Saturday, February 22

PennLive Propagandizing For Governor Corbett Reaches New Heights

Penn Live continued to carry water for Governor Corbett in their recent articles about President Barron and Cliff Benson

Ray Blehar

If there was ever any doubt that PennLive  was carrying water for Govenor Corbett, it was erased this week.  First, they used the selection of President Barron to get in some swipes against Graham Spanier and the football program -- and also worked overtime in the comment section to censor any comments that put them in the cross-hairs over the Sandusky grand jury leaks.  

On Friday, PennLive wrote a factually challenged puff piece on why Corbett's new nominee to the PSU BOT, Cliff Benson, shouldn't be held to account for anything that happened at Sandusky's charity, The Second Mile.

Barron Selection Used to Deride Spanier, PSU Football

In a February 17th article penned by the PennLive Editorial Board, it repeated, as facts, the yet to be proven allegations of a football culture problem and that Spanier and others had mishandled the Sandusky matter.

President Barron (Flanked by Keith Masser)
From the article:
So Barron has a very good idea of the challenges that face the president of Penn State: keep football in proper perspective and continue to build on the school’s well-deserved reputation as a first-class institution of higher learning.

The Sandusky affair shattered Penn State’s reputation as a football program that kept football in proper perspective. Barron’s many challenges include restoring that reputation.

As most people know, football was kept in proper perspective by none other than Joe Paterno, who demanded his players go to class, graduate, and get the full college experience.  Prior to the scandal, NCAA President Mark Emmert called Paterno the definitive role model of what it means to be a college coach."  However, PL has been pushing the football culture narrative since the days right after the Sandusky grand jury presentment was leaked and they seem hell bent on not stopping any time soon.

In this passage, the Editorial Board must have forgotten all about journalistic standards when they made a declarative statement on Spanier's handling of the scandal.

Barron’s leadership style appears to be a good fit for Penn State. He portrays himself as the kind of leader who is not afraid to hear people out, seek advice of others and then make decisions. That would be a welcome change from the arrogant, high-control attitude that  Penn State displayed under President Graham Spanier's leadership, when it grossly mishandled reports about Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse.

This appears to be chapter and verse taken from the now thoroughly discredited Freeh Report, which alleged that Spanier was not inclusive in decision making, kept the BOT in the dark about Sandusky, and that Spanier made a fully informed decision not to report an incident of sexual abuse.   Most of us who have followed the case know that Freeh's assertions were not supported by the evidence, yet PennLive continues to turn a blind eye to the facts of the case as they are revealed with each judicial proceeding.

One might argue that PennLive just left out the words alleged or somehow forgot about the criminal, beyond-a-reasonable doubt standard with regard to the PSU administrators' role in the Sandusky scandal, however those arguments are null and void based on this passage:

Earlier this winter, Barron had to deal with an explosive accusation of sexual assault in Florida State’s football’s program. A woman said she was raped a year earlier by the star quarterback who eventually led Florida State to this year’s national championship, Jameis Winston.
Prosecutors declined to press charges against Winston. The accuser’s recollection was compromised by heavy consumption of alcohol, making it hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was in fact rape, not consensual sex.

As much as I hate to replow the ground about the 2001 incident, one of the few things that is certain about that incident is that it didn't meet a beyond a reasonable doubt standard for a rape conviction.  The other certainty is that Mike McQueary changed his recollection of the incident each time he was questioned about it.  To say that PSU mishandled a report of "sexual abuse" assumes facts not in evidence.

Censorship at PennLive

PennLive's actions in response to reader comments on this article also said a lot for the ethics of the Editorial Board. When people began commenting on the unfairness of this article and pointed out to PennLive that they had a few skeletons in their closet regarding being the recipient of grand jury leaks (and that one of their former employees was almost held in contempt of court), those comments were deleted almost as fast as they were posted in the comment section.  Several posters were banned from commenting on the story.  It was an astonishing display of censorship.

Penn Live Continues Corbett Cover Up

On Friday, February 21st, Charles Thompson wrote a puff piece about Governor Corbett's nominee to the PSU BOT, Cliff Benson.  While he treated Benson with kid gloves  -- by relying on information he got in an e-mail from embattled Second Mile President, David Woodle -- Thompson's obfuscation of the facts in the Sandusky case appears clearly to be protecting Governor Corbett and his botched, three-year investigation.

Sandusky was arrested in November 2011, about two-and-a-half years after allegations against him were first transferred to the state Attorney General's office - then headed by Corbett. (There are no signs that any additional children were molested by Sandusky after 2009, however.)

PennLive has continually made this statement, in fact, going further to say that Second Mile banned Sandusky from all activities involving children when they learned of his investigation in 2008.  

Those statements are absolutely false.

It is a FACT that Victim 9 (born July 29, 1993) testified to being molested up through his sixteenth birthday.  This would place crimes well after the investigation had hit Corbett's desk in the AG's office.  That fact provides evidence that Corbett's slow walked investigation resulted in the endangerment and abuse of at least one child.

Additionally, Sandusky's continued interaction with children after 2008 is well documented.  In a KDKA Pittsburgh article, a mother complained that Sandusky was interacting with children at the 2010 Summer Challenge camp.  Sandusky attended other Second Mile banquets and events involving children as participants, after he lost his clearance to work with children.  He was still very active in fundraising and promoting the charity well into 2011.  

All of this while Cliff Benson was a TSM Board Member.

Benson: Part of Sandusky Cover-up?
Thompson makes the inference that Benson would not have known much about the Sandusky investigation because he joined the Board in 2009.

Sandusky, according to case evidence, used his ongoing ties to the youth program he started to scout for boys that he would later assault. When Benson came onto the board, apparently in 2009, that was a nightmare that few knew about and no one was broadcasting.

According the the Second Mile 2009 Annual Report (for year ending August 31, 2009), Benson was listed as a director on the "State Board of Directors."  According to at least two members of the charity's board, Sandusky announced his resignation in the fall of 2009.  PennLive reported that at about the same meeting Sandusky resigned, TSM hired the PR firm Burson-Marsteller to assist in communication with the impending crisis.

The board's decision was to stay silent and continue to use Sandusky for fund raising and in a public relations role.  David Woodle recalled the Board sent out a letter to its donors that made no mention of the child abuse controversy.  This cover-up continued even after Sandusky formally announced his retirement in 2010.  

Benson was a board member the entire time this charade about Sandusky was going on.

Benson: Financial Oversight Questionable?

Cliff Benson
Thompson may have unwittingly damaged Benson when he accepted this statement from Woodle about the new nominee's role at the charity.

"Mr. Benson was a volunteer member of the State Board of Directors in the same role as all other directors," Woodle wrote in an email.
As a member of the finance committee, Woodle wrote, Benson "had general oversight review of the organizational finances... That would include tasks such as finance statement review and coordination with outside audit firms."

SMSS's review of the charity's IRS 990 forms, Annual Reports, and donor lists revealed material differences in the recording and computations of revenues.  While we did not have access to their general ledger or receipts, the analysis of expenses (based on Annual Reports and IRS forms) also raised several red flags.

The internal control environment at the charity was extremely poor.  Executive Director, Dr. Jack Raykovitz held the books and the bank accounts for the charity, while his wife, Katherine Genovese was the Vice President of Development (i.e., fund raising).  Their salaries also began increasing year to year after the first Sandusky investigation in 1998.

Additionally, information on the public record reveals that The Second Mile did not have independent audits of its financial statements performed from 2004 to 2010. A review of their IRS 990 forms (and attachments) revealed that from the period from 2000 to 2012, only three independent audits were performed.  Deloitte and Touche performed an audit on November 28, 2000, Parente Randolph performed on October 19, 2004, and Parente Beard perform the last audit on January 6, 2012.

The evidence reveals that Benson was apparently asleep at the wheel as a member of the finance committee when he served on it in 2009 and 2010 and it also appears he has much more knowledge of the Sandusky investigation than PennLive would lead you to believe.

More obfuscation 
While it appears that Thompson is simply spouting the company line, as requested by the governor's office, the unwillingness to honestly put Benson under scrutiny is troubling.  Thompson's statement about Benson's past employment (although he did mention ties to the natural gas industry) doesn't tell the full story of his relationships.

According to Benson's biography on the Buffalo Sabres web-site, he served as the lead client service partner for the worldwide services provided to the United States Steel Corporation and H.J. Heinz. Other clients served over his long career at Deloitte include Armco, Bayer Corporation, Marathon Oil, PPG Industries, Rockwell International, the Pittsburgh Penguins and East Resources.

Benson: Previous ties to Surma
As many Penn Staters know, former PSU BOT chairman John Surma was the CEO of US Steel.  Prior to that role, he was he head of finance and accounting at Marathon Oil starting in 1997.  Surma would later be named President of Marathon Ashland Petroleum, before eventually moving to U.S. Steel.

Who knows what other relationships we might find by digging into Benson's past?  

One thing that is certain: PennLive won't be doing any digging.


  1. Ray,
    You are right. For any "doubting Thomas" out there, I can assure you that Ray is correct. His reply to another person's posting was removed. It was the Thompson PN article of Feb 21 regarding the PSU Trustee with Second Mile Ties. I read Ray's posting which included his photo and Ray's reply that did not include his photo. I was very interested in Ray's reply, however the next morning and it had been removed.

    Ray, you closed your reply with a statement that this issue will soon be in Federal court. Would you please expand on that thought?

    Thanks again for your incredible work and enduring the personal attacks against you.

    1. I was not aware that PennLive removed my post on the Benson column. If I made a federal reference, it was to the investigation of The Second Mile, which has been ongoing for quite some time. That probe involves the FBI, IRS, and Postal Inspection Service.

      If Benson was there for financial oversight, he didn't do a very good job. I'll leave it at that.

    2. Interestingly enough. I was banned from Facebook for 12 hours yesterday for a violation of terms of use. Apparently, typing "WTF?" got me banned.

      I'll suggest that I was banned for getting too close to telling the whole truth.

  2. The letter I received from Second Mile had the words "...some of you may have heard that Sandusky is under investigation..." and "...a previous investigation ended with "unfounded"...". Unfortunately, I don't retain periodic newsletters that solicit donations. I got the distinct impression that Second Mile was being peppered with questions from donors about the investigation. People I know who work with inner city kids tell me that being accused of something is pretty much par for the course. Kids make up stories if they didn't get the goodies or attention they wanted. Street wise kids look for opportunities. The kids I got roped into working with were pretty good, but after a while I did want to abuse them....with a ball bat.

    1. Gregory,
      A Second Mile counselor sort of confirms your story. He noted that some of the kids would make clamis about being abused at home in order to garner attention. Their complaints had to be checked out.

      It is my understanding that Second Mile took a "different" approach when some parents complained about Sandusky's abuse their children.

  3. Ray,
    Thank you for answering my question about Federal court activity. The Sandusky investigation debacle can be understood if you do a timeline including the investigation, indictment and trial of the following:
    House Democrat "Bonusgate" case
    House Republican "Computergate" case
    (D) Sean Ramaley "Bonusgate" related trial and acquittal (started the Sandusky mess)
    2nd Veon case
    Bill DeWeese
    Steve Stettler

    Corbett placed trememdous pressure on Fina and company to produce convictions. Corbett wanted the free media to ride into the Governor's Mansion. All of the above involved a cast of similar characters. No wonder they resorted to questionable tactics to win in court.

    PSU took the fall to cover all of the Corbett abuse.