DA seeks $2.7M from Jane Orie

Published by Tim McNulty on .

From Paula Reed Ward at the main site:

In a filing prepared for the judge who will sentence former state Sen. Jane C. Orie next month, the Allegheny County District Attorney's office said it is seeking more than $1.3 million in damages related to her conviction on ethics act violations.

That's on top of $1.2 million it has requested to be repaid that the Pennsylvania Senate spent toward defending the criminal case, as well as another $200,000 it is seeking in forfeiture from the McCandless Republican's campaign finance account and her pension.

Ms. Orie was convicted in March on 14 of 24 criminal counts against her, including five felonies. A jury found her guiltyof theft of services, forgery, tampering with evidence and ethics acts violations after deliberating for five days.

The lengthy document filed by Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus lays out in detail for Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning how much money the prosecution believes Ms. Orie is responsible to pay.

The biggest chunk of that comes from what Mr. Claus called the "pecuniary benefit" she received by using her legislative staff to run her re-election fundraising.

"Testimony at trial established that to pay professional fund raisers would have cost the defendant 10 to 15 percent of the amount raised," Mr. Claus wrote. "Defendant's misuse of her staff included directing individuals to perform fundraising work."

Campaign finance reports show she raised $1.8 million, and at a 10 percent fee, multiplied by three as the statute allows, prosecutors said, would equal $552,953.

In addition, Mr. Claus said that Ms. Orie received $260,028 in personal gain by using her staff members to do campaign work. When estimating the amount of time each staff member spent and multiplied by three, equals $780,084.

Mr. Claus also has asked the court to require Ms. Orie to pay the costs of prosecution.

"It is submitted that the assignment of costs to defendant is particularly appropriate due to forged and fraudulent documents that were used by the defendant in an attempt to influence jurors in her first criminal trial," he wrote.

One particular cost during the second trial, he noted, was "significant overtime costs" by the sheriff's office, totaling $5,173.

The DA's office also is seeking forfeiture of nearly $110,000 in a First National Bank account in the name of "Jane C. Orie for Senate Committee," as well as just under $90,000 of personal contributions in her state pension fund.

Ms. Orie's attorney, William Costopoulos, declined comment.


Casey up big over Smith: PPP poll

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Public Policy Polling is out with its second day of Pennsylvania findings, this time showing Bob Casey with a 16-point lead over GOP challenger Tom Smith and Democrat Kathleen Kane up 9 points in the state AG race vs David Freed. (Dems in the state Treasurer and Auditor General races are also ahead.)

Most interestingly, more Pa voters are also in favor of gay marriage, the pollsters say:

Pennsylvania voters still oppose gay marriage but they have moved by 7 points on the issue since PPP polled the state in November. 39% support it to 48% opposed. That 9 point margin is down from 16 points at 36/52 last fall. The most notable movement over that period of time has come with African Americans. They now narrowly support gay marriage, 42/41, after previously opposing it by a 52/34 margin.

The full results are here.


Metcalfe targets Planned Parenthood

Published by Administrator on .

From Michael Macagnone at the main site:

HARRISBURG -- State money would be steered away from Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers that perform abortions in Pennsylvania under a state House proposal unveiled today.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, said the bill would end the "flow of taxpayer money to support abortionists" during a press conference introducing the bill.

The bill, similar to legislation passed in states like Texas and cosponsored by several Republican legislators and pro-life groups, prioritizes funding for hospitals, rural healthcare clinics and other providers. It prohibits any public funds from going to organizations that provide certain types of abortions, even if the funds are not used for abortion procedures.

Mr. Metcalfe said that under House Bill 2405, Planned Parenthood would "not receive this money for their public relations arm." He dismissed claims that Planned Parenthood primarily provides other health-care services.

"They provide this testing to bring women in the front door, at the same time there is someone in the back room performing abortions," he said.

Mr. Metcalfe said one program in particular, involving $4 million in state funds and more in federal money, would be affected, but did not provide information about the total amount of state funding involved.

Rebecca Cavanaugh, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, said that abortions account for less than 5 percent of the organization's statewide operations.

Ms. Cavanaugh said the organization has six clinics across the region that do not provide abortions, and one that does in Downtown Pittsburgh. The health-care facilities provide health check-ups, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and breast cancer screenings.

Cutting state funds would affect more than 100,000 people who receive care from clinics in the state, she said.

"Politics should have no place in determining whether a woman should be able to get a breast exam," she said.

UPDATE: Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill harshly criticized the proposal in the statement below:

"The right-wing Republicans that control their party's agenda want to control women's basic health care, even down to telling them where they can get their annual cancer screenings," Frankel said. "To my mind, this is just one more battle in the Republican war on women."

Frankel continued, "The names of these bills always put women first: The Women's Right to Know Act, The Whole Woman's Health Funding Priorities Act. But let's be honest, these bills don't put women first. They put the Republican agenda first; so, let's give them their real names:

"The Republicans Promote Invasive Procedures Act.

"Rep. Metcalfe's Priorities for Women's Health.

"Now the legislation sounds as absurd as it is. The last time I checked, Rep. Metcalfe was neither a doctor, nor a nurse, nor a woman. Most Pennsylvanians know that being a member of the extreme right wing of the Republican Party does not qualify you to set the priorities for women's health."


Romney camp unfair to Rendell

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Ed Rendell obviously isn't the best messenger for the Obama campaign -- for one, he's always going off message (just ask 2010 Senate candidate Joe Sestak), he supported Hillary Clinton over Obama in 2008, and he's always good for a gaffe (see: Janet "No Life" Napolitano in 2008.) But the Romney campaign is going too far in saying he's breaking with the Obama camp over its attack ads on Bain capital.

Yes, Rendell was quoted yesterday as saying he was disappointed in the ads. And when he went on "Hardball" last night host Chris Matthews asked him if he was "with the Obama campaign as it's being run right now, or are you against it?" Rendell's first words were "Well, either/or."

That prompted an email (along with the clip above) from the Romney camp called "Former DNC Chairman Won't Endorse Obama Campaign As It's Being Run Now" with this line from a spokeswoman: "It's not every day that a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee declines to stand with his party's incumbent president."

Except in the full remarks Rendell clearly did endorse questioning Romney's record at Bain, while adding he's against attack ads generally. Here are his next comments as quoted by a MSNBC blog:

"Of course he has a right to go after Governor Romney's claim that he's a job creator because of his work at Bain— that's the main thrust of his rationale of why he should be elected president," Governor Rendell said. . .

When pressed by Matthews on whether he was, in fact, disappointed in Obama's campaign, Rendell said he was disappointed in virtually every political ad, because they focus on the negative points of the opposition. His only criticisms of Obama's Bain ads were with the specific wording, he said. "Would I make the ads a little different in tone? Sure I would," Rendell said. "But this deserves a full examination— whether Governor Romney is a job creator."

The full video is available here.


Obama SuperPAC counterpunches in ad

Published by Tim McNulty on .

A Romney ad. An anti-Obama SuperPAC ad based on focus group feedback. The massive ad spending against an incumbent Democratic senator in Ohio. A post Citizens United fight over posting TV advertising info online.

All of those ad-related stories were just from today and they will be continuing through November. Democrats and their allies know they will never keep pace with conservative-funded SuperPACs and nearly anonymous issue-oriented nonprofits (and are worried about it) but today an Obama-tied SuperPAC struck back in Pa and other states with their own ad . . . and a criticism of the Karl Rove-tied ad from CrossroadsGPS launching tomorrow in the state.

While the substance of the latest ad from Priorities USA Action, led by former Obama ad Bill Burton, is nothing new (it features another worker laid off after her company was taken over by Bain; see Jim O'Toole story today) Burton couldn't resist pointing out a major difference with Rove's ad. That one features a composite character scripted by stories from focus groups. From the NYT's Michael Shear:

“You don’t need actors to know the reality of how Mitt Romney’s policies would make life even tougher for middle class families,” Mr. Burton said.

The Romney camp, Shear also notes, had criticized Obama when he used a fictional character called "Julia" to illustrate the struggles facing women.

The Priorities USA ad is below: