Rendell is Character Witness in ‘Bonusgate’ Prosecution
In the ongoing game of Decade-long Horrible that is the Bonusgate case, it’s now being reported that former Gov. Ed Rendell testified as a character witness for former House Legislator and Department of Revenue Secretary Rep. Steve Stetler.
Stetler is being charged with—and pleaded not guilty to—theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest in actions related to Bonusgate. And like all alleged Bonusgate crimes, Stetler’s is full of oft-shadiness stemming from one dumb vote.
During Rendell’s testimony, he noted there were few people he’d make a character witness trip for. Mostly because he’s “never found a person who has a bad thing to say about him” and thinks the prosecution was a mistake — Rendell said it was a mistake for reals. Which is a little tough to buy.
An up-and-coming lawmaker from York, Stetler spent 16 years in the state House, and once even named a possible successor to onetime Minority Leader Bill DeWeese (by PoliticsPA, in 2003). He was elected to the House Democratic Policy Committee in 2003, and later the House Democratic Campaign Committee. In 2005, he voted for the infamous General Assembly pay increase (a vote which took place at 2 a.m. during the summer) and was so heavily criticized for his vote, he resigned his seat in 2006.
No matter, though. Because in November 2008, he was made Secretary of the Dept. of Revenue and served for 11 months. He resigned on December 15, 2009, just hours before being indicted. With both the highest sense of irony and, perhaps, AG Corbett’s agenda in mind, the then-top Pennsylvania prosecutor announced Stetler’s and House Democratic leader H. William DeWeese’s charges the same day. DeWeese is currently in prison.
Like most political indictments related to Bonusgate investigations, the Grand Jury report which led to Stetler’s indictment paints a picture of Stetler using several young, just-out-of-college legislative staffers to conduct opposition research against candidates while he was a leader of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, essentially grooming them toward a culture of corruption which seemed to exist in the Pennsylvania Legislature—and that’s not cool.
That report does not read unlike many others, showing young staffers accumulating “comp time” to “volunteer” on political campaigns. For instance:
But nevertheless, Rendell once called his reputation “as good as anyone could ever hope to have.” So, there’s that.