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Fumo's onetime top lawyer quits Senate

Christopher B. Craig, one of former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo's most loyal aides and widely considered among the best legal minds in the Capitol, has resigned from the Senate after 16 years.

Craig, who is credited with writing the landmark 2004 law legalizing slot machines in Pennsylvania, said today that he resigned from his $158,300-a-year-post as a top lawyer for Senate Democrats to explore other job opportunities.

But several sources familiar with the matter said that Craig resigned after learning that he would not be continuing as the chief counsel to Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee and would be reassigned to a lower legal post. Still, after he submitted his letter of resignation recently, Craig's allies tried to land him another top job in the chamber only for Senate Minority Leader Bob Mellow (D., Lackawanna) to block the efforts.

Mellow, through his spokesman, declined to comment because it was a personnel matter. But sources said that Mellow viewed Craig's departure as a way for the caucus to distance itself from allegations that Fumo (D., Phila.) misused state resources and his staff for his own benefit.

Craig's name has come up repeatedly in the corruption case against Fumo, now playing out in a federal courtroom in Philadelphia. In the indictment against the former 30-year senator, Craig is identified as Person No. 10. He has not been charged.

In one instance, prosecutors allege that at Fumo's request, Craig helped create a nonprofit to oppose a proposed dunes project that threatened to block ocean views at Fumo's shore home. In court, Fumo's lawyers have said the effort was a legitimate attempt to stop a wrongheaded project.

Fumo decided earlier this year not to seek another term to focus on his legal defense. His last day in office was Nov. 30.

Since then, most aides in his large staff in Harrisburg and Philadelphia have found new jobs with Democrats on the Appropriations Committee that Fumo formally headed or with his successor in the senate, Larry Farnese.

Craig's wife, Elizabeth, continues to work as a senate budget analyst making $108,987 annually.

Christopher Craig said that he had planned to resign four years ago but was asked by Fumo to stay on to help him and his staff "to get through a difficult federal investigation."

"I did so at the best of my ability under very difficult circumstances," he added.

Some view Craig's departure as a major brain-drain for the senate's minority party.

Bernard Kieklak, chief of staff to Sen. Lisa Boscola (D., Northampton) said Craig was "brilliant to the point that he scared people."

"His mind was a lethal weapon," he added. 

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