Corbett campaign-fund appeal sent to Perzel

State Rep. John Perzel, left, received a letter asking for a donation to the gubernatorial campaign of state Attorney General Tom Corbett, right.
State Rep. John Perzel, left, received a letter asking for a donation to the gubernatorial campaign of state Attorney General Tom Corbett, right. (Bob McGovern)
Posted: October 06, 2010

HARRISBURG - The last person State Rep. John M. Perzel may want to hear from these days is Attorney General Tom Corbett.

But that is exactly what happened when a letter from Corbett arrived in Perzel's office in June.

And the Republican running for governor wasn't writing to talk law and order with Perzel, whom Corbett's office is prosecuting in a case arising from the so-called Bonusgate scandal.

Instead, Corbett was asking Perzel, a Republican from Northeast Philadelphia, to donate to his gubernatorial campaign. The letter was on Corbett campaign stationery.

And the solicitation letter went to Perzel's Statehouse office - which anyone who has followed Bonusgate knows isn't in the spirit of keeping politics and government in the Capitol separate.

"John," the letter states in bold letters, "will you accept my personal invitation to join the 'Tom Corbett for Governor' team, and make an investment in my campaign of $1,500, $1,750 or $2,000?"

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Inquirer, asks Perzel to check a box entitled "I'm with you, Tom!" to help elect a person who will "cut spending, stop tax increases, create jobs, fight corruption, restore honesty and integrity to public service."

An attached reply card enables the recipient to sign up as a Corbett campaign volunteer, display a Corbett yard sign, "Friend Tom on Facebook," or "Follow Tom on Twitter."

Kevin Harley, Corbett's campaign spokesman, said the letter should never have been sent to Perzel or to any government office. Harley added that since the start of the Bonusgate investigation in 2007, Corbett has had a policy of not accepting campaign donations from legislators.

Harley said that the fund-raising letter was part of a mass mailing, and that the list of recipients should have been "scrubbed" for any government addresses.

"In a campaign of this size, hundreds of thousands of appeals and letters are sent out, and our campaign does the best it can to ensure that only the appropriate people get them," he said. "If it [the Perzel letter] happened, it shouldn't have happened."

Reached for comment Tuesday, Perzel said that he didn't recall seeing the solicitation letter but that "under the circumstances, I think it's ironic."

Needless to say, said Perzel, who has repeatedly denied all the charges against him, "I don't think I will be contributing to Tom Corbett for governor at this time."

Corbett has come under fire before for his contact with Perzel. In 2007, during his investigation into corruption in the Capitol, Corbett met with Perzel, and a few months later, Perzel's then-chief of staff, Brian Preski, organized a fund-raiser for the attorney general.

Corbett's office last November charged Perzel and nine others, including Preski, with misusing public money for campaign purposes.

Perzel, who was once the powerful House speaker, is facing 82 counts of theft, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and conflict of interest. Prosecutors say he used nearly $10 million in taxpayer funds to create as many as a dozen computer software programs to give him and other GOP candidates an edge in elections.

A trial date has not been set.

Previously, Corbett's office charged 12 House Democratic aides and legislators with using state resources, including employees, to benefit political campaigns. The employees were then rewarded with taxpayer-funded bonuses.

In that case, seven people pleaded guilty, two were acquitted, and three were convicted.


Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com.

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