Meet the New Queen (of Cover-Ups)

March 5, 2023

Last week in Harrisburg Democrat Rep. Joanna McClinton was elected Speaker of the House, following Rep. Mark Rozzi's resignation as Speaker after a short and disappointing 55-day stint.

McClinton's meteoric rise through the Democrat ranks in Harrisburg highlights the movement of the Pennsylvania Democrat Party away from the traditional liberal values of hard-working tradesmen, and toward the progressive wokeism of holier-than-thou elites.

Occurring on the last day of Black History Month and one day before the start of Women's History Month, many hailed McClinton's grasp of the gavel as historic. Unfortunately, that history is tarnished by a cover-up within her caucus which exposes a disturbing priority for political power over integrity.

Forging Her Way To the Top

McClinton, in her previous role as House Democrat Leader, gleefully bragged about using the redistricting process as the best way to win a majority before that process began, had herself secretly sworn in early for the 2023-34 session, created the fictitious position of "Acting Speaker" to issue questionable writs for special elections, and teamed up with Rozzi to delay any and all legislative activity in the House until enough Democrats were actually seated in the chamber to secure her ascension to the Speakership.

We can complain all we like, but in hindsight those were all political maneuvers employed by McClinton to engineer her way to the top of the political world. Even those who oppose her policy positions can at least recognize her raw opportunism and machinations. That's politics.

But recent revelations of multiple accusations of groping, sexual harassment, and other inappropriate acts by Democrat Rep. Mike Zabel from a lobbyist, a fellow legislator, and a campaign volunteer taint McClinton's rise to power with the stench of a cover-up of epic proportions.

Tarnishing the Crown

Zabel's identity was first publicly outed by an anonymous twitter account, and then by Broad and Liberty, a media outlet outside the usual Harrisburg circles, followed by an avalanche of mainstream media outlets that didn't want to be viewed as getting scooped. But Zabel's identity and reputation was no secret in the hallowed halls of Harrisburg.

In fact, Zabel's name was probably the worst kept secret under the capitol dome. I say that because while I work in the capitol, I don't spend much time hanging around downtown after hours and I'm not a regular fixture in Democrat social circles. Despite my propensity for driving home after session every day, even I knew Zabel's identity as the alleged groper.

The Cover-Up

The existence of a sexual harasser in our midst was first publicly revealed by a lobbyist during Rozzi's so-called Speaker's Listening Tour, although she didn't identify him. A Democrat friend clued me in to Zabel's identity a couple days later, along with the fact that it was an ongoing pattern of behavior which was widely known in Democrat circles. The female Republican legislator now referenced in the initial Broad and Liberty report confidentially corroborated this information to me a couple days later.

A different female legislator, newly elected to the House in 2022, has revealed that when she first came to Harrisburg she was warned about Zabel's reputation by "a number of female colleagues."

Zabel's campaign manager during his first campaign in 2018 published a blog detailing her longstanding concerns about his pattern of troubling behavior. She also claimed she alerted now-House Democrat Caucus Administrator Rep. Leanne Krueger, who more notably serves as Chair of the House Democrat Campaign Committee, before the lobbyist claim was made during the Speaker's Listening Tour.

And finally, that same lobbyist tweeted a timeline of her efforts to address the Zabel issue, which mentions multiple engagements with "leadership" on the matter over a span of four years, according to a different report.

An Unbelievable Claim of Ignorance

Due to all of the above, the statement allegedly issued on March 1 by "leaders of the House Democratic Caucus" which claimed they only learned of the Zabel fiasco "today" is simply not credible.

That this statement was not offered on official letterhead, nor signed by any member of the Democrat leadership team, is a huge red flag. If McClinton and her Democrat leadership team truly had no knowledge of Zabel's antics before March 1, it would represent a disconnection from reality on an embarrassing scale, disqualifying them from being in charge of organizing a silverware drawer, much less public policy for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The Democrats knew about Zabel. They knew it all along, perhaps as early as 2018, and they covered it up just long enough to get McClinton elevated into the Speakership and their House rules package ramrodded through with the slimmest majority of support. Had they acknowledged what they knew any earlier, the numbers might not have worked out for them to pull it all off.

Press Complicit in the Cover Up

They nearly didn't make it across the finish line, though. They only squeaked by. The original report from Broad and Liberty naming Zabel was published literally as we were debating the rules package on the House floor. In my opinion, other more mainstream outlets only quickly followed suit to diminish the embarrassment of getting scooped on a huge scandal.

I know at least one Harrisburg reporter had the same information Broad and Liberty had, as early as two full days before Rozzi's resignation and McClinton's election as Speaker and three full days before the Democrats passed their rules package. A complicit press aiding the Zabel cover-up is the Pennsylvania equivalent of the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story in 2020.

Long Live the Queen

No matter what McClinton accomplishes legislatively as Speaker of the House, her legacy will forever be tarnished by the stain of the Zabel cover-up. The Democrat thirst for power clearly outweighs all considerations of honesty, decency, and integrity, and as their leader in the House it all rests squarely at McClinton's feet.

While her shrewd machinations and opportunism over the last few years might be worthy of awe from a purely political science perspective, they are completely eclipsed by the arrogant and immoral cynicism behind the horrifying cover-up of a predator on her watch.

Immediately after House Democrats ramrodded their rules package through the chamber, McClinton announced the membership of the House Judiciary Committee, which was slated to immediately move Rozzi's two bills for victims of childhood sexual abuse. Adding insult to injury, she brazenly appointed Zabel to that committee.

Think about that for a moment – an accused predator named to a committee tasked with advancing bills aimed at helping victims of other predators. My jaw nearly hit the House floor when I heard his name mentioned.

Hubris, Irony, and Duplicity

In an appalling display of hubris, as of this writing House Democrat leadership has still not called for Zabel to resign his seat, as House Republican leadership did when Republican members have been accused of similar transgressions in the past. This flies in the face of what Democrats said back in 2018 during the height of the #metoo movement: 'Anyone accused of a credible violation like this should resign their position.'

It's ironic and duplicitous that while the law firm House Democrat Leader Rep. Matt Bradford, Zabel, and other Democrats serve at together had no problem kicking Zabel to the curb, Bradford has yet to call for similar action on behalf of the caucus he leads.

Pennsylvania deserves much better leadership than this. Women who work in Harrisburg deserve to be treated as professionals and have a clear path to demand action when they aren't. And of course, no one should ever get away with covering up for a predator to quench their thirst for political power.

Contact Representative Diamond