Vince Fumo. John Perzel. Mike Veon. Bill DeWeese. One by one, the mighty have fallen in Pennsylvania, from the luxurious halls of the state Capitol to the stark halls of prison - felled by ego, arrogance and a legislative culture of corruption.
Pennsylvania may not be as politically corrupt as Illinois (two consecutive governors in prison), but we're getting close.
The conviction this week of Democratic Rep. Bill DeWeese - a former House speaker and floor leader - comes as no surprise. It's hard to imagine a more perfect poster child for legislative arrogance than the pompous, prolix pol. He was convicted of four charges related to the Bonusgate scandal.
Is he contrite? Is he resigning and apologizing to his constituents for using taxpayer dollars to run political campaigns? No. He's still running for re-election, saying he didn't do anything wrong. He should be expelled from the House the day he is sentenced. But that would come as a shock from a legislative body that has done almost nothing to reform itself in recent years - even after everything that has transpired: The midnight pay raise, Bonusgate/Computergate, political leaders who once ruled the General Assembly with iron fists now grasping iron bars.
Even after all that, what do we get? A shamelessly gerrymandered reapportionment map, jammed through at the last minute by political insiders with little citizen input. That fiasco, which the state Supreme Court roused itself from status-quo stupor to reject, has thrown this year's election into chaos.
Did legislative leaders apologize and quickly head back to the drawing board to create districts that don't meander across the map for political advantage? No. They filed federal lawsuits seeking to keep their arrogant monstrosity in place.
The people want good, ethical government. They want reforms. They want redistricting put in the hands of nonpartisan commissions (not party insiders).
They want lawmakers to have term limits rather than prison terms for the corruption they commit clinging to power and privilege.
They want lawmakers who are less privileged, who are not among the best paid and perked state legislators in the nation.
They want a smaller, less expensive Legislature and legislative staff.
They want sane campaign finance laws for state offices.
They want a constitutional convention to fundamentally change the way our state is governed.
Will they ever get those things? Will our legislative "leaders" ever stand up and say "Yes, it's time to change the way we do business?"
Gov. Corbett did launch the Bonusgate probe, but that's not enough.
We need systemic changes, and we need a governor who will demand them.
Will we finally get on the road to reform? Or will we continue this sad parade of politicians to prison?
- York Daily Record/Sunday News