Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Green Party to antiwar Americans: don’t waste your vote on Obama

WASHINGTON, DC — Green Party leaders said today that antiwar voters will not get an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by voting for presumed Democratic nominee Barack Obama on Election Day.

Green leaders urged Americans who oppose the wars started by the Bush Administration with bipartisan support in Congress to vote instead for Green nominee Cynthia McKinney, running mate Rosa Clemente, and Green congressional candidates.

“Millions of voters plan to vote for Barack Obama in the hope that he’ll bring peace to Iraq and other nations in the region,” said Omar N. Lopez, Green candidate for the US House in Illinois (4th District) (http://www.omarlopez2008.org). “But his positions are really ‘McCain-Lite’ — he’ll continue many of the same belligerent foreign policies as the Bush-Cheney Administration that John McCain would. Mr. Obama supports a larger military in terms of both spending and personnel. We want to stop the US from being the world’s bully, and instead fund a peace dividend to deal with the economic, energy, and global warming crises.”

“We appeal to voters to take a look at the Green Party’s ‘Peace Slate’ of candidates, with Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente on the Green presidential ticket. A vote for a candidate who doesn’t represent your own ideals is a vote wasted,” said Mr. Lopez.

Green Party leaders compared the Green antiwar agenda to Barack Obama’s positions:


Despite the popular impression that Sen. Obama intends to end the Iraq War, he plans only to reduce troops over a 16-month period. He would maintain an ‘under the radar’ occupation to protect US interests, which is code for the US and British corporate demand for control over Iraqi oil. (No-bid contracts have already been anounced for ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, and Total.) Sen. Obama promises to shift troops around the region, placing US forces in countries surrounding Iraq.

The Green Party and Green candidates support an immediate and full withdrawal of US troops and military contractors from Iraq, and control over Iraqi oil resources returned to the Iraqi people.


Sen. Obama intends to expand the disastrous US war on Afghanistan, which has already left the country in ruins and continues to destabilize the region.

Greens support full US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and an internationally cooperative investigation and prosecution of those behind the 9/11 attacks.


Sen. Obama has repeatedly promised unqualified and uncritical support for Israel, despite the Israeli government’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and massive abuses of human rights, including Israel’s recent violation of a pledge to the US not to construct new homes in a West Bank settlement (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/24/israelandthepalestinians.middleeast).

Greens have called for the withholding of all US assistance, especially billions of dollars in military aid, until Israel reverses its current policies and adheres to international law, human rights protections, and UN directives, including withdrawal from occupied lands and recognition of the Palestinian right of return.


Despite promises of diplomacy, Sen. Obama has signed on to the Bush Administration’s threat of a US or US-backed Israeli assault on Iran, even though intelligence confirms that the Iranian government is not using its nuclear power to build weapons.

Greens have warned that an attack on Iran would bring untold consequences, including a greater regional or global conflict, and that the threat itself is an incentive for Iran and other nations to seek a nuclear arsenal. Greens call for an end to such threats, for diplomacy and friendship with Iran, and for an aggressive effort towards regional and global nuclear disarmament, noting the menace posed by Israel’s and Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons.

The Green Party has also urged impeachment and criminal investigation of the Bush-Cheney Administration’s numerous abuses of power in launching the Iraq invasion as well as other actions. Barack Obama and the Democratic leadership have rejected all attempts to hold the latter accountable for its crimes.

As US Representative from Georgia in 2006, Cynthia McKinney was the first member of Congress to introduce motions for impeachment.

“Many Obama supporters don’t realize that the differences between Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain on foreign policy are actually quite narrow and based on the same assumptions. Both believe that the US has a right to occupy other countries, place political demands on their leaders, and take control of their resources. But other voices are getting frozen out of the debate, including the Green nominees for the White House and Congress, whose campaigns are building America’s permanent peace party alternative,” said Carol Brouillet, Green candidate for Congress in California’s District 14 and founder of the Northern California 9/11 Truth Alliance (http://www.communitycurrency.org).

Monday, July 28, 2008

Green council member leads on protecting free speech

Green City Council Member Cam GordonThe Minneapolis City Council on July 19 unanimously approved six guiding principles to protect free speech and association during the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The principles were developed by the Free Speech Work Group, an initiative of City Council Member Cam Gordon ( Green Party - Ward 2 ) in anticipation of the convention. The group includes the Mayor, city council members, representatives from civil liberties organizations, and others.

"There were some concerns with the Republican National Convention coming that there would be threats to people’s right to assemble and to protest," says Gordon. "We established this working group ahead of time to try to influence the security plan that comes down from the national level."

The group’s vision is to ensure that security measures during the convention are "limited to those that are absolutely necessary to protect public safety" and that measures taken are consistent with the state and national constitutions.

Its six guiding principles include securing the right to constitutional association, speech and petition; taking care to differentiate lawful and protected organizing and speech from "terrorist" security concerns; and ensuring respectful treatment of persons exercising their constitutional rights.

The work in Minneapolis inspired the convention's host city of St. Paul, Gordon says. St. Paul established a similar working group shortly after the Minneapolis measure passed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

St. Paul Green Chides City Council

Council's runoff voting action defies law

Let the will of more than 7,100 St. Paul citizens be heard. They signed a petition to put instant-runoff voting on the ballot in St. Paul in November. City Council members (except Russ Stark) went against the will of the citizens they were elect[ed] to serve when they chose to ignore the signatures and not put IRV on the ballot (“Instant-runoff voting put on hold” July 30).
The law says that if 5,100 citizens sign a petition to put a referendum on the ballot, then the referendum is put on the ballot. The council defied the law and the will of the people of St. Paul. The council is not above the law or the will of the people. Stark is the only member who seems to know that.
I want a better democracy. It starts when elected officials obey the law.

Amber Garlan, St. Paul

Monday, July 21, 2008

Anti-Democracy Democrats facing Felony Charges

Attorney General Corbett announces charges in legislative bonus investigation - 12 suspects charged in 1st phase of the investigation


Click here to watch video of the news conference

HARRISBURG - As part of an ongoing public corruption investigation, agents from the Attorney General's Office today filed numerous theft charges, as well as criminal conspiracy and conflict of interest charges, against 12 suspects, including a state representative from Beaver County, a former House Democratic Minority Whip and four current House Democratic staffers. The investigation has uncovered the illegal use of millions of dollars in taxpayers' funds, resources and state employees for political campaign purposes.

Attorney General Tom Corbett said the charges are part of an ongoing grand jury probe into bonuses paid to employees of the Pennsylvania Legislature along with the use of state resources for political campaigns. (Read the Harrisburg Grand Jury Presentment - Read the Pittsburgh Grand Jury Presentment) Among those charged are former House Democratic Minority Whip Mike Veon, Michael Manzo, the former chief of staff to Pennsylvania Democratic House Majority Leader H. William DeWeese and Beaver County State Representative Sean Ramaley.



Michael MANZO

Rachel MANZO



Brett COTT



Stephen KEEFER

Patrick J. LAVELLE

Also charged are four current members of the House Democratic Caucus: Jeff Foreman, chief counsel to House Democratic Majority Whip Keith McCall and former Veon chief of staff; Rachel Manzo, executive director of the House Democratic Policy Committee and wife of Michael Manzo; Jennifer Brubaker, director of the Legislative Research Office for the House Democratic Caucus and Patrick Lavelle, a research analyst for the House Democratic Caucus.

Also charged are former House Democratic Caucus employees Scott Brubaker, the former director of staffing and administration for the House Democratic Caucus and husband of Jennifer Brubaker; Brett Cott, a former analyst on Veon's Capitol staff; Steven Keefer, the former director of information technology for the House Democratic Caucus; Earl Mosley, the former director of personnel for the House Democratic Caucus and Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, a former legislative assistant and district chief of staff in Rep. Veon's Beaver County office

Corbett explained that his office initiated the investigation after a series of newspaper stories revealed that millions of dollars of taxpayer funded bonuses were paid to employees of the Pennsylvania Legislature.

As part of the investigation, Corbett said, agents and prosecutors from the Public Corruption Unit interviewed hundreds of individuals and reviewed thousands of documents and e-mails. Grand juries in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg heard testimony and reviewed extensive documentary evidence from numerous current and former House Democratic Caucus employees, attorney general agents and other witnesses.

The Pittsburgh grand jury began receiving testimony in June of 2007 regarding Veon's use of his district legislative office for political purposes and the Harrisburg grand jury began receiving testimony in August of 2007.

The Harrisburg grand jury found that the award of bonuses was only one facet of the effort to use employee taxpayer funds and resources for campaign purposes. Additionally, the grand jury found that the actual diversion of resources and employees to campaigns and political endeavors was of no less importance. The theft of taxpayers' funds and resources was extensive and ranged from the obvious - directing public employees to conduct campaign work while paid by the taxpayers, to the subtle - issuing taxpayer paid contracts for campaign work disguised as legitimate legislative work.

The Habay Precedent
Corbett said the investigation, prosecution, conviction and prison sentence of former Republican Representative Jeff Habay in 2004 and 2005 by the Attorney General's Office for using his legislative staff for campaign and fundraising purposes should have put legislative leaders and their staffs on notice that the Attorney General's office and the courts take a stern view of such illegal activity.

Corbett said the grand jury used the guidance of the Pennsylvania Superior Court in its Habay decision, when the Court stated that an elected representative is "not allowed to direct state paid employees under his authority to conduct campaign and or fundraising related work, during state paid time, for his personal benefit." The court said such actions secure "a private monetary advantage" for an elected representative because, "by having state employees work for him on his campaign and or fundraising task while they were being paid by the state, he obtained the benefit of free campaign work funded by the taxpayers."

As part of the investigation, Corbett said, on Aug. 23, 2007, attorney general agents executed a search warrant on the Democratic Legislative Research Office and seized 20 boxes, the contents of which were reviewed by the grand jury. Corbett noted that the search warrant was executed after his agents obtained evidence that House Democratic staffers were destroying the contents of boxes.

Corbett said the grand juries heard former staffers and employees of Veon, the minority whip for the House Democratic Caucus from 1998 through 2006, who described a culture of employing taxpayer funding and resources for campaign purposes.

The grand jury found that to be an employee on Veon's staff, campaign work was expected. The illegal campaign work was directed by Veon's district chief of staff Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink in Beaver County and by Jeff Foreman in Harrisburg.

Brett Cott's title on Veon's staff was policy analyst, but according to numerous witnesses he was hired because of his campaign skills and was one of the lead promoters of the culture of using taxpayer funds for campaign purposes.

The grand jury also found that Michael Manzo, who was DeWeese's chief of staff, directly coordinated with Veon on the illegal use of taxpayer funds and resources.

2004 Election of Sean Ramaley
In 2004, when Ramaley ran for the 16th legislative district, which includes parts of Beaver and Allegheny counties, he left his job as a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Labor. After Ramaley won the Democratic Party primary, Veon offered him a position as a legislative assistant in his Beaver Falls district office. Ramaley started on June 25, 2004.

The grand jury found that Veon's hiring of Ramaley was never intended to serve his constituents, but was purely a "no-work job" which allowed Ramaley to run his campaign directly from Veon's taxpayer-funded district office with the assistance and direction of Veon's taxpayer paid political operatives.

The grand jury heard testimony from one of Veon's political operatives assigned to work with Ramaley, stating that he and Ramaley typically began their campaign work around 9 a.m. by making fundraising telephone calls in an office they shared at Veon's Beaver Falls taxpayer-funded district office. After fundraising calls, they knocked on doors until dark and followed-up by compiling voter data in Veon's district office for the remainder of each day. Ramaley used Veon's district office equipment, including the computers, phones, printers and copier.

The grand jury found that Ramaley, in agreement with Veon, used taxpayer funded resources for campaign purposes, accepted a salary as a taxpayer funded legislative assistant in Veon's office, provided no work in return for the benefit of the people of Pennsylvania but instead, used the job as a taxpayer-funded base of operations for his own political campaign.

The Birth of the Illegal Bonus Program
The grand jury found that in 2004, Veon and Manzo directed Eric Webb, a House Democratic Caucus employee, to maintain a list of all House Democratic Caucus employees who assisted with political and campaign related work.

Webb was directed to track campaign work performed by "volunteers" in the field and also to track all manner of other campaign work as directed by Veon, Manzo and others. Webb was instructed to classify the type of work performed and also to monitor and critique the efforts and time committed by the House Democratic Caucus employees. Webb's list formed the basis of who would receive taxpayer bonuses.

The grand jury found that the political culture created by Veon consistently sought to promote and reward, with taxpayer monies, those staffers engaged in political endeavors and campaign work, as opposed to those engaged solely in work on behalf of the taxpayers, such as legislative and constituent work.

Webb, who testified before the grand jury under a grant of immunity, stated that it was clearly understood by all of these employees that campaign work was part of their public employment and not something done after work hours or on personal time. Webb also detailed to the grand jury how the "volunteer" list that he maintained was specifically designed to act as a foundation for an "incentive" structure to entice House Democratic Caucus employees to commit greater efforts and time on political endeavors and campaigns.

The grand jury found that Webb's 2004 list cataloged 458 House Democratic Caucus employees by using a computer program that noted the various efforts and campaign activities of the "volunteers." The 2004 list, like all subsequent lists, detailed the type and amount of campaign work performed by public employees.

Webb's 2004 list cataloged, to name a few, efforts such as: the number of days each employee spent on campaigns or campaign activities; whether employees worked on the special election in the 109th Legislative District; assisted on the petition challenge to Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader; conducted opposition research; circulated nominating petitions; made campaign contributions to DeWeese, Veon or the House Democratic Campaign Committee and, if so, the amount contributed. The list also noted whether employees worked on overnight trips, when they worked on day trips and whether they worked on Election Day.

The grand jury found not a single entry on Webb's 2004 list, or his lists for the following years, for legitimate legislative work or constituent services. Webb testified that such work was completely irrelevant to the purpose of the list or to those who directed its creation.

Following the 2004 general election, at Michael Manzo's request, Webb provided a breakdown of those who excelled on the selected campaigns and political endeavors. Webb provided a list of those who he described as "superstars" and forwarded it to Michael Manzo and Veon. The grand jury found that, subsequently, a number of other names were added, such as those individuals who worked in Veon's Harrisburg and district offices. After Webb complied, highlighting those who had done the most, Manzo told Webb that these people were going to receive an award for their campaign efforts. In 2004, a total of $188,800 of taxpayer funds was paid to these staffers as a reward for their participation in political endeavors and campaign work.

2005 Bonuses
The grand jury found that Webb continued the tracking of "volunteers" by creating a new list in 2005. Webb created new rankings of Rock Stars, Good, and OK for the employees on his list. The list revolved largely around two special elections, one held in July of 2005 in a legislative district in the Allentown area between Linda Minger and Karen Beyer and another in a legislative district in Allegheny County.

The grand jury heard numerous witnesses testify that by the time of the Minger - Beyer special election in July of 2005, the word had spread among House Democratic Caucus employees that working on campaigns was the best method to obtain a bonus.

The grand jury found that in 2005, despite being an off-year for legislative elections, the House Democratic Caucus produced more volunteers than it had in the 2004 legislative election year. For example, the Minger-Beyer race alone drew more than 170 "volunteers" from the House Democratic Caucus.

More than $106,000 in taxpayer funded bonus checks were issued to all the employees on Webb's list who performed campaign work in 2005. An additional $61,500 in taxpayer funds was paid in December 2005 in the form of "executive bonuses" to those supervisors in the House Democratic Caucus who were most intimately involved in the conducting and promoting of campaign work.

Gone Fishing
The grand jury heard testimony from a Democratic House staffer who testified about his understanding that the bonuses were tied directly to campaign work. He stated that in 2005 there was an extremely large push to get volunteers to go to Allentown to work the special election on behalf of Linda Minger, the Democratic candidate.

The House staffer testified that he traveled to the Minger campaign office with two other House employees who brought their fishing gear. Upon their arrival, they were given campaign literature and directed to distribute it. Instead, they went to breakfast, threw away the campaign literature and went fishing. About a month later, the three employees got identical $250 bonuses. The employee stated to the grand jury that, "we joked when we got the bonuses - we're not idiots - we figured out what it was for, we all joked that we are professional fishermen now."

2006 Bonuses
The election year of 2006 would prove to be the largest effort yet undertaken as part of the incentive scheme. Eric Webb testified that in 2006 the pay raise vote had "changed the whole map." He testified that there were many "more seats in play" requiring more volunteers to do everything from opposition research to campaign work in the field. It was also a unique year because both caucus leaders, Veon and DeWeese, had serious challengers. As a result of these factors, the campaign efforts started in earnest very early in the year.

Whether measured by the effort expended in tracking the campaign work of caucus employees, the number of bonus recipients or the dollar amounts expended on bonuses, 2006 far exceeded the prior years. Webb told the grand jury that after everyone who worked on the special election in 2005 got bonuses, "it became very apparent" to the caucus employees that "if they volunteer, they get a bonus." As a result, when the election cycle of 2006 started, Webb stated: "more and more people are volunteering that I haven't seen before because of the incentive structure."

By the end of 2006, two waves of bonuses had been issued for campaign work - one in August and one at the end of the year. A total of $1,285,250 was paid in public funds for secret bonuses in 2006.

The grand jury found that around August or September 2006, Michael Manzo approached Eric Webb and told him that his wife, Rachel Manzo, was bored with her $78,000-a-year job as the executive director of the House Tourism Committee and would be helping Webb out on the volunteer list effort.

Webb testified that Rachel Manzo kept her own duplicate copy of the volunteer list and was assigned to monitor specific legislative races. Webb testified that he and Rachel Manzo were in constant contact for several months, exchanging the list back and forth with updates and additions. He explained this was the only way to ensure that accurate records of the "volunteer efforts" were being maintained. Webb also discussed how Rachel Manzo had prepared her own variation of the list during the 2006 Veon primary race, where she traveled to Beaver County and worked at least four to five weeks as the volunteer coordinator on Veon's race.

The grand jury found that after the 2006 Veon primary election, in addition to maintaining the "volunteer" list with Webb, Rachel Manzo was involved in various campaign activities over the summer and fall, assisting with opposition research, petition challenges and the recruitment and assignment of "volunteers" for campaign work. In October she was dispatched to assist Representative Rick Taylor's campaign in Montgomery County.

Veon's Capitol Campaign Organization
The grand jury found that Veon, who had one of the largest Capitol and legislative staffs of any member, ran an illegal campaign organization from his offices which included fundraising, opposition research, the preparation and distribution of campaign mailings, blast e-mail messages and nomination petition challenges.

The grand jury found that Veon, through Foreman and Cott, directed Veon's employees to "volunteer" for work on specific political campaigns. Veon's employees accumulated days or weeks of fraudulent comp time so they could spend time away from their legislative offices and still be paid their taxpayer-funded salaries while they worked on campaigns.

The grand jury also heard how Veon turned his Beaver County district office into a campaign machine. The office equipment including the copy machine, computers and printers were all used to create and print campaign material.

The grand jury found that Veon created and operated a massive fundraising operation within an office suite in the Capitol, which was fueled almost exclusively by personnel and resources paid for by the taxpayers.

The operation was led by Veon, who put Patrick Lavelle in charge. Witnesses testified that Lavelle was simply known as the "fundraiser" for Veon and appeared to have no other duties beyond fundraising. Many of those who worked around him everyday testified that they had never seen him do anything but fundraising.

The grand jury found that Lavelle worked closely with and received direction from Veon, Foreman, Cott and Peretta-Rosepink. The grand jury found that virtually every aspect of the fundraising operation was orchestrated out of Veon's Capitol offices. Lavelle built extensive campaign donor lists and all of Veon's fundraisers were meticulously planned and organized from the Capitol. Veon's staff booked locations, prepared menus, established guest lists and assembled the invitations for Veon's fundraisers. All of these efforts were conducted under the direct supervision of Veon and Foreman.

Campaign and Fundraising Mailings
The grand jury found that another significant operation of Veon's Capitol staff involved the writing, printing and folding of tens of thousands of fundraising and campaign mailings, all completed at taxpayers' expense. Keefer performed most of the graphic design work on the mailings and the bulk of this illegal operation took place behind closed doors of Veon's Capitol suite.

Opposition Research
The grand jury also found that under the direction of Veon, opposition research was conducted by Democratic Caucus employees. Opposition research is an extensive investigation into the personal and professional life of political opponents and details the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent in an attempt to find general and specific campaign strategies for defeating the opponent. These opposition research reports are detailed, often taking weeks to prepare and are frequently more than 100 pages in length. This was all done at taxpayers' expense for the benefit of campaigns.

Corbett noted that the boxes that his agents seized from the Legislative Research Office contained hundreds of instances of opposition research and reports dating back to 1990.

Petition Challenges
The grand jury found that employees and resources of the House Democratic Caucus were historically and routinely used to conduct petition challenges against candidates who were opponents of Democratic House candidates or the Democratic Party. This effort was typically led by Michael Manzo or Cott. Employees were not required to, and did not, take leave for the time spent during their regular work hours on challenging nominating petitions.

These efforts were by no means limited to House races. Two outstanding examples of misappropriation of taxpayers' resources on petition challenges were the Ralph Nader for President of the United States in 2004 and the Carl Romanelli for the United States Senate in 2006.

The grand jury found that as many as 50 Democratic House Caucus staff members participated in the Nader petition challenge and contributed a staggering number of man-hours. A House Democratic employee testified before the grand jury that "everybody was working on this." It was virtually a caucus wide endeavor and many of the employees spent an entire week on the Nader petition challenge.

Upon the successful challenge to the Nader petition, Veon sent an e-mail to his staff stating:

"FYI .great job by our staff! This would have never been successful without your work. You have given John Kerry an even better opportunity to win this state.one of the 5 most important states to win this year."

"This is a very significant fact and significant contribution by each one of you to the Kerry for president campaign.you should take great pride in your efforts."

The Romanelli petition challenge was led by Cott, who announced it was very important to "leadership" that Romanelli not appear on the ballot. Staffers were told "not to worry about leave," but to focus on getting the petition challenges done as soon as possible.

Leader's Communication Office
The grand jury found that in 2003, Veon and Michael Manzo established the Leader's Communication Office (LCOMM), directed by Stephen Keefer. The supposed purpose of the office was to communicate to the residents of Pennsylvania about legislative efforts and agendas, through internet websites and blast e-mails. The reality proved to be quite different.

One of the people who worked in the Leader's Communication Office was Eric Buxton, who testified about the extensive campaign work performed by the LCOMM office. For example, he detailed about how he set up the entire House Democratic Campaign Committee website in 2004, while he was employed by the taxpayers. Buxton also detailed how campaign e-mails were written and sent from inside the Capitol by use of an offsite server, located in Michigan, which masked the true origin of the e-mails.

Buxton testified before the grand jury that he began negotiations in 2005 with Michael Manzo and Keefer that he should leave the caucus and start his own company to do work for the caucus on a contract basis. They agreed and Buxton formed a company called Govercom, and the House Democratic Caucus paid him $10,000 a month from September 2005 through the end of 2005 and $16,875 a month from Jan. 1, 2006 through the end of September 2007.

Buxton testified that his contract appeared to be for legitimate legislative work performed by his company, but that the contract was for services completely unnecessary to the Caucus and was a vehicle for the House Democratic Caucus to pay for campaign e-mail communication.

From subpoenaed contracts, invoices and Buxton's records, the grand jury found that the House Democratic Caucus paid $420,000 to Buxton's company between August 2005 and October 2007. Additionally, the grand jury discovered a second vendor, Gravity Webb Media, who was engaged in campaign work by providing candidate websites and mass e-mails. This cost the taxpayers more than $82,000 in 2006. This amounted to more than a half million dollars in taxpayers' funds used solely for campaign work.

Jeff Foreman's Private Law Practice
The grand jury found that Foreman, while employed as Veon's chief of staff, was paid $103,408 in 2004 and received a bonus of $8,315. In 2005 his salary was $118,352 and received a bonus of $5,565. In 2006 he was paid $126,204 and received a bonus of $14,815. Additionally, Forman worked at his own private law firm, Foreman & Foreman, and billed clients at the rate of $200 per hour. He often claimed to work a full day for the taxpayers, claimed multiple additional "compensatory" time for the taxpayers and claimed significant hours for his private legal practice. Sometimes, these totals exceeded 24 hours in a day.

Corbett said the grand jury found that while he was physically present at his legislative job in the Capitol, Foreman was actually doing work for his private law firm. Thus, the taxpayers paid Foreman, in salary, bonus, and compensatory time, to work on his private law firm business.

Michael Manzo's Ghost Employee
The grand jury found that in the summer of 2004, Michael Manzo met Angela Bertugli, a 21-year-old legislative intern, with whom he allegedly developed a long-running sexual liaison that continued through November 2007.

In September 2005 Manzo created a taxpayer-funded job for Bertugli in Pittsburgh and put her in charge of the Pittsburgh Field Office for the newly formed House Allegheny County Delegation.

Bertugli did not go through an interview or job application process prior to starting her "employment" and was not told what she would be doing, however she was told by Manzo to report on Sept. 12, 2005, to an office located above a cigar store in Pittsburgh.

The grand jury found that other DeWeese staffers were not aware that Bertugli had been hired or that there even was a Pittsburgh Field Office for the House Allegheny County Delegation. Staffers for the representative who chaired the Allegheny County Delegation were unaware of the existence, location or staff of such an office. Since the 19 Allegheny County Representatives already had offices, there was absolutely no need for an Allegheny County Delegation office. In fact, the grand jury found that no such office ever existed.

Bertugli, who was going to graduate school in Pittsburgh, was classified as a part-time employee and received an annual income of $21,091. Bertugli was given very few assignments by Manzo and had nothing to do up to 70 percent of the time and instead was being paid by the taxpayers to do her schoolwork or for doing nothing at all. The tasks that she did receive from Manzo were campaign related.

In 2006, Bertugli's annual salary was increased to $29,103, because her "employment" status was supposed to be increased to four days per week. She also received a $7,065 bonus in 2006. Her actual duties remained the same and the percentages of schoolwork/idleness and campaign work remained constant until she left the Pittsburgh office in July 2007.

In July 2007, Manzo arranged for Bertugli to be transferred to the Democratic Caucus Legislative Research Office in Harrisburg to accommodate Bertugli's acceptance into a Harrisburg law school.

A grand jury review of Bertugli's e-mails revealed both the intimate nature of her relationship with Manzo, as well as the political nature of the endeavors undertaken by Bertugli while she was "employed" in Pittsburgh.

Testimony from various witnesses and e-mail evidence corroborated the "ghost" aspects of Bertugli's position. One DeWeese assistant testified that:

"We don't know who works there and I don't know what is going on out there. I don't want to know, but it just didn't seem kosher to me. So, I never asked anybody about it after that. I just let it drop."

Another DeWeese staffer testified before the grand jury that neither he nor any of his co-workers among the leadership staff ever had professional contact with Bertugli or any Pittsburgh regional office. That staffer stated:

".I never knew anybody who interacted with Angela Bertugli. She - we figured it was a favor. I think she went to college in Pittsburgh, but they gave her the job as a favor."

By hiring Bertugli the grand jury found that Michael Manzo created an unnecessary, useless, non-productive position in an equally wasted location.

Veon's Vacation to South Dakota
The grand jury found that in 2004, Veon used two public employees, at taxpayer expense, to assist him with his vacation to South Dakota. He had them drive his and his wife's motorcycles to Sturgis, S.D., to save him the time and allow him to fly there and have the motorcycles waiting. The travel expenses, which totaled nearly $1,500, included flights for these public employees and were paid by the taxpayers.

Veon's Basketball Dinners
From 2002 through November of 2006 the grand jury found that Mike Veon, along with other House Democratic Caucus Members and certain employees, played basketball on Tuesday nights. Veon staffers were tasked with taking food orders from the players, ordering and purchasing food, and arranging it on Veon's conference table in his capitol offices for the returning players.

Veon's basketball dinners cost from approximately $100 to nearly $300. All of these dinners were paid from Veon's contingency account with taxpayer funds. The grand jury found that the taxpayers paid more than $22,000 for Veon's basketball dinners.

Corbett said the defendants will be arraigned before Harrisburg Magisterial District Judge Joseph Solomon, 1705 N. Front St., Harrisburg, 717-255-1365. They will be prosecuted in Dauphin County by Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Krastek, Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Blessington and Deputy Attorney General James Reeder, all of the Attorney General's Public Corruption Unit.

Corbett said the investigation is continuing and that more arrests are expected.

Below is a list of the defendants and the charges against them:

Michael R. Veon, 51, 2527 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg, is charged with 11 counts each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft of services, theft by deception, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and four counts of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 381 years in prison and $805,000 in fines.

Sean M. Ramaley, 33, 3 Leaf Court, Baden, is charged with one count each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and $85,000 in fines.

Michael Manzo, 39, 6200 Run Cross Lane, Enola, is charged with nine counts each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 311 years in prison and $660,000 in fines.

Rachel L. Manzo, 27, 6200 Run Cross Lane, Enola, is charged with two counts each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and criminal conspiracy. She faces a maximum penalty of 80 years in prison and $170,000 in fines.

Scott V. Brubaker, 43, 24 N. 20th St., Camp Hill, is charged with four counts each conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 144 years in prison and $310,000 in fines.

Jennifer K. Brubaker, 35, 24 N. 20th St., Camp Hill, is charged with three counts each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. She faces a maximum penalty of 113 years in prison and $240,000 in fines.

Brett W. Cott, 36, 1305 ½ Green St., Harrisburg, is charged with eight counts each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 272 years in prison and $575,000 in fines.

Jeff Foreman, 57, 705 ½ Front St., Harrisburg, is charged with four counts of conflict of interest, five counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, five counts of theft by deception, four counts of theft of services, four counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 160 years in prison and $340,000 in fines.

Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, 45, 1421 5th Ave., Beaver Falls, is charged with four counts each conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and two counts of criminal conspiracy. She faces a maximum penalty of 146 years in prison and $310,000 in fines.

Stephen Keefer, 38, 12 Circle Drive, Fredericksburg, is charged with three counts each of each conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and one count of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 106 years in prison and $225,000 in fines.

Patrick J. Lavelle, 29, 211 Boas St., Harrisburg, is charged with one count each of conflict of interest, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, theft of services, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and $85,000 in fines.

Earl J. Mosley, 52, 872 Country Lake Dr., Harrisburg, is charged with three counts of conflict of interest, three counts of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, two counts of theft by deception, three counts of theft of services, three counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and one count of criminal conspiracy. He faces a maximum penalty of 106 years in prison and $225,000 in fines.

(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Kenya refuses to recognise Mugabe government

By Roselyne Obala

Kenya has joined African countries that have declined to recognise the government of President Robert Mugabe.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said Kenya would not recognise Mugabe’s government as legitimate.

Wetangula said the presidential election re-run in Zimbabwe was not free and fair.

He urged Mugabe to demonstrate political maturity and look for "real solutions" to the crisis facing his country.

"Kenya is ready to help and show Mugabe how to solve the crisis," said the minister.

He said Kenyans experienced problems after last year’s disputed elections and had acquired crisis resolution experiences that Mugabe could borrow from.

Wetangula said Mugabe should opt for a coalition government to solve the political impasse. "If he accepts a power-sharing formula, Kenya is ready to offer advice and also mediate," he said.

The minister made the remarks during the weekend in Sirisia at the burial of his uncle, Francis Wabuke.

Zimbabwe’s Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has, however, rejected calls for a national unity government, saying it would not solve the crisis. He said a unity government would merely accommodate Mugabe after much of the world had labelled his regime illegitimate.

He added that such a government would not address the problems facing Zimbabweans or be the will of the people.

MPs to push for law on female genital mutilation

By Philip Mwakio And Leonard Korir

MPs will push for legislation to outlaw female genital mutilation (FGM).

While right activists backed a 25-year-plan of action to eradicate the vice, the MPs are seeking to wipe it out in five years.

Speaking at the close of a two-day meeting for MPs on capacity building on FGM and gender-related legislation, Turkana Central MP Ekwe Ethuro said the move formed part of their reform agenda.

"It is a very critical problem that cuts across the entire society where it is practised by many communities. As people’s representatives in Parliament, our role is crucial in its elimination," the MP said.

Ethuro said if the Tenth Parliament achieves the feat, it would be a resounding victory for Kenyans.

He said MPs had not only laid strategies that will include passing laws in Parliament to address the problem, but would also take the lead in fighting the practice.

"Members meeting here shall lobby aggressively and seek the enlistment of the rest of the House members during debate for FGM motions," Ethuro said.

The United Nations Population Fund country representative, Dr Kemal Mustafa, said a demographic and health survey conducted showed that for the last 10 years, there has been a decrease in FGM.

In 1998, FGM cases were at 38 per cent but declined to 32 per cent in 2003.

Mustafa said in his address to participants, who included members of the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, that the Children Act had outlawed FGM on children under 18.

Kasarani MP and Nairobi Metropolitan Development Assistant minister, Ms Elizabeth Ongoro, said the goodwill in the 10th Parliament would help push through debate on FGM.

Meanwhile, FGM is still rife in the Maasai community despite efforts to eradicate it, Prof Sarone ole Sena of the University of Nairobi has said.

He said an estimated 94 per cent of schoolgirls in the community undergo circumcision and subsequently drop out of school.

Sena said girls as young as 12 are either forced by parents or peer pressure to get circumcised.

He said culture and high illiteracy are to blame for the practice.

Speaking in Kilgoris at a forum organised by the Free Fellowship Pentecostal Church of Kenya, Sena urged the community to discard the culture.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Protesters oppose warehouse on LA urban farm site


Protesters want the city to halt a massive warehouse project on the former site of an urban farm that was bulldozed two years ago amid protests from Darryl Hannah, Joan Baez and other celebrities who wanted to preserve the garden for dozens of inner-city families.

More than 50 people, mostly from the South Los Angeles neighborhood where the site is located, held a rally Wednesday outside City Hall before attending a public hearing on the matter.

"It doesn't benefit us at all," resident Carmen Espinoza told members of the city planning commission's advisory agency. "There's already a lot of traffic and a lot of noise at night. There are two schools and a park. A lot of children would be affected."

The project, proposed by landowner Ralph Horowitz, calls for a 643,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution complex at the former community farm.

Protesters at the hearing told city officials the warehouse project should be halted because it would increase traffic, air pollution and noise in the neighborhood.

According to planning documents, the site is zoned for light manufacturing use. The warehouse will provide 1,200 jobs, and Horowitz has agreed to donate a 2.6-acre parcel of the property to the city, which has said it will build a community soccer field there.

The commission's advisory agency delayed a decision on the warehouse after being inundated with letters, petitions and reports opposing the project. Chairwoman Maya Zaitzevsky said members need more time to consider the public's comments.

The hearing was the latest chapter in the long-running saga of the tract known as the South Central Farm. Beginning in 1982, the 14-acre site was used by about 350 families to grow food and flowers. The city, however, sold the land to Horowitz, who evicted the growers and bulldozed the site in 2006.

Residents, farmers and celebrities fought hard to prevent the demolition, staging demonstrations such as a tree-sitting protest that included Hannah. Other celebrities involved in the effort included Willie Nelson, Danny Glover, Baez and tree-sitter Julia "Butterfly" Hill.

The saga is related in "The Garden," a new documentary by filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy that was shown last month at the L.A. Film Festival.

[Note: For more information on the South Central Farm go here. They were also featured in the documentary Escape from Suburbia ]

Green Party

-- Fabulous News --
Columbian Green Leader Ingrid Betancourt Rescued!
Colombian Green Party leader Ingrid Betancourt was rescued from captivity today, after being held hostage for six years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Ingridfounded the Green Oxygen Party in 1994, establishing a new political force committed topeace, women's empowerment and a fairer society. She was elected as Colombia's firstGreen Senator in 1998, and in 2002, she ran for the presidency. Dedicated to non-violence, she was campaigning in the country's demilitarized zone to appeal for peacewhen she was kidnapped by the FARC. The Green Party of the United Stateswholeheartedly welcomes Ingrid's release, whose indomitable spirit and commitment tojustice and have inspired us and millions of people worldwide.

Email: office@gp.org
Office: PO Box 57065 Washington, D.C. 20037 202-319-7191 or toll-free (US): 866-41GREEN

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