An eastern Pennsylvania lawmaker is being charged by the Pennsylvania
Attorney General’s Office with illegally using her elected office for political and financial gain.
The office of Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced Wednesday that agents and prosecutors working for her presented evidence of State Sen. LeAnna Washington’s criminal activities before a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended this week that charges be filed against the legislator.
“The evidence will show that Senator Washington pressured her staff into performing political activities using taxpayer dollars for her own personal benefit,” Kane said in a statement.
The grand jury found that Washington, through “intimidation and verbal abuse,” directed her staff to perform campaign work even though the staffers knew they were doing something that was illegal and that they had an obligation to report such activities to the proper authorities.
The senator, according to the Attorney General’s Office, used state-paid employees and equipment at her district offices to organize an annual political campaign birthday fundraiser, which was described by one former staffer as a “grand gala event,” held in late July to coincide with Washington’s birthday.
Washington, 68, a Democrat representing the 4th Senatorial District for the past two decades, has offices in both Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties.
“Senator Washington allegedly hid the activities from staff who expressed concern over the practices they knew to be wrong, going so far as to issue salary cuts and fire staff who disagreed with the activities,” reads a news release from the Attorney General’s Office.
Some staffers in the senator’s office devoted much of their time in the weeks and months leading up to the fundraiser maintaining databases for invitations and events, creating campaign fundraiser invitations, printing thousands of campaign fundraiser invitations, stuffing and stamping envelopes for the fundraisers, and listing campaign contributions and expenditures to send to Washington’s campaign treasurer, according to the grand jury’s findings.
The grand jury also found that signs and posters for the fundraiser were printed at the Senate Graphic Design Department in Harrisburg.
The Attorney General’s Office puts the monetary loss to the commonwealth somewhere between $30,000 and $100,000.
Washington is being charged with one count of theft of services, a third-degree felony that carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence, and one count of conflict of interest under the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, a felony that carries a maximum of term of five years imprisonment.
Kane’s office noted that Washington was one of the key proponents of Senate Resolution 228, passed back in 2010 in response to the criminal convictions of other Pennsylvania lawmakers.
The resolution dealt with ethics rules for senators’ conduct.
“Senator Washington was one of the measures sponsors, yet at the same time she and her employees – at her direction and under her supervision – were allegedly violating the very criminal laws the policy was based upon,” says the Attorney General’s Office news release.