WEST CHESTER - State Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith, D-156, of West Chester, said the state House Democratic Caucus was wrong to have awarded bonuses to state employees for helping the political campaigns and personal lives of elected officials they served.

By DAN KRISTIE

WEST CHESTER - State Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith, D-156, of West Chester, said the state House Democratic Caucus was wrong to have awarded bonuses to state employees for helping the political campaigns and personal lives of elected officials they served.

And it is wrong to use taxpayer dollars to defend those guilty of this practice, she said.

"It appears that the amount of money spent to defend the illegal activities in the Democratic caucus - currently reported to be over $1.4 million - will rival the original expenditure," she said. "And as we know, two wrongs don't make a right, especially when they come at the expense of the taxpayer."

Speaking Monday on the steps of the new Chester County Justice Center, she suggested corruption has occurred in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses.

Her statements follow state Attorney General Tom Corbett's investigation into illegal campaign activities within the House Democratic Caucus.

A Republican, Corbett said he is also investigating the GOP caucus, but he has not yet released results of that investigation.

McIlvaine-Smith outlined various reforms contained in bills she has co-sponsored.

They include:

banning bonuses for all state employees (House Bill 2730);

setting limits on the number of terms a House legislator can serve and extending the term from two to four years so lawmakers don't waste as much time and money campaigning (HB 2500);

ending gerrymandering by reforming the redistricting system (HB 2420);

holding a constitutional convention (HB 2723); and

posting all legislative and caucus expenses online. (This is not in a bill, but McIlvaine-Smith said she has posted her expenses on her legislative Web site.)

She also announced she is joining the Pennsylvania Candidate Platform for Reform, or PennCPR, a movement that Paul Drucker, a Democrat running in the 157th District, initiated last month.

Drucker appeared with McIlvaine-Smith at Monday's news conference.

When the pair invited questions, Chester County Controller Val DiGregorio, who is active in the Republican Party, was the first to raise his hand. He asked if McIlvaine-Smith and Drucker believe House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, a target of Corbett's investigation, should resign.

McIlvaine-Smith said DeWeese should step down from his leadership position. She said she didn't support him when he first ran to be the Democratic leader and she would not support him if he sought this position again in 2009.

But she said she wouldn't call for him to leave office entirely, leaving that decision to the voters in his district.

Drucker said he would not support DeWeese if he ran again to be the House Democratic leader but wasn't calling for him to step down from his leadership position right now.

"That's not for me to say," Drucker said.

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