In Abandoned Sting Operation, Liquor Privatization Was Bait

Here’s a question about the abandoned sting that has Kathleen Kane in so much trouble these days: How close did it come to criminalizing normal political activity?

It’s a question that first started to lurk in our minds when the story first broke, with lurid tales of Democrats being given cash and gifts to vote against Voter ID laws they never, ever would’ve supported anyway. And the question grows stronger with today’s news from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review* that the confidential informant in the case often posed as a … proponent of liquor privatization.

* Watch out Inky! The Trib is hot on your heels on this story!

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The Abandoned Sting Case Might Be Bigger Than You Thought

A judge on Thursday agreed to a request from several Pennsylvania media organizations to unseal investigative records from the abandoned sting that had caught five Philadelphia Democrats taking cash from a confidential informant — and perhaps widened the scandal to an even broader group of politicos than was previously known.

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Pa. Senator Kicked Out of Bar After Possible Fight

The Inquirer‘s Angela Couloumbis reports Pennsylvania Sen. Lisa Boscola, a Democrat from Lehigh, was asked to leave a Harrisburg bar after getting into a fight with Republican House Speaker Sam Smith. She also got into a disagreement with an unidentified woman in the bar; that woman later wrote on Facebook that Boscola struck her.

In an interview Wednesday, Boscola acknowledged she was asked to leave the bar, but said she did not strike anyone.

“When you hit somebody there is a physical act of ‘stay away from me,’” she said of the woman. “Unless she was in my face. I do not know what her motivation is. I need to figure that out. Because in this business, it could be misinterpreted. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt as well. No one wants to hurt anyone in this business. Especially a woman. You know what I’m saying.”

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Republicans Join Call for Marcellus Tax

ABC27 in Harrisburg reports that Republicans are increasingly joining Democrats in calling for a tax on drilling in the Marcellus shale.

But Wednesday, a handful of House and Senate Republicans, mostly from the Philadelphia area, joined the chorus.

“There’s a theory out there that we shouldn’t be taxing this industry,” said DiGirolamo - (R) Bucks. “They pay this tax in every other state that they operate. This is a price of them doing business.”

Representative Tom Murt – (R) Montgomery, Philadelphia – says the state is facing a huge budget deficit and will need to find revenue. He thinks Marcellus drillers are the answer.

“The industry is doing very, very well.” Murt said. “I think there might be a collective belief on the part of many of my colleagues that perhaps the industry is not paying its fair share.”

The tax issue should loom large in fall’s general election campaign for governor.

Activist Brings “Private” Charges Against Lawmakers in Sting

Gene Stilp carries on where Kathleen Kane wouldn’t. PennLive reports:

Self-styled political activist Gene Stilp filed a private criminal complaint Tuesday against three sitting state lawmakers implicated in an aborted public corruption investigation.

Stilp has alleged misdemeanor violations of the state Ethics Act by Reps. Ronald Waters, Vanessa Lowery Brown, and Michelle Brownlee.

According to investigative files that have been shared with PennLive, all three Philadelphia Democrats were taped accepting cash gifts from a government informant posing as a lobbyist for the state Attorney General’s office from late 2010 through early 2012.

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Poll: Pennsylvanians Don’t Trust State Government

PennLive reports: “ Buffeted by scandal, fewer than half of Pennsylvanians (46 percent) say they have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust in their state government, according to a new Gallup poll. But, hey, it could be worse — you could live in Illinois. Just 28 percent of residents in theLand of Lincoln say they trust the characters in Springfield to do the right thing. Gallup polled 600 residents in all 50 states last year, coming up with a poll that had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.”

Well, that would explain the new state flag:

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PA Senate May Ban Cash Gifts, Too

First the House, now the Senate: “Soon, there’s a chance none of Pennsylvania’s lawmakers will be able to accept cash gifts. On the heels of the House Bipartisan Management Committee issuing a new rule Wednesday banning members from accepting cash gifts, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Philadelphia, said that chamber could take up a similar rule next week. The reforms come in the wake of a scandal in which four members of the Philadelphia House delegation were accused of accepting cash in a since-abandoned sting operation.” (PennLive)

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