[Promoted by Vladimir: It’s one thing to be a bad internet troll. But if you’re an elected official who's caught trolling a constituent, a white-haired grandmother no less, don’t lie about it. On camera. Jeez Louise.]
KDKA Pittsburgh broke a particularly troubling story yesterday about PA State Rep. Jesse White (D-Allegheny, Beaver and Washington Counties):
Janice Gibbs is a grandmother and was born and raised in Washington County. Although she has no drilling lease on her land, she believes that shale gas drilling is great for the local economy…When she started posting her pro-gas views on local websites under the name “Proud American,” she was soon shocked at how nasty things got…First, State Rep. Jesse White allegedly posted Gibbs’ real identity. Then, someone posting under the name “Prouder American” called her an "industry troll."
And it gets worse, “When anti-drilling posts appeared on their website [Energy-In-Depth] from “Janice Gibson” and another from someone falsely representing themselves as “Janice Gibbs” herself, the organization traced them. The internet protocol — or IP — address of those people came up as the same computer as Rep. White’s state e-mail address.” (Emphasis added and sorry but can not embed the video) [Video link here. - Ed.]
Rep. White has not always been as fierce a critic of natural gas drillers.
His relationship with the industry soured after being disappointed by the political fundraising efforts, on his behalf, of Range Resources and their unwillingness to fly him to the Super Bowl. (Articles on that subject can be seen here and here.)
I’m not a lawyer, but it would appear that Rep. White’s (alleged) use of his government issued computer and internet service would be unlawful under state criminal statute:
ABUSE OF OFFICIAL CAPACITY. (a) A public servant commits an offense if, with intent to obtain a benefit or with intent to harm or defraud another, he intentionally or knowingly:
(1) violates a law relating to the public servant's office or employment; or
(2) misuses government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant's custody or possession by virtue of the public servant's office or employment.
This kind of behavior is over the top in its own right. However, using government resources to harass folks for exercising their first amendment rights certainly ups the sleaze factor.
UPDATE: Turns out that Rep. White was the only member of the Pennsylvania House to vote against an "online impersonation" bill last session. (h/t to the PA Independent).