Capitolwire: Shapiro calls for DeWeese to resign as Leader.

DeWeese says Shapiro resignation call is due to his being "distraught since he was named in the Grand Jury’s presentment in July and I believe that his actions are motivated, at least in part, by undue concern about his own exposure.” Shapiro responded: "Bill is wrong on the facts and the merits -- and it doesn't change one reason why he needs to resign. He can attack me all he wants. I figured he would -- it's what the wounded do. But it doesn't change the fact that he needs to resign as leader." By Peter L. DeCoursey Bureau Chief Capitolwire HARRISBURG (Aug. 4) – Deputy Speaker Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, whose strategy helped House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, win that post 19 months ago, today called for DeWeese to step down as caucus leader in the wake of the Bonusgate investigation and felony charges it produced. For the full text of Shapiro's statement, CLICK HERE.. Attorney General Tom Corbett charged one current and one former House Democratic lawmaker, former Minority Whip Mike Veon, D-Beaver, and 10 top former or suspended staffers with a combined hundreds of felony counts for, Corbett alleged, misusing public money and staff time for personal and campaign gain. Shapiro made his comments in the anteroom of the Capitol pressroom, then answered questions. He became the sixth House Democrat to ask DeWeese to quit, and was soon followed by a seventh, Rep. Rick Taylor, D-Montgomery. The other House Democrats who asked for DeWeese to step down, in addition to Taylor and Shapiro, are: Reps. Bill Keller, Philadelphia, Dan Frankel, Matt Smith and Harry Readshaw of Allegheny and John Yudichak of Luzerne. Shapiro is the first of the House Democrats to call for DeWeese's ouster as leader, who has had a productive and cooperative, relationship with DeWeese, although the two have disagreed publicly on several reform issues. Shapiro said that after the Bonusgate charges became public, even though he did not know what DeWeese knew and when he knew it, DeWeese had to step down as caucus leader. "The fact is that the abuses outlined in the presentments occurred on Bill’s watch and, as such, he will always be a symbol of a broken system. "As the Democratic Leader he should take responsibility and resign his leadership post. Shapiro said House Democrats could not reform the institution, serve the public as they deserve, pass major initiatives like health care reform or perhaps even hold their majority, “if Bill DeWeese remains the face of our caucus. ... We need a cultural change in the Capitol.

“We need leaders who are committed to transformational reform. We need a monumental shift, and we need it now. We can't do better, at least in our caucus, until we dedicate ourselves to a new direction. And as a first step in this direction, I believe it is imperative that Bill DeWeese resign as House Majority Leader. Shapiro said DeWeese has lost the trust of the public and "I am convinced that Bill DeWeese, even if he said he wanted to, is incapable of directing, orchestrating and choreographing that fundamental change." DeWeese responded in a prepared statement by touting his legislative and caucus record and writing: “Josh’s unfortunate statements today serve only to distract from the important work of the House of Representatives in the upcoming months." “On a personal note, I am saddened that Josh would take this public shot at me. I know he has been distraught since he was named in the Grand Jury’s presentment in July and I believe that his actions are motivated, at least in part, by undue concern about his own exposure.” Shapiro's name appears once in the grand jury report, with no charges or allegations attached, and not even a mention of his first name. In an e-mail quoted in the report about a House staffer, Melanie Brown, being approved for a bonus by former House Democratic chief of staff Mike Manzo, she is mentioned as campaigning door to door for Shapiro with her kids along with her. Shapiro responded by e-mail: "Bill is wrong on the facts and the merits -- and it doesn't change one reason why he needs to resign. He can attack me all he wants. I figured he would: it's what the wounded do. But it doesn't change the fact that he needs to resign as leader." Rep. Brian Lentz, D-Delaware, a Shapiro friend and ally who has not taken a position on DeWeese's leadership post, said: "I believe that is a sincere position of Josh’s that a lot of people share. His motives should not be attacked." Shapiro also said: "... With such ambivalence toward the Republican brand in Pennsylvania and around the country that we should be able to sweep many more Democrats into the Legislature this November and be in a stronger position to pass health care for the uninsured, property tax relief and dramatically increase funding for public education. "Bill DeWeese’s presence as the leader of our caucus — the face of our caucus — dramatically undermines that effort to expand our majority, and may even compromise it." State government reformer and former DeWeese spokesman Tim Potts questioned whether House Democrats and Shapiro were as committed to deep reform as Shapiro said. But as far as the fall campaign is concerned, Potts wrote: "Democrats are done unless they embrace reform that is deep, broad and high."

House Republican candidates apparently agree the DeWeese issue could be good for them. Ray Zaborney, spokesman for Republican Frank Farry, challenging Rep. Chris King, D-Bucks, said on Monday: “The voters of the 142nd District want to know where Chris King stands on the corrupt Democratic Leadership in the House of Representatives. Either he should call for Deweese’s resignation as Democratic leader or he should explain why he supports Deweese in light of the Attorney General’s recent indictments.” King is a former House Democratic staffer who won in 2006 and is seeking re-election. “Chris King has worked in Harrisburg and has had a long relationship with Bill Deweese and Mike Veon. It is time for him to tell us if he stands with the Democratic Leadership or with the people of the 142nd District,” Zaborney said. “He can’t have it both ways.” Less than two hours after Shapiro made his statement, his fellow Montgomery County House Democrat, freshman Rick Taylor, the top House Republican fall campaign target in eastern Pennsylvania, joined him. After weeks of not commenting, Taylor Monday released a statement mostly calling for his opponent, Republican Todd Stephens to resign as assistant district attorney in Montgomery County. Taylor said Stephens accepted campaign contributions from attorneys with cases pending against him in court. Taylor's statement added: “I have also spoken with Representative DeWeese and asked him to resign his role as Majority leader. He has become a lightning rod for controversy, and we need to get back to the issues. Unfortunately this scandal has cast a cloud over our efforts to reform Harrisburg and the accomplishments we have already achieved.” Shapiro said he would not run for caucus leader, and sources said Shapiro could not win such a race in any case. Asked if the second- and third-ranking House Democratic leaders, Appropriations Committee Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, and House Majority Whip Keith McCall, D-Carbon, fit the bill as the "transformational" reformers needed by House Democrats, Shapiro said he did not know and the caucus needed to discuss who should lead it next. But sources said Shapiro would likely work with McCall and Evans to secure DeWeese's leadership resignation, if Evans decided to adopt that goal. Evans has declined to answer questions about the matter. After Shapiro's Monday comments, DeWeese critic and legislative reformer Eric Epstein said: “This is an important statement and dramatic moment because Josh Shapiro is the titular and symbolic leader of the reform movement in the House. And remember, Josh engineered making Denny O’Brien Speaker, so Bill could be majority leader, and the Democrats wouldn't be in the minority in the House, after winning the majority in the last election." Three long-time DeWeese enemies defected and voted for House Speaker John Perzel, RPhiladelphia, so that DeWeese would have lost the Speakership election in January of 2007,

DeWeese conceded. But Shapiro got O'Brien to run as the House Democratic candidate, with six House GOP anti-Perzel supporters, so that House Democrats gained a 103-100 working majority. Epstein called Shapiro, who first got O'Brien to explore the idea, and then met with Evans, DeWeese, O'Brien and Gov. Ed Rendell to finalize the deal, "one of the fathers of the current leadership. This is the most significant member of the caucus to ask for Bill’s head so far. The response to this will tell us a lot. If this does not generate a groundswell of opposition that sweeps Bill from office, Bill will likely be in leadership for the rest of this year.”