Armstrong: It's a sad end to Rep. Louise Bishop's political career

State Rep. Louise Bishop arrives at the Dauphin County courthouse in Harrisburg: She pleaded no-contest to accepting cash in a sting operation.

OF ALL THE state politicians who got caught up in the investigation involving payoffs from a political lobbyist, Louise Bishop's case troubled me the most.

I didn't want to believe that the venerable state rep would get caught up in shady financial dealings. I secretly hoped that prosecutors were mistaken and that somehow it would be revealed that the allegations that Bishop had accepted money on the sly from an undercover operative were false. Sadly, they weren't.

Yesterday, Bishop pleaded no-contest to one count of failing to disclose that she received $1,500 from Tyron Ali on her annual financial-disclosure forms. She also agreed to six months of probation. Bishop will resign from office immediately and has to pay $1,500 in restitution and $5,000 in prosecution costs.

It's a disturbing end to what had been a mostly blemish-free career (although she was one of the lawmakers who voted for that controversial late-night pay raise back in 2005).

I used to respect the elegant Philadelphia Democrat for her work ethic. The woman could grind, as they say. People loved her. She seemed above the fray. If you can't trust someone like her, then whom can you trust?

At 82, not only had she served the 192nd District since 1988, she'd managed to do so while holding down part-time gigs in radio - at times working six days a week producing her popular early-morning gospel show.

For more than 50 years, Bishop was an on-air fixture in black radio, counseling listeners and praying aloud with them over the airwaves. Listeners called her the Queen of Gospel. One person wrote on her Facebook page just yesterday: "Praying for you in the same way that you have done for me and countless others for so many years."

Interestingly, Bishop also is an ordained minister. I once went to hear her preach at a church in North Philly. I don't remember what she said, just the sight of her in a cream-colored robe and preaching to a congregation of mostly single women and children. After that, she moved on to another church, conceivably to save even more lost souls that day.

Mind you, all of this was after doing her Sunday-morning radio show at WURD 900 AM, a black talk-radio station. I was impressed with her energy and told her as much, to which she responded: "I don't have a husband and no boyfriend, either. So, I have to burn up this energy."

"When you give up men, it gives you a lot of energy," she added, sagely.

Lucky for her, she won't have to burn up that energy behind bars. Bishop, a grandmother, has been spared that humiliation. And, get this: Her record will be expunged after only six months.

No sense tongue-clucking over that. It won't matter. The damage has been done.

People aren't going to forget how Bishop disgraced herself and her political office over what amounts to chump change.

Prosecutors say that Bishop accepted a total of $1,500 during several meetings with Ali in 2010 and 2011. On tape, she can be heard saying: "That's a great help. That's a biggie," as the last of it was handed over.

At first, her attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., argued that the undercover investigation had been racially motivated, but he withdrew that motion yesterday.

District Attorney Seth Williams, in a news release, heralded that withdrawal, saying: "Personally, today's announcement has marked the end of a difficult chapter in this special investigation, because I've known Rep. Bishop since I was 4 years old and tremendously respect her and her work as a community leader, elected official, radio personality and member of the clergy, but she did the right thing today by not contesting the facts we presented in court and withdrawing the motion."

It's over for Bishop, the former Democratic chairwoman of the House Children and Youth Committee.

Instead of being able to retire with dignity, Bishop will have to shuffle out in disgrace.

If you can't trust someone like her . . .

armstrj@phillynews.com

215-854-2223

On Twitter: @JeniceArmstrong