walk, an attorney representing Brett Cott, a former Democratic staffer who is charged with theft and conflict of interest. In one message, Mr. Cott writes, "Just got home and got my mail. Thanks for the generous bonus." The response that came from Mr. DeWeese's account read "U earned it." The bonus was $25,065. In the other message, Rachel Manzo, another defendant in the bonus case, wrote, "I sincerely appreciate the recent, unexpected meritorious bonus." The response sent from Mr. DeWeese's account was "U bet!!" She received $15,185.

Sources close to the investigation say the Steiner e-mail was discovered in April or May of 2008 by a team of 18 lawyers retained by the Democratic caucus to handsearch of tens of thousands of e-mail messages sent to or from 51 caucus staffers as well as Mr. DeÂWeese and former state Rep. Chris King. Immediately after finding the Steiner e-mail message, those attorneys delivered it to prosecutors, the sources said. Ms. Steiner has not been charged with any wrongdoing and remains on the caucus staff. Mr. Andrews said the e-mail messages were among tens of thousands of documents that the caucus turned over to prosecutors in the state attorney general's office. "Prosecutors did not charge Rep. Mr. DeWeese. That's because of the overwhelming amount of evidence that he did not know of the political bonus scheme. Of the many dozens of e-mails that discussed the bonus program in advance, Bill DeWeese was not copied on any of them," Mr. Andrews said. "Prosecutors came to the same conclusion." Mrs. Manzo's husband, Mike Manzo, has said that Mr. DeWeese did know. Mr. Manzo is a defendant in the case and a former top Democratic aide. He testified at a preliminary hearing last year that Mr. DeÂWeese was aware that state money was being used to reward staffers for campaign work. That testimony was offered as part of a plea agreement. The caucus gave a total of $1.9 million in bonuses in 2006. Most of the largest checks went to staffers who were extensively involved in political campaigns of incumbents, including Mr. DeWeese and Mr. Veon.

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