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PACs Fumo started are still functioning

It's unclear whether he's had a say in disbursements since going to prison in Kentucky in 2009.

Former Democratic State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo remains in a Kentucky prison, but hundreds of thousands of dollars he raised before his 2009 fraud conviction have ensured that his political legacy has lived on even while he is behind bars.

In 2010, what was once Fumo's primary political action committee, Fumo for Senate, spent nearly $100,000. Some of that ended up in the coffers of candidates who included City Councilman Frank DiCicco, a longtime Fumo ally; Councilman Bill Green; and State Sens. Vincent Hughes and Mike Stack.

Since Fumo entered prison in late summer 2009, it has not been clear what role, if any, he has played in the PACs he once controlled.

Kevin Greenberg, a lawyer and expert in campaign finance, said nothing in state law precluded a felon in prison from being involved in a PAC, a vehicle for funding political campaigns.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Philadelphia will argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that Fumo's sentence of 55 months is too lenient. After Fumo was convicted, prosecutors argued that he should serve at least 21 years.

As prosecutors push for more time for Fumo, his lawyers will begin trying to appeal his conviction on 137 counts of corruption.

If his sentence is not changed, Fumo could get out of the federal prison camp in Ashland, Ky., as early as January 2013.

The private life he returns to will be dramatically different from the one he left as a powerful state senator who also had a $1-million-a-year law firm job.

His fiancee, Carolyn Zinni, and two of his three children visit him in prison, but some friends have cut ties, angry that his crimes also took down subordinates and associates.

If he wanted to get back in the political game, however, he could have ready cash. At the end of last year, Fumo for Senate had $286,181 on hand.

But Fumo's lawyer, Dennis Cogan, said Fumo, 68, had no role in his old PACs and never would again.

"He has nothing to do with the PACs anymore," Cogan said. "He has extricated himself from that world and doesn't intend to go back to it."

Although Fumo maintained several PACs, the largest by far was Fumo for Senate.

At the end of 2009, that PAC controlled $365,000.

A few months after Fumo was convicted in March 2009, his friend Dominic Cosenza became treasurer of Fumo for Senate. Cosenza did not return calls or an e-mail seeking comment for this article. Cogan said he did not know how Cosenza had become treasurer of the PAC, which a Fumo staffer previously oversaw.

Fumo had a long history with the Cosenza family.

Cosenza and his brother, Andrew, operate Cozco Management, which controls the Bassett's Turkey and Philly Steak & Gyro stands, including those on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and at Philadelphia International Airport.

Since 2006, Andrew Cosenza and Cozco have given $90,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to various statewide candidates, including $35,000 to Fumo for Senate from 2006 through 2008.

Andrew Cosenza has also helped raise money for Fumo's legal-defense fund.

In summer 2009, as U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter weighed how much prison time to give Fumo, Andrew Cosenza wrote a letter pleading for leniency.

"Since this investigation began . . . I've seen a flawed, but good, man reduced to a gray, listless existence," Cosenza wrote.

When Fumo arrived at the Ashland prison camp, Andrew Cosenza was at his side.

That year, Fumo for Senate spent about $28,000. Among the biggest beneficiaries was Voicenet, an Internet company once owned by Fumo friend Carmen DiCamillo, which got $7,045 for computer equipment and information-technology services.

Public Service PAC, which according to trial testimony was controlled by Fumo, got $9,000 from Fumo for Senate that year and $5,050 in 2010.

Rosanne Pauciello, a ward leader and former top Senate aide whom Fumo often described as his "sister," is the treasurer of Public Service PAC. She said Fumo had had no role in the PAC since he went to prison.

An additional $1,500 went to the Philadelphia Democratic Campaign Committee, a PAC of the Democratic City Committee.

For "gifts," Fumo for Senate spent $1,155 at Max Weiner Fine Jewelers.

In 2010, after Fumo had been in prison for several months, Fumo for Senate's spending ramped up.

That year, Fumo for Senate paid $15,400 for consulting to INF Retirement Management, which lists the same Mount Laurel address as the Cosenzas' business.

The PAC also reimbursed Andrew Cosenza $4,475 for travel.

In 2010, money from Fumo for Senate financed two new political action committees, Pennsylvanians for Good Government and Concerned Citizens for Good Government, which received a combined $29,000.

Once the money went into the two new PACs, it became harder to tell where it had originated. In the documents for those PACs, the Fumo for Senate contributions are listed only as F.F.S.

Ricardo Dunston, a former head of Reading Terminal Market who also once did business at the airport, is an officer of both new PACs. He said he had set them up because he hoped it would help him get phone calls returned from politicians.

Dunston was reluctant to be interviewed because he believed his name had been unfairly sullied during a 2005 federal investigation into airport contracting, but he said he had not talked to Fumo and did not know whether Fumo was aware that money from Fumo for Senate had gone to the two new PACs.

James Rosica, a Cherry Hill lawyer who became treasurer of Pennsylvanians for Good Government at Dunston's request, said that Fumo for Senate had provided "seed money" for the two PACs, but that they were wholly independent of Fumo for Senate.

He said he had met Fumo only once, for about five minutes, at Fumo's Jersey Shore home.

"I have never taken direction from or spoken to Vincent Fumo about any PACs," Rosica said in an e-mail.

Since 2009, DiCicco has been among the primary beneficiaries of Fumo for Senate and Pennsylvanians for Good Government. The PACs gave a total of $30,000 to the councilman in 2010 and 2011. DiCicco ultimately decided not to run.

The contributions to DiCicco were legal at the time, but since then, campaign-finance rules have forbidden multiple related PACs to contribute more than $10,600 to a single candidate.

DiCicco did not return calls seeking comment for this article.

Other recipients of money from Pennsylvanians for Good Government or Concerned Citizens included Citizens for Hughes, Friends of Bill Green, and the Committee to Reelect Sen. Mike Stack.

Kristen Stoner, executive director of Citizens for Hughes, said her organization was unaware of where the money had come from and would return it.

"Thank you for pointing this out to us," she said. "For appearance's sake, we understand that this doesn't look great, and it's easy to return the contribution."

She said Citizens for Hughes preferred to deal with PACs "with a longer history."

Green said he was unaware of the $1,000 contribution, but added: "To my knowledge, Sen. Fumo hasn't given me any money and didn't direct anybody to, but I hope that he's proud of the work I'm doing."

Stack, whose committee got $5,000, did not return a call seeking comment.

Before he went to prison, Fumo commanded one of Philadelphia's most powerful political empires, owned four houses, and hired a detective to spy on Ed Rendell, then a candidate for governor.

In prison, he must stand in line to take medication. A committee decides what he and other inmates watch on television.

He still owns various properties - including the Spring Garden mansion that he meticulously rehabbed - unable to sell them in the market downturn, Cogan said. An effort to sell the 27-room mansion for $5.9 million failed.

In December, Fumo used the house as collateral for a $250,000 loan from Zinni. She declined to comment for this article.

Through a dealer, Fumo is trying to sell his gun collection.

Despite his problems, friends say he is holding up relatively well.

"It's a healthy place for him to be. He's forced to be patient, relaxed, and more focused on the important things in his life," said one person who has visited him but did not want to be identified. "He's teaching classes and has an interest in other prisoners, particularly younger kids trying to get their lives straightened out."

Cogan said Fumo was "handling his incarceration with dignity and courage. Nobody wants to be in jail, and, especially at his age, jail is pretty tough. But he doesn't complain, and he worries more about people on the outside - family and friends that he thinks are dependent on him."

Though Fumo has remained close to Cogan, Zinni, and others, some friends have parted ways with him.

Councilman James Kenney, who got his political start under Fumo, said he had not spoken to him for a few years.

"We don't have a relationship," Kenney said. "There were a lot of people hurt unnecessarily by his legal strategies. He should have taken the full responsibility."

Mitchell Rubin, a former chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, pleaded guilty last spring to charges that he withheld information from the FBI and from a grand jury investigating Fumo. Rubin's wife, Ruth Arnao, was a Fumo aide who was convicted with him of defrauding the nonprofit he started, Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods.

Rubin and Arnao used to vacation with Fumo on a yacht that figured in the case. Now they don't even speak, Rubin said.

"Not a word," he said. "I don't know that I want to comment, but we've severed ties, and we have no contact with him, and neither does my wife."

Howard Cain, who testified against Fumo and spent 10 months in prison for failing to pay taxes on political work he did for the senator with taxpayer money, said he, too, no longer talked to his former patron.

Now working at a South Philadelphia scrap yard as a project manager, Cain declined to comment further.

Pauciello, who has maintained a friendship with Fumo that began when they were teenagers in South Philadelphia, said Fumo was already thinking about life on the outside.

"I heard he has no intentions of dieting until the last six months that he's in," she said. "That's when he comes out svelte and looking good."