The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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December 4, 2012

Lawmaker wants cash for jailed ex-member

HARRISBURG — A state representative from central Pennsylvania said Tuesday he was raising money as a holiday present for his predecessor, a former high-ranking House Republican serving prison time for public corruption.

Rep. Garth Everett said the case has “wreaked havoc” on the finances of former state Rep. Brett Feese, his predecessor in a Lycoming County district, so Everett emailed fellow House Republicans to chip in.

“To those of you who did serve with and/or know Brett from the ‘old days,’ many of you have asked me about him and asked if there is anything that you can do for him,” Everett wrote to his caucus colleagues on Monday.

He told them Feese has been hit hard by legal fees and fines, and the loss of income, pension and family health care benefits.

“While there is not much we can do about that, there is one little thing we can do for him and that is send him some bucks for his inmate account,” Everett wrote.

He provided an address and a promise that the names of contributors would be included on an accompanying Christmas card. The money will be added to Feese’s account at Waymart State Prison in northeastern Pennsylvania

Everett said in a phone interview that his request has generated some donations. He said he did not know the precise details of Feese’s personal finances, but has been to visit him and expected Feese to be annoyed when he learns of the gesture.

“He’s incarcerated, as you know, and the long legal battle has pretty much demolished his financial situation,” said Everett.

Everett grew up with Feese and they worked together in a Williamsport law firm. When Feese retired in 2006 and took a job as the House Republicans’ chief counsel, Everett ran for his House seat and won.

One email recipient, Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland, disclosed the donation request in a tweet on Tuesday that said it unnerved him.

“I kind of took this into account that somebody might find this newsworthy when I did it,” Everett said. “But I still felt that I was going to do it anyway.”

The lengthy investigation into the misuse of public money and government employees for campaign purposes has sent several high-profile former House members to jail. Besides Feese, others behind bars include Republican John Perzel and Democrats Bill DeWeese, Mike Veon and Steve Stetler.

After a six-week trial, Feese was convicted a year ago of all 40 counts against him. He was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison and fined $25,000. He also was ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to the state treasury.

His case involved using public money to hire out-of-state consultants and having legislative workers develop computer software to aid campaign efforts.

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