The Betrayal

For 30 years, as Vince Fumo ruled Philadelphia politics, we knew how he operated: You were either on his side or he’d try to destroy you. The behind-the-scenes run-up to his federal trial this month reveals something new: His family works in exactly the same way

The picture is one of a good soldier, rewarded for his loyalty with meatier jobs. At the same time, there’s a  hint that Christian was uncomfortable with the freewheeling nature of Citizens’ Alliance. Two days after 9/11, he e-mailed Vince suggesting that Citizens’ Alliance should increase its charitable activities and hire more professional management. According to the indictment, Vince responded:

Yes, that would be nice but then it would cost us a lot more and CONFIDENTIALLY (only because I trust you) if we had such a person and tried to do some of the things that are political that we do, we would now have someone else “in our tent” and we would be subject to his blackmail if they so chose to do it.

Loyalty, leverage. Vince trusted Christian. Christian was squarely in the tent — until 2002, when he passed the bar exam, moved to Montgomery County, and, shockingly, began to get heavily involved in Republican politics. In 2003 and 2004, as the investigation got rolling, Vince’s friends scrambled to figure out who had betrayed Vince by giving the FBI, and/or the Inky, all this dirt, this road map to FumoWorld. In the absence of evidence, they settled on a name — the name of the guy who, despite having been given so many opportunities, had left the city, left the Party, left The Vince. “I gotta know that Christian probably had something to do with the beginning of this investigation,” says Vincent II. Says Councilman Jim Kenney, another Fumocrat, “I think Christian Marrone clearly showed disloyalty.” The feeling was unanimous; the implication obvious. “At some point,” says Councilman Frank DiCicco, a longtime Fumocrat, “all roads led to Christian Marrone.”

CHRISTIAN’S FOOTBALL career at Penn State ended before it ever began. In his second year as a redshirt, he injured his left knee. He would never play a single minute of a single game. But Joe Paterno was kind to him, and kept him on as an undergraduate assistant. And in the off-hours, JoePa — a political junkie and a friend of the Bush family — would nurture Christian’s interest in politics. Christian began to shove voter forms at his football teammates, trying to get them to register as Republicans. They busted his balls about it constantly, but Christian didn’t care. He was constructing an entirely new identity around politics. The bartender at the Shandygaff, a State College watering hole, simply called Christian “The Mayor.”

In 1997, Christian graduated and landed a full-time job at Tasker Street, in part thanks to his father’s connection to Vince. In the peculiar argot there, he was Vince’s “flag ensign” — a term borrowed from the British navy, and a synonym for “Vince’s 24-7 shadow.” Christian traveled with Vince, arranged his flights, picked up his dry cleaning. Vince “likes having a sycophant,” says a former Fumo staffer. “The job sucked, there’s no question.”