McDonnell and the Sandusky Trap

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    For six long years as Pennsylvania Attorney General, Tom Corbett allowed the Sandusky investigation to languish. Maybe that is why the Second Mile foundation board members contributed $25,000 to his gubernatorial campaign a year after Corbett had impaneled a grand jury to look into allegations. Pay to play.

    That Governor, who, as will be addressed separately, is susceptible the same kind of illusions as our own Bob McDonnell, was unwilling to distance himself from any association with Sandusky or Penn State even when any competent prosecutor would have had been well beyond alarm. When Corbett became AG, the allegations had been percolating for a good while. So the failure to pursue an investigation does not fall squarely on him alone. But…Corbett was in office for six years while Sandusky’s abuse continued.

    Penn State is a behemoth institution with the kind of influence that reaches into every corner of the state and beyond. Political success in Pennsylvania includes being on board with that reality. It is easier to bask in the halo’s glow than to chance a shadow on your own ambitions.  It’s a common human weakness; authority allows it to blossom and in this case Corbett and Sandusky and Penn State were all seduced by it. That partially explains why our own Governor has moon-walked away from the crisis at UVA. McDonnell thinks he has fashioned a position where he can claim decisive action and stay on the good side of everyone including disgraced political allies like now former Vice-Rector Mark Kington.

    Corbett defended his lack of action by saying that for a time there was only one accuser. But that was because no one in the AG’s office bothered to look far enough. Soon after a new state police commissioner took office, seven more investigators were added to the case and the sky fell. But not before the Second Mile board Chair Robert Poole held a fundraiser for Corbett at Poole’s home. Corbett denies that Poole knew about the investigation at that time, but Poole says he was aware. It is hard to believe that Governor McDonnell was completely unaware that there was turmoil at his state’s flagship university. As in the Sandusky case, these aren’t the kinds of machinations that go unnoticed. If he was unaware, he is a failure as a leader.

    This is a problem for Bob McDonnell who stayed conveniently away from the fray at UVA. If he hasn’t been in contact with Kington, shame on him. If he has been in contact with Kington, shame on him. There is no way that McDonnell comes out of this unscathed. Either his man played a key role in a decision that gets reversed, a key role in an unpopular decision that stands, or there is no decision and he has to explain to the General Assembly why he failed to fulfill a leadership responsibility. Like Corbett, McDonnell would rather wash his hands of his problem entirely. But…McDonnell has been at the helm long enough that he owns this fiasco and now he is trying to treat it as though he is a disinterested third party. That’s not leadership; it’s cowardice and complicity.