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Pipeline corruption case set to end without convictions


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
February 22, 2021
Auditor's outlook, database bill, state grid, pipeline proceedings, no regrets, voter outreach, Kenyatta's launch, and eagles vs. raccoon. It's Monday.

Pennsylvania's new Republican auditor general, Timothy DeFoor, won't commit to saying November's election was fair — with one notable exception. 

I believe my election was fair,” DeFoor recently told state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D., Philadelphia) at a state House hearing. “As far as anybody else’s election, that’s a conversation that you would have to have with them, but I haven’t heard any complaints with regards to my specific election.”

DeFoor won his statewide race by three points in November, becoming Pennsylvania's first elected row officer of color and the first Republican in decades to fill the auditor general role.

Pressed on his comment by Spotlight PA, a spokesperson from DeFoor’s office called it a “personal view” and declined to elaborate.

THE CONTEXT: Despite significant down-ballot victories in Pennsylvania, state GOP leaders have continued to question the integrity of November's election, which culminated in former President Donald Trump's loss and a torrent of unsubstantiated election fraud claims fueling deep suspicion within the Republican base.

Now, at least one GOP line of inquiry could fall to DeFoor himself. Sen. Bob Mensch (R., Montgomery) said he’ll introduce a bill requiring DeFoor’s office to audit "the processes by which each county handled their elections" in 2020. 

DeFoor's spokesperson added by email: “Because the department may yet be asked to become involved in an official capacity, he must maintain his independence and has no further comment."

» If you learned something from today's edition, pay it forward and become a member of Spotlight PA so someone else can tomorrow.


“When things exploded, it went on for days. Every night was another chaotic mess.”

—Kenneth Finkel, a Temple history professor, on the white mob violence and racial justice protests that swept Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic
VACCINE UPDATE: New studies show that one COVID-19 vaccine shot may be enough for those who have already recovered from the disease. Here in Pennsylvania, officials say 1.9 million doses have been administered, as a group of lawmakers prepare to introduce legislation to create a centralized sign-up database. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
POST IT: Thanks, @four_one_two, for this shot of the Allegheny River Trail. Send us your hidden gems (or snow pictures!) using the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.

POWER QUESTIONS: Could what happened to Texas' power grid happen here in Pennsylvania? It's unlikely, the company that monitors the state's grid told The Morning Call, as its "power plants are built for freezing temperatures and winterized."

ZERO CONVICTIONS: A corruption and bribery case involving the controversial Mariner East pipeline project was touted as an accountability breakthrough in some energy and legal circles. More than a year later and it's poised to end without a single criminal conviction, The Inquirer reports. As the case concludes, work continues on the cross-state shale gas pipeline, which could be fully operational later this year. Neighbors told Spotlight PA last year they had no idea what to do in the event of an accident.

'NO REGRETS': A Lebanon County police officer charged with taking part in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol allegedly said he had "no regrets" about his actions in a Facebook message, Slate reports. The department that employs Joseph Fischer said he has been suspended without pay

VOTAR: More needs to be done to support Pennsylvania's Spanish-speaking voters, officials say, with some counties failing to meet language protections under the Voting Rights Act — 40 years after those protections were added. Almost 60,000 voting-age, Spanish-speaking Pennsylvanians are not guaranteed translated materials or interpreters at the polls because of where they live, WITF reports.

NEW ENTRY: State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta has joined the 2022 U.S. Senate race. The progressive Philadelphia lawmaker is the third Democrat to formally declare he's seeking the party's nod for Pat Toomey's seat. Kenyatta is the first openly LGBTQ person of color to be elected to the Pennsylvania legislature, arriving in Harrisburg on 2018's "Rainbow Wave," and the Capital-Star reports he begins his Senate bid with powerful endorsements in hand

GAME, SET, MATCH: Harrisburg native Jennifer Brady lost to Naomi Osaka in Saturday's Australian Open championship, ending a trip down under that began with a COVID-19 exposure and a 15-day quarantine. “I mean, I made my first Grand Slam final. So maybe if I wasn’t in quarantine, I would have won. Maybe,” Brady told reporters.

EGGLES: A 24-hour camera in Pittsburgh captured a tense showdown between two bald eagles and a raccoon that climbed 80 feet into their nest full of eggs. “It’s the bird’s parental instinct to protect the nest and the eggs,” Rachel Handel, an Audubon Society spokesperson, told TribLIVE. The raccoon insists it was all a big misunderstanding.  

NEW HUB: The nation's first menstruation hub has opened in Philadelphia. The SPOT Period in Germantown will offer uterine care and menstrual hygiene products and resources to people experiencing period poverty, The Philadelphia Tribune reports. Period poverty is the inability to afford menstrual products, and it's only gotten worse during the pandemic.

HAIL TO THE BOBBLEHEAD: It only took 160 years, but James Buchanan finally has his own bobblehead. That's right, the pride of Lancaster County (despite being widely regarded as one of the worst presidents ever) is now immortalized with a disproportionately shaped figurine, part of the "Neglected Presidents" collection.

TAKE 5: If you need me, I'll be on virtual vacation. My new favorite pastime is a free, online game that randomly shows you a street-level view of a U.S. or international city and then asks you to guess which city it is. It's like "Carmen Sandiego" with Google Maps, and it's the most fun I've had in a while. 
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Friday's answer: Arbitrary

Congrats to our weekly winner: Cameron T. 

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Art W., Jason H., Susan D., Michael P., Maureen G., Neal W., Yvette R., Dixie S., Jessica K., George S., Irene R., Jill G., Sharon T., Bill C., Mark O., Beth T., Steven Z., Bruce B., Kim C., Christopher R., John C., Stephanie J., Dennis M., Mary Ellen T., Bruce B., Bette Gray., Daniel D., Chris M., Jill A-S., Patricia M., Christine M., Tish M., Carol D., David I., John H., Patricia R., Tom M., Ron P., David W., Anne R., Dianne K., Joel S., Karen W., Eve B., Gloria G., Hugh B., Rick D., Heidi B., Donna W., Bob R., Suzanne S., Lance L., Lex M., Becky C., and Daniel M.
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Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

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