Corbett Shows His Independence with Twitter Subpoena

Politically motivated? Hardly. Going after Twitter shows the Attorney General has courage and conviction

Why does it seem that every time a politician takes on corruption, his motives are called into question?

We often hear that investigations of this sort are “politically motivated,” but rarely whether or not the charges are true.

Attorney General Tom Corbett is a good example.

Despite great success in rooting out legislative corruption — an investigation known as “Bonusgate” — Corbett, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, continues to be accused of using his office for political gain.

Unfortunately, too many of the Attorney General’s critics fail to look at the facts before they open up with both barrels.

Bonusgate was not the brainchild of an ambitious man looking to generate headlines for a gubernatorial run, but an investigation dropped into his lap by a newspaper’s investigative reporting. [SIGNUP]

In fact, Bonusgate was investigated using the evidence as a guide, wherever it happened to lead. At first, that was the Democratic caucus, where 10 felony convictions have been achieved thus far. Later, it was the Republican caucus, where a host of GOP insiders have been indicted, including powerful former Speaker John Perzel.

Because of the investigation, Corbett has said he will take neither campaign donations nor endorsements from legislators.

So how alienating an entire legislative body, including members of your own party who normally contribute over a million dollars to a gubernatorial candidate’s war chest, is politically beneficial remains a mystery.

But the criticism continues unabated.

Corbett has come under more fire recently, this time for obtaining a grand jury subpoena against Twitter to ascertain the identity of an anonymous blogger who had repeatedly criticized the Bonusgate investigation.

The Attorney General believed that Brett Cott, a convicted Bonusgate defendant, was the mastermind behind the blog.  And since Cott was scheduled for sentencing, it was Corbett’s intention to show that Cott lacked remorse for his crimes, and therefore deserved a long prison term.

Was Corbett within his legal right? Certainly.

Was it damaging to his political aspirations? Absolutely.  Of this, there can be any doubt.

And that, in a very real sense, is what would make Tom Corbett an effective governor.

* * *

A veteran of the political arena, Corbett knew the subpoena would unleash a torrent of negative press only five months before the election. Despite this, he chose to move ahead, and in the process, provided an insight into the type of governor he would be.

The easy road would have been to forget the subpoena.  After all, Cott was already convicted, and that’s the only headline he needed to be perceived as successful.

But Corbett, a prosecutor to the end, made the decision to see the case through in the manner he deemed most appropriate — political repercussions be damned.

Whether or not one agrees with the Attorney General’s decision — and from Democratic opponent Dan Onorato to free-speech advocates, many do not — Corbett has shown his mettle by following through on his pledge to conduct investigations free of political motivations.

Indicting powerful politicians and subpoenaing Twitter are not exactly the most prudent political moves, but both reflect Corbett’s philosophy to do the right thing without regard to the political consequences.

While that mentality is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant political atmosphere, there is the possibility that Corbett’s stick-to-his-guns approach may make him an “also-ran.”

If citizens think he is selectively prosecuting legislators to benefit his gubernatorial bid, he will lose. And if enough people think he abused his office by subpoenaing Twitter, he may not be the Keystone State’s next governor.

But a funny thing is happening in America that hasn’t occurred in a very long time.  People are awakening.

More and more, Americans are experiencing a deep-seated feeling that this time, things are different — and that we might not pull out of the current crises like we’ve always done in the past.

As a result, they are seeking a leader with the conviction, core and common sense to do what he believes is right…period.  No polls, no politics — just principle.

Whether Tom Corbett is that person, only time will tell.

Like or dislike him, agree with his decisions or not, Tom Corbett has just shown Pennsylvania that he is a man of his word and will not allow gubernatorial politics to get in the way of his job as the state’s top cop — even if it costs him the governorship.

Since that is a rare quality in any elected official, one thing is certain.

This November will make for a very interesting election.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.” Freind also serves as a weekly guest commentator on the Philadelphia-area talk radio show, Political Talk (WCHE 1520), and makes numerous other television and radio appearances.  He can be reached at