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Philly Corruption All-Stars (1980s)

"Money talks and bullshit walks"

Our corrupt culture is unique, and it’s easy to forget that when you’re in the throes of the latest scandal. That’s why we’re publishing our Philly Corruption All-Stars, baseball card-like profiles of the best—er, worst—practitioners of political black arts, Philly-style. Though we’re committed to being a constructive force for making the city better, we think these cards are necessary to hammer home an important point: We have a longstanding cultural issue before us.

We’re publishing our All-Stars by decade, and at the end we’ll provide you with a link to a PDF version, so you can print the cards out and trade them with your friends.

Of course, we’re having fun with this, but it’s really no laughing matter. Our research for these tongue in cheek posts shows that things have gotten worse, not better. Just think of recent history, and the respective falls of Seth Williams, Kathleen Kane, Chakah Fattah, and Rob McCord—to just name a few. The culture is alive. The virus is spreading.

Here at The Citizen, we’re always looking for solutions. This time, it’s not so complicated: We need good men and women among us to demand better of those we hire to represent us.

Today, we take a look at the 1980’s and the corruption brought along with it. Suffice it to say, the perm was not the only cringe-worthy aspect of this decade.

99

Budd Dwyer

Pennsylvania Treasurer

Budd Dwyer

Pennsylvania Treasurer

(1965 – 1981)

Corruption charge: Dwyer was charged with receiving almost $300,000 in return for using the Pennsylvania Treasury Office to hand a contract over to an accounting company.

Outcome: Dwyer was found guilty on 11 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, perjury and interstate transportation in aid of racketeering. The day before his expected sentencing to 55 years in prison, he called a press conference...and then committed suicide by self inflicted gun shot in front of the cameras.

"I am going to die in office in an effort to...see if the shame(-ful) facts, spread out in all their shame, will not burn through our civic shamelessness and set fire to American pride," Dwyer said before pulling out his gun. "Please tell my story on every radio and television station and in every newspaper and magazine in the U.S. Please leave immediately if you have a weak stomach or mind since I don’t want to cause physical or mental distress."

99

Raymond F. Lederer

U.S. House of Representatives,

Raymond F. Lederer

U.S. House of Representatives,

(1977 – 1981)

Corruption charge: Lederer was videotaped on Sept. 11, 1979, at a New York motel accepting $50,000 in cash from two undercover agents posing as representatives of a fictitious Arab sheik—a widespread FBI and Justice Department investigation into politicians accepting bribes from a fake Arabian company in return for political favors, known as Abscam.

Outcome: Lederer was convicted of bribery, sentenced to three years in prison and fined $20,000. The House Ethics Committee voted to expel him on April 28, 1981. Lederer resigned the following day, citing "personal legal problems" that had supposedly interfered with his ability to serve his constituents.

Lederer, the only Abscam legislator who was reelected, is said to have told the agents "I don’t think what you’re asking is impossible because if it was I’d walk through the door. It’s a big ball game, all right, I don’t think you’re Boy Scouts. I’m not a Boy Scout.”

99

Michael J. "Ozzie" Myers

U.S. House of Representatives

Michael J. "Ozzie" Myers

U.S. House of Representatives

(1976 – 1980)

Corruption charge: In another Abscam episode, Myers was videotaped accepting a bribe of $50,000 from undercover FBI agents on August 22, 1979.

Outcome: Myers was expelled from the House of Representatives on October 2, 1980, by a vote of 376 to 30, becoming the first member of the House to be expelled since 1861. Myers was convicted of bribery and conspiracy and sentenced to three years in prison in 1981.

Myers is famous for boasting on the tape that "money talks and bullshit walks."

99

George X. Schwartz

Philadelphia City Council

George X. Schwartz

Philadelphia City Council

(1960 – 1980)

Corruption charge: Another Abscam catch, Schwartz was indicted on charges of accepting a bribe, extortion and conspiracy.

Outcome: Schwartz was convicted, and sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Schwartz was caught on tape telling an FBI agent dressed as a sheik, "We got five or six members (of City Council)...You tell me your birthday. I’ll give them to you for your birthday."

99

Louis C. Johanson

Philadelphia City Council

Louis C. Johanson

Philadelphia City Council

(1968 – 1981)

Corruption charge: Johanson was implicated in the Abscam sting, for taking a bribe from FBI agents who were posing as representatives of an Arab sheik.

Outcome: Convicted and sentenced to three years in prison.

Johanson’s lawyer, John J. Duffy, told The New York Times that his client "believes in retrospect that he acted the fool" because of the "dazzle of the dollars."

99

Mario Driggs

Municipal Court Judge

Mario Driggs

Municipal Court Judge

(1987 – 1987)

Corruption charge: Driggs was indicted for extortion for receiving a $300 cash gift from Stephen Traitz, Jr., business manager of the Roofers’ Union in Philadelphia. At the time of the offense, Driggs had been elected but not yet sworn in as a Judge of the Philadelphia Municipal Court.

Outcome: Driggs was convicted of extortion.

On a tape, Traitz can be heard saying, "All’s I want is, is a break.” Driggs replies, “The break comes at sentencing."

99

Leland M. Beloff

Philadelphia City Council

Leland M. Beloff

Philadelphia City Council

(1997 – 1984)

Corruption charge: Beloff was charged with extortion for demanding, along with Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo Scarfo, $1 million from developer Willard Rouse for legislation that would have allowed development on the waterfront.

Outcome: Beloff was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. In 1998, Beloff was again convicted, this time on voter fraud charges, along with his wife; he received a three-year sentence served concurrently with his earlier sentence. He was paroled in 1993 and went on to become Democratic ward chairperson.

"He committed the worst kind of breach of public trust. He sold his office and attempted to make City Council a branch of the local Mafia," Chief U.S. Judge John Fullam said.

99

Harry P. Jannotti

Philadelphia City Council

Harry P. Jannotti

Philadelphia City Council

(1970 – 1984)

Corruption charge: Jannotti was indicted on charges of extortion, accepting bribes and conspiracy in the Abscam sting.

Outcome: Jannotti was convicted, and sentenced to 6 months in prison and a $2000 fine.

When the pseudo-sheiks asked Jannotti how their money would be used, he was recorded saying, "Problems might arise, but problems ah, you might say problems can be solved."

99

Herbert R. Cain, Jr.

Court of Common Pleas Judge

Herbert R. Cain, Jr.

Court of Common Pleas Judge

(1976 – 1988)

Corruption charge: Cain was charged with two counts of extortion.

Outcome: A federal jury found Cain guilty of having extorted $1,500 from lawyer Barry H. Denker in return for favorable action in an auto-theft case. In April 1988, Cain, was sentenced to three years in prison, in a case prosecuted by future Attorney General Eric Holder.

According to The New York Times, after the verdict, Cain was asked if he maintained that he was innocent. "Absolutely—there is no question about it," he said.

99

Kenneth S. Harris

Court of Common Pleas Judge

Kenneth S. Harris

Court of Common Pleas Judge

(1984 – 1988)

Corruption charge: Charged with conspiracy based partly on FBI tapes of secretly recorded conversations in which Harris accepted cash from the roofers’ union.

Outcome: Harris was convicted of racketeering, extortion, and conspiracy, charges that carried a maximum penalty of 120 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.

Prosecutors said the 64-year-old Harris accepted $5,600 for favorable orders in trials, probation violation hearings, bail revocation hearings and sentencings.

99

Al Benedict

Pennsylvania Auditor General

Al Benedict

Pennsylvania Auditor General

(1977 – 1985)

Corruption charge: Racketeering and tax evasion.

Outcome: Benedict pleaded guilty in 1988, and was sentenced to six years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

"I probably will never have a clear conscience, but a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders," Benedict told the court during his hearing. "I was guilty of being naive and stupid and greedy for power. I wanted to be somebody, and I was willing to take those steps."

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil posts. We want to be a communal space. But that doesn’t mean you have a First Amendment right to be an idiot. Send us an insulting, offensive and/or wildly off-topic comment and not only will we refrain from posting it -- we will laugh at you before we hit delete.

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