Mayor John Street drew the support of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other prominent Democrats on Sunday, as they worked to rejuvenate a re-election campaign hampered by reports of an FBI investigation.
PELOSI, WHO ALONG with Gov. Ed Rendell and other lawmakers marched with Street in the city’s Columbus Day parade, questioned the timing of the FBI investigation. Listening devices were found in Street’s office on Tuesday, just a month before the Nov. 4 election.
“The probe raises serious questions about the timing of it,” said Pelosi, D-Calif. “Also that they would announce that it’s not campaign-related raises even more questions about whether it is campaign-related.”
At Bright Hope Baptist Church, the Rev. William H. Gray III, a former congressman and retiring president of the United Negro College Fund, gave a sermon in which he beseeched the FBI to be more specific about its investigation.
“Don’t leave a cloud hanging over our city in this election process,” said Gray, who met privately with Street afterward. “You need to be clear and say just what it is and who it is.”
SUPPORTERS REMAIN SUPPORTERS
Many voters said the investigation surrounding Street has not affected their plans for next month’s election. Supporters of both Street and Republican challenger Sam Katz said they made up their minds long ago.
Lorraine Williams, a Democrat who attended the sermon, said her support for Street would not change.
“Either party, it’s always something that’s going to happen just before the election,” Williams said.
Many Katz supporters said news of the bugs also hasn’t affected their thoughts.
“I’m at the same place I was before,” said Pamela Boice, a Republican.
In the days since the listening devices were found in City Hall, Street has said repeatedly that he has been told by federal prosecutors that he is not a suspect in a criminal investigation.
But a federal official, speaking to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, said Friday that Street is a “subject” in an investigation. The legal term is used to describe a person whose conduct is within the scope of a criminal probe, although they themselves may not be suspected of breaking the law.
Speculation over whether Street or someone close to his administration could be in legal trouble has made it all but impossible for the Democratic mayor to campaign against his Republican opponent, Sam Katz.
Street skipped three of the four events on his public schedule Friday. Campaign aides said he attended the funeral of a firefighter who suffered a heart attack while helping extinguish a fire.
NO MORE QUESTIONS
Mobbed by reporters at his one appearance, Street said his attorney urged him to stop answering questions about the investigation.
“He ... advised me that it’s inappropriate to give a daily recitation of everything that has happened between the U.S. Attorney’s office and me and all of this,” Street said, before adding, “I’ve told everybody everything that I know.”
The bugging was discovered Tuesday after the police commissioner ordered a routine sweep of the mayor’s offices for surveillance devices.
Federal law enforcement sources, speaking to The AP on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the FBI placed the bugs, but declined to say when or why.
In recent months, federal agents have subpoenaed city agencies for thousands of pages of records having to do with various city contracts, including a $13.6 million maintenance contract at the city-owned Philadelphia International Airport.
FEDS ARE MUM
Shortly after the bugs were found, FBI agents also confiscated Street’s handheld computer.
Federal authorities have declined to say whether any of those requests are related, and officials in several city departments refused to say whether agents have come for more documents in recent weeks.
Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., the publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, asked a federal court Friday to unseal all search warrants connected to the surveillance.
The newspaper company said that with the election looming on Nov. 4, the public has an overwhelming interest in knowing what information was used to get a judge’s approval for the bugging.
Democrats have suggested that the bugging was politically motivated, a charge that Republicans and U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan have denied.
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