There's no more denying it: Pennsylvania is polluted by corruption.
The latest case involves the new charges against former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon, who was already facing allegations from the bonus pay scandal being investigated by a state grand jury. The counts leveled Wednesday by state Attorney General Tom Corbett involve theft, conspiracy and other offenses stemming from Mr. Veon's alleged abuse of millions of dollars in state economic grants to the Beaver Initiative for Growth, which the former legislator created.
A grand jury said Mr. Veon and a district aide used BIG as a cash reserve to pay bills for political work. Of $4.7 million in state grants spent by the community development agency in 2004-06, the grand jury said 77 percent went to salaries, administrative costs or consultant contracts. One recipient was former state Rep. Terry Van Horne, who got $5,000 for political work billed to the Veon campaign and testified in the case under a grant of immunity. Mr. Veon and the former aide have maintained their innocence.
The BIG allegations broke two days after Gov. Ed Rendell fired Mitchell Rubin, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Mr. Rubin is the target of an FBI investigation that grew out of the Vince Fumo case, in which the 30-year Senate veteran was convicted a week earlier on 137 counts of corruption.
Mr. Rubin is the husband of Ruth Arnao, the Fumo co-defendant who was found guilty, and the focus of FBI attention for possibly receiving $30,000 a year in state funds for five years as a "ghost" employee. One of the counts on which Mr. Fumo was found guilty involved giving the money to Mr. Rubin, who has not been charged.
While the governor acted swiftly to remove the turnpike chairman, he should have pressured him into a leave of absence long ago. Mr. Rubin's link to the case surfaced last August when federal prosecutors filed additional fraud charges against Mr. Fumo, including the $150,000 ghost job allegation.
At the time, the Post-Gazette suggested a leave for Mr. Rubin, who made $28,500 a year as chairman of the public agency that oversees the 537-mile highway system and its $593 million in annual tolls. The turnpike commission refused to act.
Mitchell Rubin and Mike Veon are the latest in a rogues' gallery of tarnished state officials. Then there is Vince Fumo, the "Prince of Philadelphia," staring at up to 10 years in prison. And there are the 12 House officials and employees (including Mr. Veon) indicted last July in the bonus pay scandal, with possibly more to come.
There will be more to come if the state's back-scratching, nest-feathering political culture continues and lawmakers see reform only as a fleeting exercise in damage control. In that case, the turnpike should give its signs a little truth in advertising. Welcome to Pennsylvania: Corruption Ahead.