Should Fumo get back in the game?
So we learn that convicted former state Sen. Vince Fumo is talking about running for a seat on the state Democratic Committee next year.
If he does, he wouldn't be the first fallen Philadelphia politician to make a comeback.
In fact, when it comes to corrupt politicians, we seem to believe in second chances. Many convicted felons have found a place in politics here. The late state Sen. Buddy Cianfrani returned from prison and served years as a Democratic ward leader and respected consultant. The former State Senate Majority Leader, Delaware County Republican Joe Loeper is now a Harrisburg lobbyist, representing the city of Philadelphia.
Being deposed in a civil suit over control of his former campaign fund, he told attorney Joseph Grimes he might well run for Democratic State Committee. One Democrat I spoke to who knows Fumo pretty well told me he wouldn't really do it, that it helped him to say in the battle over his political committee that he has ambitions for some kind of elected office.
Still, he's a smart, capable, and compulsively active guy, and maybe it would be an easy way to signal that he wants to be a player again.
You might be surprised at what I heard from Zack Stalberg, president of the watchdog group Committee of Seventy, when I asked him if electing Fumo to a party post would damage the state's reputation.
"I don't think it sends a good sign in most cases," Stalberg said. "Fumo is not the normal politician who went to jail, however. He understands better than any politician I've known in my career how to make the system work, how to get results."
So Stalberg says, if Fumo wants to get involved for the right reasons, he could help Philadelphia. He added that on a purely personal level, he wishes Fumo would just enjoy life.
I opined when Fumo was released from prison that he should focus on rebuilding important relationships in his own life rather than being a public figure. But I don't expect him to listen to me.
Voters will pick state committee members in the May primary. Grimes, by the way, says he thinks a provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution barring those convicted of fraud from any office of "trust or profit" should prohibit Fumo from running for a party office.
"Our position is that the holding of a state committee office would fall within the definition of an 'office of trust in the commonwealth' and thus the criminal conviction would bar it," Grimes said. But it's not a matter Grimes is interested in pursuing since it's irrelevant to his case, which involves spending in Fumo's political committee.
It appears, based on existing court decisions, that Fumo could run.
Leading Democrats I called, including State Committee chairman Jim Burn, declined to offer an opinion on Fumo getting back into the game.