Toohil-Gate: Unanswered Questions, and Her Evasions – Will the Media Follow Up?

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The travails of Tarah Toohil continue, in part because she has left unanswered questions hanging out there. There’s a lot for the media to follow up on – but will they?

Why didn’t she voluntarily disclose the $2,500 a group paid for her January 2012 Middle East trip? She says it was for legitimate purposes – she didn’t have to wait nine months for the information to come out, and she doesn’t have to wait now. (More information on that below.) (New today: Opponent takes aim at Toohil’s travel spending. Bravo, Standard-Speaker/Citizens Voice.)

Did she use marijuana at the pizza party? Or did she just witness one or more other people doing it there? Or did nothing illegal happen? That last option seems unlikely given her comments, but she hasn’t said. (The statute of limitations has presumably expired if the pizza party actually happened 15 years ago, as she says. So she could come clean without facing prosecution.)

WBRE-TV asked Toohil << about the apparent  presence of marijuana in the video. She replied, “Again look at the picture very closely it is not what it appears to be.” >>

Really? Is she claiming the stuff in the bag wasn’t marijuana? Is she claiming it was oregano? Grass clippings?

And since she told WBRE “If you look at the video closely you can see it was made to make it look like I was doing those things” — why was her response right after this came out to make a video of her own warning kids not to do drugs?

The marijuana questions are relevant because Toohil opposes decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana and she opposes medical marijuana.

Does she support a double standard for herself vs. other people? This, by the way, is the core of what the anonymous creator of the pizza party video, is asking:

<< I know this video has caused Rep. Toohil much grief and I am prepared to remove it from this website on the condition that she publicly and DIRECTLY answer the following questions:

1. Do you believe you should have suffered legal consequences for your past illegal acts?
2. If the answer is yes, where do you think you would be today?
3. Do you believe others should suffer legal consequences for doing the same things you did? >>

(The video’s creator posted those questions Oct. 18. No response from Toohil yet. I suspect the video will be up for a long time.)

Is she also claiming the object a lot of people have assumed to be a bong wasn’t? Is she claiming it was a candle or something else?

Now, an update and a roundup of related Toohil news:

Toohil is now dealing with flak over a trip and the $2,500 of its cost that a group paid for her, which she hasn’t reported yet:

<< Toohil, who did not see the television ad, said the $2,500 will be reported as required when she files her ethics report in January.

“I can’t report it until January,” she explained. >>

Actually, Rep. Toohil could have disclosed the trip months ago on her legislative website and her legislative Facebook page, the same way some legislators like auditor general candidate Eugene DePasquale disclose their official expenses on their legislative websites. But so far apparently she hasn’t.

Then the Hazleton paper followed up on the trip in Tuesday’s edition, seeking comment from Toohil’s Republican colleague who was photographed on a camel with her during the trip. Not surprisingly, he didn’t want to talk.

I don’t see what the problem is with the photo of her and the male rep on the camel. It makes them look silly. That’s hardly dirty politics. Questioning why she didn’t report the trip or the $2,500 a group paid toward it – legitimate. Illustrating that with the silly photo – legitimate. Her Democratic opponent briefly used the camel photo to illustrate that he supports “passing a bill that required legislators to report gifts of $250 or more within five days so that taxpayers and voters know of any type of trip” — and then apparently decided it was like using the pizza party video. (Illogical.) At least he’s back to questioning the trip again in today’s paper.

(It’s odd that neither Toohil nor Rep. Nick Miccarelli, the other rep on the camel, will say whether they had or have a relationship. Neither one of them is married, so — who would care? Why go into total clam-up mode?)

Toohil does not want your negative comments 

The Times-Shamrock papers do have a story out today which begins to get at her (selective) use of social media: Social media swirl shapes Toohil response. But there’s more to this story.

Like some other media outlets did initially, PoliticsPA (to give one example) also fell for the “Toohil posted her response video online” bit. Her “don’t do drugs” video has only been posted in places where no one could comment (her legislative website) or where she could expect mostly or entirely positive comments (her personal Facebook page, according to PoliticsPA). If you’re not her “friend” on Facebook, you can’t see most of what’s on her personal Facebook page, and you can’t post comments to it either.

If she had posted the “don’t do drugs” video to her legislative Facebook page, maintained on the state dime, she would have very little leeway to delete unflattering comments. (My understanding is she could delete a few narrow categories of things: threats, campaign-related comments, those type of things).  Which is probably why several new posts have shown up on her legislative Facebook page since her “don’t do drugs” video came out, but that video hasn’t. (So brave!) Also, “Comments are disabled for this video” on the Youtube page for her video. PoliticsPA said she displayed “candor.” Not exactly. As a result of her keeping her “don’t do drugs” video off her own legislative Facebook page, her video has about 6,000 views, while the pizza party video has more than five times as many views. Not the best way to get her message out.

PoliticsPA does deserve credit for mentioning Toohil’s opposition to decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and, according to an earlier version of the Oct. 18 statement from the anonymous creator of the pizza-party video, for being the only media outlet that tried (as of Oct. 18) to try to contact the video’s creator. (That part of the statement now appears to be missing.)

(If you want to see an example of unflattering comments staying posted on a state-maintained Facebook page, check out Governor Corbett’s official Facebook page. One recent example: “While the rest of us in Pennsylvania are attempting to do more with less, you have the audacity to approve five figure raises for members of your staff?” Referring of course to this gem.)

Some in the media say voters deserved to see the party photos

At least the Hazleton Standard-Speaker, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice and other Times-Shamrock newspapers ran an editorial starting Sunday that stood by their decision to report on the photos of Toohil at the pizza party: In Toohil case, voters deserved to see photos.

Now, will the media follow up on the questions Toohil hasn’t answered? Or will she get away with stonewalling? The Standard-Speaker/Citizens Voice/Times-Shamrock have run some follow-up stories today (although as noted above, there are more unanswered questions). Will anyone else?

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A reminder of what the Keystone Politics roundup of guest blogger introductions mentioned earlier this month: I blog at KP on my *own* time. As you can guess, that means any opinions I express here are my own, not of my employer.

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