Jill Porter: Once again, is Fumo's fate linked with that of the Phillies?

IN THE POCKET of his suit jacket, state Sen. Vincent Fumo has a small guardian angel, encased in plastic, given to him by a constituent.

In his briefcase, he has rosaries, also given to him by constituents.

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Vince Fumo, 28 years ago, the first time he was indicted, and, coincidentally, the last time the Phils won the World Series.

And in his heart, he has hope that his fate will once again parallel that of the Philadelphia Phillies.

The last time the Phillies were where they are today, Fumo was where he is today: standing trial in a federal courtroom on corruption charges.

Dr. Phillip Marone, who was then the Phillies physician, actually testified at Fumo's 1980 trial during the World Series.

"He was a character witness," said Fumo, standing outside Courtroom 17A yesterday after his trial broke for lunch.

Fumo was found guilty back then, but the charges were later thrown out.

So, he won. And the Phils won.

You can't blame him for hoping there's some shared karma there.


 

Fumo, 65, was surprisingly upbeat and robust yesterday. No sign of the drawn, thin, weary man he has seemed recently.

"I've gained a little weight," he said.

But the strain was evident in the way Fumo clenched and unclenched his jaw as testimony unfolded in the courtroom, where his son-in-law - a former aide and key prosecution witness - repeatedly called him "an evil man."

"This is emotionally draining," Fumo said.

"I feel the strain and stress."

Fumo was so exhausted after court Wednesday that he said he fell asleep during Barack Obama's half-hour TV special.

What could be more symbolic than that? The consummate political power player asleep in front of the TV in the middle of an intense presidential campaign.

An election without Fumo is like the solar system without Pluto. It just doesn't feel right.

Zack Stalberg, who runs the good-government Committee of Seventy, agrees.

"He was the smartest pol around and he added a tremendous degree of color to the whole electoral process," Stalberg said.

"He'd say whatever was on his mind. Sometimes it wasn't politically correct, but he'd say what he thought. He didn't hide behind 'off the record' stuff to a great extent, so, as a politician, there's nobody like him."

Fumo is such an addict for action that you wonder if he's not pulling strings behind the scenes, having surrogates do his political bidding.

No way, said his one-time protege, City Councilman Jim Kenney.

"He's focusing on nothing but this. He's retired. I mean really. I know he's focusing all his energy and stamina on the rest of his life."

Fumo wasn't even very involved in the race to replace himself in Harrisburg, Kenney said.

"We were involved more in running that, the day-to-day street stuff. "

And, Kenney said, Fumo isn't missing much in this campaign.

The local contests are "ho-hum" and "everybody has their minds made up" in the presidential race.

But after 35 years of being a political powerhouse, Fumo can't help but wish he was in the fray.

"I'd be raising money, plotting strategy, worrying about the races in Western Pennsylvania," Fumo said yesterday.

"When I see the rallies and whatever going on - I really miss it."


 

The Phillies aside, 2008 isn't 1980, not for Fumo.

He was 37 back then, married to his first wife, and won re-election even after being found guilty.

Now, at 65, he has two ex-wives and several ex-girlfriends, an estranged daughter and a political career that he ended voluntarily to deal with the trial.

In 1980, he was charged with putting ghost employees on the state payroll, far less damning than what he's charged with now.

This time, he was portrayed in a 139-count federal indictment as an obsessed, obscenity-spewing politician who infamously used "Other Peoples Money" for his own benefit, including to spy on an ex-girlfriend and to renovate his mansion.

The amulets he carries may be small defense against the weight of the evidence against him.

Few people, friends or enemies, believe that he can beat the charges.

But, hey, who'd have imagined the Phillies would have won the World Series? *

E-mail porterj@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5850. For recent columns:

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