When Democratic leaders in the Pennsylvania House awarded nearly $2 million in bonuses to staffers in 2007, Majority Leader Bill DeWeese asked recipients to keep quiet about it, but they did not. Word quickly leaked out, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, spawning outrage and an investigation into illegal use of government funds for political purposes. In five years, it has resulted in 25 arrests and 21 convictions, including a jury verdict Monday that DeWeese was guilty of felony corruption.
Three other lawmakers have been convicted and another awaits trial. “This is the most sweeping investigation and criminal prosecution that we’re aware of,” said Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the state attorney general’s office, noting that some of the most powerful figures in the Legislature were convicted. “We prosecuted individuals who broke the law, who crossed the line, who used state resources, taxpayer resources for their own personal gain. We certainly feel it’s had an impact. We’ve taken criminals off the streets and out of the General Assembly. If there wasn’t a clear line before, this serves as a clear line to everyone.”