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Pa.'s rogues gallery

| Saturday, June 23, 2012, 2:39 p.m.

HARRISBURG

Former Rep. Mike Veon looks 10 years older than his 55 years after spending the last two years in prison.

But it's not only those two years but, overall, six years that he has been under investigation and charged in two separate criminal cases.

Veon's hair now is white and he's lost weight.

Last week, Veon was sentenced to an additional 1 to 4 years in state prison. That's on top of the 6-to-14-year sentence he's already serving for approving $1.4 million in illegal legislative bonuses. The new sentence is for misusing taxpayer money at the Beaver Initiative for Growth, better known as BIG.

Veon is the seventh legislative leader convicted on charges related to using public resources for campaigns by federal, state and local prosecutors. Another former leader, ex-House Democratic Policy Chairman Steve Stetler, is on trial in Dauphin County Court for using state resources for elections.

Prison has taken a toll on a “great man,” Veon's lawyer Joel Sansone told Dauphin County Judge Bruce Bratton last week. In an impassioned plea for mercy, Sansone begged for no additional prison time.

Prosecutors sought a 3-to-6-year sentence to be served consecutively.

The 1-year minimum sentence – perhaps less in an early release program – will be tacked onto the Bonusgate sentence.

Two former House speakers, Bill DeWeese and John Perzel, along with former Senate leaders Vincent Fumo, a Democrat, and Jane Orie, a Republican, are in prison. So are DeWeese's ex-top aide Mike Manzo and former Perzel chief of staff Brian Preski.

So is former House GOP Whip Brett Feese and his aide Jill Seaman.

Perzel, Veon and DeWeese for years presided over a system that abused state tax dollars to rig elections in favor of incumbents. With a 60-month sentence for misappropriating almost $4 million from taxpayers, a nonprofit and a seaport museum, Fumo did not get enough time.

Perzel, a Republican, and Veon were convicted of multimillion-dollar scams that used tax money for campaigns. There's no question DeWeese, a Democrat, was showered in the cloak of state-paid incumbency protection and benefitted from it.

Still, Orie and DeWeese's crimes were confined for the most part to use of their own staffs.

Orie, sentenced to 2 12 to 10 years, also was convicted of forging documents to bolster her defense at trial.

DeWeese is serving 2 12 to 5 years for theft, conflict of interest and conspiracy. He presided over a corrupt system.

The sentences were designed to send a message.

As for staffers, they clearly were doing what they were told. The recent scandal differed from scandals of the 1970s where staffers largely were not charged.

Lawmakers didn't have much staff in those days. The mammoth growth in staff has occurred since then and electioneering was one of the reasons.

There were many staffers in Bonusgate and the Republican version, Computergate, who probably should not have been charged.

But in the case of Manzo and Preski, they were integral to the schemes.

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media. (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com)

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