Thursday, June 01, 2006

Top story #1: Fumo's least favorite kind of publicity

VinceState Senator (and local Big Dog) Vince Fumo is all over the local news again today, this time because two of his employees have been charged with deleting emails and other files in order to cover up some questionable financial dealings of Fumo's pet charity Citizens Alliance. For background on this case, see previous mentions here, here, and here (although the PNI links can't be reached) -- most of it is recapped in the first story linked below...
  • These are the first arrests in the 3-year investigation, and the first time the government has shown its hand on the scope of its investigation.
    The two men were accused of wiping e-mail and other evidence from computers used by Fumo, his staff, and a wealthy nonprofit with ties to Fumo, Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods.

    There was more: Prosecutors released a richly detailed, 65-page FBI affidavit that quoted e-mails from the two technicians, saying they were following Fumo's orders.
    The feds are almost certainly hoping to make a deal here, as a couple of middle-aged computer nerds are hardly big fish in this case. At minimum, they've put the head of Citizens Alliance on notice. More to the point,
    The affidavit also provides the government's first public disclosure of the scope of its investigation: whether Fumo was "engaged in extortion" in trying to get corporate contributions for Citizens' Alliance, and whether any of those contributions were used to benefit Fumo politically or personally.
    Unsubtle in the extreme, most of these disk wipes followed major articles in the Inquirer about the investigation of Fumo. Way to look unafraid, Vince.

  • The Inquirer follows the above in-depth overview with a second story looking specifically at the actions of the two charged men, and at Fumo's increasingly frantic concern as the probe progressed. Sounds a bit like classic Nixon, dividing all players into Friends and Enemies, but that's a pretty common approach in Philadelphia politics. More top-notch cleverness like this:
    In March 2004, Leonard Luchko - one of the aides charged yesterday - corresponded with an executive at the company that makes Pretty Good Privacy software. He wanted to know if someone could detect that the software had been used to delete files.
    Does the word "obstruction" mean anything to you, Leo?

  • The Daily News' main piece on this story notes that many prominent figures have gone down not for their primary crimes but for their attempted cover-up (Nixon gets another mention), and wonders whether the charges here will be followed by other more substantive ones.
    In addition to presenting the obstruction-of-justice case, the affidavit makes it clear authorities have substantive information about Fumo and his relationship with Citizens Alliance.
    It's hard not to notice the rather pointed word "extortion" in the affadavit...

  • Another short DN story makes fun of the charged men as pathetic tech geeks. No illumination on the substance, so I guess it's pure entertainment value. A third piece confirms, yup, that deletion would be baaaaad.

  • John Baer speculates that the need to keep a delicate silence (or having been "lawyered up") will crimp Fumo's exercise of his influence. However, I suspect that there are still plenty of Trusted Friends who will want access to the inner sanctums...


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