Sources: Search warrants issued for Phila. state senator's offices

Sen. LeAnna Washington
Sen. LeAnna Washington
Posted: October 21, 2013

HARRISBURG Agents for the state Attorney General's Office on Friday searched Democratic State Sen. LeAnna Washington's two legislative offices in the Philadelphia area, seeking evidence related to campaign activity, according to three sources familiar with the search.

The search warrants were served in the morning at Washington's district offices in Philadelphia and Roslyn, seeking computer hard drives, calendars, paper files, and any other documents related to fund-raising or her political campaign, said the sources, who asked to remain anonymous.

They said they did not know the exact nature of the probe.

Washington could not be reached for comment. Joe Peters, spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane, would not confirm or deny whether agents searched Washington's offices or whether agents from the Attorney General's Office were investigating her.

Senate Democratic leaders, through their spokeswoman, said they were aware of the search.

"The Senate Democratic caucus, its members and staff, will fully comply and cooperate with any request made by the attorney general," Senate Democratic spokeswoman Stacey Witalec said in an e-mailed statement.

Washington was first elected to the legislature in 1993 and served 12 years in the state House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate in 2005. Her district includes northwestern Philadelphia and pockets of Montgomery County, and she serves on four committees, including Aging and Youth, where she is the ranking Democrat. A survivor of domestic violence, she is known for her advocacy against domestic violence, abuse, and rape, and in recent years, she has worked to strengthen child-abuse prevention laws.

Friday's search of Washington's offices does not appear to be related to any other investigation, according to the sources. No other legislative offices were searched, they said.

Investigators typically ask a judge to approve a search warrant to get documents or evidence they suspect will not be surrendered voluntarily or could be destroyed.

It would not be the first time the Attorney General's Office has probed legislators' use of taxpayer resources for political purposes.

In 2007, Gov. Corbett, then state attorney general, began investigating millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bonuses paid to legislative staffers for political work. The probe came to be known as Bonusgate and spawned several offshoot investigations that landed some of Pennsylvania's top elected officials behind bars, including onetime House speakers John M. Perzel, a Republican from Philadelphia, and Bill DeWeese, a Democrat from Greene County.

Perzel pleaded guilty to charges that he used state money to buy expensive and sophisticated computer programs used to help Republicans win political campaigns. DeWeese was convicted last year on charges that he directed legislative staffers to do campaign work on the taxpayer dime and time.

Separately, onetime Republican State Sen. Jane Orie of Allegheny County was imprisoned last year for using state employees for political purposes. That case was handled by the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office.


acouloumbis@phillynews.com

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