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State of Corruption: Scofflaw pols

| Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Slower even than the wheels of justice in Pennsylvania is the payment of restitution by the state's former politicos nabbed for abusing the privilege of public office, a new report shows.

Since 2008, when initial charges of illegal bonus payments were raised in Harrisburg, the total in cash penalties in public corruption cases involving convicted state lawmakers and legislative staffers comes to $4.6 million, The Patriot-News reports. But to date, only about $445,000 — less than 10 percent — has been collected.

Equally outrageous is that some of Pennsylvania's convicted pols, who trampled the public's trust while in office, have paid a pittance. Others have fully paid what they owe.

Among some of the standouts, former House Speaker John Perzel and his top aide, Brian Preski, were ordered to pay $1 million each in restitution, The Patriot-News reports. As of Oct. 18, Mr. Perzel has paid nothing. Mr. Preski? He's ponied up $20.

Whereas payment plans typically are assigned when restitution is ordered, enforcement is problematic in Pennsylvania, according to a statewide task force that examined ways to improve restitution payments.

There should be no confusion over a formal repayment schedule. And if these common crooks can't pay up within a legally defined schedule, then they should pay interest on the sum they owe.

Cash penalties shouldn't be brushed off, especially by those who have brushed off their sworn oath of office while illegally spending other people's money.

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