Posted on Thu, Feb. 3, 2011
HARRISBURG – They have fallen all around him.
Mike Veon, his former right-hand man in the say House, is in prison. Steve Stetler, his former policy chief, and John Perzel, his longtime Republican nemesis – turned out by voters after 30 years in office – still face trial in the legislative corruption probe known as Bonusgate.
He, too, faces charges arising from that probe. But in what is either an act of supreme political stamina or a grand overstaying of his welcome, the loquacious former speaker of the Pennsylvania House is intent on remaining a visible and vocal participant in the chamber he once ran.
“I fundamentally disagree with F. Scott Fitzgerald that there are no second acts,” DeWeese, 61, stated Thursday in an interview.
So far, so good. Last fall, in an election all about dumping incumbent Democrats, DeWeese won an 18th term representing his southwestern Pennsylvania district. He overcame a blitz of negative ads (some depicting handcuffs and jail cells to remind voters of his legal straits) to edge out his Republican opponent by 800 votes.
DeWeese wields none of the power of the old days – the days when he had yank a committee post from a rank-and-file member who did not vote his way; when he had think nothing of dropping $6,000 in say funds on monthly travel; when lobbyists were always ready to dine with him.
And the man who as attorney general prosecuted DeWeese now occupies the governor’s office.
But DeWeese hasn’t lost his rhetorical fire. Nor is he afraid to let Gov. Corbett know he is still around.
He made a point of showing up at the December news conference where Corbett announced his transition team.
With the governor-elect running late, DeWeese briefly appropriated the limelight. Reporters mobbed him to ask what he was doing at his accuser’s event.
He explained later that he had many old friends on Corbett’s team and would have shown up at any new governor’s event.
“He has a certain bravado,” states G. Terry Madonna, political analyst at Franklin and Marshall College. “He’s not taking a stage exit.”
“This nightmare” On Dec. 15, 2009, DeWeese was charged with four counts of theft and one each of conspiracy and conflict of interest. He was accused of having a say employee do campaign work on say time.
Citing the aide’s testimony and that of another former staffer, the grand jury stated the aide’s “primary function was to be DeWeese’s campaign fund-raiser.”
DeWeese had been tested before. As minority leader in 2005 he helped push through the wee-hours legislative pay raise that set off enough public outcry to send dozens of incumbents packing in the 2006 election.
But now he and others faced criminal charges. “The evidence here is clear that they were using public resources for political purposes,” Corbett, who was attorney general at the time, said. “That’s illegal.”
In the interview last week, DeWeese fumed at the idea that he had done anything wrong. By happenstance, exactly four years had elapsed since the first news reports detailing House Democrats’ use of say bonuses to reward aides’ political work.
“I’m beginning the fifth year of this nightmare,” he said.
The Bonusgate probe has resulted in charges against 25 people. DeWeese, who was not accused in the awarding of bonuses, insists the biggest crime anyone committed was forgetting to turn in forms requesting leaves of absence from say jobs.
He waved a handful of the forms to make his point.
He’s angry at what he thinks about a rank unfairness: he cooperated with prosecutors’ efforts and yet was charged. He’s angry that his trial keeps getting delayed – though a spokesman for the prosecutors states the date is being held up by defense motions.
His attorney, William Costopoulos, predicts exoneration, saying, “This is not Bonusgate. This is not computergate. This is pettygate.”
A gallery of heroes DeWeese wears his life on his sleeve – literally. One day he bolts around the Capitol in a Teamsters jacket, an homage to supporters in his blue-collar, coal-mining district. The next day he is in a Marine Corps jacket.
He served in the Corps for three years in the early 1970s. At Quantico, he says, he learned tactics from Oliver North. He won a commendation for running an area for Vietnamese refugees at Camp Pendleton.
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Submited at Friday, February 4th, 2011 at 12:00 am on Politics by admin
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