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

Even in the Montco D.A.’s office, Christian could feel the thumbprint of The Vince — not because Vince had any power there, but because Christian carried the hardscrabble ethos of Tasker Street into an office that was far more genteel. His direct supervisor remembers that Christian did a good job, but others found him threatening. “He’s large in stature and kind of blustery,” says Bruce Castor. “Big mouth.” Castor says he fired Christian in 2004 because Christian supported Tom Corbett for attorney general — instead of Castor.

Later that year, Christian went to work for the Bush/Cheney campaign as counsel, then moved to Washington, D.C., with Nicole after the inauguration. They landed good jobs quickly: Nicole in the voting-rights section at the Department of Justice, and Christian as a lawyer, first with the Army, then in the Pentagon. He cut his teeth beating back the Abu Ghraib scandal, giving tours of Guantanamo Bay to the likes of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Today, several promotions later, Christian is the “principal deputy” in the Pentagon’s legislative affairs office — the conduit between the military and Congress. He’s the civilian equivalent of a three-star general; his boss says he has “one of the best legal minds I’ve seen.”

In August, I visited him at the Pentagon. He wore glasses and navy suspenders, and when he leaned back in his chair, the buttons of his shirt strained against his massive chest. His Penn State jersey hung on his  office wall, with an autographed photo of Donald Rumsfeld making a triumphant fist. Christian made it clear he wouldn’t talk about Vince or the trial, but he did say, “We were happy to start a new life in Montgomery County. And we were happy to start a new life here in Washington, D.C. And we are better off for it. We are happy where we are. Happy where we are. Happy with life. We have two beautiful kids. We have a beautiful house. We are independently successful, independent of anybody and anything. Everything is our own.”

People helped him, sure — but Christian maintains he is what he is, not because of Vince Fumo, but because of Christian Marrone. Christian isn’t going to apologize for his ambition; in the world outside Philadelphia, ambition isn’t a sin, nor is it evidence of disloyalty. It’s actually rewarded. But in FumoWorld, you either know your place or pay the price.