I rise for a Point of Personal Privilege and would ask the indulgence of the Senate to make an important announcement.
I have given many speeches in my life, but this is the most difficult speech I have ever had to deliver, so please bear with me for a few moments.
Effective today, I am temporarily stepping aside as the Democratic Chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
During the past number of years, my family, my staff, my friends and I have endured an intensive federal investigation.
Despite our cooperation in this process, as I and my office have produced thousands of documents, waived valid legal privileges, and permitted every aspect of my public and private life to come under examination, the investigation has been marked by threats, intimidation and frequent leaks to the media, intended to embarrass me.
Now this investigation is coming to an end. I am informed that Mr. Meehan, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, will announce an indictment of me, probably this week.
I am not happy about this, but in one sense I am relieved.
These years have not been easy on me or my family, my staff and my friends. Now that phase is over, and I can move forward, knowing who and what I am fighting. I will be able to meet the allegations head on, instead of trying to answer the countless rumors that have attended this process.
Sometimes the fear of the unknown is far more emotionally terrifying than the battle itself. I am no longer in a fight for my political life, but for everything that I hold dear. Those of you in this Chamber that know me, know that I will not shrink from what lies ahead.
I am informed that the charges will be made in a voluminous indictment, full of falsities, half-truths and baseless legal theories. I know in my heart that I have not done anything illegal. I trust that you and the good citizens of Pennsylvania will keep an open mind and remember that they are only accusations. There are good answers to the charges. Unfortunately, some time will go by before I have an opportunity to present my story in a courtroom. In the meantime, I want to mention some important things that my attorneys do NOT expect the indictment to allege.
The indictment will NOT allege that I ever accepted a bribe. And, as the government knows, I never did.
It will NOT allege that I ever cast a vote in my own interest rather than the best interest of the Commonwealth. And, as the government knows, I never did.
It will NOT allege that I extorted PECO or any other business or person. And as the government knows, I never did.
It will NOT allege that I sold my office. And again, as the government knows, I never did.
And most importantly, it will NOT allege that I ever failed, in any manner, to carry out my duties as a Senator fully and completely. And as all of YOU know, I have carried out my duties as a Senator, fully and completely and effectively.
Instead, my attorneys advise me that the indictment will make two primary claims: One, that assets of Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, a charitable organization which I supported and of which I am most proud, were misused for personal or political gain. And second, that my Senate office employees do nothing but political and personal work.
Both claims are simply wrong.
Make no mistake, I am proud of Citizens Alliance. Among its more than $10 million worth of accomplishments are: an outstanding charter school, a national-award winning residential development in a former blighted neighborhood, the rehabilitation of many trash-strewn, rat-infested vacant lots, financially strapped recreation facilities that were kept open, and countless other improvements that otherwise would not have been possible throughout the state, the southeastern Pennsylvania region, and the City of Philadelphia. It truly is about Better Neighborhoods.
I am also very proud of my staff – many of whom asked to stand with me today.
The suggestion that my staff members are political operatives or personal assistants reflects an amazing ignorance of both the legislative process and the facts. Both my Harrisburg and Philadelphia staffs are acknowledged as among the hardest working and most dedicated in state government. No constituent phone call, no neighborhood concern or problem, no legislative issue or state agency matter goes ignored. They routinely work more than a 40-hour week, beyond the hours of 9-5. I have a 24/7 operation, and my staff frequently works nights and weekends, without overtime pay and without bonuses.
During my time in the Senate, with the help of my staff, I have dedicated my career to becoming as effective as I could be for Philadelphia and its surrounding area. We have produced more than $8 billion in benefits for the city and region. We have fought on behalf of consumers, intervened to save jobs, preserved historical assets, and rebuilt neighborhoods. And I am going to keep fighting, with the same passion that I have always had for those who need our help – the poor, the unemployed, our senior citizens, our children, and the working men and women of Pennsylvania.
But for the time being, I will do it as a rank and file member of the Senator. Before this indictment is issued, I will, pursuant to the spirit and the Rules of the Senate, step aside as Democratic Chair of the Appropriations Committee until I am vindicated. My good friend, Sen. Gerald LaValle, will become acting Democratic Appropriations Chairman.
I take this step now not only in the interest of this Senate and my caucus, but because I do not want to cause any disruption to an already difficult budget process.
To those of you in this Chamber, that I love so very much, from both sides of the political aisle that sometimes separates us, who have expressed concern and support and love, and who have prayed for me, I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, and my family and I ask that you continue to be with us in this battle.
To the people of Pennsylvania, I want to say, I believe in your fairness. For almost 30 years I have worked for you and with you, and I am confident that you will not judge me based on a many years-long, one-sided campaign of scurrilous leaks to the media designed to undermine my office and attack my reputation.
This is the last time I will be speaking publicly about any of this. On the advice of my attorneys I will say nothing more, and I ask for your understanding. I sincerely wish I could tell my side of the story now, but the time and place for that will be in a court of law.
But I can say to you now, again, that I am not guilty of these accusations.
Sometimes in life the only choice we have when we face blatant injustice is to have the courage to stand up and fight. That is what I will do, not just to protect myself, but to protect others from facing similar confrontations in the future, and to protect the good things that we can yet accomplish together.
Thank You, Madam President.