In advance of former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo's scheduled sentencing on Tuesday, a list of powerful and influential friends - including the governor, a congressman, and a former state Supreme Court chief justice - have written the judge seeking mercy for the disgraced former pol.

The letters from Fumo's pals say as much about the corrupt and contented culture of Philadelphia politics as they do about Fumo, who for decades held sway over politics in the city and Harrisburg, rewarding friends and punishing enemies.

After a lengthy trial, Fumo was convicted by a federal jury of all 137 counts in an indictment that included allegations of widespread corruption, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.

No question, Fumo did some good for the city and helped the less fortunate, but almost always at the expense of taxpayers, and the elevation of his own power and standing. Indeed, many watched Fumo in action, and nearly all looked the other way.

Gov. Rendell told U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter that Fumo "did a tremendous amount of good for the very best of reasons." The governor didn't mention that Fumo had once used a private investigator to try to dig up dirt on Rendell, or "Fast Eddie," as Fumo often called him.

Rendell did say that everyone is "complex" and all "have faults" and "have made mistakes."

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the Democratic Party boss in Philadelphia, was less circumspect. Brady said he had known Fumo for decades, and was "proud" to call him "my friend." Brady even described Fumo as "honest and forthright."

Memo to Brady and all of the other political and business leaders who enabled Fumo and still support him: Honest, forthright people don't get convicted of 137 counts of corruption, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.

Honest, forthright elected officials don't defraud taxpayers of more than $2 million by using and abusing state Senate employees for personal and political-campaign work on state time.

Honest, forthright public servants who care about the less fortunate don't loot a neighborhood nonprofit of nearly $2 million worth of tools, vacuum cleaners, office furniture, cars, cell phones, farm equipment, trips to Cuba, and other items, for their personal use.

Honest, forthright state senators don't bilk the Independence Seaport Museum of more than $100,000 worth of free yacht cruises, let alone boast about wining and dining themselves on "other people's money."

And once in the crosshairs, honest, forthright politicians don't conspire to destroy evidence and obstruct FBI and IRS investigations.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Fumo faces between 21 and 27 years in prison.

The guidelines are in place for a clear and compelling reason. Judge Buckwalter should follow them.