When former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo cruised free on museum yachts, he liked to dine in style, too.
Yesterday, federal prosecutors established that Fumo ran up massive tabs in 1999 and 2000 during a pair of four-hour trips on the yacht Principia off the Florida coast.
On both trips, a witness testified, Fumo and his guests enjoyed lavish meals prepared by a French chef, Regis Louchet. Smoked salmon canapes, beef tenderloin with bordelaise sauce, and gratin dauphinois potatoes were just some of the menu items.
The 1999 meal, for 23 guests, cost $3,053. The next year, the tab for 14 guests was $2,540. This was over and above the cost of using the yacht, a cost borne by the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia.
Though a witness testified yesterday that it was normal practice for guests to pay the chef at the time of the cruise, Fumo disembarked without paying.
After Louchet complained that he hadn't been paid, the seaport museum paid the bills, according to Jean Wyatt-Filer, who operated the boat with her husband, Capt. Eric Filer.
The testimony came as prosecutors continued efforts to show that Fumo defrauded the museum by getting free yacht trips.
Through the testimony of another witness, Assistant U.S. Attorneys John J. Pease and Robert A. Zauzmer sought to undercut Fumo's defense against charges of misusing a nonprofit's money on political polls.
In a nuanced defense argument, Fumo's lawyers have argued that the nonprofit was legally permitted to spend money on politics, provided that its spending wasn't used to back a specific candidate in a specific race.
And, they have said, Fumo used $250,000 in polling paid for by Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods only for big-picture strategic analysis.
Former Fumo political operative Ken Snyder told the jury yesterday that in the heat of a campaign Fumo had used at least one poll the nonprofit had paid for.
Snyder said he and Fumo, as well as other key aides, closely studied a poll commissioned for a candidate who had the senator's support in a bid to oust former City Councilman Rick Mariano.
Fumo's codefendant, Ruth Arnao, and another Fumo political consultant, Howard Cain, also pored over the poll results, Snyder said. The survey was a tracking poll showing how Kathleen Fitzpatrick was doing against Mariano in the Democratic primary.
Fitzpatrick, who was not at the session where the poll was dissected, lost the race. Mariano was later convicted of accepting bribes in a federal case that had nothing to do with Fumo and is serving a prison sentence of 61/2 years.
In 2004, years after the polling was done, Fumo paid back Citizens' Alliance with money from one of his political action committees. He did so after the news had broken that he was under FBI investigation.
On the stand, Snyder recounted a conversation in which Fumo blasted a New York polling firm, saying that it had billed Citizens' Alliance by mistake.
However, Snyder acknowledged that he had instructed another polling firm to charge Citizens' Alliance for its work. He said he would have done that only upon Fumo's instructions.
Fumo hired Snyder in 2000 after the political consultant and professional spokesman was fired by Mayor John F. Street. Snyder testified that his connection with Fumo led to $120,000 in contracts annually - $60,000 from the state Senate, $30,000 from Fumo's main campaign fund, and $30,000 from Citizens' Alliance.
Snyder testified that Fumo was "deeply involved" in the work of Citizens' Alliance and made decisions about how its money was spent.
One year, he said, the nonprofit contributed $200,000 to help cover the costs of the Mummers Parade.
"Who made the ultimate decision?" Pease asked.
"I believe it was Sen. Fumo," Snyder said.
The trial is set to resume Monday before U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter.