Report: Fumo Aide Spied on Ed Rendell

Christian Marrone, now Homeland Security chief of staff, dug up dirt on future governor in 2001.

The conservative Washington Times has a report today about Christian Marrone, a former aide to legendary (and disgraced) former State Sen. Vince Fumo. Marrone now serves as chief of staff at the Department of Homeland security, but the Times says that during his Fumo days he hatched a plan in 2001 to spy on Ed Rendell, who was then beginning a run for Pennsylvania governor.

While collecting a taxpayer salary, Mr. Marrone also gave Fumo a suggestion to disguise the true source of a proposed political donation from a developer and conceived a plan to spy on Edward G. Rendell to find dirt that could undercut the Philadelphia mayor’s campaign for governor.

“I’d like to snoop around and see if we can dig up some info,” Mr. Marrone wrote in one 2001 email in which he proposed hiring a private investigator to spy on renovations at one of Mr. Rendell’s homes to determine whether he was using nonunion workers. He later asked Fumo for permission to turn over the private eye’s findings to Mr. Rendell’s political rival.

Such activities, gleaned from exhibits in the 2008-09 court case that sent Fumo to prison for 55 months on corruption charges, contrast with Mr. Marrone’s portrayal that he was a unwitting “victim of Vince” who simply carried out orders without knowing what he was doing was wrong, a government watchdog told The Times.

“These emails pretty clearly show he was a willing participant,” said Craig Holman, legislative director at the watchdog group Public Citizen.

He also pointed out that prosecutors nonetheless concluded that Mr. Marrone shouldn’t be charged with crimes.

The Inquirer reported on the spying in 2007, the Times says, but didn’t name Marrone.

The Times says the story, though, raises questions about why he was appointed to his current post and how he passed the security background check to attain it. “Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican whose House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security has begun demanding answers from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on why he appointed Mr. Marrone to such a sensitive position,” the Times reported.