Survivor: Greene County
It was just two years ago that House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese survived, by the narrowest of margins, the voter backlash from the dead-of-the-night pay raise state lawmakers granted themselves. One would have expected that if Republican Greg Hopkins couldn't take down DeWeese in that political atmosphere, he could never defeat him. But that was before "Bonusgate" reared its ugly head. In brief, "Bonusgate" involves the alleged diversion by the Democratic House caucus of more than $1.6 million in public money (our money) to grant bonuses to state employees for doing political work. Even though some people, myself included, thought DeWeese should bear some reponsibility for the scandal because it occurred on his watch, he was not among the lawmakers and aides charged by the state attorney general, and no one ever said he had any direct knowledge of the alleged scheme. That is, until this week, when DeWeese's former chief of staff, Mike Manzo, said DeWeese knew about the bonuses. DeWeese issued a statement calling Manzo "a desperate, disgruntled ex-employee whom I fired last year for dishonesty and self-dealing." One could certainly question Manzo's motives at this point. He's up on criminal charges for his alleged role in "Bonusgate," including allegations that he set up a sham job for his mistress, at taxpayer expense, of course. The alleged mistress has since landed, very softly, in a $45,000-a-year job with the Democratic caucus in Harrisburg. It's going to be up to the attorney general (a Republican) to decide whether to seek charges against DeWeese, but even if nothing comes of Manzo's claims, this can't help the incumbent a month before the election. To say that DeWeese is a survivor is an understatement. I'm 50 years old, and he's been in the state House since I was a senior in high school. If he goes down this time, it won't be without a fight. He looks to be spending plenty of money on television advertising (I find the ads very amusing, mainly because of the "rustic" tone struck by an educated man who loves to use 50-cent words. There's even one featuring a bunch of hillbilly-looking cowboys singing about how Hopkins went back to work in Hollywood - Good Lord! - after losing in the last election). While a lot of the attention on election night will go toward who will be our next president, it will be plenty interesting to see the votes in the 50th District race roll in.