HARRISBURG - The next round of criminal charges in the legislative-bonus investigation will be filed this month or after the Nov. 4 election, state Attorney General Tom Corbett said yesterday.
Corbett told the Associated Press that, to avoid undue influence on the balloting, his office would not charge anyone in the Capitol scandal between Oct. 1 and the election. He said the self-imposed moratorium was modeled on a policy that was in force when he was a federal prosecutor in Western Pennsylvania.
"It's just an abundance of caution," he said. "It might affect my election by not doing it. I don't know."
In July, a dozen people connected to the House Democratic caucus, including a former party whip and one sitting legislator, became the first to be arrested in the investigation. Each was charged with theft, conspiracy, and conflict of interest. Corbett's office alleged that legislative employees were paid bonuses for campaign work, often on state time, and that public equipment and contracts were used to advance political interests.
Corbett has said that the investigation was focused on Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate and that more arrests were expected.
He said yesterday that the next arrests could be made by the end of this month, but only "if all the dominoes fall in the right line."
Investigators "are putting in 18-, 20-hour days. We're trying to get it done," he said. But "I will not compromise the strength of an investigation" to meet an arbitrary timetable.
Most of the 253 seats in the legislature are open this year.
Corbett, a Republican, seeks a second four-year term. He faces opposition from Democratic nominee John Morganelli, the Northampton County district attorney, and Libertarian candidate Marakay Rogers, a York lawyer.
Also yesterday, citizen activist Gene Stilp filed a lawsuit challenging the use of taxpayers' money to cover the legal costs of House Democratic caucus members and staffers who have been criminally charged.
The Commonwealth Court suit, which names House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese and state Treasurer Robin Wiessmann, seeks to prevent any more legal bills from being paid and to force reimbursement of money already spent on legal bills. DeWeese spokesman Tom Andrews called Stilp's lawsuit frivolous and "riddled with false statements and inaccuracies."