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Civic leaders, government reform groups call for Attorney General Tom Corbett’s resignation

04.21.10

Keystone Progress
www.keystoneprogress.org
info@keystoneprogress.org

NEWS ADVISORY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
April 20, 2010 Michael Morrill 610-568-0937-cell

Civic leaders, government reform groups call for Attorney General Tom Corbett’s resignation

Pennsylvanians are increasingly concerned about the politicization of the Office of Attorney General, raising concerns about Corbett’s effectiveness and impartiality.

(HARRISBURG)—An ad hoc coalition of civic groups, unions and good government organizations held a news conference on Tuesday to call for the resignation of Attorney General Tom Corbett.

The organizations released a joint statement which state in part, “We have come to the conclusion that it is time for Mr. Corbett to resign as Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The people of the Commonwealth need to trust that the justice system will work impartially, but the clouds of accusation and suspicion that are engulfing Mr. Corbett are raising too many doubts. We therefore urge Mr. Corbett to resign immediately.” [Entire statement follows]

Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress said, “The Attorney General has the power to file criminal and civil charges that can end a person’s life, lock someone in prison away from family and friends, and impose penalties that can eradicate a life’s savings. It is therefore incumbent upon the Attorney General to not only impartially prosecute the laws of the Commonwealth, it is vital that he avoid even the appearance of bias. Unfortunately for the people of Pennsylvania, Mr. Corbett is losing credibility as charges and doubts about his impartiality continue to be raised.”

The other organizations joining in the statement include AFSCME District Council 47, RocktheCapital.org, Democracy Rising PA, Healthcare for America Now (HCAN), SEIU, Americans for Democratic Action and Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks. Thousands of individuals have also signed the statement calling for Corbett’s resignation at www.corbettmustresign.com

Marc Steir, of HCAN, added “Mr. Corbett has abused the power of his office for political purposes. That is grounds enough to justify our call for his resignation.”

“How many private employers pay their employees to look for another job on the company clock?” asked Eric Epstein from RocktheCapital.org. “Tom Corbett should resign, and allow the Attorney General’s office to fully commit itself to aggressively prosecuting Bonusgate and other political corruption cases.”

Epstein and Tim Potts from Democracy Rising PA also called for the passage of a “resign to run” law that would require all elected to resign from their current office if they want to run for a different office.

The organizers of the news conference said they expected dozens more organizations to join their call for Corbett’s resignation. The list of those joining the call will be posted at www.corbettmustresign.com

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Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive network with over 200,000 subscribers. Keystone Progress is also a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.

TOM CORBETT MUST RESIGN

The Office of Attorney General is one of the most important offices in all of government. The Attorney General, as the chief law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth, is responsible for the safety and security of all of the residents of Pennsylvania. The Attorney General has the power to file criminal and civil charges that can end a person’s life, lock someone in prison away from family and friends, and impose penalties that can eradicate a life’s savings.

It is therefore incumbent upon the Attorney General to not only impartially prosecute the laws of the Commonwealth, it is vital that he avoid even the appearance of bias.

In the last few weeks Attorney General Tom Corbett has come under almost daily criticism for appearing to be using the Office of Attorney General for political gain. Among the criticism are the following:

· Corbett has politicized the Office of Attorney General by joining in a highly partisan lawsuit to repeal the recently passed federal healthcare reform legislation. Corbett agreed to join the lawsuit before the bill was even written, meaning he made his decision before reading the legislation. Most constitutional law professors think this suit is frivolous and a politically-motivated waste of taxpayers’ money.

· Questions have been raised about the appearance of selective prosecution of legislators who may have used their legislative staff and offices to run political campaigns. Corbett has pursued the prosecution of mostly Democrats in what has become known as the “Bonusgate Scandal.” Recently, it has been reported that Corbett’s office did not investigate allegations against Republican State Senator Jane Orie. Sen. Orie was indicted by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala after Corbett’s office did not follow up on a complaint by a former Orie intern of her office using legislative staff for the campaign of her sister, now PA Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

· Corbett’s campaign staff has admitted that they had been planning to file their suit against the healthcare reform legislation even before he had read the bill, sending out a fundraising mailing in February saying that he is “leading the fight” against “government-run socialized medicine.”

· Corbett has been accused of using his office and staff for his campaign for governor—the same charges he has brought against mostly Democratic lawmakers. The accusations come in a motion filed by the attorney for former State Representative Steve Stetler. The motion also accuses Corbett of selective prosecution, prosecuting Democrats while ignoring similar actions by Republicans. According to the York Daily Record, the allegations in the motion say that “Corbett improperly took control of the grand jury, illegally revealed details of its deliberations to the media, found targets that, if toppled, would benefit his re-election campaign in 2008 and current run for governor, illegally gave key campaign staffers jobs in the Attorney General’s office between campaigns, had staffers do campaign work on state time and used campaign resources to further the Bonusgate investigation.”

· Keystone Progress filed a Right to Know request on March 26 seeking correspondence between the Office of Attorney General and outside entities, seeking to determine if there were political motives behind the Corbett’s decision to join the lawsuit against healthcare reform. To date the AG’s office has not provided that information.

When there are so many concerns being raised it puts the integrity of the Office of Attorney General in serious question. The Attorney General’s judgment and actions cannot be doubted. His performance must be beyond reproach. That is why so many attorneys general, including Virginia Republican Bob McDonnell and New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, have resigned when seeking a higher office.

After taking all of these factors into consideration, we have come to the conclusion that it is time for Mr. Corbett to resign as Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The people of the Commonwealth need to trust that the justice system will work impartially, but the clouds of accusation and suspicion that are engulfing Mr. Corbett are raising too many doubts.

We therefore urge Mr. Corbett to resign immediately.

Signed:

Michael Morrill, Executive Director, Keystone Progress
Tim Potts, Executive Director, Democracy Rising PA
Marc Stier, Executive Director, Healthcare for America Now- PA
Eric Epstein, Cooordinator, Rock the Capitol
Americans for Democratic Action
Cathy Scott, President, AFSCME DC 47
Gloria Gilman, President, Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks
Eileen Connelly, Executive Director, SEIU PA State Council
Siobhan “Sam” Bennett President/CEO WCF

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