Friday, November 30, 2012

The LuLac Edition #2281, November 30th, 2012

Bob Mellow today after sentencing.
Former Senator Bob Mellow in the 70s. 
Photos from Scranton Times Tribune


He was once one of the most powerful men in Pennsylvania history. Some would refer to him as a political Midas. Elected to the State Senate at the age of 27, Bob Mellow served four decades in the 22nd Senatorial district. Despite his win at a young age, Mellow was not a wild child politico trying to change the world. Instead,  he was a student of power observing how things worked in the Senate. Early on he sought out the counsel of Luzerne County’s Martin L. Murray, seeing the machinations of power in the glacially moving capitol of Harrisburg. He built relationships with Henry Hager, Michael O’Pake, T. Newell Wood, Frank O’Connell and Charles Lemmond. He recognized that dual power in the Senate could help his region. As his seniority grew, and challenges against him became non existent locally, he built coalitions all across the state of Pennsylvania. He became President Pro Tempo rare of the Senate, the third in line of succession in the Commonwealth. (It was a post Martin L. Murray held). When the Democrats were out of power, he became the Minority Leader. Any bill that went through Harrisburg had to have the Mellow imprimatur on it. 
In Northeastern Pennsylvania he was the man you saw if you needed anything. His office staff was meticulous in their customer service skills. I once needed a letter of recommendation for a job I was seeking. An out of district voter, I walked into his office on a Tuesday, stated my case and by Tuesday got a copy of a letter he sent to the company on my behalf. (I did not get the job). 
At first, Mellow said he wasn’t going to be a political hack but hired his father for an office job shortly after being elected. He worked hard to pass the lottery which helps seniors and was a close ally of Governor Shapp. When the Shapp administration ran into scandal, the wily Martin L. Murray created distance for the  Democrat Senate by giving Mellow the opportunity to ironically craft an ethics bill. During the Casey, Ridge and Rendell administration, Mellow was involved in the passage of CHIP (the Chidren’s Health plan for the state) as well as property tax reform attached to casino gambling. As a newcomer in the 70s he voted against a pay raise and wanted to reduce the size of the Senate from 50 to 40. By the time the new century and more than 34 years of seniority were under his belt, those tunes changed. 
Today, we might conclude that his hard working staff might have been too efficient for their own good. Mellow plead to mail fraud and underpayment of taxes. But the big one was using staff to do political work for himself and like minded allies. My friend Dr. Joe Leonardi once said that we are jailing politicians for being politicians. I agree partially with that because the two are so closely aligned, some days the shades of it will be gray. But I’m sure there was a Bonus gate component in this using staff to reduce your opponent’s chances at success. I personally know people in the Mid Valley who regard Mellow as a hero. There are others who point to his serious disregard for the rules. Mellow made so many rules that in the end he thought he was above them. He got passes on his Blue Cross Board membership where he collected a stipend of $25,000 a year, renting property to himself for office space as well as ruling with an iron first politically. After sidestepping or ignoring the outcries against these things, he thought he could leap frog another hurdle. But the feds have a way of taking the hop out of any frog. 
In the end, after he plead to these charges there are those who claim they were a tap on the wrist. More than 200 people wrote letters on his behalf including former Governor Ed Rendell and Austin Burke Chairman of the Scranton Chamber. Mellow made a plea for mercy and had a blowhard of an Attorney that seemed more about making the moment about himself than his client. Some observers felt that maybe this out of town Judge might be buying what the Defense and Mellow was selling. He wasn’t. Mellow got 16 months and will report on January 15th. When he was a younger man, in addition to being a state lawmaker, Mellow was a PIAA basketball official. He’d run up and down the court with the best of them and make the calls. Fair or foul. Somewhere along the way, as Mellow became more powerful and that youthful sporting activity gave way to more meetings and caucuses, Mellow forgot or choose to ignore the rules. Sooner or later the federal referee was going to call foul. And everyone knows there’s always a penalty to pay for that.


At 10:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outstanding work on Mellow's career. Really think you nailed it but are being way too nice.

At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Four decades of power and the obvious happens just as it did with Musto - corruption. Term limits are the only way to prevent this from happening again.

At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Marion said...

Mellow's corruption is the result of too many years in office. Senator Musto was also in office far, far too long. We need term limits.

At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Mellow's corruption is the result of too many years in office. Senator Musto was also in office far, far too long. We need term limits."

At 1:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David: Mellow is the type of politician that has been bringing us down for years. I detected a little sympathy and dare I say hero worship in your article about him. Your MidValley "associations" are showing. Now that would be a story we'd all like to know.

At 1:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mellow looks like Dietrick from the old Barney Miller Show in that photo.

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:14AM.......Read the book. "A Radio Story". You'll see what I mean.

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great book. I know a guy (a radio sales rep who bought 30 copies and gave it out as a Christmas gift. But I disagree with the poster who said Yonk and Tarone were easy on Mellow. I think the word is measured. And Tarone's point is that too many people are in jail is correct. One poster on the LuLac said (I don't remember who) said we should just ankle bracelet all of 'em and keep the jails for killers, druggies and violent criminals.

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:34 pm......Wil Toole said that about the ankle bracelets.

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave, good thoughts on Mellow. He was at the fair way too long. Wondser what else he got way with.

At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

I read this and thought: "The professor never mentioned 3 kids but maybe this is his brother".

Dear All Three

With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.

We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don’t ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.

Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.

So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretence to ask for our advice.

In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.

I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.

6:51 PM


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