Painting Capitol corruption
State Sen. Scott Wagner, the Republican winner of a March special election as a write-in candidate, has a simple request: Get rid of the portraits of convicted felons hanging in the hallways of the Senate and House.
Wagner, of York County, has sponsored a resolution to remove the painting of one Senate leader convicted of using public resources for campaigns — former Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Mellow, D-Lackawanna County.
Wagner really can't do much more than try to influence the House, which has three felons in the hallway that leads past offices for the speaker, majority leader and GOP Caucus room.
But it's a valiant effort, regardless. Someone in authority at last is speaking out about the distasteful paintings of ex-leaders who went to prison. Three former speakers did time on corruption charges.
What does it matter?, one might say. Taxpayers shelled out money for the portraits years ago. Some cost $7,000 each. The money's long gone.
It might be argued that these men, such as former House Speakers John Perzel, Bill DeWeese and Herb Fineman, deserve to be there because of numerous other accomplishments.
“While I recognize that many of these individuals have played critical roles in our commonwealth's history and it is impractical to leave them out of that history, I believe to revere them with portraits is a line we should not cross,” Wagner wrote to colleagues in seeking co-sponsors for his resolution.
Wagner points out that ex-leaders typically lose their pensions when convicted of certain felonies, so why should they be honored?
As corruption cases moved through the Legislature from 2007 to 2012, there was occasional buzz about the portraits. How could the pictures remain hanging after three of the four were recently convicted felons? Fineman was convicted of obstruction of justice in 1977.
Perzel, of Philadelphia, became the second speaker convicted while in office. Prosecutors accused him of theft and conflict of interest for approving the use of $10 million in state tax money for House GOP campaigns, including his own. It was money Republican leadership used to pay for computer data, equipment and software to give the GOP an edge in campaigns. DeWeese, of Waynesburg, would briefly become Perzel's cellmate at Camp Hill State Correctional Institution, where inmates are processed for assignment to other state prisons.
DeWeese was convicted by a jury in 2012 of using district office staff for campaigns. A state-paid staffer also sat outside his Capitol leadership office raising campaign money for him, testimony revealed.
With removing the portraits, the message is most important. As for keeping the historical record intact, each portrait should be replaced with a glass-covered frame, 9x11 inches, listing in bold black the name, years in the Legislature, length of time as leader, a list of the crimes committed, the sentence and amount of time served in state prison.
That would serve as a reminder to lawmakers who walk past the portraits each day that their tenures need to be marked by integrity.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter (717-787-1405 and firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
- NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
- Reports say 1 dead at Fort Meade gate crashing
- Owner of Penn Hills tombstone business pleads guilty to swindling the bereaved
- Pirates’ outfield may have few defensive peers
- Penguins slip past Sharks, 3-2, in shootout
- Penguins’ Letang leaves hospital, out with concussion
- Hempfield infant fights rare disease
- LaBar: WrestleMania 31 one of the best ever
- Researchers uncover details to help get GOP candidates elected
- Starkey: Next frontier for Steelers offense
- Sex-soaked culture faulted for fraternity house parties