March 12, 2014

Attorney General Charges Sen. Washington With Theft, Conflict Of Interest

Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane Wednesday announced her office has filed criminal charges against Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-Philadelphia) for allegedly using her elected office for political and financial gain.
Attorney General Kane said agents and prosecutors from the Office of Attorney General's Criminal Prosecutions Section presented evidence of Sen. Washington’s criminal activities before a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the charges being filed today.
"The evidence will show that Sen. Washington pressured her staff into performing political activities using taxpayer dollars for her own personal benefit," said Attorney General Kane.
The grand jury found that Sen. Washington, through intimidation and verbal abuse, directed senate staff to perform campaign work even though staff knew what they were doing was against the law and that they had an obligation to report such activities.
The alleged activities center around Sen. Washington using state-paid employees and equipment at her district offices to organize an annual political campaign birthday fundraiser, which one former staff member described as a 'grand, gala event' held in late July to coincide with the senator's birthday.
Sen. Washington allegedly hid the activities from staff who expressed concern over the practices they knew to be wrong, going so far as to issue salary cuts and fire staff who disagreed with the activities.
According to the grand jury, some senate staff members devoted almost all of their time in the weeks and months leading up to the fundraiser maintaining databases for fundraising invitations and events; creating campaign fundraiser invitations; printing thousands of campaign fundraiser invitations; stuffing and stamping the envelopes for campaign fundraisers; and listing campaign contributions and expenditures to send to Sen. Washington's campaign treasurer.
In addition, the grand jury learned that signs and posters for the political fundraiser were printed at the Senate Graphic Design Department located in Harrisburg, as well as congratulatory signage celebrating family milestones and other deliverables for Senator Washington's campaign activities.
Attorney General Kane noted that in 2010, in response to the criminal convictions of other Pennsylvania legislators, the senate passed Resolution 228 regarding Senate Ethics Rules for their own ethical conduct. Sen. Washington was one of the measure's sponsors, yet at the same time she and her employees - at her direction and under her supervision - were allegedly violating the very criminal laws the policy was based upon.
The monetary loss to the Commonwealth is believed to range from at least $30,000 to in excess of $100,000.
Sen. LeAnna Washington is charged with one count of theft of services, a felony of the third degree that carries a maximum term of seven years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $15,000. She also is charged under the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act with one count of violation of the conflict of interest statute, a felony that carries a maximum term of five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
If convicted of all counts, Sen. Washington faces a maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $25,000. Sen. Washington was allowed to turn herself in Wednesday.
The case will be prosecuted in Montgomery County by Senior Deputy Attorney General Susan DiGiacomo of the Criminal Prosecutions Section.