State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
State House Sound Bites Podcast: NPR | iTunes | Google Play

By fiat, legislative leaders update Capitol felons' portraits

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 16, 2014 9:11 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

Slow progress at the Capitol is often blamed on the deliberative, cumbersome legislative process. But there was one a small change this week that happened without any votes.

Plaques disclosing criminal convictions have been chained to the prominently displayed, larger-than-life portraits of four former House and Senate leaders, as was first reported by R.B. Swift of Times-Shamrock Communications.

For at least a year, current legislative leaders privately discussed how to acknowledge the misdeeds of former members recognized on the halls of the Capitol.

Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) had called for the portraits to be taken down. But he says he's moving on -- he thinks his outcry turned people off.

"A lot of people sort of blew it out of proportion, like, 'Well this guy doesn't have anything else to do... he's got his priorities out of whack because all he cares about is... the portraits hanging in the hallways,'" Wagner said. "But, you know, we're talking about reform in Harrisburg, and I think it's the first step."

The small, engraved plaques are dwarfed by the portraits of former House Speakers Herbert Fineman, sentenced for obstruction of justice, as well as Bill DeWeese and John Perzel, both convicted for corruption charges. The portrait of ex-Senate President Pro Tem Bob Mellow also got a plaque listing his conviction on corruption and tax evasion charges.

A spokesman said current legislative leaders weren't comfortable removing the portraits entirely.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interviewed DeWeese about the change.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has comments from one activist none too pleased that the portraits are still on display.

Published in State House Sound Bites

back to top

Give Now

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Latest News from NPR

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »