There's a part of the story that is not taken up in the piece on Guy Ciarrocchi's and Paul Drucker's campaigns that appears elsewhere in this paper today. It has to do with Bill DeWeese.
As of this writing, there are 10 Pennsylvania House members who have called for the resignation of State Rep. and Majority Floor Leader H. William DeWeese (D-50, Greene County) from his leadership position.
The calls have come in light of Attorney General Tom Corbett's ongoing Bonusgate investigation, and in the wake of the indictment of 12, count them 12, people associated with the House Democratic Caucus DeWeese has chaired -- including one sitting legislator, one former legislator, and ten closely-connected and interconnected staffers.
Prominently among those on record against DeWeese remaining as Leader is our across-the-river neighbor Josh Shapiro (D-153, Montgomery County, representing parts of Abington and Upper Dublin), Deputy Speaker of the House and co-chair of the Speaker's Legislative Reform Commission.
Of the 10 resignation calls, Shapiro's has been perhaps the most condemnatory. He said that he was "outraged" at the news of Corbett's indictments, "because if these allegations are true they demonstrate a complete disregard of the interests of Pennsylvanians and a stunning indifference to a basic sense of right and wrong.
"[O]ur state government is broken," Shapiro said. "[The Attorney General's] presentments aren't just individual indictments; they are an indictment of our entire system."
He praised the honest, honored the good. "But the current system -- and its enablers -- stymie our collective progress.... [W]hat we truly need is something bigger than any single bill or proposal. We need a cultural change in the Capitol. We need leaders who are committed to transformational reform. We need a monumental shift, and we need it now.
"Bill DeWeese, even if he said he wanted to, is incapable of directing, orchestrating and choreographing that fundamental change," he said.
DeWeese's resignation was "imperative" as "a first step," he said. "[T]he abuses outlined in the presentments occurred on Bill's watch and, as such, he will always be a symbol of a broken system... [W]e need a break with the past" and "leaders who possess the public's trust." DeWeese no longer has that trust, he said.
He said that he hoped his call would "begin a difficult but ultimately necessary conversation about the future of our Democratic party and the future of Pennsylvania state government....to start making difficult decisions that place the welfare of the people above the interests of those sent to represent them."
To see Bonusgate as a distant Harrisburg affair or to dismiss it as something so typically Harrisburg as not worth our attention is just hands-down wrong.
To use Guy Ciarrocchi's language in an only slightly different context, "It matters." Ciarrocchi pushed the question of necessary reforms, as Shapiro did on DeWeese, to the bedrock issue of the public's "trust in the system." If Shapiro is enraged by the fact of the indictments, Ciarrocchi is enraged by what it means for that trust.
Ciarrocchi introduced DeWeese into our local debate about reform after Drucker failed to answer a press question on the resignation issue at the July 16 PennCPR press conference at the Capitol steps.
Ciarrocchi's argument was not first a matter of the indictments but about what he regarded as Drucker's insufficient response to a political reality: that reform proposals do not and cannot come to a vote because DeWeese has and would block them. "The majority leader won't let them on the floor," Ciarrocchi said.
As a contribution to the debate between candidates about reform proposals and the practical politics of their passage, Ciarrocchi's point was well taken.
Drucker's immediate response had to do with the purposes of the press conference. "I did not want to make DeWeese the issue," Drucker said. "Reform and PennCPR were the issues."
It is not clear whether DeWeese had been discussed by Drucker and the sixteen other candidates who appeared with him to announce the collaborative proposals Drucker had organized. In any case, they were not prepared to answer that day.
Ciarrocchi's criticisms were more strident just twenty-four hours after the press conference, in a press release: Drucker, it said, refused to take a position "on the most important issue in Harrisburg today: Should Bill DeWeese step down as Majority Leader?"
And something was added to the "Guy for PA" campaign website. There was a counter. A time counter. It has been, the counter read, this many days, this many hours, this many minutes, and this many seconds "since Paul Drucker refused to call for House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese to step down."
Drucker said Wednesday in Phoenixville, "I do not think Bill DeWeese ... can lead any more. If I were a member of the House, I would not vote to support him. I think that for the good of the state and the good of the party, he should resign."
He'd said so before, a week after the press conference, but it was not at the Capitol -- a fact which Ciarrocchi emphasized. "Political courage is standing on the Capitol steps in front of your peers and saying what's right. Not coming home a week later and making a statement."
Drucker and his colleagues should have anticipated the question on July 16. Could have figured not only that it would be asked but also that the issue had become intrinsic to the arguments necessary to make on reform. Their response was late, and the political landscape shifted without PennCPR's comment as it did so.
But the narrowing of the focus of the reform discussion here to DeWeese and DeWeese alone as "the most important issue in Harrisburg today," and the imposition of a time counter on the Ciarrocchi website, both hinted at an old style of gotcha campaign politics that does little to resurrect the public's trust.
G.E. "Skip" Lawrence can be contacted at a new e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org .