Corruption and politics have been walking hand in hand since the earliest of times. In fact, for some, there’s no real difference between the two.
Nevertheless, at one time or another every citizens secretly wishes to be proven wrong. Not this time around! Says WHYY’s Chris Satullo in his weekly audio column Center Square.
Listen: [audio: satullo20091115.mp3]
It’s a clean sweep.
Pennsylvanians, we can feel so proud.
On Capitol Hill, the General Assembly has four caucuses that in effect function as mini-political parties unto themselves. Each has its own agenda and quirks.
And now, with the indictment last week of former Republican House Speaker John Perzel, it’s a clean sweep. That makes at least one top leader from each of the four caucuses who has done the perp walk.
Tick off the roll call: Vince Fumo, powerhouse Democratic senator, convicted of multiple corruptions in federal court. Former Democratic House whip Mike Veon – indicted in the same Bonusgate scandal that’s now reached Perzel. And, you may have forgotten this one, but former Senate Republican leader Joe Loeper did a stint in federal prison as a tax cheat.
And, hey, I’m not even counting the convictions of various back benchers for things such as perjury and killing a homeless veteran in a hit and run.
Basically, the crime rate inside the state Capitol is pretty close to that in the so-called Badlands of North Philadelphia.
Let me hasten to add that Perzel and Veon have only been charged, not convicted. But the grand jury had laid out detailed cases that, between them, they appropriated millions of tax dollars to boost their parties’ respective electoral fortunes.
Even if trial juries conclude that this electioneering on the public dime was not an actual crime, that wouldn’t be all that consoling.
The cases are built on a mound of emails and other records. What that suggests is that this kind of tax-funded politicking was a workaday norm around the state Capitol. When people think they’re doing something wrong, they don’t usually do it via e-mail.
Or perhaps they just thought no one from inside Harrisburg’s cozy little bipartisan culture of corruption would ever call them on it.
An irony lurks. Why did lawmakers indulge the taxpayer-funded shenanigans known as Bonusgate? In part, because they feared losing their perches of power in the 2006 elections. And why was that? Because of citizen disgust over the illegal pay raises the legislature had voted itself.
It apparently never occurred to these lawmakers that a better way to stay in office might be to truly embrace reform. Instead, they dug a deeper pit of corruption.
It’s time for another clean sweep in Harrisburg. The kind where voters throw the bums out.