Veon Fallout: An End to WAMs

Yesterday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett announced additional charges against former Rep. Mike Veon and staffer Annamarie Peretta-Rosepink for their role in directing state funds to the Beaver Initiative for Growth. 

Veon and former Sen. Gerald LaValle, D-Rochester, funded the nonprofit with more than $10 million in state grants over a decade.

Most of that funding came from Community Revitalization program, also known as Walking Around Money or WAMs).  Former Sen. Vince Fumo, convicted last week of 137 counts, also directed WAMs to a nonprofit organization he controlled, which he then used for personal gain.  These funds are controlled by legislative leaders, to be dolled at their discretion to rank-and-file members upon request (Veon and Fumo were both members of leadership).

Is it time to eliminate WAMs?  We think so, and have highlighted not only the egregious spending from that program, but also the process by which funds are doled out.  Other reform groups are also concerned about how these funds are used, and the complete lack of oversight.

A number of House Republicans have also called for the elimination of WAMs and “discretionary funds.” And now Senate Pro-Tem (and Lt. Governor) Joe Scarnati admits this indicates “evidence of a breakdown in the state’s grant system.” (HT Grassroots PA).

Amazingly, Democrat leaders defend WAMs:

“We believe the system works,” said Bob Caton, a spokesman for House Speaker Keith McCall, D-Carbon. “A few aberrations aren’t enough to condemn the good work that these dollars do in communities all across the state.”

Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Mellow, D-Lackawanna, said the grants are given like any other state check to people who are expected to have honesty and integrity, such as local school districts. [emphasis added]

When they misuse the money, it is up to investigators and auditors to catch them, Mellow said.

How many more of their colleagues need to go to prison for them to see the light of day?