CREW requested that the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia look into whether Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) violated federal law by offering his support in the appropriations process in exchange for Pennsylvania state officials’ support of his candidacy in the upcoming April 27, 2004 Republican primary.
April 19, 2004
Patrick L. Meehan
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Pennsylvania
615 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Dear Mr. Meehan:
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-profit government watchdog organization, is concerned that Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) may have violated federal law by offering his support in the appropriations process in exchange for Pennsylvania state officialsâ support of his candidacy in the upcoming April 27, 2004 Republican primary.
On Thursday April 15, 2004, the Associated Press reported that a Lehigh Valley official said that he was told that his request for federal funding for a local rail project depended on his support for Senator Specter’s re-election effort. Lara Lakes Jordan, Official claims rail project in danger unless he backs Specter, Associated Press, April 15, 2004 (attached as Exhibit A).
According to the report, Lehigh County Commissioner Andy Roman stated that on April 7, 2004, he had a talk with one of Senator Specter’s staff members regarding the benefits of a rail line through the Lehigh Valley. Id. At the end of the conversation, the staff member remarked that he had heard that Mr. Roman might not be supporting Senator Specter in the upcoming Republican primary. Mr. Roman candidly stated that he was not supporting the Senator, but was instead supporting Congressman Pat Toomey. Id. According to Mr. Roman, the unnamed staff member then said, “if that’s the case, your rail initiative will come to a sudden end and it will never happen.” Id.
As you know, trading appropriations funding for political support constitutes an explicitly prohibited quid pro quo. 18 U.S.C. § 598, “Coercion by means of relief appropriations,” provides:
Whoever uses any part of any appropriation made by Congress for work relief, relief, or for increasing employment by providing loans and grants for public-works projects, or exercises or administers any authority conferred by any Appropriation Act for the purpose of interfering with, restraining, or coercing any individual in the exercise of his right to vote at any election, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
In addition, Acts of Congress may not be used to reward support. 8 U.S.C. §600, “Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity,” provides:
Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party in connection with any general or special election to any political office, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
Unfortunately, the attempted intimidation of Mr. Roman does not appear to be an isolated incident. Senator Specter seems to have improperly traded on his position as member of the Appropriations Committee in return for political support in at least two other instances as well.
State Representative Kelly Lewis apparently agreed to back Senator Specter in the Republican primary as long as Senator Specter has delivered on certain projects before the date of the primary. Susan Koomar, Area Legislators say they’ll back the GOP Senator who helps Monroe most, Pocono Record, January 11, 2004 (attached as Exhibit B). Mr. Lewis supported Mr. Toomey until Senator Specter called asking for his support. Mr. Lewis used the call as an opportunity to ask for money for several projects. As a result of that conversation, Mr. Lewis did not directly endorse Mr. Toomey. Mr. Lewis said, “Monroe County just hasnât gotten its fair share. That’s the bottom line. If that changes, I’ll carry any flag. If it doesnât, I’ll take a very hard look at who I am supporting in this primary.” Id.
Similarly State Representative Mario M. Scavello is supporting Senator Specter in return for the Senator’s assistance in finding funding to fix chronic flooding in East Stroudsburg. Mr. Scavello told the Pocono Record reporter that Senator Specter “has committed to help with those projects so I will support him.” Id.
The fact that appropriations assistance is apparently being exchanged for political support may be “politics as usual,” but it is also criminal and the government’s failure to enforce the laws prohibiting such quid pro quos only serves to diminish public expectations and investment in our political process. As a result, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington requests that you, as the United States Attorney with jurisdiction over the Lehigh Valley area, initiate an investigation into whether Senator Specter violated federal law by threatening not only Andy Roman, but all of the citizens of Pennsylvania with the loss of a rail project as punishment for Mr. Roman’s failure to support Mr. Specter’s candidacy for re-election to the United States Senate.
We look forward to your prompt reply.