Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Convictions Do Little to Deter Deweese from Politics

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Convictions Do Little to Deter Deweese from Politics

Article excerpt

He'd been a convicted felon for only a few hours when I reached Bill DeWeese by cell phone on Monday afternoon. He said he was sitting alone in "the quiet and sumptuous setting" of the state House.

It's a place of peculiar solace for this man whose name will be forever followed by the phrase "former House speaker." As we spoke, workers were setting up for Gov. Tom Corbett's Tuesday budget address, and Mr. DeWeese planned to be there to face his nemesis.

Mr. DeWeese, 61, was convicted on five of six corruption charges and could go to prison and lose his pension, but separating this Greene County Democrat from the statehouse may take the Jaws of Life. He's vowed to appeal his convictions and stand for re- election, as oblivious to defeat as the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," who, after losing his arm in a sword fight, proclaims, "'Tis but a scratch. I've had worse."

We in the media have lazily lumped the corruption convictions in the statehouse under the catch-all "Bonusgate," but Mr. DeWeese's conviction really stretches that term's limits. As the House Democratic leader, he'd cooperated with then-Attorney General Corbett's investigation, and he wasn't convicted of awarding taxpayer-paid bonuses to staff members for doing campaign work.

He was convicted of something more mundane, of crossing a line that other lawmakers among the 253 in America's Largest Full-Time State Legislature likely have crossed without facing the slammer. Mr. DeWeese was found guilty of three counts of theft, one count of conflict of interest and one count of conspiracy for using his influence to compel state workers to campaign on state time.

The line between government and politics has never been brightly drawn, particularly in Harrisburg. This investigation made that light brighter, and some of the people Mr. DeWeese cashiered made sure he was tripped by it, too.

Mike Manzo was the longtime chief of staff fired by Mr. DeWeese in November 2007 for his role in distributing $1.9 million in publicly-funded bonuses to staffers who campaigned for House Democrats in 2006. Mr. Manzo signed a plea agreement in 2008 conceding his guilt, and in Mr. …

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