AS A MEMBER of the Pennsylvania House, Bill DeWeese's base salary was $82,000 - all taxpayer money. Earlier this year, DeWeese was convicted of theft of state resources, for staffing his election campaigns with state employees - being paid with taxpayer money. This week, WHYY's Dave Davies reported that $84,000 in attorney fees for DeWeese's defense was paid for with - you guessed it - taxpayer money. And there's no indication that it will be paid back.
Why have taxpayers been so generous to DeWeese? One of the many perks provided to state legislators is coverage of legal fees related to their work. The coverage stops once an indictment is made or a charge is filed, and state law technically says that if an elected official is convicted, he or she has to reimburse the public. But, except in one recent case - Allegheny County prosecutors recently filed a motion to get convicted state Sen. Jane Orie to repay the state $1.3 million in legal fees - neither prosecutors nor the Legislature has sought repayment of these costs.