Bill DeWeese

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H. William DeWeese
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 50th district
In office
May 10, 1976 – April 24, 2012
Preceded by Donald Davis
Succeeded by Pam Snyder
135th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
In office
January 5, 1993 – November 30, 1994
Preceded by Bob O'Donnell
Succeeded by Matt Ryan
Democratic Leader of the
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1995 – November 30, 2008
Preceded by Ivan Itkin
Succeeded by Todd Eachus
In office
January 23, 1990[1] – November 30, 1992
Preceded by Bob O'Donnell
Succeeded by Ivan Itkin
Democratic Whip of the
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
In office
January 6, 2009 – December 19, 2009
Preceded by Keith McCall
Succeeded by Frank Dermody
In office
January 3, 1989 – January 23, 1990
Preceded by Bob O'Donnell
Succeeded by Ivan Itkin
Personal details
Born (1950-04-18) April 18, 1950 (age 67)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Holly Kinser (married 1992, divorced 1999)[2]
Residence Waynesburg, Pennsylvania
Alma mater Wake Forest University
Religion Presbyterian
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch U.S. Marine Corps
Years of service 1972–1975

H. William "Bill" DeWeese (born April 18, 1950) is an American politician who is a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. A member of the Democratic Party, DeWeese served as the 135th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House from 1993 to 1994. After five years of investigation by Republican State Attorney General Tom Corbett, DeWeese was not charged in connection to the scandal known as "Bonusgate." He was, however, indicted in December 2009 on six charges of conflict of interest, theft and criminal conspiracy on accusations that two members of his staff used state resources to campaign for political office. The trial began January 23, 2010. He was re-elected in 2010 despite the charges, but was convicted of five of the six felony charges on February 6, 2012.[3] In April 2012, DeWeese was sentenced to 30 to 60 months in state prison, and subsequently resigned his house seat.[4] He maintains that the prosecution was politically motivated,[5] and part of an ongoing feud with Corbett,[6] who became Governor in 2011.


DeWeese was born April 18, 1950, in Pittsburgh and raised in rural Greene County. After earning a B.A., History at Wake Forest University, he joined the United States Marine Corps 1972–1975.

State House[edit]

After leaving the Marines, DeWeese was elected to the Pennsylvania House in a 1976 special election[7] and represented the 50th district (consisting of all of Greene and parts of Fayette and Washington Counties) for the ensuing thirty-six years.[8][9][10][11]

DeWeese's ascent through the echelons of House Democratic leadership began when he was elected by his colleagues as Majority Whip in 1988. Upon the death of Speaker of the House James Manderino, DeWeese was elected House Majority Leader in January 1990, serving in that position until he was elected Speaker of the House for the 1993–94 term. In 1994, he lost the Speakership when Democrat Rep. Tom Stish switched parties, giving the GOP the majority. He went on to serve as Minority Leader from 1994 until 2006. With the election of fellow Democrat Ed Rendell as Governor of Pennsylvania in 2003, DeWeese was able to wield more influence than otherwise would have been expected from a Minority legislator.[12]

Following November 2006 elections, a tight race in Chester County gave a slim 102-101 majority to the Democrats, DeWeese became Democratic speaker-designate. Days before the General Assembly convened on January 2, 2007, Rep. Thomas Caltagirone of Berks County announced he would not support DeWeese as speaker but would remain a Democrat. For the second time, DeWeese was denied the speakership by a member of his own party. DeWeese made a shocking move in the Hall of the House when he nominated Philadelphia County Republican Rep. Dennis O'Brien for the office of Speaker. O'Brien defeated fellow Northeast Philadelphia Republican John Perzel in a 105–97 vote.

Role in the 2005 legislative pay raise[edit]

Rep. DeWeese supported a legislative and judicial pay raise in 2005. After criticism from the media and activist groups, DeWeese joined his colleagues in a near unanimous repeal of the pay raise.

DeWeese reorganized the Democratic Caucus following the vote. Members who voted in favor of the pay raise were promoted to those positions; while those who voted against lost such positions as a result of their opposition. Republicans and a small number of fellow Democrats, including Governor Ed Rendell, criticized DeWeese's move; but he stood by his decision, explaining that those who opposed the pay-raise legislation knew the realignment would be a consequence.[13]

Despite the defeats of several legislative leaders in the wake of the pay scandal, DeWeese fought off a 2006 primary election challenge and was elected for an additional term in office on November 7, 2006.

2007 speaker election[edit]

In 2006, the Democratic party won a 102–101 majority in the House, giving DeWeese a second chance at the speaker's gavel. However, several Democratic representatives were rumored to be unhappy with Deweese. Among them were Rep. Rosita Youngblood of Philadelphia whom DeWeese accused of being "owned lock, stock and barrel by Perzel Incorporated.[14] Caltagirone publicly announced his intention to support Perzel, thereby denying DeWeese the Speakership.[15] However, Democrats foiled Perzel's move by nominating a Republican, Dennis O'Brien for Speaker. O'Brien went on to win the election.


Among his accomplishments, DeWeese spearheaded the strongest mine safety law in the country, and led successful efforts to raise the minimum wage, expand prescription drug benefits for senior citizens, pass one of the nation's strongest autism insurance laws, eliminate mandatory overtime for nurses, significantly strengthen the state's Open Records law and implement a sweeping ethics and compliance program for all staff.[16]

Bonus investigation[edit]

DeWeese initially attempted to block Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett's investigation into whether the House Democratic caucus made illegal payments to staffers, with motions to quash suboepenas and exclude evidence seized.[17] However, months later he abruptly dropped his legal challenges.[8] DeWeese negotiated an agreement with the Office of Attorney General to turn over evidence,[18] but the terms of the negotiation have not been made public. [5]

Documents DeWeese turned over to the Attorney General revealed that DeWeese acknowledged awarding bonuses for campaign work and used a state-paid consultant to perform political tasks.[19] Despite the fact that the email said "Thank you for the bonus for campaigning,"[20] DeWeese argued that he thought he was being thanked for a Christmas bonus. Alternatively, DeWeese has argued that the response did not come from him.[21] Evidence also showed that DeWeese and his top aides directed a state-paid consultant to perform political work.[22] Prosecutors did not charge DeWeese in connection with bonuses or the state-paid consultant.

Evidence in the case also revealed DeWeese's bizarre personal demands of his staff.[23] DeWeese's aides allegedly balanced his checkbook, paid bills, picked up dry cleaning, bought condoms, and arranged dinner dates from a list of women. His driver was asked to arrange items in the trunk of his car according to a diagram on a card. DeWeese was not charged in connection with the use of his state-paid staff for personal errands.

On December 15, 2009, DeWeese was indicted on one count of conflict of interest, four counts of theft and one count of criminal conspiracy.[24] He is accused of paying a full-time political operative with state funds and directing his district office staff to do political work on state time. That operative later said he spent 40% of his time on campaigns. That operative was not charged because he made his allegations against his former boss under protection of immunity. DeWeese's trial is scheduled for early 2012.[25][6] [7]

He survived calls for his resignation from reform activists[26] and his fellow state representatives.[9] DeWeese did not step down and was re-elected in 2008 over Republican Greg Hopkins.[27] With Keith McCall receiving the party nomination for Speaker after the 2008 elections, DeWeese ran for and was elected to be Majority Whip in the House.[10] He resigned from his leadership role after he was indicted on charges unrelated to the issues at the center of the Bonusgate case.[11] In spite of this reduced role in the Democratic caucus, the Pennsylvania Report expected DeWeese to "find some way to exert his influence and thus continue to be a power player and force behind-the-scenes in the PA House" and cautioned against anyone counting him out.[28]

On February 6, 2012, a jury found DeWeese guilty of five of the six felony counts with which he was charged, including three counts of theft, one count of conflict of interest and one count of conspiracy.[3] He was acquitted on a single theft charge.[3] After the verdict was delivered, DeWeese maintained that the charges were politically motivated, and vowed to remain in the House until he was sentenced, at which time he said he would resign.[5] DeWeese was the only Democrat to file for election to his House seat, and a Commonwealth Court judge ruled that his name could remain on the April 2012 primary ballot.[29] He was sentenced to 30 to 60 months in state prison on April 24, 2012, the same day in which he resigned his House seat. His subsequent requests to be released on bail pending appeal were denied by the State Supreme Court, and he was incarcerated at the Camp Hill State Prison.[30] In August 2012, a Commonwealth Court judge ruled in favor of State Democrats who had sought to have DeWeese's name removed from the general election ballot; the ruling allowed Democrats to select a new candidate to take DeWeese's place on the ballot.[31] DeWeese was paroled on March 30, 2014.[32]

Feud with Corbett[edit]

DeWeese maintained that his charges were part of a political vendetta[6] by Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett, who indicted DeWeese while running for Governor. Corbett won the governor’s race through an anti-corruption platform[33] despite allegations of prosecutorial misconduct[34] and corruption in Corbett's office.[35]

A key source of dispute between Corbett and DeWeese is the exploration for natural gas in Marcellus Shale, a booming industry in DeWeese’s district. Between 2005 and 2010, more than 1,900 wells[36] had been drilled in Pennsylvania. Greene County, home of DeWeese, has attracted companies as large as Haliburton.[37] Corbett, the former assistant General Counsel of Waste Management, opposes an extraction tax[38] on Marcellus Shale drilling while DeWeese favors it. Corbett also sought to limit regulatory oversight of the drilling industry.[39]

Corbett’s campaign was heavily funded by energy insiders.[40] He received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the natural gas industry.[41]

In August 2011, DeWeese called for a theft-of-services investigation of Tom Corbett when the wife of a Corbett cabinet member was charged with DUI and called the Governor’s mansion in the early morning hours to assist. A State Trooper was dispatched to pick her up from the police station and drive her home.[6]

In January 2012, DeWeese lambasted Corbett[42] for spending tens of millions of state dollars pursuing political enemies but ignoring the child abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky. Corbett received $201,783.64 in campaign contributions from past and present board members of Sandusky's charity, according to media reports.[43]

As part of the ongoing feud, Corbett also canceled a prison destined for DeWeese’s district.[44]


DeWeese is well known for his idiosyncratic style of speaking and writing, which incorporates an extensive vocabulary, anachronistic usages, and attenuated metaphors. For instance, a 2002 letter by DeWeese to lobbyist Stephen Wojdak regarding Wojdak's hiring of DeWeese's ex-wife, Holly Kinser, began with the following paragraph:

Let's cut to the chase ... you sir, are a liar. The measure of the person in our enterprise is his word. When a man comes to my Capitol Hill enclave and stands beneath that impressive chandelier of gold, looks me in the eye with a gimlet gaze, shakes my hand with a sturdy grip and gives me his word, to me it's axiomatic that the gentleman is telling the truth. You are an abject, ignoble, mendacious knave![45]

In 2002, the political website PoliticsPA named him to the list of "Smartest Legislators," saying "His command of the English language leaves most people fumbling for a dictionary, if they can even spell the word. The breadth and depth of his knowledge of history also distinguishes this Democratic Floor Leader. Extremely well rounded and well read, DeWeese is capable of holding an intelligent conversation on just about any topic."[46] In a 2002 PoliticsPA Feature story designating politicians with yearbook superlatives, he was named the "Best Dressed."[47]


  1. ^ Jim Moore (1990). "DeWeese takes on duties of House majority leader". Observer-Reporter. Retrieved October 26, 2011. 
  2. ^ Rubin Erdely, Sabrina (March 2003). "There's Something About Holly". Philadelphia. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Metro Corp. 
  3. ^ a b c Langley, Karen (February 7, 2012). "DeWeese guilty of five felonies". The Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved March 5, 2012. 
  4. ^ Olson, Laura (April 24, 2012). "DeWeese sentenced after resignation from Pa. House". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  5. ^ a b Couloumbis, Angela (February 6, 2012). "DeWeese convicted of theft, but vows to stay". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved March 5, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c DeWeese right in calling for investigation – Greene County Messenger: Editorials. (2011-08-19). Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  7. ^ Roddy, Dennis B. (December 16, 2009). "DeWeese stunned by charges in corruption probe". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 
  8. ^ a b [1] Archived September 7, 2012, at
  9. ^ a b DeWeese may face caucus ire. Pittsburgh Tribune (2008-01-09). Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  10. ^ a b Brad Bumsted (2008-11-18). "House Democrats hand DeWeese No. 2 slot". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  11. ^ a b Mauriello, Tracie (December 18, 2009). "Dermody's election as House Democratic whip a 'shake-up'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  12. ^ "The PA Report "Power 75" List" (PDF). Pennsylvania Report. Capital Growth, Inc. January 31, 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-09-20. 
  13. ^ "Moves in Pa. House to Stand". Archived from the original on 2006-09-26. Retrieved 2006-09-26. . Philadelphia Inquirer August 5, 2005
  14. ^ Philadelphia Daily News, Rosita's revenge? December 29, 2006[dead link]
  15. ^ ''Reading Eagle'', Democrat plans to support Perzel, spoiling party speakership, December 30, 2006. Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  16. ^ Biography. (1950-04-18). Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  17. ^ Mauriello, Tracie; Barnes, Tom (September 21, 2007). "Democrats attempting to block state probe of bonuses". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  18. ^ Agent So Op Testimony 1. (2008-03-31). Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  19. ^ Cattabiani, Mario F.; Couloumbis, Angela (April 6, 2009). "Bonusgate records contradict DeWeese". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  20. ^ E-mail may tie DeWeese to scandal – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. (2009-03-16). Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  21. ^ E-mail may tie DeWeese to scandal – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. (2009-03-16). Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  22. ^ Records appear to contradict DeWeese The ex-House Democratic leader, who has not been charged in the Bonusgate case, has denied he knew public money was misused. – (2009-04-06). Retrieved on 2012-01-23. [2]
  23. ^ Bumsted, Brad. (2009-12-22) Grand jury testimony tells of DeWeese's demands on staff – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  24. ^ Roddy, Dennis B.; Mauriello, Tracie (December 16, 2009). "DeWeese, Stetler charged in state corruption probe". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  25. ^ [3]Pennsylvania Rep. Bill DeWeese to go to trial on Bonusgate charges. Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  26. ^ Micek, John (November 16, 2007). "Afternoon Update". Capitol Ideas with John L. Micek Blog. 
  27. ^ Democrats seek to take focus off bonus scandal ( | Courier Times[dead link]
  28. ^ "PA Report 100" (PDF). Pennsylvania Report. Capital Growth, Inc. January 23, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-08-14. 
  29. ^ Olson, Laura (March 1, 2012). "Despite conviction, DeWeese will appear on primary ballot". The Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved March 5, 2012. 
  30. ^ Bowling, Brian (June 7, 2012). "Supreme Court says DeWeese must stay in prison during appeal". The Pittsburgh Tribune. Retrieved July 3, 2012. 
  31. ^ Scolforo, Mark (August 10, 2012). "Judge tosses jailed DeWeese off House ballot". The Times Leader. Retrieved August 13, 2012. [permanent dead link]
  32. ^ DeWeese released after corruption sentence
  33. ^ Corbett Wins Pa. Governor’s Race. Main Justice (2010-11-02). Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  34. ^ Court document (PDF). (2010-03-25)
  35. ^ Analysis: Can Tom Corbett continue his charge on Pennsylvania Capitol?. Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  36. ^ Southwestern Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Short-Term Ambient Air Sampling Report. November 1, 2010. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Protection
  37. ^ Gas Drilling Trucks | Truck photos including some frac fluid trucks. Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  38. ^ Sungala, Rebekah. (2011-03-11) DeWeese, others speak out against Corbett plan – Greene County Messenger: Top Stories. Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  39. ^ Pennsylvania Limits Authority of Oil and Gas Inspectors. ProPublica (2011-03-30). Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  40. ^ [4]
  41. ^ Swift, Robert. (2010-11-19) Hanger challenges Corbett on natural gas drilling – News. Daily Review. Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  42. ^ Matt Miller Top aide pleads guilty amid jury selection for ex-House Speaker Bill DeWeese's corruption trial. The Patriot-News The Patriot-News . January 18, 2012
  43. ^ Past And Present Board Members Of Sandusky's Charity Gave $201,783.64 To Gov. Corbett's 2010 Campaign. (2011-11-16). Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  44. ^ DeWeese expresses ire over prison cancellation. PoliticsPA (2011-02-18). Retrieved on 2012-01-23.
  45. ^ "Mr. Stephen R. Wojdak". Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-09-28. .
  46. ^ "Smartest Legislators". PoliticsPA. The Publius Group. 2002. Archived from the original on 2002-01-15. 
  47. ^ "Keystone State Yearbook Committee". PoliticsPA. The Publius Group. 2001. Archived from the original on 2002-08-03. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Bob O'Donnell
Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Matt Ryan
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Preceded by
Donald Davis
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 50th District
Succeeded by
Seat Vacant
Party political offices
Preceded by
Keith McCall
Democratic Whip of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Frank Dermody
Preceded by
Ivan Itkin
Democratic Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Todd Eachus
Preceded by
Bob O'Donnell
Democratic Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Ivan Itkin
Democratic Whip of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives