John Perzel

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John Perzel
Speaker Perzel Official Picture.jpg
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 172nd district
In office
January 2, 1979 – November 30, 2010
Preceded byFrancis Gleeson
Succeeded byKevin Boyle
136th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
In office
March 29, 2003 – November 30, 2006
Preceded byMatt Ryan
Succeeded byDennis O'Brien
Republican Leader of the
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
In office
January 5, 1995 – January 7, 2003
Preceded byMatt Ryan
Succeeded bySam Smith
Republican Whip of the
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1989 – November 30, 1994
Preceded bySamuel Hayes
Succeeded byJohn Barley
Personal details
Born (1950-01-07) January 7, 1950 (age 70)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Sheryl Stokes
ResidencePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania

John Michael Perzel (born January 7, 1950) is an American politician and member of the Republican Party. Perzel represented 172nd Legislative District (Northeast Philadelphia) in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1978 until 2010. From April 2003 to January 2007, he served as House Speaker. He lost his bid for re-election to Democrat Kevin Boyle in 2010. Perzel was convicted in August, 2011, of a variety of corruption related charges and, in March, 2012, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.[1]

Early years[edit]

Perzel is a graduate of Abraham Lincoln High School. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1975 from Troy State University in Alabama. After graduating from university, he returned to Philadelphia and became a waiter. Immediately before his political career, he was maitre d' at Pavio's Restaurant in Somerton, a section of Northeast Philadelphia.[2]


Perzel was noticed by Philadelphia Republican boss Billy Meehan, who selected him to be a GOP committeeman in 1972.

In 1976, after graduating from Troy State University, he unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the House. In 1978, he made a successful campaign for the House, focusing on the poor attendance record of the Democratic incumbent, Francis Gleeson. Over the years, he rose in seniority in the House, holding the offices of Republican Whip, Policy Committee Chairman and Chairman of the House Republican Campaign Committee. He was elected Majority Leader in 1994.

Perzel hit some bumps on his route to the leadership. In November 2000, Perzel nearly suffered defeat when a wave of support for then-Vice President Al Gore brought out Democratic voters in Philadelphia in larger than expected numbers. Perzel survived by less than 100 votes.[3] 2002 brought redistricting and a more favorable district for Perzel.[citation needed]

In a 2002 PoliticsPA Feature story designating politicians with yearbook superlatives, he was named the "Hardest Working."[4] In 2001, he was named "Politician of the Year" by PoliticsPA.[5] Perzel was appointed as a commissioner to the Delaware River Port Authority by Democratic Governor Ed Rendell in 2003.

On November 2, 2010, Perzel lost his seat to Democrat Kevin Boyle, brother of Rep. Brendan Boyle. Perzel captured 46% of the vote to Boyle's 54%. Perzel was the only Republican incumbent in Pennsylvania to lose in the 2010 elections.


On March 29, 2003, Speaker of the House, Matt Ryan, died after battling cancer. On April 15, 2003, the House elected Perzel as Speaker.[citation needed] He became one of the most powerful legislative leaders in the Pennsylvania General Assembly since James Manderino.[6]

Perzel was instrumental in the state takeover of the poorly performing Philadelphia School District, the Philadelphia Parking Authority, and the Philadelphia Convention Center.[6]

He was also a key figure in the 2005 pay raise debacle. During the furor, Perzel became the butt of jokes due to an unfortunate photograph. While reading to students in Pittsburgh, he was photographed in front of a class display full of pink pigs. The pay raise opposition had used a 25-foot pink pig in its demonstrations, and the photograph was widely circulated in order to embarrass the Speaker. In defending the pay raise, Perzel has made a number of controversial statements, including assertions that some cow-milkers and tattoo artists earned more than his members. In addition, Perzel has commented that some of the members were unable to obtain credit cards.[7]

Perzel has been criticized by conservatives for compromising with fellow Philadelphian, Governor Ed Rendell. Perzel supported the 2003 tax increase proposed by Rendell as well as Act 71, the law that legalized slot machine gambling in Pennsylvania.

2007 Speaker election[edit]

Republicans lost the majority in the 2006 elections by one seat.[8] Perzel sought to convince a Democrat to change parties or abstain from the election for speaker so that he could remain in office. After Democrat Tom Caltagirone of Reading announced that he would support Perzel rather than Democrat Bill DeWeese for Speaker, it appeared likely that Perzel would be elected Speaker presiding over a Democratic majority.[9] At the last minute, however, DeWeese nominated another Northeast Philadelphia Republican, Dennis O'Brien. The tactic was successful, as O'Brien was elected by a vote of 105 to 97.

The Republican caucus created the new title of Speaker Emeritus which gave Perzel a role without displacing other members of the House leadership.[10]

Even though he lost the majority of his power, he remained a "powerful force in the House due to his institutional knowledge."[11]

Perzel made a bid to return to the House GOP leadership after the 2008 elections, but was defeated by incumbent Sam Smith for the position of Minority Leader.[12]

Aristotle Scandal[edit]

On September 10, 2008 the office of then-State Attorney General Republican Tom Corbett announced that Perzel was under investigation for deals he made with the data firm Aristotle, Inc. during his tenure as Speaker of the House. Perzel had contracted the firm to provide the Republican Caucus with its constituency service program in deals worth over $1,870,000.[13] Corbett's agents were investigating whether the sophisticated data collection software was used for reelection campaigns in violation of state laws against the use of public funds for campaign purposes. On September 11, 2008 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the contract contained specific references for gathering information related to election purposes and the distribution of yard signs.[14]

The Republican Attorney General's office stated that it would issue indictments either before October 1, 2009 or after the election to avoid having "undue influence" on the November election. After indictment,[15] Perzel turned himself into local police on November 13, 2009.[16] and was released from custody on $100,000 bond that same day after surrendering his passport.[17] He lost his 2010 re-election bid to Democrat Kevin Boyle.

Perzel pleaded guilty on August 31, 2011 to eight criminal charges, including two counts of conflict of interest, two counts of theft, and four counts of conspiracy.[18] On March 21, 2012, Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Lewis sentenced Perzel to 30 months in prison and to pay one million dollars restitution to the state.[1] The penalty of one million dollars was later dropped on appeal.[19]

Ward leader[edit]

Perzel was the Republican Ward Leader of the 64th Ward Republican Executive Committee.[20][21]


  1. ^ a b Press, PETER JACKSONAssociated. "Perzel gets at least 2 1/2 years in corruption case". Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  2. ^ Waring, Tom (2004-04-23). "Perzel: Political powerhouse". Northeast Times. Archived from the original on 2006-11-28. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  3. ^ Waring, Tom (2000-11-22). "Perzel: On edge of his (House) seat". Northeast Times. Archived from the original on 2006-11-17. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  4. ^ "Keystone State Yearbook Committee". PoliticsPA. The Publius Group. 2001. Archived from the original on 2002-08-03.
  5. ^ "Sy Snyder's Politician of the Year 2001". PoliticsPA. The Publius Group. 2001. Archived from the original on 2002-08-03.
  6. ^ a b "The PA Report "Power 75" List" (PDF). Pennsylvania Report. Capital Growth, Inc. January 31, 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 20, 2006. With the possible exception of the late Jim Manderino, Pennsylvania has not had, in recent years, a legislative leader with the power of this Philadelphian.
  7. ^ "Perzel says many colleagues are in a financial pickle". Philadelphia Inquirer. 2006-06-17. Archived from the original (link not working) on September 6, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-06.
  8. ^ Barnes, Tom (2006-12-31). "Democrat gives GOP Pa. House majority". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  9. ^ "Colleagues: Pa. House switch is revenge". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 2007-01-02. Archived from the original (link not working) on 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2007-01-02.
  10. ^ Barnes, Tom (2007-01-11). "State Republicans name Rep. Perzel 'speaker emeritus'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  11. ^ "PA Report 100". Pennsylvania Report. Capital Growth, Inc. January 23, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 14, 2009.
  12. ^ Brad, Bumsted (2008-11-18). "House Democrats hand DeWeese No. 2 slot". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 2008-11-18.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Thompson, Charles (2008-09-10). "Questions reportedly focus on election tasks, possible no-work job". Central PA News. Retrieved 2008-10-10.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Roddy, Dennis B. (2008-09-11). "Grand jury investigates use of House GOP computer system". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  15. ^ Tu, Alan (2009-11-12). "Former PA House Speaker John Perzel indicted". WHYY web site. WHYY. Archived from the original on 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2010-02-28.
  16. ^ Jackson, Peter (March 21, 2012). "Perzel gets at least 2½ years in corruption case". The Morning Call. Allentown, PA. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
  17. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^, September 1, 2011, Ex-Pa. speaker pleads guilty to corruption, by the Associated Press [1]
  19. ^ "Convicted Ex-Pa. House Speaker Perzel won't have to pay $1 million to state".
  20. ^ Committee of Seventy (2009-12-21). "2009 Citizen's Guide" (PDF). The Committee of Seventy, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
  21. ^ "Members-Philadelphia Republican City Committee". Philadelphia Republican City Committee official web site. Philadelphia Republican City Committee. 2010-02-16. Archived from the original on 2010-02-16. Retrieved 2010-02-16.

External links[edit]

Media related to John Perzel at Wikimedia Commons