The Hall of Shame: Kathleen Kane and 13 other Pennsylvania officials facing or fighting corruption charges


“That is so Pennsylvania.”

That was the general reaction this week to yet more charges being filed against public officials here in the Keystone State. This time around, it’s the state’s chief law enforcement officer. Today Attorney General Kathleen Kane was criminally charged for allegedly leaking confidential information.

Yesterday, the City Council president up in Reading pleaded guilty to accepting $1,800 as a bribe to… wait for it… loosen ethics rules. The mayor and school board president are connected to the charges, natch.

Last week, it was U.S. Congressman and longtime Philly pol Chaka Fattah who was indicted by the feds and charged with more than 20 counts of corruption stemming from several different schemes deemed illegal by investigators.

It’s beginning to sound really familiar, this barrage of corruption charges among our city and state’s most powerful individuals. In fact, a 2014 Harvard study found that Pennsylvania is one of the most corrupt states in the union.

And now, to the Hall of Shame:

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1. Francisco Acosta

Who? Reading City Council President

Party: Democrat

Status: Pleaded guilty

What happened: This week, Acosta pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery after admitting he took $1,800 to try to repeal some of the anti-corruption rules the city had in place. The bribe, according to Newsworks, apparently came from a subordinate of a political consultant who also worked with the mayor — prosecutors allege Mayor Vaughn Spencer also participated in the scheme. In addition, It’s alleged that Acosta planned to dump the money into the campaigning of his wife, AKA the local school board president.

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2. Louise Bishop

Who? Current state representative from West Philadelphia

Party: Democrat

Status: Charged

What happened: Remember hearing about that sting case that Attorney General Kathleen Kane never carried out? Philadelphia District Attorney took over and ended up filing charges against several elected officials who allegedly accepted cash payments from Tyrone B. Ali, a confidential informant posing as an interested lobbyist. Bishop, 81, a state rep. since 1988, is among those facing bribery charges.

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3. Michelle Brownlee

Who? Former Philadelphia state representative

Party: Democrat

Status: Pleaded guilty

What happened: While in her third term in the House, Brownlee was fined and sentenced to 18 months probation after pleading guilty to accepting $2,000 outside a Harrisburg restaurant from Ali, the informant working for the Office of the Attorney General. She resigned when she pleaded guilty to conflict of interest charges.

Former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah went to prison in 2017 for racketeering and bribery. A federal appeals court just overturned his convictions.

4. Chaka Fattah

Who? Current U.S. congressman representing West Philly and parts of DelCo

Party: Democrat

Status: Charged

What happened: Now in his 11th term in Congress, Fattah was the subject of an eight-year investigation by the Department of Justice that recently brought corruption charges against him after several members of his inner circle had been charged and pleaded guilty. Officials say Fattah and his accomplices misused hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds, inappropriately sold a Porsche and illicitly paid off his son’s college debt. Fattah has vehemently denied the charges and has said he will not resign, despite mounting pressure.

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5. Vanessa Lowery Brown

Who? Current state representative from Philadelphia

Party: Democrat

Status: Charged

What happened: Lowery Brown is currently in the same camp as Rep. Louise Bishop. She faces conflict of interest charges stemming from the same sting that caught several other Philadelphia pols — the one that Kane, a Democrat, secretly shut down. Some speculated Kane failed to prosecute the politicians because it targeted members of her party. Lowery Brown didn’t accept a plea deal when offered one and chose to face trial.

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6. Harold James

Who? Former state representative from Philadelphia

Party: Democrat

Status: Pleaded guilty

What happened: After being caught accepting $750 from Ali, the confidential informant involved in other cases, James, 72, pleaded guilty earlier this year to conflict of interest charges that put him on a year of probation but allowed him to keep his state pension. James, a former Philadelphia police officer, was first elected to office in 1988, serving 10 consecutive terms. He was an unsuccessful candidate in 2008, was re-elected in 2010, and was not re-elected in 2012.

kathleen kane

7. Kathleen Kane

Who? Current state Attorney General

Party: Democrat

Status: Charged

What happened: Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman today announced criminal charges against Kane in Norristown where she’s been investigating Kane for the last eight months. Kane, the state’s chief law enforcement officer, faces charges of leaking confidential information to the Philadelphia Daily News in order to embarrass one of her political enemies and then lying in front of a grand jury in order to cover up the leak. Kane has denied the allegations.

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8. Rob McCord

Who? Former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate

Party: Democrat

Status: Pleaded guilty

What happened: Former state treasurer and one time gubernatorial hopeful McCord pleaded guilty in February to two counts of attempted extortion after federal prosecutors accused him of using his status as state treasurer to make money off of PA companies so they would support his gubernatorial bid. McCord hasn’t yet been sentenced, but the guilty plea could send him to prison.

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9. J.P. Miranda

Who? Former state representative from Philadelphia

Party: Democrat

Status: Pleaded guilty

What happened: Former state representative J.P. Miranda pleaded guilty in January in connection with a case involving a “ghost employee.” A rookie in the state House, Miranda wanted his sister to serve as his chief of staff — a violation of PA ethics laws. So instead, he reported that another man was his chief of staff, but used that person to simply funnel a salary to his sister instead. Miranda was sentenced in April to five years probation.


10. Joan Orie Melvin

Who? Former state Supreme Court justice

Party: Republican

Status: Guilty

What happened: Melvin resigned and was placed on house arrest in 2014 after she was convicted of conspiring to use staff members paid by the state (including her sister) to also work on her re-elected campaign. But the interesting stuff with Melvin happened after her conviction, when judges and attorneys were up in arms because her court-mandated “apology letters” didn’t actually apologize for anything. More on that, here.

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11. Stephen Reed

Who? Former longtime mayor of Harrisburg

Party: Democrat

Status: Charged

What happened: Reed was charged last month by state prosecutors with hundreds of counts of theft and corruption among allegations of a number of schemes. Prosecutors say he used public money to help fund museum projects that never materialized, bribed members of city council and siphoned cash from city agencies to fund his own policy aspirations. Among the items taxpayers paid for under Reed? A suit of armor. A life-sized sarcophagus. A vampire hunting kit. He’s denied the charges.

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12. Thomasine Tynes

Who? Former Philadelphia traffic court judge

Party: Democrat

Status: Pleaded guilty

What happened: Former Philadelphia judge Thomasine Tynes was sentenced last year to serve two years in federal prison in connection with a large ticket-fixing scheme. But Tynes was also one of the public officials implicated in the attorney general’s sting involved Ali, and prosecutors allege she accepted a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet as a bribe.

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13. LeAnna Washington

Who? Former state senator

Party: Democrat

Status: Pleaded guilty

What happened: Former state Sen. LeAnna Washington was sentenced to three months house arrest and five years of probation last year after pleading guilty to conflict of interest charges for having her office staff work on her annual birthday campaign fundraiser for a number of years and using public funds for political gain. She also infamously told a former aide that she could do whatever she wanted because she was “the fucking senator.” Not anymore.

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14. Ron Waters

Who? Former state representative from Philadelphia

Party: Democrat

Status: Pleaded guilty

What happened: Former state Rep. Ron Waters pleaded guilty earlier this year for accepting nearly $9,000 in cash payments from Ali, the fake lobbyist and confidential informant working with the attorney general. He also resigned his House seat and was sentenced to 23 months probation.

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