FEBRUARY 06, 2007
One of Pennsylvania’s most powerful veteran lawmakers has been indicted on 139 counts of federal fraud for his involvement in extorting millions from a publicly-funded neighborhood charity in his Philadelphia district.
The charges mark the third time that Vincent Fumo, a Democrat state senator from Philadelphia, is indicted in his storied political career. In 1973 he was indicted for voter fraud and in 1980 for putting ghost employees on the state payroll, for which he was convicted.
In anticipation of his third indictment, Fumo resigned from a key senate committee post earlier this week. Federal authorities have been investigating the state legislator for nearly four years and have concluded that he extorted tens of millions of dollars in corporate donations from the multi million-dollar charity (Citizens’ Alliance for Better Neighborhoods) operated by his aides and close friends.
Fumo actually founded the nonprofit, which does economic development and beautification projects in his district using public money and hefty donations from corporations with ties to the senator. For instance, a utility company called Peco Energy gave Citizens’ Alliance for Better Neighborhoods $17 million as it sought to win state deregulation of the electricity markets. Fumo opposed the change until the charity received the millions, which evidently bought his support.
In violation of federal tax laws, the charity paid for political polls and secretly funded a lawsuit against Fumo’s political rival and the Internal Revenue Service has audited the organization for falsifying records. Additionally, federal officials say that Citizens’ Alliance purchased expensive household items, a sports utility vehicle and a vacation for Fumo.
Fumo resigned from his coveted post as minority chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee because, under senate rules, members indicted for a crime must relinquish leadership posts. The legislator will also lose the perks that come with a leadership position, such as a large staff and huge discretionary account.
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