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“As I See It”

Editorial fails to show true picture
by Bill DeWeese Wednesday March 25, 2009, 5:00 AM After 33 years as a public official, I fully understand that criticism often comes with the job. However, I can't allow your March 19 editorial ("DeWeese's latest controversy just stirs up more questions") to go without a response. At my direction as majority leader during the 2007-08 session, the House Democratic Caucus fully supported the attorney general's investigation of all four legislative caucuses. I instructed our staff to keep all documents -- destroy nothing -- and I encouraged our employees to cooperate fully with investigators. The e-mails recently in the news were sent to the prosecutors by me and our counsel in 2007 and 2008. We cooperated. Prosecutors interviewed some 200 witnesses and reviewed tens of thousands of documents -- including the recently published e-mails. As the July 2008 grand jury presentment pointed out, of the many dozens of e-mails that discussed the bonus program in advance, I was not copied on any of them. Further, the overwhelming amount of evidence shows that I did not know of the political bonus scheme. If a small group of people are going to steal from the company, they don't tell the boss. My former chief of staff told prosecutors on two separate occasions with House attorneys in the room that I was not involved. To suggest otherwise has no basis in fact. As to the claim in your editorial that I "wasn't paying attention all these years," it's important to recognize that, like any good leader, I delegated certain duties to my subordinates, many of whom were well-regarded for their instincts and work ethic by plenty of people inside and outside the halls of the Capitol (notwithstanding what is alleged to have transpired in recent years). Since 2003, I have been one of the chief House negotiators for Gov. Ed Rendell's substantive and progressive agenda. Unlike some of my colleagues, I also strongly believe that authorship of legislation isn't the only sign of good leadership.

Good leadership also means spreading the credit to my colleagues throughout the House Democratic Caucus. Throughout the years I was heavily involved in promoting the following issues: Improving the state's 50-year-old Right-to-Know law and for the first time including the General Assembly (Act 3 of 2008); ensuring the nation's strongest Coal Mine Safety law (Act 5 of 2008); creating the Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform, which resulted in the end of latenight voting; The posting of roll-call votes online and more than 30 other improvements to the legislative process in the state House of Representatives (2007); increasing the state's minimum wage (Act 112 of 2006); legalizing slots at racetracks to reduce homeowner property taxes across the state by more than $700 million last year (Act 71 of 2004); Prohibiting political fundraising events at the Governor's Residence and the Lieutenant Governor's Mansion (Act 212 of 1986). As you can see, I have been busy trying to make sure that Pennsylvania is a better place to raise a family and run a business. BILL DeWEESE is House Majority Whip in the 50th Legislative District