This would be funny if it weren’t so disturbing.

Angela Couloumbis and Craig R. McCoy report for The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 16, 2014, that a 3-year undercover sting operation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office captured five state officials on tape accepting money.

All five corrupt officials not only are Democrats, they’re also black.

Yet no one was charged with a crime.

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Prosecutors began the sting in 2010 when Republican Tom Corbett was attorney general. After Democrat Kathleen G. Kane took office in 2013, she shut it down, calling the investigation poorly conceived, badly managed, and racist because the sting had targeted African Americans.

Those who favored the sting believe it was a solid investigation that had the potential to capture more corrupt officials. They are outraged at Kane’s allegation that race had played a role in the sting.

Before Kane ended the investigation, prosecutors had amassed 400 hours of audio and videotape that documented at least four city Democrats taking payments in cash or money orders, and in one case a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet, and in exchange for votes or contracts.

The sting made financial pitches to both Republicans and Democrats, but only black Democrats accepted the payments, i.e., bribes.

The investigation’s undercover operative was a black lobbyist, Tyron B. Ali, 40, who agreed to wear a wire and tape the officials to win favorable treatment after his arrest in a $430,000 fraud case. Last fall, the Attorney General’s Office secretly dropped the fraud charges against Ali.

Thomasine Tynesl to r: Thomasine Tynes, Ronald Waters, Vanessa Brown

The officials caught on tape in the sting included:

  • Former Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes, who acknowledged that Ali gave her the bracelet.
  • State Rep. Ronald G. Waters accepted multiple payments totaling $7,650.
  • State Rep. Vanessa Brown took $4,000 in exchange for voting against a bill requiring voters to show identification at the polls. Brown did vote against the bill, as did every other Democrat in the House.
  • State Rep. Michelle Brownlee received $3,500, but said she couldn’t recall taking a bribe.
  • State Rep. Louise Bishop took $1,500, but denied receiving money.

Michelle BrownleeMichelle Brownlee (l); Louise Bishop (r)

None of the five reported receiving gifts or campaign money from Ali on official disclosure forms in recent years. While state law sets no limits on the dollar amount of gifts lawmakers may accept, annual disclosure is required. Under state law, those omissions may be considered false swearing to authorities, a crime with a penalty of up to one year in jail.

Kathleen Kane

When Kathleen Kane became the state’s first Democrat and first female attorney general on Jan. 15, 2013, her staff conducted a review of the sting operation, in partnership with FBI agents. In the end, she chose not to pursue it, insisting that the case was dropped because it was flawed, not because she was reluctant to bring political-corruption cases.

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Kane said one reason was that prosecutors in the case had issued orders to target “only members of the General Assembly’s Black Caucus” and to ignore “potentially illegal acts by white members of the General Assembly.” According to Kane, the lead agent in the case Claude Thomas said he had been told to target members of the Legislative Black Caucus.

Lead prosecutor Frank G. Fina vehemently denies that race was a factor. In fact, Ali and lead agent Thomas are both black.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, a Democrat, also denounced Kane’s suggestion that Fina or Thomas acted improperly: ”The notion that they would target anyone based on race is ridiculous. I am confident they are not racist, and it is regrettable that the Attorney General would casually throw around such an explosive accusation.”

Sources with knowledge of the sting said Ali had approached a wide range of officials, from both parties, black and white. In time, the sources said, Ali didn’t even have to reach out to elected officials. They called him.

H/t WND and FOTM’s dee

~Eowyn

Dr. Eowyn is the Editor of Fellowship of the Minds.