Has identity theft become acceptable practice in Pennsylvania politics?
That's what some Delaware County Democrats are asking as Republican Tom Corbett made the transition yesterday from attorney general to governor - without filing charges in the forgery case involving Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan's nominating petitions.
County prosecutors forwarded the Meehan petitions to Corbett's office in March, soon after the forgeries were discovered. The Daily News also confirmed forgeries on Republican state House candidate Maureen Carey's nominating petitions for the 2010 primary.
The phony signatures - some appear two or three times - were submitted for both candidates by Paul Summers, a GOP activist who once said that he'd "run through a brick wall" for Upper Darby Republican leader John F. McNichol.
Nearly 10 months later, the Attorney General's Office has yet to file charges. And state agents have not even interviewed Terry Bradley, whose forged signature sparked the scandal.
"They were handed a case that was wrapped up - with a bow on top," said Bradley's husband, Ed Bradley, chairman of the Upper Darby Democratic Committee. "They've buried it."
Not so, says Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office. Frederiksen said yesterday that the investigation is "ongoing," but declined to elaborate.
The case is rife with potential conflicts of interest. Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green, a Republican, forwarded the evidence to Corbett's office because Green had contributed money to Meehan's campaign. But Corbett was running for governor last year with the support of the Delaware County GOP. Meehan also personally endorsed Corbett.
William Ryan Jr., who served two terms as Delaware County's district attorney, became interim attorney general yesterday.
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said that politics did not affect the investigation.
"Investigations like that are handled by career prosecutors and agents," Harley said. "They don't care if Tom Corbett is Republican or Democrat or running for governor."
In addition to the forgeries, Summers' own name is spelled three ways on Meehan's petitions, a possible indicator that other party operatives were involved. Summers and McNichol could not be reached yesterday for comment.
Some Upper Darby residents were angered to hear that their names had been used to help place Republican candidates on the ballot.