Ah, you gotta love Philly. A little more than a month since returning home from a four year stint in a federal prison in Kentucky, Vince Fumo is hitting the social circuit. Or rather, he’s hosting it.
Former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo has invited many of his former staff members to his home for what is described as a social gathering on Sunday, Sept. 22. Invitations by telephone and e-mail have been extended to former Fumo aides in his Philadelphia and Harrisburg offices, recipients confirmed Thursday.
And many of those aides still work in state politics–four of them in the office State Sen. Larry Farnese, who replaced Fumo. That’s the angle this morning’s Inquirer story focused on. But it’s hard to get too worked up about that, considering what their former boss got in trouble for. When it comes to scandaling us over something Fumo-related, the bar has been set pretty high. [Inquirer]
We’ve got another nominee for “Worst Father in Philadelphia“! In court testimony yesterday at City Hall, Vince Fumo’s own kids laid bare the bitter feud between the imprisoned Democratic power broker and his family. The rift centers on who controls a $2.5 million trust fund Fumo set up for his children, Allison and Vincent Jr., in 2006. Ever since Fumo borrowed money from the fund in 2009, he’s become increasingly determined to plunder all of it, appointing personal cronies as trustees, according to Allison, who sued for control of the trust last year.
“I don’t trust my father, unfortunately,” Allison Fumo, 23, testified. Her brother, Vincent E. Fumo, 44, said much the same. He said his father wanted to win “at all costs” – even if it meant draining every dollar from a $2.5 million trust fund set up for him and his sister.
For more on an earlier, different-but-also-sordid Fumo family feud, check out Jason Fagone’s Philly Mag piece from 2008. [Inquirer]
What a sight to see: Harrisburg helping Philadelphia. The State House this week has passed a bill yesterday that will effectively neuter the city’s hopelessly corrupt Traffic Court, 114-81. The three Traffic Court judge candidates elected in the May primary, if and when the bill is signed by Tom Corbett, will have their names removed from the November ballot. Municipal Court will take over its duties and it will become all but extinct. A separate measure to officially eliminate the existence of the court was also approved by both chambers, but must clear several hurdles, including a statewide ballot referendum, before the Constitution can be changed. [City Paper]
Wonkblog directs our attention to a recent paper that finds a correlation between public state-level corruption and the state capital’s proximity to the major population centers in the rest of the state. The farther one is from the action, the more likely it is that legislators are getting away with crime. Why? The media and hence, the public, just aren’t paying as much attention.
As the chart demonstrates PA (what’s up, Vince Fumo?) fits the bill. It’s true that in state capitals like Boston and Providence, to pick two notoriously malfeasant northeastern cities, the political class is far more focused on state government than city government. In Philly, we (ahem) obsess over city politics, which for all we know, is causing Harrisburg to run wild.
There’s an election next Tuesday, and The Committee of 70 wants you to participate. It’s supposed to feature some historically low turnout, on account of there only being one truly contentious race taking place–the three-way City Controller melee. So, our trusty watchdogs have provided a list of five reasons why we should head to the ballot box. Most of them are arguments for good civic behavior (“You can send a signal,” etc.). But one in particular actually makes a pretty compelling case that your vote is all but useless:
You can fill the last open seats on the embattled Philadelphia Traffic Court. It’s too late for the primary but the PA General Assembly is moving ahead on a bill that would remove the three open seats on the ticket-scandal-plagued Traffic Court from the November 2013 ballot. For May 21, since the Bar Associations don’t endorse Traffic Court candidates (because they aren’t lawyers), it’s a real crapshoot who among the 27 candidates–25 Democrats, two Republicans–will come out on top anyways. (Emphasis mine)
In other words: We should get rid of the whole court because it’s a horribly corrupt institution and actually we have no idea whom you should vote for because they’re all unqualified anyways. So…vote!
You know Tax Day is coming up when the IRS is knocking on your jail cell, asking for $2.9 million. But such is life for ex-State Sen. Vince Fumo, serving 61 months in Kentucky for fraud. Ralph Cipriano reports:
On March 21, Fumo got a visit in prison from an IRS agent bearing a notice from Guadalupe N. Ortiz, acting area director of the agency’s Philadelphia office. The IRS was formally notifying Fumo that he was being hit with an extremely rare “notice of jeopardy assessment and levy,” which, including tax, interest and penalties, amounts to a bill for a total of $2.9 million.
Said Fumo’s lawyer, of South Philly: “Where I come from, they call this piling on.” [BigTrial]
Another chapter begins in what is already a family affair worthy of a reality TV series. Or at least a made-for-TV special. Today, Joan Orie Melvin resigned from her seat on the State Supreme Court. She was found guilty last month of illegally using her staff (as well as the staff of a previously convicted sister, ex-state senator Jane) to run her political campaigns in ’03 and ’09. Her sister Janine was also found guilty of the same crime. Temporarily suspended from the bench, the departure of the Republican Orie had evened up the makeup of the bench, three Dems to three Republicans.
“It is with fervent hope that my service over the past three decades will not be tainted by the circumstances surrounding my departure,” she wrote in a letter of resignation to Tom Corbett.
A gal can dream. [Post-Gazette]
The worst part about getting indicted in a pay-to-play Turnpike Authority scandal? Getting your official portrait removed from the Capitol. Former Sen. Bob Mellow, a Democrat from the Scranton area, has already been convicted of a federal crime, so all this is just insult-to-injury gravy.
…The chamber’s presiding officer is reviewing whether his official portrait should continue to be displayed in a Capitol hallway. One of the senators who asked for the review, Jake Corman, R-Centre, said the review is warranted. “Portraits celebrate history,” said he said. “This type of issue is certainly worthy of review.”
Relatedly, two convicted Bonusgate Ex-House Speaker felons not indicted in a turnpike scandal, Bill DeWeese, and John Perzel, still have their portraits hanging proudly on the other end of the Capitol. [Patriot-News]
Harrisburg pols often like to take things away from Philadelphia, all in the name of reducing “waste,” “fraud,” and you know, “spending.” This time, they seem to have a point. Today, the state senate voted unanimously to flat-out eliminate the famously corrupt Philly traffic court. (Yesterday, two judges pleaded guilty to ticket-fixing; seven others still face federal charges filed two weeks ago.) Said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi: “There is no good reason for taxpayers to continue footing the bill for a court that is unnecessary and has become an embarrassment to the state’s judicial system.” If the house (and the governor) approves the bill, traffic incidents would go to Municipal Court instead. [Daily News]
Brushing aside allegations that she used campaign funds for personal reasons, as well as the federal charges being levied against her former campaign manager, Blondell Reynolds Brown says she’s not considering leaving office. “I’ve continued to be in quite a lot of contact with all of my colleagues and I’m encouraged by the level of support I’ve received and continue to receive,” she said. As to whether she’s still considering a mayoral run, perhaps it’s best to hold those questions for the time being. [Newsworks]