Vince Fumo enjoyed a lavish lifestyle during his 30 years in the Pennsylvania State Senate- yacht trips to Martha's Vineyard, $100-a-gallon house paint for his 33-room Philadelphia mansion and senate staffers toiling as his housekeepers.
"Being a Senator is the next best thing to royalty!" he once wrote in an email.
Fumo's spending spree eventually caught up with him. Convicted on 137 federal corruption counts in 2009, he is currently serving a 55-month prison sentence. He is one of more than 80 state legislators across the nation either indicted or convicted on corruption charges in the past five years. His case serves as a worthy introduction to a top ten of badly behaved state lawmakers, whose misdeeds, from the criminal to the merely distasteful, help illustrate why unbecoming conduct has become so common in state capitals. In no particular order:
"Vince Fumo's story is a modern 'All The King's Men,' " said Peter Vaira, an ex-U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Fumo on mail fraud charges in the late 1970s when Fumo was a young political staffer. Fumo's conviction on 15 fraud counts was later tossed by a judge who said the government had not presented sufficient evidence. "At his peak, Fumo was the most powerful politician in Pennsylvania."
Fumo, a Democrat, was for years the ranking minority member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls state spending. He wielded his power for his political and personal advantage.
Fumo staffers were forced to toil on the renovation of his 100-acre farm and mail bobble-head dolls in his likeness to the politician's friends. He created a non-profit called Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, and then skimmed from it, according to prosecutors. A Verizon executive testified that Fumo pressured the company to donate $15 million to the non-profit.
Prosecutors said Fumo's skimming helped finance epic personal shopping sprees. He allegedly spent more than $75,000 on tools, another $27,000 on farm equipment, and had heated sidewalks installed at his mansion. Fumo also awarded a $40,000 state contract to a private investigator to tail his ex-girlfriends. Fumo liked to rely on what he termed "OPM" -- an acronym for "other people's money" -- according to the testimony of one of his former girlfriends, Dorothy Egrie-Wilcox. The OPM Fumo spent to finance his indulgences is estimated to have totaled more than $2 million, half of it from his charity and half from state funds.
Fumo maintains that he served the citizens of Pennsylvania admirably during his time in office.
"In retrospect, would I have done it different? Maybe," an emotional Fumo said in a statement at his sentencing. "Could I have done it different? Probably not…I could not have gotten the results I did by sitting there meekly."