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Former GOP staffer pleads guilty to using public resources for campaigns

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Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011

HARRISBURG – A former House Republican staffer today pleaded guilty and became the 16th person with ties to the Legislature to fall in a more than four-year public corruption probe by the attorney general`s office.

Al Bowman, of York County, was the sixth Republican to plead guilty in a scandal that involved the use of state-purchased computer technology for lawmakers` campaigns.

Seven Democrats pleaded guilty and three were convicted at trial last year. A statewide grand jury presentment in 2008 alleged widespread use of taxpayers` resources for campaigns in the House Democratic Caucus.

Facing 48 felonies, Bowman in an agreement with prosecutors pleaded in Dauphin County Court to one count of conspiracy to commit conflict of interest.

Bowman was at times a state-paid spokesman for ex-House Speaker John Perzel, R-Philadelphia, who pleaded guilty last month to eight felonies. Bowman admitted to participating in the use for campaign purposes of computer information from a company paid with tax dollars.

Three Republicans in the case are set for trial Monday: Former Rep. Brett Feese, R-Lycoming County, who most recently served as House Republicans` chief counsel; his former aide Jill Seaman of Dauphin, and Perzel`s former chief of staff, Brian Preski, of Philadelphia. They face charges of theft, conflict of interest and conspiracy. Feese and Seaman also are accused of obstruction of justice.

Opening arguments are expected to take most of the first day.

The overall allegation in a November 2009 grand jury presentment is that Perzel presided over the use of $10 million in state resources for his and fellow Republicans` campaigns. Sophisticated computer programs were used in an effort to give GOP candidates an edge in elections, prosecutors allege.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina said there is no agreement for a lighter sentence. 'That`ll be up to the court,' Fina said. 'It`s an entirely open plea.' The felony carries a maximum five-year prison term and a maximum $10,000 fine.

Bowman agreed to cooperate with the commonwealth as a witness if needed. Prosecutors, if satisfied with Bowman`s effort, may tell the court about the value of Bowman`s cooperation.

Bowman and his attorney had no comment as they left the courthouse.

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