Politics

New Plaques Shame Pennsylvania Politicians By Listing Their Crimes

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Pennsylvania will now list the convictions of lawmakers on plaques hung beneath their portraits in the State Capitol building in Harrisburg.

“You can’t change history, whether you like it or not,” Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for House Speaker Sam Smith (R-Punxsutawney), said. “There was a feeling you should keep the portraits out there and let people make up their own mind.”

A politician's criminal activities will be inscribed on the same plaque that identifies their gallery portraits.

According to the plaque below former State Sen. Robert Mellow (D) indicates that he was in office from 1971 to 2010 and pleaded guilty to political corruption and tax evasion in 2012.

“Mr. Mellow did not seek re-election in the Senate in 2010,” it says. “In 2012, Mr. Mellow pled guilty to political corruption and tax evasion, and was sentenced to prison on November 30, 2012.”

Former Pennsylvania House speakers Bill DeWeese (D) and John Perzel (R) will get updated plaques that show they were jailed for using state resources for their campaigns. The plaque for former House speaker Herbert Fineman (D) indicates he was convicted on two counts of obstruction of justice.

DeWeese, who was released from prison in March after serving 23 months, told the Wall Street Journal that he was untroubled by the plaque.

"If I can make the melancholy pilgrimage to the state penitentiary for a couple years and come out a happy guy, I certainly am not going to get exercised about a little tin plate under my portrait," DeWeese said, noting that "In the National Portrait Gallery, there's no mention of Watergate under Richard Nixon's portrait."

Sources: Washington Post, Wall Street Journal

Image credit: Ad Meskens