Former Governor Edward "Spendell" has lost none of his chutzpah since he left office as the state's "leader" in 2010.
In his recent appearance at the Pennsylvania Press Club, he stated that he has no plans to return to politics, but that he would consider the position of vice president in the unlikely event he were nominated, jovially noting that the second in command receives a lovely home at the Naval Observatory in Washington, and does not have to do much. He also noted, perhaps only somewhat tongue in cheek, that he would also accept nominations for the position of Emperor.
It is odd that Rendell is treated as an honorable, distinguished elder statesman whose opinions are widely sought when he did so much to damage the Commonwealth and was so closely associated with corruption during his long reign of eight years in office.
What beleaugered homeowner can forget his pervasive television ads from his first campaign in 2002, in which he pleged to lower property taxes for all by at least 30 percent, then stated for emphasis, "... and if the General Assembly does not act, I will." The General Assembly did not act nor did Rendell. He did take bold and decisive action, though, when immediately upon becoming ensconced in the governor's mansion, he insisted on a 34 percent boost in the onerous state income tax to fund his efrorts to vastly increase the scope and cost of state government. Rendell "settled" for a 10 percent hike after General Assembly Republicans, who had been fighting against any increase, capitulated. The tax increase was agreed to by then-House Speaker and current prison inmate John Perzel, who revealed his duplicity when he stated that although he is a Republican, that it is his job to help the liberal, big-government Democratic governor get his agenda through the House.
The greatest stain left by the big-government Rendell era shall be his failure to endorse good, clean, open, honest government.
Rendell wholeheartedly supported the 2005 middle-of-the-night legislative pay grab, rushing to sign it and having the audcaity to tell us in its aftermath, that it was "good legislation." In the days to follow, he found it not to be such "good legislation" as an Internet-fueled grass roots citizen revolt occurred. Rendell, led by the greedy members of the General Assembly, had to retreat and repeal the legislation. He later explained, crudely, that sometimes it is necessary to "kiss a little butt" (of the General Assembly, in order to get legislation passed, i. e., quid pro quo).
Rendell assisted in raising funds for disgraced former State House Whip Mike Veon, a current prison inmate, this after Veon was under a cloud, soon to face the criminal charges that would land him in jail for years. It is also fascinating to note that within remarks to a gathering of State Democratic officials on the night that Veon was sentenced for his first crime spree, outgoing head of the state party and former State Representative, Democrat T. J. Rooney, stated that Veon is "a friend of Democrats and a friend of mine," and complaining that Veon had "really gotten the shaft" today (from prosecutors and the sentencing judge). Poor Mr. Veon, having to answer for his crimes against the public: what an outrage! None of the speakers to follow at this gathering, including then-Allegheny County Excecutive Dan Onorato, ever sought to distance themselves from Rooney's outrageous remarks.
When former State Senate kingpin Vincent Fumo was to be sentenced for his one-man crime spree, Rendell appeared at his trial to argue not for an appropriate tough sentence, but for leniency, asserting in Fumo's defense that "no one is all good or all bad," and that his pal, the crook, had done much good for his constituents as "public servant." Rendell was joined in his plea that criminality be treated like a summary offense by the equally disgraceful former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Zappala and State Senator Christina Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia). It is interesting to note that Justice Zappala's son, Stephen, the Allegheny County District Attorney, did not adopt his father's position that legislative crimes should be taken lightly as he pursued former State Senator Jane Orie tooth and nail for mixing campaign work with official business. Perhaps if she had been a Democrat that was prosecuted by someone other than the former Chief Justice's son, that Richard Zappala would have argued for leniency for her as well.
What appears to be the final chapter in the book of corruption of the Rendell era occurred this week as former State Representative and Rendell's selection to head the important State Department of Revenue, Stephen Stetler, was sentenced to a minimum of eighteen months in prison for his role in the pervasive scheme to pressure state employees to perform campaign work on state time. What do you know, Rendell testified as a character witness for Stetler! Rendell is a character alright. One can hope that his tarnishing state government by vouching for crooks backfired in the Stetler case.
Tom Corbett is by no means a perfect governor. I have criticized him for failing to properly fund repair of our crumbling infrastructure and his unwillngness to properly tax the extremely lucrative Marcellus Shale drilling industry, but I do not expect to find him arguing for leniency for the criminals his long and dogged investigations as State Attorney General helped to convict nor to be coming to the General Assembly for massive tax increases which penalize every working man and women in the Commonwealth.
I toast the end of the Rendell era. May it never again rear its ugly head.