A leading figure of the Philadelphia Democratic machine fell today. Former State Senator Vince Fumo was convicted on 137 counts:
A federal jury in Philadelphia has convicted once-powerful former Pennsylvania state senator Vincent Fumo of every one of the 137 counts against him, including the serious charges of conspiring to defraud the Pennsylvania Senate, a nonprofit organization he founded, and the Independence Seaport Museum of millions of dollars. The Senate conspiracy count was the first of the counts being returned Monday against Fumo.
The 65-year-old Philadelphia Democrat was charged with defrauding the senate, the nonprofit, and the museum of more than $3.5 million, and destroying e-mail evidence.
Fumo ran the South Philadelphia Italian Democratic machine for years. There have been stories about menus of votes (give Fumo so much money and get so many votse) floating around Philly politics for a generation.
There are several real stories in this for Pennsylvania politics.
First, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has been weakened. Its ability to turn out votes out of South Philly has been significantly reduced. This is both a body and a money operation. Both have been diminished. And a smaller Democratic margin out of Philadelphia means less of a need for a higher Republican margin in the small counties.
Second, this is a big coup for Pat Meehan, the former US Attorney who first convicted Fumo on two counts back in 2007. Putting a leading Democrat in jail will help solidify his base in Southeast Pennsylvania, which is a powerful floor to work from in a Pennsylvania primary.
Third, and especially if Meehan wins his primary, this will polarize the debate in a Pennsylvania general election. With Tom Corbett at AG and a recent high-profileDemocratic conviction, Republicans are bound to hit the differences hard.