I didn’t mention this choice exhibit from September, 2009, when I looked through my archives on the Republican party to write up “Primary 2012 and the plight of the Republican party” (12/12/12):
I particularly noted the 2009 claim that Judge Orie Melvin had “the highest integrity and character.”
In today’s (1/19/13) Daily Local News, Joe Mandak’s AP story “DA wants to bar Melvin from raising trial” (not on DLN site; see it at PhillyBurbs.com) reminds us of the sorry story of now suspended PA Supreme Court Justice Orie Melvin, who has been on trial for using state employees’ tax-payer-paid time on personal campaigns.
To make matters worse, one of her two sisters, a former PA State Senator, is already in jail for the same offense, and another sister–a former member of Melvin’s staff in the Supreme Court–will be going on trial soon for being part of such schemes.
You can find details in “DA responds to Pa. justice’s Supreme Court appeal” by Joe Mandak, AP, Daily Local News, 1/10/13
Sad to say, Wikipedia’s “ List of American state and local politicians convicted of crimes” has more PA examples of politicians going to jail from 2000 to the present than any other state.
Yes, this is a bipartisan tradition in our state. Here are a few recent stellar examples from Wikipedia:
State Senator and Democratic Leader of the Pennsylvania Senate Bob Mellow (D, 2012)
State Representative and Speaker of the House of Representatives John M. Perzel (R, 2011)
State Senator Vince Fumo (D, 2009)
State Representative and Democratic Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Bill DeWeese (D, 2007)
State Representative & Democratic Whip of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Mike Veon (D, 2007)
State Senator F. Joseph Loeper (R, 2000)
There was only one conviction before 2000, which is not necessarily a good sign of those times, since that politician was the very person the public might have trusted to look energetically into such offenses: PA Attorney General Ernie Preate (R, 1995).
And how could voters possibly lose confidence in the state political system (which has also recently brought us such blatantly partisan maneuvers as gerrymandering, an exclusionary voter ID law, and an attempt to divide the state’s electoral vote)?
To me, the morals of the story are:
Voters need to scrutinize candidates and campaign claims closely. Don’t believe everything they tell you. Of course they have “the highest integrity and character.” They all do, right?
Parties need to be careful who their candidates are. Running candidates who later go to jail does not make a good impression on the public.
Endorsing groups need to be careful. The 7 organizations listed on the above brochure ought to have refrained from endorsing a candidate who in 2004 had to drop charges against an anonymous blogger who had accused her of misconduct (Wikipedia). Those groups (one hopes) already started squirming when Melvin’s two sisters were arrested in connection with her campaign misdeeds only 6 months after the election. If you belong to any of those groups, urge them to learn from experience!
Here, to end, is the full listing of jailed PA politicos from Wikipedia:
State Senator and Democratic Leader of the Pennsylvania Senate Bob Mellow (D) pleaded guilty to using Senate staffers for campaigns. (2012)
State Senator Jane Orie was convicted in March 2012, of 14 counts of forgery, conflict of interest and theft of services, which included 5 felonies. (2012)
State Representative and Speaker of the House of Representatives John M. Perzel (R), pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, including two counts of conflict of interest, two counts of theft, and four counts of conspiracy, concerning a scheme to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on computer technology from Aristotle, Inc. for the benefit of GOP political campaigns. (2011)
State Representative Brett Feese (R) sentenced to 4 to 12 years in state prison, an additional 2 years of probation, a $25,000.00 fine, and $1,000,000.00 in restitution for his role in the Computergate state government corruption scandal.
Secretary of Revenue of Pennsylvania Stephen Stetler (D) sentenced to 1.5–5 years in prison, fined $35,000, order to pay $466,621 restitution for multiple corruption convictions. (2009)
State Representative & Democratic Whip of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Mike Veon, convicted of mis-using state funds and sentenced to 6–14 years in jail. (2007)
State Representative and Democratic Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Bill DeWeese (D) found guilty of five of the six felony counts with which he was charged and senteced to 30–60 months. (2007)
State Senator Vince Fumo (D) was found guilty of 139-counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and filing a false tax return. Two staffers were also arrested and indicted on charges of destroying electronic evidence, including e-mail related to the investigation. (2009)
State Representative Thomas W. Druce (R) was convicted in 2000 of a 1999 hit and run that killed a man. He served two years in prison before his release in 2006.
State Representative Linda Bebko-Jones (D) and her chief-of-staff were charged with forging some of the signatures on their nominating petitions. They were both sentenced to 12 months probation and fined $1,500 with community service. (2007)
State Senator Bill Slocum (R) pled guilty to six criminal misdemeanor charges for filing false reports to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and discharging 3.5 million gallons of raw sewage into Brokenstraw Creek while he was a sewage plant manager in Youngsville, Pennsylvania.(2000)
State Representative Frank Gigliotti (D) was convicted and sentenced in 2000 to 46 months incarceration for extortion, mail fraud, and filing a false income tax return.
State Senator F. Joseph Loeper (R) In 2000 Loeper pled guilty in federal court of falsifying tax-related documents to conceal more than $330,000 in income he received from a private consulting firm while serving in the Senate. He resigned his senate seat on December 31, 2000, and was later released from federal prison at Fort Dix, New Jersey, after serving 6 months.
State Representative Jeffrey Habay (R) was convicted of 21 counts of harassment, solicitation for perjury and intimidation. (2007)
State Representative John Perzel (R) pled guilty on August 31, 2011 to eight criminal charges of spending tax dollars for campaigning in what came to be known as Bonusgate. Perzel’s Chief of Staff Brian Preski was sentenced to 2½ years.
Republican House Counsel Brett O. Feese (R) was sentenced in February 10, 2012 to 4–12 years in prison for using public funds for campaigning.
State Representative Jeffrey Habay (R) was found guilty on December 12, 2005 of conflict of interest. he resigned and was sentenced to 6 to 12 months of prison followed by four years of probation.
State Representative Frank LaGrotta (D) pled guilty to two counts of corruption for giving away $26,000 of state funds in the 2006 Pennsylvania General Assembly bonus controversy. Sentenced to 6 months house arrest, probation, and fines. (2007)