by Keith Wilkes

Has the state’s political machine gotten the message? You know, that message from the voters that they’ve had enough. Enough of the corruption. Enough of the excessive spending. Enough of the ever increasing taxation. Enough of being lied to. Enough of being ignored. Enough already!

Take the Republican Party for instance, please. Despite a fair amount of opposition, last January the party endorsed State Attorney General Tom Corbett for Governor. Candidates were also endorsed for Lt. Governor and United States Senate. The argument against was that by endorsing someone, the party would unduly influence the primary election. The endorsed candidates would get most of the media attention and the voters would blindly follow the party’s recommendation instead of researching and picking the candidate they felt best reflected their values and principles. Most of the polls I’ve seen are how Corbett stacks up against the Democratic challengers. Do they (the media) even know that there’s another Republican running? Do they even care?

I’ve heard that the Republican Party has changed and returned to its conservative principals, a smaller government, rooting out corruption and all that. But what about this?  In August, 2008 Corbett and members of his staff were accused of firing two employees who called for an independent investigation of collection practices in Corbett’s Financial Enforcement Section.

The lawsuit was filed by Thomas Kimmett and Sherry E. Bellaman, who worked in the Financial Enforcement Section, the branch in Corbett’s office that acts as a collection agency for the agencies, boards, commissions, and universities of the commonwealth. The agency collects between $300 million and $500 million each month.

Kimmett says he noticed a number of irregularities when he joined the section in 2006 and reported what he said were illegal activities. In his complaint, Kimmett alleged that “Tom Corbett and other Department of Revenue officials later made an express decision not to formally investigate the illegal misconduct plaintiff uncovered for purely political reasons. They did so to avoid public disclosure of possible criminal misconduct and fraud (or at least the gross malfeasance which was occurring within the Attorney General’s office all with the awareness and complicity of high officials in the Department of Revenue).”

According to the complaint, “this cover-up by Mr. Corbett and the other defendants, was, and is, responsible for the unlawful and improper payout of large amounts of taxpayer funds to private collection agencies that do not, or have not, earned their commissions.” Kimmett says he was harassed and eventually fired after filing charges against Corbett and a number of his subordinates.

Why is this important? If you have to ask, return to go and read that first paragraph again. Political corruption is number one on the hit parade these days. In light of the charges, should the Republican Party have endorsed Corbett? Or, should they have left him to fend for himself against State Representative Sam Rohrer? How effective will Corbett be running for governor, continuing his prosecution of state lawmakers and defending against these charges if he ends up as the Republican nominee for governor?

Whether he’s as pure as the clean driven snow or guilty as sin won’t matter. Corruption charges are like Christmas for the opposition party and perception is reality. If Corbett does beat out Rohrer, the Democrats will have a field day with this. By the time the November election rolls around, the perception of Corbett will be that he’s guilty of all counts listed in the complaint, along with not paying his parking tickets, jaywalking and failing to call his mom on Mother’s Day.

Submitted by Keith Wilkes

Elizabethtown, PA

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