A new conspiracy of silence
No one with power has said it. Yet there have been repeated openings. Legislative leaders of both parties, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and even the Democrats' candidates for governor have failed to seize the opportunity to call for a meaningful offensive against the tidal wave of corruption that has shaken the very foundation of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
There were modest internal reforms a few years ago. There are occasional bills like the knee-jerk but still admirable effort to ban cash gifts in the wake of the latest scandal where five Philadelphia Democrats (four legislators) took wads of cash from a wire-wearing informant. Incredibly, Attorney General Kathleen Kane filed no charges, claiming it was a case botched under previous administrations — an assertion strongly disputed by old-guard prosecutors who left the office before she was sworn in.
At a recent Fels Institute event at the Capitol, Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Baer called them out. He told lawmakers and staff attending the event that no one has forcefully said, “This has to stop.” And he's right. There's been no full-blown legislative agenda or drum beat to address corruption. Many rank-and-file lawmakers are sick about what's taken place.
Since 2007, 40 people with ties to the Capitol, including a Supreme Court justice, have been charged with crimes. Fifteen lawmakers have faced corruption-related charges; 11 were convicted. Two of the legislative scandals unfolded this year involving Rep. J.P. Miranda, D-Philadelphia, for allegedly keeping a “ghost” employee on staff, and Sen. LeAnna Washington, D-Philadelphia, for forcing her staff to work on her birthday campaign fundraising events, prosecutors claim. They maintain their innocence.
A major ”pay to play” case against six Democrats, most of them former turnpike officials or vendors, has yet to go to trial.
People come into the Legislature full of idealism and they get sucked into a system that, by tradition and action, has been corrupt since the Civil War. After a while, they say nothing.
So what's the deal? There's practical politics. Pushing for sweeping government reform, internally, rubs people the wrong way. Often it's viewed as grandstanding. Tough to get your bills or, if you're the governor, your state budget approved if you've been bad-mouthing the system.
Where's Corbett been? His cases as attorney general sent lawmakers to prison. He ran against the Legislature in 2010.
Where's the Republican Party, which runs the House and Senate?
Where's the Democratic Party, the minority, saying “enough is enough”?
With the public, it's a winner. But that doesn't sell in Harrisburg.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter (717-787-1405 and email@example.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Chiefs pass rush to test Steelers
- Developer reveals Buncher plans for 400 Strip District apartments, townhomes
- Navy developing robotic fish drone
- Starkey: Pederson had to go at Pitt
- Steelers, young and old, thirst for opportunity to reach the postseason
- Penguins’ Crosby details his mumps experience
- Smoking, drinking falls off among teens, but not drug use
- Stock market makes biggest gain in 3 years
- 2 longtime Pittsburgh nonprofits agree to merge
- QB Smith is chief concern for Steelers’ defense
- Steelers notebook: Brown leads WRs in Pro Bowl voting, Bell 2nd at RB