The bonuses ranged from $5,000 to $15,000 apiece, according to the newspaper. They were part of $3.6 million on bonuses paid out to staffers by legislative leaders.
The work done on the taxpayer's dime may have made the difference in helping Democrats take majority control of the House for the first time in 12 years. But if the grand jury probe into the legality of the bonuses leads to indictments, that majority may be short-lived.
All 203 seats in the House are up for re-election in 2008 and Republicans will have a sure-fire campaign theme -- end Democratic Party corruption -- as they attempt to regain control of the House.
The Post-Gazette says the focus of the grand jury investigation is directed at House Democrats and the caucus' research office. Agents for Attorney General Tom Corbett raided the office and seized some of its records in August, according to the newspaper.
The Post-Gazette said 80 of the staffers who received the biggest 100 bonuses had worked for or contributed money to then-Minority Whip Michael Veon, who lost his re-election bid and has since opened a lobbying firm in Harrisburg.
Here's some specifics from the Post-Gazette article by staff writer Tracie Mauriello:
Legislative staffers commonly use vacation days, compensatory time and unpaid leave to work on campaigns. They are sometimes compensated for that work with campaign funds, but it is illegal for them to receive taxpayer funds for political work.
All together, House Democrats handed out $1.9 million in bonuses last year, four times as much as in 2005, a non-election year, and $700,000 more than the other three legislative caucuses combined. It was a crucial election year for House Democrats, who saw the opportunity to gain majority status for the first time in 12 years.William Sloane, the chief counsel to the House Democrats, who received a $4,945 bonus, drove 2,584 miles doing work for the House Democratic Campaign Committee during the year. He spent two days in Beaver County campaigning for Veon and made 10 postelection trips to Chester County.
(It was a recount in a Chester County House district that gave the Democrats the 102-101 majority they needed to take over the House after the Nov. 2006 election.)
Jennifer Brubaker, director of the research office, received a bonus of $17,750. Although she was not reimbursed for any campaign expenses, she contributed $500 apiece to House Democratic Leader H. William DeWeese and the House Democratic Campaign Committee and $250 to Veon.