For a Wharton graduate and former Pennsylvania state senator, a prison sentence is no barrier to pointing fingers elsewhere.
Vincent Fumo, who is in prison for corruption, is suing two of his former campaign managers for spending money from his Political Action Committee, Fumo for Senate, for personal use.
Currently serving his sentence in a federal prison in Kentucky, Fumo accused former PAC chairman Andrew Cosenza and his brother, former treasurer Dominic Cosenza, of “self-dealing” over $100,000 from the PAC’s treasury, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Fumo, a 1984 Wharton MBA graduate, was found guilty in March 2009 of 137 counts of corruption including conspiracy, fraud and related offenses. He had defrauded $2.4 million from the Pennsylvania Senate, where he served from 1978 to 2008.
The Cosenza brothers were not implicated in Fumo’s criminal conviction, nor did they testify as witnesses on either side. But Andrew Cosenza did send a letter to the judge in June 2009 on Fumo’s behalf to ask the judge for a more lenient sentence. The letter attested to the good character of “the man I affectionately call my ‘big brother.’”
“To say Vince Fumo has been a good friend to me is an understatement. Vince has always been there for me, no matter what time of day or night … Vince never expected anything in return; there was never a quid pro quo,” the letter said.
Since then, the tables have turned and Cosenza is trying to paint Fumo in a different light.
In court last week, Cosenza accused Fumo of planning while in prison to use the PAC money to reimburse legal fees and restitution debts related to his criminal conviction.
He also shared email correspondence that showed Fumo was still actively leading the PAC from his prison cell.
“You were going to raise a few hundred thou by the time I got home. Remember? … Love, Big Bro,” Fumo wrote to Cosenza in May 2011, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Lawyers on both sides did not return interview requests.
Law School professor Robert Zauzmer, a prosecutor in Fumo’s prior criminal conviction, finds it surprising that the former senator still has a running PAC calling for his re-election.
“There aren’t that many elected politicians who go to prison. My guess is most of them view their political career to be over by that point,” Zauzmer said. “I have not heard of a situation like this before.”
It is also rare for a candidate to sue his campaign committee. Craig Donsanto, the former director of the election crimes branch of the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said political committee members accused of fraud are rarely sued by their candidates.
“That’s backwards — the candidate suing his campaign committee.”
Fumo was initially sentenced in July 2009 to 55 months. He was resentenced in November 2011 to 61 months in prison, after the prosecution had appealed for a longer sentence. Fumo is in the process of appealing part of his sentence.
Due to his felony convictions, Fumo is no longer eligible to run for public office in Pennsylvania. Though a PAC may continue to exist after its candidate has retired, its expenditures must be solely for the “purpose of influencing the outcome of an election,” according to Pennsylvania Campaign Finance Reporting Law.
If Fumo were to close out the PAC, he could also return the remaining cash to its contributors.