Pennsylvania’s Best Political Scandals

PA Political Scandals

Let’s face it.  One of the biggest reasons we LOVE politics is the scandals–the ones that make you laugh, shake your head, or fly off into a rage.   Here’s our list (in no particular order) of some of the more memorable ones from yesterday and today.

1.       The granddaddy of all PA political  scandals, 2005’s mid-summer night’s pay raise stands in a class by itself.  The ensuing outrage resulted in a mobilization for reform never quite seen before.  Over 25 elected officials lost their jobs via the power of the ballot box, and mistrust of the legislature reached an all-time high.  Their image may never fully recover.

2.       A black eye for the City of Philadelphia, 1985’s police bombing of a row house where the members of MOVE resided ended in the deaths of 11 people, children included.  The resulting fire, which was left to burn, devastated an entire city block, and destroyed 61 homes.  How could this happen?  People still wonder that.  Many blame then-Mayor Wilson Goode and the police and fire commissioners.

3.       Full of MacGyver-like charm, who can forget 1980’s PA lottery drawing scandal?  Daily Number announcer Rick Perry and a couple of other guys from Pittsburgh painted and weighted  (balls were labeled with stick-ons from an art supply store) every ball in the glass jars, except the 4s and the 6s. It wasn’t only the number 666 popping up that night that alerted the officials to the scheme—these guys did a pretty bad job of covering their tracks.  Cheaters never prosper.

4.       There will always be two opinions about Vince Fumo: a public servant who did a lot for people, and a thief who abused his power and deserved jail.  Humanitarian or white collar criminal?  Fumo’s story is complex indeed.

5.       Now that’s a pretty big sting…we’re talking about ABSCAM of course. In 1981, after an over two years long investigation, 31 elected officials  from up and down the east coast were convicted of bribery and conspiracy.  These included a few members of the Philly City Council.  Congressman John Murtha got tangled up, but was never indicted or prosecuted.  He testified against two fellow congressman before the whole affair was over.

7.       What can you say about two guys who sent kids to juvenile detention centers for minor offenses so they could get paid?  Earlier this year, Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan were caught with their hands in the cookie jar.  Shameful.  At least they will be sitting in jail themselves now.

8.       Bonusgate…already the investigation is two years old, and there’s something new in the news every week.  Stay tuned to PoliticsPA for updates on this one.

9.       Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War at the beginning of the Civil War was a Lancaster County native (and former US Senator) named Simon Cameron.  Having made a fortune in banking and the railroad, he proved a better businessman than cabinet secretary.  He irresponsibly paid top dollar for threadbare blankets, contaminated meat, knapsacks that fell apart, and guns that injured their shooters.  So much for supporting the troops.  Lincoln sent him packing after he kept doling out contracts without a bidding process.  Later he returned to the Senate.  One of his contemporaries, Thaddeus Steven, summed up his corruption in conversation with Lincoln: “I believe I told you he would not steal a red hot stove.  I will now take that back.”

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