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AG’s office opens probe of Schneller’s petitions

AG’s office opens probe of Schneller’s petitions

Of the three candidates in the 7th Congressional District, two now find their nominating petitions under law enforcement scrutiny.

The state attorney general’s office has opened an investigation into independent Jim Schneller’s nominating papers. The investigation was spurred by a letter from an attorney representing supporters of Republican Pat Meehan.

Meehan’s nominating petitions are already being probed by the office for alleged fraud. His supporters recently failed in an attempt to knock Schneller off the ballot, after allies of Democratic nominee Bryan Lentz helped the conservative insurgent gather signatures. But the legal maneuvering hasn’t ended there. In examining nominating papers that were circulated for Schneller by Lentz supporters, Meehan’s camp came to believe that some might contain forged signatures. A handwriting expert was retained, and James Colins, the Cozen O’Connor attorney who has represented Meehan’s supporters for months, sent a letter and the expert’s preliminary report to Delaware County District Attorney Michael Green. That referral was passed on to the state attorney general’s office, which began an investigation, a spokesman confirmed. The spokesman declined to comment further.

The probe of Schneller’s petitions was opened before he filed suit against Attorney General Tom Corbett, seeking to compel Corbett’s office to complete its investigation of Meehan’s nominating petitions. The latest disclosure continues a heated campaign that has been dominated by bitter arguments about the propriety of how candidates gain ballot access. For all he has done to stoke those debates, Lentz now finds himself as the only candidate whose campaign is not under investigation.

In an interview late Tuesday, Schneller said he knew nothing of forged signatures. “I would have stopped them instantly,” he insisted.

At issue are signatures gathered by Richard Cairns, a Swarthmore Democrat and self-employed construction contractor. Cairns was one of several Lentz supporters who circulated papers for Schneller, in the hopes that Schneller’s presence on the ballot would pull votes from Meehan in the state’s most competitive House race. Cairns also gathered signatures for Lentz’s primary campaign, and served as a plaintiff in ballot challenges that eventually resulted in a clear primary field for Lentz.

Cairns collected only 114 signatures for Schneller, according to files on record with the Department of State, hardly enough to make a difference in the bottom line of whether Schneller had a sufficient number to be on the ballot. But in examining signatures he gathered, Colins wrote in his letter, Meehan’s camp came to believe they contained “what would appear to be numerous forgeries.”

“I have no knowledge as to who may have been the person responsible for these irregularities,” Colins wrote. “However, our examiner’s analysis indicates that [some signatures] do not match the signatures contained in the official registration records of Delaware County and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

That by itself is not evidence of forgery, and it remains to be seen what if anything the investigation will uncover. Reached Tuesday evening by, Cairns said: “So far as I am aware, there are no forged signatures on the petitions I circulated.”

In a brief examination of the signatures spotlighted by Meehan’s camp, identified some voters who said they definitely did sign the nominating papers, and some voters who said they definitely do not. Some others weren’t sure, and many could not be immediately reached Tuesday night.

September 8, 2010 at 10:53 am

--Dan Hirschhorn

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comments [13] | post a comment

  1. sue

    Sep 8th, 2010

    It will be most interesting to compare the progress of this investigation to that of the Meehan campaign.

    Situations like this certainly highlight the absolute folly of having a sitting AG running for office.The appearance of corruption is unavoidable. This alone is enough for me to question Corbett’s judgement.

  2. David Diano

    Sep 8th, 2010

    Cairns should be making the stronger statement:
    “I witnessed every signature.”

    Dan, as for the signatures not matching, that could easily be due to changes in a person’s signature in the decades since they first registered at age 18.
    Or even the difference from filling out their original form at a table, versus filling out the petition on a clipboard someone is holding.

    Also, it’s possible that some cases, parents filled out the original voter reg forms for their kids (wouldn’t surprise me for the Delco GOP).

    Of course, I wonder what Meehan’s “expert” has to say about all the forged signatures reported on Meehan’s petitions.

    ADVICE TO SCHNELLER CAMPAIGN: If you get Meehan’s “expert” on the stand, ask him to examine some of the clearly “questionable” signatures on Meehan’s petitions. That will put him in the VERY awkward position of appearing credible as an expert or trying to protect Meehan. LOL!!

  3. s. d. willy

    Sep 8th, 2010

    oh that’s good advice David. Why don’t you help jim out all the other Lentz shills did.

  4. David Diano

    Sep 8th, 2010

    I’m not a shill.

    A “shill” is someone who claims no previous connection/association, and pretends to be an independent/disinterested party, but then helps the person for whom they are shilling.

    Though I’m not a member of the Lentz campaign, I’m a supporter and contributor to the campaign, and a detractor of Meehan. I glad that Schneller is on the ballot because it hurts Meehan and improves Lentz’s chances.

    So, I’m happy to help Schneller with some advice to damage Meehan. Exposing the hypocrisy of Meehan regarding signatures is like shooting fish in a barrel. However, I’m not trying to convince anyone that Schneller has any good ideas, but I’m happy to point out that his ideas are as bad (often the same) as Meehan’s.

  5. sick of it all

    Sep 8th, 2010

    so what…just like the meehan ones…so what…let’s see if the AG ever gets around to any of them…doubt it. Pattyboys’ internal polling must be showing him to have a serious problem because he is wasting alot of money and energy here…reminiscent of what the republicans are doing in delaware to Christine O’Donnell. This will all backfire on Meehan…killing an ant with a nuclear warhead to quote an orange guy from ohio.

  6. B

    Sep 8th, 2010

    As I said back in August on this site, abolish the 7th congressional district. Problem solved. Enough already with these “candidates” that purportedly want to “serve” taxpayers in this state. It’s an absolute joke. None are fit for office. NONE.

  7. Lee Levan

    Sep 9th, 2010

    So we have a Republican candidate for statewide office (Corbett) investigating a complaint made by supporters of another Republican candidate for Congress (Meehan). No hint of a conflict of interest here, is there?

    I am so disappointed in the apathy of PA voters (and the mainstream media) to such blantant abuse of public office. Corbett knows, as does any first year law sudent, that he should be avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. He should recuse himself from this investigation, just as he should have done in regard to the investigation of the forgeries on Meehan’s petitions.

    Sadly, Corbett and ethics are seldom found in the same room together. And voters are so desensitized to corruption that this doesn’t make a ripple in the political fortunes of Corbett.

  8. Anonymous

    Sep 9th, 2010

    solution – throw them both off the ballot

  9. Jim Schneller

    Sep 9th, 2010

    The GOP defense in letting these rumors fly is showing their concern that my petition for writ of mandamus is on solid and serious footing.

    The issue that rises well above any suspected forgeries is the claim that GOP circulators were not circulators – that the petitions were passed around and not really circulated by anyone – this is illegal and fatal to a candidacy, and that’s why the Jim for Congress petition also names the Department of State – because at some point (which we feel has been surpassed), the Department must strike a nomination petition for violating the law.

    There is little question as to which party is neck deep in this – you both are !

  10. David Diano

    Sep 9th, 2010

    I can’t wait to read the news report of you making a fool of Meehan’s “expert” witness with all the various signature/handwriting problems with Meehan’s petitions.

    You should get copies of both your and Meehan’s, with the top part blacked out, so he doesn’t know which is which, and have him indicate which ones he thinks are forgeries.

    It should completely discredit either him or Meehan.

  11. Former Dem

    Sep 9th, 2010

    I may have misunderstood the things I read about Meehan. If so I am very sorry but his petitions stink out loud and something should be done to him. Meehan has made another joke out of the system. Why do I say that ? Could it be that I know one person, who is a Democrat that didn’t know anything about election, circulate Meehan’s petition for money which was paid by a guy in Upper Darby. She now knows that she was set up and is scared to death, but I am not afraid of Meehan nor Corbett the corrupt AG

    What a joke, Meehan first goes to the Republican DA which then sends it to the corrupt AG Corbett.

    What a joke, they should both be put in Prison in the same cell for a very long time.

    Anyone can call me at 610 938.2227 including Meehan as well as Corbett.

    Not everyone in the party is corrupt but Meehan and Corbett are.

    Does anyone wonder why so many don’t even vote anymore.? We have allowed both of these losers to get away with murder. Just how many innocent folks have they each put away? Is that what you want when the truth is right before your eyes
    If you believe in God and believe there is a heaven, don’t look for Meehan or Corbett as they will not be going there !

  12. Anthracite Alumn

    Sep 9th, 2010

    Corbett jumped right on the Orie petiton fraud- oh yeah she was a republican who circultated his petitions

  13. what about convicted felon Bob Asher

    Sep 13th, 2010

    This is such bull How about Corbetts realationship with Convicted Felon Bob Asher we need to amke it a heack of a lot easier to get on the ballot anyone who wants to run should be able to run if Felon Bob Asher can Be RNC member then anyone should be able to run it only takes 100 Dollars to get on the Ballot for Congress in Maryland

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