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Former Top GOP House Leader to Plead Guilty in “Bonusgate" Probe

Former state House Speaker John Perzel is slated to plead guilty Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 PM in the Dauphin County Courthouse to charges related to the misuse of taxpayer dollars. The specific charges aren't yet known, but will be related to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's corruption investigation of House lawmakers and staff for using millions of tax dollars for campaign purposes. He has been facing 82 counts including theft, criminal conspiracy, conflict of interest, and obstruction of justice for allegedly using state money to pay for voter databases used in political campaigns.

Franklin & Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna says to understand why Perzel is taking a plea, look no further than his former staff. Three former aides pleaded guilty earlier this month. "That puts the person charged in a pretty unenviable position, having to defend himself against the very people who were his or her top aides," said Madonna.

He says that Perzel's guilty plea reinforces the point made throughout the "Bonusgate" investigation that the Attorney General's office was scrutinizing both parties. "Now I think it reaffirms former Attorney General Tom Corbett's argument that they weren't partisan," said Madonna. "That in effect he is now, his office, his former office, I should say, has gotten four convictions of the ten."

Perzel's nephew Eric Ruth, a former House GOP staffer, is also expected to enter a guilty plea Wednesday afternoon. Charges remain against five other Republicans for alleged involvement in the scandal.

Some 15 Democrats were also charged in the legislative corruption scheme. Perzel was charged in November 2009. He lost the House seat he held for 30 years in last November's election to Democrat Kevin Boyle, a Philadelphia Council aide.