Wednesday, July 15, 2009

pennsylvania: where the rich and powerful can commit fraud with virtual impunity

Let's begin with this: Yesterday's sentencing of former state senator Vince Fumo was not all that surprising. His Vinceness got 55 months (!) despite being convicted of all 137 counts (!) of fraud by a jury back in March. The trial, which had lasted for months, was riveting. But federal judge Ronald L. Buckwalter, after hearing from so many "character" witnesses, decided The Vince of Darkness deserved far less than the 11-to-14-year guideline he had previously outlined. Many of us had been delighted by The Vince's conviction and likely possible lengthy prison sentence, hoping that it would send a message that public officials -- especially those scumbags in Harrisburg -- would think twice about betraying the public trust. As if. Not that we shouldn't have seen it coming, mind you. After all, according to Will Bunch's Attytood blog at
[I]n one of those only-in-Philly political moments, Fumo was actually facing felony charges for putting "ghost employees" on the state payroll in 1978, the same year he was elected a senator. A jury of his "peers" -- i.e., regular schlubs like you and me -- voted unanimously to find Fumo guilty. But a federal judge -- one of his real peers -- threw the conviction out. Talk about foreshadowing!
The entire charade is an outrage, people. And given that Harrisburg can't get a budget together (more on that in the near future), and that one longtime state senator has breathtakenly (and remorselessly) charged taxpayers to rent an office building in a business owned by him and his wife, it's all the more discouraging. Where, to borrow a tired and empty campaign cliche, is the change we can believe in? Then again, what do we expect when we'd rather have blanket coverage of Michael Jackson's death? Fact is, we deserve this, until we prove otherwise.

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