Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pa. Kingpins of Corruption


(Note: The lack of party affiliation. There is likely a "good" reason for that!)

PennLive readers, help us pick the most corrupt modern Pa. politician

Kingpins of Corruption logo.jpg
(PennLive.com/Bertha Villarroel)

 By Matt Zencey

With disgraced state treasurer Rob McCord joining the seemingly endless stream of self-dealing Pennsylvania politicians caught breaking the law, we at the PennLive opinion section got to wondering:

Who deserves the title of "most corrupt politician in modern Pennsylvania history"?

Readers, this is your chance to decide.

Introducing PennLive's "Kingpins of Corruption," a single-elimination competition that lets you decide which public figure in Pennsylvania deserves the ignominious title as worst violator of the public trust in the modern era.

With your help, we'll compile a bracket of 32 miscreants, wrongdoers, and money-grabbers.

We'll break the field into sets of two, and ask you to pick which of the two is the worst. The one you pick will advance to the next round and face off against another fellow convict or sleazy dealer.

At the end of the voting, one last Pennsylvania pol will be left standing, to be crowned the "Kingpin of Pa. Corruption."

To start, we have to cull the vast field of Pennsylvania's corrupt politicians down to a manageable number. And to do that, we need your help.

Tell us who you think most richly belongs in the starting field of 32 public figures to be scorned.

We've got a working list after rooting through our files on Bonusgate, Computergate, and Porngate, as well as individual scandals going back a decade or more ago -- but there are some bad guys and gals we may have missed.

Include a tidbit about what you think is the most outrageous offense your nominee committed. When it comes time for you to vote, we'll include a brief rap sheet for each contestant. (If at this stage you need to refresh your disgust, just Google their names.)

We may start the voting by grouping the offenders into common areas: 

Bonusgate, Computergate, bad judges, other corrupt state legislators, statewide elected officials bounced from office, and so on.

We'll have a special group for scandalous politicians from before the year 2000, so they don't get wiped out quickly by more recent wrongdoers who are fresher in your mind. (But we'll cut things off at 1968, date of Pennsylvania's current constitution. We're rating modern politicians, not legendary grafters like Boies Penrose and Simon Cameron.)

Nominees should be those convicted of breaking laws or caught violating ethics standards.

But just in case that screening criterion leaves out a shady politician you want to include, we'll have a preliminary competition to nominate two "not indicted/convicted" politicians for slots in our field of 32. (Among others, I'm guessing we'll see nominations for Steve Reed and Kathleen Kane, while those with long memories may suggest Congressmen John Murtha and Bud Shuster the elder.)

Post your nominations in the comments, or email to mzencey@pennlive.com. The deadline is Thursday noon.

Kingpins of Corruption.jpgView full size Clockwise from upper left: Former state treasurer Rob McCord, former attorney general Ernie Preate, former state Sen. Vince Fumo, former House speaker Bill Deweese, former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, former House Republican Whip Brett Feese., and in the center, former Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery.  
To renew your outrage and remind you of offenders from the more distant past, here are some of the big fish who are pretty certain to make our starting field (not a complete list, by any means!):

Bonusgate (using state money to reward campaign workers): former House Speaker Bill DeWeese, Stephen Stetler, and Mike Veon.

Computergate (using state computers for partisan political purposes): 

former House Speaker John Perzel, Brett Feese, and Jeffrey Habay.

Judges: Seamus McCaffery, disgraced porn emailer; Joan Orie Melvin, campaign use of state resources;

 Luzerne County "Cash For Kids" judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella;

 impeached Supreme Court justice Rolf Larsen, prescription drug fraudster.

Philly powerbroker Vince Fumo, convicted of 137 federal corruption charges.

Philadelphia state Sen. LeAnna Washington, admitted using state-paid staff for her campaign fundraiser/birthday party.

Former Harrisburg city treasurer John Campbell, now facing felony theft charges.

And some of the memorable cases from the more distant past:

Auditor General Al Benedict, nailed by the feds in 1988 for accepting thousands of dollars in bribes for jobs and no-bid contracts.

Attorney General Ernie Preate, copped to mail fraud in 1995 for his hanky-panky with video poker operators.

Philadelphia area Congressmen Raymond Lederer (D-PA) and Michael "Ozzie" Myers, convicted of bribery in the 1981 Abscam scandal.

Wilkes-Barre Congressman Daniel Flood, the notorious pork-dispensing pol, convicted of one charge after taking payoffs from five people.

State Rep. Tom Druce, committed a fatal hit-and-run, plus evidence tampering and insurance fraud.

State Rep. Tracy Seyfert, nabbed for stealing an electrical generator, which she used to keep her exotic birds warm, and for plotting to cover up the crime.

State Sen. Joe Loeper, former Senate majority leader, busted on tax charges after hiding $330,000 of payments from a company he did favors for.

And my personal favorite (for its perfect symbolism):

Youngsville State Sen. Bill Slocum, Youngsville, went to federal prison in 2000 for dumping raw sewage into a trout stream while he was a sewage plant operator.

Surely there are more on your list - just let us know. 

Matt Zencey is Deputy Opinion Editor of PennLive and The Patriot-News. Email mzencey@pennlive.com and on Twitter @MattZencey.


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