Philadelphia, you've been shamed. And by suburban, rich Montgomery County.

In terms of internecine political warfare, alleged cronyism and contracts, feasting and golfing on political donations, Montco is making the city look like amateur hour.

The county's often-combustible Board of Commissioners combusted last week with only a couple of sessions left before this incarnation ends.

Commissioners Chairman Jim Matthews was arrested after allegedly lying to a grand jury. Lies, District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said, "so prevalent, so extensive, and so blatant that they were criminal."

Such moments make me misty for the old days, when, in 1973, then-Mayor Frank Rizzo failed a lie-detector test. But that was Philadelphia then. This is Norristown now.

The grand jury's highly critical report alleges that Matthews ran the county government as his fiefdom, awarding contracts to business and political associates while using $57,000 in campaign donations on his car, meals, and two country clubs.

If you're living well on other people's money, why limit yourself to one golf course?

Matthews resigned as chairman. County Solicitor Barry Miller, his former campaign manager, who is often viewed as his political enforcer, was fired.

"I hate to say, 'I told you so,' but I told you so," Commissioner Bruce Castor said, sounding as if he didn't hate it at all. "Jim Matthews is a man totally devoid of honesty and integrity and incapable of telling the truth."

I am so going to miss these guys.

The antipathy between Castor and Matthews is intense, relentless, and tribal in that Matthews worships at the altar of GOP National Committeeman and former county chair Bob Asher, while Castor has been aligned with current county GOP chairman Bob Kerns.

The Bobs aren't too fond of each other, either.

Keep in mind that all these people are Republicans. In January, the GOP loses control of the county Board of Commissioners for the first time in 13 decades.

The current incarnation is going out not with a bang, but a multicar crack-up.

Castor is the county's swashbuckling former D.A., a highly political, visible post that comes with a recurring role on the evening news. Ferman is Castor's former deputy. Immediately, critics accused Ferman of doing Castor's dirty work.

"Risa wouldn't be district attorney if it weren't for Bruce," said Democratic Commissioner Joseph M. Hoeffel III, who formed a bipartisan bromance with Matthews. "This is the textbook definition of conflicts of interest and being too close politically."

The normally voluble, uncensored Matthews has remained largely silent. However, he has said that "they're out to get me" and that the investigation was "politically motivated" and driven by Castor.

The 69-page grand jury report details the unsavory ways county business was done. Matthews was charged only with perjury and false swearing because the laws regarding campaign financing and regulations on contracts are so fungible that many of his alleged activities may seem illegal, but - here's a shock - are not.

"Current Pennsylvania law is so broad as to legalize virtually all expenditures," the report states. "We find it even more concerning that the laws as they stand protect this behavior." (In New Jersey, Senate President Stephen Sweeney spent $120,000 in campaign donations on meals - also legal.)

The grand jury investigation offers some teachable moments. Why would anyone make a donation to a candidate given that the money can be squandered on country clubs and steak dinners?

Politicians have learned nothing from Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, or Vince Fumo: The cover-up, the lies, will drown you every time.

Matthews gave much of his life to the Montgomery County GOP. When he was arrested Tuesday, he endured possibly the ultimate injustice. The news ran nationally with the headline: "Chris Matthews' brother accused of perjury." Matthews' older brother, the MSNBC commentator, is a well-known Democrat.

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