FBI probes Philly politics, mayor

It has hit the fan in Philadelphia. The uproar began after a “bug” was found planted in the ceiling of the mayor’s office just weeks before the mayoral election. Three federal officials later admitted the FBI was responsible for the eavesdropping device but would not say why it was planted. At the time, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell commented: “I think given this extraordinary situation with four weeks to go in this campaign, it is incumbent upon the FBI to say why they planted the device.” Mayor John F. Street told reporters: “I haven’t done anything wrong, and I don’t know that anybody in my cabinet or in my staff around me has done anything wrong.” Law enforcement officials subsequently have said Street is the subject of an investigation of municipal corruption. They have seized three of his hand-held computers and confiscated a number of city documents. Since then, the probe has burgeoned. The entire Philadelphia political system appears to be under investigation. Federal agents are demanding the mayor’s financial records. In addition to carting off boxes of city records, federal operatives raided three city agencies and the plush law offices of attorney Ronald A. White. Last week, at a hastily called news conference, Mayor Street said of the investigation: “The scope of it does appear very broad.” He added that it all seems like a “fishing expedition” to him. The federal searches and subpoenas, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “have all but blotted out the issues in the mayoral election, and stirred a growing, racially charged debate about their tactics.” Since federal officers have gone after his financial records, as well as those of his wife and his son, Street has gone on the attack. He said he believes leaks in the investigation were “calculated to create headlines.” Street said: “I don’t like any of this, and I have said from the very beginning that I believe the timing of all this is very suspicious.” The inquiry seems to be focused on city contracts and campaign money. Investigators sought records of contributions to the mayor’s re-election campaign and to a political action committee run by attorney White. Critics of the investigation are growing louder. White, a major political ally of Street, has earned millions of dollars doing city legal work. White told a Philadelphia television station: “Every record I have has been taken. They shut my office down. They basically shut me out of business. Why have they focused their investigation only on minority businesses? Are you telling me that minorities are the only ones who have business with this city? I don’t think so.” Street, a Democrat, said the scrutiny could galvanize his political base. A recent poll shows the first fallout from the probe has worked in his favor. According to the poll, he leads Republican challenger Sam Katz 48 percent to 41 percent. “I think people in this city are enormously fair, and they don’t like it when they think an injustice is happening,” Street said. “People can’t figure this out, so therefore they are left to conclude that something funny is probably happening.” Katz said polls don’t bother him because he’s doing his own research. “I’m getting very different results,” Katz said. “If it wasn’t for that, I’d truly be worried. Then it would be a different story.”

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!