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Feese on trial for illegally using millions of taxpayers’ money

By Staff | Oct 12, 2011

HARRISBURG – Along with John Perzel, and several others, Brett O. Feese from Muncy was indicted on November 12, 2009, for participating in a scheme that allegedly used state funds for political campaigning.

Feese was indicted on 62 counts in connection to the Bonusgate scandal and bound over for trial on May 27, 2010 on 58 counts. Brett O. Feese was the Republican House Caucus legal counsel immediately prior to his indictment for his role in Bonusgate by the Pennsylvania Statewide Investigative Grand Jury.

Driven by a hunger to expand their power base, top Republicans in the state House of Representatives, including former Rep. Brett Feese, of Lycoming County, illegally used millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money, employees and equipment to compile massive databases of information about state voters to boost the potency of GOP campaigns, the lead prosecutor said at the beginning of the trial.

The first trial of Republicans in a nearly five-year-old state investigation “is about powerful people taking the public’s money and using it to expand and enhance their campaigns,” said Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina to the jury of six men and six women in Dauphin County where the trial was held.

Fina singled out former House Speaker, John Perzel as the moving force behind an alleged scheme that initially tapped tax-paid computer specialists in the House GOP caucus but eventually widened to include the hiring – mostly at public expense – of out-of-state consultants to develop customized computer programs and provide data about voters’ political preferences and lifestyles.

But Fina said the prosecution of the three defendants – Feese, a one-time House GOP whip and former head of the House Republican Campaign Committee; Brian Preski, Perzel’s former chief of staff; and former Feese aide Jill Seaman – is justified by their own actions.

Perzel, who lost his Philadelphia House seat in last year’s election, pleaded guilty to reduced charges last month.

Fina said one consultant – New Orleans-based GCR & Associates Inc. – received a total of $9 million in public funds over several years for work that was largely tailored to political campaigns, including a program called “Candidate Connect” that Fina called “an A-to-Z guide for Republican candidates.”

Joshua Lock, Feese’s lawyer, said the development of campaign databases was well under way before Feese ascended to House leadership positions and that he played a only a minor role in those discussions. Lock said he fears that jurors might be overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of evidence.

“It is hard to get your hands around,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just easy to assume that (a situation) is bad because it can be made to look bad.”

Feese, 57, and his co-defendant and former aide Jill Seaman, 59, face multiple counts of theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest for their roles in a scheme to spend millions of public dollars on consultants and technology to help elect GOP candidates for the House.

They also are charged with hindering apprehension and obstruction for allegedly creating handwritten notes, purportedly from meetings Feese had with caucus employees and vendors in 2007 and 2008, to make investigators think Feese was not involved in the misuse of funds.