Power failure in the House
HARRISBURG -- House Republicans desperately want Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese to survive the current grand jury mess and remain in power awhile longer.
Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell's aides privately yearn for former House Speaker John Perzel, a Republican, to return to power.
These are two oddities arising from the so-called "Bonusgate" scandal, a grand jury probe of possible state-paid rewards for political work.
The probe is now focused on House Democrats who doled out about two-thirds of the bonus money. The grand jury is also investigating a nonprofit in Beaver County, which was state funded and co-directed by former Minority Whip Mike Veon, D-Beaver Falls.
Attorney General Tom Corbett's office has already charged former Rep. Frank LaGrotta, D-Ellwood City, for conflicts in an alleged ghost-payroll scam.
So what's with DeWeese• Whether or not he's done anything wrong, all of this trouble occurred on his watch.
DeWeese's defense -- not necessarily a legal defense -- will be that he didn't tend to details and Veon was calling the shots.
The latter is probably true.
Lawmakers say there's no doubt Veon really ran the caucus. There is a huge dent in operations just based on Veon's departure. He was defeated at the polls last year after defiantly backing the 2005 legislative pay raise.
So with Veon gone and an apparent preoccupation with the grand jury investigation, the caucus is in shambles. "It's worse than it's ever been," a Democrat lawmaker said.
On top of that, DeWeese fired seven top aides last month in connection with the grand jury probe. Still highly regarded top aide Mike Manzo was ousted in the purge -- which leaves DeWeese without the two people who ran things.
Little of substance has been done by the House since the grand jury began heating up in August.
It took until the last day of session this year -- last Wednesday -- to pass a House version of open records reform.
Republicans privately love the inaction and disarray.
They'd like to see DeWeese remain in charge because they think he symbolizes to the public what's wrong with the caucus and that will help them regain control of the House in next year's elections.
Democrats control the House by only one vote. They took back the House last year -- some believe by using state-paid bonuses to reward staffers for doing political work. That suspicion also exists among Capitol insiders about the Senate Republican Caucus. (Corbett has said all four caucuses in the House and Senate will be investigated.)
Meanwhile, one of the losers in this mess is Rendell.
Theoretically, he should benefit from having the House under Democrat control. But much of his unfinished agenda -- a vigorous alternative-energy program and state-paid health insurance for people who now have none -- rests in the hands of House Ds.
That's why Rendell supporters yearn for the days of John Perzel.
Much of Rendell's first-term success resulted from Perzel forging a coalition of Southeast Republicans to join with Democrats. Perzel played a huge role in Rendell getting passage of the 2004 casino law, for instance.
But Perzel was viewed by reformers as the guy who was short-circuiting democracy at the Capitol. He rammed bills through. He got things done.
What role Rendell played is debatable, but Perzel was ousted last January when the Democrats threw their support behind Rep. Dennis O'Brien, R-Philadelphia, and with a handful of Republicans, elected him speaker.
Now, it is clear to some Democrats that Rendell was far better off with a GOP-controlled House and Perzel running it.
Whether taxpayers were better off in the Perzel glory days is another question entirely.
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.
- Bubble players get last chance to impress Steelers
- 4-year-old transplant recipient Angelo Giorno from Derry on life support, family says
- Steelers accomplish mission to get younger, faster on defense
- Movement along the offensive line continues for Pitt as opener approaches
- Jeannette native Pryor’s fate hangs in balance
- Hacker stuns Dayton family with computer takeover
- MLB notebook: Fenway fan injured after trying to catch foul ball
- Don’t miss matchups for Week 1 of WPIAL football season
- Valley will feature dynamic duo in Bradley, King
- Penn State impact safety Allen working to improve
- In reworking contract, Steelers WR Brown gets hefty pay raise