Corruption probes hold untapped gold for Pa.
By Eric Heyl
Pennsylvania is missing out on a potential windfall.
It's a pity. With Budget Secretary Charles Zogby gloomily forecasting that the 2013-14 spending plan could be the most difficult ever to cobble together, the state is sitting on a likely gold mine that it thus far has taken no steps to tap.
Isn't it time to begin soliciting sponsorships for public corruption probes and ethics investigations?
It's hardly a secret that our lawmakers and bureaucrats often fail to obey the law or abide by accepted ethical standards. More than two dozen elected officials and their underlings were convicted or pleaded guilty to criminal charges since 2010.
Shouldn't the state try to make a few bucks off future wrongdoers, if only to recoup some of the expense involved in examining their possibly prison-worthy activities?
Here's how it might work: The General Assembly passes legislation creating a state Office of Investigative and Prosecutorial Promotion. Once the existence of a criminal or ethical inquiry becomes public knowledge, the office would actively seek corporations or individuals that would pay to attach their name to the probe.
Sponsorships could be purchased in phases, from initial grand jury leak through explosive prosecution testimony, and even include the post-conviction appellate process.
Don't think that a company would shirk from having its name associated with the often sordid behavior of state officials. Getting your brand frequently mentioned on TV and in newspapers is a staple of modern marketing, even if your brand is linked to something that inspires disgust and revulsion.
As a perfect example, consider that PNC long has attached its name to the Pirates' ballpark.
Consider this: The state Attorney General's Office opened the Bonusgate investigation into a myriad of illegal activities by lawmakers and their aides in 2007. The last of the defendants wasn't convicted until last year.
Some company undoubtedly would have leaped at the chance to get mentioned nearly every day for five years in connection with the corruption — particularly if it gave people the impression the sponsor was attempting to illuminate the darkest corners of state government. (“Coming up next on Eyewitness News: Sheila Throckmorton-Smith has all the details on the latest conviction in the General Electric Reveal Light Bulb Bonusgate scandal.”)
If lawmakers established the Office of Investigative and Prosecutorial Promotion immediately upon returning to Harrisburg on Monday, it probably wouldn't take long to line up sponsors for the state Ethics Commission probe of the Liquor Control Board, the grand jury investigation into the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the upcoming corruption trial of Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.
The money could start rolling in immediately. The state's widespread and never-ending corruption could provide it with a steady revenue stream.
All the state has to do is to start thinking outside the box — and inside the grand jury room.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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