Sunday, February 28, 2010

Legislators Are Asked- "What Else Is Being Hidden?"

In an editorial by Tribune-Review's state Capitol reporter Brad Bumsted he asks the question "What Else Is Being Hidden?".

Testimony in the trial of ex-Representative Michael Veon et al by Scott Brubaker highlighted how the Rules of the House allowed illegal bonuses paid for campaign work to remain hidden from the public.

Brubaker, former director of staffing and administration for the House Democratic Caucus, talked about how a lack of specificity in the House rules on disclosing bonuses to the public was seized on as justification to keep the program "hidden."

The fact they paid out $1.4 million in bonuses -- off the books from 2004 through 2006 -- is scandalous.

Salaries, of course, are public record. If someone in the media asked for Brubaker's salary, you'd be told that he was paid $120,564 in 2006, period, not that he received a $15,250 bonus. His actual compensation was $135,814.

Brubaker's wife, Jennifer, who has also entered guilty pleas in the case, was paid $94,770 as director of the House Democrats' Legislative Research Office. But she was paid an off-the-books bonus of $17,750, making her actual unreported compensation total $112,520.

The secrecy was "exactly why we did it. You could get a bonus, and you didn't have to disclose it," said Brubaker. House Rule 14 didn't require that bonuses be publicly disclosed, he said.

"We would not report something we didn't have to report," Brubaker testified.

Right. Of course, you never tell the taxpayers how their money actually is being spent.

That statement by Brubaker accurately summarizes why Pennsylvania state government is regressive, insular and, to a certain extent, corrupt.

Here's the really disturbing issue: What other legislative expenses, not covered by Rule 14 or the Right to Know Law, are being hidden from the public now?

Amen and Amen. House Rule 14 begs for overhaul. It is the same House Rule that allows legislators to collect per diems on a per day basis not actual expenses.

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