Casino Marino Fudges On Truth
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tom Mario didn’t always refuse to talk with me.
Until recently the Republican Congressional candidate and former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania went out of his way to seek me out. We spoke on the phone. He left messages. He provided me with his private cell phone number.
Marino even brought me a gift.
One day we stood in the warm sunshine outside the building that houses WILK News Radio and talked about how we came to be the people we are today. Another time he stopped by the station while I was doing my show and asked to see me.
I thought the sudden appearance to be a bit odd but welcomed Marino into the studio and put him on the air to talk about his campaign to unseat 10th Congressional District Democrat Chris Carney.
Before we went live, though, he handed me a plastic bottle of peanut butter fudge, “Chloe’s Gourmet Topping,” that his wife had manufactured at her small business at Cogan Station.
I thought that a little odd as well.
Maybe Marino was just trying to be nice. Maybe he was playing the role of a country lawyer asking the people to trust him enough to send him to Washington to protect the rights of the people. But maybe he was trying to be as smooth as peanut butter fudge on a hot summer day.
Whatever his intent, Marino struck me as a strange choice for a U.S. attorney. Nervous and less confident than most people I have observed who have served as lead prosecutors for a federal district, Mario seemed to lack the power and poise required to lead a team of hard-nosed federal prosecutors charged with the mission of bringing light to the darkness of organized crime and political corruption.
I found myself wondering how he got the big job in the first place. Who acted as his benefactor in the highly-competitive political race to be named a U.S. attorney? I wonder now more than ever how Marino climbed the ladder into the stellar ranks of the U.S. Justice Department.
In the studio that day Marino told me how he had worked in a factory, came from blue collar roots and went to college later in life than most of his peers. His background also heightened my interest in his academic achievement and rise to the top. How did he move from serving as district attorney in a small county to heading up a crack Justice Department team of corruption busters?
However success came his way, Marino got the job and all the responsibility that came with it.
And then one day Marino was gone.
The Morning Call in Allentown reported that he had acted as a character reference for an admitted federal felon who desperately wanted Pennsylvania’s first casino gambling license. The man was a powerful man in business and politics who had contributed large amounts of money to political campaigns. The man also was alleged by the reputed head of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Russell Bufalino Mafia family to be a long time associate of organized crime.
Marino resigned shortly after the news broke and went to work for that same convicted felon as a personal attorney.
And I couldn’t wait to one day ask Marino one big question that nobody apparently had bothered to ask: Did Marino ask permission from his Justice Department bosses in Washington to be a reference for a convicted federal criminal who was still under investigation by federal law enforcement agents looking into the mob?
So when Marino called my show out of the blue in April, I figured the time was right to ask.
Yes, Marino said. Yes, he had asked his bosses for permission. Yes, he had received clearance to vouch for the character of a longtime friend. Yes, he saw no ethical conflict in his act.
A few days later I called Marino’s campaign office and left a message asking for the name of a person in Washington who would confirm that Marino was telling the truth. After several more unanswered voice messages and emails, I finally connected with campaign manager Dave Weber.
Weber said “Tom has a letter for you” that confirms the truthfulness of his claim.
Four months later, Marino has still has not produced the letter.
Last week the Associated Press broke a story citing a confidential Justice Department source saying that no record exists of the permission Marino claims to have.
Marino responded in a confusing statement, saying that Justice Department officials told him they could not provide documentation because such confirmation is confidential A Marino spokesman later said he knew nothing about a letter of confirmation. Campaign confusion continues to turn to campaign chaos.
In response, Carney accused Marino of lying.
Mario then chastised Carney for attacking his character.
And I’m left asking yet another simple question: How can Carney attack what does not exist?
Handing out a family fudge sauce might pass as a down home gesture of good neighborliness for a political candidate. But fudging the facts and hoping that people swallow the story as truth is a deadly recipe for poisoning the purity of the public trust.
Tags : Topics : Law_CrimeSocial : Law_CrimeLocations : PennsylvaniaPeople : Chris Carney