Eight people were charged by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Wednesday with alleged crimes related to the awarding of contracts in exchange for political contributions and gifts.
HARRISBURG – Perhaps the most interesting thing in the grand jury presentment released Wednesday by Attorney General Kathleen Kane is something it doesn’t contain.
Kane announced a litany of criminal charges against state Sen. Robert Mellow, D-Lackawanna, and three former top officials at the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Those men, and four others also charged, allegedly used their positions of power to funnel contracts to certain engineering firms, insurance companies and banks in return for campaign contributions as part of a wide-ranging “pay-to-play” scandal.
According to the presentment, Mellow and another unnamed senator – known as “Senator #6” and identified as a Philadelphian who served as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee during much of Mellow’s tenure as Democratic leader of the state Senate – “exerted tremendous influence over the Turnpike.”
One of the men charged on Wednesday – former Turnpike CEO Mitchell Rubin – was “handpicked” by Senator No. 6 to head the commission, the grand jury report says.
But Kane and State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan declined to comment on the identity of Senator No. 6, and they also declined to say whether any elected officials were granted immunity as part of the investigation.
“We are not in the business of ruining people’s reputations,” Kane said.
So who is the mysterious senator?
It’s impossible to be sure, but signs seem to point to former state Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, who is from Philadelphia and served as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee for most of the time Mellow led the Senate Democrats.
Also, Rubin’s wife, Ruth Arnao, was a longtime staffer in Fumo’s office and the two men were known to have had a close personal relationship.
Fumo is not identified by name in the jury report, but as Senator No. 6 he is described as having a powerful influence over the turnpike. Political donations from turnpike vendors were directed to him and other senators of both parties who had sway over decisions related to the agency, the report said.
Like Mellow, Fumo is spending his days behind bars.
The former senator was found guilty in 2009 of 137 counts of corruption, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice and mail fraud, for using illegal kickbacks and using $1 million in state funds for campaigning.
He is currently serving a sentence of 55 months in prison.
And for more on the big names not in the grand jury report, check out this column by Capitolwire’s Pete DeCoursey, where he name drops former Gov. Ed Rendell and wonders why more “big fish” were not fried by the investigation.
Then again, Kane did say it was still ongoing.
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