Inquirer Editorial: Still the life of the party?

Vince Fumo in 2008.
Vince Fumo in 2008. (File)
Posted: December 12, 2013

If a 137-count criminal conviction couldn't prevent Vince Fumo from spending part of an already lenient prison sentence in his stately mansion, perhaps it won't keep him from an equally lamentable resumption of his political career.

Certainly Fumo himself doesn't seem to think so. As The Inquirer's Craig R. McCoy reported last week, the disgraced former state senator and power broker said in a recent deposition that he was considering another run for office.

While Fumo has never been one for self-restraint, he would be somewhat restricted - thank goodness - by the wisdom of his predecessors. A provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution forbids anyone "convicted of embezzlement of public moneys . . . or other infamous crime" from holding "any office of trust or profit in this Commonwealth." So Fumo's rap sheet, for defrauding the state Senate and two nonprofits, would likely disqualify him from seeking public office.

But it likely wouldn't keep him from running for office within the Democratic Party organization, which is what the court document captures him musing about. "I was contemplating and continue to contemplate running for party office," he responded when a lawyer asked whether he had been a candidate recently. Fumo, whose house arrest ends in February, added that he would be most interested in running for one of the hundreds of positions on Pennsylvania's Democratic State Committee, the members of which are chosen by registered Democrats in primary elections.

Sadly, none of the state's prominent Democrats have so far bothered to declare this an undesirable outcome. Some may be suffering from misguided nostalgia for Fumo's capacity to "get things done" for his lately neglected Philadelphia - as if corruption were the price of competence. And then there's the general tendency toward amorality within both parties, which has enabled several convicts to serve in partisan positions after their federal vacations ended.

As private organizations, perhaps the parties are entitled to run their affairs as they see fit. Then again, perhaps the public will tire of subsidizing them - for example, by paying for closed primaries - if they don't observe some standards.

Fumo's prospective comeback came up in the context of a lawsuit alleging that his former campaign chairman, Andrew Cosenza, misappropriated political funds. Because it was in Fumo's legal interest to claim he was considering using the money for another candidacy, there is room for doubt about his intentions. And Fumo's lawyer told The Inquirer that "Vince has a lot of options, a lot of things he can do," suggesting he has prospects outside politics.

For that, at least, we should be grateful.

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