Connecting the dots of unnamed people in turnpike report

Former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo. "Senator #6" was cited at least 65 times in the grand jury report.
Former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo. "Senator #6" was cited at least 65 times in the grand jury report. (AP)
Posted: March 15, 2013

In its novel-like presentment alleging entrenched corruption at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, a grand jury unveiled a big cast of supporting characters - some prominent, others not.

None of these players was named or charged. But from interviews and context clues in the report, some identities emerged.

Among those cited in the report - at least 65 times - was "Senator #6." That would be disgraced and imprisoned former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo.

Fumo, serving time for his 2009 corruption conviction, is a spectre cited throughout the 85-page presentment as someone who had "tremendous influence" at the Turnpike Commission.

Another unnamed player? "Gubernatorial candidate #1" - former Gov. Ed Rendell, whose campaign coffers, the grand jury said, were swelled by the pay-to-play culture at the turnpike.

In a statement Wednesday, Rendell - whose 2003-11 tenure covered much of the time described in the report - said he was unaware of "any inappropriate activity" at the turnpike.

And there was the unnamed "Financial Advisor" whose firm received $838,000 in consulting fees between 2003 to 2009 - and who, the report said, pressured a vendor to cough up campaign cash for the Democrats.

Two people familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity identified the "advisor" as Samuel G. Hopkins, a Philadelphia financial expert who has long been a generous donor to Fumo, Rendell, and others.

The grand jurors portrayed the "advisor" as pressuring an engineering firm for campaign money just as the firm was vying for a traffic-engineering contract.

In that 2009 pitch, the jury said, the "advisor" noted that Fumo had at long last lost his clout at the agency. Fumo, for decades the top Philadelphia Democrat in the legislature, had recently been convicted in federal court.

"But," the "advisor" was quoted as telling the would-be contractor, "there is a new regime in place at the turnpike that can do good things for you and companies like yours.

"We're holding a fund-raiser. . . . Do you think you guys can donate $12,000?"

The executive at the other end later told the grand jury that the call made the hair stand up on the back of her neck.

"I thought, 'How coincidental is this. The man is calling for contributions while we were waiting to hear that we're going to get this contract.' . . . It was just too close."

As it happened, executives with her firm made a contribution, albeit less than the "advisor" sought. The firm got the contract.

Hopkins, who served on the oversight board for Philadelphia city finances until this year, could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Gregory Harvey, said he could not comment on the allegations.

Harvey dismissed as "outrageous" the report's suggestion that the "advisor" unfairly billed the turnpike for hotels and meals, such as a $1,012 dinner in New York City. Hopkins was merely one of several turnpike-connected people at the meal, the lawyer said.

Hopkins' clients have ranged from airports to state agencies. For years, he also has been a steady campaign donor, mainly backing Democrats. He was a key Fumo supporter, donating $50,000 to his campaigns.

In its report, the grand jury said "Senator #6" had unusual sway with the turnpike even though, as one witness pointed out, "he had no official position" there.

With contracts at stake, the report said, vendors were all too aware of the need to give campaign money, especially when "Senator #6" or his agents had their hands out.

One engineering executive testified he knew he could not beg off from a key fund-raiser for the senator. "That," he said, "was one I knew I absolutely had to attend."


Contact Craig R. McCoy at 215-854-4821 or cmccoy@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writers Angela Couloumbis and Paul Nussbaum contributed to this article.

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