Pennsylvania bonus scandal: Michael R. Veon, former House Democratic Whip
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Michael Robert Veon arrived in the Pennsylvania House because of a pay raise and was turned out two decades later for the same reason.
In the intervening 22 years, Mr. Veon ascended in the ranks of the House Democratic leadership, crafting in-caucus political strategy, counting and trading votes, all the time staying in the background.
He was rarely quoted in the House Journal, the official transcript of the Legislature, leaving the speech making to his longtime ally, Democratic Leader H. William DeWeese. He rose to become the party's minority whip, immediately behind party leader DeWeese.
"It was Bill DeWeese out front, but often it was Mike Veon who was doing the nitty-gritty on an issue," said Ron Cowell, a retired member of the western Pennsylvania delegation.
That nitty-gritty included an agenda that was classic Western Pennsylvania Democrat. Mr. Veon was a reliable vote for labor, pushing through, in his last term, a bill to raise the state's minimum wage -- despite a Republican majority in both chambers.
Born and raised in Beaver County, a place once wealthy on the strength of its steel industry, Mr. Veon attended Allegheny College, where he majored in political science. After school, he went to work for Joseph Kolter, a Beaver County General Assembly member who later ousted incumbent U.S. Rep. Gene Atkinson in 1982.
A year after joining Mr. Kolter's Congressional staff, Mr. Veon made a run for Mr. Kolter's former state House seat, challenging first-term Democrat Barry Alderette. In the week before the primary -- which amounted to the general election in a county so heavily Democratic -- Mr. Veon's forces flooded the area with fliers calling attention to Mr. Alderette's vote for a House pay raise.
In a five-way race, Mr. Veon won a plurality that marked the beginning of his state House career.
"I expected him to be a superstar," said Tim Potts, a former House aide.
In many ways, Mr. Veon was: He was capable of forging alliances even in the face of Republican control, and rarely faced a serious election challenge.
His fundraising prowess was legendary. One donor, Jonathan Dariyanani, an Ohio businessman, met with Mr. Veon in 2006 and found himself forking over $25,000.
"I've got to tell you, I really liked the guy," said Mr. Dariyanani. "I just found the guy really charming."
Quiet, fond of expensive suits and sporting a goatee and cowboy boots, Mr. Veon was considered a key player who took over day-to-day operations of the Democratic caucus.
In 2005, he joined Mr. DeWeese, as well as Republican leaders, in voting for a hefty pay raise in the small hours of the morning as a state budget was being passed. After a firestorm of disapproval, every legislator voted to rescind the raise -- except for Mr. Veon, who said he would feel hypocritical in doing so.
After a narrow primary election victory the following year, Mr. Veon was turned out by voters in his district in the general election. On his way out, he helped arrange hefty pay bonuses for his staff members, then set up shop as a lobbyist.
By this spring, Mr. Veon had abandoned the business as it became increasingly clear that he was under investigation by the statewide grand jury.
First Published July 10, 2008 1:43 pm