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Senate Republicans detail scope of bonus investigation

| Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011

HARRISBURG -- Since a bonus scandal surfaced in 2007, Senate Republicans turned over "tens of thousands of documents" to investigators, as well as e-mail, telephone and Internet records, they said in a statement on Monday.

In their most comprehensive statement on the investigation, Senate Republicans said the state Attorney General's Office has interviewed officials affiliated with the caucus, and former Senate Republican General Counsel Stephen MacNett twice voluntarily appeared before an investigating grand jury.

Senate Republicans "have done everything possible to cooperate with the Attorney General's office," said the statement from Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County.

Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Attorney General Linda Kelly, said he could not comment on any investigation.

A law firm the caucus hired interviewed 55 current and former caucus employees and provided the information learned in those interviews to the attorney general.

The Senate Republicans have paid $2.5 million for outside legal fees in the bonus investigation.

No one has been subpoenaed, said Senate GOP spokesman Erik Arneson.

Prosecutors charged 12 people tied to the House Democratic Caucus with using public resources for campaign work. Two were acquitted and 10 pleaded guilty or were convicted. The cases began with an investigation into the illegal awarding of bonuses for campaign work.

In a spinoff probe of House Republicans, five people entered guilty pleas. Three Republicans are slated for trial later this month. The GOP scheme involved $10 million worth of computer equipment and programs intended for use on campaigns.

Records showed bonuses given to legislative staffers in the 2005-06 session totaled $3.6 million. House Democrats handed out $2.3 million; House Republicans, $919,000; Senate Republicans $366,000 and Senate Democrats, $41,000.

Senate Republicans were the first caucus, at Scarnati's order, to release a complete list of bonuses.

The award or receipt of a bonus is not a crime. Tying the bonuses to campaigns is illegal, prosecutors said.

Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, started the investigation when he was attorney general. Corbett's critics claimed he would not investigate the Senate Republicans because they have historically been strong financial and political supporters.

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